Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Local poetry icons.

I happened to be reading a Yahoogroups listserve (one I'm no longer a member of) and there seemed to be a thread developing about people that are local poetry icons.

In the tradition of the TIME Man of the Year lists, here is a list of poets/people connected to local poetry who (listing is objective) count as icons/influential people. The list is in no particular order. No insult intended to anyone who may not be included.

1. Rick Lupert
2. Richard Beban
3. Don Kingfisher Campbell
4. Larry Colker
5. Steve Ramirez/Ben Trigg
6. Peggy Dobreer
7. Amelie Frank
8. Pat Cohee
9. Marcia Cohee
10. Lee Mallory
11. Mfawnwy Kaiser
12. Suzanne Lummis
13. Fred Dewey
14. Jawanza Dumisani
15. Holly Prado
16. Laurel Ann Bogen
17. Bowerbird Intelligentleman
18. Rafael FJ Alvarado
19. Pete Justus/Mani Suri
20. Michael Slobotsky
21. John Gardiner
22. Ellyn Maybe
23. Brendan Constantine
24. Alice Pero/Lois P. Jones
25. Richard Modiano
26. Ron Dvorkin
27. G. Murray Thomas
28. Marie Lecrivain/Annette Sugden
29. RD Raindog Armstrong
30. Jerry Quickley
31. Kerry Slattery
32. S.A. Griffin
33, Kate Gale
34. Elena Karina Byrne

The list is now closed.

And the Michael Jackson news continues.....

Here's a link to the TMZ coverage about the actual parents of Michael's first two children (apparently not him and Debbie Rowe), plus the announcement of the public viewing of the body on Friday at Neverland Ranch:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Warner Bros. bundling its DVD-on-demand archive selections.

It's an attempt to increase sales of DVDs-on-demand, but Warner Brothers' home video campaign devoted to "bundling" a set of DVDs (Cary Grant films, for example) for half the price of buying them at regular rates is worth looking into:

I've bought a handful of DVDs from the Warner Archive (including a couple of hard-to-find Garbo silents). It's a good consumer service that deserves to escape death-by-economic recession.

A modest proposal for Victor Infante and Michael Paul: formalized literary poetry slam a la DANCING WITH THE STARS.

One more encore in combating literary poetry fatuousness, keeping the ad hominem-osity to a minumum.

Here's a link to a recent Victor Infante blog post regarding slam poetry:

Finding a rare moment of common ground with Victor, I agree with him on the point that some slam poets (eager for high scores) engage in " simplistic statements of political positions for easy audience reaction."

But this sentence--All of it slides away when I put what good writing there is into focus.--makes me think....uh-oh.

Before I go further, I'll reveal my limited knowledge of/experience with slam. I've been to a few slam events over the years--mostly in Austin, TX (during the AIPF in 2001, 2002 and 2007) and in the Bay Area. And I've been there solely as an audience member.

After reading Victor's blog post, I had a flashback to something Michael Paul (former Orange County gasbag literary poet who is now operating out of Northern California) wrote for Poetix.net about a slam event he once attended (highlighting by me):
There were 10 teams fielded by 10 towns, which represented the cream of the crop, slam-wise, for those cities, and on Saturday, in two five-round bouts, those ten teams were competitively skimmed down to the four finalists, who would contend for the big bucks and big honors on Sunday, the day we attended. The reports, from informed and discriminating sources, were not too encouraging in terms of expecting artful poetry; in fact we were forewarned that the kind of angry, loud-voiced, typical rants and screeds which we have come, unfortunately, to expect, would be the order of the day.

So it was quite refreshing when, instead, the four final teams trotted out their best work to vie for the final honors. Instead of the frighteningly homogenous hip-hop we have seen in slams (skinny white boys and little old ladies from the old country attempting to conform to and perform in the cadence and body language of African-Americans, which does not ring true) there was diversity. There was originality. There was some real poetry. And there was a redemptive and life-affirming quality to much of the work.

Mr. Paul's complete column can be read here:

Here's my modest proposal: I'd prefer proponents-of-poetry-as-literature to engage in the act of separativeness, instead of trying to silence poetic voices they consider to be too informal and frighteningly inferior in craft and remake slam into nothing but their own self-image.

Once this separation has occurred, then the literary poets can have their very own slam contests a la DANCING WITH THE STARS with three appointed judges (this avoids the selection of audience members at random who may not appreciate their genius, their MFA degrees and magazine/small press/anthology/application-for-poet-laureate -of-their-state credentials).

Michael Paul can be Len Goodman.

Victor Infante can be Bruno Tonioli.

And I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to select an appropriate equivalent of Carrie Ann Inaba.

The celebrity deaths continue.

Comedian/impressionist Fred Travelena died at 66:

Actress/singer Gale Storm died at 87--almost completely unknown to today's generation but a popular sitcom star in the 50s (MY LITTLE MARGIE, THE GALE STORM SHOW)--and she recorded "I Hear You Knocking" a couple of decades before Dave Edmunds:

And another posthumous Michael Jackson note--some want Disneyland to revive CAPTAIN EO, the 3-D featurette starring Jackson and directed by Francis Ford Coppola:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Post-LITTLE RED BOOKS publication reading at Beyond Baroque.

It may seem that I don't have many nice things to say about poets and poetry.

But here's an exception below.

I'll be forever grateful to RD Armstrong for publishing some of my poems as a chapbook called I SAW IT ON TV--plus including three of them in the anthology THE LONG WAY HOME: THE BEST OF THE LITTLE RED BOOKS 1998-2008.

And I was happy to be a part of an evening that included a varied selection of poets (including Long Beach icon Gerald Locklin, Rick Smith, Angela Mankiewicz, Patricia Cherin and Bill Gainer, among others) and poetic styles.

Finally, I'm thankful to have the poems I write (and the way I write them) validated by Raindog. That means a lot.

And a hearfelt thanks to Mr. Armstrong for all he has done/will do for the art and business of poetry in the past, present and future.

If you weren't at Beyond Baroque in Venice last night, you can buy a copy of THE LONG WAY HOME here: http://lummoxpress.com/lrb-best.htm

Saturday, June 27, 2009

LA TIMES Tim Rutten looks down his nose at Michael Jackson saturation coverage.

Thirty years ago this summer, the late Glenn Shelton wrote one of his HIRED HAND columns for the WICHITA FALLS (Texas) RECORD NEWS. Shelton, who wore his cultural conservatism proudly, made a remark alleging that young people would have been more willing to go to Vietnam if they had been listening to Glenn Miller instead of The Beatles.

In the year 2009, Tim Rutten--LOS ANGELES TIMES columnist (who used to whine about the decline of the Los Angeles he knew in columns of two decades ago), husband of superlawyer Leslie Abramson (defender of the Menendez brothers) and also the ghostwriter for Johnnie Cochran's autobiography-- vents some disdainful observations about Michael Jackson, American inability to value the kind of high culture Tim Rutten adores, the fears that Old Journalism will crumble further in favor of coverage-determined-by-number-of-online-hits and oversaturated coverage of celebrity deaths: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rutten27-2009jun27,0,7268941.column

To be fair to Rutten, he probably has at least half a point about how cable can be monomaniacal about covering one Big Story while ignoring other things happening in the nation and the world.

But, to me, he's no more than a rich man's variant on Glenn Shelton--peddling the same kind of persnickety contempt and fearfulness.

Victor Infante and Ben Trigg explain The Ugly Mug for you.

One last (for the time being) post about how poetry business can get accomplished. A trend in certain venues in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties is to minimize the "growing" of local poets in favor of booking either touring or local "names"--either literary or slam-crossovers.

Here's an excerpt from Victor Infante interviewing his friend, Ugly Mug co-host Ben Trigg nearly two years ago for OC WEEKLY--where this trend is acknowledged on the record. The highlighting is done by me:
And perhaps the Ugly Mug reading is as much an artistic expression for Trigg as his poetry. Certainly, its growth as it enters its seventh year is astounding. Once it catered mostly to featuring local, developing writers, but it's now a frequent destination for touring poets, one where the pass-the-hat paycheck often nets the headliner more cash—as well as book sales—than some LA gigs.

"I like to think we've made this a completely welcoming space," says Trigg. "You're not going to be made unwelcome, no matter how bad your writing is. We're never going to overtly say anything to you. So this is worth doing. There must be some aspect of coming to the reading that's making the poets grow. And that's the vindicating thing."

But how much do the open-mike poets grow if the reading caters mostly to touring or local icons?

The complete interview can be found at:

Friday, June 26, 2009

One memory of Farrah Fawcett.

I remember when Farrah, still relatively green as an actress, was a guest star on a short-lived CBS family drama called APPLE'S WAY (which starred Ronny Cox and was, if I'm remembering correctly, created by Earl Hamner, Jr. of THE WALTONS).

Her character was the "older woman" that Vincent Van Patten's teenage Apple had an infatuation with. Vincent's character argued that younger man/older woman relationships could work--pointing to the now-obscure movie LOVE AND PAIN AND THE WHOLE DAMN THING (co-starring Maggie Smith and Timothy Bottoms) as an example.

Farrah went to Ronny Cox and said, "I need your help"--then disappeared from the episode.

And it was up to Ronny to teach Vincent how to live with the pain of unrequited love.

More links re Michael Jackson.

About the autopsy:

The unreleased album, which will probably surface posthumously:

Final hours before his death:

ROLLING STONE compiles an Essential Playlist:

Kimberly Krautter on Michael-as-public-relations-enigma:

Maureen Orth's articles on Michael--dealing largely with the child molestation accusations--for VANITY FAIR: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2009/06/michael-jackson-is-gone-but-the-sad-facts-remain.html

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yes, there will be ten Best Picture Oscar nominees next year.

I share Nikki Finke's disgust about the recent announcement that next year's Academy Awards will have ten Best Picture nominees: http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/but-why-academy-to-now-allow-10-films-in-best-picture-category/

As she noted in her post, the ten-nominee policy doesn't extend to acting categories. It's just a dumb ploy to get a few preordained-blockbuster films into the Best Picture contenders--and, presumably, boost Disney/ABC's ratings next year.

Here's Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com with his comments on the nomination changes: http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/btm/2009/06/24/oscars/

And Sharon Waxman's THE WRAP also weighs in:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Victor Infante gets his pompous on with this post about criticism.

I'll run just one more red light, then I'll write about other things for awhile besides internecine feuding with poets who, with all their current self-inflated Worthiness, likely won't be read in 300 years like, say, Shakespeare or Ben Jonson.

Yes, former Orange County poetry tastemaker Victor Infante is the poet who I renamed NAME OMITTED in an earlier post called NAME OMITTED and The Underbelly of Poetry:

Here's Victor plumping for poetry eugenics, in his own charming (I kid, I kid) way:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

OC poet Steve Ramirez and my going-on-five-years banishment from Orange's Ugly Mug.

There are many colorful tales in show business of personalities being 86ed from various venues for behavior or opinions contrary to management.

These include: Andrew Dice Clay's alleged disbarment from Ben Frank's coffee shop on the Sunset Strip (now a Mel's Drive-In), Dick Shawn's incurring of Johnny Carson's wrath when Shawn, guest-hosting THE TONIGHT SHOW, turned over Carson's desk on-camera to use it as a prop for a Washington-crossing-the-Delaware routine and Kathy Griffin being forbidden as a guest on THE VIEW for being Kathy Griffin.

I wish my tale of banishment could be a bit more colorful and extravagant. But, it isn't. It's a small tale of how one bad incident on my part unraveled roughly four-and-a-half years of acquaintanceship--and how the offended party has first justly responded, then flagrantly overreacted in the years since.

Once upon a time, I got along with Steve Ramirez--along with Ben Trigg, one of the two hosts of the TWO IDIOTS PEDDLING POETRY reading series in Orange (located at the Ugly Mug coffeehouse just a few blocks from Chapman University). I even featured there two to three times and, when we were both in Austin for the 2001 AIPF poetry festival, I gave Steve a ride in my rented car. Back then, Steve was nice to me and vice versa.

And then, for awhile, I didn't get down to OC to attend Ugly Mug readings. When I did, it seemed like Steve (who desired respect and parity with the Orange County poetry elite) got a somewhat swelled head and was a bit more distant with me.

To shorten this long story, I misbehaved at the Ugly Mug. I was primarily upset with something dismissive Steve said about me during the reading (which I probably set myself up for). And, after the reading, I couldn't contain my anger and wanted to talk to Steve. He didn't want any kind of conversation with me. I opted for the reaction of yelling at him. Mistake--especially considering some OC and LA Prominent Poets were still in the room. I walked out of the Ugly Mug, followed by the venue owner. The owner and I had words(one of mine fell into the David Mamet category)--and I was told to never come back.

This was nearly five years ago, in the late summer/early fall of 2004. Since then, I've tried to avoid adverse public behavior and have been mostly successful. On a handful of occasions, I've written Steve and asked to return. At first, he would shrug and say "it's up to [venue owner]." And I did write to the venue owner. No dice. As years passed, Steve would respond in a slightly more active-agressive "I wish you wouldn't come back/bother me about this" way.

And I took the hint and have left this subject alone.

But, as the five-year mark rolls around, I just want to go ahead and make my feelings public; I just don't care anymore about the inherent ridiculousness of Steve Ramirez' (plus the venue owner's) determination to hold on to his anger and wariness into infinity and beyond.

I've done my best to atone. Since 2004, I've accomplished a few good things in poetry--including being chosen as part of a publication reading this coming Saturday. And, to put it concisely, I don't care to enter the Ugly Mug for the rest of my life, regardless of whether Two Idiots Peddling Poetry or anyone else happen to host there.

I prefer self-respect instead.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brief opinion of Woody Allen's WHATEVER WORKS.

On the good side: Woody Allen's WHATEVER WORKS (essentially a compendium of Woody's Greatest Kvetches, Obsessions and Enthusiams) is better than expected, with a number of funny-to-hilarious lines and good performances all around.

Debits: WHATEVER WORKS looks a bit shoddy and stagebound for a New York-based Allen film (shot by, of all people, the gifted DP Harris Savides--who did a fine job for David Fincher on ZODIAC). And it takes a couple of steps back in quality, ambition and sophistication from Allen's previous VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA--his best film since 1999's SWEET AND LOWDOWN.

Friday, June 19, 2009

John Lesher and Brad Weston to be demoted to production deals at Paramount.

Here's Nikki Finke's DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD DAILY column with updates on the fates of two studio execs (John Lesher and Brad Weston) at Paramount: http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/exclusive-paramount-shakeup-john-lesher-to-exit-as-studio-president-soon/

Assuming the above has to do with flopping mainstream product such as Eddie Murphy's IMAGINE THAT and the Wayans' comedy DANCE FLICK and fears that the upcoming G.I. JOE might not make enough megamoney.

It's safe to predict that you'll see a lot more small, big-star-free product being churned out--with few attempts at quality films like those Lesher supervised at Paramount Vantage [THERE WILL BE BLOOD, DEFIANCE].

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Video of poem AN ENCOUNTER WITH TOM CRUISE 11/1/07.


New poem: POETRY POLICE from my upcoming chapbook IMPERFECTIONIST.


the poetry police
is traveling through
my neighborhood
in a big squad car
with sirens
and a giant loudspeaker
on top

the loudspeaker shouts:

the poetry police
stops its big squad car
at a free verse house
to round up dissenters
and haul them off to poetry jail
where they’ll be detained indefinitely
without trial
to keep my neighborhood
safe and content
so we can avoid
this changing world
and not have to be soiled by
the disgusting degrading decline
in literary standards

Monday, June 15, 2009

Comment on Harold Norse poetry collection says a lot about poetry gatekeepers.

I recently heard a poem by the late Harold Norse read aloud at a poetry reading over the past weekend.

And I just read this comment about a Norse anthology on Amazon. Here it is:
"I have a biased insight on why Norse is not better known. His style is one of "common everyday speech" as championed by Norse's "teacher and father" William Carlos Williams. It's a valid style, the vernacular opera style of poetry (including Walt Whitman and the Beat Generation too). But is it ultimately less poetry than prose? Prosaic statement, plodding the pavement, rather than soaring aloft airborne into truer poetry with its images, complexities, dynamisms, controlled-and-creative? Perhaps truer poetry is more-well, poetic than Norse's usual statements: editorials scene-sketches reportages reminiscences etc."

I'll omit the commenter's name here. But his relatively strict-constructionist view of poetry, written five years ago, is pretty much the prevailing one these days.

Pauline Kael, although deceased, still provokes negative reactions.

Occasional NEW YORKER capsule film critic Richard Brody raises his leg and uses the late Pauline Kael's gravestone as a fire hydrant--in the context of a Kael vs. Andrew Sarris mention:

As I recall, Kael had her biases (to put it mildly), but she liked a great variety of films and filmmakers (witness the 5001 NIGHTS AT THE MOVIES compilation of her capsule reviews). But you wouldn't know it from Brody's brief, bitchy throwaway remark.

But Kael's desire to be a Cinema Influence (a description the late film producer Saul David tagged her with in his book THE INDUSTRY) did anger a few people--and it could be said that the new Francis Coppola film TETRO (which I generally liked) has a key character (the tastemaker Alone, played by Carmen Maura) clearly intended as Coppola's version of Brody's critique.

But at least Francis put more effort into his characterization of Pauline Kael than Richard Brody does.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Runaways band to be turned into THE RUNAWAYS movie.

Kristen Stewart (who was actually good in Greg Mottola's ADVENTURELAND) appears in photos displaying her Joan Jett look for the upcoming THE RUNAWAYS biopic: http://icydk.com/2009/06/11/kristen-stewart-is-joan-jett/

A news item about Dakota ("my stage mom wants me to grow up fast on film") Fanning's casting as Cherie Currie: http://pitchfork.com/news/34781-dakota-fanning-cherie-currie-in-runaways-movie/

And here's the IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1017451/fullcredits#cast

One item of interest from IMDB: Michael Shannon is rumored to be in the film; let's hope he's being cast as controversial manager Kim Fowley.
[UPDATE 6/23/09: Yes, Shannon IS playing Fowley. And here's some more information on the film: http://theplaylist.blogspot.com/2009/06/joan-jett-helping-kristen-stewart.html]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Coca-Cola Zero, Hugo Chavez and AOL's Tom Barlow.


AOL's Tom Barlow essentially wants to rant about how Evil Hugo Chavez won't let multinational corporations do Whatever They Want in Venezuela.

But there's a link questioning the health benefits of Coke Zero embedded in the article that ought to be clicked--and paid attention to, whether you drink Coke Zero or not.

Lots of overreaction from the left and right about David Letterman's TOP TEN Palin jokes.

An article from an occasional contributor to SLATE:

Letterman's semi-apologetic clarification--plus the original Top Ten list (links from HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE):

James Wolcott's take on Letterman's remarks:

And the Palins getting their demagogue on to rack up cheap political points from their base:http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2009/06/palin-vs-letterman.html

Another Letterman apology: http://defamer.gawker.com/5291870/

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Patrick Goldstein on Judd Apatow's editphobia.

I've only just managed to read Patrick Goldstein's LOS ANGELES TIMES piece on Judd Apatow's apparently mule-ish determination to make the upcoming FUNNY PEOPLE two-and-a-half hours long (those familiar with Apatow's other self-directed comedies, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP, may be aware that Apatow has a compulsion for including just about every bit of comic improv/scripted antics whether they work or not--and let's not forget the even-longer DVD versions):http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2009/05/memo-to-judd-apatow-your-movie-is-too-long.html

I don't always agree with Goldstein (first a rock-and-roll, now a film gossip columnist), but this time we're in perfect sync.
[UPDATE 6/12/09: Apparently, the running time for FUNNY PEOPLE has shrunk to a still-lengthy 2 1/4 hours.]

Monday, June 8, 2009

Links to articles about Los Angeles poet francEyE

An article by Al Martinez from THE LOS ANGELES TIMES in 2002, profiling FrancEyE, but focusing more on Bukowski: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/dec/06/entertainment/et-martinez6

A worth-reading personal account by L.A. poet E.Amato:

A fine summary of francEyE's life and career in poetry by Lynne Bronstein:

Finally, the LOS ANGELES TIMES publishes an obit, as of this past Sunday, June 21st:

Bonus link: A couple of poems of francEyE's printed on Rick Lupert's PoetrySuperHighway site--

LAND OF THE LOST: the "it's a flop" post-mortems begin....


I passed on LAND OF THE LOST this past weekend in favor of AWAY WE GO and THE HANGOVER.

Having seen a long trailer for LOTL in Montreal while on vacation, I was a bit suprised (having liked the teaser ad showing Will Ferrell jousting with Matt Lauer) that the film opted for a dumb, breast-grabbing NATIONAL LAMPOON approach instead of going for a suitable-for-just-about-all-the-family PG in the manner of the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM duology.

And maybe that's the reason LOTL underperformed--not "Will Ferrell fatigue" or younger audience unfamiliarity with the Sid and Marty Krofft TV series from the 70s.

Another great moment in the history of pre-emptive poetry reading censorship.

The story goes like this: A respected veteran poet I know (who now lives in Oregon) had a co-feature at a Florence, Oregon reading (inside a restaurant). He opened with an a cappella cover of John Prine's "Sam Stone" and read Charles Bukowski's famous poem about the act of writing. Then he read a poem of his own which condemned the murder of Dr. George Tiller last week. Then the plug was pulled on him by the restaurant owner, who pronounced his poetry as not being "uplifting."

And variations of this story will take place again whenever venue owners and/or poetry hosts let the angry words "IT'S MYYYYYYYYYY PLACE (or HOUSE or READING)!!!!!!" ring out instead of using their brains (an increasingly lost practice as this first decade of the 21st Century comes to a close) and realizing that poetry can and often must be something besides soothing platitudes and homilies meant to do nothing but keep diners undisturbed in the Great Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eulogy for poet Frances Dean Smith aka francEyE.

It's likely that Frances Smith, also known as francEyE, will be known to future generations not as the talented Los Angeles poet she was--but for her relationship with Charles Bukowski, which produced their daughter, Marina. And this is unfair, since her poems were marked by truth and accessibility-to=everyone and don't deserve to be consigned to footnote status.

My memories of francEyE are mostly good ones. I loved the poetry she would contribute to readings at L.A. venues and on Scott Wannberg's Yahoogroups site Ongoing Dancers. And for a time, she was friendly to me and even let me drive her home on occasion from readings at a venue in the South Bay. All that came to an end early in 2005 when I had a confrontation with a local literary poet (someone who once said that my death "couldn't come soon enough") at that venue. francEyE was angered by this and, as a result, we pretty much avoided each other for the rest of the time she was in L.A.

After she entered the care facility in Northern California, I ordered a copy of an anthology of her work and was suprised and happy when receiving the book with her signature inside.

It's a statement that's been said before--but I, and other poets in LA/Orange County, can consider ourselves fortunate for living in her time.