Sunday, February 27, 2011

Poetry reading attendance, rain and Los Angeles.

In the spring of 1998, the first poetry reading I attended was at the now-long-gone Midnight Special on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica (a Benetton store is now occupying its former space).

That night, there was a heavy rain--part of the El Nino system.  In spite of the rain, there were at least 25-30 people gathered (sitting or standing) in the back room to attend, read and be supportive of each other.

Last night, there was a moderate-at-best rain in Santa Monica.  I was part of the Rapp Saloon reading inside the International Youth Hostel next door to the Buca di Beppo Restaurant (which occupies the space of a former Pussycat "adult movie" theater).

By my estimate, there were about eleven people there, tops--myself included.

Perhaps someone can comment on the differences between Los Angeles poetry attendance in 1998 and 2011.  I'm too depressed writing this to add anything further.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's coming: Anthology of Orange County poets and their fellow travelers.

Saw this poetry volume listed on someone's blog recently: Don't Blame the Ugly Mug: Ten Years of Two Idiots Peddling Poetry from Tebot Bach.

No comment; if you've read this blog in the past you know what I think of both the Ugly Mug in Orange, CA in general and one of the Two Idiots in particular.

I will make a wider comment to note that the OC poetry scene tends to thrive on social conventions of the kind Jane Austen and Edith Wharton wrote about (not necessrily admiring them)--plus, it brings up creepy memories of the trailer I saw for the cult horror film THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders will close 200 stores--a list and a post-mortem.

What I'm about to write wouldn't have passed the Literary Correctness test in, say, the year 2000.

Back in the day, no one would have imagined the corporate book chains of Borders and Barnes and Noble (then underpricing many independent stores out of business) would face the store-closings and bankruptcy filings of one-decade-plus-later.

And, to give one example, you certainly couldn't go into the now-quite-dead Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica and carry a bag from either of the Independence-Slaughtering Corporate Behemoths.

In terms of my experience, there were (and are) good and bad Borders stores.  Some of them had better stocking of nonbestsellers than others; some also had a fairly deep selection of CDs and DVDs (until the Great Culling of 2008-09).  And some stores had more friendly, helpful staff members than others (who will be nameless, but employed certain young-and-sometimes-older people who thought of customers as something to be endured).

As poetry gatherings in L.A. are concerned, three of the earliest readings I look back on fondly were those taking place in Westwood, Santa Monica and Glendale.  The Westwood and Santa Monica stores are now closed; the Glendale store made the dreaded List of 200.

In reading the death list, I was disappointed to discover the imminent closing of the store at the Pike in downtown Long Beach--they have a Wednesday reading and actually stock local icons such as Gerald Locklin.

Also, I was semi-surprised that the Northridge Mall store (which has suffered from sometimes below-par staff and is more run-down than it used to be) was spared.  It gets a fair amount of shoppers, but I was guessing that Borders would have pulled the trigger to get out of their lease with the mall owners.

It will be interesting to find out--for all the media whining and moaning about imminent death of brick-and-mortar bookstores and overemphasizing the sales figures of e-books--whether independent and second-hand stores will again gain the deserved traction they lost in the past decade.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Lady Antebellum's Grammy-winning "Need You Now"--tasteful, beige country music.

Not that I listen to country music that much (I don't, with the occasional exception of the Sirius/XM satellite channel Outlaw Country--founded by Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band fame), but I was rather depressed and horrified by Lady Antebellum and their multiple-award-winning song "Need You Now" on the Grammy Awards Variety Show (With Occasional Awards) last night.

"Need You Now" takes a simple situation (desperate early morning phone call to friend/lover/ex) and turns it into bland, safely-swallowed musical Lactaid.  Even a meant-to-be-inoffensive-and-reassuring piece of assembly-line country like, say, Garth Brooks' "Unanswered Prayers" from the 90s, comes off more honest (if 590 miles away from anything resembling raw emotion).

I guess this is what most people are settling for in 2011.  Expecting Lady Antebellum (which bowed almost-constantly to an apparently-fearsome institution called "country radio" on the Grammys) to be co-opted by Mitt Romney and/or Tim Pawlenty next year.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Woody Allen compares his work ethic to Ingmar Bergman's.

In the midst of a recent interview in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (about an Ingmar Bergman retrospective in Berlin), Woody Allen had this to say (highlighting by me):
 "I just like to keep turning them out and doing them and not looking up at how they are responded to because that can drive you crazy. You can obsess over that for good or bad. You can languish in great praise, which you get sometimes, or become depressed with great criticism, and it’s all just a waste of time. You’re better off working."

I've seen EBERT PRESENTS AT THE MOVIES. Here's my review.

Giving the show one thumb up for the Russian critic first-named Ignatly and one thumb down for the off-putting Christy Lemire of the Associated Press.  I don't know why Roger Ebert has a fatal attraction to aggressively telegenic personalities such as Lemire and Richard Roeper.  Unlike Roeper, Lemire at least doesn't give off the odor of "I don't really like movies but this is a boss career move."  But Lemire is yet another TV "personality" that has obviously been trained by image consultants to smile just about every time she delivers a line of copy on-camera.

Thumbs down for Roger's use of ubertraditional news broadcaster Bill Kurtis as his substitute speaking voice; I'd prefer someone a bit more brash-sounding like, say, Patton Oswalt or Michael Moore.

Thumbs up for using old SISKEL AND EBERT clips during the closing credits.

Final Verdict: Substitute either Lisa Schwarzbaum (ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY) or Ben Mankiewicz (who survived the Ben-and-Ben AT THE MOVIES with professional dignity) for Lemire and Roger Ebert will have a more viable film-review series than what can now be seen on public television stations nationwide.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rick Lupert's new SINZIBUCKWUD!--if you're a fan.....

Given my variable history with veteran Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert (then and now of POETRY SUPERHIGHWAY fame), anything I say about Rick's published output will be considered suspect (or tainted) by some in the SoCal poetry community.

But I'll just say briefly that SINZIBUCKWUD (title referring to Canadian maple syrup) is a chapbook about Rick and wife Addie and son Jude's trip to Quebec waiting to be unearthed from a too-long volume.

If you're a everything-he-does-is-magic fan of Rick's minimalistic-deadpan humor, there will be poems you'll appreciate (the ones that stood out for me include "Criminal" and "Apologies If This One Isn't For You").

But, this time around, there's an absence of quality control--meaning that at least a third of the book could have been discarded.

As I have learned in the past, bringing up the issue of quality control to Rick (especially in public) is something likely to cause negative emotions on his part.

I'm not doing this to be cheap or petty or needlessly negative--more from the viewpoint of a longtime admirer of the artiste inside him.

Unfortunately, Rick's likely to turn to the friends/sycophants/well-wishers who will vastly outnumber me and not bother offering him grains of sand that could become the makings of future literary pearls.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Elton John and Billy Joel pass messages to each other through Jann Wenner.

Some background: Billy Joel (and his music) used to be routinely hammered by ROLLING STONE until 1982--when, from the release of THE NYLON CURTAIN onwards, he was treated with more reverence.  For awhile in recent years, it seemed like no issue of RS would go by without some kind of reference to Joel's comings-and-goings.

With regards to Elton John's comment about Billy Joel's creative stasis: I myself wonder why Joel doesn't at least try to write new songs for, say, a Broadway-intended musical.

It's a lot better than drinking, wrecking cars and self-sorrow.