Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mindy Nettifee, dinosaurs and the future of a virtual coffee house reading.

Last night, my wife and I logged on to Coffee Cartel (in Redondo Beach) by way of this website: which webcasts the Tuesday night poetry reading from roughly 7:30 to after 10:00 p.m.

Mindy Nettifee, last night's featured poet, referred to coffee house readings as "dinosaurs" in her opening remarks. Whether or not one agrees with Mindy, it's clear that attendance for at least some L.A.-area readings aren't what they used to be.

I would hope that the stay-at-home folks who used to be poetry regulars in, say, the 90s and early 00s might tune in to the Redondo Poets reading at the site above each Tuesday night if they wish to be supportive of virtual coffee house poetry.

To be truthful, the sound quality of the webcasts could use some improvement. But it's an opportunity to see the Larry Colker-chosen features and open-mike participants live and in-the-moment.

And that's an experience which should be spared dinosaur-like extinction from audience indifference/nonsupport.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Revised poem LITTLE STEVIE 2.0


Little Stevie just ran over me
with his Hyundai.

I admired Little Stevie’s earlier poetry
which contained equal parts humor and insight.

I told Little Stevie of my admiration for his work.
Maybe we could be colleagues and/or friends.

Little Stevie responded politely
but he hoped the needy man would Just Go Away.

As the years went by,
I would cringe when Little Stevie
never took a stand
and was eager to defend the
exalted Status Quo of poetry
when they were much more rude and hurtful
to other poets than I’ll ever be.

Little Stevie stayed in control
(control is a big thing with him)
and continued to pray for me to go away.

Once in awhile, Little Stevie would take an interest
in me-but only when I was contrite
or asked him about his idols
Wendy O. Williams, John Cale and Barry Gifford
or if I wrote a poem
that sounded like a poem other poets would write.

Then, I’d ask onstage why Little Stevie would pose for
an expensive vanity photo.
And I’d seethe when he was smirky and flip
towards other poets he considered
maladjusted undertalented vessels of discontent.

But at the same time, I’d be awake at night asking my wife
“What could I do to make Little Stevie respect me?”

And my wife would tell me:
“He doesn’t seem to let too many people get close to him.
Besides, you shouldn’t be surprised
when people aren’t happy to be on the other end
of your critical remarks.”

Once in awhile, there would be a sort of d├ętente
where I’d sincerely wish him well
and he’d seem genuinely happy
and say something sincere to me.

But I couldn’t stop being critical of certain poets.

And he couldn’t stop being maitre'd
to the vanities of the Status Quo
who rarely bothered to attend his weekly reading.

To top it off, Little Stevie’s poetry became less amusing
and interesting than it was in past years.
He decided to coast on his laurels
and milk his winning formula too often.

When I pointed it out,
Little Stevie flew into a controlled rage
and said there was Nothing Wrong
with his poetry.

And, true to his form, he said
he never wanted to see
or hear from me again-
but it was my choice
as to whether or not to comply with his wish.

(This reminded me of the division supervisor
giving a choice between
writing a letter of resignation or
outright termination. )

Little Stevie spent months
telling stories about how he tried
to Help me and all I did in return was
to be irreverent, ungrateful and abusive to him
and his highly talented friends.

Little Stevie sent me a brief e-mail.

He ended it with:
"Anything you say to me now is worthless”.

I made an attempt to apologize For Good
to Little Stevie one night.
He motioned for the venue bouncer.

The bouncer threw me onto the street.

Then Little Stevie got into his Hyundai,
gunned the motor
stomped hard on the accelerator.

Little Stevie hates me.
And it looks like it will never end.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A modest proposal re Long Beach's Lightbulb Mouth reading.

Awhile back, I wrote a poem called I'LL BE YOUR DEAD MAN FOR THE EVENING--inspired in part by not being able to make it past the open-mike section of the Lightbulb Mouth "poetry show" in Long Beach run by Derrick (Write Bloody publisher/entrepreneur) Brown and Mindy Nettiffee each Wednesday.

Here's a thought: As far as Lightbulb is concerned, perhaps the gesture of an open reading should be dropped--and they should concentrate on being a showcase-only venue for friends and nationally-known colleagues. And, if Mindy and Derrick desire a nonpoet-but-still-afficionado audience [as was explained to me backchannel by a supporter of the reading], perhaps they should try print ads in the LA and OC WEEKLY and expand their current base (although that requires money and some risk).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another random comments entry.

1. Victor "The Rooster From Wooster" Infante is taking votes on his blog to determine a temporary definitive slate of great American poets: Judging from the list of names I've read, people are submitting poets primarily on the basis of "it's goooooood for yooooouuuuuu" gravitas. At least Jack McCarthy and Brendan Constantine (poets who don't believe quality and a sense of humor are a twain that should never meet) are part of the list. And here's the final list:
2. Here's a link to the ROLLING STONE article about Stanley McChrystal blowing off, being a tough guy who thinks he's George S. Patton and essentially giving the middle finger to his civilian Commander in Chief: A few minutes ago, I logged on and was only able to read the first page; I don't know if that's on purpose or due to the number of hits it's getting today. [There was a line that Robert Montgomery said to John Wayne in John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE: "Rusty, who do you think you're working for? Yourself?" ]
3. RIP Lee Sloca--SoCal poet who recently passed away. Sloca was an active presence at Venice CA's Beyond Baroque; guessing that a tribute will eventually appear on Beyond Baroque's Facebook page (can't quite call it a "wall").

Sunday, June 20, 2010

When Los Angeles patrons of art and poetry vote with their absence.

Last night, famed artist Rachel Rosenthal appeared at West Hollywood's Book Soup. Just a few people turned up:

In my case, I only discovered this because my wife and I were in the store to shop for books. Wondering if Book Soup (which I've aired mixed feelings about in the past) still prints ads for its in-store author appearances in any local media.

Over a week earlier, a poetry reading hosted by Michelle Angellini in Silverlake (which had some rather welcome eclectic multiple-poet bills) had its plug pulled by the venue's owner.

And, like some of the rest of you, I share responsibility by not making time to patronize the latter (irony: I was booked to feature there in September) during its short life.

Time to allude to the cliche about trees falling in forests with no one around to notice.
[UPDATE 6/20/10--Read the sobering news about Ron Dvorkin's long-running reading at Encino's Barnes and Noble being canceled after this month due to the store deeming it a "non-revenue producing" event. I attended (and on occasion read in the open) a few times and can attest to its popularity and the diversity of poets who attended and/or featured. Knowing that Ron, if he decides to continue, will manage to find another San Fernando Valley venue.]

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why I haven't rushed out to big-studio summer movies yet.

Perhaps it's age--and perhaps it's also witnessing coming-attractions trailers. But I haven't been persuaded to invest time and admission money in slavish remakes of either THE A-TEAM (from the once-promising Joe NARC Carnahan) or THE KARATE KID (which at least proves that old showbiz legend Jerry Weintraub--who helped birth the original franchise--is someone you should never bet against).

But the cut-cut-cut-costs and play it safe-safe-safe methodology of the studios (one would think that Jeff Robinov would have been 86ed from Time Warner by now) seem to be biting them in the posterior--with Pixar craftsmanship (although with the recent Pixar tendency towards overlength) and Christopher Nolan imagination likely to be the only real offsets to a likely red-ink corporate moviemaking bottom line this summer.

In terms of the big-release summer films I have seen, here's some random opinionating:
The Cronenberg-esque SPLICE (about two-thirds of an engrossing film) would have been better off being distrubuted by IFC or Magnolia on a specialty theater/pay-per-view platform. For WB to throw it out (in the US) on a 2000-screen basis left it to laughed at by mass audience hyenas who wanted copious amounts of blood and dismemberment and less of a thoughtful update of the time-honored morality play about scientists playing God at their peril.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK was a superior Nicholas Stoller-directed Judd Apatow outing to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL--with the same crack teamwork of Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. Unfortunately, anything emerging from the Apatow banner has to display a pandering, faux-MORK AND MINDY morality (still remembering Robin Williams being stuck with the what-I've-learned "Mork calling Orson" tags to each episode) that is becoming increasingly awkward with every Apatow-based outing. So, if you haven't seen GREEK already, expect a have-it-every-possible-way approach to the subjects of sex and drug use.
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe's ROBIN HOOD was stupidly dumped on by mainstream critics who apparently expected Errol Flynn heroics and zest. But the 2010 version had enough action and humor--and fortunately didn't espouse the dourness and nihilism of Richard Lester and James Goldstone's 1976 ROBIN AND MARIAN (which ended with the deaths of the two protagonists). But contemporary critics/reviewers (e.g. the usually astute Karina Longworth) shrieked as if the Scott film was an exact clone of Lester's earlier (and semi-forgotten) outing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

G. Murray Thomas on Rick Lupert's latest book WE PUT THINGS IN OUR MOUTHS.

Awhile back, I wrote about local poetry icon Rick Lupert's current book WE PUT THINGS IN OUR MOUTHS. It was a mixed review--but if you want to balance it with a somewhat-rave opinion, here's icon/poetry trainspotter G. Murray Thomas weighing in:

Re Toronto's upcoming G20 summit

Later this month, world leaders will gather in Toronto, Ontario for the G20 summit.

Here's an example of a protesters-come-together link:

And here's the Official reaction:

And there's a lot of disgruntlement over an artificial lake constructed for the occasion:
[later, Canadian officials claimed the lake had only a five-figure cost]

No doubt, the US media's G8/G20 coverage will focus mainly on authorities vs. protesters. But the apparent $1 billion (in Canadian dollars) cost of the occasion--plus the ratio of actual accomplishments to rhetoric of the nations meeting there--make this an event for everyone to pay attention to.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Coda: Reactions to I'LL BE YOUR DEAD MAN....poem.

To start with, I sent my I'LL BE YOUR DEAD MAN FOR THE EVENING poem to the co-host of the SoCal venue (which will be unnamed here) described in the piece. At first, his reply was a variation of the "start your own venue" comment that poets tend to resort to when faced with feedback they don't want to hear. I wasn't politic in my reply (though I said something positive about him as a publisher/entrepreneur--I've bought a few of his books/anthologies of other poets), complaining about the self-abuse/self-entitlement/members of the "club" feel of most of the open-mikers. He responded with a "you can't control an open mike" remark (not at all what I was saying), and ended the back-and-forth with the Facebook equivalent of hanging up on a caller.

In essence, the piece was written as a way of airing my discomfort with a place with a sense of "we're better, more astute, more literate than you." One of the first pieces of conversation I happened to hear was a couple of male poets wondering whether to participate in the open-mike or be like "common people"--which led to about 90 seconds of riffing on the Pulp song of that name.

There was one older man (looked to be in his 60s) on the open mike. So it wasn't completely young people in privileged revelry. [And I forgot to mention the slam poet on the open mike who, a long time ago, read a poem at another venue with a cheap, tasteless laugh-line about "seeing Angela Lansbury naked."]

It's just that my perception of the venue was that, for a first-time (and likely only-time) attendee, it wasn't very welcoming to newcomers. In fact, I don't even remember hearing any formal announcement of open-mike--so I'm guessing that you had to ask someone or know already who the open-mike MC for that part of the evening was.

So, that's my story about how I'LL BE YOUR DEAD MAN FOR THE EVENING came to be written. And it was meant to be more general than specific, since poets/the public are likely to encounter similar poetry venues in most cities/college towns--where you're not so much welcomed as made to jump through too many hoops to get the attention of the scenesters/ringmasters present.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time for another Larry King-esque Random Topics post.

1. Seems to me that CNN, as it heads into Year 31, ought to not listen to media gossips advocating a boost in the amount of "opinion" shows because they seem to be a better short-term fix than the network's usual passive center-right "neutral" retell the Official Story programming. Perhaps more shows like, say, Fareed Zakaria's GPS, might be better--news shows with actual news and analysis. And a de-emphasis on personality-driven shows (which began when dull-but-attempting-to-be-substantive Aaron Brown was deposed for more conventionally-network-friendly Anderson Cooper, who only seems to be truly useful when on location) defintely wouldn't hurt.

2. Am I too sensitive, or is it okay to be offended when SiriusXM considers Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" part of the "Jukebox of Cheese" on its 70s channel?

Thursday, June 3, 2010



I wanted so much to like it.

I kept my mind open and transparent and walked down those stairs into the ornate club and once the open mike began I felt like I was tied to a Catherine Wheel and made to watch an enormous circle jerk where almost all the poets talked about how they knew each other and the look-how-cool-we-are-ness rolled off the stage like a special-effects fog.

You don't know me that well and vice versa but one time I did you a solid and you did the same for me by telling me something I needed to hear and I remember waving at you, hoping you'd come over and make me feel like I did a good thing by coming all the way out and being supportive and perhaps I was being childish when you didn't because when you're in a room with friends there are so many people wanting your time and friends take precedence over aquaintances and strangers.

I wanted ever so much to stay past the floor show and see the Main Event I drove a few miles to witness but, as I kept spinning on my Catherine Wheel, I started thinking of all the things I hate about poetry-- about how strangers aren't always made to feel welcome and that I'm not sitting at the Cool Table and may never be invited to the Cool Table and getting very tired of entree to the Cool Table being determined by who publishes you, who you're BPF's (Best Poetic Friends) with, whether or not you've won the Go-Kart Prize, whether or not you're Academic enough, whether or not your writing is bloody or merely pomegranate-juicy enough.

Sometimes, when I feel like crying like Disney's Ugly Duckling, I wonder which is worse-- being an outcast by design or by group vote, or being accepted and wondering when the popularity will stop and people turn their attention to others and the key light never shines on you again no matter how supportive you are of others with your money and time plus providing MFA recommendation letters and pullquotes for their latest books.

A few hours ago, I untied myself from the Catherine Wheel and walked back up the stairs and out into the cold night air. Something tells me you didn't care whether or not I was gone becaise there were more than enough people worthy of your time. And that's the way it is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some films to create your own Dennis Hopper retrospective with.

Some suggestions for at-home cineastes who want to program their own Dennis Hopper festival before museums and revival theaters follow suit:
EASY RIDER, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, TRUE ROMANCE, APOCALYPSE NOW ORIGINAL AND/OR REDUX, RUMBLE FISH, BLUE VELVET, HOOSIERS, BACKTRACK [one of Hopper-as-director's most idiosyncratic films with a spectacularly diverse cast including Hopper, Vincent Price, Joe Pesci, Bob Dylan and Jodie Foster], OUT OF THE BLUE, THE RIVER'S EDGE, ELEGY, SPEED, COLORS, WATERWORLD.

THE LAST MOVIE--a rather controversial art-and-life-imitate-each-other curio from the days (specifically 1970-71) when Universal Pictures gave Hopper, Peter Fonda and Monte Hellman carte blanche to make low-budget counterculture extravaganzas--isn't on DVD yet, but will be worth seeking out for the serious Hopper appreciator. Brad Stevens of the British Film Institute makes a case for THE LAST MOVIE's artistic validity in this article:

Also, KID BLUE (a 1972 comedy-Western with Hopper as a man who doesn't fit in well with early 20th-century life) is worth a look if it resurfaces on Fox Movie Channel.