Sunday, February 28, 2010

Random impressions of 2010 Winter Olympics coverage.

In no particular order:
1. Turned on MSNBC early Sunday morning and was quickly bored by curling. Surprised
that three hours had been alotted for the game.
2. After the Closing Ceremonies Canada production number, it's safe to say that certain people
with long memories can stop complaining about the 1989 Academy Awards ceremonies.
3. Re the above: Assuming no one asked Paul Anka (we got the demographically suitable Michael Buble instead) to launch the giant cannonball of Canadian cheese that was only halted by NBCUniversal's need to run the pilot episode of THE MARRIAGE REF.
4. I don't think Lindsey Vonn was hyped enough by NBCUniversal. What a missed opportunity.
5. Seems like Apolo Ohno, whenever he doesn't get Gold, finds someone else to blame.
6. There's that McDonald's ad with the middle-school girls' hockey team and the coach with the baseball cap who looks like Paul Simon. The coach natters on about coming into the game with "one goal" and how that was what the team scored. Then they all go to McDonald's to eat like Olympians--Chicken McNuggets. One only hopes the real Olympians ate salads instead.
7. Re the AT&T snowboarding-in-space ad set to Lou Reed's "Perfect Day."-- Lou now joins Pete Townshend ("Love Reign O'er Me" used decades ago as a 7-UP ad the rain) and those in charge of John Lennon's music around 1987 (the infamous use of "Revolution" to sell Nike running shoes) in terms of egregious wealth-producing use of iconic songs for commercial jingle purposes. Presuming the ghost of Lester Bangs (who wrote some classic articles about Lou Reed) laughed his ass off after viewing the "Perfect Day" ad.

Whatever the faults of the Olympic coverage and its chop-chop-cut-cut presentation, it was a memorable shared experience (good and bad)--though it might be time for Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch to reach into their savings accounts and outbid NBC for the rights to coverage of future Winter and Summer Olympic games.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sympathy for Matt Taibbi as he receives media flogging.

The above is a blog entry in NEW YORK magazine intended as a snarky takedown of Matt Taibbi, best known for recent ROLLING STONE articles pulling back the curtains on how the U.S. government and Wall Street (particularly investment bank titans like Goldman Sachs) really do business.

This passage kind of got to me (I'll do some highlighting):
"He’s unique in that he doesn’t see anything that is good," a former editor tells Vanity Fair. "He just notices the flaws in people." But woe to those who point out his flaws, as writer James Verini, who met with Taibbi found while trying to write a piece about Exile, the English-language magazine Taibbi co-published in Moscow in the nineties.

Sounds a lot like what certain people say about me when I say that certain poetry emperors don't do a lot of good for the world of local poetry.

But I'm not Matt Taibbi--daring to highlight-in-yellow piggish, thuggish behavior by governments, corporate instruments and investment banks, and taking abuse from a corporate mainstream media who prefers for us all to shut up and consume, taking everything at no more than face value.

I'll go out on a limb and say that Taibbi, for his occasional flaws (a tendency to be too uncomfortable with blue-collar America, despite his Billy Bob Thornton's-kid-brother appearance), loves the USA and what it could and should be.

And it's too bad he's being whipped for that in the pages of NEW YORK and VANITY FAIR.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Michael Apted's 1991 film CLASS ACTION: worth revisiting in the wake of Toyota malfunctions.

The Gene Hackman/Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio father-daughter legal drama from a couple
of decades back is worth seeking out as a DVD rental; when viewing, note carefully the "auto
manufacturer willing to take an acceptable casualty risk vs. the price of a recall" portion of
the storyline.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I now have a non-fan club.

The above is a website compiled by someone who is keeping track of what he/she believes to be my
missteps and misunderstanding of poets and poetry matters.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guess it's useless to argue with poetry elitist absolutism.

The latest exchange with the Important poet brought out his tired old canard that I'm advocating features for poets regardless of ability--i.e. if they're terrible but they are venue regulars, ergo
they get rewarded for merely showing up.

My response is: Yes, I understand that poets must clear a bar to receive a chance to feature for 20-30 minutes by a poetry host/hosts. But the bar is set perhaps a bit too high.

And the Important poet goes on about the variance in poetry hosts' tastes. Yes, there still exists some variance. But not as much as there used to be. Certain venues which used to be egalitarian now remind me of Keir Dullea's hotel room at the end of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

But "egalitarian" is an obscenity to some. And I guess I'm still stupid enough to not comprehend that people are drawn to poetry because it gives them a chance to crow about their intellect and ability to "craft" works that sometimes read like Sudoku word puzzles.

And, when all else was exhausted, the Important poet also said, "Start your own festival" as he stomped away in frustration at my apparent denseness.

I'd be a millionaire if I had $100 for every time a poet wanted to stop discussions/arguments with me by using variations of the phrase "Start your own reading/festival."
[And lest anyone forget, I did host two reading series in the past decade. And I booked
the Important poet for the first series.l

Southern California poetry is rather a microcosm of the current epidemic of legislative gridlock in state and federal governments--no one in power wants to compromise on anything because they hate the notion of having to give something up.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Being set straight yet again about Los Angeles poetry's desire to keep the herd thinned.

So the Important poet and I have been continuing to e-mail and, among other things, I was reminded that my standards for which poets should get features (a mixture of various types--and sometimes skill levels) aren't correct ones. I would allow too much--the horror, the horror--mediocrity to be put on display.

Along with that axiom, I was reminded that if poets aren't able to get features at venues where, say, Red Hen Press authors, Pushcart Prize winners and RATTLE (or other literary magazine) editors are favored (including most of the remaining "coffeehouse" readings), then it means the poets should write "better."

I know I'm showing my stupidity/naivete/lack of undertanding again, but it seems to me that a big, diverse city like Los Angeles ought to have a more diverse small-reading scene than it does.

But chasing prestige (or being in the presence of it) is paramount with a lot of people now.

And so the poetry scene in Los Angeles will continue to be exclusive and secretsecret--with the late Hyperpoets reading at Venice's Rose Cafe being the template for the high-toned, often too-dry and too-self-consciously "I'm writing TRUE poetry, as any fool can see" artistic desert.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One more post on the reading I attended last Thursday.

When receiving backchannel e-mail from the Important poet at last Thursday's reading in Redondo Beach, I had an accusation hurled at me.

Essentially, it was that I don't notice how "positive" the poetry scene is.

And there was one actually-positive event that evening I didn't write about earlier.

A teenage girl (who, to me, seemed to be a junior in High School) stood up to read a "found" poem assembled from opening paragraphs of Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE.

Feeling overwhelmed by reading a poem for the first time in front of an audience of strangers, the girl began to cry.

Audience members--plus the host, Dave McIntire and his wife--encouraged the girl to keep reading and finish her poem. She did.

When she sat down, someone near her said, "It will get easier."

To be honest in the best way, first-timers tend to invariably receive good treatment and support when they take the open mike at poetry readings of all types in the Southern California area. And it is something to be commended.

But I write a blog called POETRY-ARTS CONFIDENTIAL. And I feel that the biggest part of my job is to be a disinfectant when certain poets and/or poetry cliques become too self-important, fatuous, pompous and restrictive to relative newcomers and veterans alike.

I'm confident that the teenage girl will write some excellent poetry of her own.

My hope is that she'll get a chance to put together a first feature sooner than later--and not have to wait her turn for years while MFA-degree holders, Pushcart Prize winners, editors of "au courant" literary magazines and small presses are favored by certain poetry hosts.

Is that too much to hope for her?

For a change, some bite-sized film reviews.

Saw one of the stupidest films ever on DVD Friday night--LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. Starts out as a DEATH WISH ripoff and turns into a war-on-terror polemic that makes 24 (at its most extreme) look rather progressive by comparison. Not much logic, certain actors either ham it up (that's you, Gerard Butler) or walk through their performances (stand up and wave, Jamie Foxx and Colm Meaney) and Kurt Wimmer's script is anything-for-an-immediate-effect. Surprised that it became a moderate hit last year.

SHUTTER ISLAND may be getting some obtuse treatment by current mass-market critics/reviewers (A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips looked down their noses and uttered "Skip It"
on AT THE MOVIES), but it will stand the test of time; better than the two previous Scorsese/Di Caprio collaborations--the good-not-great THE DEPARTED and THE AVIATOR.

GETTING THE KNACK (available for DVD rent or TV/PC streaming on Netflix) is a worth-watching 80-minute summary of the rise and fall of the L.A. power pop group.
The Knack was a hot ticket on the L.A. club scene and musicians as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Stephen Stills were eager to jam with them onstage. By 1981, ego trips, drug abuse and faltering post-GET THE KNACK record sales caused the band's first demise. The Knack later regrouped; ironically, 1979's "My Sharona" became a hit all over again in the 1990s when used in Ben Stiller's REALITY BITES (surprisingly, this isn't covered in GETTING....). Engrossing and sometimes sad to watch in the wake of frontman Doug Fieger's death from cancer a week ago at the age of 57.

Friday, February 19, 2010

RIP to Los Angeles poet Erica Erdman, 55.

Was shocked and sad to find out that L.A. poet Erica Erdman passed away yesterday.

I didn't know Erica that well, but she was a class act as a person and as a member of the tribe called "the poetry community."

Met Erica in the late 90s at Amelie Frank's reading series at the Hot House in North Hollywood. Saw her last at the 2009 Newer Poets reading at the Downtown Los Angeles
Public Library.

Here's a link to for Erica's book THE APOCALYPTIC KID:

Making Poetry Cake: Re Los Angeles poetry and MFA mania.

Stop me if you've read this one before:
Last night, I was at a poetry reading and this person I'll choose not to name this time (suffice it to say he has some standing in local Los Angeles/Orange County poetry and I've mentioned him by name in past entries) made comments about poetry needing "layers of meaning" and saying it to an audience which included people with Masters of Fine Arts degrees...
[the person who told the story first e-mailed me backchannel to say it was a story with someone else as the protagonist--then later claimed that I was repeating "private" conversation, rather ironic considering that he was talking in a loud, I'm-holding-court voice where a lot of the store could hear him]

Assuming the latter part of the remark was a way of saying "it goes without saying that MFA-degree-holders already know this."

For a dumb literal-minded too-easy-to-tell-what-my-poems-mean person like myself, it's just another indication that time is passing. The type of reading where you can hear people of a fair diversity of style and skill levels is disappearing locally--although The Rapp Saloon, the Saturday Pasadena Public Library reading (one Saturday afternoon a month at the location on Washington St.) and the fourth-Saturday Barnes and Noble Encino reading [now disappeared] are three remaining examples.

Other readings ranging from the Cobalt Cafe to Redondo Poets to Two Idiots at the Ugly Mug seem to have abandoned the "talented amateurs can feature too" policy in order to subtly enforce a "let's just bring poets in who are from academia and/or qualify as prize-winning/published by respected small-presses" criteria. This is apparently a form of eugenics meant to "uplift the quality" of poetry [or "we're honored to have honored poets bless our small venues"].

To my mind, all of this MFA/who-are-you-studying-with/who-are-you-submitting-to stuff seems to be a way to make the process of poetry (rather, becoming primarily a teacher with poetry slightly off to the side) similar to baking a cake. Just follow the instructions to the letter and you'll have a career in the Wonderful World of Words!

And be careful to not display too much individuality or simplicity or attitude, or your poems won't make it to the top of the slush pile and/or you could be (gasp!) denied tenure.

It's so different than when I was a youngster of 38 and 39 when you could self-publish chapbooks and actually sell enough to make a little bit of money. Of course, Academia Worship existed then as well, but it wasn't the only game in town.

Now, it practically is. And plenty of people want to believe that if you do A, B and C, the glorious results of D will happen.

So let's all strive for layers upon layers of meaning, showers of ambiguity, a soupcon of pretension, epigraphs stolen from 17th-century geniuses--and, above all else, to give public shout-outs to the really brilliant talent in the room.

Voila! You've baked a Poetry Cake!!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LA TIMES sports crank Bill Plaschke on Lindsey Jacobellis.

There's a lot of times I don't agree with veteran LOS ANGELES TIMES sportswriter Bill Plaschke (a rare instance of a column of his I liked was about the recent efforts to blame the young Georgian luge contestant for his tragic death), and this conniption fit about Lindsey Jacobellis (which comes down to Plaschke being miffed that Jacobellis, having lost a second chance at Olympic Gold, didn't want to meet the press IMMEDIATELY afterwards) is one of those times:,0,2895259.column

Here's an especially barbed remark from Bill re Lindsey (highlighting by me):
"In its 12th year at the Olympics, snowboarding continues to grow in ways we never imagined. It is now officially a bratty kid who is convinced we will never understand it."Seriously, mainstream media just doesn't get it sometimes," said Nate Holland, another Olympic snowboard cross racer. "It's not always about winning. It's about fun, style, showing your stuff."But once every four years, the sport is put under a national spotlight and judged like all other American sports, by standings and a scoreboard. The boarders may not like that harsher glare, but they certainly don't have any trouble cashing checks from sponsors who do."

Monday, February 15, 2010

RIP to Doug Fieger of The Knack.

Was a bit saddened to hear Chris Carter announce the death-from-cancer of Doug Fieger (frontman of the power-pop band The Knack) on yesterday's edition of BREAKFAST WITH

Here's Fieger's page on the Internet Movie Database:

"My Sharona" was The Knack's biggest hit (from its 1979 debut album GET THE KNACK)--and one that momentarily reactivated the band
in the 1990s when included in the Ben Stiller/Winona Ryder/Ethan Hawke/Janeane Garafolo
GenX-comedy-of-manners REALITY BITES.

[Less remembered now is the hostility The Knack endured from 1979-1980 for perceived sexism/lasciviousness in certain song lyrics and "all they are is hype" backlash from the music press (ROLLING STONE was a key player--publishing lip-licking tidbits like a "Nuke The Knack" slogan making the rounds).]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A wreath on the grave of THE JAY LENO SHOW.

Two notes to add to the Wikipedia article:
1. I'm assuming that David Letterman was possessed by a malign form of glee in proposing the Super Bowl commercial for LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN to Jay Leno--knowing that Leno's shaky hold on a "good guy" persona would take a further hit with a "can't laugh at
myself" turndown.

2. Last week, Bill Maher made his final guest appearance on THE JAY LENO SHOW.
When Maher brought up the topic of Jay's "vulnerability" (see Note #1),
Leno cut Maher off and rushed to a commercial break.

One final prediction: The Jay/Dave ratings war may be a bit more unpredictable from March onwards. Yes, Leno will be Number One some nights--and Letterman will beat him on other occasions.

And more than a few of us will opt for Coco if he finds himself on Fox or Comedy Central.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Survey: Which classic rock act would you like to see at the 2011 Super Bowl?

Wasn't at home for this year's Super Bowl, but I did get to see a snippet of The Who's stage performance (sounded good to me though Roger Daltrey can't negotiate high notes as in his youth/early middle-age).

With full expectations that the NFL will again opt for veteran rock acts next year, here's a list of artists with 12-minute stadium-rocking potential. Send your votes to the e-mail address above so I can tally them:


Friday, February 5, 2010

Peter Biskind's STAR bio of Warren Beatty--two perspectives.

Here's free-lance journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis' gossip-laden take on Peter Biskind's STAR--a gossip-laden biography of Warren Beatty:

And, for contrast, here's the Janet Maslin review which appeared a month earlier in THE NEW YORK TIMES:

To my point of view, the Maslin review is the more thoughtful of the two. But Grigoriadis does take notice of the continuing virus of male sexism towards women (be they journalists or artistic colleagues) in the Industry. And she was a victim of that sexism more recently when an on-the-money ROLLING STONE profile of troubled comic/HOWARD STERN SHOW regular Artie Lange received a boorish on-STERN rebuttal from Lange friend Norm Macdonald.

As for Warren Beatty, he had a great run from BONNIE AND CLYDE through REDS (excepting DOLLARS. THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN and THE FORTUNE--which I'm assuming he accepted because they were directed by Richard Brooks, George Stevens and Mike Nichols, respectively). ISHTAR, even when released, wasn't as bad a film as the let's-review-the-budget shallow nonsense that defined its reputation for the last twenty-three years. And BULWORTH was an honorable valedictory for Beatty-as-filmmaker--leaving aside the disaster-laden-career-finale of TOWN AND COUNTRY.

Maybe Beatty enjoys being all-but-retired and a late-in-life husband/father. Maybe Beatty can't get over seeing himself as the eternal old-school leading man to have a strictly behind-the-camera career as producer/director--or even to be a mere actor in other people's films.

But, in the end, Beatty's body of work as a filmmaker deserves to outlast the who-he-slept-with curiosities--and the books which focus more on the latter than the former.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The myth of Rahm "f---ing r----ded" Emanuel as tough guy rather than profane lapdog.

http://www, Jane Hamsher's take on Rahm Emanuel, the Special Olympics and his recent upbraiding for using the word "retarded." for Matt Taibbi's opinion--with a few choice remarks aimed at those who choose to serve as word police.

By now, a lot of us common folks and media spoonfeeders (raise your hands, John Heilemann of NEW YORK magazine and Mike Madden of seem to have swallowed the grape-flavored myth of Clintonite Rahm Emanuel as the Obama Administration official who Gets Things Done with a "realistic" (read "despises liberals and liberalism") worldview.

Given the mixed-bag, incremental-at-best record of Obama: Year One, it's time for the Emanuel myth to be laid to rest.

It may be one thing for Emanuel to yell at people to "obey" administration dictates if they work in the White House or happen to be Senators/Congressmen. But to demand that liberal advocacy groups (i.e. MoveOn) fall into unquestioning lockstep is a bit much.

Rahm Emanuel is a go-along, get-along lapdog for the status quo of Wall Street (which wants to continue to do business the way they're accustomed to regardless of the Great Recession) and the (let's be PC here) plus-sized cats of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Obviously, despite the opportunistic efforts of Sarah Palin (who merely objected to the word "retarded"), Emanuel won't be leaving the White House--probably because he's convinced too many people of his Importance to Obama.

But, to quote Gertrude Stein out of context, there truly isn't much there there where Rahm Emanuel is concerned.

And it's time for the mainstream media and the people who take it seriously to absorb that fact.