Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beyond Baroque and the silence of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

Here's a link to an article by T.J. Sullivan on LA OBSERVED regarding the current state of whether or not Beyond Baroque will get a lease renewal (and stay in its home of 40 years in Venice), plus the sad fact that the Sam Zell-ized LOS ANGELES TIMES isn't bothering to cover Beyond Baroque (though the closing of the well-regarded Duttons Bookstore in Brentwood has received plenty of attention from the TIMES):


The Screen Actors Guild wants to divide itself again.

Here's a link to Nikki Finke's DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD DAILY, where she mentions certain actors in the Screen Actors Guild (notably Amy Brenneman, who most recently appeared shilling for DIY Dove soap commercials on Sunday's Academy Awards) supporting a "qualified voting" petition, which will deny members who don't work a certain number of days per year as either a principal actor, day player or background (there are other qualfications) the right to vote on union contractual matters:

The "qualified" mentality isn't anything new with SAG. 

I became a member in early 1992, having received a line of dialogue while working as background on Richard Attenborough's CHAPLIN.  [My period of active work as a SAG member (both as background actor and stand-in) was from 1992 to the spring of 1997.  Since then, I've kept my membership card and have voted on occasion in either board elections or the annual SAG Awards.]

By the summer of 1992, SAG took over jurisdiction for union background actors after the folding of the old Screen Extras Guild. 

In the membership meetings I attended, I remember that various factions of the Guild weren't always happy with each other.  And certainly I remember that background actors weren't always highly regarded by some "real" actors (one day player type moaned out loud at a mid-90s meeting about "the lunacy of the extras") and, notably, former SAG President Richard Masur.

And, unfortunately, background actors (who suffer periods when there's very little work to go around) have supported their own version of the "qualified" mania: wanting to repeal the three-SAG-background-voucher system which makes nonunion backgrounders eligible to join the Guild.

Given the upcoming challenges of renegotiating with the AMPTP, it's very sad that certain members of the Guild want to behave in an incredibly stupid, poisonously divisive manner when unity--and potential support from all the rank-and-file should a strike occur--is needed at this time.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The end of the Dutton's Bookstore era.

For those living in the L.A. area, Dutton's Bookstore was a well-known, well-regarded independent chain, which used to include stores in Burbank, North Hollywood and Beverly Hills--and its flagship store on San Vicente in Brentwood.

Now, it's been announced by owner Doug Dutton that the Brentwood store will close on April 30th.

Here's a link to an article found on the website LA OBSERVED:

Update: Here's another link--to an article in the LOS ANGELES TIMES:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Brief random entries.

In no particular order:

1. The 80th Academy Awards were pretty much as Gil Cates and ABC/Disney wanted, with only the brief irritation of Alex Gibney (who won Best Documentary Feature for TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE) having the temerity to criticize torture--a word that Tom Hanks wouldn't say.

2. Last night, Tina Fey supported Hillary Clinton's candidacy on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE by saying: BITCHES GET THINGS DONE!  And bitches and bastards get things done in the entertainment industry and the corporate world, but I'd like to think that most Democratic voters in America see things in a different light.  It seems like Tina supports Hillary because Tina Fey essentially IS Hillary: someone with a fat bank account who has power from acquiescing to The Corporate Way rather than trying to challenge it to create true and beneficial change.

3. I saw the poster for the new Bill Maher "I'm making fun of religion" documentary RELIGULOUS (Bill's face on a piece of toast apparently lampooning miracles) and I'll predict that the Michael Moore-style documentary will no longer work for anyone but Michael Moore--meaning that Maher and Morgan Spurlock (WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?) may be spending an episode of HBO's REAL TIME late this year railing about how the stupid public didn't appreciate their cinematic genius.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A brief history of Beyond Baroque--from its MySpace page.

So you, the reader, will know what  L.A. poets and writers are fighting for, here's a short biopiece taken from Beyond Baroque's MySpace page:

Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center is based near the beach in Los Angeles’ old Venice City Hall, built 1906. The Center offers an extensive program of public readings, free workshops, a project room, bookstore, publications, and chapbook/small press archive. During our nearly forty years in Venice, we have nurtured and presented many of the best writers, artists, and poets from the West Coast, around the country, and world. The Center is unique for its combined range of activities, constantly moving back and forth between the underground and the literary and artistic establishments.

In a town focused on Hollywood and the music industry, Beyond Baroque has charted an independent, non-commercial path, emphasizing the live experience of challenging art and poetry in an intimate, focused atmosphere. We pride ourselves on enabling poets and artists to envision and present their work outside usual social hierarchies, in an egalitarian and welcoming atmosphere. The Center, continually reinventing itself, has provided a home and incubator for countless styles and approaches, based on its founding spirit from the free-form late 1960s. Many now-famous writers read with us early; others have received celebrations by the community gathering in appreciation of a life’s work. The Center’s peer-based workshop program, where writers of all kinds can gather year round, week after week, for free, is unique not only on the West coast but nationally.

Begun in 1968 with a newsprint ‘zine titled BEYOND BAROQUE, printed and distributed free in an edition of 20,000 by George Drury Smith, Beyond Baroque started as a meeting place, with workshops and space for readings, art, and music. The workshops, over the years, have generated numerous writers, presses, and some of the leading poets in Los Angeles. The facilitators have included founders Joe Hansen and John Harris, Leland Hickman, Bob Flanagan, John Thomas, Will Alexander, Jeff McDaniel, Philomene Long, Simone Forti, Sarah Maclay, Liz Gonzales, and others. The Center’s first librarian was Exene Cervenka of the band X, which was formed when Exene and John Doe met at the Wednesday Night Poetry Workshop. Some of world famous LA artist Mike Kelley’s first performances were at the Center, and the cover of one of the Center’s early issues of BEYOND BAROQUE, featuring an array of experimental filmmakers, was displayed in the Pompidou’s 2006 show on LA art. The Center archives chapbooks, small press poetry and experimental fiction and sells them (an index of our chapbook archive is online). Our reading series, featuring over 200 writers a year, has included Christopher Isherwood, Allen Ginsberg, Raymond Carver, John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, Philip Levine, Ed Dorn, Wanda Coleman, CK Williams, Lewis MacAdams, James Tate, Alice Notley, Patti Smith and thousands of others both famous and infamous. Center series include experimental music, film screenings, and visual art. The Center has facilitated or organized festivals, including the citywide World Beyond Festivals, with the World Stage and other LA organizations, and the Beyond Text Festivals, with LACMA and others. Its yearly event with the LA Poetry Festival, the Younger Poets, has consistently presented the best emerging voices from around the LA region at the Downtown Central Library. In addition to on-site work, the Center has curated and organized permanent public art projects highlighting Los Angeles poets, including the Poetry Walls on the Venice Boardwalk and the lobby of the Junipero Serra State Office Building downtown.

Publications that have come out of the Center, some originally through its typesetting facilities, include Momentum Press, edited by Bill Mohr, Little Caesar edited by programs curator Dennis Cooper, a series edited by David Trinidad, the magazine FOREHEAD edited by Benjamin Weissman, also a readings curator, and more. The Center’s imprint was launched in 1998 by Fred Dewey and has published fourteen books, including works by April Durham, Olive Martin, Eve Wood, Majid Naficy, Philomene Long, Nancy Agabian, Simone Forti, K. Curtis Lyle, Benjamin Hollander, and Ammiel Alcalay, along with anthologies from both the Wednesday Workshop, the World Stage, and several magazines featuring challenging writing and art from around the country and the world, including the recent TRUTH ETC, with works by Jean-Luc Godard, Wanda Coleman, Jack Hirschman, Christoph Dreager, Diane di Prima, David Meltzer, Sesshu Foster, Ammiel Alcalay, Yan Li, and more.

The Center’s staff and board have historically included writers and artists, from the Center’s founding by Smith, an experimental fiction writer, in 1968, through key programming figures including Manazar Gamboa, Dennis Cooper, Dennis Philips, Amy Gerstler, BenjaminWeissman, and the current director, Fred Dewey.

Beyond Baroque is located at 681 Venice Blvd., in Venice, CA, 90291. Our bookstore and archive are open Fridays and around events. You can find us on the web at 

Former Southern California poet/writer on Beyond Baroque.

Victor Infante, when he lived in Orange County years back, was an influential figure in Southern California poetry.

In the wake of the Beyond Baroque controversy, I went to his website to see what his opinion on the subject might be.

Here it is:

Aside from my distaste at the idea that a less-prosperous NPO might be forced to bid for its home of 40 years against wealthier organizations, Beyond Baroque really is at the center of Southern California's literary soul, and its influence goes a long way toward explaining why a city that has a rep for being soulless produces so many fantastic writers.

To read more of Victor's writings (both poetry and journalism--he's written for OC WEEKLY), log onto


Thursday, February 21, 2008

THE NEW REPUBLIC on why THE NEW YORK TIMES published its McCain story.

Here's a link to a story in THE NEW REPUBLIC which traces the genesis of the controversial story about John McCain which appeared in this morning's print edition of THE NEW YORK TIMES:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nick Lowe: When early "disposable" music has more value than later "Art."

Like a lot of veteran artists, Nick Lowe is reissuing his back catalog of albums.  First up is JESUS OF COOL (originally released in the U.S. three decades ago as PURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE with a slightly different tracklist than the UK version) on the veteran artist-friendly Yep Roc label out of North Carolina.

Here's a quote from Nick (found in the JESUS OF COOL reissue booklet):

"In those days I wasn't interested in creating serious art.  I was much more interested in the mischief," says Nick.  "I wanted to make music that was accessible, but just as you've hooked people in, you would screw it up and throw it across the room.  I do regret it somewhat, but time was of the essence and it had to be disposable."

Essentially, the "mischief" in Nick Lowe's career ended around 1989-90 with PARTY OF ONE, an album which (in my mind) was an ideal blend of the humor of old with a more mature, wised-up-by-heartache perspective.

But Lowe lost the plot (a UK expression I like) and subsequent albums like THE IMPOSSIBLE BIRD and THE PROCLAIMER became the aural equivalent of walking in the La Brea Tar Pits: one lugubrious crawling-tempo ballad  ("Look, now I can really SING!") after another with occasional wryness doled out as filler.  And, unfortunately, rock critics went into ecstasy over the grown-up Nick Lowe who put away Childish Things.

As a result, I've avoided last year's AT MY AGE, which--you guessed it--prompted more critical superlatives.

Perhaps Nick Lowe's career might be a good litmus test for discovering the cultural biases of any musicians or Literati you might meet in your lifetime. 

An icebreaking question could be:

Do you prefer the early "disposable" Nick (whose album titles include LABOUR OF LUST, NICK THE KNIFE and THE ABOMINABLE SHOWMAN) or the creator of Serious Art for the last decade-and-a-half?

The answer should be a good indication of whether or not you want to engage in prolonged conversation with that person.


Update: Regarding Beyond Baroque--and other city-owned properties.

First, here's a link to an article on the LA OBSERVED website from former Midnight Special Bookstore poetry host/journalist T.J. Sullivan about the Beyond Baroque situation:

And here's a letter from Beyond Baroque board member Richard Modiano which has circulated around the poetry community today (thanks to VCP's Jerry Garcia for forwarding this to me):

After a preliminary meeting between Councilman Rosendahl's staff and
City Attorney Delgadillo's staff that concluded today, the issue of
Baroque's lease extension enters a new phase.

The City Attorney plans to make a recommendation that all city-owned
properties have their leases put up for bid on expiration. This means
not only Beyond Baroque but every property owned by the city that
houses a non-profit or any other charitable entity will be required
to bid for its lease renewal on the open market. Councilman Rosendahl
intends to advocate for a review process that would take community
needs into consideration before granting a lease, so that gives
Beyond Baroque at least a fighting chance.

The crisis is not over, however, since there must be community
support for a review process that gives fair hearing to community

Thanks to the over 400 email messages received by Councilman
Rosendahl's office over the weekend he is firmly in support of Beyond
Baroque, so  gratitude to everyone who answered Amelie's call for

Richard Modiano,
board of trustees, Beyond Baroque


Sunday, February 17, 2008

When profiteering becomes more important than poetry/literature in Los Angeles.

I'll let these e-mails I received speak for themselves.  And I've already sent e-mails concerning this subject a few minutes ago.

First, from Amelie Frank, Beyond Baroque board member:

Dear Everyone:

Here's the 411 on the situation.

After years of hard work on the part of Fred Dewey and others
advocating for Beyond Baroque, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl agreed
at the end of fall 2007 to extend Beyond Baroque's lease of the
building at 681 Venice Blvd. for another 25 years. We on the Board of
Trustees went off into the holidays relieved that the issue had
finally been resolved and that Beyond Baroque's homestead was secure.

I was stunned to learn last night that last week, Councilman
Rosendahl was informed by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo's office
that the City Attorney wants to put the lease to 681 Venice Blvd. up
for an auction process for other non-profits to bid on. This despite
the facts that:

1) It is generally up to the City Councilman of a given council
district to determine how city property assets are parsed out for
public use;

2) 681 Venice Blvd. has been Beyond Baroque's home for nearly 40

3) Beyond Baroque's staff and supporters have put their time, money,
and talents into not only keeping up and improving the building and
its facilities, but also into beautifying its landscape.

This new snag may be Mr. Delgadillo's way of playing politics with
Councilman Rosendahl, but he has ordered a hearing to decide the
matter NEXT TUESDAY. That's right. Rocky gives us until Tuesday,
February 19, to do something about this.

We need to take action NOW.

Please send an e-mail to City Councilman Bill Rosendahl
( to thank him for supporting the 25-
year lease renewal for Beyond Baroque and to let him know that you
support him in his battle to keep Beyond Baroque in its rightful
home. IMPORTANT! Be sure to cc: the City Attorney
( on your e-mail. Large numbers of e-
mails WILL get their attention. It does not have to be a long e-mail.
You can personalize it by adding a few words about what Beyond
Baroque means to you as a resident of Los Angeles.

If you aren't from L.A., please tell them that Beyond Baroque is an
important reason for you to keep coming back to Venice and to Los
Angeles. If you are from out of state or out of the country
altogether, please talk about how you know of Beyond Baroque's
outstanding reputation and why it's important for Los Angeles to
protect and sustain its only literary arts center.

Be polite and supportive so that both parties understand that keeping
Beyond Baroque exactly where it is is a positive move that benefits

Do this tonight or tomorrow. The hearing is on Tuesday.

I thank you for taking action.

Much love and in solidarity,

Amélie Frank
Member, Board of Trustees
Beyond Baroque

And here's a letter from Beyond Baroque head Fred Dewey, passed along by Jerry Garica of Valley Contemporary Poets:

This is a rare, if not unprecedented email from the VCP regarding another poetry venue in Los Angeles.  
Posted below is a letter from Fred Dewey, Executive/Artistic Director of
Beyond Baroque.  

Alert - A Call For Community Action


After much effort on everyone’s part, our Councilman Bill Rosendahl recommended
a 25-year lease extension for Beyond Baroque to the City General Services Department.
Unfortunately, it now appears the City Attorney is recommending against an extension.
We are now in great peril.  Our lease is up in a few weeks and uncertainty is threatening
grants, programming and our entire future.
Please express your support to the Councilman, ask him why this is happening, and what
he is doing to protect Beyond Baroque.
Beyond Baroque is a vital and historic national institution and has been LA’s only literary
center for four decades. Please do not let it be destroyed.
Here is the contact information for Councilman Bill Rosendahl:
Councilman Bill Rosendahl
City Hall Office
200 N. Spring Street
Rm 415
Los Angeles,  CA   90012
(213) 473-7011
(213) 473-6926 (fax)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Joe Lieberman hearts waterboarding terror suspects.

Everyone's favorite (I'm being sarcastic) Republican-in-all-but-affiliation Joe Lieberman weighed in on waterboarding recently.  Steve Benen's Carpetbagger blog covers the whole sickening story:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Timbaland to produce album for cell phones.

This may not get as much media hype as Radiohead's early "pay what you want" download release of IN RAINBOWS, but this article in the London newspaper GUARDIAN describes still-hot producer Timbaland's current foray into nontraditional methods of distributing music:,,2255864,00.html

Not all the Bush-friendly "journalists" are on Fox News.

You may have heard recently about Chris Wallace helping out George Butch Jr. by throwing some "I'm on your side" softball questions at him during a recent Fox News lovefest interview.

Here's a link to Glenn Greenwald's SALON blog re CNN's John Roberts doing the same thing, but with National Security director Mike McConnell, on the subject of telephone companies getting lawsuit protection for aiding the Bush wiretap policy:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roy Scheider--RIP

Just read that the talented actor Roy Scheider passed away earlier today (February 10th).

Scheider, in his best-known film roles (JAWS 1 and 2, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, BLUE THUNDER, 52 PICKUP), was a terrific embodiment of the Everyman character doing his best to cope with out-of-the-ordinary circumstances.

He'll definitely be missed.

Update (2/14/08): Some other Scheider films worthy of note are Bob Fosse's ALL THAT JAZZ (playing the Fosse roman a clef Joe Gideon), William Friedkin's SORCERER (hopefully Friedkin can one day turn his attention to creating a special edition DVD) and Alan Pakula's KLUTE (a noteworthy supporting role as a pimp).

Los Angeles Poetry: the elite drink everyone else's milkshakes.

About two years ago, I was at a San Fernando Valley poetry venue when I ran into DN, a poet/translator who used to be a part of the scene when I was a bright-eyed newcomer in 1998.

I said hello to DN.  He responded with something like: ARE YOU STILL HERE?

I took DN's comment and tone-of-voice to mean that I should have disappeared from Los Angeles poetry by 2006 and found an avocation more suitable to my limited intelligence and stunted grasp of real art and "craft."

For twenty years, I've lived in the Los Angeles area.  I've been actively reading and writing poetry for ten years.  I even hosted two readings: one from my townhouse and a "real" one at a coffeehouse which closed in December.

And I've been around the "poetry community" long enough to see it change from roughly 55% elitist 45% egalitarian in 1998 to 90% elitist 10% egalitarian now.

In my opinion, the change began around 2003 when an elitist poet started a thread called "Straight Talk About Poetry" on a Yahoogroups listserve.  Not everyone agreed with the elitist poet's exact vision of high standards erasing mediocrity (slam poetry came in for some rather stereotypical abuse), but, like a whistle only dogs can hear, the elitist struck a chord among those poets who loved the notion that they were "special" and didn't need to be shoulder-to-shoulder with their artistic inferiors.

In the late winter of 2008, some local venues that believe in the idea of poetry being a "popular" art form are drawing small audiences.  And even those who try to appeal to both the elite and the populists aren't doing much better.

Awhile back, I was heavily criticized for advocating that elites should get out of their comfort zones and appear more often at "populist" (or "community") venues.

In a few cases, that did happen (certainly not because of me).  But, for the most part, they only appear when asked to feature and tend to avoid being part of open-mike readings.

At this point, I feel horribly embarrassed by the behavior of some local poets.  Shunning venues because they might hear "bad" poets during open-mikes (or disliking the host/hosts for personal reasons) and even turning their backs on making an effort to attract larger audiences (yes, even civilian nonpoets) are accepted ways of getting along in the "community."

So the elite crave "specialness" and, instead of practicing notions of community like The Golden Rule, they (to use a phrase from the final scenes of THERE WILL BE BLOOD) drink each other's milkshakes and step hard on the gas pedal to make sure that audiences are limited and oh-so-insular and the inferior practitioners of verse are killed immediately.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What goes through my mind when I see John McCain now.

Do you think that John McCain in his recent debate/campaign appearances is what Ronald Reagan would have been like if he had returned to acting in the 90s and co-starred in a WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S sequel?

McCain's voice even sounds like he's channeling Reagan's ghost.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Time for another random entry.

Here I go with the Larry King imitation again:

1. Yes, ROLLING STONE has a black-and-white cover story about Britney Spears, suggesting she's as much a victim as a selfish, thoughtless celeb whirling around in pain and anger because of massive quantities of resentment (at parents, at management, at cops and lawyers, at damn near anyone who won't get her what she wants RIGHT NOW).

And it again must be said that Lynne Spears deserves accolades for being a Bad Parent in excelsis.

2. The man in Missouri who killed city officials (over zoning difficulties) last night is a sobering cautionary tale to anyone who gets furious at people he/she believes are being patronizing and belittling--and, instead of listening, thinking, considering the consequences to his/her family and the families of the people he/she wants to harm, and walking away from anger--picks up a weapon.

3. Do I wish MSNBC's David Shuster could have used a better phrase than "pimped out" to describe Chelsea Clinton being sent out to court superdelegates (basically a Democratic Party attempt dating from 1982--after Ted Kennedy tried to derail Jimmy Carter's 1980 re-election campaign--to ensure the party's "establishment" candidate has a chance to "win") and three of THE VIEW's cast members (given Sherri Shepherd's past retrograde views, one would think she'd opt for Huckabee)? 

Part of me wants to say yes, but I think that even if Shuster had said something other than the p-word, Hillary and her PR goon Howard Wolfson would have still yelled their heads off at MSNBC and used this as a battering ram to ensure that no "irreverent" coverage of Hillary will occur for the remainder of the year.  And it's a really classy touch to threaten to avoid MSNBC-telecast debates, too.

While the "men being sexist" card has also been played against Chris Matthews, consider this recent remark from Maureen Dowd in THE NEW YORK TIMES:

[Even though Hillary reasserted her strength, corraling New York, California and Kennedy country Massachusetts, she and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro. Her argument to the Democratic base has gone from a subtext of “You owe me,” or more precisely, “Bill owes me and you owe him,” to a subtext of “Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right.”]

If Maureen Dowd were a cable-news contributor, would she--and her network--get the same kind of body-blowsMatthews did?

Here's a better question: How likely do you think Hillary, Wolfson and Terry McAulliffe will threaten to withdraw access to THE NEW YORK TIMES because of a Maureen Dowd column?



Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Peter Fonda sells you the 60s for just five payments of $29.95.

Before turning the TV off, I switched to CNBC to see what informercial was airing at this hour of the night.

Lo and behold: it's Peter Fonda, wearing a leather jacket that makes him look more like Fonzie than Captain America, shilling for a TimeLife box set of CDs called FLOWER POWER (collecting familiar counterculture hits from 1966-1974):

This reminds me of the semi-forgotten 1990 comedy FLASHBACK, where Dennis Hopper played an aging hippie bedeviling Kiefer Sutherland in a proto-Jack Bauer role as an FBI agent.  If you do rent or buy FLASHBACK, you'll never forget the way Hopper reads this line of dialogue re the nostalgic appeal of EASY RIDER for aging boomers:

"And you can get it at your lo-cal vid-e-o store!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Re the Super Tuesday primary results.

Now that most votes have been counted for "Super Tuesday", I'm still supporting Obama--but if Hillary does take the eventual lead, I would hope both candidates (and the respective Democratic Party entities of the Howard Dean-led Democratic National Committee and the Al From-founded Democratic Leadership Council) would consider uniting on one ticket and delivering this nation from more years of Republican misrule.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Burt Reynolds: the re-evaluation begins

You don't read much lately about Burt Reynolds' career--either positive or negative--except for the sad notice taken by film critics that Reynolds (obviously in need of money) took a supporting role in alleged-superbad director Uwe Boll's now-disappearing-from-multiplexes IN THE NAME OF THE KING.

But Reynolds had a good run as boxoffice star/avatar of mainstream "hip" from 1972-1982 and the blog WELCOME TO L.A. will cover the man and his career throughout February.

Here's a link to get started (filled with photos and YouTube trailer/TV footage links):


Not sure if W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCEKINGS  is on DVD, but it's an underrated B-film (mostly intended for small towns and drive-ins) from director John Avildsen worth seeking out.