Roger McGough reads “Blazing Fruit or The Poet as Entertainer,” and talks to critic Michael Billington about his approach to writing poetry.
McGough came to fame in the 1960s, along with Brian Patten and the late Adrian Henri, as part of the Liverpool Poets. Their seminal volume of collected poems The Mersey Sound, brought poetry out of the academies and into the coffee-houses, bars, and working men’s clubs of swinging England. As McGough said at the time:
The kids didn’t see this poetry with a capital p, they understood it as modern entertainment, as part of the pop-movement.
Associated with The Beatles, as part of the “Liverpool Explosion,” McGough went onto form the popular music, comedy and poetry group The Scaffold, with comic John Gorman, and Paul McCartney’s brother, Mike McGear, which famously led to a number 1 hit “Lily the Pink” in 1968. McGough later teamed-up with Neil Innes for GRIMMS, and since the mid-1970s has been one of Britain’s best known and best loved poets.
Is it an absolute truism that the most strident, vociferous homophobes are always self-hating closeted gays? Judging from the dozens upon dozens of anti-gay Christian activists and conservative pols who have been “outed” over the years, it would seem to be an immutable law of that particular brand of assholism.
And speaking of assholes, Liberal radio host Alan Colmes very nearly got rabidly anti-gay, hate-filled Christian hater Bryan Fischer to admit to something truly hilarious on his show the other day.
Read between the lines of this exchange:
Colmes: Have you ever had a gay impulse?
Fischer: (Laughing) Alan, I am not going to talk about that ...
Colmes: I’m just wondering ...
Fischer: Alan, I’m not going to go there. Give it a rest Alan ...
Colmes: It’s a simple yes or no question.
Fischer: We’re not going to talk about that.
Colmes: Because maybe if you’ve been able to overcome your gay impulses and you’ve been successful in doing it, you could be a model for other people you’d like to see act the same way.
See what he did there? Standing ovation!
Fischer: The focus here, Alan, is that everybody experiences sexual impulses that if they acted on those impulses, it would destroy them.
Colmes: Well, can you give me an example from your own life? What would be some of yours?
Fischer: You’ve experienced them ...
Colmes: I have?
Fischer: I’ve experienced them. Every man, every woman has experienced certain sexual impulses that, if they acted on them, if they conducted themselves by yielding to those impulses, it would destroy them. Ask Tiger Woods about that.
Nice try, Bryan, but he’s asking YOU.
Colmes: I don’t think I’ve ever had sexual impulses that would destroy the society or the culture or make me a deviant in some way. I honestly don’t think that’s ever happened, even in your eyes, so I’m surprised. I wonder what impulses you’re talking about. If you’ve had them, I’d love to know what they are.
Fischer: Well the focus Alan is on sexual conduct, sexual behavior, not on sexual impulse ...
Colmes: So you won’t tell me whether you yourself have been able to overcome a gay impulse?
Fischer: Alan, give it a rest.
Getting a little squirmy there, are we Bry?
What’s Fischer hiding? It is, as Colmes said during the conversation, a simple yes or no question. He knows what the answer is, just like anyone else would and yet curiously, he chose not to say. Somehow I think that if the answer was, ahem, a straightforward “no” he would have just said “no” without hesitation.
But he didn’t. You don’t need to be Alex Jones (or much of an amateur psychoanalyst, either) to draw certain observations from this unintentionally revealing exchange…
Hopefully this question will dog Bryan Fischer around for the rest of his fuckin’ life… or at least until he’s caught with a “traveling companion” he met on Grindr…
Earlier this week Giorgio Moroder—who’s now 73 years old and experiencing an unexpected new wave of interest in his work—appeared at François Kevorkian’s “Deep Space” party in Brooklyn where he DJ’d to a full house in Brooklyn. According to reports, this was the first time Moroder has ever DJ’d live in New York.
While fan conventions always brings out the most imaginative of nerdish costumes, it is rare that I’m truly surprised. However, this little girl from last weekend’s Motor City Comic Con, in full Stan Lee drag, is the living end. The… living… end. (She’s even doing her little Spider-Man web-slinger move!)
Stan’s “Mini-Me” is 7-year-old badass Isabella Cracchiolo whose father Vincent recently covered the convention for Bleeding Cool.
Two adult males reenact an actual conversation that one of the males acting in the skit had with his 2-year-old daughter. Once you replace the toddler with an adult, the whole thing comes off more than a little bit psycho.
Wunderbar! This is the first episode of what I hope is an ongoing series.
If you’re much under the age of 35 you probably have no cultural memory of Morton Downey Jr. whatsoever, but he (and Joe Pyne, an earlier, slightly less-obnoxious pioneer of in-your-face television) is the very direct progenitor of the confrontational style of Fox News and reichwing talk radio we have today. The Morton Downey, Jr. Show was where the talkshow format merged with professional wrestling (and all that implies). After his example, the dam was burst forever on politeness and niceties in televised discourse. “Mort” was Network‘s Howard Beale come to life as a snarling, chain-smoking firebrand.
When The Morton Downey, Jr. Show first started airing in the New York metro area in 1987 on WWOR, the “super station” operating out of (not so) beautiful Secaucus, NJ, I was briefly into it, simply because I had never seen anything like it, or the shouting, spitting-mad, red-faced, veins-bulging lunatic who hosted it, not to mention his mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal audience! Oy vey.
Initially, at least, it was riveting, trainwreck TV, but I soon went from watching it most nights (if I was home, which was admittedly rare in those days) to only watching it when someone really kooky, like Lyndon LaRouche, say, was going to be on it. Eventually The Morton Downey, Jr. Show seemed like it was all Tawana Brawley, Curtis Sliwa, low rent porn girls and too-samey high-volume, spittle-flecked tirades against “pablum puking liberals.” All the time. After a while you kinda “got” it and the novelty wore off.
For a brief moment he was everywhere (The Today Show, playing himself in movies and on TV, People magazine, even scaling that true pinnacle of pop culture success: being parodied on SNL) but Downey’s star—and the ratings of his syndicated talkshow—crashed and burned pretty fast. I think the rest of America got sick of him as quickly as we New Yorkers did. All told his rise and fall took under two years. In 1990 Morton Downey Jr. filed for bankruptcy.
I didn’t really know that much about his life, but I found the new documentary about the angry father of trash TV, Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger to be absolutely engrossing. It’s a well-made, well-researched film that tries to figure out what made a freak of nature like this tick. There is no simple answer, as the film demonstrates.
No, Morton Downey Jr. was no “Lonesome” Larry Rhodes, but he harbored a burning desire to become more famous than the domineering father he hated (“Daddy issues” evidentally loomed large in his life). He spent most of his career casting around for his niche, at first as a singer and songwriter (Dean Martin is seen praising a young Downey’s talents in a vintage clip) and then as a radio jock. Eventually he would be talent spotted by former MTV exec Bob Pittman, who wanted to do a “new” Joe Pyne type program.
His act was a shtick to a large extent, but Downey was also more or less true to his own (sometimes shifting) beliefs. Still his producers could feed him lines in pre-production meetings that he would parrot verbatim. Above all he was a showman, and during a break, he would often tell a guest he’d just insulted, spat upon and kicked off his show that they’d done a great job!
Mort’s talent for getting noticed deserted him about 18 months into his brief moment of fame and he was soon resorting to attention grabbing stunts like cutting his own hair and drawing a (backwards) swastika on his face in an airport bathroom, claiming that some skinheads roughed him up. That Downey was able to pass a polygraph test about the made-up incident and his far-out claims shows his capacity for self-deception.
Évocateur does a fine job getting near the bottom of what was obviously a bottomless pit of psychological misery (segments where Downey’s poetry is read aloud provide unexpected revelations of his self-loathing). If you remember the Loudmouth, or even if you don’t, without him there would be no Glenn Beck, no Molotov Mitchell, no Dana Loesch… it’s Mort’s prescient angry DNA that still informs rightwing media today and his influence seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future. With appearances by Beck, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Sally Jesse Raphael, Chris Elliott, Gloria Allred, Alan Dershowitz and Pat Buchanan. Downey’s friend and frequent sparring partner Al Sharpton appears in clips from the show, but he didn’t participate in the doc for reasons that will be quite obvious once you’ve seen it.
Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996 and had one of his lungs removed (but, true to form, not before he appeared on Larry King Live the very night prior to his surgery!). He died in in 2001.
This picture book for young children presents the traditional, Judeo-Christian view of the family in picture-book format. In school, young Michael learns that God made men to be fathers and women to be mothers. After school, his father takes him to the zoo, where he learns that animal families consist of a male, a female, and their offspring.
Upon observing these phenomena, Michael asks his father two questions:
1. Why does his friend have two fathers?
2. Am I adopted?
His father sensitively addresses both of these questions with love and compassion, and he tells Michael that he needs to pray for his friend and his friend’s two fathers.
By now, you probably already know my thoughts about this. Jesus Christ!
This headstone, located in the Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery in Goldfield, Nevada is apparently real. There are some doubts on the Internet as the red paint appears to be in mighty fine shape for being over 100 years old. Perhaps someone maintains the grave since it’s so unusual?
According to the Find a Grave and Letterology websites, Library Paste contains “alum” which is toxic if eaten in large doses:
This unknown man, a starving vagrant, dug a tub of library paste out of the trash. Made mostly of flour and water it seems reasonable to eat, but the paste contained alum, which is poisonous if a large enough dose is received. The Alum along with an already weakened health condition appear to have been enough to cause his death.
Moral of the story: Please do not eat the Library Paste, kiddies. Who wants their existence on this planet preserved for posterity as being someone who died eating paste?
Whether or not this is staged (performance art?) it’s hard to tell. But it does show what it’s like to have your work shit on during a crit by a bunch of assholes (and why so many people say “fuck it” to art degrees).
For some reason this whole freak-out reminds me of an episode of Girls.