Friday, January 30, 2009

Geoff Boucher's stupid LA TIMES article on Paul McCartney at Coachella.

Don't ask me how Geoff Boucher's dumb, condescending "is Paul McCartney hip enough for the Coachella music festival" article made the below-the-fold on the front page of today's print edition of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

But, in case you haven't read it, here it is:

For some balance, here's Ann Powers' take:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More independent bookstores in L.A. than you'd know from reading the LA TIMES.

Longtime mainstay of the LOS ANGELES TIMES' book review section Susan Salter Reynolds wrote an article about the up-in-the-air status of West Hollywood independent bookstore Book Soup following the passing of owner Glenn Goldman:,0,4988908.story

And, true to longtime form, the TIMES seems to maintain a steadfast belief that the only independent bookstores in the city of Los Angeles are Book Soup and Los Feliz' Skylight Books (with some understandable mourning of the demise of Doug Dutton's Duttons Bookstores chain--particularly last year's closing of the flagship Duttons in Brentwood). Of course, some of that may be due to tireless self-promotion by Goldman and Skylight owner Kerry Slattery.

Here's a link to information about the independent store Chevalier's Books in Larchmont Village:

And here's a link to the site of Studio City's Portrait of a Bookstore (also housing the coffeeshop Aroma Cafe):

One thing that Ms. Reynolds and I can agree on: Customers are more likely to receive personalized service at independent stores than at the faltering corporate competition.

Poet/author John Updike RIP.

One of the first poems I remember reading in junior high school was John Updike's "Ex-Basketball Player." Updike, author of such classics as the Rabbit triology, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK and its recently published sequel THE WIDOWS OF EASTWICK, has passed away from cancer at the age of 76.

Here is an obit from Kevin Roderick of LA OBSERVED:

Updike was a frequent contributor to THE NEW YORKER.
Here's an article he wrote on baseball legend Ted Williams' final game:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

End of an era: Rita Wilde out as program director for "classic rock" KLOS-FM.

Bob Buchmann, former Program Director at NY classic-rock station WAXQ-FM is replacing 25-year KLOS-FM icon Rita Wilde. (To show you how out-of-touch I am, I didn't even know KLOS is now being run by Citadel instead of Disney.)

A poster on the Los Angeles message board for said this:

Wow, that's too bad, sort of. Rita Wilde was at KLOS forever, and did a number of cool things like the U2 B-sides compilation (named after herself - the Wilde album) and the semi-annual A to Z. She also did the rock report, which was well done, I felt. Though I don't like Jim Ladd that much, he's at least allowed some freedom on the air, and Wilde supported him.But overall, she presided over a period of time when KLOS became terribly, terribly boring. You can't play the same 300, 400, or 600 songs for a decade and expect people to stick around [my emphasis, not the poster's]. I am smack in their demo (actually a little bit younger) and listened very heavily to KLOS in the 80s and early 90s. I really WANT to like the station, and I've always kept it on my presets.......but I haven't really listened for many, many years.It's a shame they're probably blaming her for their low ratings, when in fact they probably ordered her to have a small playlist. Another good example of how having a small playlist does NOT work for stations without new music to play.Bring on the new PD, and may you play a lot of interesting rock music so I actually want to listen.

Another poster responded as follows: "KLOS was too deep [in terms of their library of songs]....deep cuts [songs that aren't "hits"/signature songs] cause tune out.....plain and simple. Look at Indie [referring to Indie103.1 FM--an LA classic-and-current alternastation which was terminated recently, retreating to online-only status].

The above dialogue speaks volumes about the too cautious, over-focusgrouped mess that is current terrestrial radio. And the same kind of flesh-eating bacteria takes place now on recently-merged satellite titan Sirius XM--try listening to the 80s alternastation First Wave, which has a much shallower--and, arguably, more tortuously overfamiliar--playlist than KLOS.

Probably what KLOS should do is let a little more of the Jim Ladd ethos creep in--give some classic artists [from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen to The Grateful Dead to The Allman Brothers to The Pretenders and Heart] greater rotation (even if Buchmann doesn't want to stray from the hits, my advice is to play more than just the two or three biggest ones)--plus more emphasis on new songs by "classic" acts. And by all means hang on to the few programs that distinguish the station from some of its classic-rock siblings--namely Chris Carter's BREAKFAST WITH THE BEATLES show, which deserves to stay put after years of maltreatment by KLSX-FM (which used to be a pretty good example of a classic format done reasonably well before changing to all-talk).

I'd like to think that KLOS, with the change in program director, could be an example of how to do a classic format right instead of a possible lipstick-on-a-pig approach which thinks that DJ changes and a smaller playlist will make for higher ratings.

Let's see whether or not I'll be wrong again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Village Books in Pacific Palisades raises the bar for stocking self-published/small press books--including poetry.

True story: A few years ago, I would occasionally attend the poetry reading at Village Books on 1049 Swarthmore Avenue in Pacific Palisades, CA. And, back then, I was even allowed to sell the store some self-published saddle-stitched (bound by staples) chapbooks.

A few months back, I visited the store again. To their credit, the do-it-yourself poetry volumes by myself and other poets were now on a carousel, making them easy for store customers to find and consider for purchase.

But when it came time for me to ask them about carrying a recent saddle-stitched poetry chapbook of mine published by a small press based in San Pedro, I was given this new set of rules, which I will reprint below:

Due to the significant increase in requests to stock self-published books (or books not distributed by Ingram or Baker & Taylor) we found it necessary to institute a formalized system for submission of such books. If you would like your book considered for stock, please follow our consignment/purchasing guidelines:
1. All requests must be made in writing. We regret that we are unable to accomodate walk-in visits.
2. In keeping with our general inventory, only bound books with legible titles on their spines will be considered.
3. To submit a book for consideration, please drop off a copy of the book along with a one-paragraph letter including your contact information, any promotional material and a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient return postage at current rates. The submission should be marked "Consignment/Purchasing Request" and dropped off at the register or sent to the above [store] address.
4. Our review process takes up to one month. The book (not the promotional materials) will be returned in the self-addressed stamped envelope, along with a letter notifying you of our decision. Books submitted without a self-addressed stamped envelope will be held at Village Books special order cart for pickup. After 90 days, books not picked up will be recycled.
5. If your book is accepted for consignment of purchase, you will have the opportunity to discuss your work with our buyer. Unfortunately, prior to acceptance, requests to contact personnel in person, by phone or email will not be granted.
6. With this in mind, the decision made by our buyer is final.

Village Books is proud to support the writing community through our consignment/purchasing program. We do our best to provide shelf space and display opportunities for consignment books, while still keeping in mind our inventory needs and the interests of our consumers. Consignments are books that Village Books agrees to add to our inventory with the understanding that payment will only be made on completed sales. We look forward to reviewing your work and we thank you for your interest in Village Books.

True story number two: Recently, Jon Stewart guffawed on THE DAILY SHOW about the poem read at the Obama/Biden inauguration--and how the public left en masse because it was placed towards the end of the ceremony. Stewart made a dumb "shouldn't poetry rhyme" comment to boot.

What do these two true stories have in common?

In the case of Village Books, the buying public has little interest in sampling poetry they don't know by poets they've never heard of. This has led to the more severe policy above discouraging the majority of chapbooks/self-published bound volumes from being carried by the store.

And, in Jon Stewart's case, poetry isn't on his radar--and he apparently still equates it with formal rhyme-and-meter learned in school and forgotten decades ago.

Poetry--still ghettoized in the year 2009.

LA CITY BEAT: Here's a chance to compare Andy Klein to his replacements.

Recently, veteran alternapaper film critic Andy Klein was relieved of his weekly duties at LOS ANGELES CITY BEAT.

So readers will know what they'll be missing, here are some samples of Klein's work:

Now, let's shine a light on Klein's replacements at LA CITY BEAT.

First up, here is a review of PAUL BLART MALL COP by Megan Seling, who, in her prose stylings, tries hard to emulate both departed LACB editor Rebecca Schoenkopf and short-lived LA WEEKLY mid-90s snarkster Hugh Bonar:

Next is a review of the Bollywood/Kung Fu hybrid CHADNI CHOWK TO CHINA: by Brendan Kiley, who, in his prose stylings, comes off as a slightly punkier version of Ben AT THE MOVIES Lyons.

Assuming the rationale for hiring Ms. Seling and Mr. Kiley at LA CITY BEAT was something like: "Hey, their salaries combined are a lot less than what we were paying Andy!"
[CORRECTION TO THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH: Seling and Kiley are, according to critic Luke Y. Thompson, syndicated critics now being carried by LA CITY BEAT. Here's Thompson's complete post in the comments section on HOLLYWOOD-ELSEWHERE: Sorry for the inaccurate assumption. And here's a comprehensive entry on Thompson's blog addressing the post-Andy CITY BEAT:]

Ladies and gentlemen, you've seen the past and future of alterative newspaper film criticism.

Which era do you prefer?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Regarding the Academy Award nominations.

First, here's the always-provocative Nikki Finke's article on this morning's Academy Award nominations:

My take on two of the most notable omissions from the list:
1. The Academy rightly judged Clint Eastwood's GRAN TORINO as just-average formula filmmaking that marked an end to Clint's run of quality pix from MYSTIC RIVER to (some will argue with me on this) CHANGELING. If Clint had truly wanted a plausible shot at a Best Actor nomination/win, he wouldn't have turned down the lead in Paul Haggis' IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (Tommy Lee Jones gave a fine performance in the role).

2. I'm a bit annoyed at the Academy's music branch for only giving three nominees for Best Song--one of them a semi-forgettable end-credits Peter Gabriel number from WALL-E and two from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Nothing against SLUMDOG (which now looks like a lock for a Best Picture win), but Bruce Springsteen's low-key end-credits song for THE WRESTLER (which can be heard on his soon-t0-be-released album WORKING ON A DREAM) was too good to ignore. It appears that the Academy wants only upbeat, ennobling fare which can make for big production numbers--unfortunately.

And congratulations to the documentary branch for nominating Werner Herzog's criminally underseen Antarctica documentary feature ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. Highly recommended as a DVD rental--get the Blu-Ray version if you can.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Must-see film if you want to understand poetry and poets: ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL.

Rather than launch a lengthy, convoluted explanation, I urge readers of this blog to rent (or better yet, buy) Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes' great satirical comedy ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL for optimal understanding of the quirky process of what gets branded as "art."

And the film certainly can be interpreted as an explanation of poets, poetry and the development of the artistic ego.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How far we've progressed as a nation since the 1961 Inauguration.

As can be expected, there's some retro gushing over the "style" of JFK and Jackie and looking back at the 1961 Inauguration which began the reign of Camelot:,0,1567286.story

It doesn't hurt to remember what happened to Sammy Davis, Jr. that year. From the NEW YORK TIMES 1990 obit for Sammy: The 1989 book [WHY ME?, written by Sammy with Burt and Jane Boyar] said that John F. Kennedy had asked Mr. Davis and Miss [May] Britt not to participate in the 1961 Presidential inauguration, lest the sight of an interracial couple anger Southerners. Mr. Davis also recounted the racism that haunted his life, from bloody fights in the Army to being turned away from New York nightclubs.

Something to think about in 2009, as we embark on a new and hopefully better era where we as a nation continue to move towards fulfilling the dream Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated in 1963.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I confess to still liking JUNO, but after sitting through one episode of Diablo Cody's Showtime comedy/drama series THE UNITED STATES OF TARA, I'm thinking that the mediocrity-and-waste-of-talent (including Toni Collette and Rosemarie DeWitt) on display will put a lot of pressure on Cody and her colleagues on the film JENNIFER'S BODY (a horror comedy with current It Girl Megan Fox) to deliver JUNO-esque box office numbers to at least commercially re-establish Cody's finger-on-the-zeigeist-pulse-plus-ornately-wacky-dialogue rep.

Here are a couple of takes on TARA; the first is's Troy Patterson's middling view:

And this is NEW YORKER television columnist Nancy Franklin's more upbeat take:

My issue with the series is that Collette is bascially being asked to impersonate Tracey Ullman in her too-broadly-played-and-defined multiple personalities. Not to forget Cody's swiping the motif of mental disorder as a form of lovable eccentricity uniformly tolerated by a whole town from LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (where Kelli Garner, as the lovelorn officemate of Ryan Gosling, handily outacted Gosling's overpraised SNL-sketch-level performance).

Starting this Sunday, viewers can judge for themselves as to whether or not TARA will be the new quirky cable comedy hit.

I'm giving it one season, possibly two. But no more than that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More changes in the world of listening to/distribution of music.

The alternastation Indie 103.1, which received praise from ROLLING STONE and lasted longer than usual in the L.A. market, has now been taken off the airwaves and--as is the custom in most station-closings here--replaced by a Spanish-language music format. Here's the blog FRANKLIN AVENUE with a post-mortem:

Indie's spin (which can be found on LA OBSERVED's website) is that the station (under recent pressure to homogenize its format by playing more conventional music and dumping the majority of its host-driven programs) will return to its roots as an online-only venue.
[Yesterday, the station essentially recited its press release--with some dumb posturing about "Britney" and "Diddy"--in an endless loop followed either by X's "The New World" or Sid Vicious' cover of "My Way."]

In other news, Virgin Megastore is closing its Times Square outlet in NYC--apparently because more money could be made by letting the Forever 21 clothing chain have the property.

And, worst of all, mega-egocentric himbo musician John Mayer will have a variety series on CBS--now enabling him to share network prime time with former lover Jennifer Love Hewitt's GHOST WHISPERER.

Mayer allegedly wrote "Your Body Is A Wonderland" about Ms. Hewitt. One can only wonder if they'll do a duet on his series.

And, in a final update as of 12: 23 p.m. PST on Friday the 16th--Circuit City is going out of business.
Which leaves Best Buy holding a monopoly-of-sorts in the electronics-plus-CDs-sold-as-loss-leaders category.
Here are details as to the Circuit City breakdown:

Some opinions as to why LA alternapapers are pitiful shadows of their former selves.

First up: former LA WEEKLY left-to-center columnist Marc Cooper's lengthy-but-fascinating take on how the paper wound up in the hands of NEW TIMES troglodyte Mike Lacey:
Don't forget to read the voluminous section of comments, if only to see Rick "The Finger" Barrs from the old NEW TIMES LOS ANGELES (now editing Lacey's Phoenix paper) rear his contentious head. Suffice to say that Rick's still freakin' incredible.

Also, Dennis Romero covers CITY BEAT LOS ANGELES' difficulties, with some mentions of the sins of the Rebecca Schoenkopf-as-editor period:

And both papers have engaged in film-critic firing lately; Andy Klein (who I've enjoyed overall since his tenure at the late LA READER) has been let go by CITY BEAT and Ella Taylor has been dropped from the LA WEEKLY by NEW TIMES management.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

60s TV icon Patrick McGoohan and 70s TV icon Ricardo Montalban: RIP.

Here's an obit from AOL:

Some additions to the above:
DANGER MAN was known in the U.S. as SECRET AGENT--inspiring the Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man."
THE PRISONER is being remade as a cable series with Jim Caviezel (in McGoohan's role) and Sir Ian McKellan.

And here's a preliminary obit for Ricardo Montalban, known as an MGM contract player in the 1950s and a key supporting actor in episodes of the STAR TREK/PLANET OF THE APES/SPY KIDS theatrical film series:,0,7457363.story. Montalban is probably best known for playing Mr. Roarke on the long-running ABC series FANTASY ISLAND.

Also, Montalban played a key role in the advancement of Latino theatre in Los Angeles.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Obama: will "change" happen re Bush antiterror policies?

President-elect Barack Obama signaled in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the treatment of terrorism suspects.

But Mr. Obama also said prosecutions would proceed if the Justice Department found evidence that laws had been broken.

From Glenn Greenwald in SALON:
As TALK LEFT's Jeralyn Merritt documents, Obama today [yesterday's interview on ABC's THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS] rather clearly stated that he will not close Guantanamo in the first 100 days of his presidency. He recited the standard Jack Goldsmith/Brookings Institution condescending excuse that closing Guantanamo is "more difficult than people realize." Specifically, Obama argued, we cannot release detainees whom we're unable to convict in a court of law because the evidence against them is "tainted" as a result of our having tortured them, and therefore need some new system -- most likely a so-called new "national security court" -- that "relaxes" due process safeguards so that we can continue to imprison people indefinitely even though we're unable to obtain an actual conviction in an actual court of law. [This was later amended: Obama will now "close" Gitmo, but it will take up to a year.]
Here's an update from Greenwald since Obama's change-of-mind on Gitmo:

From Harry Shearer, as interviewed by Paul Krassner in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES on December 24th:
"I think there's going to be something sadly funny about the collision/intersection between the sky-high hopes and expectations of his supporters with the sky-high mountain of crap left on his desk by his predecessors."