Monday, February 28, 2011


Old people are so boring, aren't they?

All they do is talk about the good old days, and about their back pains, and about their knee surgeries, and how the world is going to hell, and how the old days were better, and how people were more reliable back then, and even the politicians were more honest when they were young, and on and on, blah-blah-blah.

Don't you get sick of it? I do.

I hate old people, too. But guess what? I am one. I was born in 1938 and will reach 73 in August this year.

In our society, we separate ourselves from old people. In other cultures, and in the good old days, families all lived together, granny and gramps and uncles and aunts and kids and parents.

Those days seem to have disappeared when most folks moved into cities to pursue industrial and post-industrial careers. "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm" was a popular song way back when.

When we look at old people, we don't see ourselves. We don't see anyone remotely like us. We see aliens. Creatures from outer space. Wrinkly, weird critters that don't hear very well and that have watery, almost sightless eyes. That's right, we don't see ourselves in the future, the way we are going to be, inevitably. We see aliens. I should say you. You young people see aliens. Not me, I see men and women like me, of my generation.

I never realized I was going to get old. My mother, when she was about 80 and lived on a golf course near Riverside, CA, said, "You feel young inside, but when you look in the mirror, you see an old person staring back at you."

She was right. But what she didn't say was how that feels. It is scary. My God, it is the scariest thing I've ever faced.

I don't know what to do about it, except work out, eat right and try to stay healthy. I try not to be too grumpy about it, although that is hard.

And when I meet other old people, I try to act as friendly as I can. Even though they are still aliens, weirdly enough, and they are still really boring. I hope I am not half as bad.  

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle 


The verdict is in, at least for me. The Oscars last night were long, slow, tedious and boring. Oh, God, they were boring.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the Academy Awards show is supposed to appeal to two very different audiences: those outside the industry, like me and most of the zillions of the viewers out there in TV land, and those inside Hollywood. 

For Hollywood, the awards ceremony is a big deal. Careers are made, or enhanced, and if not broken at least diminished. I can imagine being there, if you are an actor, director, or producer. You could schmooze with your colleagues and kiss up to people you wanted to work with.  

When I was a newspaper reporter and editor, I used to go to annual awards banquets for us journalists. The format was similar to the Oscars. We sat at round tables of eight or ten and schmoozed, and ate and drank, and acted like we were equal to the big-time publishers and editors at the same table.

They handed out awards, and we applauded and shook hands and had a good time. I was usually glad I went, although it was a long evening. They projected copies of stories and photos on a big screen, so we could admire the winning entries and see the ones we might have missed.

Overall, it was fun. We got to kiss some ass, or have our ass kissed, depending on where we were in the pecking order.

An awards ceremony is very different on the inside than it is on the outside. Watching the Oscars, for most of us, is fairly pointless. We are not in the industry, and we not there for the ass kissing, so who cares?

For one thing, there are too many categories, and too many awards, and too many people who receive them. Why don't they just nominate all the movies for the year -- all 360 or whatever the number is -- and all the actors and makeup artists and CGI people and directors and cameramen, and so on? And why don't they add in the thousands of extras and grips and carpenters and truck drivers, and so forth, and stage this gigantic event in the Rose Bowl? They could hand out free tequila and just let the party and the cameras roll.

That could be fun to watch. Imagine all the things that good happen, the good, the bad and the ugly. For the half-time show, they could have a mud-wrestling contest between Charlie Sheen and two or three of his ex-girlfriends. With microphones on. Imagine the dialogue.

Failing that, I think they should either cut down on the number of categories or have two segments, one for the general public, designed to entertain, and the other for the industry insiders, to give out awards and provide a place and time for schmoozing and ass kissing.

They could broadcast the entertaining one for the general public on network TV and have the boring insider one on cable.

If they don't do one of the those, I doubt I'll ever watch again. The show is just not entertaining enough. Odd, too, since these people are masters at entertainment. I guess they deserve a night off.

So do I.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I am a pretty committed liberal, yet I don't do much when it comes to politics. I don't get off my fat ass and march, or haven't since Bush went to war against Iraq. I don't meet with my MoveOn committee members as often as I should. I don't show up at rallies or carry picket signs.

I don't know why not. Maybe I'd rather sit here and blog. It is easier. I don't think of myself as being lazy, but maybe I am.

My lack of action raises some questions: What do you owe your country? Your society? Your own political beliefs? Your own sense of honor? Your fellow man? How important is political action in the real world?

It reminds me of this quote:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -- Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Is that what I am doing, nothing? Am I allowing evil to triumph?

The truth is, that's why I vote. I want my elected officials to do all the heavy lifting. I don't want to do anything except hold them accountable.

Maybe that is awful lazy. And one of these days, things could get so bad that we'll all have to get off our fat asses and do something.

To tell you the truth, I hope that day never comes.

I'd rather just blog.

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Hi there. What are you doing tonight? 

Me, like a million other morons in the world, I'm planning to watch the stupid Academy Awards show.

It's so boring, and yet I feel like I've missed something if I don't watch it. If I do, I get bored and restless and feel like I'm wasting my time.

You have to hand it to Hollywood. They get paid to advertise. They actually sell commercials for the show, and the show itself is a big PR stunt for their movies. Is that smart or what?

Gee, I wish I was that smart. Obviously, I'm not. Here I am blogging for free. (BTW, click on these ads, and someday I might get paid.)

I don't even know who or what has been nominated. I just went online and tried to find the list and couldn't. Found a million BS stories with photos about what color dress some actress is going to wear on the stupid red carpet.

I don't care. i just want the damn Oscar list. Let's see what I can remember. I think that ballet movie with the woman who goes crazy is nominated for something. What was it again? Oh, yeah, "Black Swan." Whew, thought I'd never remember.

A friend of mine, a screenwriter, said he thought Natalie Portman did a great acting job. Say what? I thought she didn't do much acting. She had the same worried, tight-ass expression on her face 80% of the time. That's acting?

Still, I thought the movie was powerful and unforgettable. Some people said the dancing was great. No, it wasn't. I used to be a dance critic, and I took Imperial Russian Ballet lessons years ago, so I know something about ballet. If you want to see "Swan Lake" for real, look at the Kirov Ballet on YouTube (link below).

Let's see if I can recall what else I've seen. Oh, yeah, I tried to watch that movie about hillbillies in the Ozarks. What was it called? "Winter's Bone." I tried to watch it and couldn't cut it. Tried two or three times. Here is an excerpt from my review, off Netflix:

"Horrible place, horrible people. Rural poverty, no values, no dignity, no hope. I was not intrigued, entertained, engaged, fascinated, or enlightened. I felt sorry for the girl, and then scared for her, and then I couldn't wait to get away."  

I finally found the list. If you look at it, the same five or six movies are nominated again and again. What does that mean? Were those all the good movies, out of perhaps 300 films released in 2010? I doubt it, but I do know it's good PR if a movie wins more than one of those little gold statues.

Those are the only two movies on the list that I have seen or tried to watch. I used to love the movies when I was a kid, but not so much any more. I wish they'd quit making movies for teenagers and morons. I would love to love the movies again. Don't hold your breath.

Who am I rooting for? I don't care. Let's see what happens tonight. I just hope the show isn't too stupid. 

Who are you rooting for? Do you care? Leave a comment below. Thanks.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Kirov Ballet
Academy Awards
List of Oscar nominees
Movie guide:

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Yesterday, I discovered a great new beer: Full Sail amber ale from Hood River, Oregon.

Wow. Full bodied, steamy, a bit chocolaty, rich, great. Yum.

One of the best things: It's by an employee-owned company. That means the people that make the beer also make the profit.

I believe this is the wave of the future in American business. The more employee-owned companies, the better our economy and the more equality and freedom we can enjoy.

Down with the Koch brothers, up with beer.
BTW, I got mine at my local Trader Joe's.
Also, I like their pale ale, too. It's not very pale.

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle



Most of my life, I have hated TV. It is usually slow, boring and full of meaningless crap. I don't know how anyone stands it.

My ex-wife used to watch the idiot box, and I found I could enjoy some of the shows if I came in in the middle, after the set-up. Because then I had to figure out what was going on, not be spoon-fed some idiotic story idea.

But once in a very long time I see a network TV show that doesn't offend me or bore me to the point of mania. The most recent one and the best one I can think of is "Lone Star," from fall 2010. It was a Fox drama about a con man and his father who use the son's good looks and charm to relieve people of as much money as they can. The son is especially adept at wooing the women.

The show starred James Wolk, David Keith and Jon Voight, among others. Great cast. Huge acting chops. Set in Texas. Oil money. Big landscapes, fancy offices, tall buildings. Lovely ladies.

The best thing: the son had profoundly mixed feelings. He wanted the money, and he wanted to please his dad, but he also wanted a real life, too. To quit lying and succeed on his own merits, which were pretty strong. This was a great inner conflict, one of the best I've ever seen. Very dramatic. There were strong outer conflicts, too. The Jon Voight character seemed to be onto our young anti-hero.

The show was first-rate. The acting, the story development, the directing, the depth and meaning and movement of the story -- wow. Stunning. Maybe the best thing I have ever seen on network TV. One of the best dramas of any kind ever.

But this great show was cancelled, after only two episodes. 

Why? The number of viewers fell from 4.1 million to 3.23 million between the first and second episodes. I guess Fox thought they had a loser on their hands.

Sweet Jesus. Good thing it wasn't a novel. You only have to sell about 5,000 copies of a novel in the first week to be a blockbuster. But that audience pays by the book, at $25 or $30 a pop. I guess that's peanuts in the world of network TV.

The people at Fox didn't look at the quality of the show, apparently. Who cares about quality? Why would you think quality might be worth preserving? Or that quality might sell in the long run, that the show might find an audience? So it was great drama, so frigging what? Who cares?

That's why TV is a vast wasteland. Always has been. Probably always will be. No guts, no glory. No taste. No quality. Pablum for the masses.

The same thing happens in politics. Many leaders are scared to death to tell the truth.

People wonder why American culture is so full of junk. Politics and TV are intellectual junk food for the masses.

Makes me want to puke.

My advice: Buy a funny T-shirt and read a good novel instead of watching TV. (And click on these ads. Please.)

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Friday, February 25, 2011


In my opinion, TV star and sometime actor Charlie Sheen has committed the worst sin of his position. He has failed to protect his people.

Any leader knows that you feed your people first. Sheen apparently doesn't have a clue about leadership. Or much else.

His wildly popular show, "Two And A Half Men," has been shut down for the rest of the season.

This is from CNN:
"A Warner Brothers spokesman said that at least 250 members of the cast and crew will be out of work since the season's last four episodes were cancelled. It has yet to be decided whether there will be a ninth season, according to Time Warner."

I predict that Mr. Sheen will get in even worse trouble. The clock ticks.
Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle



I forgot to announce that I have a new blog: 

Kulture Vulture  is about arts and culture generally. It also touches on psychology. The lede (cq, a newspaper term) story today is about that new Spider Man show on Broadway, the one where actors keep falling from the high-wire stunts and breaking their bones.

This blog here -- Shots In The Dark -- is more about politics, current events and the environment. Things you might read about in the front of a newspaper.

Future topics I have in mind: 

- Immigration – we should be helping these people, not shooting them.
- Toilet paper – recycled vs. soft – save the planet vs. save your butt – how important is it?
- Right wing nut jobs. Are these people truly insane?  
- Education. What is the secret of reform?  
- Obama and the future of politics.  

- What is art for? To make us happy?  
- Is life fair? Is art fair? Is art a delusion? Or is it mostly allusion? Or illusion?
- Our criteria for art. Why do we confuse the subjective and the objective? We project our feelings. We don’t see the world the way it is but the way we are.

More TK (another newspaper term). Later. 

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Last night, I read an hysterical review in The New Yorker, dated Feb. 28, about "Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark," the new show on Broadway by U2's Bono and his guitar player, who calls himself The Edge (WTF?).

John Lahr quotes the nutty right-wing TV commentator Glenn Beck as saying the troubled production is "the best show I've ever seen. Bar none. Heads and shoulders above anything else." Why? Because, "I want to see if Spider Man falls on the audience."

That's funny. Old weird Glenn seems to have a sense of humor. Amazing. I thought he was just a rich over-publicized jerk.

Lahr goes on to say that the Spider Man show is "a schizoid experience, a combination of inspired technical accomplishment and narrative impoverishment, in which everything happening behind the actors is brilliant and everything happening between them is banal."

My question is, why is the show so bad? Bono and The Edge -- (WTF? He should add that to his name.) -- are good musicians. I love some of their work, especially with Leonard Cohen on "Tower of Song." (Link below.)  

Even though I have not seen the Spider Man production, and don't intend to, I think I have the answer: I bet they didn't spend enough time developing the story.

You know Pixar Animation? ("Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," etc. Link below.) I heard one of their guys on NPR, and he said they spend five years developing a movie. Three of those years are devoted to the story.   

Wow! Three years on the story? That is great, and almost unheard of in Hollywood, where scripts are often written in three weeks. Legend has it that Sylvester Stallone wrote the original "Rocky" (a great movie, BTW, IMHO) in 82 hours.

I believe three years is reasonable to develop a story. Creativity takes time. It isn't just a burst of light, like a flashbulb going off. I spent nine years and six full drafts writing and rewriting "The Disappearance of Maggie Collins," my first big (unpublished but near miss) novel, for example. (More on that in a later post.)

Back to Spider Man. It sounds like Bono, The Edge (WTF), and Julie Taymor spent about three weeks (or three days) developing the story for Broadway.

Anyway, it's too bad their show is having problems. But it is kind of funny to watch them struggle with it. You can't be all things to all people, boys. I don't think it's easy to cross over from singing and playing the guitar to storytelling.

Some people believe that just because they are successful in one field, they can jump into a related field and fly like an eagle. Not always true. This eagle has not yet landed. Or flown.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.


-- Roger
Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle 

The Leonard Cohen song:
Pixar's creative process:
The New Yorker:

Thursday, February 24, 2011


When I first moved to LA from OC, I went to every cultural event I could find: museums, dance concerts, films and movies, poetry and prose readings, night clubs, you name it. 

You know what I found? Crap, that's what I found. Crap everywhere. Crap in music, in prose, in film.

My friend Lisa and I drove all over the West Side one Saturday night and stopped at eight or ten different places to hear music. Good God, the stuff was bad. Yargh!

We sat in the car outside one nightclub while the techno-industrial music pounded away, shaking the street. Dozens of people, mostly teenagers it looked like, waited outside. They looked at us like they were sorry, either about the music or about us, I couldn't be sure.

We went to a little folk music club on Pico and went inside. The music was weak and thin and not very musical. Yuck.

Another time, I went to hear a band at a little bar on Sepulveda. The place was so small, there was standing room for about 25 people, and the music was awful and so loud you couldn't hear the next person scream. I wanted to scream all the way home.

Some friends and I went to a prose reading by a tall blonde guy whose name I don't recall. He looked around at the audience of six or seven lost souls and complained that people don't support the arts in L.A. Then he read his work aloud, and it was the worst, most boring, most juvenile crap I've ever heard. Lame for a sixth grader. Jesus.

The worst event of all, however, was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a film by some young Asian-American "artist." I don't recall her name.

Honest to God, the "art film" was a series of home movies. Have you ever watched anyone else's home movies? Talk about boring. You haven't been bored till you've been trapped in someone's living room, trying to be polite and watching their dog trot and their kids play and their friends sing Happy Birthday and say Merry Christmas into the camera.

Lord, save me from this kind of boredom. Makes you want to scream and tear out your hair. You wonder nowadays why young people keep their earbuds in and listen to their music. But that was the "work of art" that night at the so-called museum. Yargh.

I'm sorry, but my definition of art does not include boring bullshit. Art should give you a heightened awareness, a sense of dynamic posibilities, a touch of the infinite; you should see the depth of the human spirit. It should set your soul on fire, not bore you to death.

William Faulkner said, “I found a way of writing where every word was as dangerous as a stick of dynamite.”

That's the spirit, Will. 

I don't drive my car across town and find parking, especially here in traffic-nightmare L.A., to be bored out of my skull.

Hell, I can do that at home. Of course, I don't. Too busy reading good books, listening to good music, looking at good art, and watching good movies.

Here is a short list:
Music: Fiona Apple, Leonard Cohen, Bo Diddley.
Art: Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Eleanor Antin.  
Movies: "The Godfather," "L.A. Confidential," "One-Eyed Jacks."
Novels: "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy, "As I Lay Dying" by Faulkner, and "Lord Jim" by Joseph Conrad.
Short stories: Aimee Bender.
Poetry: Holly Prado.
Long-form TV: "The Wire."

I could go on and on. But I won't.

Howdya like them apples?

-- Roger

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Last night I watched the first half of a documentary, "Verdict On Auschwitz," concerning the infamous German concentration camp in occupied Poland during WWII.

Thousands of human beings -- often whole families, men, women, children -- were brought there by train from all over Europe, most of them in cattle cars.

When they arrived, they saw piles of luggage by other empty trains, and they were horrified. But they had no idea why they were brought there or what was going to happen to them. They carried their own suitcases full of clothing and valuables, which were later sorted by the Nazis and sent to Berlin and other German centers. The victims' homes had been taken from them, and their businesses, and their bank accounts.

The victims were Jews and gypsies and intellectuals and people who had resisted the German occupation of Poland and other European countries. Some were doctors who had helped Jews escape or had treated Jews or otherwise helped them.

The German soldiers -- some 6,000 were stationed there -- herded these poor innocent victims off the trains, and separated the men from the women, in effect separating families, so they could send them to the "showers." The soldiers told the men, Don't worry about your families. They are just going to bathe. You'll see them in an hour.

Of course, the men never saw their families again. Little girls in lovely dresses, their hair done up nice, were herded into the gas chambers and killed, along with their mothers and aunts and cousins. So were men and boys, old and young. By the thousands. By the train load. Those who tried to escape were shot.

The Nazis didn't want word to get out. When word did get out, the Allies didn't believe the reports, not for three years. They thought this could not be happening, not on such a scale.

Most of the killing took place at night. Sometimes 20,000 in one night. In huge concrete "shower" rooms. Then the bodies were loaded by other prisoners into huge wood-fired ovens and burned. The stench must have been horrible.

Now, my questions are these: How were people able to do this? Where do you find 6,000 soldiers willing to murder thousands of normal, decent people every night? How could you send an innocent child to the gas chamber? How could you look in a child's eyes and do that?

How could you manufacture tons of lethal gas, knowing it would be used to kill innocent people? How you could climb up on the roof of the "showers" and open the trap door and pour the gas in and listen to the screams of dying human beings, people just like you?

Of course, the Nazis didn't think they were killing people just like them. They thought they were killing "subhumans."

I don't understand how anyone could do these things. Were these Nazis monsters? Rudolf Hoess, the first commandant, testified that 1.5 million people were exterminated there in two and one-half years. Those Nazis were fast and efficient. 

In the film, we see the 24 defendants at the Frankfurt Trials, which took place in 1963-65, almost 20 years after the war. Men in suits who seem perfectly normal. Men who had been free all that time. It's very weird. Almost like it took German society 20 years to decide that what the Nazis did was wrong.

BTW, those trials almost didn't happen. If it hadn't been for one reporter who found some charred records of the killings, those particular Auschwitz Nazis would likely never have been brought to justice.

Another thing, the Germans were a highly civilized society. They had opera and classical music, fine art, museums, philosophers, universities, renowned poets and novelists. Of course, many of these intellectuals were Jews or Jewish sympathizers.

My biggest question: Are we modern Americans any different? I believe that what any man is capable of, all men are capable of. Is that true? Could any of us commit such unspeakable acts? Are we all monsters inside? Or not? I can understand a few psychopaths out there, people who have no empathy, who kill easily for personal gain. But 6,000? In one place?

The Holocaust seems to have been a triumph of ideology over empathy,  politics over humanity, and good German discipline over common decency.

The Nazis apparently believed they were doing the right thing. The German officers lived nearby with their wives and children. Some of the wives testified at the trial that these officers were good husbands and good fathers. Good men. Good Germans.

How is that possible? How can you kiss your wife goodbye and hug your children, and then go off to butcher thousands of innocent people?

It's a frightening thought. Even more frightening: I'll bet some of us are capable of this, too.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


To all us kulture vultures, the highest value in our lives would be to make a living doing the art we love.

For a serious writer, that is almost impossible. I don't know anyone who has done it successfully without compromising something.

Bend over, and you can be successful.

Cormac McCarthy, our greatest living American writer, hit it big only with a piece of schlock, "No Country For Old Men." It's pretty bad, a potboiler full of guns and drugs and unlikely events. But it made a fairly good movie that was commercially successful.

I don't want to talk trash about commerce. We all need money. We just don't want to sell our souls to get it.

Old Cormac came about as close as anyone to making real money off real literature. Not very close, not very literary.

That brings me to my subject today: the blockbuster novel, nowhere better represented than by Stieg Larsson.

In case you've been living under a rock in the Mojave Desert, Stieg Larsson is Swedish, rich, famous, and dead. Not a good combination. His brother and father, I hear, are scooping up the millions as they roll in.

But is Stieg's stuff literature? Is it art? (One of my favorite questions.)

To me, his first book, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," tried to be a good beach read and didn't succeed. Too much exposition, too boring, too hard to plow through. Not fun.

But there was a good story buried under all that crappy prose, and it made a damn good movie. Like the old Hollyood saying goes, "Bad novels make good movies."

But Stieg's second book, "The Girl Who Played With Fire," is much better, as a beach read. It's more fun, it's easier to read, and it has a stunningly intricate plot, so far. I'm about 115 pages in. I'll let you know what I think as I go along.

But is it art? Is it real literature?

Hmmm. That's a hard one.

It certainly is pop lit (popular literature). It has all the earmarks of a beach read: The characters are larger than life. Lisbeth Salander is quirkier than anyone I've ever met, and she was abused to an extreme I've never heard of in real life. 

Her male counterpart, sometime lover and co-hero, Mikael Blomkvist, is maybe a bit more realistic. He does bed every babe in sight, and he is extremely brave, and he does get rich writing for a magazine. That is all pretty far-fetched. 

So the characters are larger than life.  

And the stakes are high. Everything you can think of is at stake in both these novels. As my friend Adam would say, you have to do that in a big page-turner. These big, bestselling crime novels "have really high stakes -- outlandishly so, often, but it's your job to make the stakes high AND believable."

And the characters have to take both emotional and physical risks. Their hearts have to be on the table, and their heads have to be near the chopping block.

Old Stieg does all that, and he does it in spades.

But is it art?

No, I don't think so. But it sure is fun to read. And it takes virtually no effort, which is another sign of pop lit.

More later, as we go along.

Welcome to the first post of my new blog, Kulture Vulture.

-- Roger

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


I am so glad I'm not a Republican these days. There was a time when the GOP had some honorable leaders. I admired John V. Lindsay as mayor of New York and former CA state senator Marion Bergeson. I voted for both of them.

Mrs. Bergeson ran the most responsive political office I ever covered, in my 12 years as a newspaper reporter. As far as I found, she was totally honest, totally reliable and always did the right thing.

Needless to say, that is rare now.

Of course Lindsay switched parties to the Democrats, but when I lived in NYC, he was a Republican.

Every four years, I look over the pack of possible GOP presidential candidates, to see if there is anyone I can respect and support.

But this year? Jesus.

Mitt Romney comes closest. He has a sterling record. Made a lot of money as a business leader. Saved the Winter Olympics financially. Was a great governor of Massachusetts, signing into law near-universal health coverage.

Aye, there's the rub. The GOP hates anybody who helps the poor.

You can't help the poor, Mitt, didn't you know that? You have to be a selfish, overbearing, rabid, right-wing asshole, like Donald Trump, to be a favorite of the GOP.

What is Donald Trump known for? Firing people on TV? Boy, that takes a lot of leadership, doesn't it? His business went bankrupt in 1992. He is a high living, high flying, fast talking bullshitter. Apparently he only cares about money, fame and power, the worst American values.

Why in the world would anyone vote for him?

A Newsweek poll published in the Feb. 28 issue estimates that Romney could almost beat President Obama, at 49% to 47%, and Trump could come almost as close, at 43-41.

God save us. If Donald Trump became president, he sure as hell wouldn't.

I could almost support Romney, if he had been more steady in the wind rather than blowing with those political winds. I don't admire a flip-flopper.

But if the GOP had any brains, it would pick Mitt. At least he is competent, if not consistent.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Today I got a flyer in the mail from the Long Beach (CA) Opera, advertising the music of Philip Glass, the avant garde composer.

Years ago, I went to a concert at the Newport Harbor Art Museum featuring, I think, that same Philip Glass. This had to be in the 1970s or '80s. I don't recall the year, but I remember the event all too well.  

About 30 of us gathered in a beautiful gallery, with hardwood floors, tall white walls and sculpted windows and ceiling. It was evening, and we were civilized and well dressed.

Then the composer came out, and we sat in hushed anticipation. He sat down, serious and ceremonious, and played one note, and only one note, and that note went on, and on, and on, for about half an hour. I can't remember what instrument he played, but it was an instrument of torture, that's for sure.

We all sat there in absolute silence. I tried to enjoy it. I tried to figure out the aesthetic philosophy behind it. I tried to appreciate it, to get into the swing of it. If "swing" is the right word.

After all, I had taken music appreciation in college, and I consider myself an artist of sorts, as a poet and writer of fiction. I've also done some photography and been in at least one exhibition. So I am not a Philistine.   

But after while I started thinking, What the hell is this endless droning? Is this music? If so, why? Music is supposed to bring joy, not boredom and despair.

One note. Suppose I type the same word over and over again: Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Maddening and stupid, stupid, stupid, isn't it? What if I went, Heeeeellllllllllllloooooooooooooooo?

Does that help? No. Of course not.

Well, that was the concert. One note. After about 30 minutes, I got up and left, quietly of course. I wanted to scream. But I didn't. 

That would have broken the "spell." 

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Two of the four Americans killed by Somali pirates early today (22 Feb 2011) were friends of my friend Phil and members of the yacht club where he keeps his boat.

It's a sad day for members of the club and their friends.

It appears that the four Americans, on a sail boat, left the safety of an escorted group, for some reason, so they were vulnerable to the pirates.

I wouldn't sail in those waters without an armed U.S. Navy or other trusted escort. Now the U.S. government has to decide what to do to make those waters safer and to protect our sailors in the future.

I think the civilized countries who use those waters should form a coalition to gain the release of the 800 hostages being held in Somalia and take firm measures to discourage further piracy.

I'd offer some form of aid if the Somalis cooperate and various forms of force if they don't. I hope everyone makes the right choices.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Monday, February 21, 2011


My great fear, these days, is that Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly represent a rising tide of ignorance, prejudice and fascism in the USA. Fox News is leading the charge, or the tide.

The Nazi party in the 1930s took over Germany by telling the people they were under attack, and by demonizing Jews, intellectuals, gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone who didn't have blond hair and blue eyes. They especially blamed the Jews for that country's serious economic problems.

Right now, today, the right wing leaders in our USA are trying to do the same thing, demonizing liberals, Muslims and immigrants. They talk about liberals as "the enemy within."  

They preach violence and "Second Amendment solutions," meaning the power of the gun. They talk about liberals being "like red ants at a party. You just have to stamp them out."

A right-wing friend of mine, whom I shall call Darrell (not his real name), talked me into watching Glenn Beck on TV one time. Darrell said (via e-mail):
"Today's show is a fascinating look at U.S. history.... It's about manifest destiny and how we abused the Indians and how certain collations can and have come together and do evil things.

"To me Beck comes across as goofy, but he's actually pretty smart and does his homework---and not the nut job the main stream media tries to paint him as. He certainly doesn't like Obama, but he didn't like Bush either. ..."

I recorded the show and sent this e-mail back:
"I watched about 35 minutes of it so far, and he hasn't said anything yet. He's like an Amway salesman. He keeps telling you how great it's going to be, over and over, without presenting any facts or a coherent line of reasoning. It's all generalities and mumbo-jumbo.

"And his off-hand statement that Obama is a Marxist is nuts. Of course he doesn't say why or how or cite any specifics. I can't believe anybody watches this. For one thing, it's so slow.

"Glenn Beck keeps saying that it's evil when government and commerce collude. But that makes no sense. One purpose of government is to protect and encourage commerce. Always has been and always will be.

"The last time I checked, we had a Department of Commerce, and I believe the Secretary of Commerce is a cabinet-level position. Huh? What the hell is Glenn Beck talking about?"

Darrell wrote back:
"Can you say dense? He means things like when the gov't uses the commerce clause to push it's own power agenda. Like the healthcare bill. Only the corruption of this commerce clause would allow the gov't to usurp the control of healthcare and education and banking and insurance as this Marxist [Obama] is doing even though without corrupting this clause, as gov't has done for years, all this is a clear n (cq) of the 10th amendment. Maybe you should read it. One sentence that is in no way ambiguous. Except to a Lib. I guess it all depends on what the meaning of the word specifically is. Or is it what the meaning of is is? ...

"Maybe you just aren't smart enough to watch Beck. Go back to [the] Huffington [Post]. That requires no thinking. Sorry I wasted your time. I thought a history lesson might be useful."

This exchange took place last August, and I haven't heard from "Darrell" since last September. I don't know if that's bad or good. I imagine him out there someplace, wearing a brown shirt and practicing his Nazi salute.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


When I first heard about Sarah Palin, I thought she sounded great: Moose hunter, outdoor woman, mayor of a small town, married, big family, lots of kids.

I'm an outdoor guy myself, I love kids, and I come from a family of hunters. My mother used to shoot rabbits out the car window, in the winter, for dinner. Those stews and fricassees were really good.

So I thought Sarah Palin would be my kinda gal.

But as I learned more about her, I realized over time that she represents the worst of America, not the best. She doesn't represent those good old-fashioned values that I grew up with. Not at all.

As I said here before, American society rewards wealth, fame, looks, ignorance, and stupidity. Sarah Palin personifies most of that. But are those good qualifications for high government office?

For those of you in the Tea Party, "personifies" means she represents those values. If you don't understand the word "values," please go look it up. I know these abstract ideas are hard for you.

Let's take this list step by step. Wealth and fame: Mrs. Palin -- former mayor, former governor (who quit the office), TV personality, former VP candidate on the national Republican ticket -- is getting richer by the day, and she is certainly famous.

But why do people admire that? Do they assume the rich and famous are smarter or better than we are? 

Sarah is beautiful, at least with all her makeup on. Have you seen her on that infomercial, "Sarah Palin's Alaska"? She looks pretty bad without lipstick and all that other goop on her face. Her face is like a blank canvas where the makeup artist does a really good job. I had a friend who voted for her "because she has good legs." 

Ignorance. Oh, man. "I can see Russia from my house." What newspapers did she read? "All of them." Who was her favorite founding father? "All of them."

I saw her Alaska TV show. She likes to talk about guns "because it wee-wees the liberals so much."

Gee, that's a good idea, Sarah. Let's make fun of people who care about their country, who care about logic and reason and truth.

Stupidity? I'm not sure about that. She seems to be a very clever politician. She knows how to rally the right-wing loons.

That Mama Grizzly bit seems to have hit home with them, although it was vapid and meaningless to me.

Mama Grizzlies don't really have to know anything. Don't confuse them with the facts. They just kinda feel when something isn't right. Then they move to kill it. Or fix it. Or something.

That "death panel" hokum was a home-run to the right wing. The real death panels were rich insurance companies who were rationing health care before Obamacare came along. Of course, Sarah hates the new healthcare legislation. It might actually save some lives.

There is a new book coming out, from an ex-staffer, Frank Bailey, that says Sarah has a dark side, "including the compulsion to attack enemies, deny truth, play victim and employ outright deception," according to the NY Daily News.

Does that sound like the Sarah Palin you know and love?

Does Sarah Palin embody the best of American values? Integrity, honesty, intelligence, knowledge? Does she examine the facts before she speaks? Does she respect truth, justice and the American way?

I can hear the Tea Party people in my head now. Huh? Sarah Palin? Hell, we love her. She's just like us. Or like we want to be: rich, famous, and ignorant.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I was going through my computer files and found some more blurbs. These famous people were kind enough to recommend my writing:

“Angle’s prose is very muscular. I lifted weights all night avoiding my wife.” -- Arnold Schvarhznicker

“Angle’s stories are extremely realistic and meaningful. He doesn’t play grab-ass with ghosts, like a lot of other bullshit artists.” – T.D. Boogersnot

“Angle’s prose has great emotional depth and hidden philosophical meaning. He doesn’t just beat his meat on the page. Not any more. Not since he quit drinking.” – Cormick McNarty

Angle is the author of the major new line of Harry Gonad Mysteries about a man with an insatiable appetite for women. Only trouble is, he's behind bars.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Today, I picked up my new copy of "The Girl Who Played With Fire," the second in the blockbuster crime trilogy by that famous dead Swedish crime novelist Stieg Larsson.

On the inside is a quote from an L.A. Times book review: "Larsson has bottled lightning..." and this book "buzzes with ideas [and] fizzes with fury."

I laughed out loud and thought, yeah, like an Alka-Seltzer that's really pissed off.

So much hype surrounds these big blockbusters. Reminded me of the mock book blurbs I wrote for myself:

"Angle's fiction is hot and hairy, like a monkey’s ass, only twice as much fun.”

"Angle's fiction races like a runaway semi-trailer truck screaming downhill without brakes, moans like a woman being hosed from behind, and itches like a pimp with crabs."

Pardon my French. But, again, I presume you speak French. (A line from "Deadwood.")

I hope you find these funny. I sure do.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


This morning I was thinking about my favorite students from the adult school where I taught for five years: Alex, Guadalupe, Salvador, Wendy, Yaquelin, Wilmer....

And Zakhar the Russian kid, and the girl who had a boyfriend in Sacramento, and the girl from Mongolia, and the AP student from Uni High, and the three girls from Korea who were FOBs, "fresh off the boat," and on and on, many more.  

I loved these kids. The skateboarders, bicycle riders, budding artists. Teenage parents.

(I got laid off last November, along with thousands of other teachers across this great country, which prattles on and on about education but doesn't really support it. The USA rewards wealth, fame, looks, ignorance, and stupidity, not integrity, moral values, intelligence and knowledge. But that is another can of worms. If we spent half as much money as we spend on the military....)

I remember big Javier, not very big, but he was called that to avoid confusion with little Javier, who was a skinny skateboarder who liked to draw.

Big Javier had long black hair and a full black beard, so he looked like Johnny Depp as a pirate, or every gringo's idea of a Latino thug. If I were casting a movie, he'd be perfect as a hitman. Or a Latino Jesus.

But he was the sweetest guy, and one of my smartest students. His friends called him Jay-vee-er, the gringo way to say it, not Hahveeair, the Spanish way. He could be anything he wanted to be when he grows up. He's so smart.

I miss the kids.

What is going to happen to these kids? Are they going to grow up and become like their parents? No, probably not.

Most of the their parents had menial jobs, working hard and long hours for little money. Typical immigrant story.

One of my writing assignments was to compare and contrast the life you want with that of your parents. When you grow up, do you want to do what your mother or father does for a living? Most of them said no, and I could see why.

I had taught at UCI, part of the University of California system, which takes the top 7% of high school grads, or something like that. The best of the best.

Those UCI kids were mostly from upper class families and very bright. As one of the other teaching associates said, you couldn't cook up an assignment hard enough to make them fail.

But, surprisingly enough, my kids at LA Community Adult School, almost all children of immigrants and almost all inner-city kids, were just as smart, in terms of native intelligence.

Thank God for the laws that force us to educate these kids. Otherwise, we could have a disaster on our hands. I just wish we could do better by them. Provide them with a better education and set them up for a better future.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


The other day, I put up a long post about fixing a bad movie. I think I could turn this clunker into a blockbuster. Here is a shorter version:

"The American,” plot summary:

Jack, an anonymous hitman, is running from unknown killers. His boss sends him to hide out in the hills of Italy. He falls in love with a hooker, and he builds a sniper rifle for a sexy female killer. She tries to kill him with it. His own boss, who sent her, kills her as she is trying to kill Jack. He gets into a shoot-out with the boss, and he dies as he is about to run away with the hooker, who has a heart of gold. 

I know, WTF? It is ridiculous and nonsensical. But the movie looks good, the scenery is lovely, and the star, George Clooney, is handsome and strong. He looks like he could kick a big man's ass. Almost. Or outsmart him.

So let's keep the hero and fix the plot. I'd give it structure, meaning and a point. In other words, add story, mix and bake.

First, I’d give the strangers a reason to kill him. Make them part of a shadowy organization. Big steel and glass building. Men in suits. Whispered conversations. Money changes hands.

Jack has an ally on the inside who tips him off. A woman. She is brutally murdered. At home. While sleeping.

What are the bad guys after? The McGuffin, of course. You know, diamonds, or a secret map, or a nuclear device. Doesn't matter. People kill for it. Could be fake, like the statue in "The Maltese Falcon." Could be a mystery, like the weird briefcase in "Pulp Fiction."

We need two or three new suspects, so it isn't obvious who the big bad guy is. Guys in suits. Maybe. Or innocent looking workmen.

Drop the hooker from the story and have the gorgeous hitwoman seduce Jack and fall in love with him. She refuses her boss's orders to kill him. Her boss sends someone to kill her.

I’d have the two contract killers, now our heroes, battle other hitmen at the end. They blow up the steel and glass building. They find the big bad guy and expose him, so he is ruined.

They win and get away. Jack gets the girl and his freedom.

I think that would work.
What do you think?

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle 

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Where do we get the idea that we need someone?

Maybe it's a holdover from our childhoods, where we really do need our parents, for everything -- love and food, shelter and warmth, affection and guidance. If we didn't have these big people, or at least one of them, we would die. Probably.

Maybe that is where we get this feeling that we have to have someone. But when we are grown up and self-sufficient, do we really need anyone?

Hmm. I don't see it. I think it's an illusion.

If we know ourselves and take good care of ourselves, and have friends and a life and a family, do we really need anyone else to love?

I was thinking about my friend who is looking for love. She seems to think she has to have someone.

I don't know, but I doubt it.
Somehow, I feel like I'm enough. For me.
I don't know where I get that feeling, but there it is.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


I have a good friend who is looking for love. She's dating all the time, meeting people both in the real world and online. Fast and furious. Lickety-split, so to speak.

She says, "I'm going to find it, too."

Mmm. OK. Maybe. We'll see.

Frankly, I don't think it works that way. I'm not quite sure why. It seems to me that love is all around you, if you open yourself up to it, and see it and appreciate it and have the courage to reach out for it.

This frantic search for love reminds me of a cartoon cover on The New Yorker magazine. Hundreds of people, men and women, are jammed into a subway car, and each person is reading the same book on finding love.

It's funny, and I laughed out loud, but the message is clear. Everyone wants the same thing. Romance. Love. Connections. But most people are too busy thinking about love and trying to find it to actually see it, right there, all around.

Somehow, we always think that our true love is going to be the next person, the one we haven't met yet, around the corner or around the world.

Then we meet the "perfect" person and they turn out to be not so perfect after all. Then we rush on to the next one, and the next. Seeking, seeking, and never finding.

I can't really put this into words, but somehow I think the problem is in the seeking. I used to do that, always looking and never finding.

Now I've stopped looking, and I feel like there is so much love in my life. I can't explain it. But I'm a lot happier now.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Why do people want so badly to escape from their own lives? Are their days so full of tedium and disappointment? Are their lives so bleak?

Are the women so unloved? Are the men so lonely?

Is that why the bestselling novel is so popular? The last one I read all the way through was "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," which was a real chore. The movie was great fun. Fast and furious and exciting. It had everything a popular movie should have.

But the novel was full of exposition, meaning it was mostly telling, not showing. It was slow and difficult to slog through. I would estimate that 80% of it was boring back-story. You know, how all this began, what the character was thinking years ago, old dry information, an interpretation so the reader doesn't have to think. Explanation without action. Like reading an encyclopedia.

Good novels don't have any of this. Good writing trusts the reader. Good writing is full of imagery and meaningful details, so the reader can picture what's going on and figure out what it means.

Why do many readers seem to prefer bad writing? Why would people rather read trash?

The answer, I believe, lies in the power of escape.

Most people don't want to think. They don't want insight into the human condition. They don't want to face themselves or face people like themselves. They want to pretend to be James Bond, or, in the case of the Dragon Tattoo books, they want to admire and sympathize with Lisbeth Salander and pretend to be Mikael Blomkvist. Or vice versa.

The popular novel, I believe, is not very different from the medieval romance, in which a knight in shining armor charges bravely into a dark cave to fight a dragon and rescue a princess. 

As Michael Ondaatje says, "There is nothing more seductive to a man than a woman in distress.” 

Years ago, the bestseller lists included "Presumed Innocent" by Scott Turow, an exceptionally well written popular novel. The story was much like the medieval romance, only instead of a dark cave the hero ventured into the inner city. Instead of a dragon there were black men with guns and various criminals. Instead of being a knight in shining armor, the hero was a middle-class white lawyer.

You get the idea. The hero represented the reader, who could identify with the hero and pretend to be him.

In the Dragon Tattoo books, the "knight" is a crusading reporter. The "dragons" are heartless, greedy rich men, and one of them is also a vicious serial killer.

The power of escape. We become that knight in shining armor. We fight the dragon, and we risk our lives, at least in fantasy, to do the right thing.

And when we finish the fantasy, we don't want to return to our humdrum lives. We want to go on living the thrilling life of the knight in shining armor.

After I finished reading the first Dragon Tattoo book, I had profoundly mixed feelings. On the one hand, I couldn't wait to read something good, something without all that boring exposition. On the other hand, I wanted to keep living the fantasy. I didn't want to return to my own life.

It was a strange feeling, and I fought it for about two weeks, when it finally went away. Even I was susceptible. Even I, who hates to read trash, wanted to buy the next two books and keep on being Mikael and saving Lisbeth or having her save me.

Well, guess what? I finally did it. I finally gave in and bought the books, back when I wanted to research bestsellers and learn from them. But I've got them now, and I plan to read them. Just hope I can eventually return to real life and good literature.

Wish me luck.
I'll need it.  

It's hard to resist the power of escape.

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Friday, February 18, 2011


Last night I managed to slog through a long, slow, tedious movie that was disappointing because it could have been good. It had beautiful photography, excellent acting and potentially good story elements. But the story was hugely under-developed.

"The American" stars George Clooney, who is a good actor and very alive on the screen. He's about 50 now, handsome, with a strong jaw and iron-gray hair. He's very watchable. He was really good in "Up In The Air" and "Syriana," both of which were really strong, I thought. He's done a zillion movies and TV shows.

So the movie has a credible star. He's convincing. He looks like he could hit a home run, throw a touch-down pass, or kick a strong man's ass. Well, almost. You get the idea.

The movie also features several hot babes, often naked, as if that could make up for a boring story. Not even. But they also were great actresses, clothed or not. That helps.

(SPOILER ALERT: I'm gonna give away the plot.)
[If this post is too long, look at "MOVIE FIX": ]

The story is about a hit-man who works for a craggy old geezer who looks good on screen but whose character makes no sense. We don't know who the old guy is or what organization he works for. 

The hit-man is on vacation and is shacked up with a lovely lady friend, who is of course naked in the opening scene. 

They are lounging around in an isolated cabin by a frozen lake in Sweden. They get dressed and go for a stroll through the snow and he is attacked by two other hit-men who shoot at him.

We don't know who they are, or why they want to kill him. Of course, since he is our hero, he plugs them both. OK, fine. He's good at what he does.

Then, for no credible reason I could figure out, he kills the lovely woman he is with. Maybe he is bored with her, or maybe she has bad breath. Maybe he doesn't want her to know he's a hit-man.

I don't know, but it made no sense to me. I thought, WTF? What are we supposed to think, that he always kills the ones he loves? It didn't work for me. 

Then he gets on a big jetliner and flies to Rome where he contacts his boss, who tells him to hide out in a small village in the Italian hills. Lovely place. Mountains and meadows all around. Gorgeous.

Then, for about a year, not much happens. He drives, he walks, he eats. He is not supposed to make friends.

He goes to a whorehouse and starts banging a lovely hooker. He meets the local priest and they talk. The priest can tell that Jack, now calling himself Edward, is not the professional photographer he pretends to be. This scene is mildly entertaining. 

Eventually, after another year of tedium, he gets an assignment to build a custom sniper rifle for a beautiful woman. We don't know why. He keeps saying he is bad with machines, but in fact he is an expert gunsmith.

Almost nothing in the movie is explained, like who these people are and what they are up to.

On screen, our hero/hit-man takes approximately the lifetime of an elephant to fashion this gun. I guess if you are fascinated by drills and wrenches and blue steel, this sequence could be fascinating. I found it a giant snooze.

The beautiful hit-woman is the only female in this film who keeps her clothes on, all the time. Frankly, I didn't care. I thought the nudity was all pointless anyway, just for show. Perhaps it has some symbolic value that I missed. (Don't get me wrong, I love naked woman, even more than most guys.)

I guess I didn't care about anything in the movie except the scenery. The few action scenes are well done. And I remember a few steamy sex scenes. But I thought they were gratuitous.

Our hero falls head over heels for the lovely hooker. I don't know about you, but I think falling in love with a hooker, or even a former hooker, is a pointless and unrewarding thing to do. Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places. In this movie, however, it is supposed to be redemptive.

Ezra Pound said you have to have lived a certain amount of life to be able to understand any given work of art. If you know anything about hookers, they are not good choices for long-term relationships.

Overall I found the movie artsy, juvenile, and nonsensical. Much of the time, the only tension came from my wanting something to happen.

The story has little logic and almost no plot. The ending is especially ridiculous. Here is a plot summary:

Anonymous hit-man, running away from unknown killers, falls in love with a hooker, builds a sniper rifle for another killer, and finally is killed by his own boss, all for no apparent reason.

Does that sound like a good story to you? It didn't work for me.

Now, what would I do to fix it? The problem is that the story meanders and is meaningless and pointless. So I'd give it structure, meaning and a point.

I’d give the strangers a reason to try to kill him. I'd make them part of some shadowy organization. You wouldn't have to identify it. The movie would become a more conventional thriller, but it does need a plot. I’d give Jack an ally, someone on the inside of the organization trying to tip him off. Then I’d have that person killed.

I'd give the story a McGuffin, something everyone wants. You know, the diamonds, or the secret map, or the nuclear device. Whatever. Doesn't matter what it is. Just that people are killing each other for it. It could even be fake, like the statue in "The Maltese Falcon."

I’d create two or three new suspects, so we wouldn't know who the big bad guy is, at least not at first. I’d drop the hooker from the story and have the gorgeous hit-woman seduce Jack and have her fall in love with him. Then I'd have her refuse to kill him. That would put her in conflict with her boss.

I’d have them both battling the bad guys at the end. Then they could both be killed or get away, and it would still be a satisfying story, either way. The point would be that Jack gets his freedom, dead or alive.

What do you think?

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle