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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Tribute to Gilbert Sorrentino

A character in Mulligan Stew compiles an inventory of books he has found in the (partially) imagined house in which fictitious author Anthony Lamont has placed him. The list begins: "The Orange Dress by Sheila Henry; Daredevil by John Charleville; Stolen Fruit by Jymes Vulgario; The Dry Ranges by Gilford Sorento; The Ouija Kiss by Harry Bore; Cobbler, Rend My Shoe! by Thom McAn; Acey-Five by Richard Tracy; Crab Hunting by Joseph Bush; The Model House by Iolanda Puttana; Buccal Violations by Carmine Rod; The Male Lesian by K.Y. Geli; Stupid Bastard: The Life of Harry Purim by Meier Meier; American Vector by Guy Lewis; Lubricious Lubricants by Reg Margarine; Mary, Mother of God by Xavier Amice, S.J.; Jackoff in the Old Red Barn by Ricky Dickey; Girls, Grapes, and Snow by Aristotle Rich; Red Flanagan's Last Throw by William Tracy; Stick 'Em Up by "Toni"; The King's Son by Hurley Lees; Thank God for My Gonorrhea by Joseph Viejo; Tie Your Own Tubes by V.A. Szechtomijh; Put It Right There by Vera Panting; One Thousand Occasional Sonnets by Gordo Kelly; Crazy for Corsets by Van Raalte; The Truth About Vegetables by Harry Krishna-Rama; Sexual Fulfillment in the Woods by Birch Humpper; Men's Room Madness by Gabriel Power; The Boon of Unemployment by Milhous Hoover; Lace Me Tighter! by Merrie Widdoe; 30 Days to a Bigger Thing by Novena Lodge; It's Great to be a Champeen by Gorman Sailer; The Cry of the Serbo-Croats by Boris Crzwxwzw; Schultz Is Dead by Una Cazzo; 10 Days to a Hairless Body by Alice Guné; Yes, We Have No Bananas by "Sister Veronica"; Myth and Methodology in the Albanian Novel by Julius Naranja; The Big Lie: Myths about the Third Reich by Sepp Schultz-Staffel; Country Album by Nicholas de Selby; The Wiener in Bavarian Folk Art by Nathan Famoso; Repairing Your Motorcycle by Anton Harley; Our Friend, The Cockroach by G. Blatta; American Lake Poetry by George Stardust: How to Understand the Deaf by James Joyce; The Man Who Sailed Away: A Memoir by Harold Barge; Tomorrow I'll Get Straight by Alex Schmecker; The Sexual Aspects of Integral Calculus by Manuel Joie; Light in the Head by Roberto Bligh; Dust From Chickenhouse Floors by Boris Vozneshenko; A Whim of Grit by Howard Dick; Born to Be Italian by Myles na gCoopaleen; So You Want To Be Jewish? by Saul Bernard Roth; Runs in My Nylons: My Life as a Transvestite Editor by Hanes Gossard; Negroes With Buns: The Story of the Harlem Cooperatie Bakery by Rose Towne Krug; Brekekekéx Koáx Koáx! by Ali Garoo: How to Hit .212 by Clinton Hondo; What the Vice President Eats by "du Garbandier"; Confession Can Be Fun! by Vito Calzone, S.J.; Traprock Ridge by Lewis Watchung; Metaphor Is Real by Clay Clayton; Nutcracker Sunday by Gloria Shinem; Unicorn Crimson, Unicorn Grey by Rupert Whytte-Blorenge; Algebraical Puzzles, Nuts, Wrinkles, and Twisters by Albert Einstein; A Pint of Plain is Your Only Man by Jem Casey; Sexism at the Battle of Waterloo by "Jilly" . . . . "

A night to be drunk on words.

Mulligan Stew (New York: Grove, 1979), p. 31.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Attack of the Lame DVDs

We were snagged and dragged by Luc Besson's Angela, a weightless flighty DVD that is wrecked by weak-minded plotting, and bored stiff by Antonioni's Blow-Up, which dragged and dragged like a dog with two broken legs, a nearly absolute vacuum of ideas at the core, worse even than the Coen's Blood Simple, which was truly irritating, the cast dragging around in slow motion from beginning to end with all these dull silences which were supposed to build tension but only made one want to look at one's watch, even in the dark, though the scene of the man being buried alive, one shovelful of dirt after another, was notably non-boring, and the mindlessly indecisive beginning of the love affair at the outset was a decent bit of filmmaking, but by far the worst of the lame DVDs we've recently watched was Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique, which went nowhere and said nothing, unlike the emotionally moving The Kite Runner, by whomever, seen on the big screen, which featured an arc for the protagonist from cowardice to bravery that was reassuring to think about afterwards as we walked to the subway along Tremont Street wondering if any of the creatures of the night we kept passing on the sidewalk were going to attack us.

And on Earth Peace

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

--Luke, 2

Monday, December 24, 2007

And the Angel Said Unto Them: Fear Not

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

--Luke, 2

Christmas In Her Soul

Found myself silently singing the first few lines of an old tune by Laura Nyro the past few days, Christmas In My Soul:

I love my country
as it dies
in war and pain
before my eyes.
I walk the streets where disrespect has been
the sins of politics
the politics of sin
the heartlessness that darkens my soul
on Christmas

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now the time has come to fight
laws in the book of love burn bright
people you must win
for thee America
her dignity
for all the high court world to see
on Christmas

Christmas in my soul
Christmas in my soul
Christmas in my soul

Joy to the world

--from CHRISTMAS & THE BEADS OF SWEAT, music and lyrics (except for Up on the Roof) by LN, 1962, Columbia Records, 666 Fifth Ave., P.O. Box 4455, New York NY 10101.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chris McNally Debut CD

Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, this is to announce that my brother Chris has a CD out titled Orbit. If you search "Chris McNally" on iTunes it will come up and I gotta tell ya, it's a winner, it's a keeper, many years in the making and fully ripe. It truly rocks. Think Paul Simon meets David Lee Roth. And as W. Shakespeare says: "Ripeness is all." I listened to it tonight and it knocked me off the rails, made me realize how deprived one is when one stops listening to music. This is a CD that puts you into another world, one you don't want to leave.

Friday, December 21, 2007

From the Third World

In the early afternoon a friend called and asked, "What are you going to do today?" and I answered: "Oh I'll do something or other," and an hour or so later I realized the true answer to the question was: "Wait for night to come"; the nocturnal writer lives in a third world country where the unemployment rate is around 99.9 percent, like in some village in Africa where the men squat in the dust all day and hour after hour watch the wind blow by, waiting for the sun to go down and life to begin.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pascal & "Language Poetry"

A number of false starts on the second screenplay. I have a plot developing but it's like squeezing water from a stone. I've read a number of reviews of the Coen brothers No Country for Old Men and it sounds like a culture of death bonanza package. Hideously tired today as a result of making the mistake of getting up in the morning. Noticed a note in the back of Pascal's Pensées that could aptly be applied to the endless theorizing the "language poets" invariably envelope themselves in: "They argue like people proving it is night at noon." Pascal has unusual depth: "Is not our span of life equally infinitesimal in eternity, even if it is extended by ten years?" "Too much kindness annoys us." "We are so presumptuous that we should like to be known all over the world." [As every weblogger well knows!] "The right way is to want what God wants." "As if reason were the only way we could learn!" "It is not in space that I must seek my human dignity, but in the ordering of my thought." "I can only approve of those who seek with groans."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shakespeare on "Language Poetry"

"When a man's verses cannot be understood . . . it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room." As You Like It, III,iii,11,13

From A Dictionary of Quotations From Shakespeare, Margaret Miner & Hugh Rawson, eds., New York: Penguin, Meridian, 1996, p. 212.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Drama and Zoology

The strange zoology of E. Ionesco's Rhinoceros:

Here is an example of a syllogism. The cat has four paws. Isidore and Fricot both have four paws. Therefore Isidore and Fricot are cats.

My dog has got four paws.

Then it's a cat.

(to JEAN)
I've barely got the strength to go on living. Maybe I don't even want to.

(to LOGICIAN, after deep reflection)
So then, logically speaking, my dog must be a cat?

Logically, yes. But the contrary is also true.

From Rhinoceros & Other Plays, Eugène Ionesco, tr. Derek Prouse (London: John Calder, 1960; New York: Grove, pp. 18, 19.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wading Through Second-Rate Art

I jettisoned the mass market crime novel I was reading on a bench at the Central Square subway stop and am glad to be rid of it; watched Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar on DVD last night and Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique this afternoon and it's hard to say which was the more boring, the more lifeless, the more phony, so my subway reading will have to switch back to Mickey Spillane, who is a crappy writer in many ways, but at least there is the occasional whiplash line, unlike the mass market crime novel which limped along like a three-legged dog that had never been taught to speak, and praise be to God I have found my copy of Tsipi's Retelling which had been missing around the house here for some weeks, I want to finish rereading that; Mickey Spillane I picked up at Rodney's because I knew the name and was curious to see how he stacked up against Raymond Chandler, and it was half price, and it had a soft-focus head shot of a blonde in black and white on the cover. Chandler is approximately three times as talented as Spillane, three times as enjoyable. Veronique was so contrived and tedious I don't even want to bother to go to Tomatoes or  Movie Review Query Engine and have an esteemed critic unravel it all for me and explain what a "masterpiece" it is.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Killing Time With Novels

The mass market crime novel I bought for the flight home from West Palm is awful, dull, plodding, the only reason I keep picking it up because its compactness feels good in hand, but it really is intolerable, the main character a hard guy detective hunting for a killer (amazing originality!), I should just drop it in a trash receptacle somewhere; now Magnus Mills is another story, his novel The Restraint of Beasts I picked up a couple of years ago at Rodney's because I was in the M section looking for a Henry Miller novel (having slightly enjoyed Plexus, or Nexus, one of the two) but there wasn't one and instead I noticed the Mills book, pulled it off the shelf, found the cover art interesting, looked at the back cover and Surprise! there was a puff quote from Thomas Pynchon, so I checked the typeface (can't stand books with a spindly typeface, that bothered me all the way through Bernhard's Extinction), found it to be okay, read a biographical note at the front of the book saying Mills was a London bus driver, and so, mainly because of the Pynchon endorsement, and because I had nothing else to do, I bought it, and more or less enjoyed reading it--I remember one incident that actually made me laugh aloud, or almost aloud--but the book had an unsightly vignette, or illustration, that appeared over and over and grated each time I came across it, this after reading For Whom the Bell Tolls which I found lying around the house, which didn't do much for me, I just kept reading because I had nothing else to do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Continue thrashing about trying to get a second screenplay going, writing a lot of disconnected trash but that's to be expected, keep thinking about that filmmaker I saw on Charlie Rose who said he did a year of research on Nazi extermination camps before starting to write, I wouldn't mind doing that, but it doesn't seem to be happening, wondering all the while whether I shouldn't be trying to start a novel instead, reading a bit of Mulligan Stew trying to find something to quote but running up against his (Sorrentino's) Godawful silliness page after page, such a waste; comedy is fine, wonderful (cf. M. LeClerc: "Laughter--orgasm of the mind.") but silliness (no matter that critics, outrageously, try to dignify it as "ironicized banality") is inexcusable; if you want a comic novel, something that will make you laugh, read Molloy or Malone Dies. I bought, for the first time in I don't know how many years, a mass market paperback, a crime novel (with a New Yorker plug on the cover that it doesn't deserve), for the trip home from Florida and I'm enjoying the feel of it in my hand; it fits so neatly into one's pocket that I've been using it for subway reading since I've got back; makes me realize how good Raymond Chandler was.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Little Casino & Hollywood

Having enjoyed Sorrentino's Little Casino, I pulled the monumental Mulligan Stew off the shelf and was surprised to see that the pages were turning brown along the edges (hideous evidence that time truly is passing, running out; it was just yesterday I was reading the thing) and to discover, according to notes on extra pages I had glued into the back and marks in the margins that I had read the entire thing (I would have bet serious money I hadn't finished it), so, after dipping into it here and there, I took his Blue Pastoral off the shelf, which I knew I had abandoned, read a few pages and abandoned it again, permanently, because it truly is awful--pretentious, pompous, pointlessly 'silly' to the point that it literally hurts to read it (it's amazing how far wrong a gifted writer can go), but to end on a positive note, here are a few sentences from the Stars of the Silver Screen chapter of Casino:

"Why are they forever comfortable and really swell and relaxed in their old t-shirts and ripped, faded jeans? . . . Why do they think that Raymond Chandler is a cocaine connection? . . . Why don't they like the notion of themselves as 'overnight successes'? Does it have anything to do with the 'blow-job theory'? . . . Why do they hate to be recognized? . . . Why do they think that they 'work hard' for their money? . . . Why are they always in and out of one clinic or another? . . . Why don't they stop sucking on that bottled water? . . Is it true that they will hump anything that will stand still? . . . Why are they such glorious marks for fake paintings, fake antiques, and fake first editions? . . . Belatedly, Bromo Eddie queries: 'Why don't they go fuck themselves?' What a serious and well-informed citizen and consumer Eddie is!' "

IMPORTANT UPDATE: For dinner tonight, shrimp sauteed in butter, garlic and lemon, boiled white rice, asparagus, St. Pauli NA in a heavy bar glass of the type preferred by Inspector Morse (the late John Thaw) of the BBC television series on PBS, and a terrible (half) Napoleon--one has had homemade Napoleons, with rich filling and apricot jelly and wonderfully flaky puff pastry, so this slop on cardboard pastry was particularly disappointing.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Downhill Trolley

Claude Simon's novella The Trolley turned out to be a downhill ride, joyless, plotless, pointlessly complex, unbound motifs (as far as I could tell) lying all over the tracks; it creates a negative impression of Simon, which is a shame because his Leçon des Choses (grotesquely translated as The World About Us) is one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read. And the back cover quotes are truly outrageous, the AP saying: "Beautiful . . . astounding and captivating." No way! It's a filthy bore compared to his other works; it's fragmented, chaotic, tedious . . . but it did serve the purpose of reminding one, in certain passages, how captivating fiction can be, how deep it can go, in contrast to the dialogue-only limitation of screenwriting:

"Surrounded on all sides by the dull roar of the anarchic urban fabric, the hospital, with its identical pavilions except for two or three more recent ones of a brutal modernism, and its monastic, silent courtyards, constituted a sort of island in the midst of the tumultuous fragile chaos like a sort of self-contained scaled-down universe, enameled and shiny from its obstetric service to its morgue, offering as though in miniature (or in some sort of résumé) the human machine in all its successive states from birth to final agony, including every possible deviation and anomaly until its definitive corruption."

RFK Role in Castro Plot Denied

Hmmn. With respect to an earlier BWR post titled "Report of Attempted Murder," an anonymous weblog called the "Real History Blog" posted the following communique with respect to the assertion in Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes that Robert Kennedy ordered the assassination of Fidel Castro:

"I'm especially upset to hear Weiner repeat the old canard that RFK ordered the killing of Castro. RFK did NOT order the CIA to kill Castro. EVER. There is NO such tape. NO such testimony. The closest you get are comments made NOT under oath by Richard Helms, which he refused to confirm when finally skewered on this point UNDER oath. Helms had his deputy, Sam Halpern, run around and tell people this was so, even though Helms knew this to be false. It's not clear if Halpern knew this to be false, it's only clear (now, with released records and additional comments from all the intimates of RFK still alive) that RFK would never have approved any murder plot. As RFK said to Dick Goodwin, he's the guy who tried to SAVE Castro.

"During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CIA's Bill Harvey sent 10 commando teams into Cuba with the goal of killing Castro. When RFK found out, he was as furious as anyone had ever seen him. He demanded Harvey stop and Harvey said he couldn't call the teams back. RFK gave Harvey "five minutes" to explain what the hell he was thinking, doing this. Harvey tried to blame it on the Pentagon but RFK had already received believable assurances from the Pentagon that that was baloney. Five minutes later, with Harvey still talking, RFK walked. RFK then demanded the CIA fire Harvey."

No sources are specified for this information and one wonders why the weblog is anonymous.

Call Him Unforgettable

Here's a passage from J.D. Salinger's short story "Teddy" which made an impression on me when I first read it as a teenager that's never left:

"I was six when I saw that everything was God, and my hair stood up, and all that," Teddy said. "It was on a Sunday, I remember. My sister was only a very tiny child then, and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden I saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you know what I mean."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jobs Exported, Prisons Filling Up

An item from today's New York Times:

"About one in every 31 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or on supervised release at the end of last year, the Department of Justice reported yesterday."

This sounds fundamentally awful. One out of every 31 is a lot of people. People commit crimes because the U.S. educational system has failed them (as a result of inadequate government funding) and because U.S. capitalists have been exporting jobs without limitation for too many years. Every time you pick up an item stamped "Made in China" you're holding in your hand a fragment of the shattered American Dream of individual economic self-sufficiency. Historically, cities were viewed as the "flowers of civilization." Today, all too often, they are cesspools of unemployment and crime directly attributable to the capitalists' instinct to export jobs in order to exploit third-world workers willing to labor for pennies a day. "Love thy neighbor" has been translated by the capitalist into "Take advantage of thy neighbor." This needs to change.

Hillary Voodoo Visions

Another friend writes:

I want to buy that Hillary Voodoo doll. Can you have sex with it? It would be cool if you could grab the doll’s ass during a debate and watch the real Hillary break out in a smile and start to giggle and squirm while Obama is defending his so called health plan called: “No Child Left to Die.” And you see Hillary shaking and grabbing her own ass dancing around the stage while giggling, and then pole dancing with the podium. That would get her numbers up for sure. His [Obama's] campaign team had other titles for his health plan that were shot down: No Child Left; No Child for You; No Democrat’s Child Left to Die; No more Sick Kids; Sick and Tired of Sick Kids, and on and on…all shot down. I got a lot of cyber stuff that one time or another I registered for and have never used or don’t use. It’s no different than the large portions of my cerebral cortex that go unused---empty corridors of neurotransmitters with empty memory storage compartments stacked up like boxes cluttering up the floor that lead you in a circle right back to my tongue. Some of these cortex corridors lead to dead ends, or if lucky, an old knock-knock joke at best—oh, and a few jokes that start out…”Guy walks into a bar…”. Most likely these cerebral sidewalks lead to a bald guy in diapers sitting on the floor making that motorboat sound with his lips till he falls asleep.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Educational Alternatives

A friend writes:

Before I flew out of here last night (around 8:00) I tried to leave comments on a couple of your articles, then I saw I need a Google acct. which I will do so that I can spend some time in the waiting room. I’m especially fond of the time checks---very cool, very original. What’s the matter with people, no comments on that? I guess people are just as stupid out in cyber space as they are in real life.

The witch doctor is very informative and enlightening. I’m going to engage in recreational media sensory deprivation except for one source:

The Bush Doctor’s Waiting Room

I’m going to cancel my subscription to the Boston Glob, stop watching the morning news, drop out of the Kennedy School of Government’s extension school class I was enrolled in called:

Sustaining, Maintaining, and Upgrading the Military Industrial Complex & Other Hegemonic Interests of the U.S. in an Emerging Global Economy.

Course Description:

This course explores the development and implementation of strategies to occupy, suppress, dominate, demoralize, and overthrow weaker nations in a post ante-bellum era. We will learn ways to forcibly get what we want in the name of “Peace Keeping Missions”. We will focus on nations who have what we want and whose economic growth threatens our prosperity and our God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of prosperity. We will explore ways to strip less fortunate nations of Natural Resources. We will justify this behavior following Good Old Testament Biblical Precedent, as we are a God fearing people.

Course Prerequisites:

Prior Military Experience (a dishonorable discharge is desirable). If you have no prior military experience, we will consider two of the following:

A tendency towards violence.

A Criminal Record (bring in all paperwork)

Socially Deviant Tendencies

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

An inordinate attachment to alcohol or other class 1 restricted substances

*All students must be registered Republicans

A Doc in the hand is worth Two in Bush.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Presidential Politics & Voodoo

This is to point out that a Hillary Clinton voodoo doll is available at Rodney's in Central Square, the box art showing a diagram of her (fully clothed) body with dotted lines surrounding various organs that are targets for the needles that presumably accompany the doll. BWR neither supports nor opposes the addition of this product to the "free market." It is much too early for all the presidential debating that is going on, it's all just a pretext for the television interests to increase their profits, one should feel free to ignore it all. Until poor and middle income people can run for office--which would require a campaign finance reform law that would provide for public funding of U.S. congressional elections, a cause BWR has supported for many years--the presidential election process is primarily a game for rich people to play, having little bearing on the well being of the masses of people whose labor upholds this country. Marx predicted capitalism would destroy itself, he thought through armed revolution, which never came to pass and is now an obsolete concept; the self-destruction, however, is happening as a result of the contempt in which capitalists have held the world's delicate ecosystems over the years, blinded by their crack-addict need for incessant "growth" and profits. These warm winter days send chills down one's spine. It's almost too late now--the car will have to fishtail just before it goes over the edge, skidding sideways right up to the precipice of climatological catastrophe.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Authorized Tsipi Keller Biographical Note

This is to pass along an "item" about Tsipi Keller:

We discovered this evening that Ms. Keller carries a small pair of scissors in her flip-top cigarette boxes which she uses to extinguish her cigarettes; she typically smokes (when in public) in short non-consecutive shifts in an authorized smoking area, cleanly cutting off the ash after each shift and depositing the shortened cigarette back in the box for a second or third use, until it's so short it's not worth lighting up. This is the first time in recorded history, we should think, that a human being has done this.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Claude Simon, Windmills, Flipflopping

This is a uncharacteristic quotation from Claude Simon's The Trolley [tr. Richard Howard, New Press: New York, 2001, p. 59]: . . . "that famous Parisian Jockey Club of which one member proclaimed Thanks be to God there are still some of us here who owe nothing to either merit or talent," uncharacteristic because one finds little humor in Simon, though he is immensely talented, his photo in the Minuit bulletins showing a haggard unsmiling face, the footing at Juno Beach today pleasantly gritty from seashells where we were standing letting the diminutive waves break against our shins, doing nothing, thinking nothing, feeling it would be a crime if they decided to put up alternative-energy windmills along the coastlines when there are so many other places for them to be erected, like all over the Midwest; the view of the ocean is a view of eternity, why ruin that? Put windmills on top of skyscrapers in cities, or all over the Midwest, and use tidal turbines everywhere there's a current, but don't ruin our eternal coastlines, though my initial feeling was that it would be okay to build them on Cape Cod, but over time I have changed my position, I have flipflopped.

Monday, November 26, 2007

CIA's Vast Network of Spies

Weiner writes (p. 433):

"Over the whole course of the cold war, the CIA had controlled precisely three agents who were able to provide secrets of lasting value on the Soviet military threat, and all of them had been arrested and executed."


Regarding the page references in the immediately preceding post, for "p. 433, 450" please read "p. 450."

Report of CIA Malfeasance

Weiner goes on to write (p. 433, 450):

"For eight years, from 1986 to 1994, the senior CIA officers responsible for these reports [on Soviet military assets] had known that some of their sources were controlled by Russian intelligence. The agency knowingly gave the White House information manipulated by Moscow--and deliberately concealed the fact. To reveal that it had been delivering misinformation and disinformation would have been too embarrassing. Ninety-five of these tainted reports warped American perceptions of the major military and political developments in Moscow. Eleven of the reports went directly to Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Can-Do Attitude

Writing on the origins of intelligence services in the U.S., Weiner notes (p. 519):

"When Rusk [i.e., future Secretary of State Dean Rusk] tried to organize a Burmese-language unit for [the intelligence section of] the army [in 1941], 'we looked around the United States for a native Burman . . . . We finally found one and we looked him up and he was in an insane asylum. Well, we fished him out of the insane asylum and made a Burmese language instructor out of him.' "

Friday, November 23, 2007

Report of Reagan Lying to the American People

Weiner writes that on August 3, 1985 president Reagan gave CIA Director William Casey "formal approval" to sell missiles, covertly, to the government of Iran in return for Iran's agreement to instruct Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon to release American hostages held there. "With that go-ahead, the Israelis and [arms dealer] Ghorbanifar sent two shipments containing a total of 504 American TOW missiles to Tehran," Weiner writes. On December 5, 1985, Reagan signed a finding, or presidential order, authorizing the deal, according to Weiner. "On November 4, 1986 . . . Rafsanjani, the speaker of Iran's parliament, revealed that American officials had been to Iran bearing gifts . . . . 'We did not--repeat--not trade weapons or anything else for hostages,' Reagan told the nation [i.e., the United States] on November 13," Weiner writes (Legacy of Ashes, pp. 401-08). Weiner's cited source for these facts are records of the joint congressional committee and the final report of the independent counsel team that investigated the Iran-contra affair.

Report of Attempted Murder

A sample of the information available in Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Doubleday, 2007, p. 338):

"Helms [i.e., Richard Helms, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States] tossed one over the White House wall that day [January 4, 1975], telling Kissinger that [former U.S. Attorney General] Bobby Kennedy had personally managed the assassination plots against Castro."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Toast to the Age of Web Logging

Newspapers get in trouble when they blend fact and opinion. In a web log, one can blend fact and opinion without compunction, then add a dose of fiction, producing a blended Scotch of rare flavor, which may or may not be beneficial to the health.

Time Check II

The time is now 11:27 PM.

Time Check

The time is now 11:24 PM.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The preceding post was "published" at 10:39 PM.

A Sorry Circus Called the CIA

I've spent a number of hours today reading Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.  It's more or less shocking reading, massively researched, lucidly written. Ever try to use a poisoned handkerchief to kill anybody? Would you have the nerve to look the president of the United States in the eye and lie to him? Think you could order the murder of a foreign head of state? Gulf of Tonkin incident--Weiner documents that US ships shot first. I spent some time reading the first couple of pages of Claude Simon's The Trolley but I was too tired from reading the Weiner book, just skimmed along getting nothing, reading a few sentences over and over and just nothing sinking in. Skinny little paperback from which a price tag on the back cover had been removed, leaving a patch of sticky crap that I removed with WD-40 and a paper towel, then removing the smell of the WD-40 with soap and water and another towel, the cover standing up admirably to the treatment, I mean there was no going on with a book that had a maddening patch of stickiness that you would be trying unsuccessfully to scrape off with your fingernail time after time, oh no, that wasn't going to happen, this was one of those rare problems that I could actually solve.

THIS JUST IN: Vegetable curry dish over rice, a glass of water and, later at home, a slice of apple pie with a distinct taste of preservatives, euh.

Gravity's Rainbow and the CIA

I'm reading this history of the CIA that I bought on impulse today and at one point I felt I was actually reading Gravity's Rainbow again because of the clownish (but deadly and illegal) things the CIA did, and may still be doing; the typeface is larger than that of GR but the size of the pages is similar, and all the names of the operatives makes me think of all the names Pynchon strews about in his pages, Pynchon the master of "faction," the artful blending of fact and fiction. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. I'd keep reading but I feel a headache coming on. Weiner is making the case that the CIA is a profoundly incompetent and dangerous organization. He's a Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times journalist. I glanced at a Sorrentino novel in the bookstore today, read a page at random, but the urge to read him wasn't as strong as it was the other day and I passed.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Baked skinless chicken breasts, french fries, steamed broccoli florets, St. Pauli Girl NA.

Stamp: 12:59 AM (I indicate the time because it irritates me that the time stamp that automatically accompanies each post is inaccurate.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Closing Up Shop

The web log would appear to be based on (1) Samuel Johnson's belief that ANY life, told in sufficient detail, would make an interesting book, and (2) W. Burrough's belief that writing is an intellectual virus that just spreads and spreads, filling all available nooks and crannies. I wrote poorly tonight, even for a first draft, where one deliberately lowers one's standards in order to get at least SOMEthing down on paper. There are so many catchphrases that "sum up" what writing is all about. Two that have been on my mind lately are: "Writing consists above all else in knowing what to leave out," and "We can only write well about those things we have not experienced." And then there's the question of civilization's "collective consciousness" into which one supposedly taps when writing a web log, you feel this mysterious pull, it's very distinct. One wishes to have untold legions of readers too, that's part of the game, as one plays with the adult toy of the personal computer.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For dinner tonight, baked (farm-bred) salmon fillets (which I greatly prefer to wild salmon), rice, asparagus, and a bottle of Sam Adams lager. For dessert, three jelly-filled, vanilla-coated soft cookies which have given me heartburn.

Time Stamp: 12:36 AM

Monday, November 19, 2007


I recently wrote that I had visited Silliman's poetry blog "hundreds" of times; that was an exaggeration; it would have been more accurate to have said "scores."

Antidote to Aging

Rick ... a few thoughts for you to ponder...
> 1) Listening to rock music at 60 is a very cool and natural thing to
> do...think of the Stones out on tour rockin the house EVERY night.
> McCartney at 64 turning out great music\
> SO don't stop a matter of fact "CRANK IT UP"
> 2) Music is a direct link to your hear a song, you remember
> things, you remember a lot of things...and it can be wonderful. That
> is why I love listening to Brian Wilson songs...super happy, super
> simple time in my life...Innocence, girls on the beach, surfing,trying
> to get those girls on the beach, it just doesn't get any better)
> I see him in concert every chance I can and he is terrific...the love
> that comes from the audience towards Brain is incredible...almost
> shocking. You can tell that he feels it...IT IS ALL listen
> to your music...sweet,sweet music
> I could and sometimes sit in the great room at Camp Conor for hours
> enjoying "my music", drinking some wine AND smoking a great cigar...
> 3)I don't think time is running out for us...if we take care of
> ourselves...mentally and physically...get out there and run set a
> damn goal(mini-marathan) and do it...JUST DO IT.
> I am back in the gym almost everyday lifting weights and I really
> enjoy is basic survival at our age
> 4)Age is all in the mind...I am really convinced of that fact...I can
> do ANYTHING I use to be able to do and better...that is why I want to
> get and stay on great physical strength. Not being able to defend
> Louise in a bad situation on a city street would not make me a happy
> do it for Betty if nothing else.
> 5)Professional drummer...I will make you a bet...if you took the next
> year and REALLY and I mean REALLY got back into the would
> be playing professionally somewhere after that read about
> it all comes from the heart.You can do anything you want
> to do...ANYTHING...that is one thing that age should have taught all
> of us.This thing called life is gone in a damn second...I still cannot
> believe that we have lost Conor...I live with that every minute of
> everyday. SO get up off the couch go buy some sticks and a drum pad
> and get your ass in gear. Hell, you put in a solid year of practice
> and I will get you a job playing with and Chris could
> start a band...
> If you REALLY want it make it happen...actually that is my favorite
> Mariah Carey song 'Make it Happen" if you don't have it go buy it and
> REALLY listen to what she is saying
> It's all up to you..."old man"
> Michael

The Merriment of Office Life

A friend of mine who is a white collar worker was telling me with great enthusiasm how he had mocked an obnoxious co-worker to his face recently, and when I quoted to him from Camus-- "There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn"--he laughed and laughed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tsipi Keller Novel Grips One's Mind

Tsipi my friend,

Still thinking about Monsieur Bruno. Aging--how to deal with it? what to think of it? Aging for me, at 59, is above all else a feeling of irritation. They say "Nothing comes into a person's life as more of a surprise than old age," and I'm afraid this is true. That's a line from a film I rented, can't remember which. The thought that one is on the downhill side of the hill, it's irritating; that time is running out, it's irritating, mainly because one can't do anything about it. There's a mild sense of loss of control. One is caught in a very slowly closing vise. Now you mentioned aging of the limbic system in Bruno, and I've been thinking about that off and on since the moment I read it. The major source of happiness (as opposed to ecstasy) in my life has been, for the past twenty years, listening to home-made tapes of rock music while sitting in the Square and watching the world go by. But I've stopped doing it. It's as if making the transition from normalcy to happiness is a chore, something in me doesn't want to make the transition. And the happiness was intense, there were Saturdays (I only did it on the weekends) when I would listen for two hours or more, in summer and (wearing insulated boots and a heavy coat and hat) winter. Your novel makes me wonder if it isn't aging of the limbic system that is responsible for the sense of resistance I feel when I think about picking up the walkman and going into the Square to enjoy what I used to enjoy. Or maybe I'm just bored with it. The few times I've listened in the past five years, it's worked, the happiness was as intense as ever. But I've stopped doing it. Maybe the brain stem is not what it used to be. I think the reluctance to listen is partly the result of a feeling that it's ridiculous for a man about to turn 60 (unthinkable!) to be finding so much enjoyment in rock music. But classical music just isn't the same. Samuel Johnson didn't like any kind of music: "It gives me no new ideas and prevents me from contemplating my own." Like you, I have a deep love of silence. I'm reading a thin book of poems by David Ignatow on aging, Shadowing the Ground, and it's awful, which is a shame, and bizarre, because his Selected Poems is one of the best books of poetry I've ever read. Perhaps I don't listen to my tapes because I don't need as much happiness now? I don't know, but a really huge thing has drifted out of my life. And I'm content to let it go. Happiness from listening to funk--been there, done that. And perhaps a deeper reason I don't listen is because subconsciously I am infuriated that I didn't become a professional drummer. Time is running out, one is walking downhill, one is irritated. Fear doesn't come into the picture, it's just this constant low-level irritation framing one's consciousness, filtering one's vision. You want to push at the air and push aging away . . . .

Anyway, thanks again for sending me the Bruno typescript, and you gentleman copied on this email, keep your eye out for the publication of this work in 2008 or 2009, on Amazon, by Tsipi Keller via Sputen Duyvil (sp?) Press.

Hope this finds you well.

On the Inevitable Path

A web log neutralizes the binary opposition private/public; whether this is a positive or negative development, it certainly gives reality a new "twist." The personal computer seems to be above all else a toy. I have visited "language poet" R. Silliman's blog a couple hundred times and I have never found a single line of poetry quoted there that I could relate to. And most of the theorizing bores me to the sneering point. I've been trying unsuccessfully to find more poetry by "Sparrow" whose work I came across in Long Shot a long time ago and liked a lot. But neither Google nor Amazon lists him, or her, and Long Shot does not have an email address, so I've come up against a dead end--unless I send a letter to LS via US post but I'm not sure I have it in me to go to that kind of trouble, when I can just read and re-read the poems I have, by Sparrow, and let it go at that. We ended up not going out to the movies because B. is exhausted from four gruelling weeks at work, so I went out and rented Blood Simple which I greatly disliked for two reasons (1) after a few frames I realized I had already rented in the past, say five years ago, and (2) the pace was horribly slow, it just dragged along, it was like everyone was on Quaaludes or something--heavy-handed and annoying direction. And since we didn't go into the Square I didn't buy another Sorrentino novel, going to Rodney's instead in Central Square and buying a gorgeous 2008 calendar at half-price instead, all paintings of tango dancers in a beautiful Modigliani-style technique. 2008. What the hell is coming? 2007 had some steep hills. And as Bernhard says, whatever's going to come is already on the way. Destiny, a profound subject. As Bernhard says, "We are always searching for the right path and are always already on it." Can he be right? Something very soothing about this idea, in that it implies one has already reached one's goal, or at least that everything is all right just as it is. A fine line from the Bhagavad Gita: "True knowledge of the self does not lead to salvation, it is salvation."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Killing Time

We're killing time waiting to go see Gone Baby Gone at the H. Square theater and so I thought I'd post a couple of sentences from G. Sorrentino's Little Casino, a novel I read yesterday: "He had, as a matter of fact, not even thought of her for eleven years, and here he was, in a saloon's phone booth, calling her up. People are, for the most part, utterly absurd. This is proven over and over again . . . . She [not the woman called, just some unnamed character] became very nervous about secondhand cigar smoke, and was appalled to learn, from her daily newspaper's Health and You section, that most ciigar smoke has a carcinogenic half-life of 40,000 years, the same as refined sugar . . . . She was doubtful that the United States Army was a violent organization, but shocked to learn that a survey of non-commissioned officers named one of television news's most vivacioius, wholesome, and courageously hard-hitting personalities 'a piece of ass' . . . . Still, she was somewhat surprised to be apprised of the probability that poor and powerless people, especially of dark skin, are sometimes treated with rudeness, force, and even brutality by police officers, not one of whom cares about the very high levels of LDL cholesterol in crisp chicken skin." There, that's killed some time. I was just sitting on the couch reading some awful David Ignatow poems and thinking that I may have to strike him from the Books list on my web log Profile. Sorrentino is sometimes hilarious but sometimes makes the fatal mistake of just being "silly" and it grates. Nonetheless I have the feeling I'm going to buy another of his novels after the movie tonight. What's truly fascinating about Little Casino is the postscript to each chapter, written in a different typeface (sans serif) than the chapter proper, a new "post-avant" twist that I found highly absorbing. I didn't like the typeface of the chapters proper, it was too small and the letters to inconsequentially thin looking, and I found myself impatient to get through the chapters because what I really wanted to read was the postscript commentary, which is or was usually a spoof on academic scholia. Solitary laughter over an inanimate object, a book. How rewarding and how absurd.

Alex Perez: Scab Writer - Promo #1 - Hi Hollywood

The Cruel Economics of the WGA Writers Strike

Cruel Development Reversed

This is to restore the illustration that accompanied the original e-mail on the subject of futility. I hope it isn't eradicated by whoever eradicated the original one. Why eradicate an image of someone planting a flower, or plant?


Cruel Development

The wonderful illustrations that accompanied the recent J.O. posts have inexplicably disappeared. Tiny empty rectangles have taken their place. Someone is diddling with BWR. Ah well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cryptic Comment Clarified

The following e-mail will explain an otherwise cryptic comment in Joe Owens's recent rollicking post:

Joe Hello,

Your Hallmark-card illustration was truly LOL funny. For Betty too. It's the guy being down on one knee that cracked me up. And wouldn't you know it, I came across a reference to you in a Mickey Spillane novel I was reading yesterday:

"A covey of important-looking joes stood on the outside of the circle impatient to speak to Deamer, yet unwilling to offend the press by breaking up the party."

You see that, the mere mention of your name inspires respect, is synonymous with respect, and tact. Lucky you. I'm just Rick. My name doesn't mean shit. Can you imagine "a covey of important-looking ricks." Never happen.

Get back,

Illustration Detail Clarified

This is to point out that the illustration of the decathlon athlete in the immediately preceding post shows the athlete holding a magnificent looking javelin high in the air, a detail which is clear in the original but was obscured by the black background of this web log.

The Incomparable Joe Owens

The following information is crucial for a full understanding of the post below by Shakesperian actor and advertising maven Joe Owens:

I made your poem into a poster for my wall. You could sell these, and other quotes and poems by RM.

Futility is the dark rich shitty soil

in which

magnificent lilies of achievement



And here’s what I was trying to say the other day but couldn’t articulate it:

If futility is an exercise, then I’m a decathlon champ.

Get back Jo-Jo.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Screenplay Comments X

Andrew Pascal, a.k.a. Michael Andrew Pascal, writes further:

Also…just a thought, but you have a fairly simple morality tale (bad guy wants to be good, can’t help his true self, which is to be bad), that can tie in with the antagonist that’s hunting him down…you don’t have to kill off Jill until the end (or ever, the choice is yours)…Clive’s actions in killing the husband is the catalyst to his own death, but in finding and saving Jill, he redeems himself…in other words, after meeting and getting to know Jill, there can be real hope for him, but after the bad guys either miss or kill Jill in the middle of the story, Clive turns from redemption and goes on to rampage and vengeance…maybe he wins in the end and kills everybody, but in the aftermath he loses Jill (if you keep her around)…

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sceenplay Comments IX

Andrew Pascal writes further:

In terms of suspense, I'm not sure that it was too tangible. You may want to go see "No Country For Old Men" to get a great example of suspense personified by the Javier Bardem is a real wacko nut job on the hunt for the main know what he's capable of and you know what he's going to do with the main guy once he finds could introduce a character similar in yours that works for the mobster family and is systematically hunting down Clive... The suspense will come from what's going to happen when these two meet and whether or not Clive will survive the confrontation or even what it's going to cost him.
Shakesperian actor and advertising uber-executive Joe Owens, as a preliminary to commenting on Cocked & Loaded (I think I'm going back to the original title), writes:

I’m glad that you and Betty liked the graphic that corresponds with your poem. I would be honored and delighted to be the illustrator of one of your books---an anthology of poems, short stories, observations, profound tips, sexual fantasies, radical political ideologies, instructions on organizing and starting revolutions, recipes using only condiments, and the psychoanalysis of first reader primer author psyches (if you get my drift). All the art will be unoriginal---in fact it will be stolen. I have been breaking into homes the past 30 years (give or take), stealing refrigerator art. At first it was to furnish the theme for a doctoral thesis linking artistic expression to socio-edu-economic status.

Then it became a hobby, then an obsession, and then an end in and of itself. There is no black market for refrigerator art (I learned), but I will establish the first Museum of refrigerator art and I will call it The Museum of Refrigerator Art. There will be rotating displays of everything from pre-school finger paints to advanced work in oils and pastels by special needs pre-pubescent foster kids. We will also have reciprocation with Refrigerator Art Museums worldwide. Problem with the Third World countries is that there are no refrigerators. So, we’ll be accepting, discarded tires, corrugated boxes, shingles, and there will be a tattoo category. There is a psycho-social commentary that I hope people get and that I hope leads to a full hour interview on the Charlie Rose Show someday and perhaps a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. If not, suicide is always an option and a comforting thought.

My kneeling guy graphic was inspired by your poem. It inspired in me a naive, humble, genuflecting, faithful, eager-to-do-good-deeds-doer, man of faith, in a worshipful, humble, prayerful, vulnerable posture planting the future of his life in SHIT. Pure Shit (capital “P” capital “S”) SHIT, nothing but SHIT (and he doesn’t even know it). God bless him. I love him, don’t you too? Well, you should because you created him and I thank you.

That aside, I’m delighted about your discovery of the “Joe’s” in the work of Mr. Spillane. Your discovery has served to provide me with new hope. I don’t have to be just a “Joe Blow”, “Joe Schmo”, “Average Joe”, etc. Deeply buried and most profoundly in the literature of Mickey Spillane, is my “Real Joe—the Joe who I am, the Joe who I can and shall be—THE JOE WHO IS ME!

Now don’t be so quick to put down your own name, Rick. I think you should go to that art supplies store between Central Square and Harvard Square , and pick up some finger-paints, Crayola Crayons, Yarn, Elmer’s Glue, popsicle sticks, balloons, and an assortment of buttons. Play in these media without self-censorship or self-imposed standards or expectations of results. It’s the journey, it’s the process, it’s the means to an end, not the end to a means that takes you wherever (if you get my drift) you want to go. Do this, and I guarantee that your name will take on deeper meaning—deeper than Mr. Spillane could ever hope to realize.

I’ve decided that football games from now on will be a means of self-expression for me. I’ll start out with benign statements like “Defense” or “Get ‘em”, or “C’mon, Ref!”, or “My Mother could have caught that! “ Then I will very craftily and subtly, start to infuse some remarks like you suggested the other day, such as, “ U.S. get out of North America ”. That’s a good one I think for starters for sure. I don’t know what this will become or where it will go and I don’t care. So come with me next time and feed me lines from your socio-edu-eco-politico-historico-psycho-evolutiono agenda and I will be your mouthpiece.

The great thing about yelling obscenities and inappropriate remarks at an IVY League contest is that you can always assert your First Amendment Rights to defend yourself and they have no comeback, so I’ve learned. If they do, you assert your Second Amendment right to pull out your favorite fire-arm and carelessly wield it around in their direction as you remind them that you’re pretty passionate about that First Amendment Right thing and they might want to reconsider. That usually works.

Joe “Where ya goin’ with that gun in your hand” Owens

Writer/director Andrew Pascal (cf. Spin the Bottle on IMDb) writes:

Overall, I thought it was interesting, kind of an existential Pulp Fiction…
it had a very old-time feel, as if it should be set in the late 50’s or the
early 60’s, which you might want to consider changing it to as it would
add a starker, grittier feel to the piece. Also, it reads to me more like a
stage play than a film script…it’s loaded with dialogue and not much
happening visually that you would need it to be a film…it’s basically
people talking, shooting and driving around…something that can easily
be done on a stage… and I agree with Chris on the title . . . COCKED &
LOADED . . . you want to know what that's about.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Screenplay Comments VII

Tsipi Keller writes:

I had no trouble with Jill leaving with Clive - first
of all, he saves her from her husband, second, he is
handsome and tough and a knight on a white horse...

Screenplay Comments VI

Tsipi Keller writes:

I like Notes [on a Criminal], it's different from the usual crap.

Screenplay Comments V

Brother Chris writes:

Don't change the title
It fits the characters and the story
Notes on a criminal (not interested)
Cocked and Loaded (I want to know whats going on in there)
Don't over think it
This was your idea in the first place and it's great
Rock on Bro

Monday, November 5, 2007

Screenplay Comments IV

Distinguished novelist and translator Tsipi 
Keller writes:

finally had time to finish C&L. I think the
dialogue is great, and so are the characters
- even if familiar from other such movies.
I have trouble believing they'd kill the
mother - not that i know much about the mafia,
but i think Mother is kind of Sacred, no?
I also don't like that Karen is killed - my
own personal proclivity is for them to survive
at the end and drive into sunset (in a kind of
spoof), or, since you also kill Lou at the end,
maybe Clive should also die - a la
Bonnie and
- even if "lucky" is his middle name?
At any rate, I think the screenplay is good
enough to send out as is, these minor points
would/could be ironed out at later point -
hopefully with producer and director who like
it. good luck, hope this is helpful,

Friday, November 2, 2007

Screenplay Comments III (repeat)

Here are Bob Gregory's original comments in a larger typeface:

I read your screenplay. I couldn't put it down, from start to finish. Reminded me a wee bit of Pulp Fiction.

As you well know, I'm not a literary/theatre/film critic, just a boring old political scientist. So what the hell do I know?

Some brief comments:

I found the enthusiasm of Jill in joining Clive and Lou immediately after the hold-up rather too neat and tidy, lacking credibility. Abused partners of men don't always rush at the opportunity for 'freedom', and may even be totally shocked and distaught if confronted by Clive's shooting of Frank. Asa consequence Jill's character is not well rounded out, not enough emotional ambivalence or trauma?

Lou's departure to the other gang is a bit obscure. He seems to vanish from the script and then appears suddenly later with the Lorettes.

The demise of the two women, Jill and Karen, also seems rather stark, stretching credibility somewhat -- especially in Karen's case. Blown off a roof? And how would such a huge wind have affected Clive's shooting?

I like the final scene, especially as I thought Clive and Lou had finally got their beans. But I think that the sequence of Clive alive and then revealing his gauze dressings (one assumes he was protected by a flak jacket, or were the wounds not fatal?), should be reversed -- wouldn't a more dramatic effect be gained by first showing a close-up of gauze dressings on a man's chest, then panning back slowly, to reveal Clive as the wearer, very much alive, etc?

Just a few thoughts, Rick. What do you think?

Screenplay Comments IV

Bob Gregory writes further:

Yes, I think it's certainly possible that Jill would run off with
the handsome Clive, but I think you draw the move much too
sharply, with too little emotional confusion on her part. It would
round out her character if she showed rather more ambivalence
before throwing her lot in with Clive, though this could be
expressed after she'd made the move to actually run off with
him after Frank's killing. Confusing??
Can you work J K Galbraith into the script anywhere? Maybe as
a closet international terrorist (though it would have to be a big closet).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

R.McN. on Bob Gregory's C&L Comments

"You're astute--I read PULP FICTION just before starting C&L.

You've raised an issue I wondered about myself--would the gusting winds affect Clive's shot? As to Karen going over the edge, Betty thinks that is pure bullshit, keeps telling me it would never happen. However, there was a tornado in Brooklyn a few months ago. And I've experienced freakishly high winds here in Cambridge. Maybe it's better if Clive misses his shot--that would be appropriate for a neo-noir film, in which the world is presented as gritty and painful and sad and little else.

Jill has to run off with Clive, I have no film without that. Don't you think it's possible? Don't we go to movies to see people breaking through the usual barriers that keep us penned in? The French film ALIAS BETTY was an influence on C&L. Jill just acts on impulse, her subconscious suddenly rises up and carries her out the door with Clive. She's SO happy to have Frank out of her life, the beatings over, that her subconscious erupts in jubilation and insists on an immediate celebration. She really hated Frank. And then there's the Hollywood effect of Clive being stunningly good-looking, that's crucial. I originally had Clive & Lou with stockings over their faces but knew Jill would never run off with a man who looked like that.

Almost every development in the plot was made up without forethought as I was writing, just plotting by impulse, spontaneously. I started with two guys outside a liquor store and knew they would rob it, but that was all. Everything else was impromptu, starting with the discovery of Jill crying at the register.

Your suggestion about a close shot on Clive's dressing at the end and then pulling back to show it's him is a good one--but screenwriters aren't allowed to write about camera moves or angles. That's the director's job, and they don't want suggestions. He'll mark them on the script and then the script is retyped as a "shooting script" and the scenes are numbered and off they go.

My biggest problem is that I don't know what to do next. Got any story ideas? I'll credit you. You'll make at least six figures, ho, ho, ho.

Very good to hear from you and get your reaction. Thank you again for commenting."

Screenplay Comments III

Bob Gregory, eminent professor and bloody-Mary-loving good-time friend from Wellington, writes:
"I read your screenplay. I couldn't put it down, from start to finish. Reminded me a wee bit of Pulp Fiction.
As you well know, I'm not a literary/theatre/film critic, just a boring old political scientist. So what the hell do I know?
Some brief comments:
I found the enthusiasm of Jill in joining Clive and Lou immediately after the hold-up rather too neat and tidy, lacking credibility. Abused partners of men don't always rush at the opportunity for 'freedom', and may even be totally shocked and distaught if confronted by Clive's shooting of Frank. Asa consequence Jill's character is not well rounded out, not enough emotional ambivalence or trauma?
Lou's departure to the other gang is a bit obscure. He seems to vanish from the script and then appears suddenly later with the Lorettes.
The demise of the two women, Jill and Karen, also seems rather stark, stretching credibility somewhat -- especially in Karen's case. Blown off a roof? And how would such a huge wind have affected Clive's shooting?
I like the final scene, especially as I thought Clive and Lou had finally got their beans. But I think that the sequence of Clive alive and then revealing his gauze dressings (one assumes he was protected by a flak jacket, or were the wounds not fatal?), should be reversed -- wouldn't a more dramatic effect be gained by first showing a close-up of gauze dressings on a man's chest, then panning back slowly, to reveal Clive as the wearer, very much alive, etc?"
Now I'm going to have to do some serious rethinking. And there I was thinking everything was perfect and the cameras could start rolling immediately. Does any one reading this have expertise on rifles and know if high winds would affect a shot at a target that's a block and a half away?

Screenplay Comments II

My brother Chris, singer-songwriter extraordinare and chef you want to know, writes:

"Love it
1st best line "you want to go back to the
liquor store and I'll shoot him again for
2nd best line page 102 about c4 explosives
“Yeah it's when people are sitting still and
suddenly start moving at 27,000 miles per
hour.” That made me howl thanks
a line i thought could be better is the
bartender saying "there must be a better
way" to Clive. great to read
and of course so many more great lines
do not stop writing this stuff
i know easier said than done."

Chris' CD Orbit will premier on iTunes soon, check it, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Must Characters Change?

Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan, author of The Departed, on the subject of characters changing over the course of a work:

"I don’t expect an MBA [who is producing a film] to be Northrop Frye, but I do want to hear his opinions and I’d ask for them were they not given. Do I want to hear [about terms such as] “arc” and “journey” and how does someone “change” through the course of the movie? No, I do not. People change in stories about people changing, not in every story. Not every story is A Christmas Carol. You get this crap about “story” because of these chuckleheads out there running script classes, who really prey on confusion about art and people’s genuine desire to learn. It’s shameful what they’ve done to discourse about motion pictures and to film itself. Writers literally get fired in this business because they aren’t providing enough “journey” in a story that doesn’t call for any. There are no general rules to any sort of writing. Each work has its own inherent rules. You discover them. You don’t import them."

Source:, Feb. 18, 2007.

Corrigenda III

A number of typos in previous post, pls. overlook.
Tsipi Keller's novel Retelling (which as I mentioned yesterday is available from and which I recommend without hesitation or reservation) is a highly pleasurable read. Tsipi uses a first-person narrator who drifts effortlessly from place to place in this Bernhard-style non-paragraphed work about a graduate student named Sally who's best friend Elsbeth Williams is murdered and whom the police regard as a suspect, subjecting her to repeated interrogations. Sally is a solitary type who is keenly observant her East Village neighborhood, noticing everything that goes on around her, the people, the goings-on in the park she frequents, her neighbors, and one feels the intensity of her awareness is a direct result of her living alone, with no close friends after the death of thirty-year-old Elsbeth, allowing one the paradoxical treat of being able to share the moment to moment awareness of someone who generally doesn't allow people into her life--the reader becomes the friend of the largely friendless Sally, having full access to her inner life, which generates a pleasant feeling of comradeship, until one realizes it's entirely a one-way relationship from which Sally derives no benefit. And its an inner life that threatens to float off into the blue, or unravel, at any time, Sally admitting "I often caught myself wondering if I even knew who I was." In commenting on an arms-length friend she reveals how unfixed, how unanchored her identity is: "Lydia, I concluded, was evil and passive-aggressive, and yet, at the same time, I couldn't help the sneaking suspicion that it was I who was evil and passive-aggressive." Will Sally's grip on herself improve over the course of the novel? Unlikely, based on her view of the nature of the self: "This realization [that in her dreams she acted as she had in her youth] led me to theorize that we never really truly change, that the core personality we develop in our teens remains with us forever and emerges in the night when we dream." (Which parallels an opinion expressed by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan, who wrote The Departed, on the subject of characters changing over the course of a work, which I am going to attempt to post here.) Her self-doubt and self-deprecation notwithstanding, Sally shows herself to be one tough cookie in dealing with the repeated interrogations of the police. But it's the intimate companionship with a stranger that is the work's chief attraction--a forbidden, one-way, impossible, enchanting relationship--along with the dream-like transitions from location to location throughout the story, and the careful observation of the day-to-day details which make up our lives.

Friday, October 26, 2007

from Tsipi Keller's RETELLING

"My nerves were on edge and people, merely by existing, infuriated me."

Too terribly true. Sometimes.

This observation is from the Tsipi Keller's novel Retelling (New York: Spuyten Duyvil [Spitting Devil], 2006) which is available at I recommend this book without reservation.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For dinner tonight, baked salmon fillet, fried red potatoes (that had been blanched) with onions, sauteed mushrooms. Ran out of Beck's NA and had to drink frigging water. When Dad would be asked by a waiter if he wanted water, he would say: "It's against my religion."

Time stamp: 11:49 PM

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Screenplay Comments

Bob Knuppel wrote:

Well,,,,,,,I thought the Title was a hook for a Porno film, but it was a very easy read and I thought substantial enough to hold me until the end. The question of my own ignorant mind is how original is the setting, concept and would know better. I liked it.

By the way I know some people in Hollywood such as the lawyer for Eddie Muphy in the Art Buchwald fight and Kenny Horton who lived next to me in Smoke Rise is a tv producer now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Corrigendum II

Re last post, for "matter or minutes" read "matter of minutes"; probably unnecessary to point this out but one thinks of Joyce's comment in Finnegan's Wake about "insane fastidiousness" or words to that effect. Freud would use another expression but why bring that up?

Less Tired, Less Depleted

Even if one is writing claptrap and drivel (my specialty) the thought that it may be read by someone, ANYone, within a matter or minutes or hours, is too, too tempting, so one taps away in this wonderful empty space with this very attractive font, all the while wondering what Proust or Beckett would do with a web log, real writers of course not engaging in web logging, though the screenwriter Kevin Smith has one. It's the immediate gratification factor that's so tempting, one's words flying out like spurts from an electronic water sprinkler, landing ALL OVER THE WORLD, it's too exciting, and the fact that one does not have to wait on line at the post office to do it is sheer ecstasy, God does the post office get me depressed. I should troll around and see if I can find any novelists who do web logging though there aren't that many contemporary novelists I'm familiar with, beyond Tsipi. "There is another world and it's this one," someone said that, some poet, I could look it up but who wants to get out of one's chair? It's a language-dominated universe, some poet said that, the main thing that's going on is the use of language, perhaps. A web log can be a kind of coffee shop where one can have a wonderful one-way conversation with . . . WHOMEVER . . . prattling along with the sense one is in the company of a FRIEND. I wonder if Gordon Lish has a blog, I doubt it but I'll check. Where was I? I know Tsipi has a blog that I like VERY MUCH, but for purely selfish reasons. Yes let me pour some more cream into my coffee and have a sip. Rather than starting a new screenplay my inclination is to perfect Cocked & Loaded (awful title, offensively and crassly commercial but if I'm going to be dealing with know-nothing producers (cause I probably won't, as an unknown, be able to get an agent) I might as well have a title that reeks of saleability) but I'm so weary of the story, having been through it six times or so, I need a break from it . . . so I don't know what to do . . . perhaps write verses for a time . . . it would be a massive mistake to sit here and web log and talk about trivia like what I did this afternoon, sitting on the retaining wall around the flower- and tree-bed on Barron Plaza where two people asked me the time and one guy said, "Can you spare sixty cents or a dollar?" One often hit upon for money if one sits down in Central Square; I should have bought that t-shirt I saw years ago that said in bold block letters, "DON'T ASK ME FOR SHIT!" Quite windy and warm this afternoon, overcast sky, a feeling of uneasiness in the air, usual heavy pedestrian traffic passing before one's eyes, Asians, blacks, some people speaking French, down-and-out whites, average people, not many people on the tree-bed wall, usually it's almost filled up, I guess people don't like windy weather, leaves swept about, Red Sox going into the World Series (ho-hum, z-z-z-zzzzz), I walked over to City Hall to point Percy at the porcelain, very pleasant smell of wood when one comes in the door of the lobby, then back to the tree-bed to sit some more, then a walk in the direction of MIT, getting as far as the Mariposa Bakery and then abruptly turning around and coming home because I felt an inclination to do some web logging. I usually call Betty at 5 PM to notify her, uselessly, that she is entitled to stop working, she's been putting in a lot of overtime lately because a conference is underway for healthcare officials from all over the world and she is responsible for EVERYTHING; at the last conference there were some Muslims and she had to find an empty room so they could do their five-times-a-day praying. "There is another world and it's this one," and by that the poet did not mean web logging, s/he was talking about taking the everyday world as some kind of utopia--but you knew that. I mean to post my letter to the NY Times on Iraq here at some point, the Times having ignored it. What I'm hoping for is the eventual dawning of a Golden Age for humanity developing out of the stupidity and agony of our first peace-time invasion of another country. I believe we're going to be in Iraq--in a non-combat mode--indefinitely, playing the role of peacekeeper like the NATO and UN troops did when Yugoslavia broke up (I keep meaning to Google, or iSeek, Yugoslavia to see if the peacekeepers are still there) or like the US troops STILL in Korea. The thought of democracy throughout the Middle East is so soothing to contemplate after all the agony one has felt about our invasion of Iraq. We should pull our troops back to a non-combat position and get that enormous embassy out of Baghdad as soon as possible. To pull out of the country means all those lives were lost for nothing and the thought of that really hurts. Maybe in ten or twenty years democracy can take hold in Iraq. But we've got to cut the casualty rate back to as close to zero as possible, and create a situation like Korea. We'll have our troops and embassy out in the desert and the Iraqis can come to us for help and we can launch military raids if necessary to help them out; we've got to stop using our troops as police in the middle of a civil war. Soldiers are meant to find the enemy, engage the enemy and destroy the enemy, NOT to be sitting, or traveling, ducks out on patrol in the middle of insane sectarian conflict. The thought that a GOLDEN AGE OF DEMOCRACY can eventually emerge from a stupid and criminal invasion appeals to one's sense of the paradoxical. Kierkegaard has written that a person who does not have a sense of irony can be said to be a person who has not yet begun to live. So we should pull our troops back, not out. (I should send a copy of this post to Ted Kennedy. I've never written to a Congress-donkey before.)

So that's enough for now.

Note to Tsipi: Your comment about "beggar writers" was too terribly true. Puts me in mind of a passage from Bernhard's On the Mountain:

"No worse rabble than writers, artists, all achievements glossed over, tremendous exertions dismissed with slander and silence, the status of the writer is even lower than that of shopkeepers, much lower than that of politicians, to get to the writers: get down into the dirt."

Time stamp: 6:09 PM.