Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reacting to the small amount of Amber Tamblyn's BANG DITTO I read.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I saw Amber Tamblyn read poems at a Newer Poets Reading at the Downtown Los Angeles Public Library two or three years ago. She wasn't bad at all (I especially liked a piece about a teenage love affair of hers), but I wasn't moved to purchase any of her writings afterwards.

[At this point, I realize that I live in a glass house where criticism is concerned. So I'll try to avoid unnecessary roughness toward's Ms. Tamblyn's work.]

Last night, I read a little of Ms. Tamblyn's latest book of poetry BANG DITTO at a Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica--and thought of those sanitized expressions that Meredith Willson included in THE MUSIC MAN, i.e. "Great Honk!" and "Ye Gods!"

My tiny sampling of her poetry, a few years on, struck me as somewhat turbocharged in its pretension and aspirations to Greatness.

And perhaps Ms. Tamblyn wants to pursue Art and Beauty and Truth (she's been praised by poet Jack Hirschman and is now in a relationship with Smart Comic David Cross) to make up for any disappointments in her acting career (her critically-praised indie film STEPHANIE DALEY didn't break through even to an arthouse audience and the quirky-cop series she did for Disney/ABC last spring is now history).

I just hope she won't try so hard to Impress in her next book.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More great political commentary from Matt Taibbi

From the October 22nd entry ("Elizabeth Warren For President") on Matt Taibbi's blog, here's an excerpt (the boldface is provided by me):
I’m personally of the opinion that our main problem lay with the fact that the Democratic Party as currently constituted is more afraid of losing the financial support of Wall Street and the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry than it is of losing progressive voters. In fact, I think I’ve put that wrong, because it implies that the Democratic Party pushes the agenda of industry insiders out of fear. That is a misread of the situation, I think.

I think they prefer those people to their voters. I think they feel more comfortable with them. I heard a story recently from a Democratic Party operative who tells me that certain members of one of the president’s cabinet departments only got wind of how hard it is out there for ordinary people to pay their bills when they invited in a major corporation to give them a presentation about their financial outlook for the holiday season — and through that report found out that this company’s prospective customers were spending less because large numbers of them had been laid off, or had huge medical bills, or had maxed out their credit, and so on.

Letters from customers, survey answers and such, were read to the cabinet group. And they were shocked. This is how they find out about the economic reality of this country — accidentally, from a major campaign contributor! That’s how out of touch these people are.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amber Tamblyn at Ugly Mug in Orange 10/28--time to see poetry community celeb worship in action.

Tomorrow night, if you happen to be in Orange, CA, you have the opportunity to see actress Amber Tamblyn display her skill as a poet/writer (saw her years ago at a Newer Poets Reading in downtown Los Angeles) at the coffeehouse The Ugly Mug near Chapman University. The reading will begin at 8:00 p.m. and it will be a prime opportunity to watch major league fawning from the hosts/other poets/students from Chapman.

No disrespect meant to Ms. Tamblyn and her art, but I wrote a poem about poetry community celeb worship a few years back--she's namechecked in the piece:

I hate bad art.
Unfortunately, I live in Los Angeles
and work in the Motion Picture Industry.
So, I help to produce and market
bad art every workday for fifty weeks a year.

But there’s a secret life I lead.
My partner and I host a poetry reading
at the most comfortable cybercafe in Los Feliz.
Due to my work commitments, the reading is
only for one day a month.

And it’s a very special reading.
To be a truly successful host, one has to book
the best and most literate poets in the city
so there will be an audience of sophisticated,
cutting-edge people-not just the usual coterie of
mediocre coffeehouse poets
wanting to read in the open
and harboring thoughts of featuring
at our elevated venue one day.

We have a special way of discouraging mediocrity.
If a bad poet comes too often, we make him or her
feel as if he or she is taking a spot belonging to
someone far more deserving.
It may take a few weeks, but eventually he or she
gets the message and never returns.

And need I add that our reading draws a large crowd
of successful poets and influential audience members?
One time, we had an audience of almost 50 people.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with the Fire Marshall
ordering people to leave.

I wish you could have been at our most recent reading.
We had a glittering bill of four features-meaning no
open readers!!!! (yay)
There was a comedienne who used to write jokes for Sandra Tsing-Loh,
a Santa Ana poet who bills himself as The Last Liberal in Orange County,
a poet from Westchester who holds $1,000-per-person workshops
and our very special guest: actress AMBER TAMBLYN!!!

Truly a fabulous evening of poetry-all the right people were there.

Who could ask for anything more?

Time for more Larry King-esque Random Notes.

1. After listening to snippets of Sting's new album celebrating winter, I wish Mr. Sumner would take a break from being an artiste and cover the obscure Johnny Cash song "I Will Rock and Roll With You (If I Have To)."

2. Yesterday, I listened to an audiostream of the new Rod Stewart R&B covers album SOULBOOK. Yes, it's as MOR-safe as the STILL THE SAME rock covers album was; Clive Davis wins again.

3. Why am I not surprised that Joe Lieberman objects to the timid states-can-opt-out-of-public-option plan put forth by Harry Reid?

4. Liked the U2 Rose Bowl show webcast overall, but a bit disconcerted by Bono's brief shoutout to homophobic Rick Warren. Warren may have donated to but he's still the new Jerry Falwell.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SALON's Joan Walsh still feels the need to defend Bill Clinton.

Perhaps the perpetual-wiseacre writer Tom Carson said it best about Bill Clinton when describing Clinton as an "a--hole" likely to go on and on crying over "his thwarted greatness."

Certainly the Bay Area-based webzine has felt the need to keep throwing roses towards Clinton on occasion--even to the point of employing Clinton hagiographer Joe Conason.

Here's Joan Walsh recently praising Bill for Salon:

I still don't understand the need to prop up an ex-President who couldn't stand up to Sam Nunn on gays in the military, who shredded the Safety Net for millions of Americans, who helped bring on the go-go greed that eventually sunk our economy (and, no, I'm not forgetting George Butch, Jr.'s role in that process)--and who wasted a year of his second term determined to "win this thing" re the revelations of his private affairs (even the Republican-leaning David Letterman handled le affaire Stephanie Burkitt better than Bill with Monica Lewinsky).

And, remember, Clinton (the alleged First Black President) shamefully played the Race Card last year to ensure that his wife would receive the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Richard Schickel's nuclear hatred of Robert Altman--as man and filmmaker.

It's official now: Richard Schickel, longtime film critic/essayist/enemy of Hollywood Commies/hagiographer of Clint Eastwood, doesn't like Robert Altman. Here's Schickel dumping on a new oral history of Altman, while grudgingly admitting to partially liking McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, NASHVILLE and CALIFORNIA SPLIT:,0,2690542.story

[UPDATE 10/30/09] Since Schickel's review was published, there's been a fair amount of disagreement going on, from LA TIMES film gossip columnist Patrick Goldstein to filmmaker/Altman disciple Alan Rudolph. Here's an excerpt from a letter actor Jim Beaver (DEADWOOD) wrote to the TIMES (found this on USENET's group rec.arts.movies.past-films):
However, the fact that no one I know who takes film seriously has much respect left for Schickel's opinions does not lessen the intensity with which we feel bewildered and often angered with how he has become some sort of éminence grise in the public eye, the wise and irrefutable voice of "film history" as represented in TV specials and DVD commentaries. Publications such as the Times and organizations such as the AFI and many other public dispensers of information or perceived wisdom about film history often turn to "experts" such as Schickel who have managed the leap from reviewing movies to a hallowed place where they are the authority of first resort whenever a book on film needs reviewing or a talking head is needed on CNN after a film legend has died. I know hundreds of people who know more, understand more, and are able to discourse more usefully on film than Richard Schickel ever could, yet I daresay he is asked to review more books on film than any other reviewer in America. This latest diatribe is perhaps the most flagrant example of his unsuitability for the unelected post he has been raised to. I hope at some point the brand known as "Richard Schickel" stops being pasted onto every article relating to film and that actual, as opposed to presumed, experts be given a chance. I bear Mr. Schickel no malice and am grateful for his early contributions to my knowledge of film. But enough is enough. His slander of Robert Altman ices a cake that is far too stale.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time for the Tribune monolith to let the LOS ANGELES TIMES go.

More cut-cut-cutting going on today at THE LOS ANGELES TIMES--starting with Tina Daunt, who wrote a periodic column for Calendar about celeb activism:

The same will be happening on the Other Coast to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Perhaps someone should explain to me why stockholders and corporate executives these days still believe they must demand such a high profit/return as their product deteriorates in quality and the demand for it decreases.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some quick opinionating on WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.

To put things in historical context, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is probably the first major-studio children's/family film with a tres hipster pedigree since 1980's POPEYE--a collaboration involving director Robert Altman, writer Jules Feiffer and singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson.

And, at its best, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is a much more watchable, harmonious blend of the sensibilities of director Spike Jonze and co-scenarist Dave Eggers (WILD THINGS, like the Eggers/Vendela Vida/Sam Mendes AWAY WE GO, has the same finding-your-place-in-the-world throughline) than the collective efforts of POPEYE's creative braintrust.

One fears, though, that the starts-out-frenetic-ends-up-thoughtful tone of WILD THINGS may be too subtle and offputting for mass audiences from its second weekend in theaters onwards.

(It's easy to imagine that Jonze got a lot of Warner Bros. development notes pleading for him to dub in some fart noises when young Max and all the creatures collapse into a big pile before going to sleep at night.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ted Turner decries "fluff" on CNN.

Just read an account of a gee-I-wish-I-were-running-things-now interview with Ted Turner (I believe it was on Bloomberg News) where, among other things, he displayed discontent with the "fluff" on Cable News Network and expressed a wish for more "news" on the channel.

To be absolutely cynical, I don't foresee CNN (along with sister station HLN) decreasing their focus on who-said-that/who-went-too-far.

After all, when corporations run for-profit news channels, there's a ginormous list of news stories that news directors know not to devote their increasingly-less-vast resources to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dana Gioia and his sort-of-curse on some Los Angeles poetry.

About a decade ago in the LA WEEKLY, Brendan Bernhard wrote an article about whether poetry still mattered. Bernhard got a quote from now-former NEA head and Northern California literary poetry icon Dana Gioia; Gioia moaned about how "you can't have great poetry without great standards" and accused Los Angeles poetry of being deficient on both counts.

Perhaps Gioia was espousing an occaisional Northern California prejudice about how Southern Californians are too superficial and not intellectually rigorous enough.

But the damage was done in Los Angeles. Varied poetry circles complained about Bernhard's article and Gioia's comments--mostly that they ignored the vast majority of L.A. poetry. Within a couple of years after the quality bomb dropped, one then-prominent Los Angeles male poet/powerful venue host pretty much abandoned his "folk music" approach and made an effort to become Academia-friendly before his departure from the city.

In the year 2009, a lot of Los Angeles poetry is Gioia-friendly--conservative in form, aesthetics and subject matter. Like other parts of the USA, it matters A LOT in L.A. literary circles about who you've studied with, whether you received your MFA, what workshops you've participated in, what Prominent Poet gave you a rhapsodic rave to use on the back of your book/in your press kit, whether you've been Published, whether you've been published by someone with Prestige, etc. etc. And some venues and local critic/tastemakers seem to value poetry control over even mild abandon (i.e. "diversity").

This can have some disastrous effects--I can think of at least one local poet who started out writing relatively accessible, thoughtful material before becoming more contorted and pretentious.

To me, Los Angeles' poet literati need to stop their self-imposed, rather constipated campaign to "improve" local poetry through homogenization and become more appreicative of multiple artistic voices/points of view--and not be filled with tasteful people who long to tamp their artistic visions down to achieve what may well be tenuous and temporary acceptance at best.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sex Pistols sue UK ice cream company--apparently a fine line between parody and theft.

Here's an article from the London GUARDIAN about The Sex Pistols suing a UK ice cream company over the latter's "God Save The Cream" campaign--which also appropriates the Pistols' appropriation of Queen Elizabeth II's image:

This gives a new context to John Lydon's immortal "Ever have the feeling you've been cheated?" line which closed the first phase of the Pistols' career at San Francisco's Winterland in 1978.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More temporary-exit musings.

Thanks to those in the L.A./Orange County poetry communities who have been supportive of the poetry I've written over the past eleven years and/or willing to defend my right to offer (sometimes contentious) opnions about the scene and some of its people--even when they didn't agree with those opinions.

And I do plan to keep writing poetry. Some of it may turn up on YouTube:

Hopefully, see you sometime next year at a LA/OC venue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Statement ot temporary withdrawal from L.A. poetry "community."

From my Facebook wall:
For the rest of the year, withdrawing from active participation in L.A. poetry community (have been alerted I'm not meeting community standards). Will still be supportive of others when possible. Hope to return sometime next year.

Poetry community standards are high in L.A. these days. Recognizing that I'm not sufficiently hip, or tolerant of certain egotistic behavior, or a recipient of a MFA degree, or a proficient-enough example of "craft-conscious writing", I realize it's time for me to find the exit door for awhile. At least in 1998, when I started going to readings here, there was such a thing as inclusiveness, no matter where your skill level was. Now, it appears to me that the approval of local poets has become highly conditional.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When poetry reviews become more about gatekeeping than reviewing.

This is a continuation of the previous blog post--which mentioned long-time Long Beach poet/writer/ex-NEXT magazine editor G. Murray Thomas and his attempts as a reviewer to alert poets re what they SHOULD be writing to meet his standards of "depth" and "craft."

It's the eternal conundrum for a critic/reviewer: to evaluate poems in terms of the standards the poet aspires to (entertainment, profundity, mastery of form, etc.) or to take the easier path of reviewing the poetry the critic/reviewer would LIKE to see.

As I evaluate them, Murray's reviews tend to be 25% of the former and 75% of the latter.

To make a brief lapse into Ad Hominism, someone I'll refer to as Infante Terrible has caterwauled on his blog about wanting to determine what poets and poetry should "survive."

And when poets (especially those who haven't made a huge impression outside of their own cliques/scenes) decide to become gatekeepers, they seem to be desperate to make a mark on poetry in any way possible--for a few momentary opinions *with their byline) to "survive" after they leave the Earth. If that turns out to be tilted-nose disdain for self-published chapbooks or throwing spitballs at Billy Collins because he sells too many books, then so be it.

Ultimately, it's the public that makes the final decisions about the poetry that should "survive"--and it's the poet's job to carry on regardless of whatever reviews he/she receives for his/her labors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You can set your watch by G. Murray Thomas' reviews.

G. Murray Thomas stays consistent in adhering to his Len Goodman-esque yardstick of poetry "standards" (aka Let Only The Right Ones In). This month, long-time San Gabriel Valley poetry institution Don Kingfisher Campbell gets Murrayed (in a similar manner to what happened to me) on the POETIX reviews site:

Also, there are more positive reviews of Orange County poetry institution Marcia Cohee and Elaine Mintzer's latest literary poetry offerings.

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Letterman outs himself re workplace affairs.

I just watched David Letterman confess having workplace affairs with female LATE SHOW staffers (and a producer of CBS' 48 HOURS trying to blackmail him for $2 million regarding this subject was arrested yesterday).

Having found this out before tuning into the show, the monologue--which included jokes about Roman Polanski, Mark Sanford and businessmen bringing their wives on business trips (relating somehow to Barack and Michelle Obama working together to bring the Olympics to Chicago)--was a bit creepy.

And so was the Paul Shaffer choice for play-in, play-out-of-commercial music:
The Rolling Stones' "Bitch."

A key lyric of the above song: " a bitch."

[Guessing that Bill Carter, who wrote THE LATE SHIFT (about Letterman and Leno jockeying to be The One to sit in Johnny Carson's vacant TONIGHT SHOW host's chair), won't have any trouble pitching a LATE SHIFT II to publishers.]
UPDATE as of October 6th:
Dave tried a second pass at an apology/explanation, and he's still upset about the extortion attempt. One fairly deft joke about how he can no longer do Bill Clinton/Mark Sanford material. Some contrition towards wife Regina. And, sort-of reversing a "they're welcome to come forward" comment the first time around, expressing worry for the staffers receiving attention from the media.

Short of any smoking guns related to sexual harassment and/or hush money (although it's being revealed that Letterman's involvement with assistant/occasional on-air foil Stephanie Birkitt continued after his marriage to Regina), I'm guessing this is the last on-the-show statement before Robert Joe Halderman's trial.