Friday, September 30, 2011

Another legacy of the George Butch Jr. administration: Michaelangelo statue gets its genitalia covered by Disney/ABC.

There are a few legacies remaining in America from the George Butch Jr. (aka George W. Bush) administration (not counting the Obama administration still going to "the dark side" to fight terrorism--or as John Wayne said in THE GREEN BERETS, "Out here, due process is a bullet."). 

Buy a physical CD, and you'll see an FBI anti-piracy warning logo.  Watch a TV show on  broadcast networks or basic cable, and you'll see lips engaged in profane wordspeak being blurred out so impressionable minds will not become scarred by guessing what words are being said as they hear the bleeping on the soundtrack.

And, now, from Twitter, there's this post from David Rambo (reposted by actor/Christopher Guest regular Michael McKean):
"ABC just blurred the genitals on Michaelangelo's David on 20/20. At 10pm. A statue. 500 years old."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The next wave of 3-D post-LION KING: reissues/conversions of old movies.
(Didn't see COMIN' AT YA! when it came out in the early 80s, but Tony Anthony--perhaps best known to filmgoers of a certain age for being an imitation of the Sergio Leone-era Clint Eastwood in films like A STRANGER IN TOWN and BLINDMAN; the latter featured Ringo Starr playing a stereotyped Mexican bandit--wasn't known for women-in-non-sex-object-roles filmmaking.  COMIN' AT YA! was criticized for sexism on its original release; it's safe to expect more controversy with the reissue).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why I gave up on the new TV series PAN AM after a few minutes.

Admittedly, I'm not the audience Disney/ABC wants for the new Sunday night series PAN AM.

Obviously, the target audience is 18-35 year-old women who will be enthralled by the 1963 retro setting, the conscious visual
attempt at replicating the lush stylings of early 1960s Technicolor/Metrocolor/Color by Deluxe/Cinemascope romantic comedy/dramas--and the mild dose of what was called "do-me feminism" in the era when Naomi Wolf was at her nonfiction/pundit peark.

I got to the early scene where Christina Ricci (likely eager for a steady career-rebuilding gig after appearing in Happy Madison's Nick Swardson vehicle BUCKY LARSON) says goodbye to her meant-to-be-Beat boyfriend who replies with a line like "I don't need to see the world to change it."

And I started to think of some conservative blather I read a long time ago where Julie Nixon Eisenhower and Tricia Nixon Cox were considered the "real rebels" of the 60s--another f--- you to a counterculture who brought about more good change than bad.  So wonderful of PAN AM to bring back that semi-buried memory.

As a slight respite from the endorsement of well-groomed conformity, there's
a spy subplot with co-star Kelli Garner (who gave good and underappreciated performances in studio boutique films like THUMBSUCKER and LARS AND THE REAL GIRL)

Cut to the scene where Christina goes to the Pan Am building to take a helicopter to the airport (she's indispensable to the flight and needs to get to her job in 35 minutes).

Then, there's the time-honored cliche of Ms. Ricci changing clothes in the back of the cab--with the cabbie sneaking a quick peek.

That's all I ever intend to see of PAN AM.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Santa Monica CA poet Lynne Bronstein needs your help.

Forwarded to me by R.D. Raindog Armstrong yesterday:
This, from fellow poet Luis Campos...

howdy folks:

tough times we're living in... an old friend is in

trouble: Lynne Bronstein; she's being evicted...

needs a little help from her friends. Don't know

Lynne? Beautiful person, fine poet; writes for the

Santa Monica newspaper... has been living at her

small place in S.M. at least since I met her back

in '70... community activist, cares for people; could

end up living on the streets.

enough said... please send her whatever you can afford.

She'll cry first, thank you later.

Lynne Bronstein

215 Bay St.

Santa Monica, CA


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

T.S. Eliot circa 1919 on England's literary community.

Won't underline the literary-communities-then-and-now-are-equal comparisons--instead, without further comment, here's an excerpt from THE LETTERS OF T.S. ELIOT (reviewed in the September 19th issue of THE NEW YORKER).

Here's T.S. Eliot writing to his brother Henry in 1919; T.S. had lived in England five years:
"It is like being always on dress parade--one can never relax.  It is a great strain.  And society is in a way much harder, not gentler.  People are more aware of you, more critical, and they have no pity for one's mistakes and stupidities.  They are more spontaneous, and also more deliberate.  They seek your company because they expect something particular from you, and if they don't get it, they drop you.  They are always intriguing and caballing; one must be very alert.  They are sensitive, and easily become enemies.  But it is never dull."

Nine random thoughts about the breakup of R.E.M.

1. Wish they had called it quits after the very good ACCELERATE rather than the uneven COLLAPSE INTO NOW.

2. If you don't have it, I recommend ordering the import live CD SONGS FOR A GREEN WORLD--recorded on the GREEN tour.

3. Writing was on the wall when The Decemberists' THE KING IS DEAD (which Peter Buck played on) was a better R.E.M. album than COLLAPSE INTO NOW.

4. In case you haven't heard it, the demo disc on the FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION reissue is excellent.

5. Looking forward to next year's likely reissue of DOCUMENT--the first R.E.M. album I ever bought.

6. Never saw R.E.M. live with Bill Berry.  But the best show of theirs I caught was the pre-2004 election concert at L.A.'s Greek Theatre.

7. Hoping that R.E.M. and Warner Bros. Records will agree to delete AROUND THE SUN from the band's in-release catalogue.

8. Willing to argue that the band's best videos are those for "Drive" and the live rendering of "Swan Swan H" from the semi-forgotten documentary ATHENS GA.

9. Hoping we can now see a special edition release of HINDU LOVE GODS (a Stipe-less R.E.M. backing the late Warren Zevon--including a killer cover of Prince's "Raspberry Beret")

Monday, September 19, 2011

Some links to articles on the Netflix cut-themselves-in-two decision re DVD rentals and streaming video.

Re Netflix--CEO Reed Hastings' open letter--and my open letter of reply.

Dear Terry,

I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the and websites will not be integrated.

There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the website is up and ready.

For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

Respectfully yours,

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

p.s. I have a slightly longer explanation along with a video posted on our blog, where you can also post comments.

Dear Reed,

Thanks for sending your letter of explanation/clarification.

I realize that streaming videos have been predetermined to be the wave of the future.  After all, in the current economy, who wants to lower their profit margin by printing allegedly-hard-to-sell physical copies of a movie/TV series? 

And Heaven forbid that the studios take partial responsibility for what the trade press calls "the decline in DVD sales" by printing far too many physical copies of hit films on DVD than could be realistically sold (thinking of Paramount/Viacom with particular regards to INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL and J.J. Abrams' STAR TREK).

Perhaps you're dreaming of a future where Quixster can quietly dissolve and Netflix will regain market dominance.  Maybe this could happen once streaming videos can boast every feature of DVDs (including being able to watch a film/TV episode with a commentary track)--plus visual quality equal to/surpassing what viewers can enjoy on Blu-Ray.

Yes, I'll remain a customer of yours.

But I can't help but risk your discomfort by saying
that a mere rebranding of your DVDs-by-mail service won't stem the loss
of the customers you could count on earlier this year (those which defected from the price raise--and now give the wobbling Blockbuster Video a new lease on life).

With utmost sincerity,

Terry McCarty
Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Victor Infante and his "tame monster" roaming the literary countryside again.

"Sometimes, it's hard not to think that the urge for fame or success, for validation, makes tame monsters of us."--poet Victor Infante circa 2009

"All of us who take to poetry as a calling, especially those of us who work mostly outside the realm of the academic and corporate spheres, stand on the shoulders of poets such as Hugh Fox, who understood that poetry – that art, beauty and passion – isn’t a gift conveyed by an institution, that’s the prerogative of anyone one group or class. Hugh found poetry – and poets – everywhere. He saw that an outsider poet from Southern California was worth taking seriously, and he sought out Latin American poets and published them in both English and Spanish when hardly anyone in America was doing that sort of thing. And one day, for reasons that I’ll probably never know, he took a shine to an online literary journal, and thought it was worth sending a poem. A poem’s a small thing, but if it comes at just the right moment, it can mean the world."--poet Victor Infante's recent remembrance of deceased poet Hugh Fox (highlighting by me).

The entirety of Victor's article can be found here:

More tributes to poet Scott Wannberg.

Since Scott Wannberg's memorial (with food, drink, reminiscing, open-mike and music) is being held today at Beyond Baroque in Venice CA ( from 3:00 to 11:00 p.m., I'm porting over some memories of Scott from the RADIUS website:’s-passing/

And here's probably the definitive tribute to Scott, from his longtime friend Rip Rense:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meaningful words from commenter on NEW YORK magazine factoid about Meredith Vieira's return to NBC.

Here's commenter JWFS on the above post:
who cares? my therapist tells me not to get "involved " in other people's lives--like meredith viera--"get your own life" --she is right-- i have kind of am empty life and have found gossip and interest in what "meredith is doing" a way to fill the hole-- who really cares what meredith is doing? the world around is collapsing around us--- when i take media "fasts" i am a much happier person--otherwise i get swallowed up by useless information

And here's what Elton John said about all this stuff 23 years ago (though the song GOODBYE MARLON BRANDO gets a literal-minded video treatment here):

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Re the stampede of poets towards the Golden Ticket of an MFA program.

"You’re not getting an MFA to get funded by an MFA program, nor to have a good teaching load, nor to move somewhere with an ideal cost of living. You’re getting an MFA to have your writing taken seriously by serious writers who you respect."

The quote above comes from an article called LETTER TO AN MFA APPLICANT by Samuel Amadon.

Mr. Amadon's article can be found in its entirety here:

Let's put Mr. Amadon's raves about the Columbia University School of the Arts writer's program (and its great expense--and, to him, great rewards) to one side of the table.  (Also, let's pass over his putdown of the Poets and Writers magazine's "ranking" of schools with MFA programs too).

And I'm now going to say something filled with poetic incorrectness in this age of Mass Artistic Conformity.

You don't really need to spend all that money to enter an MFA program to be taken seriously as a poet.

If you want to learn valuable lessons about writing and personal style from great poets, either buy their real (or digital) chapbooks/Real Books or check them out of your nearest public library.

Better yet, search out a copy of the book ECSTATIC OCCASIONS, EXPEDIENT FORMS if you wish to acquire the knowledge about rhyme, meter and different variations of poetic form.

If you wish to receive praise or criticism from poets you admire, then make contact with them at readings.  See if they'll accept copies of your poems or DIY/small press chapbooks for appraisal/feedback.  Some of them may be helpful/encouraging and others may turn out to be hurtful, obnoxious, self-important jerks wanting no one on the road to success but themselves.  Take everything with a grain of salt;  be joyful in the realization that you haven't paid the equivalent of $250.00/hour to have your strengths and weaknesses as a poet analyzed--you've essentially received it for free.

And keep writing, submitting and networking (although there will be times when poets all around you will say that an MFA is a must and climb into the academic machine like the Sneetches wanting a tummy star in the Dr. Seuss fable).

That way, a large chunk of your hard-earned money hasn't disappeared in case you need it for emergency reasons.

Last of all, please don't be afraid to thank me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steven Soderbergh's hatred of Internet commentary goes back further than CONTAGION.

Yes, I liked CONTAGION enough to give it three Purell bottles out of four (you'll understand once you see the film), though it's not up to earlier Steven Soderbergh commercial dramas like ERIN BROCKOVICH and TRAFFIC.

CONTAGION's mildly marred by Soderbergh injecting some crankiness about labor unions and Internet bloggers (there's a line about blogging being "grafitti with punctuation.")

Here's Soderbergh from roughly a decade earlier moaning about Internet-commenter criticism from his book-length conversation with Richard Lester titled GETTING AWAY WITH IT:
"Made the mistake of reading a couple of messages posted

about me in the indie-film section of AOL. There's one snotty

cretin that keeps making insipid remarks about me and my work

and I'm really fighting the impulse to rip this guy (I'm assuming

it's a guy because of the attitude dripping off the screen) a

brand-new, shiny, three-bedroom, two-full-bath asshole. But

then I think, 'Why bother? Be big about it. Just make your

films and let the other stuff go.' That's the healthy attitude,

of course. But I still want to cream this guy. I guarantee

you this motherfucker hasn't made a fucking paper football,

much less an actual film. Jesus, why does this bug me?

It's really unappealing."

Random thoughts after seeing THE HELP's Octavia Spencer on THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO.

1. Octavia Spencer seems like a smart person doing a lot of eye-rolling, face-pulling schtick to make nice with "Middle America."
2. If Octavia Spencer wins a supporting actress Academy Award next year for THE HELP, then she'll use it for higher-salary leverage towards co-starring with Janet Jackson in Tyler Perry's WHY DID I GET MARRIED THREE.
3. Safe to guess what Eddie Murphy as Academy Awards host won't say next year if Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis both win Academy Awards....for playing maids (the time-honored role going back to the more overtly racist Hollywood days when even Billie Holiday in a rare acting appearance in the 1940s was cast as a domestic servant).
4. Safe to guess what Chris Rock might have said if he had been allowed to host the 2012 Academy Awards.
5. I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to see THE HELP.  It looked like a big cartoon mess from the trailer--and the clip with Ms. Spencer, Ms. Davis and Emma Stone on last night's TONIGHT SHOW didn't alter my opinion at all.
6. I'm really sorry, but it's hard for me to wrap my mind around what's so allegedly uplifting about a film climaxing with a sequence involving a pie made from excrement.  Guessing, though, that the aforementioned scene gets PORKY's-sized laughs and cheers from most audience members.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Listing a few memorable films of summer.


Film that was probably improved by seeing it at a drive-in theater: COWBOYS AND ALIENS


Guilty pleasures: Marcus Nispel's CONAN THE BARBARIAN 3-D and Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS 3: DARK OF THE MOON 3-D, FINAL DESTINATION 5 3-D

Semi-guilty pleasure: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN

Underachiever of the summer: GREEN LANTERN

Friday, September 2, 2011

NPR blogger proposes that reality TV curb its enthusiasm for human exploitation.

As the United States slides ever deeper into a slash-and-burn, peasants-and-landowners environment a la medieval England, it's ever so clear that television networks and production companies will do absolutely nothing to rein in the excesses of semi-scripted drama with gotta-be-on-TV-no-matter-what civilians/professionals (with the exception of a few don't-do-this-it-could-hurt-you PSAs).

Once those PSAs air, NBC/Universal/Bravo are banking on the public paying no further attention to journalistic inquiries into reality TV ethics re the suicide-marred current season of THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS.

[UPDATE 9/3/11:]