Friday, May 29, 2009

The Rich Get Rich

Are you tried to death of television programs which tell rich people how to stop being so stupid with their money? I’m sorry that someone bought a seven hundred thousand dollar home which is now worth two hundred and fifty thousand and they can’t make their payments. It’s a shame, but somewhere out there there’s a village without an idiot and all they need to do is search the Net and I’m sure in no time at all they will be installed as the local dimwit and all will be right with the world.

Where are the programs which just might do some good, tell a Walmart worker graveling for seven dollars an hour how to get out from under a lifetime of worry and stress by lifting their social situation to that of abject poverty instead of wage slavery? There aren’t any.

That is because the talking heads and the financial pundits believe poor people deserve what they get. Any fool knows that with hard work and education a person may achieve his dreams? Really, tell that to the folks wiped-out in the Katrina disaster or by Bernie Madoff’s dealing, what about the thousands waiting to see if their pension will go the way of the Nortel pension program? Can a union worker destroyed by GM find happiness on Dr. Phil?

If hard work and education were the universal solution then there would be no homeless. Just get those poor, ignorant, oafs on their feet and give them a broom and send them out to sweep the streets clean for God, Country and the American way.

Education at least what we call education in this country is a system of regimented popularity contests measured by tests and recall which have little to do with anything which might make for a sound employment future. It is more important to a potential employer that a person be a socialized drone which they call a team player than it is to have a brilliant idea every now and then. After all ideas are expensive, they take research, development and product testing, when sticking with the same old thing takes nothing, but workers more concerned about making the rent than about advancement. Is that why GM kept making cars no one would buy when the writing on the wall was clear to all? The Suburban is a fine vehicle and the men and women who make it should be proud, but it isn’t practical in a time when someone else controls all the oil!

We have alienated our minorities by excluding them from the white, upper class, male seniority system. Blacks are so despondent they have given up all pretense of assimilating into the culture, they now speak a separate language, live by a separate moral code and strive for the shallowest of rewards while the news readers wonder why?

Women have become so cynical and angry they have abandoned the two gender system in favor of a single sex model. And can we blame them? We don’t pay them as much, we don’t value them as much and we don’t offer them as much and when they insist on achieving anyway we call them bitch.

What about Latinos? They don’t trust us enough to share our language and they feel that by doing so they endanger their own cultural heritage? And why not? We have created a fourth race, Hispanics. Now anthropologically there are only three races and when Latinos were shifted out of the Caucasian and in to their own must have come a big shock to Darwin.

Asians hold most of the advanced degrees and yet many live in abject poverty, having taken the bottom of the crime scene away from the Latinos much as they did from the blacks and the Italians before them.

Education cannot answer all of the needs of the under class. It takes too long, it fails to recognize real talent in favor of real toadying and it costs too much. It is hardly surprising that a ghetto kid will choose a BMW over a four year degree every time.

Hard work, like the Native Americans have spent the last century doing in the skies of New York and all of the other large cities? Some reward for the land we stole from them. No, all of the hard work and dedication to their culture didn’t do squat for their cause, it took casino gambling. That’s right; Sitting Bull’s revenge wasn’t Custer, but all of the Native American casinos sucking down the dollars made by the whites. And it was long overdue.

Country singers, even though they fit the profile of the over class, seem to get it right, where are the jobs? Where are the veterans and the promises made when the kids were signing up to fight a war which didn’t need fighting? Where were politicians doing right by all of the people?

No, I don’t think they have it right on every topic, just some and they should be heard because they are speaking for all those Walmart slaves. And remember slaves have been freed. Freed like the blacks after the Civil war, freed to struggle and starve and lose hope and dreams while lesser men watch.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


they sit
like sages
saying sooth
while all around
their castles crumble
treasures won
in Alexandria and Athens
on the pleasures
of a day
a stick, a twig
a hank of hair
their solemn
judgments merit
yet screams and death
and torments
without a thought or care
these learned few
the shadowed ones
they haunt
the steps
where Ceasar fell
and mimic mighty deeds
Cloning Creativity

The sun is high in the sky and the days are long, kids are out of school and people are gassing up their cars for Memorial Day, can the summer of dreadful remakes be far behind?

We’ve seen remakes every summer for a dozen years, its what passes for creativity in this age without the studios. Oh I know, The Studios were horrible, creativity stifling monsters and all they ever did was hold back talent and push box office receipts at the expense of art…excuse me ART.

Probably why we have Weekend at Bernie’s II and Ocean’s Eleven and they had, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Inherit the Wind, Father of the Bride, (The adult version with the incomparable Spencer Tracy.), Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Rio Lobo, but wait those last, they were remakes, at least El Dorado and Rio Lobo.

They were, Howard Hawks quest to tell the same story, a lone man facing overwhelming odds, without any support and finding a way to win. And they were all good. Now there are good sequels the Die Hard series features three and the James Bond series has the Daniel Craig entries, we’ll skip right over the George Lanzenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan mistakes, and way back in the dawn of time before he became an ARTIST and a racist Mel Gibson and Danny Glover made three good sequels.

But when it comes to remakes we aren’t so favored: The Wild, Wild West had potential, Kenneth Branagh’s Dr. Loveless was magically over the top, Maverick managed to find the spirit of the original in spite of Mel Gibson, (Jodie Foster and James Garner might have had something to do with it.), and Steve Martin’s Roxanne, filmed before he started over-reaching his talent, (Really Steve, Clifton Webb maybe, but Tracy? Don’t be silly. And who couldn’t manage to be heroic if the prize was Daryl Hannah?), but the rest…pitiful. pitiful, pitiful.

The original Ocean’s Eleven was a joy to watch with a MacgGuffin that made the two hours of Dean, Sammy, Joey. Peter and Frank even better, The Avengers, one of the most stylish programs ever to air was reduced to drivel and had to lean on the powers of Sean the Magnificent to try and pull it out of the muck, and the prospect of John Travolta trying to match Robert Shaw’s under-played masterpiece is chilling. (Fortunately John won’t be alone, Keanu Reeves stepped into Michael Rennie’s shoes and stumbled through a remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still.)

Why do good actors go so wrong? They have no direction, no guidance and no backstop. Now in some cases, George Clooney, the actor can manage his won career selecting projects which are both entertaining and satisfying, but not all of the time Ocean’s Eleven wasn’t the worst of a bad lot but it missed the joke. Why introduce Bruce Willis as himself and not use that as a MacGuffin? Because no one really understood the original Ocean’s, it’s okay Frank you’re still the Chairman of the Board.

And the truth of it is you can make a good remake. If you love the material, respect the source and cast carefully.

You have to love the material. You can’t disrespect the original and expect the good folks who know the story to come and clap. Maybe Dashiell Hammet isn’t undying literature, (I completely disagree), but you can bet your sweet ass there are people who think so.

You have to respect the source. I know all of the English instructors groan every time they hear, “Where no man has gone before”, get over it grammarian. There are two things we know about Star Trek and they’ve been repeated since the very first moment Gene Roddenberry invited us into his universe, “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise”, and Vulcans are the good guys. Wanna know why Enterprise the series went down in flames, even with Jolene Blalock making every red-blooded Academy cadet dream of space travel? Vulcans were bad or at least untrustworthy. Not in Roddenberry’s galaxy.

And finally you have to cast carefully. I know that Murphy is a blond. Com-on, The Dresden Files, I can’t make an argument if you don’t try to keep up, but Valerie Cruz did such a great job I have to admit it takes a coupla paragraphs to shake the Latina out of Murphy’s style. However, Paul Blackthorne as Harry and Terrance Mann as Bob the skull will be with me forever. They fit Jim Butcher’s descriptions to a T. And what about Casablanca with Ronald Regan and Bette Davis, who wants to look at you, kid? The source material is the final judge on any casting decision.

And just in case you think I’ve given up hope, you’re wrong. In the long film history of Treasure Island three distinguished actors played Long John Silver, two before and one after Disney and they failed. Now if Wallace Berry, Orson Wells and Charlton Heston can’t get it right who can? In the third remake, after Berry and Wells and before Heston an obscure English actor forever changed the way we look at and hear pirates. Robert Newton, doing a Cayman Island accent made Long John live and created the “Long John Silver” effect. When a character has such a good time being bad we don’t really want him caught! It’s better that Silver sail away and spend the rest of his days in the arms of a dusky Negress drinking Jamaican Rum on some distant island.

And what about the Maltese Falcon, you know that the Bogie/Houston version was number three? Sure Bogie is Sam Spade and you can only be as heroic as your villain permits and with Sidney Greenstreet as Caspar Gutman you could be pretty heroic. (Greestreet plays Gutman with such style that Houston made the only change from the book, he lets Gutman get away.)

And the remake champion of all time, The Prisoner of Zenda. It’s been remade so many times I’ve lost count, there’s the Thirties version with a perfectly heroic Ronald Coleman, a young David Niven, a dashing Sir Doug, a loathsome Raymond Massey, Mary Astor as the Girl and the most stalwart of companions, C Aubrey Smith, damn which way to the battlements we can take it with one more charge! Then there’s the Stewart Granger lace shirt remake, the Peter Sellers confused and dazed remake, the two prequels to the Coleman version and a handful of semi-remakes like Moon Over Parador and Dave.

Remakes can be done with style and verve so long as the maker treats them with complete respect. George Clooney, are you listening, instead of making bad Ocean’s films why not do a remake right? Do It Takes A Thief, you’re the closest thing we have to Cary Grant or how about Banacek, the turtle-necked Polish vulture could use another go ‘round even with Tim Hutton’s Leverage stealing some of its thunder.

The Studio System knew when a property was hot enough to stand a remake. It’s time some of our auteurs found their way to discriminating between inspired imitation and cloned creativity

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The House That Ruth Built

The Curse of the Bambino on George Steinbrenner and all of the Yankee management who supported the desertion of The House that Ruth Built for a new flesh pit with all the color and class of a cat box, hope you get what you deserve.
The New York Yankees are one of the fortunate franchises which supersedes its identity as a sports team and burned into the collective psyche is Baseball.
Was this because of the owner, the wins, the fans, the history, the legends or was it because of all of its assets, the New York Yankees had Babe Ruth.
Ruth untouched by time stands alone among ball players; he simply is the greatest player ever to pick up a bat. Yes, his records have been broken, broken by midgets on steroids or by greybeards playing into the twilight. The Babe did it all of beer and broads and late nights and cigars and still when it came time to play he was a ball player.
And because of Ruth, this team became not only America’s team but the World’s team; nobody can take their eyes off those pin stripes. His reward is an empty shell, the gutted hulk of what was the cathedral of baseball.
If baseball survives this time of drug scandals and greed and neglect of the fans that finance its excesses it will do so without the clout and the class of Ruth and his house of dreams.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Camel Toe

dance they
their naked bodies
twirl against
the neon fires
of night
the slaves
a trembled by
the terrors huddled
dashing there and here
they tie away
the mustangs wild
who's chrome and wax
reflect the rites
the call
the magic
made when
shooting stars
and stardust mingle
ride the moonbeams
'til the cock's crow call
when all things of the night
give sway
and in a twinkling
turn to savages
sin soaked and sweating
captured in
the paparazzi's amber

Skylark Renee Olstead

There's a sudden storm coming, when you see the thunderheads boiling, walk out into the field as far away from all else as you can, raise your arms above your head and’ll hear the crack, but you'll never see the flash...Renee Olstead's Skylark will blind you, take your breath away and leave you dazed and gasping, you've just been struck by red lightning. There are singers who can sing sweet and there are singers who can sing loud, but only once in lifetime does one come along who can rattle the gates of heaven and then whisper so sweet and low that the summer wind has to stop to hear. Skylark weaves the magic of Johnny Mercer with the voice of Renee Olstead and between them they blow up a gale to make the angels weep. Then Renee turns it around and does to Boogie Ride what Toni Tennille did with You Never Done It Like That and somewhere off in heaven Mae West is smiling. Anyone can twist a lyric and make innocent words tell a naughty tale, but to add a dash of laughter and a bit of wink and what you have is a saucy song that makes everything seem a little better…that’s talent. There’s plenty of good stuff to go around, Midnight Man will make you stay up late, My Baby Don’t Care will make you wish and Ain’t We Got Fun sums up this disc as well as bringing an old tune back to life, there’s Hit The Road Jack and Midnight In Austin Texas and everything in between.