Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LACMA to pull plug on its weekend film series, but looks for donors to pay for another one.,0,1659237.story

Regarding the above story, Mr. Horn and Ms. King's assertion that the availability of classic films on DVD helped to bring about the LACMA weekend film series' demise is a bit too neat--and lets the museum off the hook.

When original series curator/programmer Ron Haver died around 1993, LACMA mostly shifted the focus of the film series from film-as-popular-art to film-as-ART. And museum director Michael Govan and now-part-time-employee Ian Birnie should take some responsibility for the decline in audience and loss in revenue. Ideally, a successful museum film program should find equal room for the works of, say, Alain Resnais (now the closing LACMA retrospective), Kathryn Bigelow, William Wyler, Andrei Tarkovsky and Tsui Hark.

Having said that, I should share some responsibility (as an audience member) for not attending LACMA film programs nearly as often as I did from, say 1988 to the mid-90s. The last time I saw a film at LACMA's Bing Theatre was in late 2004 when there was an advance screening of Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR.

[UPDATE 7/30/09: Kenneth Turan offers his opinion--a strong one--regarding LACMA's decision:,0,5900670.story]

[UPDATE 7/31/09: Here's a snobbish pro-Birnie take on LACMA and the film program:]

[UPDATE 8/5/09: A petition to send to Michael Govan re LACMA's film program:]

Monday, July 27, 2009

NBC's Ben Silverman steps down.

Ben Silverman, as NBC exec and Reveille majordomo, will probably be best known for making the American version of THE OFFICE a reality. Otherwise, Silverman's track record is mixed, with a lot of aim-really-low reality-show junk on his watch.

And, with the 10-11 p.m. hour ceded to the low-cost THE JAY LENO SHOW, it will be interesting to watch the results of NBC's prime time schedule for 09/10.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama backtracks from original press conference statement re treatment of Henry Louis Gates.

Here's a link to coverage of Obama's brief press conference statement, which seemed to be geared primarily to the White House press corps--and took too much refuge in formal, rather than plain-spoken language:

Unfortunately, some white people still get upset when African Americans speak out on the subject of racial discrminiation/profiling. I'm old enough to remember when then-Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley was criticized in 1992 for expressing anger with the Simi Valley "not guilty" verdicts for the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King the previous year.

[UPDATE 7/27/09: It's now being revealed that the original 911 call from a neighbor made no mention of race:]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eleven lessons I've learned from "the poetry community."

These lessons are a bit like rules of Fight Club (some straight-up, some laced with sarcasm):
1. Don't criticize the poetry community--after all, they're just sensitive-albeit-flawed human beings just like yourself, regardless of how meanspirited their behavior may seem.
2. Don't criticize specific poets in public.
3. Don't criticize specific poets in private--unless you're ultradeferential and are "mature" (i.e. keep comments as neutral as possible).
4. Don't lose your temper at poets and/or venue owners in public. If you do that, you're likely to be banned for years. If you don't care for a certain host or venue, just leave without comment and go home--and stay the hell away from that venue. It's better to make that choice than have it made for you.
5. Don't criticize the poetry community for wanting to exclude poets who don't meet certain quality-control standards. Corollary: Don't criticize poetry venues for deciding to raise standards by de-emphasizing giving first features to developing voices.
6. Don't criticize poetry community critics by poking fun at those who make pronouncements regarding what poetry should "survive"--and don't criticize the poems of poetry critics who have criticized your poetry.
7. Don't criticize poets who think they're community leaders. You're likely to be told that your criticisms aren't valid because you're not a "leader" like they are. Or you're likely to be compared to Joseph McCarthy.
8. Don't criticize poets who stage poetry festivals where the poets invited are limited to close-personal-friends of the host/organizer.
9. Don't get so angry with poets that you waste valuable time criticizing them on their listserves.
10. Don't complain to the poets in the admonition above (or to poet friends of yours or theirs) if you're banned from the poet's listserve and/or reading. Remember, you're on your own. Either mend fences or move on.
11. Remember when you're critical of poets and/or community, you're likely to hear variations of this phrase: IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH US, THEN IT MUST BE BECAUSE OF YOUR ATTITUDE!

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disney's Robert Iger eyes pay-for-content Disney website.

Probably the most unsettling passage (highlighting by me) in Paul Bond's article:
"The Disney chief also said he is bullish on behavioral tracking, claiming that privacy concerns are overblown and usually shared only by older consumers. He joked that he has learned more about his two adult daughters from their Facebook pages than from raising them. "

Yes, folks, that's what the head of Disney thinks of its potential consumers.

I don't know Steven Soderbergh personally, but I can feel his pain.

Key passage for me from the article:
"I'm looking at the landscape and I'm thinking, 'Hmmm, I don't know. A few more years maybe,'" says Soderbergh. "And then the stuff that I'm interested in is only going to be of interest to me."
It would all sound depressing if Soderbergh didn't pepper his speech with fits of incredulous laughter. Perhaps the last few years – capped by his recent run-in with Sony over his revised script for Moneyball, a baseball movie starring Brad Pitt, that saw him elbowed off the project – have left him punch-drunk.
"In terms of my career, I can see the end of it," he says. "I've had that sensation for a few years now. And so I've got a list of stuff that I want to do – that I hope I can do – and once that's all finished I may just disappear."

I feel the same way. The kind of poetry I write isn't what the literary world wants. And the LA/OC scenes tend to want to play a Rotisserie Baseball version of Great Literature--where they think they're part of something like the Algonquin Roundtable, but it's actually another chapter of Rotarians or Toastmasters.

"Waiter, there's a condom in my soup!"

Kind of sad to read this story, since I like to eat at Claim Jumper's restaurants (but not from the soup and salad bar) from time to time:,0,2141221.story?track=rss

The closest thing I can compare it to in terms of gross eating-out experiences was finding a cockroach in a teriyaki chicken bowl at a small restaurant in a strip mall at Sunset and Crescent Heights (where, in a past era of Hollywood, the legendary Garden of Allah apartment building once stood) in the mid-90s.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

L. A. poet Richard Beban and the Ballona Wetlands--with a little I HEART HUCKABEES on the side.
[Relevant passages of the above message from Mr. Beban:
I am delighted to tell you that I have been hired as the co-Executive Directorof the non-profit Friends of Ballona Wetlands <>,L.A.'s preeminent wetlands education and preservation group. The Friends havebeen working for thirty-one years to save and restore the last remaining coastal wetlands acreage in L.A. County, and educate the public about the importance of wetlands in our world ecosystem.

Other groups have Ballona in their name (in fact, one of them, definitely trying to sow confusion,is run by the same people who tried unsuccessfully to SHUT DOWN a marvelous wetlands poetry event Kaaren Kitchell and I ran in 2003 because it didn't toe their political party line), but we're the Friends of Ballona Wetlands.

Why tell poets all this? Because the Friends will be offering poetry reading and publication opportunities in the very near future (mostly at the usual non-profit rates, of course), so e-mail me [address deleted] if you have environmentally themed work.]

Pay special attention to the final link above.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Critiquing a poem from a poetry critic who critiqued me. "Prejudice" is the title of the poem.
The highlighting below is my own.

"While we can’t all write the next “Wasteland,” it often seems like we should at least try. But that is not always the case. Sometimes we, as poets, are better off not trying, better off reining in our ambitions, and instead trying to be the best poet we can be, within (and fully cognizant of) our limitations. Yet at the same time, too little ambition can prevent us from even living up to what potential we have. "--G. Murray Thomas from the February, 2009 Review column of

"The problem is McCarty, in these poems, doesn’t have much new to say....But in all his poems, he refuses to go very deep. His poems skim across the surfaces of his subjects....What is interesting is that his poems are almost entirely devoid of irony. Usually, a deadpan style is used to heighten irony, but McCarty really is interested in only the facts. Now irony is an overused device these days, and on the one hand I commend McCarty for managing to avoid it. On the other, this is another way McCarty avoids layering meaning into his poems."--G. Murray Thomas from his review of my chapbook yellow tree red sky in the same column.

So I commend Mr. Thomas for using an overused device called irony to make an easy I'm-so-better-than-you point about people offended by language and content at a poetry open mike. And, as well, kudos for the obvious title PREJUDICE--in case you, the reader, aren't able to figure out what kind of behavior the poem is about.

Former President Jimmy Carter just says no to Southern Baptist Convention's second-class treatment of women.

Although I didn't grow up Southern Baptist, I lived in a part of Texas where the church was quite prominent. And the church's eternal conservatism (no smoking, no drinking, no dancing because of "gyrations of the body") and literal-mindedness did cast a shadow over life in an increasingly strait-laced Wichita Falls, Texas during my college years.

One wishes Carter had made his break in the 1980s--when Southern Baptists such as Dr. W.A. Criswell, the pastor of a huge Dallas church, were quite prominent (a documentary called THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE featured Criswell) even on the national stage.

But maybe in the year 2009, Carter speaking up for oppressed women will inspire more Southern Baptist women to keep the conversation going--even when the Southern Baptist Convention decides to continue doing the same old things in the same old ways.

40 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The most lasting memory of Sunday, July 20, 1969 for me was hearing Walter Cronkite say "Man on the moon."

And, as a child, I remember having a plastic Snoopy doll wearing an astronaut's space suit.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Complete Emmy nominations list.

Someone on Twitter mentioned that John Mahoney didn't receive a supporting actor nomination for his fine work on the second (and likely, final) season of IN TREATMENT.

And I'll also add this name to the ranks of the unrecognized-by-Emmy-voters: Walton Goggins' often-superb performances on the final season of THE SHIELD.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some positivity concerning local poets and their poetry.

Here are links for ordering books by four local poets who are decent, generous class acts:

When offended poets push back.

I've been recently reading Mark Ribowsky's new book about The Supremes--which, of course, deals in part with the long fall from grace of Florence Ballard--pushed aside as lead singer in favor of the more "commercial" Diana Ross. Ms. Ballard, understandably disgruntled, occasionally vented her anger towards Ms. Ross and Motown mastermind Berry Gordy. And, eventually, Gordy began to set Ms. Ballard up for firing.

Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago. A certain prominent poet in the community (considered a "good guy" by most local poets) was angered because I felt he was a poster child for some of the community's worst qualities i.e. solipsism, elitism, insensitivity to perceived inferiors, etc. As a result, I was banned from both his listserve and his venue.

During that period of banishment, he assembled a found poem from certain remarks I made on the listserve--which was his right. But then he took it to the next level.

In 2007, I hosted a reading at a now-closed venue in Tarzana. This made me eligible for inclusion in a Poetry Hosts anthology. I submitted a poem to the anthology. And so did the prominent poet. Guess which poem the prominent poet submitted?

Yes, THAT poem.

Obviously, the prominent poet hoped I'd come to the anthology reading, notice the poem in the book, make a scene and become permanently ostracized. I didn't make it to the reading, but I did see the poem--and I made my feelings known (without too much drama) to the prominent poet at a later date.

Since then, the prominent poet unbanned me (after a few more months) and there's a sort of truce going on.

But, having read certain portions of the Supremes book, I can't help but compare his behavior on that occasion with Berry Gordy at his worst.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Malia Obama wears a peace-sign T-shirt in Italy; Barack Obama in charge of offensive in Afghanistan.

I can't help but remember a poster for a Amanda Bynes film called WHAT A GIRL WANTS. Amanda, in the first version of the poster, flashed the two-fingered peace sign. Warner Brothers apparently shrieked because the film came out in the post-9/11 George Butch Jr. era; Ms. Bynes' peace sign was airbrushed away in the next version of the poster.

One wonders if Sasha and Malia are allowed to speak to their father about peace in the world. Or, maybe they do--and Barack solemnly shushes them with the words "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH" just like the GOP slogan of two decades ago.

And the more things stay the same.....

CARNIVAL--a poem looking back at one corner of the 90s poetry scene in Los Angeles.

An explanation of the above poem: This covers a period in the late 90s when I began reading at open mikes--and the poem describes the raucous anyone-can-be-a-part-of-it portion of the scene (less exclusive in some respects than the more sedate, MFA-coveting, prestige-press-loving scene of today). Of course, there were people who were either "in" or"out" ; banishments, tantrums and hierarchies existed, too.

The poem is true to my perception of the period as I lived it. And, as I have said before, it's an opinionated piece. And the opinion is solely that of the author.

Recent Soundscan sales figures for recorded music.

Found this on a message board on Thanks to Linus4000 for posting. These are album sales for 2009 (plus some 2008) releases as of July 5th.

Rank - Sales - TITLE - Artist 01 - 1,316,142 - FEARLESS - Taylor Swift 02 - 1,176,606 - HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE - Soundtrack 03 - 1,168,750 - RELAPSE - Eminem 04 - 975,772 - THE FAME - Lady GaGa 05 - 970,526 - TWILIGHT - Soundtrack 06 - 939,000 - NO LINE ON THE HORIZON - U2 07 - 912,169 - DARK HORSE - Nickelback 08 - 824,530 - UNSTOPPABLE - Rascal Flatts 09 - 809,331 - I AM…SASHA FIERCE - Beyonce 10 - 688,898 - BIG WHISKEY AND THE GROOGRUX KING - Dave Matthews Band 11 - 630,000 - ALL I EVER WANTED - Kelly Clarkson 12 - 617,000 - INTUITION - Jamie Foxx 13 - 615,827 - 21ST CENTURY BREAKDOWN - Green Day 14 - 610,262 - NOW 30 - Various 15 - 596,000 - THE FRAY - The Fray 16 - 555,151 - ONLY BY THE NIGHT - Kings Of Leon 17 - 549,000 - WORKING ON A DREAM - Bruce Springsteen 18 - 541,000 - 808S AND HEARTBREAK - Kanye West 19 - 540,035 - THE E.N.D. (THE ENERGY NEVER DIES) - Black Eyed Peas 20 - 471,000 - FUNHOUSE - Pink 21 - 467,000 - CIRCUS - Britney Spears 22 - 463,990 - THE FOUNDATION - Zac Brown Band 23 - 455,000 - A DIFFERENT ME - Keyshia Cole 24 - 451,000 - PAPER TRAIL - T.I. 25 - 450,000 - WE SING WE DANCE WE STEAL THINGS - Jason Mraz 26 - 445,000 - DEFYING GRAVITY - Keith Urban 27 - 414,000 - LOVE VS MONEY - The-Dream 28 - 378,000 - DAVID COOK - David Cook 29 - 377,160 - LEARN TO LIVE - Darius Rucker 30 - 373,000 - LOVE ON THE INSIDE - Sugarland 31 - 371,000 - NOW 29 - Various 32 - 368,000 - IN A PERFECT WORLD - Keri Hilson 33 - 362,000 - LOTUS FLOW3R - Prince 34 - 361,000 - VIVA LA VIDA OR DEATH AND ALL HIS FRIENDS - Coldplay 35 - 360,634 - WIDE OPEN - Jason Aldean 36 - 357,000 - TAYLOR SWIFT - Taylor Swift 37 - 354,000 - 19 - Adele 38 - 351,000 - FREEDOM - Akon 39 - 342,000 - DEEPER THAN RAP - Rick Ross 40 - 329,000 - CARNIVAL RIDE - Carrie Underwood 41 - 323,000 - SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE - Soundtrack 42 - 317,000 - THA CARTER III - Lil' Wayne 43 - 315,912 - LINES VINES AND TRYING TIMES - Jonas Brothers [/color] 44 - 315,000 - ONE OF THE BOYS - Katy Perry 45 - 311,000 - ROCK N ROLL JESUS - Kid Rock 46 - 307,000 - SCARS AND SOUVENIRS - Theory Of A Deadman 47 - 302,000 - QUIET NIGHTS - Diana Krall 48 - 300,000 - THE LAST KISS - Jadakiss 49 - 297,000 - YEAR OF THE GENTLEMAN - Ne-Yo 50 - 294,000 - MAMMA MIA - Soundtrack

Illustrates how much the music business isn't what it used to be.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A further new low for LOS ANGELES TIMES Calendar section: fawning over THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

Glenn Whipp, a former critic for the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS, writes periodic second-string reviews for THE LOS ANGELES TIMES these days. And yesterday, he gave readers this sickening fluff piece about the 10th anniversary of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT:,0,4594569.story

There's not much to add except that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was a triumph of marketing (particularly via the Internet) which obscured the actuality of a limp, unscary amateur video-to-film that received a bit of a backlash once it went into wide release. But Whipp, in his cravenly fawning article, just regurgitates all the original hype as if it were Gospel Truth.

But BLAIR WITCH did start a trend of horror/sci-fi projects using the "videography" gimmick to make the proceedings seem more "real." For their flaws, 2008's DIARY OF THE DEAD (from George Romero) and CLOVERFIELD (from J.J. Abrams) are more worthy of being written about than the Myrick/Sanchez artistic disaster of 1999.

The CADDYSHACK "where are they now" cast members' update.

Saw CADDYSHACK in the summer of 1980 at the long-gone Twin Falls Drive-In in Wichita Falls, TX. Liked it in a middling-sort-of-way, but it wasn't a classic for me. But it's been blessed with a long afterlife in the 29 years since its original release.

In terms of the Moviefone still-photo and text updates, the mysterious death of writer Doug Kenney and the brief career (apparently derailed by drug abuse and mental illness) of starlet Sarah Holcomb (I had a crush on her based on both CADDYSHACK and ANIMAL HOUSE) carry a certain poignancy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More overscaled celebrity funerals likely.

Here's a list of famous people who will likely have big, end-of-an-era funerals in one respect or another when they leave the Earth (some names borrowed from the blog-post link above):
1. Oprah Winfrey
2. Tom Hanks
3. Bruce Springsteen
4. Paul McCartney
5. Madonna
6. Ted Kennedy
7. Queen Elizabeth II
8. Jack Welch
9. Steven Spielberg
10. Walter Cronkite

Monday, July 6, 2009

Re Michael Jackson memorial service participants.

Just found this on
Today, the Jackson family released the names of performers, politicians and friends who will take part in the late singer's July 7th memorial service. The preliminary list includes Kobe Bryant, Mariah Carey, Berry Gordy, Jennifer Hudson, Shaheen Jafargholi, Magic Johnson, Martin Luther King III, Bernice A. King, John Mayer, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Brooke Shields, Usher and Stevie Wonder.

Surprised to see Diana Ross not listed above. And more surprised to see John Mayer's name rather than, say, Justin Timberlake.

[UPDATE: I stand corrected. According to KRTH-FM (thanks to Dana Snow for telling me), both Ms. Ross and Timberlake will be there.]

[UPDATE 7/8/09: Ms. Ross and Elizabeth Taylor were not there. And the media seemed disappointed that a cast-of-thousands-of-ordinary-people melee similar to the finale of THE DAY OF THE LOCUST didn't occur.]

Re passing of Robert McNamara--who helped make Vietnam War.

This Will Bunch column about McNamara, who passed away early this morning, is worth reading:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Allen Klein, RIP--including clip of John Belushi as "Ron Decline."

Here's a brief clip of John Belushi parodying the fearsome reputation of music managerial legend Allen Klein from 1978's THE RUTLES aka ALL YOU NEED IS CASH:
(Thanks to Steve Marinucci of for posting this originally to his Beatle Examiner page--where I discovered it.)

Look carefully for the new U.S. Senator from Minnesota as one of Decline's entourage.

Another low for LA TIMES critic/cheerleader Betsy Sharkey.

No doubt Betsy Sharkey's a dream-come-true for THE LOS ANGELES TIMES in that she's willing to do the at-one-with-blockbusters cheerleading that mostly-fuddy-duddy Kenneth Turan can't lower himself to accomplish.

But this article of Ms. Sharkey's in today's edition is rather disgraceful pandering:,0,2815935.story

And it makes me miss Ms. Sharkey's immediate predecessor, Carina Chocano (who had her flaws, but at least a bit more integrity)--plus the critics long departed from the TIMES' pages (Michael Wilmington, Sheila Benson, Charles Champlin, Peter Rainer, Manohla Dargis).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

When some poets settle for being gatekeepers, consigning the verse they hate to oblivion.

This is rather chilling, when you parse it carefully. The passage below is someone (name again omitted to protect the guilty) responding to ex-Orange County and current-New England poet/tastemaker Victor Infante's recent post about Poetry Critics:

Victor this is wonderful! I've always shunned the term "critic" in favor of the terms "promoter" or "champion". My podcast sometimes gets complaints that I seem to love everything. And my response has always been, sure there is poetry I hate. I just don't bother with it. I'm too busy trying to champion the things I love. The idea that the role of the critic is to fight for what is to survive is elegant and sweet.Excellent post!!!!

Infante's original post:

I guess I believe in the "retail mentality." I imagine poetry being akin to, say, the local Amoeba Records store in Hollywood. If you want free verse, there's a department. If you want sonnets or sestinas, look for departments for those poetric forms. If you desire poetry written in Esperanto, there's a department for that.

To espouse an idea that "the role of the critic is to fight for what is to survive" is sheer silliness--and rather Nazi-like as well.

In the end, it's the task of the potential reader--not the critic--to make the ultimate determination about what he or she wants to read and/or champion.

Friday, July 3, 2009

For better or worse, Al Franken is a Clinton Democrat.

Link to article by Clinton water-carrier Joe Conason--

Link to fawning article by NEWSWEEK's Howard Fineman--

Now the question is--can Franken find sufficient common ground with the small amount of progressivism displayed by Obama or will he be another tool of the too-centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council?

Sarah Palin--she'll be back.

Given the deep desire some Americans have for simple-minded, "I feel it in my gut so it's true" demagogues, it's safe to say that Sarah Palin stepping down as governor of Alaska will lead to a Richard Nixon-in-1968 or Ronald Reagan-in-1980 comeback:

Except that Palin--a dimbulb compared to Nixon or even Reagan--will have to rely almost 100% on divisiveness to make that comeback possible.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Harve Presnell, stage and screen actor/singer RIP.

Harve Presnell, an accomplished stage, screen and television actor who appeared in films as diverse as THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (the last of MGM's classic musicals) and FARGO, died in Santa Monica yesterday.

An obituary:

Presnell on IMDB:

Karl Malden RIP.

Karl Malden's passing at the age of 97 has just been announced.

Here's a YouTube clip from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE:

From 1966's NEVADA SMITH, with Steve McQueen (clip has Scandinavian subtitles):

A fan's tribute, with numerous stills of Malden set to "It Had To Be You":

One of Malden's American Express ads from the 70s (caution: 16mm print with faded color):

Perhaps Malden's short-lived but critically acclaimed 1980 TV series about a steelworker, SKAG (created by Abby Mann), will surface on Hulu or something like it in the future.

Is Michael Mann out of step with a keep-it-simple-minded movie marketplace?

In a perfect world, one would think that a Michael Mann film about John Dillinger starring Johnny Depp would be surefire.

But the summer of 2009 is now shaping up as a replay of the summer of 1980, where Big Star films aren't guaranteed moneymakers--especially serious ones (I remember the underperformance of the prison-reform film BRUBAKER, with Robert Redford and a then-unknown Morgan Freeman in the supporting cast).

And it doesn't help that films like TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN and STAR TREK: THE DUMBED-DOWN EXPERIENCE have reached megahit status.

Here's film gossip columnist Kim Masters' take on PUBLIC ENEMIES' commercial chances and Mann's oft-remarked-on bullying behavior: