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.