Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My best-of-year list for 2008 films.

Ensemble cast of the year: BURN AFTER READING
Underachievers of the year (spotlighting films/filmmakers/actors who ought to be doing better work): MAMMA MIA!, GRAN TORINO, DEATH RACE, CASSANDRA'S DREAM, RIGHTEOUS KILL, DECEPTION, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, HAMLET 2, HANCOCK, SEVEN POUNDS, STEP BROTHERS
Sort-of-guilty pleasures of the year: RAMBO, HELL RIDE
Best performance likely to be overlooked this year--Vera Farmiga in Rod Lurie's NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (a film whose distributor--Yari Film Group--went into bankruptcy; perhaps it will still find some sort of theatrical distribution before going to DVD/pay cable).
DVD releases of the year: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS, Universal/MGM's Alfred Hitchcock reissues, Criterion's TWO LANE BLACKTOP and BOTTLE ROCKET

Feel free to comment with agreements or dissenting views.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two interesting POVs on recent Beatles news.

1. John Lennon recently joined the list of celebrities doing posthumous commercials. Steve Marinucci, who runs the website, has a take on this development:

2. Allan Koznin, who has covered The Fab Four in the past (as well as having written a book about them), recently wrote an op-ed piece for THE NEW YORK TIMES on the snail's-pace (or sometimes wrongheaded) business decisions made by Apple Corps--namely the procrastinating on CD remasters/mp3 releases of Beatles albums:

My favorite revelation of the Koznin article: Apple passed on a 40th anniversary reissue of THE WHITE ALBUM, but agreed to issue an expensive "White Album" commemorative ballpoint pen instead.

SALON's Glenn Greenwald on David Gregory's brand of "tough" journalism.

No need to comment. Just read Glenn Greenwald's SALON column on David Gregory, MEET THE PRESS and the current fighting between Israel and Palestine's Hamas:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ben Lyons--is he the superstupid future of film criticism?

Searching my distant memory, there are a couple of things I recall from Pauline Kael's "The Current Cinema" columns of THE NEW YORKER.

One--She wrote about a NY PBS station's shoddy treatment of silent films broadcast (i.e. not showing them at the proper speed). Ms. Kael talked to station management and received an answer like "So we'll do this for you and the three people that care."

Two--Ms. Kael quoted Frank Yablans (a producer who was an ace marketer of not-always-classic films like SILVER STREAK, CONGO and the legendary MOMMIE DEAREST) as saying that film critics needed to be replaced every few years. Presumably Yablans meant that critics/reviewers who stay on the job too long wouldn't be as receptive to below-average current product as the go-along/get-along types who need to write favorable copy and get those Movie Star interviews for their employers.

Yablans probably would have loved someone like Ben Lyons in the 70s/80s.

Ben Lyons, son of the famed mediocrite Jeffrey Lyons (who once co-hosted a post-Siskel/Ebert SNEAK PREVIEWS with Michael Medved), cheerfully gives Disney/ABC the kind of knowledge-challenged down-with-all-things-current-as-long-as-they're-mainstream wet kisses each week on AT THE MOVIES.

Thanks to Jeffrey Wells of HOLLYWOOD-ELSEWHERE for posting this link to a LOS ANGELES TIMES article critical of Lyons the younger:,0,5374132,full.story

If one were to actually complain to a Disney exec about the hiring of woefully underqualified Ben Lyons (in terms of glib careerism, Lyons outpaces even Richard Roeper), what would the response be?

Perhaps this: "So what? You're one of the ten people who cares."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau to release yet another Greatest Hits album--through Wal-Mart.

This probably won't get the MSNBC coverage that Barack Obama's invitation of Rick Warren to give the January 20th invocational prayer did, but here it is--Bruce Springsteen and ubermanager Jon Landau (likely with some prodding from Sony Music) will release a BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND GREATEST HITS 12-song collection exclusively through Wal-Mart on January 13th [this compilation has different songs than the mid-90s GREATEST HITS]. Two weeks after that, Springsteen's new studio album WORKING ON A DREAM will "drop" in physical and online outlets everywhere.

Here's the announcement as printed on ROLLING STONE's website:

Is this merely a cold-blooded business decision (i.e. Sony giving Wal-Mart exclusivity over AC/DC's BLACK ICE) or an ostensibly Obama-like attempt to have dialogue with tightfisted reactionaries in hopes of a millimeter of change in their business practices? Or a blend of both?

Sidebar: For those who have long memories, about a year ago Don Henley was justifying the Wal-Mart exclusive release of the last Eagles album THE LONG ROAD OUT OF EDEN by claiming that Wal-Mart was beginning to "go green."

What will Bruce and Jon say, if anything, about this deal with Wal-Mart?

Nothing personal--just business?

Or nothing at all?

UPDATE (1/13/09): THE BOSTON HERALD has an article about the release of the Wal-Mart only GREATEST HITS:

UPDATE (1/23/09): In this BILLBOARD article about the in-progress DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN deluxe reissue, Jon Landau finally addresses/justifies the Wal-Mart only GREATEST HITS album:

UPDATE (1/29/09): In a Jon Pareles profile piece set to be published in Sunday's NEW YORK TIMES, Bruce himself reconsiders the decision to release the album through Wal-Mart--and actually thanks fans for their disagreement/discussion:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Los Angeles poet E.C. "Carlye" Archibeque explains "definable" poetry for you.

Though currently inactive on the scene, veteran L.A. poet Carlye Archibeque speaks for a fair portion of today's Los Angeles poetry "community."
Here's a portion of an essay she wrote for POETIC DIVERSITY a few years back:
It is my opinion that poetry is definable and that good poetry is not created in a void. I think there are good poets and bad poets. I know this can be an unpopular opinion, but anyone who knows me knows I really don’t care about being popular. If it’s any consolation to those who find my opinion harsh, I am guilty of writing bad poetry and things I consider “not poetry” too, I just have the good sense not to send it away to publishers or read it to my audience because poetry you read for an audience and seek to have published should not be about your therapy issues, unless of course you have crafted your issues into poetry. Poetry is two-fold for me: on one hand it is a way to put your feelings and thoughts into words that sound good to you or may help you work thorough a difficult time in your life; on the other it is a carefully thought out and constructed set of words that relate your thoughts and feelings on a universal level and while one is for public consumption, the other is certainly not. Just my opinion. So the $64 poetry question is why do you write poetry? Do you write because you have things you want to say and are looking for an audience and poetry is generally free to read and write? Or, do you write because you consider it a craft in which you strive discuss feelings, thoughts and opinions in a way that transcends self-indulgence and becomes something universal? Are you a poet or a poet wanna be? I’m not saying that journaling thoughts and feelings is bad or that a little self-indulgence isn’t called for sometimes. I do believe that the state of poetry is threatened on a daily basis by mediocrity. By that I don’t mean threatened by styles of poetry like slam, page, performance and the like, I mean by works within these styles that are not striving to be the best they can be made by poets who don’t have enough respect for the craft of poetry. I wish more people would start believing that poetry matters, that it is an art form and that it needs skill to create.

If you want to read the essay in its entirety, here's the link:

My take on the above is that certain poets in Los Angeles desire at the very least to be arbiters/gatekeepers of notions of "quality" that tend to be received from others (workshopping, MFA programs) rather than thought-out for themselves. It's a valuable balm that salves the egowounds resulting from local, state or national rejection and/or underrecognition.

Sometimes, these self-appointed arbiters get some local attention and a few followers. Then, for one reason or another, they fade from the scene.

And there will always be someone to replace them. And there will always be people who will follow them like sheep, with little thought as to testing or questioning the soundness of the arbiters' holy opinions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

VP-elect Joe Biden protects a member of the political brotherhood.

Found the following note about Joe Biden's LARRY KING LIVE appearance on HOLLYWOOD-ELSEWHERE:

Of course, Biden thinks throwing shoes at soon-to-be-ex President George Butch Jr. is "uncalled for"; Biden helped make the Iraq War possible.

Nikki Finke on delay of SAG strike authorization vote.

Whether or not the Screen Actors Guild "vote yes for strike authorization re the AMPTP contract" contingent or the actor/producer contingent (including George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Danny DeVito--thinking more of their production deals than of rank-and-file actors) urging members to vote no (and wait three years for the next negotiating period) wins out is an open question at this time.

Here's Nikki Finke with her opinion of the delay in the strike authorization vote--and why she thinks it may be a good thing:

Regardless of who wins or doesn't win the issue of the current SAG contract, the switch of TV episode reruns to websites (aka New Media) from over-the-airwaves broadcasts is a big deal and actors deserve proper residual compensation. To my mind, regardless of the AMPTP propaganda (sometimes transmitted by Patrick Goldstein of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES), it's a lot better that SAG and the producers get this worked out now than waiting another three years--when there will be other AMPTP-created reasons not to deal with the New Media issue.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ron Howard: despite FROST/NIXON, he tilts right.

I saw FROST/NIXON last week and pronounce it Ron Howard's WAG THE DOG--a deftly made and relative low-budget/schedule film that entertains, enlightens and provides a chance for Howard to do something with gravitas, prestige and awards-season potential between making THE DA VINCI CODE and the forthcoming ANGELS AND DEMONS.

But, to be honest, Howard (who voted for Nixon in 72 and supported Obama this year) is conservative and his earlier films show it.

Exhibit A: Witness the scenes where Kathleen Quinlan's mom had a meltdown over the teen daughter's mild liberalism in APOLLO 13.

Exhibit B: Witness the dumb subplot (that marred an otherwise good film) where Paddy Considine's workers'-rights "radical" and residents of a NYC poor-people's "Hooverville" were maligned as malcontents in CINDERELLA MAN.

Having pointed out the above, it's safe to hypothesize that the character in FROST/NIXON that Howard had the most sympathy for is Kevin Bacon's Nixon acolyte/camp follower.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jay Leno going to prime time: everything old is new again.

Jay Leno, who will now get to take his play-down-to-the-proles version of THE TONIGHT SHOW to prime time, isn't the first host of the show to score a prime-time gig on NBC. Both Steve Allen and Jack Paar went the same route in the 50s and 60s--and if I recall correctly, Paar's prime-time show was much the same as his late-night one.

But neither Parr nor Allen were asked to do an hour show for five nights a week in prime time.

Obviously, Ben Silverman (who for every OFFICE or 30 ROCK comes up with nongenius ideas for "edgy" retoolings of KNIGHT RIDER and THE BIONIC WOMAN) isn't going to walk the plank. So, one can expect NBC to gut their prime-time schedule as much as possible (even past the 16 hours remaining when Leno debuts next year) with more superstupid reality shows and extra helpings of DATELINE NBC.

Perhaps the silver lining in this cloud will be possessed by Conan O'Brien. Free of the spectre of Jay being direct competition on either Fox or ABC, maybe Conan can develop an 11:35 p.m. talk show that can be truly Conanesque [i.e. incorporate more of the LATE NIGHT than he thought possible, say, a week ago] and move the tired late-night format into a new era.

At least until Viacom sends David Letterman to early retirement and likely blesses Jon Stewart with the CBS 11:35 p.m. slot.

G. Murray Thomas' reply to my original post about poetry decade 98-08.

[Note: this came from the Cobalt Poets list, where my recent post about changes in Los Angeles poetry was forwarded.]
In my opinion, 1998 was a highwater mark in L.A. poetry. There was an energy and excitement in the poetry scene which has, to a large part, dissipated. My analogy is that in 1998 the poetry scene was an adolescent, full of energy and believing that anything was possible. Since then, we have matured a bit, and realized, for better and worse, our limitations. Most readings today (and maybe this is what Terry means by "Chamber music", I'm really not sure) have settled into an identity. Even witht he big ones like Da Poetry Lounge, you pretty much know what you're going to get when you walk in the door. This does create a certain comfort level, but at the expense of innovation. It also means the each reading has developed its own taste in poetry, which may lead poets to feel they are being excluded if they dont' fit that taste.On the other hand (and I have had this discussion with Terry before) it is easy to see any insistence on quality as exclusiveness. Especially since quality in poetry can be a very subjective standard. What gets wildly cheered at Da Poetry Lounge would not fly at the Ruskin, and vice versa. So the key becomes finding the reading whose taste fits your poetry. However, as readings become fewer, and more set in their taste, this can become more difficult.I think part of what's missing is new blood, especially on the level of hosting. In 1998 new readings were popping up all over the place. Not just new readings, b ut ambitious readings. What new readings I do see are usually on the order of -- another coffeehouse, another open reading.Still, I do believe the scene in 2008 still contains a variety of readings accomdating a wide variety of taste in poetry.G. Murray Thomas

Friday, December 5, 2008

COMMIE GIRL Rebecca Schoenkopf out as editor of LA CITY BEAT.

A stain on alternative journalism has been removed: Rebecca Schoenkopf (who once charmingly told a reader who wrote a complaining letter "f--- you") is no longer editor of LA CITY BEAT, the alternaweekly which underwent an in-your-face-with-slick-magazine-cover makeover last summer.

Schoenkopf (formerly COMMIE GIRL columnist for OC WEEKLY) started her tenure at the paper with a loud fart of an article about how the Los Angeles County Museum of Art should be destroyed because the then-current Chicano art exhibit wasn't sufficiently with-it. And the smirkiness kept coming.....

To Schoenkopf's credit, she brought some talented ex-OC WEEKLY writers (notably Steve Lowery and Jim Washburn) to CITY BEAT. But the general "we're SO better than you right-wing boneheads" bratty 'tude of the pre-Mike Lacey era OC WEEKLY {excepting then-writers such as Victor Infante and Jaimes Palacio) apparently didn't play too well in Los Angeles. And when Schoenkopf's ex-boss Will Swaim was tapped to run CITY BEAT....the results are summarized by Kevin Roderick of LA OBSERVED:

Now CITY BEAT looks like it will mutate into what Kit Rachlis' (who runs the old-folks home for former LA WEEKLY writers called LOS ANGELES magazine) version of the LA WEEKLY between the late 80s/early 90s minus the occasional spasms of quirkiness (not-so-fondly remembering John Powers writing about a truffle and an attempted seduction and Helen Knode rhapsodizing about being in a bathtub with a Frenchman)--essentially MOR liberalism.

Which is more than can be expected from the current LA WEEKLY (which ran off Marc Cooper recently), which tilts center/right now (and has Jill "I Still Heart Richard Riordan" Stewart as an editor).

One nervously awaits Mike Lacey bringing Rick "The Finger" Barrs back to L.A. Then the humiliation of the WEEKLY (currently celebrating its 30th anniversary with an issue that brings back and/or namechecks most of its former writers) will be complete.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Britney Spears' punishment for acting out: resuming the career that caused her to act out.

I didn't bother to watch the Britney Spears MTV documentary on Sunday where she allegedly moaned about being imprisoned in an overly-controlled lifestyle.

And it appears that manager Larry Rudolph and father Jamie Spears are excessively concerned with returning Britney to the era where she made a lot of money for a lot of people--Britney's personal health and welfare (and apparently by extension, the current raising of her and Kevin Federline's sons) being acceptable collateral damage.

Here's the LOS ANGELES TIMES' take on Britney and the "comeback" album CIRCUS--
First, Elizabeth Snead's DISH RAG blog entry:
Ann Powers reviews CIRCUS:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Current and former Los Angeles poets looking back at the previous decade.

1998 was the year I became active in Los Angeles poetry. It was a time when poetry readings came in a selection of rock-and-roll, hip-hop, folk-radical agitprop or chamber music. And, on occasion, readings could blend all of the above.

2008 is a year where Los Angeles poetry is mostly chamber music (with occasional exceptions such as Fairfax's Da Poetry Lounge and the Wednesday night readings at the Unurban Cafe) that can, at its soporific worst, remind one of the sound of water being poured into a glass.

Recently, the Onyx Cafe, an everyone-can-participate Los Feliz reading dead since 1998, staged a reunion at the Echoplex in Echo Park. A documentary film may surface someday of the reunion.

Ex-L.A. poet Larry Jaffe, who co-hosted Poetic License with the late Donn Deedon, was a beneficiary of the Onyx's legacy. Here's a link to his latest project--UNPROTECTED POETRY 10 YEARS AFTER:

Rick Lupert, a veteran of the local scene, has finally acted on a suggestion I (among others) made to him years ago and reissued his second book--I AM MY OWN ORANGE COUNTY--consisting of poetry written between 1990-97. More information on the book can be found here:

Reissues are all well and good for reminding the public of work done in the past. And 10th anniversary celebrations are a valuable opportunity for seeing now-mostly-retired poets make rare reappearances and for poetry hosts (such as Ron Dvorkin, who recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as host of the Barnes and Noble reading in Encino) to make note of their longevity in a changing scene.

After the celebrations are over, questions remain:
What kind of poetry scene will we be looking back on in 2018?
Inclusive or ultraexclusive?

Maureen Dowd on Pasadena newspaper's reporters--from India.

It had to happen sometime: a newspaper called PASADENA NOW has outsourced its reporting staff to India--where the scribes are paid much much lower than their American cousins.

Maureen Dowd tells the story in a recent NEW YORK TIMES column:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Roger Ebert on film criticism making way for more celeb gossip.

Thanks to Jeffrey Wells' HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE blog for alerting me to the following blog entry from Roger Ebert about the latest blow to film criticism--the Associated Press wanting its film-related articles to be no longer than 500 words:

Maybe another death blow was dealt recently when Kenneth Turan, the LOS ANGELES TIMES film critic who angered James Cameron by essentially evaluating TITANIC as mediocre schlock which lowered the standards of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, gave a pass to the current girl-loves-vampire film TWILIGHT (come to think of it, so did Richard Corliss, who once in FILM COMMENT had his issues with Ebert and the late Gene Siskel about the SISKEL AND EBERT TV show's effects on the criticism profession).

The future of mainstream film criticism will increasingly be inherited by get-along-by-going-along careerists like the AP's Christy LeMire and Ben "I love going to junkets" Lyons. And most younger people won't mourn this because they don't have the time to read more than 500 words at one sitting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RATTLE's David Alpaugh on what's wrong with poetry book contests.

David Alpaugh of RATTLE (both a poetry contest judge and winner) wrote this article about poetry book contests--particularly fascinating is how poets, in order to win, subject their work to a type of homogenized conformity in terms of quality and presentation:

[Thanks to Northern California poet Garrett Murphy for forwarding this to me.]

Barack Obama: Bill Clinton without the sex?

For those who have some ambivalence about Barack Obama's likely-to-be-centrist Presidency, here's a Glenn Greenwald SALON column, with links to other columnists with their points of view on the four years to come :

And here's a poem I wrote regarding this subject. The first half was written last summer, the second half more recently:
without the sex

once a famous former governor of New York
said something about campaigning in poetry
and governing in prose
obama campaigned in poetry in the primaries
and has now switched to prose
before the convention
it’s moving to the “center”
it’s turning hard right
it means that tough opinionated michelle
has to go on The View and fist bump
(and I can guess how much that hurt her pride)
and that the two daughters
have to be trotted out on Access Hollywood
because someone in a room in Chicagot
hinks that people are rubes who only speak tabloid
backpedal on Iraq
cave in on FISA
wear the flag pin all the time
make people think that he’ll make it all better
after he gets into the white house
by not scaring the supposed rubes
triangulate triangulate triangulate
like bill clinton in 92but without the sex
but the possibility of playing an instrument
on a talk show still remains
your move, axelrod

yes, I voted for obama
I was tired of my country
being told to drink a mild brand of hemlock
laced with dictatorial arrogance
and incompetent cronyism
and I was tired of Democrats
passively accepting Republican misrule
because the towers of Jello
known as nancy and harry
didn't want to be
considered unpatriotic
and I hope in some way
obama can lead us partway out of
the abyss we're in
but obama's triangulating again
rahm's going to be chief of staff
hillary may be secretary of state
hank paulson wants his financial friends
to keep being bailed out
with as little oversight as possible
and the mainstream media
and nonmainstreamers like marc cooper
keep saying obama can't run from the left
but must come to the mythical center
instead, obama ought to be lbj in 1964
getting civil rights act and medicare passed
and build a new center
instead of becoming bill clinton without the sex
and we don't need a repeat of the time
when clinton licked sam nunn's boots
and gave us "don't ask don't tell"
regarding gays in the military

and I know there will be people saying
you can't criticize
because you'll only tear down
and they'll act like the landslide victory
is far more fragile than it is
and they'll remind us of the characters in Dreamgirls
singing "have a little patience"

I know obama can't do everything in four years
and I want to have faith
but my faith won't be blind faith
because if it is,
then we'll wind up with sarah in 2012
and we'll fall all the way
down the abyss again

and it'll hurt like hell

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Erin Aubry Kaplan likes her hips--and Michelle Obama's too.

When African-American author Erin Aubry Kaplan wrote for the LA WEEKLY, the size of her derrierre (and, by implication, the awesomeness of her body) became the subject of one column. Here's a past writing from her on this subject from her website:

And, inevitably, Ms. Kaplan noticed Michelle Obama's backside and felt compelled to write about it in SALON:

No comment except to say that Ms. Kaplan, who can write thoughtful articles/newspaper columns, apparently wants to raise her media profile in spite of the risk of being a one-shtick pony.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Re the automakers asking for a bailout.

Here's a link to an AP wire story about automakers--chiefly GM--asking for a bailout:

It looks inevitable that a bailout will occur--but not until President-elect Obama takes office.

If I were President, I'd probably be one of those left-tilting people that Obama is cautious of being. And I'd insist on conditions to the bailout such as:
1. All SUVs must get at least 30 MPG. Otherwise, penalties will be assessed.
2. Appoint Neil Young to the board of GM (Young, when not engaged in his day job as a musician, has been active in development of high-mileage alternative fuel vehicles).
3. Strict accountability in terms of knowing where every penny of the $25 billion bailout money will go. And absolutely none of it will be used for CEO bonuses.
4. No more delays on meeting emission standards.

A sad day for California poetry: Carol Muske-Dukes is the state's new poet laureate.

Famed poet/author/professor Carol Muske-Dukes has been chosen to be California's Poet Laureate.

Here's the press release:
Carol Muske-Dukes appointed California's Poet LaureateGovernor Schwarzenegger calls USC professor "an accomplished and decorated poet and author"Published: 11-14-2008
On Thursday, November 13, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Carol Muske-Dukes, an accomplished writer and professor at the University of Southern California, the Poet Laureate for the state of California.
From the Governor's Press Release:
Continuing his support of California's rich literary tradition, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today (Thursday, November 13) appointed Carol Muske-Dukes California's poet laureate. The poet laureate is charged with educating Californians about the many literary icons who have come from California and added to its cultural heritage. She is also charged with encouraging a new generation of poets to take up the mantle of creative expression and bringing poetry to students who otherwise would have little opportunity to be exposed to it.
"Carol Muske-Dukes is an accomplished and decorated poet and author. Her commitment to the literary arts and passionate belief that poetry can transform lives will serve as an inspiration for all Californians," Governor Schwarzenegger said.
Muske-Dukes has been a professor of English at the University of Southern California (USC) since 1993, where she founded the graduate program in literature and creative writing in 1999 and served as director of the program until 2002. She previously served as associate professor from 1991 to 1993, assistant professor from 1989 to 1991 and lecturer from 1984 to 1988 at USC. From 1972 to 1974, Muske-Dukes founded and taught in a creative writing program called "Free Space" at the Women's House of Detention on Riker's Island in New York which later became "Art Without Walls-Free Space." She is a regular critic for the New York Times Book Review and the LA Times Book Review. Muske-Dukes previously served as a poetry columnist for the LA Times Book Review from 2001 to 2004.
Muske-Dukes is the author of seven books of poetry, including her most recent work, Sparrow, which was a National Book Award finalist and An Octave Above Thunder, which was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She has also written four novels, including Los Angeles Times best-seller Channeling Mark Twain and two collections of essays. Her collection Married to the Icepick Killer: A Poet in Hollywood was listed in the San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Books of 2002.
In addition to her teaching positions and numerous books, Muske-Dukes has also been anthologized widely, including credits in Best American Poems, 100 Great Poems by Women, MotherSongs and others. Her list of awards and accomplishments includes a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, the Ingram-Merrill Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress, the Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, five Pushcart Prizes and the WriteGirl Bold Ink Award.
"I am truly honored to be named California's poet laureate and I look forward to serving the people of California and poetry which reaches the hearts and imagination of young and old in both urban and remote areas of this diverse and dynamic state," said Muske-Dukes.
The California Arts Council administers the nomination process for the California Poet Laureate as established by law, and assists the California Poet Laureate in fulfilling her or his duties. For more details on Muske-Dukes, see the full press release from the Governor's office, Muske-Dukes' website, and Muske-Dukes' biography page from USC. For more information on California Poets Laureate, see the Poet Laureate informational pages from the California Arts Council.

Here's a couple of sidebars about this not-so-wonderful selection:
1. Ms. Muske-Dukes, at a LOS ANGELES TIMES book festival panel at UCLA, was rather haughty and condescending when talking about teaching writing at a women's prison and calling their work "bad."
2. In early 2003, there was an anti-Iraq War reading in Los Feliz which was organized in tandem with Sam Hamill's POETS AGAINST THE WAR. Ms. Muske-Dukes was one of the honored featured poets at the event--and organizers were thrilled to have her there. Anyway, she read her poetry--and then promptly left, not bothering to be courteous or professional enough to stay to hear the other poets on the program.

Perhaps my memories of Ms. Muske-Dukes' pettiness could also be classified as petty. But, when I can think of other California poets that are more deserving of this honor (Brendan Constantine, for one), maybe it's time for the state's Poet Laureate selection process to receive a rigorous examination/rethink.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The new battle cry of the impatient young: "He/she's like.....90 years old."

I heard the above phrase yesterday from a young woman working at a corporate bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. She was using it as a part of a conversation with a male colleague.

Heaven forbid if you're a senior citizen and slow to give information to someone much younger working in a service position.

And my wife overheard someone using the exact same phrase recently.

Heartlessness is something corporate America thrives on in its search for megaprofits for just a few at the top (CEOs, large shareholders). And perhaps those citizens who think people like General Electric's Jack Welch are ubernifty--plus those who joyfully mocked John McCain (who spent the last few months self-destructing his "maverick" myth) for being "old" can take responsibility for the behavior of the young men and women who have made "he/she's like.....90 years old" a synonym for "I don't want to take any more time with you than I have to because I'm not working here forever."

Let's all prepare for the young to keep singing "We are the champions/No time for losers." And pray we have good health and enough of a nestegg to avoid going to nursing homes where impatience (sometimes physical as well as verbal) and the ever-popular rite of orderlies/nurses stealing patients' belongings are rampant realities.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

MSNBC's MORNING JOE now has 7 seconds to protect the world.

There's now a 7-second delay on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough-and-friends MORNING JOE show in case anyone says the f-word or anything similar:

Glenn Greenwald in SALON remembers the times in the past (mainly when Joe had his previous evening show SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY) when Scarborough would rail against celebrities who said the f-word on live TV, scaring the daylights out of decency advocates everywhere:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Repurposing film critics' reviews: not just for alternaweeklies.

Kevin Roderick of the site LA OBSERVED makes a note of Carina Chocano's recent departure from THE LOS ANGELES TIMES in favor of Tribune majordomos using reviews from THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Michael Phillips [who departed with Richard Roeper from Disney's AT THE MOVIES a few months back]:

Of course, this isn't a brand-new phenomenon. Since Michael Lacey swallowed up a lot of alternaweeklies into his empire, readers of the not-what-it-once-was LA WEEKLY can occasionally read reviews from J. Hoberman (THE VILLAGE VOICE) and Robert Wilonsky (DALLAS OBSERVER).

Way cheaper than hiring new critics or even free-lancers who don't qualify for benefits.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The No on 8 folks want you to be quiet and not complain.

While in Las Vegas over the past weekend, I received this e-mail (printed below) from the No on 8 campaign (which I made donations to for the purpose of increasing their advertising dollars):
Dear Terry,This has been an incredibly difficult week for Californians who are disappointed in the passage of Proposition 8, which takes away the right to marry for same-sex couples in our state. We feel a profound sense of disappointment in this defeat, but know that in order to move forward we must continue to stand together as one community in order to secure full equality in California.In working to defeat Prop 8, a profound coalition banded together to fight for equality. Faith leaders, labor, teachers, civil rights leaders and communities of color, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, public officials, local school boards and city councils, parents, corporate law firms and bar associations, businesses, and people from all walks of life joined together to stand up against discrimination. We must build on this coalition in order to achieve equal rights for all Californians.We achieve nothing if we isolate the people who did not stand with us in this fight. We only further divide our state if we attempt to blame people of faith, African American voters, rural communities and others for this loss. We know people of all faiths, races and backgrounds stand with us in our fight to end discrimination, and will continue to do so. Now more than ever it is critical that we work together and respect our differences that make us a diverse and unique society. Only with that understanding will we achieve justice and equality for all.
Dr. Delores A. JacobsCEOCenter Advocacy Project
Lorri L. JeanCEOL.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Kate KendellExecutive DirectorNational Center for Lesbian Rights
Geoff KorsExecutive DirectorEquality California

[Here's a link to LOS ANGELES TIMES coverage of the demonstrations against certain Yes on 8 backers:,0,7280462.story; also, here's a link to poet/writer/blogger T. J. Sullivan's photos of the protests outside the Mormon temple in West L.A.:]

This is just another sign of the disdain for protest in America--to far too many, it's just so unseemly and immature and you might make the people who disagree with you REALLY MAD.

As long as the protests don't cause physical harm and/or destruction of property, the protestors are within their rights to confront and complain at the homophobic, bigoted troglodytes who claim to act in Jesus' name and according to His teachings.

And there's the lingering question of whether or not the No on 8 campaign did enough to reach out to African-American and Latino communities and try to open a few of the many closed minds regarding equal rights to marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rachel Maddow--fighting liberal who uses bad Bushie language.

Rachel Maddow, who I've called "bright and interesting" in the past, plopped a big embarrassing doozie out of her mouth during Tuesday night's election coverage on MSNBC.

She uttered something about how 9/11 "hasn't been avenged yet."

This seems to mean that Ms. Maddow is eager to get her war face on and support a big expansion of the current conflict in Afghanistan regardless of the consequences.

Sounds a lot like George Butch Jr. talk, unfortunately.

Maybe carefully targeted smaller-scale military action and old-fashioned police work might be enough to stay on guard against Al Qaeda in the coming years.

Let's hope President-elect Barack Obama has a cooler head than Rachel Maddow regarding the future of the War on Terror.

Re the Obama Presidency.

Like a lot of other people who voted for Barack Obama, I'm happy both for the historical precedent and the choice of sanity and rationality over "the hell with everyone else, let's keep what's ours."

I have no illusions that Obama will be the Great Liberal Hope, but I do look forward to seeing how he'll attempt to wriggle free from the economic/military/social spending straitjackets placed upon him by Butch Jr., Cheney and their assorted cronies.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE director Marc Forster, unlike Frank Zappa, is only in it for the money.

I love James Bond--and I'll definitely see QUANTUM OF SOLACE--but I was disheartened by Marc Forster's recent chat with Logan Hill in NEW YORK magazine.

Forster's not known as an action director; his previous films include MONSTER'S BALL, FINDING NEVERLAND (probably his best to date), THE KITE RUNNER and the well-intentioned misfire STRANGER THAN FICTION.

But he pisses all over the Bond series and de facto admits it was just a cold-blooded money job for him:

"Subversive." Whatever, Mark and Logan.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

SLATE's Jack Shafer on President Obama and his relations with the press corps.

Jack Shafer of the online publication SLATE looks into his crystal ball and predicts that Barack Obama as President may get a more adversarial, less lapdog treatment from the White House press corps:

Go vote today.

And so the long national nightmare ends (unless someone calls for a recount) as Barack Obama, a game-changing President, is likely to be elected today.

Which gives us the time to wave goodbye to negative campaigning, cartoon punditry on the left and the right and the pitiful sight of John "I'm owed this" McCain and Sarah "I don't have to do anything but give good Image" Palin spending their final days on the trail screeching tired old GOP bromides about not "penalizing" successful people.

For those who live in California, I heartily recommend voting No on Proposition 8--the ugly effort of a lot of unChristian Christians (which include Mormon, Catholic and James Dobson-esque fundamentalists) to end gay marriage.

In closing, I offer two modest proposals:
1. Abolish the Electoral College. Direct popular vote by 2012.
2. Amend the Constitution so Presidents can only serve one six-year term.
This would be an effective way of ending some of the partisan games, megacorporate influences and too-constant fundraising which have hobbled this great nation of ours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

McCain/Obama: When campaign reporters get too embedded in campaigns.

Here's a link to Glenn Greenwald's latest SALON column about Maeve Reston of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES bemoaning the winds of change in the relationships between John McCain and stenographer journalists on the Straight Talk Express:

And, correspondingly, here's a link to a LA TIMES article by Peter Nicholas about the Obama campaign where the author complains about Obama being too guarded and not chummy enough with the boys and girls of the press:,0,6187999.story

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All you need is lots of cash: new Beatles clothing at Bloomingdales.

Yes, I know it's Bloomingdales. But, with the current economic crisis, it seems a rather inopportune time to introduce a pricey line of Beatles clothing (some of it done by Name designers):*&Keyword=Beatles&KEYWORD_GO_BUTTON.x=9&KEYWORD_GO_BUTTON.y=10

For those of us who balk at the idea of paying more than $25 for a Beatles T-shirt (some of the Bloomies items can be found in less expensive versions at The Fest for Beatles Fans site), a more cost-effective alternative would be to buy or rent the current ALL TOGETHER NOW documentary about the creation of the Cirque du Soleil show LOVE.

My new favorite poet: Canada's David McGimpsey.

A few weeks ago, I was in Austin, TX for my sister-in-law's graduation from an acutherapy school; during that time, I stopped at local chain Book People and found a book of poetry called SITCOM by David McGimpsey. McGimpsey--based in Montreal--is also a writer for the GLOBE AND MAIL, as well as an occasional musician/stand-up comic. His poetry is amusing, thoughtful and not afraid of affectionately referencing pop culture--something that's still considered anathema in the poetry circles I dwell in. And it's accessible and "good" clever without being plate-spinning overclever (i.e. Jeffrey McDaniel's hit-and-miss recent volume THE ENDARKENMENT).

SITCOM is published by the Toronto house Coach House Books. Please order it from your favorite online bookseller.

Karl Rove escapes citizen attempting to perform citizen's arrest.

In an environment where the Democratic Party doesn't want to call for impeachment or prosecution of GOP wrongdoers (remembering Dennis Kucinich being muzzled at the Democratic convention for wanting to say a line about certain Republicans deserving "five to ten"), a heroic activist decides to citizen's arrest Karl "MC" Rove in San Francisco:

Naturally, it didn't happen. And Nancy Pelosi can be heard breathing a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Robert Novak predictably calls Colin Powell a traitor to GOP.

It had to happen: Robert Novak, making one of his periodic visits to THE WASHINGTON POST's editorial page, throws a conniption fit over Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama for President:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oliver Stone's W.--if you saw NIXON, you know what to expect.

Since most film reviews are done in a vacuum now, it should be said that Oliver Stone's W. (*** on a **** scale) can be evaluated in terms of WALL STREET (Stone even brought in the same writer, Stanley Weiser, to revisit the father/son ethical behavior conflicts of the earlier film) and NIXON (which was a relatively evenhanded take on Richard Nixon).

Unlike the overstylized NIXON, Stone's filmmaking approach to W. is reasonably straightforward. And Josh Brolin does the best inhabitation of George Butch Jr. since Timothy Bottoms' work for filmmakers as diverse as right-wing firebrand Lionel Chetwynd (D.C. 9/11: TIME OF CRISIS) and SOUTH PARK majordomos Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the series THAT'S MY BUSH, quickly aired on Comedy Central in 2001 and canceled way before 9/11).

Barry Levinson's WHAT JUST HAPPENED?--surprisingly not bad.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?, the Barry Levinson/Art Linson showbiz docucomedydrama (based on Linson's autobiography) is getting a limited theatrical release (don't know if it's also on pay-per-view) and, surprise, it's not at all bad (**1/2 on a **** scale). It's a welcome improvement over Levinson's 2006 MAN OF THE YEAR (an attempt to recapture the good old days of GOOD MORNING VIETNAM), with a decent straight-man performance from Robert De Niro and two primo comic turns from Michael Wincott as a "difficult" British director and John Turturro as a spineless agent of Bruce Willis (the latter doing a takeoff of Alec Baldwin's alleged prima-donna behavior pre-filming of THE EDGE, which Linson produced). Only major debit: the scenes between De Niro and Robin Wright Penn as a soon-to-be-ex-wife, which periodically kill the film's comic and serious momentum.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Trey Parker and Matt Stone can't quit their hate-on for Lucas/Spielberg.

I'm one of the few people who thought INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL was a decent-enough coda to the 80s action-adventure trilogy. And I hope George Lucas and Steven Spielberg leave well enough alone and not try for a rumored fifth entry to the series--unless it's a spinoff with Shia LaBoeuf's Mutt Williams character as the lead.

But, regardless of the general lack of true love for INDY 4 and George Lucas' recent CLONE WARS pilot-as-big-screen-movie (which I didn't see), it's rather pathetic to see Trey Parker (of the ginormous ego--someone who should never be allowed around interviewers) and copilot Matt Stone do a SOUTH PARK episode featuring Indiana Jones being....let's say, physically Spielberg and Lucas (didn't see the entire episode, but saw the scene in question--edited in a way recalling the trimmed-for-ABC-on-first-network-broadcast version of Ned Beatty being assaulted in DELIVERANCE).

Admittedly, Lucas (parodied before by SOUTH PARK) and Spielberg are plutocrats who don't always make the best decisions in terms of what they offer as art and/or commerce. But this is just mortifyingly stupid (rape, regardless of parody/metaphor, just isn't all that funny) and crass of Parker/Stone--and safe safe safe from any retaliation as well since Spielberg and DreamWorks (with David Geffen apparently leaving the company to Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg) are leaving the Paramount lot.

Irony alert: Spielberg helped to bring about the current DVD restoration of THE GODFATHER I and II--which, in one making-of documentary, features, among others--Trey Parker.

Bill Clinton just can't let go: re Bill Richardson's support of Obama.

I have enough of a memory to recall a ROLLING STONE cover story from the spring of 1980 about Ted Kennedy's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The article's subtitle was: His fight to dump Carter and restore hope.

Seeing this article about Bill Clinton's continuing anger at New Mexico governor Bill Richardson for the latter's support of Barack Obama, it's safe to imagine a 2012 Hillary-vs.-Barack rematch, no matter how Obama's first term works out:

Recommended reading and viewing when ill.

Having spent the week suffering from upper respitory infection, I've been coping with homeboundness by reading and watching small-screen offerings that are as noninfectuous as possible.

Here's a list;
CARY GRANT by Marc Eliot--although not deep in analysis of Grant's films, a reasonably comprehensive and honest-but-non-sensational account of his life.
WARNER BROTHERS: YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS--Richard Schickel's recent PBS miniseries about the legendary studio (narrated by Clint Eastwood), offering generous archival interview footage and clips from various classic and less-classic films.
THE GODFATHER (Blu-Ray)--Overall, this umpteenth restoration of Coppola's 1972 breakout film lives up to its "definitive" status. Kudos to Robert Harris (involved in the restorations of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and VERTIGO) and Steven Spielberg (making good use of his time as a major supplier of product to the current Paramount) for making the hopefully-definitive restorations of GODFATHER I and II a reality. Now, if the Blu-Ray treatment can be applied to Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW....
A CAPOTE READER by Truman Capote--A Penguin Books compilation of short stories, essays, the novellas THE GRASS HARP and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and the notorious 1957 profile of Marlon Brando ("The Duke in His Domain") for THE NEW YORKER.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Change is inevitable---hi to new readers.

Just a short message to say that I've changed my blog storage from AOL to Google per the former's request.

Will be back in a day or two with the usual messages.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin goes on Fox News and kvetches about not being asked "talking point" questions.

We lived through the nightmare of winky-winky, "I don't have to answer questions" Sarah Palin on Thursday night's Vice Presidential debate.  We winced when Pat Buchanan on MSNBC practically declared his adoration for Palin on-air in the post-debate comments.

Now, we find out that Ms. Barracuda is pouting because Katie Couric "annoyed" her and didn't ask questions that could be easily answered with GOP talking points:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ben Folds--sometimes he makes it so hard to be an admirer.

Before I get to my opinion of 42-year-old pianopop legend Ben Folds' new album WAY TO NORMAL, I'll yield the floor to a few opinions from the commenters at THE ONION's AV CLUB (where the album received a C+):

To me it [Folds' previous album SONGS FOR SILVERMAN] felt way too much like he was getting very middle-aged. The whole album seemed like something I'd find on adult contemporary radio and compared to his early work, well... that's just sad.

I felt that BF5 went downhill with each album and, while great when I heard the tracks played live, Messner was overproduced, scattershot, and not terribly good. With "Rockin' The Suburbs", however, he was completely back and reinvigorated, but then it just fell apart with Silverman.

So far I haven't heard anything on this album that sounds that good. It looks like he's just getting weaker and blander. Where's the great stuff we know he's capable of, like the wonderful cover of "Such Great Heights"? He can lend real passion and fun to songs, but his recent albums have just been so... bland, dry, and melancholy.

I'm more than a little surprised that there is so much love out there for Songs For Silverman. I'll take the aggressive, wacky side of Ben Folds over the drippy sentimental side any day of the week.

Put me in with the crowd that says "Songs for Silverman" had five-or-so great tracks and the rest was utterly forgettable. If the same goes for this new one, I'll be happy enough. The songs from "Normal" I heard him preview in concert were memorable, but they also seemed too bitter ... even coming from the man who wrote "Song for the Dumped." I'm real sorry his marriage [Folds' third--to Australian Frally Hines, with which he had a son and daughter; Folds remarried for the fourth time last year] ended in a big meltdown, but I kind of wish he wasn't dealing with it quite so publicly ... or at least with a bit more subtlety.

Now it's my turn.  Around 1997, I first heard of Ben Folds and the late lamented band Ben Folds Five by way of a British music magazine which drew parallels between Folds and Joe Jackson.  I bought the Five's breakout album WHATEVER AND EVER AGAIN and found it good but not great.  Since then, I've caught up with most of the remainder of the Folds catalog (and have seen him live three times--with the Five and as a "solo" act) and find that his two masterpieces are the first, self-titled Ben Folds Five album and his first post-Five album ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS (which had the misfortune of being released on 9/11./2001); a runner-up would be his post-SUBURBS EPs, which were compiled into a slightly altered collection called SUPERSUNNYSPEEDGRAPHIC.

Ben Folds, much like Nick Lowe (who reinvented himself in recent years as a snoozy balladeer), tends to stumble when reaching for Art.  Folds got away with the 60s pop pastiches on RHEINHOLD MESSNER, but it was clear that being a chronicler of his generation--particularly on the first Five album--became something he wanted to distance himself from (his mostly-instrumental FEAR OF POP side project during the Five years did have a sort of "look, I'm a virtuouso who can play more instruments than you and I'm tired of writing four-minute pop songs" fragrance).  After MESSNER's relative disappointment, Folds returned to the funny-and-sometimes-poignant third-person narratives he does best on ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS.  Then Art reared its head again, and the too-subdued SONGS FOR SILVERMAN (the best songs of which would make a decent EP) appeared three years ago--and the press for the album strongly indicated that Folds was putting childish things away for good.

And now, here's the relatively energetic WAY TO NORMAL--which opens with "Hiroshima", an entertaining Elton John homage about an accident at a Folds concert in Japan (with a doll-populated video).  But it says something that two of the best songs--"Free Coffee" (Folds talking about his wealth and the perks thereof) and "Errant Dog" (a sort of canine version of Warren Zevon's "Gorilla, You're a Desperado") would have been either B-sides or throwaways on earlier albums.  The actual songs that sort-of-reference the divorce from Frally Hines indicate that Folds, now 42 years old, is capable of anger and feelings of being unjustly maligned (there's a line in one song about how people who take his ex's side are projecting issues of their own onto him) but not quite ready for the introspection one might have at that age--almost a year into a fourth marriage.

To close, I'll just say that Ben Folds is more wise and thoughtful (even profound) when he's being a wiseacre--much like Nick Lowe.  Too much taste (or, in the case of WAY TO NORMAL, too much aggrieved tsuris) doesn't become Folds at all in the artistic sense.

Here's the ONION review, plus the full pro-and-con range of comments:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Glenn Greenwald of SALON on bailout and House rejection thereof.

Here's the latest Glenn Greenwald SALON column regarding the "leave the driving to Hank Paulson" bailout:

Bailout follows the 10 normal principles for how our government functions

(updated below - Update II)

The word being used most frequently to describe the bailout package that is about to pass is "extraordinary." That adjective may apply to the amounts of money being transferred from taxpayers to Wall Street, but the process by which this is all happening is anything but "extraordinary." All of the "principles" that drive how our Government functions in general -- what explain the last eight years at least -- are perfectly evident in what has happened here:

(1) Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency. Nancy Pelosi has praised herself for decreeing that the new law will be online for 24 hours before Congress votes on it -- a full 24 hours for the American public to understand and assess a law that forces them to subsidize Wall St.'s losses in a way that may impact them for decades, if not generations. The most significant and consequential pieces of legislation over the last eight years -- the Patriot Act, the various expanded surveillance laws, the Military Commissions Act -- were the by-product of identical anti-democratic processes.

(2) Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored -- systematically excluded from the process. Professor Nouriel Roubini:

It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented -- many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum -- alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis.
Last week, Hank Paulson -- who bears responsibility for the crisis in numerous ways -- demanded that $700 billion be transferred to him in order to purchase toxic assets from his Wall St. friends, and while there was much howling of outrage in many quarters, no other framework was ever considered.

(3) Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions. Much is being made over the allegedly strong oversight provisions to limit the Treasury Secretary's power, accomplished through the creation of two oversight panels -- one that is composed of 5 administration officials (including the Treasury Secretary himself, the Federal Reserve Chairman and the SEC Chairman -- the definitive foxes guarding the hen house), and another that is appointed by Congress but which -- as is true for everything Congress touches -- has little real authority over what is done.

Identically, executive compensation limits -- used to bestow the plan with its populist bona fides -- are minimal and extremely limited. Worse, the public is being told that the financial services industry must pay for any losses to the Treasury still outstanding after five years, but the bill requires nothing of the sort, simply requiring that the president "propose" a plan for recoupment, not that Congress enact any such plan.

And, most of all, while not as absolute as it was in the original Paulson proposal, the Congressional plan still vests extraordinarily vast and centralized power in the Treasury Secretary -- just as Paulson demanded. As the NYT put it this morning: "During its weeklong deliberations, Congress made many changes to the Bush administration’s original proposal to bail out the financial industry, but one overarching aspect of the initial plan that remains is the vast discretion it gives to the Treasury secretary."

(4) The Government begins with demands for absolute power so brazen and absurd that anything, by comparison, seems reasonable. Thus, the law that will be passed does improve on the original Paulson Plan in certain ways -- equity shares under some circumstances, some oversight provisions and mild home-owner protections -- and people thus end up grateful for what is, by any measure, an extreme outcome, all because it's not quite as extreme as what the Bush administration began by demanding.

(5) Wall Street, large corporations and their lobbyists own the Federal Government and both parties, and (therefore) they always win. Professor Roubini:

Thus, the Treasury plan is a disgrace: a bailout of reckless bankers, lenders and investors that provides little direct debt relief to borrowers and financially stressed households and that will come at a very high cost to the US taxpayer. And the plan does nothing to resolve the severe stress in money markets and interbank markets that are now close to a systemic meltdown . . . . This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street. And it is a scandal that even Congressional Democrats have fallen for this Treasury scam that does little to resolve the debt burden of millions of distressed home owners.
Both parties depend on, are drowning in, the largesse of the very industries they are supposed to regulate, and the only possible outcome from the very beginning was that Congress would do what most helps Wall St. and their largest corporate donors. That's what they always do.

(6) The people who run the Washington Establishment are drowning in conflicts of interest. Hank Paulson let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt while intervening to save AIG, only for it to be revealed after the fact that Goldman Sachs -- Paulson's career-long firm of which he was Chairman until just a couple years ago -- would have lost $20 billion had AIG failed. Worse, Goldman's current CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, was present with Paulson when the decision to save AIG was made.

Beyond the litany of Wall St.-loyal government officials demanding this Wall St.-friendly bailout (Bush's Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, is also a former Goldman Sach official), Congressional leaders are, with very few exceptions, all vested heavily in Wall St. As but one example, Nancy Pelosi's tens of millions of dollars are invested (.pdf) in firms such as AIG, AT&T and others. It only stands to reason -- as always -- that if Wall St. is both owning the Government and running it, it will prevail over the proverbial "Main Street" every time. And it does, and just did again.

(7) For all the anger over what Wall St. has done, the Government -- as it bails them out -- isn't doing anything to rein in their practices. Nancy Pelosi today said: "We sent a message to Wall Street -- the party is over," but to the extent that's true, the Government has done nothing to bring it to an end. To the contrary, by announcing -- yet again -- that there are never any consequences for recklessness and real corruption on the part of the ruling class, that behavior is only being further incentivized. If you were running a large financial services corporation whose failure would jeopardize many other companies, why wouldn't you continue to pursue extremely high-risk/high-reward transactions, comfortable in the knowledge that the Congress you own will protect you from any real cataclysmic failure (in exactly the way that high government officials know they can commit crimes with impunity and thus are incentivized to do so)?

(8) When the Government wants greater and greater power and wants to engage in pure corruption, it need only put the population in extreme fear and it gets its way in every case. Establishment mavens rush forth to assure the public that they have no choice but to submit to what the Government is demanding. The anger and impotence level of the citizenry increases further, further alienating them from their Government and ensuring even greater levels of submission in the future, grounded in an accurate perception of futility.

(9) On the most consequential and fundamental questions that define the country, the establishment/leadership of both political parties are in full agreement, and insulate themselves from any political ramifications by acting jointly. Democrats in particular jump eagerly into line when told they must cooperate with the White House to avert whatever the Disaster du Jour is (and in this case, House Republicans were most impressive in defying these orders until they, too, were basically whipped into line), but ultimately, the differences between the parties at the level of their leadership are impossible to detect.

(10) Whenever you think that the Government has done things so extreme that it can't top itself -- torture, theories of presidential lawbreaking, a six-year war justified by blatantly false pretenses -- it always tops itself. On top of the massive debt under which the country was already drowning, another $700 billion is now being added in order to save the nation's richest individuals from the consequences of their own recklessness, allowing many of them not only to remain enriched, but become further enriched, all while basically ensuring that the Government is incapable of spending any money for years, if not longer, on programs designed to improve the lives of the vast, vast majority of its citizens -- the same citizens who are forced to fund this bail-out. That seems hard to top, but the only thing certain is that they will find a way to do so.

UPDATE: Amazingly, the House just rejected the bailout, sending the Dow plummeting by more than 500 points. According to Kagro:

The bill is defeated. 205-228 -- there was a last, and I mean really last, minute switcher. A Dem, switching from yea to nay. Could have been a yea voter looking to move to reconsider. Partisan breakdown: 140 Dems for, 95 against, and 65 Rs for, 133 against.
The economy and the markets are clearly in severe distress, and some form of Government action is needed. I don't think anyone denies that. But this was the wrong deal, and in terms of market confidence and stability, there's probably nothing worse than announcing so definitively -- again -- that a deal has been agreed to, only for it to be defeated. Our political leaders are as inept as they are corrupt.
Full text can be found on Salon's site at:

Sony wants you to watch old Columbia movies--and laugh at them.

A few hours ago, I finished watching THE ANDERSON TAPES (a somewhat-forgotten caper film from 1971 with Sidney Lumet directing, among others, Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, and a young Christopher Walken), which I rented from Netflix. I noticed that Sony has unearthed a lot of films of varying quality from its library (THE GARMENT JUNGLE, DOLLARS, NICKELODEON, THE NEW CENTURIONS, NIGHTWING, I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER) and given them the "Martini Movies" brand for midprice DVD sales. I watched a meant-to-be-cute "How to be a Leading Man" short with ANDERSON which seemed to do little more than showcase a few clips and a recipe for a certain kind of shaken martini.

Not being a Sony employee (I once remember speaking to Michael Schlesinger, someone responsible for prints of old Columbia movies sent to repertory screenings), I wonder why the hell the decision was made to classify, say, 1970's I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER (with fine performances by Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman), as camp to be laughed at instead of more deserving "Martini Movie" titles from the same period such as THE LOVE MACHINE (a Jackie Susann adaptation with John Phillip Law as a sexual-dynamo TV newscaster) and DOCTORS' WIVES [these films, as far as I know, aren't on the "Martini Movies" release schedule].

But they're "old movies" to the Sony video people and I guess that, with a lot of them not being "classics", they're going to sell them in the dumbest possible manner. Just thought potential DVD buyers/renters might want to know if you're not already aware of this "martini" marketing gimmick.

[UPDATE 2/4/09: The latest slate of old Columbia titles to get the "Martini Movies" treatment include Stephen Frears' GUMSHOE from 1971 with Albert Finney, Richard Rush's 1970 campus unrest comedy/drama GETTING STRAIGHT with Elliott Gould, Candice Bergen and a young Harrison Ford in a bit part--and Carol Reed's spy satire OUR MAN IN HAVANA from 1959 with Alec Guinness and Ernie Kovacs.]

Friday, September 26, 2008

John McCain boards the Double Talk Express.

From an AP wire story by Nedra Pickler:

Republican John McCain agreed to attend the first presidential debate Friday night even though Congress doesn't have a bailout deal, reversing an earlier decision to delay the event until Washington had taken action to address the crisis.

Forget it, Jake, it's politics as usual.

Maybe we'll find out in a few days that Sarah Palin has mysteriously developed laryngitis before the Vice Presidential debate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Will the economy get the Democrats and their sympathizers to redirect their focus?

One potential plus of the Wall Street miseries of the past couple of days (disclosure: Bank Of America is now prominent in my financial life and home ownership) is that people who want to see Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House can drop the rapid-fire personal attacks on John McCain and Sarah Palin in favor of straight, hard talk about the economy and finding ways to keep America from sliding into another Great Depression.

The current notions of "hitting back" ( Senator Claire McCaskill, a MOR pol I generally admire, was sent out to cable news to vocalize the "McCain's too old and he's had cancer" recitative) and letting slip the left-wing 527 attack dogs amount to little more than trying to avenge John Kerry's loss of the 2004 election.   This is akin to the 2004 election attempts to harpoon George Butch, Jr. for his National Guard Vietnam-avoidance service--an attack that should have been retired after Baby Butch's 2000 appointment to the Presidency.

It's time for the Democrats and their sympathizers to cut the crap--along with the temptation to condescend to/snark over the "stupidity" of members of the GOP who take McCain and Palin at face value.

It's time to win with the truth--and ensure a healthy voter turnout that can override any voter-registration chicanery/mis-or-uncounted votes. 

Update (9/24/08): A link to an old Evan Thomas NEWSWEEK article from 2000 about McCain's temper and decision-making in the Senate:

Update (9/25/08): Apparently CNN has decided that Campbell Brown can express opinions just as Glenn Beck does on sister channel Headline News.  Here's a quote from Ms. Brown about the race to get the financial bailout bill passed without any real scrutiny:

"Now, I know everyone is screaming about how urgent this crisis is, that action must be taken immediately. But I love and live by former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis' great quote: 'Sunshine is the best disinfectant.' What we need is scrutiny and debate. If it has to happen quickly, then do it fast. But without grandstanding, or political posturing. Serious scrutiny and debate — and that should happen whether we are talking about a giant piece of legislation that is going to affect all of our lives, or whether we are talking about our Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates."

Link that includes a videoreplay from CNN:




Kid Rock and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sell young moviegoers on the National Guard.

Here's an article from the Firedog lake blog about a new National Guard ad playing in multiplexes:

It's a definite sign of the times where the Guard is being sold as nothing more than another go-fight-in-Iraq branch of the armed forces.

And what's especially hard to take is the intercutting of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR footage throughout the ad. 

Yes, going to Iraq and fighting a "preventive" war (which George Butch Jr. was determined to fight before 9/11--I remember Regis Philbin asking candidate Baby Butch what he was going to do about Saddam during the 2000 campaign)  designed in part to secure a firm grasp over its oil reserves, is as much a kickass, worthwhile adventure as racing around a track while wearing a helmet and jumpsuit plastered with corporate logos.

One important exception: NASCAR racers don't carry guns and aren't shooting at each other and/or the fans in the grandstands.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Virginia Madsen gets fearful and gives in to Botox.

It's an old story--actresses and some actors (remembering Jack Lemmon's facelift that gave him an overly rosy-cheeked appearance around the time of the GRUMPY OLD MEN duology) give in to the demands of Hollywood to have Botox and/or facelifts once they reach a certain age.

Virginia Madsen, a fortysomething actress who revitalized her career years ago with her fine performance in Alexander Payne's SIDEWAYS, is now doing ads for Botox.  And like other actresses on various levels of the showbiz ladder--Jackie (GENERAL HOSPITAL) Zeman, Jessica Lange, Lara Flynn Boyle--the cosmetic changes to ward off the evils of aging aren't doing her any recognizable good.

Here's some Botox propaganda about how the treatment doesn't really affect the ability to have facial expressions:

Yesterday, I saw an advance screening of Jonathan Demme's RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (written by Sidney Lumet's one-time actress daughter Jenny).  It's Demme's best film in almost two decades; he's shrugged off the over-PC self-importance of too much of his recent work and has rediscovered the hipster/humanist fusion marking his great run of films from MELVIN AND HOWARD to MARRIED TO THE MOB.

The reason i'm mentioning RACHEL GETTING MARRIED is because Debra Winger appears in a supporting role.  Ms. Winger has opted out of the Industry in recent years and has spent some of her time as an author and teacher of acting.

Debra Winger, as viewers will notice when the film opens on October 3rd, doesn't use Botox and isn't afraid of getting older and appearing her age.

And she looks a hell of a lot better than the airbrushed creature that Virginia Madsen has now become.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Random 9/11/08 observations.

1. I shouldn't be surprised that George Butch, Jr. once again tied 9/11 and Iraq together in yesterday's speech dedicating the Pentagon memorial.

2. I also shouldn't be surprised by this excerpt (taken from THE HUFFINGTON POST; THE DRUDGE REPORT is displaying positive spins) from the Charles Gibson/Sarah Palin summit meeting.  Dan Quayle wasn't removed from the GOP ticket after Lloyd Bentsen exposed Quayle's limitations two decades ago--and Palin, for all her don't-know-enough-but-I'm-energizing-the-base-that-votes-for-guts-not-brains provincialism, won't be going anywhere either:

GIBSON: But this is not just reforming a government. This is also running a government on the huge international stage in a very dangerous world. When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact that you have commanded the Alaskan National Guard and that Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?

PALIN: But it is about reform of government and it's about putting government back on the side of the people, and that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that's with the energy independence that I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States.

GIBSON: I know. I'm just saying that national security is a whole lot more than energy.

Tell that to our current Vice President.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Another chapter in the fractious MSNBC story: Olbermann and Matthews demoted to "analysis.'

Other than perhaps the BBC, there's not much "objectivity" in the way news is covered.

On the cable networks, Fox News and CNN both tilt right (though the latter does it subtly enough that some conservatives think that CNN is "liberal") and MSNBC, at least in its evening broadcasts, tilts a sort of mainstream-left (you're not likely to see Amy Goodman or Noam Chomsky on the channel).

The media gossip site is a good source for recent MSNBC in-house news.  Here's their take on the demotion of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews to mere analysts, in favor of David Gregory (who, in the past, has been to George Butch, Jr. what Dan Rather was to Richard Nixon) as the "objective" anchor:

And another article updating this story:

While I'm at it, here's a link to a commentary piece from Jeffrey Wells of HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE that reminds us that Gregory was part of last year's infamous "MC Rove" sketch during the Washington Correspondents' Dinner, where the press and the politicians get to suck up to each other:

Regarding MSNBC, my thoughts are mixed.  Yes, Olbermann is a good newsertainer--but he doesn't seem to be comfortable with anything other than being highly scripted and only interviewing people on the same ideological page (one hopes this doesn't extend to the bright and interesting--and not afraid to debate conservatives--Rachel Maddow, whose show debuts tonight).

But a lot of the channel's output is subpar.  I once erroneously blamed Dan Abrams (when he was still general manager) for the late-evening hours being clogged with prison documentaries/TO CATCH A PREDATOR reruns.  Jeff Zucker takes the blame for that programming decision.  And if MSNBC had a bit more money to do real reporting, maybe the channel wouldn't resort to so much dumb (and cheap to air) talking-head speculating on what Candidates X and Y will do next.

And some daily anchors (such as the mind-numbing Contessa Brewer) need to be fired.

Your thoughts?  Please post them in the "comments" section.

Update 9/10/08: Another Jossip post which articulated the concerns of NBC "news" talent who don't want to be tainted by MSNBC "comments"--

Update 9/11/08: Let's allow Charles Warner, writing in THE HUFFINGTON POST, to have the last word:

If MSNBC had been only a cable news network and not associated with NBC News, had not used NBC News talent such as Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, and Andrea Mitchell, and had tilted to the left with Olbermann and Matthews, it would have branded itself as a liberal alternative [to Fox News] and possibly prospered.

Full article at


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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sarah Palin's media embargo over: Barracuda to sit down with Charlie "Official Story Only" Gibson.

Given that Disney/ABC news tends to tilt either right or tabloid, it makes sense that the McCain campaign has allowed Gov. Sarah Palin to sit down with Charles Gibson for her first post-convention interview.

Curious as to whether short-attention-spanned people can even remotely recall the rather partisan performances Gibson and George Stephanopoulos gave in the ABC Presidential debate earlier this year.

Trust me--Gibson will let Palin off easy with no follow-up questions.  Charlie will only be an attack dog with Obama and/or Biden.

Here's a sardonic take on all of this from the media gossip site Jossip: 


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Get ready as John and Sarah set out to Win Ugly.

I could only tolerate a few minutes of John McCain's convention acceptance speech before coming upstairs to write this entry.

Let's face it: all the GOP can do this year is to attack, attack, attack, etc. etc. since there's precious little of the last eight years that can be defended--both on the domestic and foreign fronts.

And it looks like Sarah Palin's probably a front-runner for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination after all the gush from the news media--the bar's been set so low that competent speechreading is treated as a Great Victory.  I almost fell off my chair when my wife said that Chris "Softball" Matthews compared Palin to Sally Field's heroic union-organizing character of Norma Rae (from the 1979 film of the same name).

We're going into the Age of Unreason and extreme-sports level fascism for the next eight weeks.  The upcoming campaign will be conducted in the underground sewer that the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt now chooses to crawl in.  Of course, the 527s will be called in to do the really dirty work against Obama and Biden.

And a lot of people will vote for fear wearing the grotesquely fake mask of hope--with "change" a word that only means a different, don't-offend-the-oil companies-the-multinationals-and-the-K-Streeters GOPer in the Oval Office.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

G. Murray Thomas explains it all for you.

G. Murray Thomas, at one time in his Southern California poetic career, edited a magazine called NEXT.  NEXT was how I found out there was a local "scene" in Southern California. 

Prior to that, all I knew about SoCal poetry was that luminaries like Drew Barrymore and Charlie Sheen tried their hand at the written word at the now-defunct Cafe Largo on Fairfax and all this was chronicled by scenester Eve Babitz in the old MOVIELINE magazine.

After NEXT ended as a hard-copy publication, Murray kept compiling a monthly calendar of local poetry events, both on the net and in print.

And he also contributes periodic poetry reviews to

Take a look at this excerpt from a review of Murray's (regarding a chapbook by Radomir Luza called 7TH LIFE).  In a nutshell, Murray's given a lot of local poets a "that's the way I expect you to do it" moment where the Secret of how to "fit in" with those who write "true" poetry is revealed; remember to dig deep, be ultrathoughtul and always be "elevating"--which, at worst, can be self-conscious in the wrong way:

Poetry as art takes a lot more effort, and focus. If Luza wants his poetry taken as art (and the fact that he has published these chapbooks indicates that he does), he needs to put in that effort and focus. Some of these poems already stand as art, but many more need the extra work.

Luza’s poetry obviously means a lot to him. There’s a poem called “Poetry Is All I Have.” Another one (“Little Phone”) describes almost losing his journal, and what a tragedy that would have been. Unluckily, it doesn’t say much more than that. It’s a journal entry about losing his journal.

That’s one of the problems with this book. Many of the poems read like journal entries. While I believe there is poetry in every moment, I do not believe that recording every moment makes it a poem. There are poems about buying a car, sitting in the Social Services office, sitting in the Social Security Office (a very different office), hanging out in Carmel, and so on, and they all feel like they were transcribed directly from his journal to the chapbook. There isn’t that extra push that would make them poems. If Luza aspires to poetry as art, he needs to make his poetry mean something to us, not just to him.

The thing is, Luza has a definite poetic talent. There are pieces here I consider fully formed poems, such as “If I Can Make It Back Home by Noon” (p. 14), “43rd St.” (p. 20), “The That” (p. 24) and “Out Here” (p, 29). And there is only a shade of difference between these poems and the weaker pieces. These poems also take a specific occurrence (a journal entry), but they work with it, find its deeper meaning, or at least find original language to express it in. The starting point is the same, the end result is elevated.

I feel that sometimes a "journal entry" poem can be greater art than poems that painfully strive to be "elevated" and "profound"--but that puts me in a minority.

When I began in 1998, there was a scene that would accomodate different types of poetry and poetic styles.  Not now--the "standards" have contracted and the poets who believe themselves to be more talented and discerning than average folk (often considered stupider-than-thou) are still intent on keeping poetry as an underground subculture that must not be diluted by "wrong" popular interest.

Here's a poem I wrote about this mentality.  Perhaps Murray might consider this a "journal entry."


it’s not just you


I read the news today, oh boy

about the lucky poetry venues

that made the grade


it made me kind of sad

to know you ushered me in

ten years ago

and are now letting me and others know

about the poetry venues

that are too highfalutin

for cheap entertainers like me


I remember a lot of poets

no longer active on the scene

(or in some cases not on the scene at all)

who were mainstays ten years ago


now even if a few of them came back

they probably wouldn’t be accepted

in the new poetic order


it’s not just you that’s making things clear to me

I’ve been told to get educated

and upgrade my craft to be taken seriously


but I like being a cheap entertainer

and committing the sin of being easy to understand


so it’s time for me to go quietly

into that gentle night

reserved for sig rumanns and margaret dumonts

declaiming into microphones

about their hot new pantoums

as the audiences go

mmm, mmm, mmmm

in approval


if it doesn’t make most hosts

and some audiences go

mmm, mmm, mmmm

it just isn’t poetry anymore