The Daily Digression, by Paul Iorio.

Friday, November 3, 2017

USA Today has called Paul Iorio a pop music "expert"....Spy magazine called him a "trend-spotter"...The San Francisco Chronicle said he "has an original way of approaching a story"...And Barry Manilow once called him "a wonderful interviewer -- he's good!" (But don't let that turn you off!)  Here's Paul Iorio's official blog:

Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...











THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for November 3, 2017


NEW! My latest story for HuffPost, revealing that Dustin Hoffman assaulted both Anne Bancroft and Katharine Harris. But, as I note, his behavior was typical of an era when rules about sex were different.


JUST UP ON HUFFPOST: DUSTIN HOFFMAN'S "ASSAULTS" -- IN CONTEXT.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for November 1, 2017


"Fight Back!" is the next album by Paul Iorio, slated for release in December 2017.   Here's the lead track, "Fight Back!"  PAUL IORIO'S "FIGHT BACK!"



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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for April 20, 2017


JUST IN:
JUST UP ON HUFFPOST: PAUL ON RADIOHEAD.


A Close Listen to Radiohead's 2017 Tour














Fans buying Radiohead merch in Berkeley last Tuesday (April 18). [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


The current Radiohead tour is hitting only nine North American cities, but the band still managed to squeeze in two consecutive concerts in Berkeley, in between Coachella appearances. Both were knock-outs.

I was amazed at how they now have the stature and resonance of bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead for peeps under 40. Their classic tracks have become pop culture landmarks whose opening notes can trigger hysteria, or at least loud enthusiasm.

Those, like me, who heard both nights heard eight of "OK Computer"'s twelve songs -- a fitting tribute for the twentieth birthday of that landmark album.

Students from the University of California at Berkeley, where the Greek Theater is located, swarmed the hills above the theater (where I heard the show) in almost unprecedented numbers. (Only Hozier and Tame Impala have drawn as many.) And they were jazzed, smiling and joking and laughing like people who hadn't laughed in a while. This -- two sold-out gigs that could be heard full blast for free in the springtime hills above the Greek -- was a treat, and everyone knew it.

Night Two (April 18) was even better than the excellent (but rainy) Night One (April 17). The band served up musical caviar like "Paranoid Android," arguably the greatest melody from any band to have emerged in the post-Beatles era. (The "rain down" part cries out for adaptation and expansion by a symphony orchestra.) Plus, an exquisite "Street Spirit," the band's "Sound of Silence"; and a "There There" that Jonny Greenwood, on fire, turned into a flameball.

And then there was the astonishing final encore, "Karma Police," which had a Cobainish cultish quality. I've never seen a crowd enjoy and need a particular song more in recent memory. Even after the band finished, thousands spontaneously sang "I lost myself, I lost myself."

Peaks were everywhere. "Climbing Up the Walls" made me feel like I was in the middle of a sci-fi horror flick. "The National Anthem" sounded like a song you hear while you're dreaming. "Separator"'s melody caught me by surprise on second listen.

And when Thom Yorke muttered "oh shit" during encore "Give Up the Ghost," Greenwood apparently instantly turned the audio sample into a tape loop, though it was hard to tell at the time what exactly had happened. (Btw, contrary to published rumors, the band did NOT perform "Creep." I have the entire concert on tape, so I know.)

The best new ones, from last year's "A Moon Shaped Pool" album, were "Ful Stop" and the evocative "The Numbers."

On the first night, they wasted no time getting to some of the gold on "OK Computer," bringing out "Lucky" with a whisper that turned into an operatic roar early in the set. Played at a slightly slower pace, it seemed to fly like some sort of prehistoric bird.

Other highlights of the first night included "Everything in Its Right Place," which always has the feel of a cozy overnight transatlantic flight (on an airline other than United, of course!); "Fake Plastic Trees," which never fails to get me choked up; and the uplifting (and rarely played) "The Tourist."

The last time I heard them was at the same venue eleven years ago, when they were road-testing material that would later appear on "In Rainbows." It was a limited-edition tour that I caught twice. At that time, "OK Computer" was a mere nine years old and the word Obama was unknown to most Americans. At those concerts, a star of the set was "Four Minute Warning," the best of the new ones, though oddly later consigned to a bonus disc and never subsequently played live. And "House of Cards" was already embraced as an encore and had everyone clapping along, but is now almost never performed (though they did play it on the second night here). .

In those eleven years, Radiohead has become an even better, tighter live group that has weeded out all irrelevant notes and dead patches. They even creatively filled up the empty space after their opening act with fascinating pre-recorded experimental and atmospheric music (and kept the wait to a half hour).

The opening act was Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis. At their best, they sounded like a combination of R.E.M. and Cem Karaka; at their worst, like the Gypsy Kings. Thoroughly enjoyable set that mixed various middle eastern musical forms with modern rock. (Tass should try a cover of "Paranoid Android.")

Radiohead's U.S. tour ends tomorrow night (April 21) at Coachella; the European leg begins in June.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for February 2, 2017


Berkeley on Fire Last Night
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Sproul Plaza, on the Berkeley campus, on fire on Wednesday night. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


The Berkeley protests against the alt-right's Milo Yiannopoulos -- who offers up a gay version of Ann Coulter on the college lecture circuit -- started out peaceful, but then got violent, scary and volatile on Wednesday night.

From ground zero, where I watched it unfold, it looked like protesters were going to burn down the student center building at the University of California at Berkeley at one point.

That's where Yiannopoulos was planning to speak, at the invitation of the student Republicans, and where he had arrived, amidst loud boos, just before six p.m.

It was around six that the relatively peaceful demonstration -- full of chanting and inventive signs up to that point -- turned violent.

That's when a group of a few dozen, dressed in black, faces covered, stormed the building, dramatically knocking aside metal barricades, smashing windows and lighting fires. The police did very little to stop it, allowing them to blow off steam.

And they started shooting fireworks up at police officers positioned on the second floor balcony of the student union. Fires were set.

At 6:18, after around twenty minutes of violence, there was an announcment by a police officer over a loud speaker or bullhorn: "Attention every one, the event has been shut down."

There were big cheers from the crowd.

"Immediately disperse," said the amplified cop.
"This is an unlawful assembly."

Some demonstrators began to file out of Sproul Plaza. But at 6:26, things took a bad turn. First, there were more extremely loud fireworks that sounded like a bomb, causing people to run in panic and almost trample others.

And then a huge fire lit up Sproul Plaza. (The anarchist contingent burned some sort of lighting equipment.) It truly looked like the building that Yiannopoulos had entered was about to go up in flames.

I asked a police officer whether the fire department was on its way to put out the fire, and he said, "No, it's not safe."

Indeed, it truly wasn't. I've been in protests throughout the world and this was, in many ways, one of the most frightening.



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Earlier in the protest, things were peaceful. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]



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Sproul, filled with smoke from fires. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]

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The crowd grew to around 1,500 people as the protest gained steam. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for December 1, 2016

The Doobie Brothers Kick Off the Holiday Season with a Freebie
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The Doobie Brothers playing "Black Water" on Tuesday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]

The Doobie Brothers set up on California Street in downtown San Francisco for a free outdoor show at twilight on Tuesday.

And they didn't just play a few numbers; they pretty much ran through their greatest hits and then some. At full volume at rush hour in the financial district. And those who got there even slightly early were able to watch from a couple yards away (as I did).

The band performed as a full-bodied six-piece that included not only core original Doobies Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston, but keyboardist extraordinaire Bill Payne (who co-founded Little Feat with Lowell George) and guitar wizard John McFee (who has performed on such classic rock albums as "My Aim is True" and "Mars Hotel").

It was all part of the tenth annual tree-lighting ceremony at 555 California Street. (The concert happened in the plaza just off the street.)

The Doobies took the stage at around six p.m. and wasted no time getting to the hits. "Black Water" had a marvelous folk singalong quality, with McFee, on fiddle, outdoing the original recording; "Listen to the Music" (with NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott joining them onstage) was irresistible; "Long Train Running" was hooky (and that iconic riff was done with acoustic guitars, surprisingly); and Take Me in Your Arms" just simply erupted with energy.

Plus, they did a couple Christmas songs, most notably "Joy to the World."

Afterwards, the gigantic holiday tree (from Shasta, they said) was lighted. Hundreds of people -- and plenty of wowed children -- overflowed from the plaza to the sidewalk to take a look.

The event, dubbed the 555 California Street Tree Lighting, also featured performances by the Dick Bright Orchestra and Pacific Boy Choir, among others.

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Original Doobies Patrick Simmons (l) and Tom Johnston. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]

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Patrick Simmons croons for downtown San Francisco! [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


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The holiday tree at 555 California, seconds after it was lighted. [photo by Paul Iorio]



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for November 15, 2016


I Predicted Trump's Election -- and His Impeachment!

My Journal of the Plague Year

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On May 10, 2016, I predicted both a Trump victory -- and his eventual impeachment


Repeatedly, over the past sixteen months, I warned that Donald Trump would be elected president of the U.S.

"Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States -- and the fourth to face impeachment," I wrote in an electronically-dated comment on Facebook on May 10, 2016, around six months before the election. (Scroll through my timeline at Facebook.com/pauliorio.)

And nearly six-months later, days before the election, I called the electoral tally:

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On November 4, 2016, I predicted unrest would follow Trump's election.


No one else agreed with me.

"Not happening," wrote a good friend in an email. It'll be a Hillary landslide, wrote journalistic colleagues on social media.

And, of course, almost all pollsters and pundits gave no credence to my prognostications.

I also predicted his election on my website The Daily Digression. And in my blogs published by The Huffington Post, I reported an alarming lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton in the very blue San Francisco Bay Area ("Bernie Comes to Town and Doesn't Mention Hillary," October 17, 2016; "Campaign 2016: The View from the Epicenter of Progressivism," February 26, 2016 ).

In fact, as far back as July 7, 2015 -- that's 2015 -- I wrote "a president Trump is not out of the question."

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From 2015, on Facebook.

And I stepped up my warnings in the final week of the campaign.

A tell-tale sign, I noted, was that Clinton was still trying to seal the deal in Michigan days before the election. That was like Trump trying to nail down Texas.

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Another sign: only 30,000 people were drawn to Clinton's election-eve mega-rally in Philly with Jon Bon Jovi, the Obamas and Springsteen performing on his home turf. As I noted with original research, Springsteen drew 80,000 for John Kerry in Madison in 2004.

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Springsteen drew 80,000 for Kerry in the mid-west, but only 30,000 for Clinton on his home turf? Red flag.


How did I catch what almost everyone else missed?

I paid closer attention to the polling of likely voters rather than of all voters.

I saw the enthusiasm of Trump supporters (and the lack of enthusiasm among Clinton backers) as an indicator that his voters would probably turn out in greater numbers.

And I factored in the wisdom of Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity."

But mostly it was just my own political analysis that steered me right.

For example, I thought that Sen. Tim Kaine, as able as he is, was not the running mate to sop up the Bernie gravy of independent voters. On July 22, 2016, I wrote this:

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As I noted, the southern swing state strategy was such a 20th century approach to a 21st century problem.

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The only way to win was to put Sanders on the ticket to galvanize indie voters, I wrote.


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In May 2016, I was already writing that the Dems had lost their best opportunity to beat Trump.


Another thing that tipped me off: my analyses of the vote totals after various primaries. Here's what I wrote on May 3, after the Indiana primary:

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And, finally, I caught a more ambiguous whiff of the zeitgeist during the extraordinarily odd, overly emotional final game of the World Series, days before the election, when things were just starting to shift permanently for Trump. It seemed to me that America was expressing all that emotion for more than just a ball game. Here's what I wrote:

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A Collection of Paul Iorio's Original Photography, 1976 to 2016.






THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 16, 2016


Bernie Comes to Town and Doesn't Mention Hillary?
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Bernie Sanders, after being mobbed by fans, gets into a Mazda on Grove Street in San Francisco on Saturday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


Did Sen. Bernie Sanders really not mention Hillary Clinton by name in a speech in San Francisco on Saturday?

He did repeatedly mention Donald Trump, disparagingly, to robust cheers from a crowd at the headquarters of a local political candidate, Jane Kim. And he did mention Kim, a California state senate candidate for whom he'd come to campaign. But he made no direct reference to Hillary (unless the loud crowd drowned out a stray remark).

There are several possible reasons for the omission. First, Clinton can't lose California on a bet, so he's not needed for her here. Second, her name is likely not a big applause line among these lefties. (In the crowd, I saw no "I'm With Her" signs, but did see a couple Jill Stein buttons.) Or perhaps there's still bad vibes between the two former rivals.

The real reason is probably that he was there specifically for Kim (who, by the way, introduced Sanders by mistakenly saying, "It's an honor to endorse [Bernie]...").

After Kim corrected herself, Sanders took the mike and offered up vintage Bernie-isms about Trump, income equality and affordable health care for all.

"Trump shows... you can be a multi-billionaire, you can have mansions all over the world, but if you...know how to use a corrupt system, you don't have to pay a nickel in federal income taxes," he said, to deafening cheers, whoops and howls.

"When we stand together, and do not allow the Trumps of the world to try and divide us up," we triumph, Sanders said, paraphrasing Kim.

And then more red meat for the deep-blue crowd: "If we were a poor country, yes, I could understand people sleeping out on the street," Sanders said. "But, brothers and sisters, we are not a poor country."

Most in the crowd acted like it was a Bernie rally at the height of primary season. Outside the gathering, a vendor sold Sanders t-shirts. Inside, there were leftover Bernie signs from the campaign.

And it was almost like a scene from "A Hard Day's Night" when Sanders was surrounded by wildly enthusiastic supporters as he exited the venue and tried to make his way across a sidewalk to his modest Mazda at the curb.

I was around an inch away from him, and wanted to mention that I'd interviewed him way back in January 1989 for a newspaper article, wanted to ask whether he might consider heading the Fed or Treasury in a Hillary regime. (Imagine a Socialist signing all our money!)

But I couldn't get a word or a selfie in edgewise as he made it through the aggressive crowd.

Sanders had no bodyguard, no tinted windows, no Lincoln Towncar or limo. And here he was at the tatty edge of the hard-luck Tenderloin district.

When he finally got to the car's passenger seat, he seemed winded and even rolled his eyes as if he had been truly taken aback by the intensity of the crowd.

He drove away, a few fans trailing his car, which briefly stopped at a light at Market Street. From the open window, he waved goodbye and drove off to Mission Street, to another rally, just another Mazda in the mid-day traffic.


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The Sinatra of Socialism, last Saturday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


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A forest of fingers on phones as Bernie appears. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


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Outside the event, on Market Street, a vendor sells Bernie t-shirts while a person completely covered in fabric appears. [photo credit; Paul Iorio]



Saturday, October 15, 2016

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for September 28, 2016



Is There a Clog in Trump's Insult Machine?
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[graphic conceived and written by Paul Iorio using a photo from the documentary "You've Been Trumped."]


Donald Trump, a once-prolific insulter, is starting to recycle his barbs and favorite words.

He recently called a Tulsa cop a "choker." He memorably called Marco Rubio "a light-weight choker" during the primaries, later calling him a "choke artist." Then he called Mitt Romney "a choker and a loser."

Clearly, there is a clog in his insult machine, once so well-oiled and reliable. It appears to be choked up.

During last Monday's debate, he dispensed with insults altogether and instead showed off his new favorite word: "tremendous," which he used a tremendous 13 times.

"You need tremendous stamina," he said, while fighting the sniffles.

"I have tremendous income," he said (though he can't seem to fully fund his own campaign).

"Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials," he said, uncharacteristically using the word as a pejorative.

"Stop-and-frisk had a tremendous impact," he said.

So, everything's "tremendous" now. He's high. Before the nomination, it was all about choking. But no longer.

Of course, his all-time favorite word is "deal," which he said a tremendous twenty four times in the debate.

"The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems," he said.

"That horrible deal with Iran," he said.

"This is one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history."

Of course, if you really want to sound like Trump, these words can be used in tandem (e.g., "The tremendous deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems and choking").

In Trumpland, it's now all about "tremendous deals" -- and the insults are growing more bizarre. At one point on Monday, Trump suggested that a 400-pound man in bed might be responsible for recent criminal cyberhacking.

No word yet on whether Roger Ailes is suing.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for August 16, 2016

Thanks to the hundreds of people who've like and shared my latest story for The Huffington Post, "Don Henley's 'Goddamn' Problem." Read it here:

NEW IN HUFFPOST:don henley's goddamn prob!


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For Polanski's Birthday, My (Mostly) Unpublished Interview With Him on "Chinatown."
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Most of my interview with Roman Polanski has never been published, though I used some of it in articles I wrote for the July 8, 1999, edition of The Los Angeles Times (above).

It's film director Roman Polanski's birthday on Thursday -- he turns 83 -- so what a better time to roll out, for the first time ever, my exclusive interview with him about his landmark picture "Chinatown."

How did I manage to get such a get?

Through back channels, with no publicist, agent or manager involved. And then one day -- December 28, 1998, to be exact -- Polanski left a message on my home telephone answering machine agreeing to talk about the movie.

Here's a link to the message Polanski left on my answering machine:
Polanski msg. on Iorio answering machine (audio)

And here's how I found him and got him to talk:

Using search engines Alta Vista and HotBot -- Google wasn't around yet -- I looked up the phone number of Richard Sylbert, the brilliant production designer of the movie "Chinatown" (and of "The Graduate" "Rosemary's Baby," etc.). But I got the answering machine of his brother Paul Sylbert, who forwarded my message to Richard, who then called me.

For more than 90 minutes, Richard Sylbert and I talked about "Chinatown," a movie on which I'd become an expert -- and it showed. I was bringing up things about the film that even he hadn't noticed.

Sylbert was impressed and so at the end of the interview, he asked, "Do you want Roman's number?" And I said, you bet! And he proceeded to give me Polanski's phone and fax numbers in Paris and said he'd tell the director I'd be calling him.

I said, thanks, and then immediately phoned Polanski, leaving a message on his machine. No return call. I was so disappointed.

Then a week later, there was that message on my answering machine from Polanski, who was vacationing in the Dolomites. I returned the call, confirmed his identity with a few people, asked him a couple questions that only he would know the answer to, and then proceeded to interview him.

Months later, after I interviewed others associated with the film, I wrote and reported articles for The Los Angeles Times on "Chinatown" that, according to a senior features editor at the paper, generated more reader response than any story that had appeared in the Weekend section to date. (The paper even put a photo teaser about the story on the front page, A1.)

Some of my Polanski interview was used for the stories in the Times, but not most of it. Here, published for the first time, is the complete transcript of my conversation with him. There were, of course, no restrictions on what I could ask him -- and, yes, I did question him about his ongoing legal problems related to his fleeing the U.S. while awaiting sentencing for "unlawful sexual intercourse."

The interview took place on December 29, 1998, at 9:55 a.m. (PT). I was in Los Angeles, Polanski was in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy.

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My home phone bill detailing my calls to Polanski and the interview itself! (I've redacted his numbers in France and Italy.)

Paul Iorio: Could you explain [the evolution of “Chinatown”]?

Roman Polanski: The thing that I remember is that I just didn’t want to go to Los Angeles. I had too vivid memories of all those events of 1969 [the murders of his wife and friends by Charles Manson's gang] and didn’t feel like going to work there.

Iorio: Right, right.

Polanski: And besides, I felt really happy in Rome, I was working there and had a great house and friends with whom I worked and it wasn’t interesting to me to go and make a film in Los Angeles.

Iorio: In seeing “Chinatown” again, what really comes across is that you really trusted the audience’s intelligence to an astonishing degree. Like, to introduce a false Evelyn Mulwray –

Polanski: I think that’s probably a mistake I do in all my movies. Otherwise I would have an easier time putting films together.

Iorio: Well, was there ever pressure from people who saw the rough cut of “Chinatown” to make it more obvious?

Polanski: What was it you started to say about Evelyn Mulwray before I rudely interrupted?

Iorio: No, I’m sorry. In the early sequence, Ida Sessions passes herself off as Evelyn Mulwray. Perhaps to a studio person, somebody might think you could lose half your audience with such a –

Polanski: In those times, they allowed more freedom of expression, probably, to the creative people. Nowadays [in the 1990s], it’s all made by the committee and is all predigested and for that reason so insipid. I was lucky enough to work in the times when they trusted more the creative person than [they did] the market researchers.

Iorio: So, “Chinatown” probably couldn’t have been made today [in 1998]?

Polanski: I don’t think it could, actually. It would really have to be someone who has got enough muscle to pull through all those things. Studios now have an enormous amount of various executives who need to justify their existence by meddling into the creative process.

And there’s a great rift between the creative branch and the executive branch. They are sort of envious of not being on the other side. And they call themselves creatives. There wouldn’t be an executive then who would dare to say we have a creative meeting or we’ll send you the creative notes. You receive those “creative notes”; it’s really called so. “After our creative meeting we came up with these five pages of creative notes that we would like you to read.” In those times [the 1970s], no one would actually use that language. The fact that they use it is very meaningful. You understand what I mean?

Iorio: Oh, sure. That they have to label it “creative” because it isn’t.

Polanski: Yeah, they have to label it. It doesn’t [require] a psychologist to figure out why.

Iorio: Veering back to “Chinatown,” was there one point in the making of the movie when you thought, this is turning into a great movie?

Polanski: No, never, no. I finished the film and looked at the rough cut and the rough cut is usually a very depressing moment for the director. It’s close to a suicide at that stage. But even knowing that it’s a difficult moment that will pass, I still was tremendously depressed seeing the rough cut. I showed it to a friend of mine…and I was so ashamed when the lights came up, but he said, “What a great movie!” And I thought, Is something wrong with me that he could be right? Hold on one second.

[Polanski goes to tend to his one-year old child Elvis.]

Iorio: Why didn’t your friend like it?

Polanski: Going back to when you’re looking at the rough cut, you are depressed. It’s because it no longer has the magic of the rushes of the dailies – and it’s not a movie yet….It does not yet have the fluidity of a movie, but does not work as daily material anymore. It’s true with any picture. But a picture that has a very important plot, the way you have to really follow the story, it’s even more difficult to digest in the form of a rough cut….

Iorio: Do you sometimes watch “Chinatown” for personal pleasure?

Polanski: Actually, purely by accident, I watched it a couple of weeks ago because my wife turned on the television and it was playing in French. It was pan and scan and a bad print and I said, “Jesus, what is this?” I didn’t even recognize the movie. So I said, Christ, I must really look it up in the original form. I have a laser disc of it and I put it on and I wanted to watch it for a half hour, but she got excited and we just watched it until the end. So I’m quite familiar with the subject of our conversation! [laughs]

Iorio: What do you think of it today?

Polanski: I like it a lot more now than I did then.

Iorio: In one way, were you trying to tell the myth of Noah’s Ark? With all the references to floods, and the Pig ‘n’ Whistle, and the sheep, there’re mentions of dogs and chickens and fish and albacore and horse sounds that accompany Noah Cross –

Polanski: That is really more Robert Towne. He had a lot of terrific ideas of this sort. I did more of the construction and the shaping of the plot. As they say in Hollywood lingo, “Streaming it.” Also, as far the dialogue is concerned, I worked on the dialogue in a way that people can go crazy because I like to eliminate every unnecessary word.

Iorio: And Towne didn’t like a lot of your changes. I hear that you barred him from the set?

Polanski: No, I never barred him from the set. He just didn’t come because we were no longer on speaking terms anymore by the time I was started the picture.

Iorio: What parts of the actual script are solely yours?

Polanski: [seemingly referring to his previous response] I remember now. When we started shooting the picture, there was no ending. We were arguing about the end and we could not agree….
As you know, Robert [Towne] didn’t want the girl to die at the end; he wanted the bad guy to die. I was adamant about it. I thought that the film would have no weight…

Also, he didn’t want [Jake and Evelyn] to fuck. I said it was important that they sleep together, so it would be more painful when she dies. I did not believe in a happy ending with this type of movie. And I was lucky enough to work with a studio run by an intelligent man [Robert Evans]. So we started without those things…

Then we started coming close to the ending and Bob Evans was asking practically daily, “What’s with the last scene? What’s going to happen? When are you going to write it up?” So I was so busy with shooting and I was finally [pressured] into doing it.

So, I asked Dick Sylbert to build a Chinese street. When went [location[ scouting and there was no Chinatown there whatever. [There was] one street with a few Chinese joints, three or four restaurants and other things. I said, we’ll just pick up that street and he added stuff.

And meanwhile I had to write something down, so I just wrote that last scene the way it is now. And in the evening I went into Jack {Nicholson]’s Winnebago -- trailer they call it now – and I gave him what I wrote down and said, “Fashion it into your speech.” And Jack very quickly jotted and crossed out a few things and then we shot it. It was literally like five to midnight.

And I also wrote the conversation that [Evelyn and Jake] have in bed.

Iorio: The thing that is similar in those two scenes are the words “as little as possible.” So you wrote that.

Polanski: I wrote that but it was Bob’s line. I don’t remember in what context it was, but it was his. A very good line…

Iorio: There must have been some resistance to that ending.

Polanski: No, there was no resistance. Bob Evans really trusted some people and he trusted me. He would discuss it with me, of course, but he was never dictatorial about it. He was like this on “Rosemary’s Baby” and was like this on “Chinatown.”

Iorio: One of the things that makes a lot of your movies work is the point of view, the fact that you put the camera over the shoulder [of a character].

Polanski: Well, that depends on the type of narrative. When it’s a subjective narrative, that’s the way you express it. That’s not the case in a movie like “Tess.”

Iorio: Right, that’s not the case. But several of your films do use that. And “Chinatown” is certainly right over Nicholson’s shoulder –

Polanski: Yes, of course. It’s told from his point of view. The events that happen are really only seen by him. From time to time you cheat a little bit, because it’s difficult to tell this sort of story. But you never show things that happen in his absence.

Iorio: Is it true, I heard this one story where Jack Nicholson once said, “Will you get that camera off my shoulder!”

Polanski: I really don’t recall anything like that. I think it was a bullshit recollection. Jack was one of the easiest actors I’ve ever worked with. Everything seemed natural to him, he never ever interfered with my directorial decisions. The only fight we had was about something else, which had nothing to do with the film. It had more to do with basketball….

….He could stay out till six in the morning and he would be there at eight or nine knowing his lines like nobody else. There was never any kind of problem with him. There was a lot of problems with Faye Dunaway, but never with Nicholson. He was comfortable with any lines. The thing about Jack is, you give him the lousiest line and when he says it it sounds right….

Faye would always try to change things. Some nights I would find some [dialogue[ to remove, and she would say, “Why are you taking It out?!” I’d say, “OK, leave it [in]. It’s not worth the fight.” And she’d come back a half an hour later and say, “Maybe you’re right Maybe we should remove it.” It was like this every day! Or she would try to add something.

Iorio: Do you think the film would’ve been better with Jane Fonda as [Evelyn Mulwray]?

Polanski: No, Absolutely not. I thought [Dunaway] was perfect. Nobody wanted Faye [for that film]. Bob Evans didn’t want her because he told me she was trouble. I knew Faye, she had a fling with a friend of mine, and stayed in my house in Rome for a long time. I knew her for years… did not expect to have any problems, so I fought for her.

And I’m still very happy that we had her, because whatever problems we had on the set, who cares?...What she brought to the picture was really worth it….I don’t think anyone else would’ve done it better. Same with John Huston.

Iorio: Even some of the minor players, they may be on the screen for a brief time, but they’re very vivid. Ida Sessions, Loach…And there’s enormous detail…Were they more fully drawn in an earlier draft?

Polanski: No, they were really done in production, not even in the script….Some of those little players were people from the crew. Like in the barber shop, the line producer –

Iorio: Doc Erickson, the guy in the barber shop.

Polanski: Yeah, Doc Erickson was the line producer. And the other guy, the one actually shaving Jack. He worked for the studio. He was a nice guy, I don’t remember his name, all I remember is I liked him very much. And the guy in the old folks home.

Iorio: Yeah, Jack Vernon.

Polanski: Yeah, Jack Vernon. What happened to him? He was running a boutique on the Sunset Strip.

Iorio: I watched “Cul de Sac” the other night and I noticed some similarities [to “Chinatown”] in terms of the visuals.

Polanski: Well, it’s made by the same person!

Iorio: And I saw “Two Men and a Wardrobe” and there were some parts that pointed visually to “Chinatown.”

Polanski: Well, you know when I make movies, now and then I think I’m original and inventing something really new and then I realize that I’ve done it already two or three times.

Iorio: Is there anything you regret about “Chinatown”? Is there anything you would change?

Polanski: Oh, plenty of things. Little details here and there.

Iorio: Like what?

Polanski: I don’t know, I would have to watch it again. You write, don’t you?

Iorio: Yes.

Polanski: When you read some of your old pieces, there are always bits, even if you still like it, you would change. I can give you an example. The lousy reflection in the lens of his Leica.

Iorio: When he’s filming Hollis and Katherine –

Polanski: When he’s photographing Hollis and Katherine from the roof –

Iorio: At the El Macondo.

Polanski: Yes. I wanted to put [the reflection] upside down and [the reaction was], “No, they will never understand.” Why is it upside down? Because something reflected in the lens is always upside down. Should be upside down, should be slightly concave. Little bits like that.

Iorio: How about parts of the movie that, while you were re-watching it, you said, “This is really good.” What parts impressed you?

Polanski: For example, when [Jake Gittes] comes up to the door [of Evelyn Mulwray’s house] and flat on the door is a very sort of graphic composition. And nothing happens. And we hold that for a long time. I thought that was good.

Iorio: With Khan?

Polanski: Yeah, that’s right. And I like the scene when [Jake] walks out of the Brown Derby and says, “I like my nose, I like breathing through it.” I like that shot with the page going to fetch the car and doing it in two profiles.

[a child is crying in the background]

Polanski: My son, I brought my son.

Iorio: Oh!

Polanski: He’s eight months [old]. I thought it played very well in a profile in one shot. Without cutting to two close-ups. As people would do nowadays.

Iorio: A lot of people still wonder at the Pig ‘n' Whistle, What was that argument about? Was it about the water or was it about Evelyn?

Polanski: It was probably about Evelyn. They had a lot of things to argue about! It’s not necessary to know what they were arguing about….

Iorio: Do you think that your experience, you had a personal tragedy four years before the movie, when you almost had to become a detective, for a time there. Do you think that sort of informed your movie?

Polanski: I can only tell you that every experience helps you with your work. And this did to a certain degree, to which I am unable to tell you how much better the film is because I had certain things happen to me. Whatever you do, you learn, and each next movie has that one layer more to make it richer.

Iorio: Last year, in the newspapers, it was reported that you might be settling the legal problems --

Polanski: Yeah, but how can I with the actual state of the media. I don’t want to become a product, you see, like – I don’t want to give examples, but you know what I mean. Can you imagine what it would entail showing up suddenly in Los Angeles. It would take a long time before the thing called closure happens. And I don’t think I want it now. I have a family to look after, I don’t want to be in every fucking tabloid
.....................


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for August 11, 2016


If you've never heard Guns N' Roses's "Coma" land on a stadium like a led zeppelin, you need to catch GNR on this reunion tour. I heard them last Tuesday in San Francisco and "Coma" stood out as a pre-grunge slab of Sab meets Bloodrock meets Alice Cooper meets Zep giganticism. Just astonishing.

Another highlight was "Out Ta Get Me," wildly fun stuff from "Appetite for Destruction," that double-diamond selling debut that wears exceedingly well in 2016.

All the GNR classics were played and Axl Rose and Slash wasted no time getting to the opening salvo of "It's So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone" and "Welcome to the Jungle."

Nearly 30 years later, they sound a bit like their spawn, The White Stripes, not quite as rockin' as the Stones or the Ramones, but approaching Zep levels at times.

Axl was in fine screech, with vocal chords in better shape than Brian Johnson's, though Rose's voice was never a fine-tuned instrument of subtle modulation. Here, he poured it on as tens of thousands watched him veer from manic to depressive and back again.

Much of the audience wasn't even born when "Appetite" gave the eighties a much-needed jolt of adrenaline. The crowd for AC/DC months earlier was much older. (I remember the first time I heard the band's name -- when Frank Zappa, in one of our many conversations, started raving about a new song called "Sweet Child of Mine." But I digress.)

At this gig, there were lots of blue-collar twentysomethings who looked like they had dreams of joining a Sopranos crew. Other dudes wore Slashish top-hats. The female fans were generally young, buff and weathered. Lots of people wearing GNR merch and t-shirts that read "Pantera"; "Nightranger -- Still Rockin' America"; "Megadeth -- Making Metal Great Again." An unusually high percentage of tobacco smokers, hard liquor drinkers and heteros for a San Francisco event.

Opening band The Struts played a set of enjoyable and very credible hard rock that recalled vintage seventies tunes by the likes of The Faces, Brownsville Station and Uriah Heep. Highlight was "Where Did She Go." Surprisingly strong set.

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for July 23, 2016


The mania for Twenty One Pilots, who I heard perform in Berkeley last night, is off the charts -- and the most notable thing about them. I don't remember the last time I heard an audience shriek that loud and that often for any act.

And their fans -- most of 'em in their late teens, though some as young as six, a crowd that must regard One Direction as elders -- know every word to almost every song and turned this show into a virtual Sing-Along with Twenty One Pilots Night. Even in the hills above the theater, where I heard the gig, fans took over the vocals for such songs as "Tear in My Heart" and "Heavydirtysoul."

The music itself recalls early Arcade Fire and fun., but mixed with reggae and hip hop.

The night's stand-out was "Heathens," their most recent song, released just last month for the soundtrack of the upcoming comic book movie "Suicide Squad." Can't vouch for the lyrics, which are oddly misanthropic, but the melody and music of "Heathens" were haunting and memorable. And the live version is substantially better than the studio track.

Opening act Chef'Special, from Holland, seemed like a band headed for headliner status soon; their sound was assured and solid and the audience loved them. Mutemath wowed, too, with a sound that seemed to start with Death Cab's "I Will Possess Your Heart."



Sunday, July 24, 2016

USA Today has called Paul Iorio a pop music "expert"....Spy magazine has called him a "trend-spotter"...The San Francisco Chronicle said he "has an original way of approaching a story"...And Barry Manilow once called him "a wonderful interviewer -- he's good!" (But don't let that turn you off!)  Here's Paul Iorio's official blog:

Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...













THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for July 23, 2016


Don Henley's "Goddamn" Problem.2016-07-24-1469383837-8242689-henley2.jpg
Henley t-shirts for sale last night at the Greek. [photo by Paul Iorio]


Don Henley blew his top last night.

"If you want rock 'n' roll, you're gonna have to shut up and wait for it," he said angrily to a fan who'd shouted something like "rock 'n' roll!" after Henley unleashed a string of mellow numbers, including a Garth Brooks tune, mid-set on July 23rd.

The crowd at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California, cheered and Henley made good on his promise with a sizzling second half.  

But what was with his self-censorship on encore "Life in the Fast Lane" where he omitted the word "god" from the line "We've been up and down this highway, haven't seen a goddamn thing"?

On playback of my recording of the show, I can hear that he deliberately omits the word "god," leaving a gap and even throwing off the rhythm of the line. He didn't even bother to substitute a slug syllable (like "hot damn thing"). He clearly censored himself -- and took part of the punch out of a great rocker.

Has Henley gone prissy in his old age? Is he growing more Texas and less L.A. with the years?

After the show, I did a bit of research and found that the "goddamn" controversy dates back to 2009, when an Alabama classic rock radio station deleted the word "god" from the song.

The response of the Eagles' Don Felder? "There are people who have extreme religious beliefs that would find it offensive. I can understand why they wouldn't like to hear it," Felder told The Birmingham Weekly, according to Rolling Stone in '09.

Evidently, Henley is quite OK with the censorship of his music by Bible belt broadcasters -- and is even helping them in their holy mission to cleanse the airwaves. (For the record, "goddamn" is not one of the words prohibited by the FCC," as RS noted.)

Despite that off-key moment, the two-and-a-half hour show was mostly enjoyable.

The show-stopper was "The Last Resort," which he knocked out of the park and into the hills above the open-air theater, where I heard the show. Performed only a handful of times in the U.S. by him and the Eagles since its release 40 years ago, the song, in '16, has added resonance in the wake of the refugee crisis and sounds something like the Eagles' crowning masterpiece. (Almost a perfect song, in my view, except for that unfortunate shift in focus to an ecology rant near the end.)

"The Boys of Summer" was another highlight, much more effective than one might expect. And "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" and "How Bad Do you Want It" were lots of fun and had people dancing (even in the hills above the theater, where I heard the concert (but had limited sightlines)).

And the set-closer was touching: "This one's for Glenn," he said, as the piano intro to "Desperado" rang out, referring to his band mate Glenn Frey, who died in January. (Though, frankly, I can't hear it anymore without thinking of that hilarious "Seinfeld" episode!)

Then there were the words that struck fear in the hearts of thousands of fans: "Here's another track from 'Cass County'" -- "Cass County" being his latest album of very average songs.

All told, a solid gig -- despite dead patches and that unnecessary self-censorship.

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The crowd at the not-quite-sold-out Henley show last night. [photo by Paul Iorio]

Wednesday, July 13, 2016



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for July 13, 2016

An Unpublished Interview with a Sit-Com Pioneer Who Died This Week
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A scene from "In the Soup," an episode of "Leave it to Beaver" directed by Norman Abbott. [photographer unknown]

The sit-com was a new invention when director Norman Abbott, who died at age 93 on July 9th, started making them in the early Sixties. And the series he helped to create -- "Get Smart," "Leave It to Beaver," "The Munsters," "Sanford and Son," to name a few -- are among the all-time landmarks of classic television comedy. (Though, to be sure, he never quite eclipsed the legacy of his uncle, Bud Abbott of Abbott and Costello.)

I conducted a one-on-one interview with Abbott in August 1997 for a newspaper article, but ended up not using the interview for the piece. Hence, my audiotaped Q&A with him has been unpublished -- until now. Here's my conversation with him.

Paul Iorio: What is your favorite ["Leave It to Beaver"] episode of all the ones you did? What's the best one?

Norman Abbott: I like the one in the soup cup on the billboard. [The 1961 episode "In the Soup," in which Beaver gets stuck in a giant cup on an advertising sign.]

Iorio: How did that evolve? What about your part in that?

Abbott: We were sitting around talking. I had just come back from New York and was talking about Times Square. And [writers] Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher had also been in New York. And we were talking about the sights. And there was an actual billboard in Times Square -- I think it was a soup cup or a bowl or something with heat coming out of it. And Bob and Joe said, "Let's put Beaver up in one of those cups." It was their idea, based on our kicking around stories about New York City. And that's how it happened.

*************

Iorio: You started directing ["Leave It to Beaver"] in '60, '61?

Abbott: Some time in there. I was working at ABC as a stage manager and my first show was "Bachelor Father" with John Forsythe. And from that show, at the Universal lot, I got the "Leave it to Beaver" job.

Iorio: So you weren't there with the CBS incarnation of the show?

Abbott: It was on ABC initially, I think. Wasn't it?

Iorio: No, actually, I think it was on CBS for one season and then was canceled by CBS.

Abbott: Yeah, that's probably right.

Iorio: For a time, you were the main director, though Norman Tokar --

Abbott: Norman Tokar was the one. Norman Tokar was responsible, really, for the success of the show. The writing was very good. Connelly and Moser did most of the writing. They hired Norman Tokar, who set the style of the show, he was a very gifted director and worked for Disney for many years.

Iorio: Who do you think was most responsible for the character or Eddie Haskell? Because he is the one thing, whenever you bring up the show --

Abbott: I don't know where the character came from...There was no antagonist on the show -- ever. Everyone was a protagonist. No bad guys. And Eddie kind of fit that picture [of an antagonist] a little bit. He was abrasive, he was someone you could bounce off of. And good writing comes from that kind of an attitude.

Iorio: Did you ever think of basing a spin-off show around Eddie Haskell, like "Eddie and the Gang"?

Abbott: No, I don't recall any talk of doing a spin off with Eddie, because Beaver was too important to Bob and Joe.

****************

Iorio: The show was obviously done on a back lot.

Abbott: Yes

Iorio: But my research says there's a house at 1727 Buckingham Road in L.A. that apparently the facade is based on. Was it ever filmed on site?

Abbott: I doubt it very much. The Beaver house was on the back lot. And on a three-day schedule, which is all we had, we had a day of rehearsal, we had a three-day shoot, and time was always of the essence because the boys had to be in school. We would never go off the lot to shoot. Once in a great while, maybe. But, generally, everything had to be done in that three-day period. Because [the child actors] had to have five hours of school everyday. And we only had an eight or ten-hour day to shoot....

Iorio: Everybody always mention how well-crafted the show was. But everybody also mentions that the series had an idealized portrait of suburbia, never a hair out of place --

Abbott: All of that can be attributed to Joe Connelly. Joe came from an Irish-Catholic family and he attributed the good life to his lifestyle. And [Barbara Billingsley's character] was always the epitome of what every mother should be, as far as Joe was concerned. And that in turn cast the perfect husband, understanding to the children. And while we never did anything religious on the show, Joe was staunch in that area...

Iorio: What did you do after "Leave It to Beaver"?

Abbott: We went on to do ["The Munsters"]. There were two writers who worked for us, Norm Liebman and Ed Haas. They worked for Joe and Bob. And Ed Haas was an artist in his heart and would take the trade papers every day and [jokingly] re-do whatever picture was on [the cover]. He would erase the face and put a new one on. That sort of thing.

One day there was a Frankenstein picture in the paper and he redid it with a smile on Frankenstein's face. And -- I remember the day so well -- that's how "The Munsters" started.

He then took the picture to Joe and Bob and said, "Look at this funny thing I did." With no idea they would say, "Hey, that's a good idea for a pilot!" But that's how the "Munsters" pilot started. Exactly as it started. We did a ten-minute presentation, we didn't even do a full pilot. And I had a friend at CBS in charge of programming. And we had two days of shooting. The second day, you couldn't get near the soundstage. Everybody on the lot came down to see what we were doing. And I called my friend at CBS and said, "I don't know what the hell this is, but, my god, you can't get near the place, you'd better send for the film once we finish it." And he did. And it went on the air.

Iorio: "The Addams Family" --

Abbott: That came afterwards.

Iorio: Who was in production first?

Abbott: We were.

Iorio: Did you ever think of doing "Leave It to Beaver" as a feature film?

Abbott: No, never entered my mind. At that time, not many television shows were being done as features....

Iorio: Are you surprised at the durability of these shows (you were involved with]?

Abbott: Well, no, I'm not. My wife and I were discussing what garbage there is currently on television....And here comes material from the past that was strong....That's why the revival has happened.



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 22, 2016


I heard Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros live a week or so ago. Very entertaining stuff.

Two nights earlier, on the same Greek Theater stage in Berkeley, Bob Dylan had done his now legendary cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird," which was just beginning to loom large over the pop culture landscape.

Not only has it gone viral online, but offline, too. At that venue, John McCauley, vocalist for Deer Tick, who opened for Sharpe, said: "It's an honor to be on the same stage on which Bob Dylan performed 'Freebird.'"

Clearly, that cover has resonated. Not quite the Altamont of the 21st century, but very, very close.

Future historians will ask "When did the sixties really end?," and the answer may well turn out to be, "When Dylan played 'Freebird' on the UC Berkeley campus."

I was in the hills above the Greek and so heard the whole Dylan concert (and recorded it, too).

What happened was this: someone in the audience ironically shouted "Freebird" when Dylan finished his final song, "Love Sick." The band, without missing a beat, did a note-perfect cover of the instrumental climax of the Skynyrd song. One minute and fifteen seconds of it, by my stopwatch. It was played almost mockingly, emphasizing only the gaudy parts.

But it was so faithful to the original -- something Dylan never is to his own stuff -- that I initially thought the concert had ended and pre-recorded music was streaming from the speakers. But, no.

In fact, Dylan even ran slghtly over the 10 p.m. cut-off because of his commitment to southern rockin'.

Anyway, the following Saturday, I went to hear Sharpe, who sounded so great that I started recording his set -- and I accidentally recorded over both "Love Sick" and "Freebird."

I was depressed about this for many days, even had several dark thoughts, but I made it through that long night of having recorded over something I wanted to keep. (Call me a survivor of Accidental Erasure Trauma Syndrome (AETS).)

For many days, I didn't even want to look at that tape, so upset I was. But then I started listening to it and began really enjoying Sharpe. Pulled me right out of my funk.

The rap on them is they're sometimes too much fun, too much chocolate cake.

But fun, it is. I mean, they did a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Who Loves the Sun" as if it were a track by the Association or the Turtles. Wonderful version. (Would love to hear 'em do the Turtles' "Love in the City.")

Don't know the names of their songs, but they started with a catchy track that sounded like "I lost my car car car...," went on to something that sounded like early Arcade Fire and then did a melodic thing that slightly resembled Ray Davies' "Well Respected Man."

Sort of reminded me of an obscure Warner band of the eighties called Red Box, who I once championed in the trade press back in the day but who nobody else seemed to like much. Sharpe of course has become way more successful.

Opening acts Deer Tick and Harriet both did terrific sets.


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

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 15, 2016

Spirit's "Taurus" appears to lift its riff from Johnny River's "Summer Rain," which preceded it by a year. Zep's defense team should take note. (Nobody's brought this up yet.)

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

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 10, 2016


Last night at the Greek in Berkeley, Bob Dylan sure made a persuasive case for "Tempest," his 2012 album of originals, which supplied the setlist with more songs than any other album.

And those tracks were the show's highlights, particularly "Long and Wasted Years," which had escaped my notice when it was first released. Here, it was the height of the night. And "Duquesne Whistle" had a lot of swing, got everyone going.

"Tempest" tracks overshadowed everything else, including stuff from his two collections of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra -- like the new single "Melancholy Mood," with the memorable phrase "crack of doom" -- which were evocative of, say, sounds heard on a car radio from a distant station on a late night drive through Kansas in the 1950s.

Still, wish he had chosen to cover forgotten Sinatra classic "Drinkin' Again," or the better known "Let's Face the Music and Dance," tracks even better-suited to his range and sensibility.

Those who came to hear Dylan's gold from the sixties and seventies got only three songs: an unrecognizable "She Belongs to Me," a re-arranged "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Tangled Up in Blue," re-written with new lyrics and a guitar figure that sounded like George Harrison's "Wah-Wah."

But this wasn't about that. The gig focused exclusively on his work of the past two decades, which would be a landmark oeuvre even if he had done nothing else and if "Time Out of Mind" had been his debut album.

Ultimately, I left the show humming the hypnotic "Long and Wasted Years," which felt like faded photos or distant memories of a small town childhood, or a kid's music box. Magic.

And I think everyone did a double take when he finished "Love Sick" with a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird"!


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


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 6, 2016


A few hours ago, I shook hands with Bill Clinton and shot this photo of him in Hayward, California.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 4, 2016


I heard Paul Simon perform last night and am still floating somewhere between Shattuck and assorted cumulus clouds this morning. So invigorating that I might take in a second dose tonight.

And I've seen him all different ways over the decades: with Simon & Garfunkel (1980), on opening night of the "Graceland" tour at Radio City Music Hall with (among others) Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who I've seen perform from three yards away (doing "Beautiful Rain") and whose leader, the late Joseph Shabalala, I spent time with one on one in the 1980s.

And then there was the time Paul Simon stood right next to me at the Brill Building in '87 (there was a performance going on, so I couldn't exchange words with him). Oh, and I also was the first trade reporter to write about a new album called "Graceland" in August 1986, back when it was considered anything but a sure hit. (Thanks to Liz Beth Rosenberg for slipping me an advance copy all those years ago!)

On the list of songwriters I admire, he's right up there with Dylan and McCartney, which is to say at or near the top of Everest.

This concert, coming on the day his new album, "Stranger to Stranger," was released, was as good as recent Simon gets. And, as he loves to say in interviews, the rhythm is central to everything,

I left the Greek Theater feeling like I'd been to the Andes, the Amazon, Capetown and the French Quarter in one night. And if you can resist dancing to his live version of "That Was Your Mother," then you're a better person than I am.

What is so fascinating after so many decades is that "Graceland" has become so central to his set -- the crowd roared when it heard those first words, "She's a rich girl" -- eclipsing even some of the Simon & Garfunkel oeuvre Who would've guessed that Simon could give concerts that included only two or three S&G songs without the crowd feeling shortchanged?

Here he did "The Boxer" as a country-ish song -- as if he were about to do it Johnny Cash-style, which might've worked. And when it came to that magnificent horn part, all I could think of was that incredibly moving performance of it on SNL after 9/11, the camera panning across the faces of firefighters. I get choked up every time I hear it.

Other highlights included his surprisingly strong new single, "Wristband"; "The Obvious Child," which just leaps out of the speakers; "You Can Call Me Al," which got everyone going; the jazzy coda of "Cool Cool River"; the doo-wop echoes at the end of "Boy in the Bubble"; an instrumental "El Condor Pasa" segueing into "Duncan." (Hearing him sing "playing my guitar/lying underneath the stars" as the stars in the hills above the Greek Theater (where I heard the show) emerged was a special thing.) And "Me and Julio" -- fresh as an evergreen.

Yeah, I'm going back tonight!


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



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 2, 2016




I went to the gargantuan Bernie Sanders rally in Oakland on Monday. Got there four hours early and the line was already so long that nobody actually knew for sure where the end was. Didn't get in. But outside, it was wild. Here're a couple anti-Trumpsters.

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[photo credit: Paul Iorio]


And here's a Sandernista in a Bernie dress!

2016-06-02-1464879903-9049288-bern2.jpg

[photo credit: Paul Iorio]

Monday, June 6, 2016

USA Today has called Paul Iorio a pop music "expert"....Novelist Harry Crews called him a "damn good writer"...Spy magazine described him as a "trend-spotter"...The San Francisco Chronicle said he "has an original way of approaching a story"...And Barry Manilow once called him "a wonderful interviewer -- he's good!" (But don't let that turn you off!)  Here's Paul Iorio's official blog:

Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...
















THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 6, 2016


A few hours ago, I shook hands with Bill Clinton and shot this photo of him in Hayward, California.


2016-06-06-1465255335-21744-clinton1.jpg


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

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 4, 2016


I heard Paul Simon perform last night and am still floating somewhere between Shattuck and assorted cumulus clouds this morning. So invigorating that I might take in a second dose tonight.

And I've seen him all different ways over the decades: with Simon & Garfunkel (1980), on opening night of the "Graceland" tour at Radio City Music Hall with (among others) Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who I've seen perform from three yards away (doing "Beautiful Rain") and whose leader, the late Joseph Shabalala, I spent time with one on one in the 1980s.

And then there was the time Paul Simon stood right next to me at the Brill Building in '87 (there was a performance going on, so I couldn't exchange words with him). Oh, and I also was the first trade reporter to write about a new album called "Graceland" in August 1986, back when it was considered anything but a sure hit. (Thanks to Liz Beth Rosenberg for slipping me an advance copy all those years ago!)

On the list of songwriters I admire, he's right up there with Dylan and McCartney, which is to say at or near the top of Everest.

This concert, coming on the day his new album, "Stranger to Stranger," was released, was as good as recent Simon gets. And, as he loves to say in interviews, the rhythm is central to everything,

I left the Greek Theater feeling like I'd been to the Andes, the Amazon, Capetown and the French Quarter in one night. And if you can resist dancing to his live version of "That Was Your Mother," then you're a better person than I am.

What is so fascinating after so many decades is that "Graceland" has become so central to his set -- the crowd roared when it heard those first words, "She's a rich girl" -- eclipsing even some of the Simon & Garfunkel oeuvre Who would've guessed that Simon could give concerts that included only two or three S&G songs without the crowd feeling shortchanged?

Here he did "The Boxer" as a country-ish song -- as if he were about to do it Johnny Cash-style, which might've worked. And when it came to that magnificent horn part, all I could think of was that incredibly moving performance of it on SNL after 9/11, the camera panning across the faces of firefighters. I get choked up every time I hear it.

Other highlights included his surprisingly strong new single, "Wristband"; "The Obvious Child," which just leaps out of the speakers; "You Can Call Me Al," which got everyone going; the jazzy coda of "Cool Cool River"; the doo-wop echoes at the end of "Boy in the Bubble"; an instrumental "El Condor Pasa" segueing into "Duncan." (Hearing him sing "playing my guitar/lying underneath the stars" as the stars in the hills above the Greek Theater (where I heard the show) emerged was a special thing.) And "Me and Julio" -- fresh as an evergreen.

Yeah, I'm going back tonight!


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



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 2, 2016




I went to the gargantuan Bernie Sanders rally in Oakland on Monday. Got there four hours early and the line was already so long that nobody actually knew for sure where the end was. Didn't get in. But outside, it was wild. Here're a couple anti-Trumpsters.

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[photo credit: Paul Iorio]


And here's a Sandernista in a Bernie dress!

2016-06-02-1464879903-9049288-bern2.jpg

[photo credit: Paul Iorio]
USA Today has called Paul Iorio a pop music "expert"....Novelist Harry Crews called him a "damn good writer"...Spy magazine described him as a "trend-spotter"...The San Francisco Chronicle said he "has an original way of approaching a story"...And Barry Manilow once called him "a wonderful interviewer -- he's good!" (But don't let that turn you off!)  Here's Paul Iorio's official blog:

Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...
















THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 6, 2016


A few hours ago, I shook hands with Bill Clinton and shot this photo of him in Hayward, California.


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

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 4, 2016


I heard Paul Simon perform last night and am still floating somewhere between Shattuck and assorted cumulus clouds this morning. So invigorating that I might take in a second dose tonight.

And I've seen him all different ways over the decades: with Simon & Garfunkel (1980), on opening night of the "Graceland" tour at Radio City Music Hall with (among others) Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who I've seen perform from three yards away (doing "Beautiful Rain") and whose leader, the late Joseph Shabalala, I spent time with one on one in the 1980s.

And then there was the time Paul Simon stood right next to me at the Brill Building in '87 (there was a performance going on, so I couldn't exchange words with him). Oh, and I also was the first trade reporter to write about a new album called "Graceland" in August 1986, back when it was considered anything but a sure hit. (Thanks to Liz Beth Rosenberg for slipping me an advance copy all those years ago!)

On the list of songwriters I admire, he's right up there with Dylan and McCartney, which is to say at or near the top of Everest.

This concert, coming on the day his new album, "Stranger to Stranger," was released, was as good as recent Simon gets. And, as he loves to say in interviews, the rhythm is central to everything,

I left the Greek Theater feeling like I'd been to the Andes, the Amazon, Capetown and the French Quarter in one night. And if you can resist dancing to his live version of "That Was Your Mother," then you're a better person than I am.

What is so fascinating after so many decades is that "Graceland" has become so central to his set -- the crowd roared when it heard those first words, "She's a rich girl" -- eclipsing even some of the Simon & Garfunkel oeuvre Who would've guessed that Simon could give concerts that included only two or three S&G songs without the crowd feeling shortchanged?

Here he did "The Boxer" as a country-ish song -- as if he were about to do it Johnny Cash-style, which might've worked. And when it came to that magnificent horn part, all I could think of was that incredibly moving performance of it on SNL after 9/11, the camera panning across the faces of firefighters. I get choked up every time I hear it.

Other highlights included his surprisingly strong new single, "Wristband"; "The Obvious Child," which just leaps out of the speakers; "You Can Call Me Al," which got everyone going; the jazzy coda of "Cool Cool River"; the doo-wop echoes at the end of "Boy in the Bubble"; an instrumental "El Condor Pasa" segueing into "Duncan." (Hearing him sing "playing my guitar/lying underneath the stars" as the stars in the hills above the Greek Theater (where I heard the show) emerged was a special thing.) And "Me and Julio" -- fresh as an evergreen.

Yeah, I'm going back tonight!


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



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for June 2, 2016




I went to the gargantuan Bernie Sanders rally in Oakland on Monday. Got there four hours early and the line was already so long that nobody actually knew for sure where the end was. Didn't get in. But outside, it was wild. Here're a couple anti-Trumpsters.

2016-06-02-1464879241-1378875-bernie.jpg

[photo credit: Paul Iorio]


And here's a Sandernista in a Bernie dress!

2016-06-02-1464879903-9049288-bern2.jpg

[photo credit: Paul Iorio]

Friday, May 27, 2016

USA Today has called Paul Iorio a pop music "expert"....Novelist Harry Crews called him a "damn good writer"...Spy magazine described him as a "trend-spotter"...The San Francisco Chronicle said he "has an original way of approaching a story"...And Barry Manilow once called him "a wonderful interviewer -- he's good!" (But don't let that turn you off!)  Here's Paul Iorio's official blog:

Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...

PAUL IORIO'S OTHER WEBSITES:
- Homepage: paulliorio.blogspot.com 
- Paul's original photography:  paul's photos
- Paul's main music site (w/lyrics) pauliorio.blogspot.com
- MP3s of Paul's songs: soundclick.com/pauliorio
- Audio excerpts of Paul's interviews with pop culture icons
Paul interviews Anastasio first (Jan. 1989) & Paul interviews Pulitzer photographer

All posted text on this website was written solely by Paul Iorio.



____________________________________________________________________

Also check out my Facebook wall at Facebook.com/pauliorio for
the very latest postings by me!

(By the way, I'm just beginning to post the original paper editions of
my work over the decades. Here's the website:
paper editions of Paul's work!

VIDEO OF PAUL IORIO PERFORMING AND TALKING ABOUT HIS SONGS.
(click this link!)

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



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for May 27, 2016



Last night, a group of guys exited the Above and Beyond concert at the Greek Theater joyously, drunkenly singing "Blue Sky Action" all the way to Centennial Drive. They and the rest of the crowd really enjoyed the band's show -- and for good reason. It's tuneful, sometimes sonically magical stuff.

Their sound is like musical theater in a range between Jonathan Larson and Andrew Lloyd Webber, a refreshingly pre- (or perhaps post-) hip hop sensibility.

And "Blue Sky Action" was only one of the highlights, which also included oldie "Good for Me"; crowd-pleaser "Sun and Moon"; "Alone Tonight"; "Peace of Mind"; "On My Way to Heaven"; and "Satellite/Stealing Time."

The band basically played its next album, "Acoustic II," slated for release next week, minus "Alchemy" and plus around a half dozen other tracks.

Frankly, I'm unfamiliar with the EDM versions of these songs, which are hard to imagine that way since they work so naturally acoustic. Great to hear them full blast from my perch in the hills above the theater!

There were a couple derivative patches (on songs like "Miracle," it sounds like they want to break into the chorus of the Cranberries' "Linger"; "Hello" comes a bit too close to Pink Floyd), but for the most part it's their own brew, and quite intoxicating too.

Opening was Solomon Gray.

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



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for April 26, 2016


JUST IN: The Huffington Post has just published my photos and review of last weekend's concerts by The 1975, Chris Stapleton, Wolf Alice, Anderson East and the Japanese House. Click here to check it out:



IN HUFFPOST: PAUL IORIO ON COACHELLA ACTS.


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


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for April 24, 2016


Once Again, Coachella Comes to Berkeley!
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The 1975, performing in Berkeley on April 22nd. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


As it did last year, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival came to Berkeley, California, over its final weekend.

Top acts performing on the festival's closing day also played in Berkeley for the opening nights of the 2016 Greek Theater season.

Chris Stapleton, The 1975 and Wolf Alice, appearing at the Greek on April 22 and 23 (and at Coachello on the 24th), dazzled the fanatical crowds, but many probably came away thinking about...Wolf Alice.

Wolf Alice, a London group fronted by 24-year old Ellie Rowsell, rocked like a band on its way to becoming as big as Florence and the Machine, judging from the wild response to their opening set for The 1975.

Rowsell has an enormously attractive vocal style and the greatest shriek this side of Florence Welch. Melodic and rocking, with a sound redolent of folk-grunge, The Decemberists, Death Cab, even the Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath and CCR. (And they seem to know full well what makes Sab swing; just check out "Moaning Lisa Smile.") The best set I've heard by an opening act since Lucius's show last year.

But the crowd that night was, of course, there for The 1975 -- and were they ever! High decibel screaming for the band soon turned into a crowd control problem in the front rows.

After the fourth song, an oldie called "So Far (It's Alright)," vocalist Matthew Healy spoke to the mob.

"Everybody takes three steps back right now," Healy told his fans. "Can you breathe? Don't kill yourselves."

Then he launched into "Change of Heart" from the band's latest album, the number one (on both sides of the pond) "I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It."

By mid-set, it was clear they probably should've called themselves The 1985, because their sound is sometimes somewhere between INXS and late Talking Heads, with echoes of the Average White Band and smooth jazz. (There was even an extended mellow sax interlude on "Me.")

Funkier live than on recordings, the band had lots of people dancing (even in the hills above the theater, where I heard most of the show and Stapleton's set).

Highlights included "Menswear," from their first album, and "Somebody Else," from the new one.

Opening the triple bill, during a light spring rain that brought out loudly chirping birds, was a promising British band called The Japanese House, fronted by Amber Bain, who is apparently still a teenager and has been collaborating with The 1975. Her aesthetic starting point seems to be Lorde, though she also appears to have been influenced by Tears for Fears. Worth checking out.

The next night, country superstar Stapleton headlined, drawing an overflow crowd that lined up for around a quarter mile, north and south of the venue, hours before he took the stage.

Playing a set that was mostly covers -- unusual for a performer known as a hit songwriter -- Stapleton closed with a soulful and poignant version of Prince's "Nothing Compares With You."

Unfortunately, some of the crowd had already exited the Greek early and missed it.

The probable reason for the exodus -- the biggest early exit of fans I've seen at the theater since The Lumineers' disappointing show in 2013 -- was that parts were downright tedious (e.g., for what was something like fifteen minutes, he introduced the names of bandmates in the form of a sketchy song). (This was the opposite of, say, Hozier's 2015 concert at which the crowd actually expanded as his show progressed.)

Don't get me wrong: the best of Stapleton's show -- his rendition of Waylon Jennings' "Ain't Living Long Like This," for example) -- was as masterful as anything in country music today.

And I enjoyed the unpredictability of his set, which included songs that he performed for the first time or rarely ("Hard Living," Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings") and lots of quirkiness.

But there were too many dead patches for a set that strained to reach the ninety minute mark.

Opening was country singer Anderson East, whose biggest hit, "Satisfy Me," bears a strong resemblance to Smokey Robinson's "My Girl" -- a point implicitly driven home when East joined Stapleton for a cover of that soul classic later in the night. Elsewhere, he sounded like the Richard Manuel part of The Band (minus the falsetto) -- and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

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Chris Stapleton t-shirts being sold at the Greek on April 23rd. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


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The 1975, encoring in Berkeley last Friday night. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for April 17, 2016

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I want to thank all the editors who considered and had nice words about my unpublished interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The thing is, I'm really intent on having it published in its complete long-form -- because it's that good, a meaty twenty-page Q&A transcribed almost verbatim from my audiotape. The interview reads like two tennis pros hitting balls to each other. (Obviously, I do NOT put myself at Ferlinghetti's level, but, by the time of this interview, I had developed a high level of expertise on "Howl," the main subject of my interview, and it reads like it.)

So, considering I want it published in its entirety, I'm self-publishing it now. Here it is, for the first time, my fully transcribed one-on-one Q&A with Ferlinghetti.


Paul Iorio's Exclusive Interview with Ferlinghetti -- Finally Published.
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Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights bookstore, earlier this year. [photo credit by Paul Iorio]

Sixty years ago next month, Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" was first published.

It initially appeared in a mimeographed edition on May 16, 1956, and had a print run of a few dozen copies.

The subsequent edition, published months later by City Lights Books -- titled "Howl and Other Poems" -- would go on to sell around a million copies, but only after it had become the subject of a landmark obscenity trial the following year.

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights, published "Howl" in November 1956 and was soon arrested by the local police department for selling it, charged (along with bookstore clerk Shig Murao) with selling obscene material. (He was later acquitted of all charges. Today, of course, the poem is considered a landmark of twentieth century literature.)

On August 29, 2000, Ferlinghetti and I talked, in an exclusive one-on-one interview, about many aspects of "Howl."

At the time of the interview, I had just finished a year of immersion in the subject, beginning in late 1999 when I did a massive amount of research on Ginsberg for a story that ran in The Washington Post on May 7, 2000. I then did further copious research for a piece I was writing on the first public reading (at San Francisco's Six Gallery) of the poem; that story appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 28, 2000.

So, by the time I got around to interviewing Ferlinghetti, I had become something of an expert on the poem and had come up with around two hundred questions I wanted to ask him!

My Q&A with Ferlinghetti began at around 5:30 p.m. on the 29th at his office at City Lights. We then continued talking as we walked around North Beach together to a restaurant called Tosca. There, a little after 6 p.m., the two of us took a back table and talked for an hour.

I recorded the entire conversation on an audiotape that I still have.

The whole interview had never been fully transcribed until March 2016 and has never been posted or published anywhere until now.

Only 225 words of the nearly 5,000-word conversation have ever been published anywhere. (I used those 225 words in that Chronicle story, which has since become required reading at ivy league and other universities worldwide. Years later, my story was quoted and cited in Jonah Raskin's book "American Scream.")

This transcript here has been only lightly edited and runs for nearly 4,000 words, drilling deeper into aspects of "Howl" than most journalists and scholars have gone before.

Nobody else was present at the 90-minute interview (though Ferlinghetti's City Lights associate Nancy Peters came in to get him in the final fifteen minutes). (In those last minutes, she sat with us and briefly spoke with Ferlinghetti a couple times.)

Here's the transcript. To paraphrase William Carlos Williams: Hold on to your hats and gowns, we're going deep into Ginsberg's hell.

Paul Iorio: I'd like to start at the beginning with when you met Allen Ginsberg. I heard that he strolled into City Lights and...

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Someone's imagination added the stroll! [laughs]

Iorio: He lived in the neighborhood, didn't he? He lived at 1010 Montgomery.

Ferlinghetti: That was later. Let me begin at the beginning. I was in France on the G.I. Bill getting a doctorate at the Sorbonne and I didn't know any American poets. I was living with a French family ...and while the Beats were at Columbia University and in Times Square and hitchhiking around the country, I was doing that in France. I wasn't a member of the original Beat group...

Iorio: You were slightly older than them.

Ferlinghetti: Yeah, except [William] Burroughs was much older. Yeah, I was seven years older than [Allen] Ginsberg, five or six years older than [Jack] Kerouac. So, I came to San Francisco and started City Lights with Peter D. Martin in June 1953 and naturally I started meeting poets because poets naturally congregate at bookstores. And it was just a couple years after we got started that Ginsberg came through, I think he'd been in Mexico, came up from Mexico and hadn't met Peter Orlovsky by then, who became his steady boyfriend. He'd been in San Francisco a few weeks or months before he came around to City Lights. Must have been in '55.

Iorio: Right, some would say August 1955. I went through [Ginsberg's] journals and he stayed with the Cassadys in San Jose in June ’54 and then Carolyn Cassady kicked him out in August '54, at which point he moved across from City Lights. Did you see him in the neighborhood at any point --

Ferlinghetti: No, I never saw him till he came into the bookstore. At that point, I was living on Potrero Hill, I was married and leading a bourgeois life and didn't stay down in North Beach at night much. So I didn't meet him until he came in the store with his manuscript.

Iorio:...Ginsberg showed you poems early on at that first meeting. Do you remember what poems he showed you?

Ferlinghetti: He showed me "Howl" -- that was the first thing I saw. Where did you get the information that he showed me earlier poems?

Iorio: The Michael Schumacher book “Dharma Lion.”

Ferlinghetti: Schumacher never interviewed me. There is so much erroneous information in the biographies. Ann Charters was the first Kerouac biographer. She knew him personally and it was much more direct and first generation, whereas the later biographers were a generation or two removed.

Iorio:....A couple books say that you turned down early poems by Ginsberg.

Ferlinghetti: Much later, he showed me earlier poems that were published after that under the title “Green Automobile.”

Iorio: The fourth part of “Howl,” am I right? "Green Automobile" was originally the fourth part of “Howl”?

Ferlinghetti: No. Where did you get that?

Iorio: That’s in a book by --

Ferlinghetti: Totally wrong!...It’s not at all in the same style. I don’t see how it could possibly be seen as the fourth part.

Iorio: When he showed you that first draft of "Howl," what did you think?

Ferlinghetti: It wasn't a first draft. He considered it ready to publish. It was a final draft. And he had already produced a mimeographed edition typed by Kenneth Rexroth's wife, Marthe Rexworth, who was working at San Francisco State at the time, and she typed this mimeographed version. Which is very rare. Rare bookdealers get more for it than they do for our first editions of "Howl" in the City Lights series. Twenty copies or something like that [Note: Ferlinghetti appears to be factually wrong here about the date of the mimeographed edition; that first "Howl," according to multiple sources, is dated May 16, 1956.] By the time he came to City Lights and gave me the manuscript to publish, it was what he considered final form.

Iorio: Schumacher says that you rejected that version.

Ferlinghetti: No.

Iorio: What he wrote in "Dharma Lion" is that City Lights didn't have the money to do it. But I guess not.

Ferlinghetti: [nods no] When I read it, I immediately saw that it was totally new, there was nothing like that up to that point. At that time, poetry was very academic and the king of the poetry mountain was Karl Shapiro, who was editor of Poetry, Chicago. He turned into an academic with many years at U.C. Davis after that. So, it was a real academic poetry scene before "Howl" [which] sort of kicked the sides out of everything, the way when the rock 'n' roll revolution started in the Sixties, cool jazz just disappeared. So when he gave me the manuscript, I first said, "We don't have any money right now, but soon." Then the "Howl" reading at Six Gallery was like two nights later.

Iorio: So, that would place it in October....Now, the Six Gallery thing, Ginsberg was organizing it. Did he approach you? He probably wanted you to read, didn't he? "Pictures of the Gone World" had already come out --

Ferlinghetti: Yeah, but I wasn't one of his gang. I wasn't one of his group at all. He sort of considered me like a square bookshop owner. In Kerouac's book "Big Sur," which he wrote in my cabin at Big Sur much later when he old and alcoholic, he has a character in there that's supposed to be me. I think the character is called Mendez Monsanto [note: it's actually Lawrence Monsanto], which is my maternal grandfather's [last] name. But in that book, Kerouac's picture of me is as a genial businessman. I wasn't in the inner circle at all. I wasn't invited to read at the "Howl" reading because I wasn't really known as a poet. I think "Pictures of the Gone World" might not even have been published. [Note: "Pictures of the Gone World" had been released a couple months earlier.]

Iorio: Of course, you went on to outsell --

Ferlinghetti: I mean, I was totally straight, I was married living this bourgeois life and I wasn't one of them. They were this wild gang of dope-smoking, etcetera.

Iorio: The story has it that [on] October 13, the reading at 6 Gallery, you invited everyone to get in the car, everyone was going over to this Friday night reading, you and your wife invited Kerouac and Ginsberg to drive over in your car.

Ferlinghetti: Yeah, we had an old Aston Martin, my first car I ever owned, I bought second-hand. Little tiny car and there were three or four in the back. Maybe there were three: Kerouac, Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky.

Iorio: I'm trying to picture it. So, they came in from Berkeley.

Ferlinghetti: Yeah.

Iorio: They must've taken the BART [train] --

Ferlinghetti: There was no BART then.

Iorio: But they were living on Milvia [Street in Berkeley] --

Ferlinghetti: There was only one level on the Bay Bridge. There were trains on the other level on the Bay Bridge. They probably came over on the train.

Iorio: And then they met you at City Lights.

Ferlinghetti: Yes. I think so. I was living in Potrero Hill. Maybe I picked them up somewhere...

Iorio: According to Ginsberg's journals, he was living on Milvia Street at this point.

Ferlinghetti: Oh, that was in Berkeley, in the cottage.

Iorio: Yeah, cottage. He wrote that poem, you know, in "Reality Sandwiches." Kerouac was staying with him just for the weekend.

Ferlinghetti: Kerouac never really lived here except for short periods when he worked on the Southern Pacific as a brakeman. And he lived in a hotel down by the old Southern Pacific railroad station, which is near the ballpark [AT&T Park]. Near Third and Townsend.

Iorio: So, you're driving, you're in the Aston -- and what's it like driving over there? Was Ginsberg drunk already? Or Kerouac? Was there joking?

Ferlinghetti: Allen was never drunk. He was too intent on his career to be drunk that night. He was such a master publicist, besides being a genius poet and a genius performer. Really a master of performance. You ever hear his records?

Iorio: Yeah, I've heard him perform a few times.

Ferlinghetti: He could really turn the audience on. But anyway, did you read in one of the biographies, did they reproduce the postcard announcement for the Six Gallery reading?

Iorio: Yeah. "Six poets at Six Gallery, angels coming to --"

Ferlinghetti: Yeah. The last two words were so perfectly Ginsberg: "charming event." [laughs]

Iorio: [laughs] That's him!

Ferlinghetti: I don't know how many postcards he sent out, probably not more than ten or twenty. Who knows how many. Wish I had one.

Iorio: That would be great for the art [for my story]....I want to focus. So, you're driving and you arrive at Six Gallery. It's Cow Hollow, it's a forty minute walk [from City Lights], it's a ways away. When you get there, what's it like? Are there people outside?

Ferlinghetti: No, it wasn't that big a crowd.

Iorio: Seventy-five people or so?

Ferlinghetti: Oh, there weren't that many. I would say, forty at the most. Thirty five.

Iorio: Really?

Ferlinghetti: Oh, yeah. It was a small garage.

Iorio: In a space like what?

Ferlinghetti: There was a small storefront and a garage, really, and it had a cement floor. I think the building's pretty modern now. Have you ever been around there?

Iorio: Oh, yeah. I've been there, but I've not been in.

Ferlinghetti: It's a low ceiling. And it's no bigger than the back part here [points to a small area at Tosca].

Iorio: Was there a stage?

Ferlinghetti: A little tiny stage. Could've been an improvised stage. Must have been raised up somewhat.

Iorio: So, it wasn't just a podium there.

Ferlinghetti: It was supposed to have been an art gallery...but a totally alternative art gallery....

Iorio: So, where did you sit at the reading?

Ferlinghetti: My wife and I sat somewhere in the audience. I wasn't involved in it, so I was a specatator. They didn't consider me one of them.

Iorio:...Now, Kerouac's role at the Gallery has been written about...Everyone says he was sitting on the platform, or sitting near the platform.

Ferlinghetti: Yeah, probably near the platform. The platform wasn't so high that he couldn't sit on the edge of it. He was sitting on the edge of it. He had a jug of red wine, I remember that.

Iorio: Was he taking collection for...

Ferlinghetti: He was passing the jug of red wine around. And I didn't smell any dope there, I don't think anyone was smoking dope....It was the end of the bohemian period, nobody used the word Beat then. When I arrived in San Francisco, I was the last of the bohemian generation. When I came from Paris, I was still wearing my beret. That's what bohemians wore. And when the word "Beat" started being used -- Herb Caen coined it, "Beatnik," as a real square way to put down poets, that's the way I looked at it. And that's the way the other poets looked at it. It was like a put-down. It was at the time of Sputnik, so it was slightly derogatory, you see. I didn't know a single Beat poet that didn't hate the term and didn't hate being called a Beat. Allen sort of developed it, being the master showman and publicist that he was. There wouldn't have been any Beat generation recognized as such if it hadn't been for Allen. He created it out of whole cloth, really. Without Allen, it would've been just separate great writers in the landscape. It wouldn't have been known as the Beat generation. He was the one who put it all together.

Iorio: Something like an agent, almost.

Ferlinghetti: He was fantastic. He never missed an opportunity. When he got famous and started crawling around the world, every city he went to, he had this enormous address book, he had the phone numbers and names of every important press person in that city. And he called them all up.

Iorio: He had a list he sold "Howl" to, eventually, that included Charlie Chaplin and Marlon Brando.

Ferlinghetti: Oh, sure.

Iorio: So, did you ever hear back from those guys?

Ferlinghetti: I didn't, but I'm sure he did. He heard from a lot of them.

[A City Lights associate shows up and he tells her the interview will continue for another fifteen minutes. Ferlinghetti orders a Bass Ale beer.]

Iorio: Wondering about Jack Kerouac sitting on that platform and shouting encouragement. What kinds of things was he doing?

Ferlinghetti: All I remember him shouting was "Go!"

[A waiter brings him a beer.]

Iorio: And the audience joined in with Kerouac?

Ferlinghetti: Yeah. Like I said, it wasn't 75 people, it was more like 30, 35. Kenneth Rexroth introduced it. Rexroth was really the pater familias for the poets, the elder statesman.

Iorio: [Rexroth] was wearing a bow-tie that night?

Ferlinghetti: Not a bow-tie. He was wearing a string tie. In fact, I have it. I don't know how I inherited it, but I have this tie that he wore. It's about three quarters of an inch wide.

Iorio: And was Ginsberg nervous when he got up there, was he playful --

Ferlinghetti: He wasn't nervous. But his voice was much higher than it became later. With Buddhist breathing exercises, he developed a much deeper voice. He was very serious, but he wasn't nervous.

Iorio: Was there one point during "Howl" when the audience really caught on. Was there one line or one passage --

Ferlinghetti: I don't remember there being a passage. I mean, nobody had ever heard anything like that before! That's the thing about a great poem: when you hear it for the first time, you say, I never saw the world like that before.

Iorio: Was that what you felt [when you read "Howl"]?

Ferlinghetti: Yeah, yeah. I never saw reality like this before. That's what you say when you pick up Whitman for the first time, for instance. I didn't know him well enough to go out with him afterwards, so my wife and I drove him to Potrero Hill. In those days there was no fax, no computers, of course. There were telegrams. So, I sent Allen a Western Union telegram that night saying, "I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do we get the manuscript?" Do you know where the first sentence came from?

Iorio: Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ferlinghetti: You're right. When he first read "Leaves of Grass," he sent a note to Whitman. And Allen never mentioned that. The only way that got known was I started telling reporters about it years later. Another thing Allen never told anybody -- and I never really studied the annotated "Howl" -- Allen says he has no memory of it, but I distinctly remember there was a fifth part of "Howl" that I persuaded him to leave out. A whole page, single spaced typewritten page. And it didn't go with the rest of the poem. And I convinced him to leave it out. It just disappeared. I don't think it's in the annotated version or anywhere.

Iorio: I've never seen it. There were parts of "Howl" that were left out -- you know that -- then there were poems that were added to the mix [in the book "Howl and Other Poems"] --

Ferlinghetti: Not poems that were added to "Howl" itself. To the volume.

Iorio: To the volume, exactly. He didn't like "Greyhound Station" ["In the Baggage Room At Greyhound"]. He told you --

Ferlinghetti: I persuaded him to leave it in....He was going to leave it out....Another thing: I persuaded him to change the title. The whole title was "Howl for Carl Solomon" in the same-size letters. And I persuaded him to put "for Carl Solomon" on another page as a dedication. It made a big difference. It immediately made it universal instead of just addressed to one person.

[Ferlinghetti's associate at City Lights returns to the table and listens to our conversation.]

Iorio: You also showed it to the ACLU beforehand[before any legal troubles] --

Ferlinghtti: Beforehand.

Iorio: How did you know to do that? You had a lot of prescience there.

Ferlinghtti: My father was an auctioneer, he was a small time mafioso. He knew what he was doing. I must have inherited some of his genes.

Iorio: Do you think the trial would have gone differently had Ginsberg been in town?

Ferlinghtti: He wasn't arrested, he wasn't indicted.

Iorio: Certainly not. It was only you and Shig Murao for while. But if Ginsberg had been around, he might've been called as a witness and there might have been a lot more media hoopla.

Ferlinghetti: No, there wouldn't. Because he wasn't known. He was totally unknown -- until the book was busted. I don't know where he was. He was either on a freighter in Alaska or in Tangier.

Iorio: Morocco. He wrote to you from Morocco saying, "This looks like trouble. This is worse than the Customs action," and he was really alarmed. Do you remember any --

Ferlinghetti: Yeah, I remember that letter. I think it's in Ann Charters' "Selected Letters."

Iorio: It is, yes! Did you think [the legal action] was a boon, a help? Because you were getting publicity. Or were you alarmed?

Ferlinghetti: Oh, no, I was very happy with the whole thing. Shig was, too....

[Ferlinghetti has a brief interchange with his associate, deleted here.]

Iorio: The asterisks [redacting obscenities in "Howl"] were provisional, weren't they?

Ferlinghetti: [Ginsberg] put those asterisks in himself.

Iorio: Have you ever thought of restoring it?

Ferlinghetti: No, [Ginsberg] wanted it that way.

Iorio: How come?

Ferlinghetti: Out of respect for his mother, I guess. You read "Cottage" ["A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley"]and you realize how attached he was to his mother.

Iorio: He was. [Ginsberg's mother] Naomi was lobotomized about a month or two before "Howl" was written. Do you think that was one of the causes [of the writing of the poem]? "Howl" was such an eruption --

[A waiter appears and offers more beer.]

Ferlinghetti: [Looking at his beer, which is almost gone] There's a hole in this glass. I swallowed that in a hurry![To the waiter] Just a drop. That's enough, thanks.

Iorio:....How do you think Ginsberg actually got into the mental state to be able to do that. Do you think that it was may his mom's [lobotomy] and the friction that that caused? Or being in San Francisco among a lot of people who --

Ferlinghetti: It's more New York. I mean, it's a New York poem, really, [though] he wrote it out here....Yeah, I think his mother had a lot to do with it, because they lobotomized her....

[Ferlinghetti and his associate exchange a few words, deleted here.]

Iorio: Ginsberg was such a practical man, too. He was an agent, almost, for the Beat --

Ferlinghetti: He was very practical.

Iorio: How do you reconcile those two halves of Ginsberg? On the one hand, he was institutionalized. On the other hand, he was almost a businessman. He had an advertising job when he was in town.

Ferlinghetti: No, market research. Quote market research. It amounted to going around ringing doorbells....

Iorio: Ultimately, are you surprised by the respectability of "Howl" today? I mean, it's taught in all the universities that rejected Ginsberg [initially].

Ferlinghetti: No, I think it happened because the Beat message became the only rebellion around. It's still the same today. In fact, during the "Howl" trial, when Life magazine published a big story on the trial, the headline was, "The only rebellion around...," which is still the case. And with the dot commies and the computer consciousness...that has taken over the whole country and the world, the Beat message is needed more than ever. So [the Beats have] become this group that was saying all these things fifty, forty years ago. So, academics recognize this is an important work...

Iorio: Wasn't the [Richard] Eberhart piece in The New York Times -- remember that? "West Coast Rhythms" -- wasn't that the breakthrough thing for all these poets, wasn't that the demarcation line?

Ferlinghetti: You're reading the biographies, which are all written by east coast biographers. It was a big breakthrough in New York to get this in the Times. But on the west coast, no. The Times wasn't that much read out here! They didn't have a west coast edition of the Times at the time. That was an east coast phenomenon. Out here, the poetry scene was wild anyway, it was an anarchist scene. Kenneth Rexroth was the leading anarchist/philosopher and he had a program on KPFA radio....He didn't review just poetry; he reviewed every field: geology, astronomy, philosophy, foreign translations, you name it. I got a complete political education listening to Rexroth....KPFA was a huge intellectual influence at that time in the Bay Area....This was all separate from the New York scene and the New York carpetbaggers. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso: they were all New York carpetbaggers -- like myself.

Iorio: And Peter Martin, too, was a New Yorker.

Ferlinghetti: He was the son of Carlo Tresca, the famous Italian anarchist, who was murdered on the streets of New York, probably by the mafia. So we had this anarchist bias at the bookstore right from the beginning.

Iorio: What do you think of the theory that the San Francisco poetry renaissance was a New York poetry renaissance that happened to happen in San Francisco?

Ferlinghetti: You know, there wasn't the San Francisco renaissance here; it started in Berkeley in the late Forties. Poets like William Hewison and Robert Duncan and Thomas Parkinson, who became a professor at Berkeley....So, this was going full blast before the New York carpetbaggers arrive.
[Ferlinghetti's associate says something to him, brings up poet Gary Snyder.]

Iorio: Gary Snyder...had the bad luck of having to read after "Howl" [at Six Gallery]. Do you recall --

Ferlinghetti: I don't even remember he was there!

Iorio: OK, because it's one of those little known things.

Ferlinghetti: I guess Phillip Whelan read also?

Iorio: Whelan, Lamantia --

Ferlinghetti's associate: McClure.

Iorio: McClure was second, Ginsberg was after an intermission. Do you remember an intermission during that Six Gallery thing?

Ferlinghetti: [Nods his head no, sips his beer. His associate says a few words to him.]

Iorio:....Which ones did you get along with? I guess Rexroth. Did you ever go over to Ginsberg's place on Milvia Street?

Ferlinghetti: No, I didn't know him that well.

Iorio: And Kerouac: what kind of guy was he?

Ferlinghetti: Allen was always trying to say he was gay, but I thought that was really absurd. He was one of the biggest women-chasers I ever met. He was built like a French Canuck lumberjack.

Iorio: He played football in Lowell.

Ferlinghetti: Yeah. I didn't get to know him very well. I ended up knowing Allen much better.



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


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for March 23, 2016


I have boundless respect for Marty Baron and the investigative team that broke the Church sex abuse scandal, but "Spotlight," for all its merits, was not the best picture of last year. (I just now finally saw it.) In fact, it's hard to see why this story had to be told in a visual medium to begin with; much of the movie involves people taking notes on a notepad.

"All the President's Men" it ain't. (And, by the way, my own feature film screenplay "The Buzz," which involved murderous corruption in the music business, seems to have been the model for two specific scenes. But who's counting?)

A few loose notes. Nobody recorded interviews at the Globe? In decades of journalism, I have never quoted a source who didn't talk to me on tape. That way, you get the quote right, with all nuance intact, and there are no disputes about who said what.

Why wouldn't you record an interview? If the conversation is on the record, then the source agrees that what he or she says can be published. So, why would you use pen and paper to get a LESS accurate version of what the source said? Handwritten notes, even by someone who knows speed stenography, are always less accurate than a recording. Why would a source say, "yes, you can quote what I say, but via a less accurate method"?

Furthermore, regarding the copying of the unsealed documents snafu: I was surprised the reporter didn't have a camera on him to snap pictures of the documents. An easy way around an inaccessible xerox machine.

Anyway, those are points of newsroom craft.

The bigger issue is...it's amazing how the subject matter here dramatically shrinks in scale when 9/11 happens in the middle of the movie. (Now THAT -- the fight against jihad -- is a life and death story!)

Also, moving priests from parish to parish would not necessarily signal to me that they committed a crime. In fact, it may mean, in some cases, that the priest was too honest and was about to blow the whistle and so was shifted to another place. (I know that, in other jobs, journalism included, people shift from job to job because they don't have a lot of money and can't sustain themselves in one location. (This may be news to some with independent wealth!) That said, it turned out the circumstantial suspicions panned out in many such cases.)

What else do I have to say about "Spotlight"? There are a lot of great stories that get swept under the rug because someone is a national hero whose glory days are still in progress. Look at the Bill Cosby story. While Cosby was a huge cash cow for NBC, nobody would listen to the accusers. When his commercial worth diminished with age, they finally paid attention.

I wrote a story on Richard Pryor in which his biological son told me on tape that his father molested him as a kid. Circumstantial evidence backed it up, too. I presented my proof and some prissy editor at HarperCollins threw a hissy fit about such offensive material. (Uh, it was Pryor's behavior that was offensive -- I was just documenting it.)

What about the media downplaying of wildly rampant Muslim pedophilia? In many parts of Islam, the marrying of girls as young as eight or nine -- as nauseating as that sounds -- is common practice. And do you think some immigrants from Muslim-majority countries leave behind those deeply ingrained attitudes when they come to America?

Oops, I'm sorry. You can't investigate offenders who are part of a protected or p.c. demographic.

Like transexuals. Bruce Jenner kills someone on the highway, but he's a tranny -- actually, merely a transvestite -- so...no mention made of his crime.

So, there are a lot of people who shouldn't act so pure, because they're covering stuff up even as I write this!

All told...the best movie of last year was "The Big Short."


P.S. -- Further, the part of the journalism profession that employs an unethical fraud like David Wiegand at the AME level at the San Francisco Chronicle has no high hand about anything. Talk about circling the wagons for a bad actor. Anyone who wants solid proof of that can contact me at pliorio@aol.com. (But, of course, they won't. They don't want to see the proof. They're the Church.)


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


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for March 22, 2016


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photo by Paul Iorio


My deepest condolences to the people of Belgium.

As we all know, there is a disease called jihadism, more deadly than Ebola, that is an epidemic in European neighborhoods like Mollenbeek and Finsbury Park. And we need to treat it like an epidemic/pandemic and aggressively eradicate it. (When Ebola ravaged places like Liberia, we screened people coming in from Liberia, didn't we?)

As I've said before, let a thousand flowers bloom -- but don't let the weeds that strangle the flowers grow in the garden. And right now, the magnificent gardens of Europe are choked with weeds that need to be pulled and tossed.

And Hillary Clinton, leader of the surgical team that put a bullet in the forehead of Osama bin Laden, must make anti-jihadism HER issue. Don't cede that ground to Donald Trump or he will surely become president if there is a terror attack before the November election.

The fight against the religious right has always been a cornerstone of progressivism. The Ku Klux Klan and ISIS are one and the same. Different burqa this time.


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


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for March 17, 2016


Finally saw Todd Haynes' "Carol" last night. Loved it, for the most part. Superb first act. Sensitively crafted, poignant, touching, running out of adjectives. At times, it feels like you're a guest at someone's house and overhearing their way-too-candid personal arguments. And Rooney Mara recalls a young Audrey Hepburn. Cate Blanchett, as always, is masterful.

It does lose sharp focus after an hour, though, becoming a sort of "Thelma and Louise," then a sort of "Kramer vs. Kramer," then a sort of "Sunset Blvd.," while still being original and extremely watchable. I'm not the first to say that Haynes should've been nominated for an Oscar for his direction.

Beautiful final shot. But the realistic side of me says, how is Therese going to mesh with Carol's rarefied milieu? Then again, Mara's character is in the process of blossoming as a photographer, so that does make it believable.

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


I just saw "Montage of Heck" (finally!). An excellent, not perfect, docu that puts a fresh light on seemingly familiar turf.

Sources are limited to those who, as Brett Morgen puts it, would've have attended Kurt Cobain's funeral if he had been only a janitor. (Refreshingly, this is not a talking head style docu in which, say, the drummer of the Melvins and the bassist of Mudhoney talk about their tenuous links to Cobain.)

The footage of Cobain as a kid is priceless and telling. It doesn't take 30 seconds of watching to see he was a manic-depressive from his first days on Earth. His lows were too low, his highs were too high (though we all sure enjoyed the fruits of the latter).  

As completist as it seems, the doc is surprisingly incomplete on a couple key counts.

It doesn't capture the thrilling upset victory of "Nevermind," which industry pros expected would sell around 30,000 copies at best, until it didn't -- until, to everyone's astonishment, record warehouses were unable to meet the demand of fans trying to buy a copy.

Pre-"Nevermind," the band's juice and industry standing were so low that they were actually ejected (for food fighting) from the record release party for "Nevermind" at Rebar in Seattle. None of that is covered here.

Family footage is at the core of "Montage." Cobain clearly inherited the genes of his mother -- he should've been Kurt O'Connor -- who looks a lot like an older Courtney Love. Love herself is shown in all her youthful glory and it's clear, seeing them together, that they were truly in love. It left me wondering why they didn't collaborate together musically.

All told, wish it had gone on for another hour.


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



THE DAILY DIGRESION

for February 25, 2016


Campaign 2016: The View from Berkeley, the Epicenter of Progressivism
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A life-size cut-out of Bernie Sanders on the campus of the University of California at Bernie (I mean, Berkeley!), February 23, 2016. [photo by Paul Iorio]


In Berkeley, California, ground zero for liberalism in America, it's raining Bernie.

Bernie t-shirts, Bernie bumper stickers, Bernie buttons, a life-size cut-out of Bernie on the campus of the University of California, Bernie placards in windows and signs on strollers.

Based on the visible evidence, if the California primary were being held today, Bernie Sanders would win by a landslide in this area.

Conversely, one would need a microscope to find evidence of support for Hillary Clinton in the Bay Area. Based on what I've seen -- and I've been walking the streets of Berkeley looking for political signs for months (and in every election cycle since '02) -- there are actually more leftover Clinton/Gore bumper stickers (one) than Hillary ones (zero).

It wasn't always this way. Back in July, at the dawn of Clinton's campaign, there were plenty of "I'm Ready for Hillary" stickers, mostly in the more affluent neighborhoods. But those have completely disappeared. (One Hillary sticker was even covered over with another one reading "Don't Believe Everything You Think.")

And Bernie campaign workers are relatively ubiquitous, too.

At Sproul Plaza on the Cal campus on February 23rd, a steady stream of students signed up to support Sanders and take some campaign swag. And when a breeze blew down that cardboard replica of Sanders, students rushed in to rescue him and set him back on his feet!

In front of a Berkeley grocery store on February 17th, a Sanders supporter was handing out flyers in advance of the Nevada caucus.

"We're driving to Reno on Friday for Bernie," he says. "Wanna join us?"

I say thanks but I have other plans. When I offer to buy a bumper sticker and button, the guy says, "I accept no money" and hands me free ones. "Make a contribution to Bernie online instead," he says. [For the record, I am not a contributor to or a public supporter of any presidential candidate.]

To be sure, in the past, there was an equal or greater level of enthusiasm in town for previous liberal presidential candidates like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Barack Obama.

But Dean stickers in 2004 were on mostly high-end cars, while Kucinich's over-the-top support that same year was seen mostly on signs displayed in homes. (One west Berkeley house had every window covered with Kucinich signs.)

Sanders' support in this college town, by contrast, is amongst both townies and gownies. (Obama's support here in '08 was in a category all its own in terms of unanimity and extravagance.)

Here's a gallery of photographs I shot over the past several months of the campaign landscape in Berkeley (and in the Bay Area), along with a few pics of the town during previous presidential election years.


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University of California students gather on Sproul Plaza for Sanders on Feb. 23rd. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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Right around the corner from the house where Allen Ginsberg wrote part of "Howl," a woman pushes a Bernie stroller. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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The support shown for Clinton at her appearance at Book Passage in San Francisco last June 26th seems to have completely disappeared in the Bay Area. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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The Hillary bumper stickers that cropped up in Berkeley last summer have vanished, replaced in some cases this way. [photo by Paul Iorio]



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The only Clinton bumper sticker I saw on my January and February walks through Berkeley was this leftover Clinton/Gore sticker from '92. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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As might be expected, there's more enthusiasm here for non-candidate Elizabeth Warren than for Hillary. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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Three consecutive campaigns on one car! [photo by Paul Iorio]



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Support for Obama in the '08 cycle was wildly over-the-top. Here's an "Obama Store" set up outside his appearance in Oakland on February 17, 2007. [photo by Paul Iorio]



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This west Berkeley resident went all-out for Dennis Kucinich in '04! [photo by Paul Iorio]


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The ghosts of Democrats past still haunt around town. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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A Ralph Nader '00 sticker covered by a Howard Dean '04 one. [photo by Paul Iorio]



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A photograph I took of various pictures that I shot of campaign signs over the years. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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In Berkeley -- The City of Bumper Stickers -- some are show-stoppers! [photo by Paul Iorio]



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For the most part, Berkeley is a pasture of plenty for Bernie. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for February 24, 2016


I missed the email notification last week that The Huffington Post had published my story about an apparent threat made by president Nixon to a Supreme Court Justice in 1971.

I'm quite happy that The Post has published it! Here's my story, which breaks new ground about a Nixon tape that had previously escaped almost everyone's attention:


 Iorio in The Huffington Post on a Previously Unreported Nixon Threat. 


Also, here's another story of mine that The Huffington Post recently published -- about the day I confronted O.J. Simpson about his wife's murder.
 Iorio in The Huffington Post: The Day I Confronted O.J. Simpson.



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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for February 16, 2016


exclusive

Did Nixon Threaten a Supreme Court Justice?
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Nixon called the head of the F.B.I. in '71 to say he wanted to literally outlive Justice Byron White. (Nixon apparently did not say, :"Could you make that happen?") [unknown photographer]


The White House tapes show it vividly. President Nixon was hopping mad about a Supreme Court decision that said the government had no authority to stop The New York Times and other newspapers from publishing the so-called Pentagon papers.

The 6-to-3 decision came down on June 30, 1971. Within hours, on July 1st, Nixon was venting on the phone to the head of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover.

"I wanted to tell you that I was so damned mad when that Supreme Court had to come down -- I didn't like that decision. That was unbelievable, wasn't it?"

Hoover, acting like a yes-man and sounding like an echo chamber, agreed.

"Unbelievable," said Hoover.

"Those clowns we've got on there, I tell ya, I hope I outlive the bastards," said Nixon.

"I hope you do, too," said Hoover.

"I mean, politically, too," Nixon said, underlining the fact that he meant "outlive the bastards" quite literally. "Because we've got to change our Court."

"There's no question about that whatsoever," said Hoover. "If I had thought there was a possibility of a five to four..."

Hoover doesn't finish his sentence, though Nixon gives him the space to do so and doesn't interrupt him. The sense of what Hoover is saying is, "If I had thought there was a possibility of a five to four, I would have done something about it."

"I thought we ought to get [Justice Byron] White," says Nixon. The President's meaning is apparently, "We should have won White's vote on this case," but the ambiguity of "get White" is attention-getting in this context.

And Hoover agrees, saying White is "in with the whole Kennedy crowd." White, of course, was the only Justice on the Burger Court appointed by Nixon's one-time arch-nemesis, President John F. Kennedy.

Hearing the tape today, it's hard to deny that Nixon's remarks to Hoover sound a bit like a threat of extra-legal action against Byron White.

After all, the president is speaking to the head of the F.B.I., choosing his words carefully, one assumes, so as to not send the wrong signal. Nixon could have expressed his anger with many different phrases: "I've had it up to here," "I'm sick of those guys," "The Court is killing me," etc.

But instead he chose to say and repeat the unusual phrase, "I hope I outlive the bastards." Then he underlines his meaning by saying that he's not stating that merely figuratively. And singles out White. (And one also has to wonder why Nixon was even talking to Hoover about this particular subject. Was the head of the Bureau the appropriate person for Nixon to have talked to about this?)

And Hoover, ever the lacky, agrees with Nixon and even leaves a phrase dangling unsettlingly.

Was Nixon subtly signaling to Hoover he should "get White," perhaps by, say, using the apparatus of the FBI to arrange some sort of dirty trick or even something darker? (Nixon, of course, was known to have used both dirty tricks and government agencies against people he perceived to be his enemies.)

The July 1, 1971, Nixon-Hoover tape is included with other raw audio footage in the "extras" section of the documentary "The Most Dangerous Man in America," though the film makers do not raise any of the questions that I'm raising in this piece. The audio is also included on this website: http://nixontapes.org/jeh.html

For the record, Justice White ended up dying in 2002, outliving Nixon by eight years. He was replaced by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who still serves on the Court.




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

THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for February 13, 2016


I just saw "The Revenant," "The Martian" and "The Hateful Eight" -- and here's what I think about each.


"The Revenant" has a killer first half-hour that's full of suspense and tension, but the rest is not nearly as great.

It resembles "Dances with Wolves" and then becomes a sort of "Castaway," a Leonardo DiCaprio solo vehicle for a time, with echoes of "Deliverance" and "Platoon." But it ends up being only slightly better than "Dances with Wolves."

And I'm not sure whether they should give the Oscar to DiCaprio or to the make-up artist. The acting (consisting mostly of "yowww" and "oucchh" and crawling through the snow) is eclipsed by very imaginative make-up.

It's also predictable. With 90-minutes of the movie still to come, one already knows that it will climax with a shoot-out between Leo's character and Fitzgerald (with the winner being -- you guessed it!).

And in the final chase sequence, the indestructible Leo runs through snowy mountains with nary a limp after having been twice mauled by a bear, dropped from a mountain top, frozen and assaulted by some very, very bad folks.

And the philosophizing here is vapid, pretentious and trite. There are repeated Chauncey Gardiner-esque allusions to the heft of trees in a storm -- as if that's a metaphor for something profound. And then there's vague references to easternish mumbo jumbo about the river of life flowing ever on and on and on....

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


I'm a Matt Damon and Ridley Scott fan, but "The Martian" is a surprisingly awful film. I mean, what was all the hype and hoopla about last fall when it was released?

It's sort of an attempted "Apollo 13," but with none of that film's greatness.

Unlike "Apollo 13," the characters here have none of the authority or gravity of seasoned NASA pros; they're more like kids in a dorm or spunky interns at a tech firm. The characters are almost slugs for a plot. And the tone is fatally inconsistent.

This is, by the way, the second major film of 2015 in which the protagonist is left for dead but ultimately triumphs (the other one being "The Revenant").

To be fair, the sequence featuring David Bowie's "Starman" is quite magical. But that's pretty much it.

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


Quentin Tarantino may be the best American film director to have emerged in the last quarter century, but his latest, "The Hateful Eight," is not very satisfying at all.

It's almost like leftover "Django Unchained," with the same cinematography, some of the same actors and the familiar jokes. The fresh progressive use of the n-word in "Django," for example, is merely tedious here. And it's tiresome to see some whitey mouth racist insults and then, in the end, get his or her bloody comeuppance. We heard that joke in "Django."

Also, way too talky. And this could've been shot in 35 mm or Digital 4K and the outcome would've been the same (because the content is not there).

It would've been better if the movie had started at the two-hour mark, when the bloodbath begins.

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


THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for February 3, 2016


Machine Guns and Hoopla at Super Bowl City in San Francisco
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A police officer with a sub-machine gun at Super Bowl City in San Francisco, February, 2, 2016. [photo by Paul Iorio[


I have never seen so many sub-machine guns and assault rifles as I saw yesterday at Super Bowl City in San Francisco.

I like the fact that the San Francisco Police Department, the best in the nation, is responding pre-emptively to a possible terrorist attack.

But aren't such attacks usually carried out by lone wolves, or militants in groups of two or three?

It seems to me that the logic of law enforcement-use of sub-machine guns would be to use them to take out a large number of assailants. As in a military action.

Cops wouldn't need an assault rifle to handle a lone-wolf shooter even if that shooter had a machine gun himself.

Like at the Bataclan. If French cops had been stationed inside the club with assault rifles, what would've been their strategy? To machine gun the assailants (thereby hitting scores of innocent bystanders)? Wouldn't the wiser option be to just use a sharpshooter to take out the individual terrorists without also hitting civilians?

Perhaps the strategy is more like...if there is going to be some sort of shoot-out with terrorists, the cops don't want to be outgunned.

Whatever the case, Super Bowl City in San Francisco is quite a sight to behold. The whole city is decked out in Super Bowl garb and I've never seen anything like it in the fifteen years I've lived in the Bay Area.


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A cop guarding the perimeter of Super Bowl City. [photo by Paul Iorio]



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San Francisco is all decked out for the Bowl. [photo by Paul Iorio]

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for January 18, 2016


Iorio on "Irrational Man"
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[photo of Joaquin Phoenix in "Irrational Man" by Paul Iorio.]


One thing I learned when I talked with Woody Allen is that he has an enormous appetite for clever plot construction. In conversation, I could see his mind working through various alternate story ideas and narrative dead-ends that ultimately led to the resolution he chose. Surprising for a director of character-driven movies, though in his later years he's become more Hitchcock than Bergman.  

In his latest film, "Irrational Man," which I just saw, Allen has devised a plot twist at the end that's likely catching everyone by surprise. It's one of the best things about this otherwise quite imperfect picture.  

Don't get me wrong: if "Irrational Man: were the work of a first-time director, it would likely have been nominated for a best picture Oscar this year.

But it's a Woody Allen picture and he's directed so many great features that this one is only his 31st best film, ranking somewhere in the vicinity of "Celebrity" and "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," which is to say, better than around a dozen of 'em. He really does compete against his own high standard each time out.

The flick starts off as "Crime and Punishment," turns into "Strangers on a Train" (albeit with unilateral, not mutual, action) and then takes on a light tone reminiscent of "Manhattan Murder Mystery."

The problem with turning this into a remake of the Dostoyevsky novel is that Raskolnikov had a direct personal motivation (which he dressed up in philosophical clothes) to commit his crime. Joaquin Phoenix's character, a philosophy prof, has no link to the grudge to which he's inserting himself.

A more clever plot twist would've been to have had Phoenix's character eavesdrop inaccurately and kill the wrong judge. (Allen, in his comedic mode, might've had fun with such a premise.)

(And even if the plot was practical from the Phoenix character's POV, wouldn't the woman's husband, not the judge, be the proper target?)

Further, Phoenix's character more closely resembles a creative writing or modern lit prof, a two-fisted drinker-brawler type common to such faculty departments, as opposed to a philosophy prof. (They tend to be loftier, more cerebral.) Actually, he's even more like a philosophy student returning to finish undergrad work after 20 wayward years.

(By the way, there are great philosophical bits that are identical to the stuff (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, etc.) that I studied as a phil major back in the day.)

One of the film's glaring flaws is its incessant use of the track "In Crowd" throughout the pic. The Ramsey Lewis Trio version of the song is used five times in the film and is heard for a full sixteen minutes throughout. (I timed it with my stopwatch!)

At times, the song's upbeat sound creates a jarringly inappropriate tone (as when Phoenix diabolically mixes poison to the tune of "In Crowd"). And the track has audience applause at the beginning, so we hear that each time, too. (It's as if someone didn't listen very carefully to the movie's sound.)

All told, B-level Allen, which this is, is still better than most major movies released in any given year.

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I loved this marvelous sequence in which Emma Stone and Phoenix appear visually distorted in a funhouse mirror. Very resourceful special-effect! [photo by Paul Iorio]
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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for January 7, 2016

UPDATE: January 8, 2016: The Huffington Post has just published my piece on "Donald Trumps' Greatest Hits." Click here to read it!

NOW IN THE HUFFINGTON POST: Iorio's "Trump's Greatest Hits"!


The Donald Trump Hit Parade!
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Trump's biggest hits of the '16 campaign, now on one disc!
[Photo and concept by Paul Iorio. (Image of trumpet-playing Trump by unknown photographer.)]


Not since the Beatles had multiple songs simultaneously in the top five singles' charts have we seen what we're seeing now with the hot hand of hit-maker Donald Trump.

With one shock-jock single after another, Trump has dominated the top forty since his debut in July with "Build a Wall" (b/w the openly racist "Mexican Rapist").

Since then the Trump releases have been relentless, eclipsing all other recordings by the rest of the Republican field.

To counter the Trumpernaut, a desperate Jeb Bush even tried an unconvincing punk foray of his own with "I'd Kill (Baby Hitler)" -- to no avail.

And then there was mild competition from Ben Carson's easy-listening ballad, "I Left my Sponge in a San Francisco Patient," which didn't go over so well.

Ditto with Carly Fiorina's "You're So to Blame (you probably think this song is about you)" and Chris Christie's Springsteenesque "We Shall Overeat."

Only Barack Obama's late-breaking hit, "It's my Party (and I'll cry if I want to)," competed, briefly, with Trump's outrageous hit parade.

And the Trump songbook is packed with recent tracks everyone now knows by heart, including: "Carly's Face," "Thousands Cheered," "Blood from Her Wherever" and the much-censored "Schlonged!"

And his club mix of "Low NRG" even provoked a feckless answer-record from Bush, "You Jerk," which of course went nowhere.

What's next from everyone's favorite "short-fingered vulgarian," the man who gave us "John McCain (No War Hero)" and "Ban All Muslims"?

There are rumors of even riskier new bigotry like the double-sided single "Muslims are Mexicans (Without the Humidity)" and "Ted Cruz (Canadian Muslim).

Stay tuned!

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for December 27, 2015


"Chi-raq" is being hailed as a return to form by Spike Lee, and it is the best of his late-period work, though his recent "Red Hook Summer" and "Oldboy" are, in many ways, as good as this one, which does, to its credit, have an irresistible high-concept, borrowed from Aristophanes's "Lysistrata," about women going on a sex strike until men put down their guns.

"No peace, no pussy," the women chant. An extreme measure for an extreme problem! As this movie shows, some nabes in Chicago are more violent than parts of Baghdad.

And Lee doesn't prettify it. In one scene, we see someone on her hands and knees scrubbing the blood from a street. In another, a parent freaks out when she discovers her kid was hit by a stray bullet.

And Lee puts the emphasis exactly where it should be: on violence committed by street criminals. (After all, the real-life high-profile instances of police overreaction in recent years are a side-effect of the massive crime probelm out there.)

To be sure, there's an uneasy mix of tones now and then, but then again that was also true with Aristophanes' play.

And the actors make it work. Nick Cannon turns in an impressively understated performance; Samuel L. Jackson is dapper and amusing as a sort of recurrent one-man Greek chorus; and John Cusack shows a soulful side to his acting we've never seen before.

Unlike Steve McQueen and Ava DuVernay, Lee has always drawn white characters who are full bodied, multi-dimensional and worthy of split sympathy from the audience. (Audiences both cheer and jeer, say, Danny Aiello's character in "Do the Right Thing" -- and that's the mark of first class art. As opposed to DuVernay's depiction of any white in "Selma," which is propaganda.)

What should Oscar do with this film? Nominate it for best picture and best director. (Isn't it way past time for Lee to win the best director prize -- even if this isn't his best?)

(Btw, the clueless Wikipedia description of it as a "musical" mis-labels it. It's not a musical. It has music in it, but "Red Hook Summer" and "Do the Right Thing" contain a lot more music than this one.)


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for December 24, 2015


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Hollywood's first movie star, Lillian Gish (as Elsie Stoneman), breaking hearts as she shoots an air-gun with her fingers in order to say goodbye to her brothers, departing for war. [photo by Paul Iorio]


D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" turned 100 years old earlier this year, which means it dramatized President Lincoln's assassination from the same distance that we now see J.F.K.'s murder. Pretty recent event.

Also, pretty biased filmmaking, as Griffith's dad was a big wig in the Confederate army (and the apple didn't fall far from the hangin' tree).

Griffith was simultaneously a century ahead of his time and a century behind it, a reactionary racist and an artistic innovator. Genius-level craftsman in the service of propaganda

He invented the action movie, the war movie, the western, the epic film, the Kubrickian soundtrack. In short, he invented modern cinema -- but with the most backward content imaginable.

Like Ava DuVernay's "Selma" and Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will," it's propaganda, more worthy of a Clio than an Oscar.

Truth be told, I don't know anybody who takes "Birth of a Nation" off the shelf for pleasure nowadays. Today, it's watched mainly for academic reasons by film obsessives like me. (And that, of course, is not true of all silents. "Modern Times," for example, has me roaring every time I watch it, as if it were a new Woody Allen flick.)

The most touching parts of the film are actually generated by Lillian Gish (when she makes that air-gun gesture with her finger to wish her brothers off to war, for instance, and then breaks down crying).

And actress Miriam Cooper scans so modern. What a babe (in a 21st century way!). Too bad she didn't make more flicks. (She evidently backed into Hollywood acting after art school in Greenwich Village.)

Of course, she and everyone else in the movie are now dead. In fact, any newborn baby that might have appeared in the film is now either 101-years-old or dead. Gish outlived almost everyone, dying mere months before her 100th birthday and living until the dawn of the Internet age. Griffith himself died in the months before Thomas Dewey "defeated" President Truman! (At least that's how things looked in early '48.)

It's important to note that Griffith's film didn't emerge in isolation; he was backed by a wealthy Hollywood machine that okayed the script (a re-write of an even more racist work, a novel called "The Clansman," by Thomas Dixon, Jr.) and was given that rarest Hollywood plum -- a green light, which could've been given to any number of other talents, progressive talents, who might've also blossomed into geniuses. (The truth is that Griffith's brilliance wasn't fully evident until after he finished making "The Birth of a Nation.") And its L.A. premiere in '15 was a spectacle that included a parade by faux Ku Klux Klansmen. So...it took a village -- a backward, progressive village -- to create the picture.

However evil its content, however inventive its art, it still stands as the likely highest-grossing film of all-time, adjusting for inflation (though box office records from that period are unreliable).

All told, I hate to like this film, but I do.

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Even in 1915, actress Miriam Cooper (playing Margaret Cameron) scanned modern. [photo by Paul Iorio]


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for December 11, 2015


I just saw “Black Mass,” "Spectre," "Straight Outta Compton" and the first season of "Better Call Saul." Here's what I think:


"BLACK MASS"

Johnny Depp is just fantastic in it. He’s, by far, the best thing about it, turning in a performance very likely to earn him a best actor Oscar nomination. The critical clich├ęs about him disappearing into the role are spot on; he does. He seems genuinely lethal even when sipping a glass of water.

But the rest of the film is fatally flawed and surprisingly unsuspenseful, a notch below “The Departed” and “Donnie Brasco,” a slight cut above “The Grifters” and “The Krays.”

It’s as if the director started with the idea of doing a “Goodfellas” but then decided to turn it into an “American Hustle” (before tacking on a bit of “Spotlight”).

The movie has an uncertain focus, intercutting between Whitey Bulger’s POV and the perspective of federal investigators – all of it centered myopically on Whitey’s mob-informant period. It feels almost like an unfinished picture in many ways, when one thinks of the wealth of great material about Bulger's case that could've been dramatized.

An ideal telling of the Whitey Bulger story, and this is not even close to an ideal telling, would have started with his childhood, showing how and why he and his politician brother grew to become so radically dissimilar to one another, with all the divided loyalties such a relationship would suggest. It would have then dramatized his mafia heyday and his subsequent period hiding in Santa Monica.

That would’ve been an epic, multi-generational tale worthy of a best picture Oscar. But this is not that film.

Worth seeing, but wait for the DVD release.

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"SPECTRE"


The new Sam Mendes, "Spectre," which is also the new James Bond, aims to please with sleek, taut, suspenseful action. Daniel Craig looks so much like Steve McQueen at times, Christoph Waltz is one of the most freshly diabolical Bond villains in decades.

And the locations, always co-stars in this series, are killer. Roma hasn't looked this spectacular since Fellini; and parts were actually shot in -- get this -- Syria.

And the supercars, as might be expected, are super, going from zero to sixty in three seconds and shooting ammo from the tailpipe.

Craig's Bond, true to form, emerges from collapsing buildings and brawls with his suit crisply pressed and spotless. (Don't know how he does that.) I expect no less.

And what an opening sequence. A fight in a helicopter causes the copter to careen wildly out of control over a huge crowd of partiers in Mexico.

Fun stuff. Here's hoping they return to Syria for the next movie so Bond can take on ISIS.

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"STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON"


I finally saw "Straight Outta Compton" last night and liked a lot of it. The story of N.W.A.'s ascent is exciting, but the real star of this thing is its depiction of Suge Knight and his conflicts with Dre and Eazy. A more chillingly realistic depiction of Knight, the music industry's latter-day Morris Levy, would be hard to imagine. Frankly, that should've been the story.

Not a perfect film -- a half hour could've been edited out eazily, the white characters are all one-dimensional, the narrative gets sidetracked too often. But well worth seeing.

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"BETTER CALL SAUL"

As I work my way through the year's best films, I'm thinking that the best "movie" I've seen so far in 2015 is the "Five-O" episode of "Better Call Saul."

What an inspiring, innovative piece of film making. Completely original, though it does remind me of my own script "Hard Noon," which also deliberately presents unexplained action that is confusing (by design) until subsequent facts make it all too clear.

In 2015, television still leads the way.

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for December 5, 2015



As someone who has visited Muslim-majority countries -- have you? -- my advice to those who live there: keep hydrated!! Dehydration in hot countries can lead to all sorts of delusional thoughts. The probable source of most religion.

(Btw, notice that some of the most p.c. people on Islam are those who have never ever traveled there. I have

Charlotte was a churchplace shooting by a disgruntled worshipper. (At least partly.)

That's how some Democrats are sounding to my ear.

And how come Obama sang "Amazing Grace" in Charlotte but not after the far worse hate crime in San Bernardino? Instead it was all hedging and hawing and maybe it was a workplace blah blah blah.

What the hell is wrong with the Dems that they can't champion the issue of eliminating the KKK (of Islam)? I thought you guys were AGAINST the KKK (of Islam)?

And ISIS is more evil and right-wing than the KKK was on its worst day!

I thought the Democratic party was opposed to the religious right. It's YOUR issue, not the Republicans'. Show some goddamn passion when you take on the KKK (of Islam).



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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for November 30, 2015


An Awful Night on the Upper West Side, Thirty-five Years Ago
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Detail of Robert Freeman's 1963 photo of John Lennon for the cover of "With the Beatles."

I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for years in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, but one night was more memorably traumatic than all the others.

It was a Monday and I stepped out of my apartment near West 74th Street at around 10:40 p.m. for a late-night cup of coffee, which I always had on weeknights before coming home for the Johnny Carson monologue and sleep.

When I arrived at the coffee shop on Broadway, the young women behind the counter were talking frantically -- and one of them blurted out, "Someone just shot John Lennon." And I said something like, "Aw, c'mon," thinking she was joking. And then another woman said, "John Lennon just died at the Dakota." I said something like "Forget the coffee" and started running down Broadway toward West 72nd Street and then east toward Central Park West and the Dakota apartments, where Lennon lived and was, at that moment, dying.

It was around 11 p.m. on December 8, 1980, 35 years ago. John Lennon, age 40, had indeed just been shot to death outside his west side home, blocks from where I lived.

As I ran closer and closer to the Dakota, I could see the crowd at the end of 72nd Street growing larger and larger, expanding dramatically by the minute like a spillage or a flood.

When I got there -- it was around 11:10 -- someone in the crowd said Yoko Ono had just gone to nearby Roosevelt Hospital. Meanwhile, the police were blocking the south entrance to the Dakota, the scene of the crime. And people in tears and with boom boxes started playing and singing Beatles and Lennon songs in the street, now blocked to traffic (as I recall).

I stayed out in front of the Dakota for more than an hour. After a while, it felt like I was part of a crowd that was waiting to catch a glimpse of a celebrity who was about to emerge from an apartment house, but we were all really waiting for no one, as the person we'd come to honor was already gone forever.

I had to be at work at Delacorte Press at nine the next morning, so I walked home just before 1 a.m., turned on WNEW-FM, where disc jockey Vin Scelsa was helping everyone through the night with Lennon music and talk, went to bed and cried as if a beloved relative had been killed.

I was late to work the next morning.

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The Upper West Side of Manhattan, as seen from my apartment window in 1980. [photo credit: unknown]

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Obama in his first six years in the Oval Office: the best president since FDR.

Obama in these final months in office: not so much.

Cat got his tongue about Paris? Couldn't fit the Charlie Hebdo solidarity march into his schedule -- but he was able to make time for Ahmed-the-clock-hoaxster? This is clearly not the same president that killed bin Laden and gave us health care.

Since at least 2006, Obama has not given a single public speech in Berkeley, which is packed with the old-time progressives who had been working for his agenda for decades.

(When I was 16, when I could've been partying with pals, I was writing for Cesar Chavez's activists and demonstrating for other causes in the 1970s. Progressives of my generation laid the foundation for the policies Obama has championed. Yet the clock-hoaxer gets the WH nod (even as his speech-writers crib stuff from my blog and my published writings!) I think his relationship with the free speech wing of the progressive movement is tenuous at best. He seems to be more comfortable with the "tolerance for the intolerant" wing.



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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for November 16, 2015


I’ve finished around half of Elvis Costello’s memoir, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,” and am already ready to declare it the best memoir by anyone since Keith Richards’ “Life” -- high praise. Everyone already knew Costello was the best songwriter to have emerged in the post-Beatles era, but who knew he was also a superb prose writer?

The vivid way he sums up characters in a line or two is sometimes breathtaking. For example:

“Willy DeVille’s girlfriend, Toots, looked like a bag of old clothes that had been abandoned when the Shangri-Las left town…There was always the threat that a knife was not very far out of sight.”

Of Eddie Money, with whom Columbia execs paired him for one of the most mis-matched mini-tours in history: “A grumpy ex-cop.”

Elsewhere, Springsteen looked like he had arrived ”directly from fixing his motorcycle.”

On Jake Riviera: “A small pompadour…chest pushed out on tiny pointed feet”

Or this, about being with Billy Idol: “The four of us gathered around a crate of warm brown beer. I thought we’d better drink these down, right quick; we might be needing the empties.”

On Stiff’s Dave Robinson: he “once roadied for Jimi Hendrix and has the photos to prove it.”

On Alice Cooper: “A very likable fellow – and completely free of snakes.”

And then there’s this snapshot of his musical brother Nick Lowe: “Nick Lowe chain-smoked untipped Senior Service in the studio.”

So fascinating that Costello’s first encounter with Beatles music came when he heard it coming from the den of his dad, who was playing a new song called “Please Please Me” repeatedly in order to learn it. (Almost every American of his generation, by contrast, first heard the Beatles on – you guess it – Uncle Ed’s show.) His recollections about Paul McCartney confirm everything I know from first-hand experience and from all other sources: he is, truly, the world’s greatest living composer – and a terrific person, too.

And then Costello takes us through his oeuvre, song by glorious song, solving the mysteries of how they came to be.

On “Oliver’s Army”: Costello wanted to scrap it, but Lowe insisted they record it. And then Steve Nieve came up with one of the most brilliant piano bits of the era.

By the way, Steve Nieve emerges as sort of the George Martin of the Attractions and the de facto co-composer of many of Costello’s songs. And Elvis credits him fully and generously here. (By the way, I recently saw Nieve perform solo in Golden Gate Park and can only say…what a first-class talent and person. I must confess that one of the reasons I return to Costello albums is for Nieve’s piano figures and breaks.)

“Mystery Dance” was initially earmarked for Dave Edmunds, who, when you think about it, could’ve knocked it out of the park.

John McFee came up with the intros to “Alison” and “Red Shoes.” (I wonder whether Roger McGuinn ever covered “Red Shoes.”)

He writes about the “No Dancing” bridge, which is like a freestanding Merseybeat song. (Now that he mentions it, the bridge doesn’t really fully relate to the rest of it, but it does work.)

Who knew Mick Jones played guitar on “Big Tears”?

Interesting that Costello was thinking about Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” when he was coming up with “Radio Sweetheart.”

Amazing that “Tough Mama” was the first song that came to mind for Costello when he was with Dylan and trying to find a Dylan song to cover. (One of my all-time favorites.)

Yes, “Pump It Up” shares a lineage with “Too Much Monkey Business” -- and the family tree goes on from “Monkey Business” to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” to “Pump It Up” to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Turns out the “vanity factory” was Elizabeth Arden, where he worked before becoming a pro musician. (Also, he did not wear horn-rimmed glasses at his day job; they were added to him by the Stiff people; he says, they turned him into “Superman in reverse.”)

And, yeah, you can see how “American Girl” does lead to “Lipstick Vogue,” if you hum it the right way.

And then there’s this great insight:

“A lot of much of pop music has come out of people failing to copy their model and accidentally creating something new. The closer you get to your ideal the less original you sound.”

And I might add: those capable of faithful imitation (like Billy Joel and Hall and Oates, whose music I enjoy) might have been real innovators, and not just genius hitmakers, if they had been less adept at re-creating a sound.

Regarding his raucous first performance on “Saturday Night Live”: I can now see how it happened. Costello wanted to do a song that was more rousing than “Less Than Zero,” the choice of Columbia execs, and “Radio Radio” was certainly that. He was also thinking of the famous tv appearance by Jimi Hendrix in which he started playing “Hey Joe” to a crowd that was very unimpressed with the song and so he broke off and did a Cream hit instead.

When Costello switched course onscreen, he didn’t see anybody on the set objecting or hostile. But afterwards, Bill Murray told Costello that Lorne Michaels had given Elvis the finger during the song.

What also appears to have happened is that Columbia Records retaliated against Costello for the SNL stunt by unilaterally replacing “Night Rally” with “Radio Radio” on the American “This Year’s Model.” That said, “Radio Radio” is the better of the two songs, even if “Night Rally” has one of the most inspired bridges ever written.

More later. Don't start me talking...

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NEW! November 7, 2015


Wow! My new song "SEX PARTY" just now went to #1 on the alternative chart at soundclick.com! Amazing.

Clearly, it's time for me to try to take this track to the next level by actively promoting it. I've evidently written something that's connecting with people and I'm very glad that it is!


PAUL IORIO'S "SEX PARTY": #1 ON THE SOUNDCLICK CHARTS!


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for November 3, 2015


Good news, my friends! My parody of the CNBC presidential debate has just been published by The Huffington Post. (Posted ten minutes ago or so and already tweeted a dozen times.) Read it here and have yourself a chuckle!

JUST PUBLISHED BY HUFFINGTON POST: IORIO'S PARODY OF CNBC DEBATE.

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for November 1, 2015



2015-11-02-1446424235-9698204-gopfellas.jpg

For those who missed the recent G.O.P. debate on CNBC, here is a highly-condensed version presented in the language of Martin Scorsese’s film “Goodfellas,” which -- 25 long years ago -- dramatized the sorts of psychological dynamics that were on display at the forum.

Whatever the case, this abridged version is, mercifully, much shorter and, one hopes, a lot more fun.

Here it is. I'll call it..."GOPfellas."

All ten Republican candidates for president are on stage. Three CNBC journalists are in the front row.

BECKY QUICK

Good evening, everyone, to CNBC's "Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate" -- live from the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colorado. I'm Becky Quick. Along with my CNBC colleagues, Carl Quintanilla and John Harwood.

My colleague Carl Quintanilla has the first question.

QUINTANILLA

A lot to get to tonight, so let's get started. Senator Rubio, the Sun-Sentinel newspaper says you act like you hate your job. Do you hate your job?


MARCO RUBIO

Well, I read that editorial with great amusement.


JEB BUSH

Carl, can I say something up here? [turns to Rubio] Peppino, you’ve been getting to work late to shine my shoes lately. And you need to either get here on time or go find another job. You’re getting too uppity.


RUBIO

No more shoe shines, Jeb.


BUSH

What?


RUBIO

I said, no more shines. Maybe you didn’t hear about it, you’ve been away from elected office a long time. They didn’t tell you. I don’t shine shoes anymore.


BUSH

Relax, for cryin’ ‘loud. What’s getting to you? I’m just breaking your shoes a little bit.


RUBIO

Sometimes you don’t sound like you’re kidding. There’s a lot of people around.


BUSH

I’m only kiddin’ with you. I haven’t seen you for a long time and I’m just breakin’ your shoes. Sorry, didn’t want to offend you.


RUBIO

I’m sorry, too.


BUSH

Now, go home and get your shinebox.


RUBIO (livid)

Damn you! You piece of crap! You never talked about John McCain missing votes in the Senate when he was running. You bought your friggin’ button!


BUSH

Yeah, c’mon. You feel strong?! [goading him to fight]


RUBIO (furious, escorted off the stage)


QUINTANILLA

Next question from John Harwood.


JOHN HARWOOD

Mr. Trump, you've done very well in this campaign so far. But let's be honest: Is this a comic-book version of a presidential campaign?


DONALD TRUMP

I’m a comic book character to you? You mean, the way I talk? I’m funny to you?


CARLOS QUINTANILLA (interrupting)

Mr. Trump, you’ve got it all wrong –


TRUMP

No, wait. Harwood’s a big boy. He knows what he said. What did you say? Funny how?


HARWOOD

Like a comic book version –


TRUMP

Let me understand you. I’m funny how? I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh.


HARWOOD

Just…how you tell a story. You know…


TRUMP

No, no, I don’t know. YOU said, I’m a comic book character. How am I funny? What the hell is so funny about me? Tell me? Tell me what’s funny?


HARWOOD

[long pause, holds up hand in exasperation] Get the hell out of here!

TRUMP

I almost had him! I almost had him!

Everyone on stage laughs roughly.

End of debate.


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[Credit for modified "Goodfellas" logo: Paul Iorio. All dialogue taken directly from the film "Goodfellas" and from the transcript of the CNBC debate, all of it re-fashioned as parody by Paul Iorio.]


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 25, 2015


Twenty-one years ago, I wrote, reported and originated an article for The Washington Post that just about every publication wanted to publish. I mulled the offers and sold it to the Washington Post's Style section. Here it is:

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 24, 2015



I heard Hozier level the place last night with "Take Me to Church" in Berkeley. Almost took my breath away. Everyone should hear the song live. It sounds as if vocalist Andrew Hozier-Byrne was working through something painful, building tension on tension -- and the lyrics are quite clever, too. My guess is he'll be singing that one till at least 2055. But he said from the Greek Theater stage that this will be the band’s last U.S. gig for a while.

Have never seen a crowd as big in the hills above the Greek in Berkeley (where I heard the show) -- and I've seen almost all of 'em all over the past decade. Even bigger than the crowd for Ed Sheeran some months ago.

And Hozier-Byrne and his band have a personal link to Berkeley; last June, he sang at the funeral service for one of the Irish students killed in the balcony collapse several blocks from the Greek. Here, he dedicated one of his songs to the victims of that tragedy.

“If I could, I’d just like to dedicate this next tune to…those who died in the tragic balcony collapse,” he said, before kicking into “Angel of Death and the Codeine Scene,” one of the stronger songs of the night.

Other highlights were “Work Song,” “From Eden” and an interesting re-arrangement of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird.”

But, frankly, everything else paled in contrast to stunner “Take Me to Church.”

Opening was a terrific new band from Dublin, Ireland, called Little Green Cars. They played a nine-song set with hints of early Sixties group-folk, 1980s R.E.M. and the intersection of Irish folk and Americana, all mixed together in an original way.

The best was the sixth song, whose title I don’t know (but it has a line that goes, “I’ve felt this way a long time”). “Harper Lee” was really engaging, almost sui generis, structurally. I predict this band will be headlining at the Greek within a few years.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 22, 2015


Lots of fun hearing Florence + the Machine perform last night in Berkeley on a tour that is going to only a half dozen (or so) U.S. cities. Two nights here at the Greek, in fact.

The band has doubled its audience since I last heard it (in June 2011) and seems to have expanded the role of Isabella Summers, the group’s amazing keyboardist, who played magically and hynotically at the end of “Cosmic Love.” Summers' role in the group should be further expanded.

Meanwhile, Florence Welch was in fine voice (or fine shriek!). (She is truly the master of the amelodic shriek, which somehow hits the ear just right. A real innovator when it comes to vocals.)

Other highlights included “Ship to Wreck,” “Mother” and, of course, “Dog Days Are Over,” which really got people going in the hills above the theater, where I heard the show.

Just finished dinner and might stroll up the hill again for a second helping – if only to hear opening act Sean Lennon, whose music I, frankly, have a very low opinion of. Let’s see if he can convince me otherwise in the next hour or so!


UPFATE: October 23, 2015: Just got back from hearing Sean Lennon perform with his band. Just awful. He doesn't have a good musical imagination at all He should take tips from his step-brother Julian, who has a far better sense of rhythm and knows how to allow his melodies to flow naturally.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 18, 2015


Last Night's Neil Young Concert.
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The atmosphere was as electric as a lightning storm last night on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley as Neil Young and his band thundered for over three hours from the Greek Theater stage.

On this final night of his ’15 tour, Young performed half of his “Harvest” album, along with numerous other classics and some new tunes, all played wildly, perfectly, his voice and energy (and radicalism) undiminished by the decades.

And the fans and UC students who gathered in the hills above the theater (where I heard the show) were dancing and loving his music as much as I did in the 1970s, when I was their age.

I was lucky enough to have seen Young perform when he was 28 years old and I was 16, a mere two years after the release of “Harvest.”

And I can say, without hesitation, that this gig occasionally reached peaks as high as the ones at that 1974 show.

Last night, “Out on the Weekend,” “Mr. Soul” and “Alabama” were particularly strong, as was his unplugged solo opening salvo (“After the Gold Rush”/”My My Hey Hey”/”Helpless”/”Old Man”), though the latter two could’ve flown much higher with full band backing.

They sure flew high when I saw Young perform them back in ‘74 with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida, at a notably exceptional show on their “reunion” tour).

To digress a bit about that ’74 show: I remember the band kicked things off with three or four CSN songs before introducing Young. When he took the stage, the mood in the crowd changed dramatically -- as if twister clouds had just appeared on the horizon. The adrenaline level spiked. All eyes were on Young.

And then came that thunderous thumping bass/drum sound bouncing off the stadium walls. It was the most gigantic thing I'd ever heard (except for Led Zeppelin, who I'd seen the year before).

Young went to the mike: "There is a town in north Ontario...."

Wow. To this day, one of the most astonishing moments I’ve heard at any concert.

Which is why I sort of wish he’d brought out his ace band – Promise of the Real, featuring two of Willie Nelson’s sons – before the fifth song.

But that’s a small point, because the group rocked the daylights out of the rest of the material (including a nearly half-hour version of “Down by the River” and an inspired “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”).

Promise of the Real may not have the untamed quality of Crazy Horse – who I last saw in 1986 in New Jersey, where they and Young were joined by David Crosby and Graham Nash for a blistering “Ohio” – but they have intensity and nuance. (And Lukas Nelson, who sang “September Song” here, sounds a lot like his dad.)

The effect that Young’s classic songs and riffs of the early seventies have on fans, young and old, cannot be overestimated. You could no more erase his work from the American landscape than you could erase the Grand Canyon or Half Dome. When one hears the opening notes of “Down by the River” or “Alabama,” it feels sort of like an element on the periodic table has come to life.

Unfortunately, one can’t say the same about the songs on his new album, “The Monsanto Years,” which is well-crafted but too preachy. (Frankly, if he were crusading against Smith & Wesson and the NRA, far greater devils than Monsanto, I might be singing along.)

But I can overlook that, given the vast, generous Americana mural that Young displayed last night in what amounted to a hometown show. (Young lives in nearby San Mateo county.) Like the fault by his ranch, he rocked the place like a magnitude 8. Long may he run.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 13, 2015


Many thanks to KALX and great DJs Marshall Stax and Amazing Grace for airing my brand new song "Don't Pray for Me" last night!

The song is so new that I haven't yet posted an MP3, so (for now) here're the lyrics. Audio and video coming online soon!

UPDATE: Here's a free stream/download of the MP3 edition of "Don't Pray For Me":

free stream/download of "DON'T PRAY FOR ME"

I'd always wanted someone to write a song just like this -- so I did.


UPDATE: 2015-10-16-1445004374-4727583-aaaaaapray2.jpg


My new album, "As It Were" -- which features nine new Paul Iorio songs -- was released mere days ago. (And the number of CDs out there right now can be counted on one hand!) I'm working hard to send it out to everyone, but demand is higher for this one than for my other ones.

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 12, 2015


I wish someone would post a setlist for Julia Holter's gig last Saturday night, opening for Beirut. Because I'm sort of going mad trying to identify a song with a wonderful melody that she sang (two or three tunes before her finale). Holter’s quite impressive, recalling Joni Mitchell and Laurie Anderson at times.

Lots of magic in Beirut's show. Such a cinematic sound. Inspires people to act out the music (like I’ve seen fans sometimes do at shows by The Decemberists and She & Him).

Zach Condon sings like a cross between Bryan Ferry and Jay Black and also like Rocky Roberts, the singer of “Django,” which Condon and Beirut should consider covering. (They might also want to try Van Morrison’s “The Way Young Lovers Do” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso.”)

Highlights of the night were originals “Santa Fe” and “East Harlem,” both from their 2011 album “Rip Tide.”

On the downside, they do overuse the matador style horn a bit; I almost expected a bullfight to break out a couple times.

But all told, well worth checking out. Ninety minutes flies by in a flash listening to them.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 10, 2015


I heard Ben Howard and the band Daughter last night at the Greek in Berkeley. There's real magic, unprepossessing at first, in much of what Howard does. And "Rivers in Your Mouth" is a real force of nature live. Remarkable performance of that one.

Opening act Daughter is an interesting U.K. band, part of a new generation that is actually more influenced by "Grace" -- the Jeff Buckley collaboration with my friend Gary Lucas (one of the most imaginative guitarists on the planet, btw) -- than by the great Captain Beefheart himself! (Who knew that would ever happen?)

Daughter seems influenced by both Lucas/Buckley and by Kristen Hersh and the band Belly, but their sound is quite original. And, live, they crescendo more intensely (and with greater nuance) than almost any new indie band I've heard.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 5, 2015


Nick Lowe's Concert at Hardly Strictly Yesterday Afternoon.
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Lowe closing his set with "What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding" yesterday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


Very enjoyable 45-minute early afternoon set in the park. Just Lowe and his acoustic. A chance to re-discover some of his more obscure tracks. “I Live on a Battlefield” and “What’s Shaking on the Hill” were particularly strong. “Cruel to Be Kind” and “Peace, Love and Understanding” were great in new arrangements. (Two questions: did he write “Peace, Love and Understanding” this way originally, and why didn’t he record it for one of his own albums?) I love his style of underplaying -- though, vocally, he does risk becoming the Perry Como of the post-New Wave if he keeps up this laid back style!


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for October 3, 2015



Had a ball hearing Nile Rodgers and Chic perform at the Greek in Berkeley last night.

One of the highlights was the mini-set of hits Rodgers wrote (or co-wrote) for others. (Much as Willie Nelson and Smokey Robinson also do live medleys of iconic songs they wrote but are popularly associated with others, the former playing "Crazy" and the latter doing the songs he wrote for The Temptations. But I digress.)

Anyway, Rodgers's version of "Upside Down" has to be heard to be believed; "We Are Family" was like a danceable anthem; Chic put real swing and soul into Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and made "Let's Dance" seem so heartfelt.

But the best of the night was "Freak Out," which came alive like a playful wild animal in the woods. People in the hills above the theater (where I heard the show) danced as if the place was 54.

In addition to being a blast, Rodger's show also makes a fantastic case for his induction into the RnRHOF.

Rodgers/Chic were opening for Duran Duran, whose fans seem more enthusiastic about them than they ever were. Astonishing level of adulation for them.

And when they performed the undeniably catchy "The Reflex," people were singing "Whyyyy don't you use it" at full volume. Couldn't stay for the whole Duran set, but was surprised at how strong they sounded.

Opening was Clean Bandit, a fast-rising U.K. dance music group -- sort of like disco revivalists in a very 21st century way -- who seemed poised to break much bigger than they already have.

Such an abundance of musical riches last night in the Bay Area. Across the Bay, a group of amazing musicians were bringing their Big Star Third tour to the Hardly Strictly festival. I was torn between that and Chic -- but in the end I just couldn't pass up the chance to hear Nile Rodgers.

Will make it to Hardly Strictly either tomorrow or later today.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for September 26, 2015


Last Night's AC/DC Concert.
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Angus Young, last night in San Francisco. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


With half its set from the Bon Scott-era, and another quarter from "Back in Black," its "Led Zeppelin 4," a genuine hard rock totem, AC/DC performed last night in San Francisco -- one of only seven U.S. cities the band scheduled on this limited-edition American tour, which ends Monday in Los Angeles.

As someone who saw the band up close during its 1985 tour, I can attest that Angus Young's guitar playing has never been better -- though Brian Johnson, charismatic as ever, doesn't always hit the vocal mark anymore (though, at his best, he makes you forget Scott ever existed).

This is still one supremely crankin' band and the multi-generational crowd gathered in McCovey Cove -- where you could hear the show full blast and see it on a video screen for free (that’s where I heard the concert) -- were dancing, rockin', singing along, wildly exuberant at times. Across from the Cove, in AT&T Park, where the show was actually taking place, so many fans were wearing illuminated devil's horns that the crowd looked peppered with red from a distance.

The height of the night -- and of their career so far -- was "You Shook Me All Night Long," one of the best hard rock songs ever, performed here to perfection and inciting joyous partying.

Other highlights included a surprisingly strong "Back in Black," crowd-pleaser "Highway to Hell" and "TNT."

As with The Who and Led Zeppelin, the magic of AC/DC lies partly in their virtuosic ability to play a musical instrument called amplification. They can shape a massive sound cloud like few others.

(Also, loved the silent 40-second pauses before each song, which felt sort of like the pent-up moment before a tantrum.)

The band is both successor to Zeppelin and forerunner to GNR (the latter being an aesthetic trail that went dry pretty quickly).

True, after "Back in Black," Spinal Tap took a lot of piss out of the band with a satire that seemed aimed directly at them at times. (Which inspired me to come up with some future titles for the band: “I Pledge Allegiance to the Rock,” “In Rock We Trust,” “E Pluribus Rock." Though I think “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” is already taken.)

But it's also true that song-centric indie rockers have sort of championed the band over the years (e.g., The True Believers did a great cover of "Highway to Hell" as far back as the late eighties; in recent years, Lucinda Williams has covered "It's a Long Way to the Top").

It’s real rock populism, too. The crowd, before the show, was so excited; one guy ran by me singing “for those about to rock, we salute you” as he ran; a group of guys in a boat in the cove were group-chanting the “hey hey!” part of “TNT.” It seemed like everybody had a favorite song they were looking forward to – and the band played almost all the classics.

Opening was Vintage Trouble, a reminder to those about to rock that it's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll!


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Angus Young, showing his devil horns to the crowd last night. [photo by Paul Iorio]

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So many fans wore illuminated devil's horns that the crowd in the arena looked peppered in red from a distance. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]





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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for September 21, 2015


New Evidence That al-Awlaki Had Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks.

Al-Awlaki's Possibly Tell-Tale Copyright Dates


Awlaki's copyright for much of his life's work. Was
he summing up and getting his affairs together a few
weeks before 9/11, in anticipation of some sort of upheaval?



Anwar al-Awlaki, the late Islamic militant known to have met with two of the September 11th hijackers, spent the weeks prior to 9/11 collecting much of his life's work for publication and copyright.

The proximity of his work's copyright dates to the 9/11 attacks arguably gives the appearance of someone summing up or getting one's work and affairs in order before an anticipated interruption of some sort.

At the very least, the timing is suspicious (much as, analogously, increased business activity preceding a company downturn or upturn would trigger an insider trading investigation by the SEC).

According to my own original research of online records at the U.S. Copyright Office, Awlaki had filed for a copyright only twice in his career: for a 22-CD audio compilation of his lectures that was published on August 15, 2001, and for a cassette tape version published months earlier. (The formal copyright for both works was registered in subsequent months.)

Awlaki's copyrighted oeuvre -- "The Life of the Prophets," an audio anthology of his speeches spanning some two dozen discs and 18 cassette tapes -- was published by the Denver, Colorado-based Al Basheer Company For Publications & Translations, which shares the copyright with him. (The company has not responded to a question about whether it paid royalties to Awlaki.)

The Al-Basheer Company initially promoted the CD-set prominently on its website's front page but has since removed it from its online catalogue altogether. However, the publisher continued to publish and promote works by another jihadi, Bilal Philips, who the U.S government has called an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the World Trade Center attack of 1993.

According to my research, in the period before the 9/11 attacks -- from August 24 to August 27, 2001 -- Awlaki and Bilal Philips both appeared at a Da'wah Conference at the University of Leicester in the U.K. with other Muslim activist speakers, including Rafil Dhafir, now in prison in the U.S. on terrorism charges.

When the circumstantial evidence about Awlaki's activities in the weeks before 9/11 is put together, one has to wonder and ask about the possibility that Awlaki had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

First, as has been widely reported, Awlaki knew two of the hijackers -- Hawaf al-Hizmi and Hazmi's roommate Khalid al-Mihdar -- in the months prior to the hijackings. (A third, Hani Hanjour, attended the mosque where Awlaki was the imam).

Second, as I've just reported, Awlaki spent the months and weeks before the attacks getting his life's work together, assembling a sort of 'collected works' retrospective of his lectures (though he had never before and hasn't since copyrighted his material).

Third, in the week before the hijackings, he was participating in a seminar with a militant involved in the World Trade Center bombing of '93 (as I've reported here).

It should be noted that a cassette tape edition of Awlaki's work had been published in January 2001, and even this date supports my theory that he was tying up loose ends. After all, the hijackings were originally scheduled for early 2001 and then for July 2001, with the final date of 9/11 decided only at the last minute. So if hijacker al-Hizmi had confided in Awlaki in 2000 about the upcoming attacks, Awlaki would have come into 2001 knowing only that the hijackings would take place some time that year.

For the record, the conventional wisdom has it that Awlaki publicly condemned the 9/11 attacks at the time. But close scrutiny of his statements reveals that he almost always talked about 9/11 in highly ambiguous and almost sneaky terms that could easily be read as an endorsement of either side.

For example, Awlaki was quoted by The New York Times in '01 as saying the following about incendiary jihadi talk that leads to violence:

''There were some statements that were inflammatory," Awlaki told The Times -- while not specifying whether he was referring to statements by Muslim radicals or by the so-called infidel -- "and were considered just talk, but now we realize that talk can be taken seriously and acted upon in a violent radical way." (Again, his meaning was slippery and could have easily been along the lines of: 'now we realize that blasphemy and anti-Islamic talk must be taken seriously and should be combated with violence.')

By the time of the 9/11 attacks, al-Awlaki had already been under investigation for a couple years by the F.B.I. for suspected al Qaeda ties. The myth that he was a moderate then and became an extremist is evidently just that: a myth.

Al-Awlaki was killed four years ago this month by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.



Awlaki's collected lectures, prominently promoted
by its publisher, Al-Basheer, in '01.


* * *



Awlaki's publisher went on to publish
books by other jihadists like Bilal Philips,
who helped plan the bombing of the twin towers in '93.


* * * *



Awlaki and Bilal Philips both shared the bill at a conference
at the University of Leicester just prior to 9/11.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for September 13, 2015


Let a million refugees in. And then draft every able-bodied man and woman from that refugee group into the military to fight the ISIS militants that they fled.

They will be the force on the ground in Syria and in Iraq to kill off Daesh. Those who survive are welcome in the U.S. as permanent residents (G.I. Bill included).

By the way, I just posted this idea (which I came up with an hour or so ago) on the London Express site and people love it! I'm pleasantly surprised and taken aback by the positive reaction of Londoners to my idea! "Brilliant," said one woman. "Very clever lad you," said some man. Wow! And it really is a workable idea when you think about it.


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Trump is a Teflon Nixon. He’d commit Watergate-ish offenses as president and say, “Yeah, I ordered the break-in, so what? I’ll bug anyone I think is a danger to this country. Next question.”

He'd commit impeachable offenses and then suspend congressional impeachment proceedings – by executive emergency decree.

You can’t defeat him with a Muskie (Hillary) or a McGovern (Bernie). But Biden -- a sort of Humphrey circa his highly-regarded pre-veep days – might be able to take him down, if only he could get the Democratic nomination.

I’m sure Biden is crunching the numbers in terms of super-delegates, pledged delegates, unpledged delegates and winner-take-all contests. And he’s shaking his head. No clear path to the nomination for him – or for Hillary, if he’s in the race.

I know everybody’s high on Bernie right now, but the national math is against him. Yeah, he’s on track to win Iowa and New Hampshire, but afterwards he’ll be buried by Hillary in red states. (There’s no way he’s going to win big-ticket contests in Texas, Georgia, Florida, etc.)

By my own ultra-conservative count, Hillary easily has 1,750 delegates coming to her and only needs around 2,200. And that’s assuming (improbable) losses by her in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, even California.

Biden would cut into Hillary’s margins in the red states, causing a brokered convention that party bosses would have to decide in Hillary’s favor.

If the Democrats really – really – want to save America from Trump, there is a far-fetched solution that nobody has voiced yet. Hear me out.

Obama could resign so Biden could become the president standing for re-election – with all the power of the incumbency that would give him.

And then – here’s the beauty part – Biden would appoint Elizabeth Warren as his vice president.

So, it would become a Biden-Warren ticket from the git, as Biden works his magic in the Oval Office and on the campaign trail throughout 2016.

Obama could simply say, “After seven years of being president, I want to turn it over to someone who has been twice elected vice-president by the American people, someone who should be given a shot to complete the Obama-Biden agenda his way, if only for a year. I leave on a high note and trust that Joe will only take it higher.”

A highly unlikely strategy, to be sure, but the Dems are going to have to think way outside the box to stop this Trump juggernaut.

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I took my after-dinner hike in the hills tonight to coincide with the final half-hour of Lenny Kravitz's concert in that part of the UC Berkeley campus. So, I caught his final five songs. And, whatever you might think of him, there is no denying the power of his encore, "Are You Gonna Go My Way," which really crunches live, the best Hendrix song Hendrix never wrote.

As for the others...I think he ought to pare some of 'em down. I mean, the endings of his endings have endings.

Some of it reminded me of Vernon Reid's Living Colour, though Reid knew the value of brevity.

All told, the crowd enjoyed it a lot. And his finale was undeniable, even to non-fans.

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CL, a hip hop star in Seoul, really wowed the crowd Friday night in Berkeley at the annual music fest put on by the Mad Decent record label. She only played for around twenty minutes, mixing her solo stuff with hits from her days with girl group 2NE1, but clearly she’s poised for some sort of U.S. stardom soon.

She preceded headliner Major Lazer, the side project of Mad Decent’s founder, Wesley Pentz (aka, Diplo), who got people dancing wildly. They mix the most extreme bass sound this side of the Glitch Mob with great beats and plenty of Jamaican hot sauce.

A decade ago, Mad Decent was throwing these “block parties,” as they’re called, for free on a street in Philadelphia. Now they’re sold-out fests that tour a couple dozen cities with a rotating set of over sixty acts.

This time around, CL is the one to watch.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for September 10, 2015


About Last Weekend's Billy Joel Concert in San Francisco...
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Billy Joe, crooning last Saturday night at AT&T Park. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


As Billy Joel noted from the stage last Saturday night at AT&T Park, this was his very first show in San Francisco in 40 years, his previous gig here having been at a 500-seater in '75.

Forty years? Why the estrangement? You could say Joel is not exactly San Francisco writ large. In many ways, he's sort of the opposite of the city by the bay.

And when he sang about "the Pennsylvania we never found," I looked around at the very California crowd, which seemed sort of puzzled by this obscure geographical reference.

His paeans to the middle-Atlantic states may hit home for someone like me, who lived in that region for many years, but for dudes from the Mission and Carmel who've never even visited back east, not as much.

Still, everyone across from AT&T Park in McCovey Cove, where I heard (and partly saw) the show, had a ball, dancing to his great cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music," swaying to "She's Always a Woman to Me," drinking up the hits.

My favorites of the evening were "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," "Sometimes a Fantasy" and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," which had amphetamine momentum and sounded like cold spring rapids at times.

He also did a sort of Replacements-style schtick in which he performed lots of covers, most of them only incompletely, some of them ironically, all of them linked in a sort of running tribute to classic Bay Area bands. Some worked better than others (he did a funny imitation of Janis Joplin), though I wish he had played a half dozen more of his own songs instead.


Still, I enjoyed it thoroughly.


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The crowd outside the Billy Joel concert. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for August 24, 2015


Well, all right! The Huffington Post has just published my story about meeting Jimmy Carter in June 1975. Click the link to read it.


NEW IN HUFFINGTON POST: Paul Iorio's "The Day I Met Jimmy Carter."





The Day I Met Jimmy Carter, Dark Horse
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When I met him, Carter was polling around one percent in major presidential preference surveys.


I was 17 and standing with two friends at the end of a long, deserted pier on Tampa Bay in June 1975.

In the distance, a smiling middle-age man started walking the long, hot distance toward the three of us and, as he came closer, it became obvious he was hiking that span just to see me and my pals.

When he finally came to the far end of the pier, he reached out his hand to me and said, "Hi, my name is Jimmy Carter and I'm running for president of the United States."

I recognized him immediately because I knew a lot about politics, so I and my pals were a bit uptight and daunted by this famous guy. But he put us at ease and lowered the temperature quickly.

I remember Carter pointed to the boats in the bay -- singling out a "cigarette boat" -- and said, "I once had a boat like that" or some such. And he went on in a really engaging small-talk style about boats. Very low-key. He smiled as he left and we were all smiling ourselves by then. He had such positive energy and a wonderful impact on people.

I can’t help but think that that long walk to the end of that nearly empty pier revealed the exact reason why he was elected president the following year. To him, everybody mattered, even a teenager like me who wasn’t of voting age.

For the record, this was not a Carter-for-president rally. At this point in the game, he wasn’t yet able to muster enough supporters to have a significant rally in Florida. In mid-‘75, he was polling around one-percent (if that!) in most major surveys and would poll under five-percent throughout the rest of ‘75 and into early ’76. So he was as much of a long-shot as Rick Perry is right now.

Carter had announced his candidacy for president months earlier, in January of ’75, having finished his term as governor of Georgia, where he was celebrated as the progressive successor to right-winger Lester Maddox.

And he knew the pivotal political significance of Florida. He saw that fellow southeasterner George C. Wallace had gained enormous momentum by winning the state’s primary in ’72, before Wallace’s campaign was cut short by an assassination attempt. Could a southeastern progressive do the same?

With the now-crippled Wallace a lesser force than he had been -- and with Florida governor Rubin Askew declining to run -- Carter was spending a huge amount of time in the Sunshine State. "During 1975 and 1976, my wife, Rosalynn, spent 75 days in Florida; and I spent almost as many," wrote Carter on a University of California at Santa Barbara academic website.

So, when I met him, Carter was in town for no special reason that I knew of, but rather for some local Democratic party meeting that was happening in the building near that pier on which he wandered to meet me and my friends.

And the three teenagers he went out of his way to meet were nothing special. I had no relatives involved in politics at that time, though I was a community activist (who had been covered in the local newspaper (The Tampa Tribune) a year earlier for co-organizing an impeach Nixon rally) and had been the elected president of my high school student council. My friend David was a college student (and is now an attorney); and I think the other pal of mine was Todd, also a student.

The likely date was Saturday, June 7, 1975, just before sunset. (I worked on Saturdays in those days, so it had to be after I got off my afternoon shift at the movie theater at 6 p.m.). It was the day after I’d graduated from high school.

To this day, Carter is the only the president I've ever met. Truly, he was the people's president -- and, coming after the imperial regimes of Nixon and Ford, he was the American spring, the healing force.

Which explains why we’re now seeing such an outpouring of affection and adulation for Carter as he battles health problems. I join millions in hoping he recovers as much as he possibly can.

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Even nine months after I met him, this Time magazine cover (of March 8, 1976) was still asking, “Who is Jimmy Carter?”


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The author of this piece, in the mid1970s. [photo credit: the King High School (of Tampa, FL) yearbook, 1975.]


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for August 10, 2015


Elton John Closes Outside Lands with His Best Songs
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Fan wears Outside Lands wristband. [photo by Paul Iorio]


Elton John’s very last extensive tour came to Golden Gate Park last night and he had everybody crocodile rockin’ – even outside the Outside Lands festival, where I heard (but couldn’t see) the show.

With the core band members (Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson) who helped to create the sound of his prime, John performed his biggest hits for a couple hours to close out the three-day fest.

He ended his set with the climax of the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album – a full-velocity “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)” and a version of “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)” that sounded like Jerry Lee Lewis had hijacked the piano and flown it to Sun Studio.

And then he encored with “Crocodile Rock,” which had some dancing wildly in the streets, the park and the parking lots. (See photo, below)

Earlier, he played an exceptionally brilliant “Rocket Man”; the band extended its groove for a few minutes as John riffed virtuosically.

All told, he played 21 tunes – all of ‘em written by John with Bernie Taupin (with Johnstone sharing the credit on some tracks). (Interesting that he has never been able to summon his genius when he writes with other lyricists -- the sole exception being "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," which he co-wrote with Tim Rice.)

And there wasn’t a clunker in the setlist (except perhaps "Hey Ahab," from his ill-advised collaboration with Leon Russell in 2010).

This show – which I heard from a distance near Spreckels Lake, where it was loud enough to record it – compared favorably to other Elton shows I’ve seen up close. Of course, nothing beats the Central Park extravaganza that I saw in 1980 (a mere seven years after the release of ”Yellow Brick Road”); I’ll never forget fans dancing almost involuntarily to "Philadelphia Freedom" and other tunes.

And I had great seats in 1986 when he played Madison Square Garden, where people openly wept when he performed "Your Song."

Me, I wish he'd play more deep tracks, particularly songs that were dominant before "Yellow Brick Road" eclipsed all else. Stuff like "Friends," a wonderful ballad that used to be ubiquitous and has now been almost erased from airwaves and concert setlists; and fun stuff like "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself" and "Texas Love Song."

But it’d be impossible for him to include all the gems unless he did a six-hour concert. (Now there’s a concept!)

I arrived at the park just as Sam Smith was finishing his own set with “Stay With Me,” which the audience sang as if it were an ancient hymn. He has an almost supernatural falsetto live.


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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for August 9, 2015


Megyn Kelly IS a bimbo -- but not for the reasons Trump cites.

Exhibit A: in a little-noted moment at the end of the broadcast, she asked Rubio what he thought about "veterans and god," which must qualify as the most -- not just one of the most -- amateurish questions ever posed at a major presidential debate.

And one can sense what Kelly likely intended with the question: a rousing, cornball finale about "god and country" by the son of immigrants. It scans as a promotion of Rubio's candidacy. And it's a throwback to the broadcasters of the Eisenhower-era who asked questions along the lines of "What is your opinion on communism and satan"?

I guess everyone's already forgotten Kelly's "Santa Claus is white" howler of a few years ago!

No, Kelly's a laughingstock and moron for reasons that have nothing to do with the Trump controversy. (And her so-called "feminism", by the way, is nothing of the sort. Rather, her occasional championing of women's issues is mere self-interested identity politics that is right-wing on every issue except the one that affects her own demographic.)

Also, get off the Carly kick, folks. Out here in California, we know Fiorina. We saw her run against Boxer and get trounced in the debates and at the polls by a full 10%. We saw how ineffective she was in answering charges that she had almost never voted and that she accepted financial contributions from jihadists. Having failed at her Senate run -- funded to the hilt, btw -- , she now wants a promotion to president. She's a female Giuliani. And she wrongly thinks losing her temper and leadership are the same things.

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THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for August 6, 2015


After reading the transcript of the GOP debate, here are my notes:

The word "stupid" was uttered by various candidates a remarkable nine times during the debate.

The most risible gaffes of the night came from Huckabee ("the purpose of the military is to kill people and break things") and Trump ("We don't have time for tone").

Megyn Kelly posed one of the worst debate questions ever, asking Rubio about his views on "god and the veterans." (Of course, Rubio, being an astute politician, answered that he hated both god and veterans.)

Trump did not always sound fully coherent. In moments of clarity, he actually came off like Bernie Sanders (in his defense of single-payer). .

Hillary attended Trump's wedding?!

Huckabee was as theocratic as a mullah. ("The Supreme Court is not the supreme being"? The Ayatollahs say the same thing all the time.)

Re Mexico: Trump wants a wall, Rubio says he wants a "fence." No candidate has yet endorsed a moat.

OK, Kasich, we got it the first time. Your dad was a mailman.

Rubio seems to be under the misimpression that El Chapo is the president of Mexico.

Trump characterized NYC as exclusively Democratic. Which is not really true. It's the city that elected Giuliani, after all. And Staten Island and parts of Queens are ultra-red.

Jeb apparently thinks that happy talk will get us to 4% economic growth.

Bush seemed misinformed: at one point he said that we can honor the soldiers who died in the Iraq war by stopping the Iran agreement. (Is he unaware that Iran is currently our biggest ally in the war against ISIS?)


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