Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Enter the KING

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

William Shakespeare, HENRY V, C. 1599

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We love cheesy local commercials where the owner of the store gets involved. This hilarious ad for Lenny's Clam Bar stars the owner with his pal, Frank Sinatra Jr, hawking the scungilli. (This was filmed in 1978, so Frank Sr was still alive, but he must have passed on the project.) So if you like seafood--spicy, seafood Italian style, and who doesn't?--go to Lenny's and tell him Frankie sent you and get a free glass of wine.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


The West Memphis 3 were just released after a bizarre plea arrangement that surprised and pleased many supporters. Once teenagers, the three left prison in their thirties, still maintaining their innocence, though pleading guilty.

The West Memphis 3 are three teenagers (Damien Echols, Jason Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin) convicted in 1994 of the brutal 1993 murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Despite having no physical evidence linking the boys (in fact, in 1997, the DNA found at the crime didn't match any of those convicted, but did match on of the boys' stepfather and his friend) these boys were found guilty--and one was given the death penalty. They may not have been guilty of murder, but they were guilty of being oddballs in a small town, boys who dressed like "Goths" and dabbled in witchcraft, which was enough to set the town roaring about a satanic cult.

"Under the seemingly contradictory deal," says the New York Times, "Judge David Laser vacated the previous convictions, including the capital murder convictions for Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin. After doing so, he ordered a new trial, something the prosecutors agreed to if the men would enter so-called Alford guilty pleas. These pleas allow people to maintain their innocence and admit frankly that they are pleading guilty because they consider it in their best interest."

And that's what they did.

To learn more about the case and the trial, watch the riveting documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1995) and the follow-up, Paradise Lost 2" The Revelations (2000).

Monday, August 15, 2011


Dear Friends,

In 1969, John and I were so naive to think that doing the Bed-In would help change the world. Well, it might have. But at the time, we didn't know.
It was good that we filmed it, though. The film is powerful now. What we said then could have been said now.

In fact, there are things that we said then in the film, which may give some encouragement and inspiration to the activists of today. Good luck to us all.
Let's remember WAR IS OVER if we want it. It's up to us, and nobody else. John would have wanted to say that."

Love, yoko

According to the Guardian, "Yoko Ono has posted online a 70-minute documentary she made with John Lennon in 1969. Titled Bed Peace, the film – previously available on VHS – documents the couple's second attempt to promote world peace through lying in bed for a week at the height of the Vietnam war. The former Beatle and his wife spent their honeymoon in bed at the Amsterdam Hilton, talking to members of the press, before flying to Montreal, Canada to repeat their act of non-violent protest. Those visiting them there, as shown in the film, include the activist Dick Gregory, LSD-advocate Timothy Leary, DJ Murray The K and the Beatles' publicist Derek Taylor."

The Guardian failed to mention Al Capp's visit and his heated exchange with John and Yoko. Capp, creator of "Lil Abner," comes across as a crackpot, a racist blowhard and a reactionary hawk who ridicules their hair, their sincerity, and Yoko's Japanese ancestry. See, not all cartoonists are cool.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


crazy eyes

It should come as no surprise that Michele Bachmann, the beady-eyed Tea Party pin-up, hates the art, science, literature, politics and humanist philosophy that burgeoned in Florence during the Renaissance since it destroyed the religious stranglehold of fundamentalism and ignorance we call the Dark Ages, something she's desperately trying to revive. While the modern world may have resulted from the brilliance and enlightened inquiry of da Vinci, Michelangelo and their gifted peers, Bachmann seems to have descended from their devoted enemy, fundamentalist Savonarola, a nasty monk who became quite popular among conservative, reactionary elements by urging the destruction of all art, poetry and free thought that wasn't sufficiently "religiously correct." Savonarola burned books, artistic masterpieces and heretics in the Piazza della Signoria. Armed with Fox News, he might have won the battle against modernity, but alas he could only preach to a relatively small mob, those within earshot. He was eventually burned on the same spot.

calm eyes

The details: An article in the New Yorker and a piece in the Los Angeles Times blog, Culture Monster, explain that Michele Bachmann has serious concerns that the Renaissance took us away from God. She's also not crazy about The Enlightenment. Basically, she misses the Dark Ages.

According to Ryan Lizza, who interviewed Bachmann over the course of several days for the New Yorker, she "belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians." According to Lizza, she's a big fan of the late Presbyterian Pastor Francis Schaeffer, who is credited with being a key catalyst of the Christian Right revival of the 1970s. She's also a fan of Schaeffer follower Nancy Pearcey, who wrote,"Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning."

According to the LA Times blog,
Culture Mons
ter, in Pearcey's 2004 book book, "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity," she "lauds Schaeffer's empathy for artists who are 'caught in the trap of false and harmful worldviews' -- specifically, those that have trickled down from wicked Renaissance humanism. 'As the medieval period merged into the Renaissance (beginning roughly in the 1300s),' she wrote, 'a drumbeat began to sound for the complete emancipation of reason from revelation -- a crescendo that burst into full force in the Enlightenment (beginning in the 1700s).'"


Monday, August 8, 2011


In 1964, Ken Kesey, the author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and his pals, "The Merry Band of Pranksters," embarked on a drug-fueled odyssey in a psychedelic bus (the first, dubbed "Further") to cross the country a la Jack Kerouac (with Kerouac's pal, Dean Moriarty, at the wheel) to see America and visit the New York World's Fair. These Day-glo pirates planned to make a film about their odyssey and shot hours of footage, but the film was never finished. Perhaps the drugs of choice provided too many fascinating tangents, tendrils, and tributaries, or maybe Kesey and crew got lost in a rabbit hole like Alice. Maybe they simply got stoned and forgot. In any case, Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney and his co-director, Alison Ellwood, came to the rescue. They poured over more than 100 hours of raw footage and whittled it down to a bite-size documentary, "Magic Trip."

Set the Waytback Machine. Against all odds these acid Argonauts will appear at an air-conditioned Megaplex near you, sandwiched somewhere between The Smurfs and Cowboys & Aliens, right where they belong.

Maybe. This tiny indie film (as well as the blissful naivety of these proto-hippies) may seem hopelessly out of fashion these days, and since it won't have money-making appeal of a blockbuster it won't be widely released. "Magic Trip" will appear only briefly, visible to none but a discerning few. Sorry. Maybe it's the subject matter. Maybe we've been warned too many in these drug-scorched times to fancy even the remote possibility that one might gain anything of value through the ingestion of a drug. Not to mention peace & love, and all that jazz. Where have all the flowers gone, indeed.

Anyway, we can always pretend.

Though slated for release August 5th, "Magic Trip" probably hasn't hit your burg yet. Chec your listings. We did. The movie opens 8/12 in Portland at the Hollywood, and 8/26 in Seattle at the Varsity. For other towns, check the listing here. To visit the official website of the documentary, visit MAGIC TRIP.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Barry Hannah is dead, but he wrote some great books and inspired countless writers with his honest art and his no bullshit attitude. He was not "literary" in the phoney sense, but a literary master nonetheless, and, to hear him tell it, a "small-town boy, a gawker" and "a rubbernecking perckerwood." Words were his weapon as well as his poison. Not his only poison. He drank himself nearly to death, fought alcoholism as well as cancer, and somehow kept his humanity while hassling with his creativity. It might have been easier doing something else, pissing it away at cocktails parties, say, or maybe working as a small town mayor, thumbs hooked in his vestpockets, cigar clenched in his teeth, telling everybody else what to do, but no, he left the comfort zone to wrestle--sometimes even slowdance-- with the Muse. He taught, too, in spite of himself. Sometime accidentally. In the following essay, he teaches plenty.

"Ah well, the brain wants a song," he says. "And the message is always the same--we are alive and dying. Hot wind in the skull. No possum, no sop, no taters until we sing the song. You have to act or not eat. Sing your song, than fall on your victuals, and become a man. Otherwise you are a half-man, a zombie, an uninvited guest, if you feel like me when you can't sing. This might go on for months. Food is bitter and friends are flat."

Hannah was from the Deep South, Mississippi in fact, and he wrote in a wicked vernacular so comparisons to Faulkner are inevitable (as well as Flannery O'Conner and Mark Twain), and people who love neat little boxes in their world might consider him "a regional writer," a master of Southern Gothic, but he was clearly more than that, and his influence ran as far and wide as the Big Muddy.

He died last year, and many writers came forward with their remembrances of the man in an article in Vanity Fair (March 3, 2010), among them Richard Ford.

“One great thing about Barry," said Ford, "was how, in his person, he managed to preserve the deep mystery of literary art. In that way he was like Faulkner, himself. Frontally, he presented you with what seemed to be a recognizable southern type—the swaggering, impudent, small-town, pool-hall residing, wise-cracking, occasionally bibulous little smart-ass. Who then incongruously but absolutely legitimately wowed and amazed you with his celestial-quality literary sentences and constructions that could've come from no other brain but his, and that you never forgot. Many people have had the experience of Barry's stories and novels changing their lives forever. I think that's precisely what he aimed for. He always said, ‘Shoot for the stars.’ And he surely did that. He was the real deal."

Amy Hempel, an old friend of Hannah and an excellent short story writer, said, “Barry was, and will always be, essential—as a writer and as a man with an exquisite, deep soul. His death is a world-changing loss for so many of us.”

His writing comes across at times both grim and humorous, gothic and gonzo, as informal as a backyard conversation with a drunken neighbor yet as incantatory as a voodoo spell. Pedantic professors may label him one thing or another, emboldened by their collective cowardice, but they're just following breadcrumbs through the woods. Hannah owns the woods. As he might say, enough phoney literary bullshit, let the man speak for himself. Here's the essay quoted above. Just click to enlarge it and read it.

Now if you're a writer get writing. I'd better get back to work myself. Coffee break's over. If you're a reader, a serious reader who likes good stories you've never heard before (as opposed to all those overly familiar, predictable stories, in print and on screen, that follow a cozy little formula and comfort rather than challenge) you could do worse than pick up a copy of "Ray" or "Airships." Now that's writing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Gary Russo is a hardhat, a New York City MTA construction worker building the 2nd Avenue Subway in the booming summer heat. He could use a summer wind. Maybe you saw him online. His video has gone viral. Anyway, Russo does a spot on impression of Frank Sinatra. Here he sings "Summer Wind" during his lunchbreak, and then he goes right back to work.

These days it's getting to be subversive to stick up for working people. Maybe it's no different from the old red-baiting days when saying anything about "the working class" got you branded a dirty commie out to start a class war. You'd think we'd be past that by now, but siding with the "commoners" still looks suspicious to a lot of people, and some folks even think it's patriotic to be AGAINST the working class. Look around. We've got union-busting Republicans stealing workers' rights nationwide, and "pro-business" tycoons hopping into bed with lobbyists and politicians to deregulate corporations and screw the common man (and woman), hoodwink the gullible, and rip off the consumer. Multinational corporations have the power to run roughshod over the workers and consumers worldwide, all in the name of "it's-good-for-business." The working people don't have the billions--or the batteries of lawyers, legal loopholes and tax breaks--of the ultra rich, for a fair fight. Besides, they have to get up every morning and go to work. But once in a while they sing.

the young Sinatra; a working class hero?