Sam Shepard, Part II

Smith-My-Buddy

I don’t have to write part two, because Patti Smith has. She writes about what I was going to write about, Sam Shepard as a writer (first, last, always).

Writers write. They read other writers. They talk about writing, more often the writing of others than their own. If they are very very lucky, like Sam Shepard was lucky, they have a writer friend to call in the blue of the night.

Goodbye, Sam.

My Buddy by Patti Smith

A Sam Shepard Story

It’s a Friday morning and I am riding in a station wagon headed to the Lower Sierras for a camping weekend with my mostly older, mostly actor friends. The driver is a woman I’ll call Jane (in homage to Jane Fonda) who is smoking pot and telling me story after fascinating story about her life before marriage and mommyhood. Her two small children are in another car, her husband is off on a shoot, and it’s probably been a good long time since Jane was able to a) get stoned at nine in the morning and b) talk. Even if it’s just talking to me, a friend of a friend, a complete stranger. I am, however – in Jane’s defense – a good listener.

Right now I am listening to Jane (relative of a hardcore Weather Underground member) tell me about the time she smuggled money to Abbie Hoffman, post-nosejob and haircut and in hiding from a coke bust in upstate New York. The nose job made such a striking change in Hoffman’s appearance that she was never sure afterward that it was really him. Whoever it was – Steal This Nose! – said he had been set up for the bust by the FBI, which Abbie used to refer to as “a giant PR firm.” Some things never change.

I don’t remember other details from the Underground segment of our conversation, but the next story (featuring today’s subject as star) is fresh. The following year – 1975 – found Jane on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, working on the film made in conjunction with the music tour called Renaldo and Clara, and sleeping with the movie’s writer Sam Shepard. Yes, the four-hour Renaldo and Clara had a writer and that writer was Shepard. Which goes a long way toward explaining why Renaldo and Clara is the only one of Dylan’s self-produced movies that is even watchable. Far better than watchable, and, in parts, almost great. A few years earlier, Shepard had contributed the best and most coherent scenes to Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, and – little known fact – he wrote sketches for the infamous stage play Oh, Calcutta.

Ten or so years later Shepard would write Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas, possibly the best American movie of 1980s and one of the only Eighties movies with what might be called integrity. As a screeenwriter, he specialized in giving movie dreams flesh. Just as – in his plays – he turned the torture of flesh and blood into the stuff of dreams.

“I thought he would be a little mean,” Jane said. “Which he was, especially when he drank. I didn’t expect him to be so sweet. I don’t think I was the only one on tour he was sleeping with, but I didn’t care. I was in love with him,” she smiled. “I still am. The idea of him, anyway.”

I asked Jane what she meant by the “idea” of Sam Shepard. “That face,” she laughed. “Beautiful, but a guy’s guy, too. And what other writer could wear a cowboy hat and pull it off? Not make you want to laugh.” She said that all of Shepard’s ideas were Sixties ideas and they never changed. “He just put them in a shitty house. In an unexpected part of America. He just changed the clothes.”

I’m not ready to say goodbye to Sam Shepard. I’m still in love with the idea of him, too. So … consider this Part I.

Moreau est mort

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Jeanne Moreau has died. She was one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century and carried/transported some of the most important movies ever made. Impossible to imagine the menage of Jules and Jim without Moreau in the middle, impossible to imagine La Notte at all, Elevator to the Gallows, Mademoiselle, Bertrand Blier’s Going Places opposite a Gerard Depardieu just starting his career.

Hollywood had no idea what to do with Jeanne Moreau. It never knew what to do with any great European female star back then unless they had big tits to stare at while they learned a little English. And could play the coquette. Come to think of it, Hollywood had no idea what to do with any actress who was a grown-ass woman and wanted to play complex characters. Fuck Them. Moreau was better than Them. Bigger.

I asked a once-famous friend (who worked for Life magazine during its heyday) what he considered the greatest day of his life. Without an instant’s hesitation, he said the day he spent smoking heroin and talking with Jeanne Moreau in a Paris hotel room while the 1968 student riots unfolded underneath their window. I think Didion and Dunne were also there.

My friend is long since dead of drugs. Jeanne Moreau lived to be 89, lived until today. Moreau was big enough to encompass everything, every experience. No one was bigger. Or better.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/gallery/2017/jul/31/jeanne-moreau-a-life-in-pictures

 

Enter Scaramuccia

The master mobster communicator Trump’s commedia d’el arte has needed all along. With more than a hint of Joe Pesci. Finally, a bumbling but well-dressed motherfucker so crass and stupid and unlearned that he might occasionally make Trump look good.

This nasty yippy-yappy shithead – aka the Little Skirmisher – speaks to The Donald’s soul.

Think about that. And what Machiavelli would have to say. Although Machiavelli should probably say it soon, since I suspect this Scaramucia will exeunt by the second act.

From Wikipedia:
Scaramuccia (literally “little skirmisher”), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell’arte (comic theatrical arts). The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.

Unfit to Serve

trump with hostage cabinet

Personally, I wouldn’t want Donald Trump serving me at a Waffle House, but the White House is definitely a bridge too far.

The smiley picture accompanying these thoughts is from June 12, 2017, when he invited/coerced his shabby corrupt Cabinet into praising him and thanking him for the opportunity to serve Donald Trump. That was the day I put aside any doubts that Trump is mentally ill.

I assume Donald was frowney when he sent his latest, tasteless tweet-by of a talk show host. The reason that he was smiley one day and frowney the next is that Donald Trump doesn’t know who he is. He has no sense of self. And he looks to the world to give him an identity and let him know how he should feel about it.

When he receives praise (even phony ginned-up praise) he feels good. When he is trashed, he feels bad, has a tantrum, lashes out. He also has no “public face.” With Angela Merkel (yet another woman smarter and more capable than Donald), he couldn’t hide the hurt from her criticism. Pouted in public with her. Kicked rocks.

And then there’s the fact that Donald suspects … he can’t let himself admit it … that he is and always has been a fraud. That there is no one behind the curtain except a bunch of Russian gangster bankers. And tic tacs.

Pence might be worse – meaning more competent at doing horrible shit to the country – but we can’t let Donald Trump continue as President. He is a danger to himself and others.

Measures must be taken to remove him. Impeachment, the 25th Amendment, even a standard 5150 might do.

O, America

mitch bitch

After all these years, we can’t manage to provide basic health care for all?

Why?

So we can keep pretending the market will find a solution to problems it hasn’t found yet. And never will. The “market” – at least the way Americans play it – isn’t about problem solving or anything else save making already rich people and corporations even richer, usually at a cost to the poor. We Americans don’t have the character to find private solutions to public problems. We’re missing some essential part.

I know the practical reasons we’ve made a hash of this issue for decades. The political reasons. All the Dark Money reasons from the Dark Money players. But I don’t give a shit about those things anymore. And I can’t keep blaming them.

The problem is us. Some hole in our hearts and souls that no amount of increased poverty and suffering can heal. An utter inability to think and act in concord for the good of all.

I’m going to skip Fourth of July this year. I’m just not in the mood for fireworks and flag waving. I’m too ashamed. And I’m starting to realize… as I look back on our history and on a personal history which now exceeds 60 years … that America was ever thus. We were always this mean.

Is there a bigger dunce in this Confederacy of Dunces than Devin Nunes?

devin runs

I don’t know why I hate him so much, just the sight of him boils my blood. He’s a sniveling little weasel doing what he’s ordered to do by the Trumpets … apparently because he, too, has received Russian money for one of his paltry investments … but he’s so BAD at it. All of it. The lying. The jack stories he concocts to cover his tracks, which are always uncovered. His inability to stand still without cringing or flinching.

Devin Nunes … I keep wanting to call him Nevin Dunes and give him a pencil mustache … looks guilty when he first wakes up in the morning. He’s done something bad in the night. Peeked through a hole into the adjoining bathroom. Thought wrong thoughts. Wrong! And then it escalates from there …. Devin walking, Devin avoiding, Devin fleeing, Devin trapped and forced to approach a microphone.

And then Nevin Dunes opens his mouth to speak!!! His vocal quality is somewhere between a robocaller and cats fucking. I can’t listen for more than a minute or two.

Nevin … sorry, Devin … won’t be able to keep this up for much longer. He’s bound to crack. Prediction: on the witness stand when it comes to that, he’ll cry and cry and cry. Blame everyone from Trump to his mother. Wipe his eyes with his dunce cap.

The rest of the world should declare war on us …

global warming

and take out our current Commander in Chief. Or least take away his cell phone. I certainly wouldn’t blame the world’s other countries for lining up against us if the global disaster called Trump (as rumored) pulls the United States out of the Paris Agreement today. This will put our nation in rarefied company … with only Syria and Nicaragua as fellow non-signators … among the world’s almost 200 countries.

Syria has been busy the last six years, so it is understandable that it hasn’t gotten around to signing. Nicaragua refused to sign because it felt that the Agreement’s regulations were not STRONG enough.

There is also the small independent state of Ijadaiatdgmm near Burptown in Kentucky, which is composed primarily of retired coal miners and Southern Baptists over the age of 50 and which is seeking independence from the rest of America, Ijadaimites believe climate change is a hoax and worry that a reduction in carbon emissions may delay the Rapture. NOTE: Their proposed nation name is an acronym for I’m Just as Dumb and Ignorant as the Day God Made Me. Also not signing are Randy Quaid and his wife, who believe that the Paris Agreement is a veiled attempt to get them to pay back taxes.

Rex Tillerson urged Trump to keep us in the Agreement. So did the current heads of Exxon Mobil and all other oil and gas companies, car companies, etc. (Although that may have been smoke and mirrors to disguise their own guilt in creating global catastrophe.) So did North Fucking Korea for Christ’s sake. But we have a President who emulates Slim Pickens and wants to ride Destruction all the way down while yahooing and waving his combover.

Twice this week I dreamed that Trump’s election had been “fake news” and we had a real President again. Then I woke up.

Just a pic of our Prez and his best buds

trump with best buds

Talking to Russian officials in December when they’ve been accused of interfering in the election on your behalf (possibly an act of war, certainly cybercrime) is a problem. Bad. Just talking to them. Unless it’s to give them shit for their behavior in the last election.

Talking to them in secret. Worse. Somebody might think you had colluded with Russia to sway the last election. And this was partial payment.

Talking to them in secret about creating a secret communications channel so that you can hide the shit you talk about from your own government and intel services. So bad the only thing you can do … if you’re caught … is lie.

Doing all this shit and pretending to forget … no one believes any of the Trump administration folk who omitted Russian contacts … means it’s time to say goodbye to government service. And hello to the possibility of prison.

You can’t explain this shit away … FOX employees who get paid to explain it away are running up huge tabs at the local bars and having trouble sleeping at night. Their little scam (FOX liar for a living) may crumble soon and they might have to become newsmen and newswomen again. Although corporate flackery seems the easier route and the one they are best suited for.

There is a very simple explanation for all of the above behavior. From Jared. From Kelly, Sessions, Manafort et al. Trump and his gang are in bed with the Russians. Politically, financially, legally … i.e., illegally. They have been since well before the 2016 election and Trump, in essence, is now in a copresidency with Putin as regards foreign policy.

A lot of this stuff is criminal. Some of it is treason. But, you know, Obama, her emails. Benghazi, ACORN, 76 trombones and 110 cornets. America, O America.

“I told you, Kellyanne! They all know each other.”

over-office-receptionThis is an amazing photograph, an immediate candidate for the Hall of Fame of “What’s wrong with this picture?”.

Setting aside the happy child’s body language, the delusional Donald probably imagines he is Atticus Finch, who has just finished defending poor one-armed Tom and is receiving a standing ovation from the segregated balcony. Which, unfortunately, makes Kellyanne an aging Scout with miniskirt and cell phone. Oh, well, I guess that’s what passes for grrl power these days among GOPers.

I won’t ascribe thoughts or feelings to the other folks in the picture, but I sure would like to hear them. Not just the angry ones but the derisive ones, too, hear the laughs over drinks. Oh, to be a fly on the wall, later!

This photographic record is yet more evidence why  “surreal” is the OED Word of the Year.

A Look Back at the First Week

 

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Trump’s Emotional Tailspin

During the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency, his psychopathology was already obvious and being remarked upon both behind the closed doors of Congress and openly in the media. This scathing piece was written by a conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin.

In the early 1970s, I remember speculation that Nixon might crack under the pressure of Watergate or that he was exhibiting paranoid tendencies. But I don’t ever remember an assessment of a sitting President’s mental health that was this stark, this declarative of mental illness. Virtually everyone agrees that Number 45 is nuts. And not in a fun, shake-things-up gonzo way. Trump is a very sick man. He should trade in the Armani suit for a think blue robe that ties in back. Or a jacket with the arms tied in front. 

The GOP will keep a sick man in office for as long as they can keep passing their rob-the-people, feed-the-rich agenda through him and around him. Look at Paul Ryan in the clip of the first meeting of 45 with Congressional leaders. He looks like a hungry wolf circling prey. Although I like wolves, so let’s make him a coyote instead. A nipper of carrion. Or, in this case, walking carrion.

Our country and the world is in serious danger every day that a compulsively lying rageaholic madman occupies the White House. We have to resist every day. In every way imaginable short of violence … if things turn violent, we will have a fascist state.

And be prepared for far worse than what we’ve seen. Trump is not capable of controlling himself, behaving differently. He’s too far gone. And his impotent rage at the truth (which continually fails to conform to his fantasy) can only escalate.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/01/24/trumps-emotional-tailspin-was-predictable/?utm_term=.4cfd7011ce6b

One month of Trumpf …

trump-election-protest-los-angeles

I ended the first month of Trump the way I started it: by rallying downtown with a group of like-minded Los Angelenos who don’t believe Trump has any business in the office he occupies and needs to vacate it as soon as possible. There were lots of chants and signs, both witty and moving. My favorite of the funny signs was “IKEA makes better Fake Cabinets,” and the runner-up “Build a wall around Donald Trump and I’ll pay for it. ”

The occasion for today’s rally – there’s an anti-Trump rally every day somewhere, sometimes lots of somewheres – was President’s Day and the theme was “Not My President.” He’s sure not mine. Trump isn’t even a President, really. When he’s asked questions about national policy, he answers with stories about himself. He signs things without reading them.  He pretty much goes where he wants to …. New York, Melbourne, Florida, Mar-a-Lago … which isn’t usually the White House. Although Trump does enjoy spending time in the Oval Office. He likes looking at the pictures.

On the way into the rally, I met a man named Mike. He is a Latino American, a Los Angeles native, and a self-proclaimed “Mexican for Trump.” He was at the southwest corner of City Hall, brandishing a sign announcing his support of Trump and yelling stuff, although Mike has a light voice and no one behind him or in the passing cars could clearly hear what he said. They could read the sign, though, and see his red Make American Great Again cap, and people were pissed. As I was passing Mike, a short Latina in her forties was yelling at him – red-faced – cursing Mike in Spanish. At least I think she was cursing him. I’m pretty sure “Chinga tu Madre” is not a compliment.

I felt like cursing Mike, too, and almost did. But he has a mild manner and I didn’t feel angry (or betrayed as I suspect the Latina felt betrayed). I just felt confused. What happened to Mike? What the hell happens to all Trump supporters, who are voting against their own interests? Who are getting conned?

I stopped and asked Mike why he liked Trump. He said it wasn’t about Trump personally, he liked his policies. He said Trump would create jobs. I told him he wouldn’t create jobs and told him why I thought that was true. I asked MIke if he was a Christian and if his religion was a factor in his support. MIke said he was a Christian but not much of one and I said, good, Trump isn’t either. Mike laughed. Then went on to say that Islam was a dangerous religion and killed people and that was the thing that most concerned him, why we had to keep them all out. Even the ones who helped us fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who will die if they can’t leave? I asked Mike. He said no, we should let them in. On a case by case basis. I asked him about Putin. Mike said he hated him. And the connection with Trump bothered him, but you can’t believe everything you read. I asked Mike what his number one reason for supporting Trump was and he said borders. He wants a wall between himself and the country from whence his parents immigrated, illegally, years ago. And he seemed to think all the homeless people downtown were somehow the result of lax immigration. I told Mike that more than 70% of L.A.’s homeless were black or white and that the percentage of Latinos was small and far less than their percentage in the general population. Mike hadn’t known that.

I asked him his name, told him mine, shook hands, and turned to leave. Mike thanked me for talking to him and said he respected me and my views. I said okay, man, have a good one. I didn’t respect his views, so I couldn’t say that, but I should have told Mike I respected him. It was small of me not to give him that. He’s a nice man – polite in the face of outrage – and it takes cohones to stand alone on that corner with his sign.

Trump Survival Rule #4 – Be Outraged

usa-election-protests

First, they attack and discredit the Media

Massa Gessen has written six rules for survival in an autocracy, which I have reprinted below. Gessen lived in Russia when Putin took control and she has written one of the better books about him: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012). Her other book, Words Break Cement, chronicles the lives and imprisonments of Pussy Riot, Russia’s all-female punk rock protest band that Putin put behind bars.

pussy-riot-arrest

Speaking of which, where are our punk rock protest bands? Where’s the new Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe & The Fish or (for the older set) the new Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Dylan before he went electric? If nothing else good comes from the Trump years, can this – please, finally – put an end to alt and indie and any group consisting of a guy and a girl in everyday clothes with wispy voices accompanied by shit they loaded on their computer and press buttons to play?

Can we please have music with a little viscera behind it. Some unfiltered emotion. Some outrage. Everyone in the culture – and every part of the culture – needs to revolt against what’s happening. In my generation, musicians led the way.

jimi-woodstock-03Trump used his first solo press conference to attack the news. He and his Brietbart boys go after the press every day, which shores up their base (those who watch and only watch Fox) and feeds the resentment we all feel at times when the press covers the wrong things, covers the right things poorly, misses the Big Story.

The Big Story is that Trump’s people are attempting an autocratic takeover of the United States of America. Not only do they want to rule domestically with an Iron Heel, but they also seek to dissolve our traditional foreign alliances such as NATO in favor of an informal collection of fascist or proto-fascist states in Russia, Turkey, hopefully France under Marine Le Pen, Italy, the UK of Brexit, and several South American states. The GOP is letting it happen, picking up loose change along the way and hoping to install Pence if business experiences a turndown and the Market gets shaky.

Putting your head in the sand will not prevent any of this from happening. Or just wanting “to go back to your normal lives.” You don’t have a normal life anymore, sorry, an Assclown got into the White House with foreign assistance and nothing and no one is safe. There is no normal until he’s gone. So stay outraged.

And here – according to Masha Gessen – are a few other things you need to do in order to survive:

Masha Gessen, Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Don’t Blame Trump for Scott Pruitt

MMS25

An EPA enemy to head up EPA is right out of the GOP playbook, which has been in place (to varying degrees) since Ronald Reagan’s first term. In 1980, Reagan appointed James Watt as his Secretary of the Interior, and Watt proceeded to eliminate dozens of environmental regulations and open up the offshore continental shelf to oil drilling. He was combative and insensitive with a sense of humor that Donald Trump might enjoy. One joke that landed Watt in hot water featured “a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple.” I can’t remember whether or not they were entering a bar.

The GOP doesn’t want you to look to the government for anything good. Not your health, your security in old age, public schools, affordable housing, safety in the workplace, a decent wage, parks and lakes and oceans that are clean and beautiful or at least not so poisoned that you are afraid to dip a toe in.

Increasingly, if the GOP sees a chance to make a buck by privatizing (even in areas where they had been loathe in past to tread, such as prisons and war), they have gone for it in a big way. The private prison thing paid off tremendously. Not only has it made a handful of prison privateers incredibly wealthy, it has also helped keep the streets clear of black people, brown people, and unruly youth. The War on Drugs isn’t the only reason that the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population. The other other reason is prisons for profit, which provide an incentive (as opposed to the disincentive of public financing by taxes) to put people away instead of search for alternatives that serve society better. The reason why so many of the prisoners in those places are black or brown is racism.

You can blame Donald Trump for Rex Tillerson at State, Wilbur Clark at Commerce, and Michael Flynn at NSA, who were all appointed for their Russian connections. Jeff Sessions at AG is a campaign reward for Good Ole Jeff bein’ the first Senator to get behind Trump. Mitch McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao at Transportation is a political (and financial move) by Trump. Mitch’s wife will be in a perfect position to effect policy and facilitate bribes that both men hope will flow with any infrastructure or other large public works projects. And flow both ways. Ching ching!

The rest of Trump’s appointments (including probably Betsy Devos) were likely suggested by Pence or the GOP leadership as their usual business as usual: Appoint someone who is actively opposed to the department’s agenda or who will destroy it by neglect. Someone like DeVos kills two birds with one stone (she is a GOP megadonor and has spent her life trying to replace public education with private relgious schools supported by tax dollars). Her brother is Eric Prince, disgraced founder of Blackwater, so maybe she kills three stones. Just in case a private army would come in handy to Trump’s little coterie of fascist dreamers.

Read the book I always recommend on this subject – The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank (2008) – to learn more about the GOP’s destroy-government agenda, which is now entering its 36th illustrious year.

Blame Donald Trump for being an ignorant, incompetent, treasonous. raccoon-handed assclown with his head up Putin’s butt. Blame him for cronies like Flynn and Tillerson and Sessions and anything that comes from Bannon or the other sad Steve.

For the rest of it, blame the GOP. They’re doing the same stuff they’ve done since that day in 1980 when affable Ronnie Reagan appointed obnoxious James G. Watt to piss on Interior. That day when Presidents stopped trying to pick capable people to head up departments with altruistic and socially-agreed-upon agendas and replaced them with The Wrecking Crew.

So that our governments would fail. And their rich corporate friends make a few more bucks.