Monday, May 30, 2011


I hate to complain about the writing in big books, as I do often, but here we go again. (By big, I mean very popular.)  

Recently, I wanted to read "Lord of Misrule," by Jaimy Gordon, because it won the 2010 National Book Award for fiction.

That is a pretty big deal for us writers.

So I got the book from the library--thank Buddha for libraries--and opened it with great anticipation.

I thought, this is going to be great.

But I was brought up short by the first two sentences:

"Inside the gate of Indian Mound Downs, a hot-walking machine creaked round and round. In the judgment of Medicine Ed, walking a horse himself on the shedrow of Barn Z, the going-nowhere contraption must be the lost soul of this cheap racetrack where he been ended up at."

What? "Indian Mound Downs"? An Indian mound is a burial ground. A horse track on a burial ground? Is this supposed to be funny? There is no other obvious humor in the first page or two, so I couldn't tell. Maybe it was the writer's own private joke.

I found it confusing.

And then the second sentence: "...where he been ended up at"? What the hell is that? At first, I thought it must be my mistake. I must be reading it wrong, all wrong.

But I read it over and over, and yes, that is a sentence with profoundly mixed grammar. It starts off OK, and then it turns bad, very bad.

Whose bad grammar is that? It couldn't belong to the writer, and if it did, why did the book win such a big award? If it's the character's, why is not the whole sentence, or indeed the whole passage in the character's grammar?

I read the first two or three pages of "Lord of Misrule" and felt lost and annoyed, not well oriented and entranced.

Suffice it to say, that was enough for me. I couldn't get into it. To me, the first few pages should be the best written and most engaging part of any book.

Anyway, another one bites the dust. Another big book not read. Oh, well, back to The New Yorker and other writers, including Aimee Bender and John Gregory Dunne.

-- Roger
PS: You can read more of "Lord of Misrule" at:

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


I would not say that dead Osama bin Laden is winning, but his strategy is having a huge impact on the good old USA. Osama, you remember, set out to bring down America, like he thought he had the Soviet Union.

Now we have the fallout from our own greedy financiers in the banks and on Wall Street, who knowingly sold millions of high-risk mortgage loans to people who couldn't pay them back, and then bundled those lousy mortgages into securities and sold them to suckers around the world. Then they sat back and laughed as they got rich and the world's financial systems crumbled.

We, the good old USA, bailed out Wall Street and the banks, so our financial system wouldn't collapse. And at the same time, we created a huge infrastructure in which thousands of people have security clearances and we are spending billions of dollars we don't have on "defense" we don't need.

This is from AlterNet:

"...We have spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland security since 9/11. The Pentagon's base budget – which doesn't include the costs of fighting our wars – has increased by 81 percent during that time (43 percent when adjusted for inflation). The costs of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have now reached $1.26 trillion. But that only scratches the surface; it doesn't include the long-term costs of caring for badly wounded soldiers, for example."

These are mind-boggling amounts of money. We are "defending" ourselves to death, from an enemy that uses box cutters and packs explosives into computer printers and people's underwear. They spend dimes while we spend millions.

We are Goliath and our enemy is David. Do you remember who won that fight? Who do you think will win this time, if we don't wise up?

How stupid can we get? We are lumbering around like a massive idiot, bankrupting ourselves out of fear.

I wouldn't say Osama is winning, but his strategy is sure getting ahead. We seem to be helping him, inadvertently, but helping him nonetheless.

Even in death, he is smarter than we are.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, May 29, 2011


My buddy Kem thinks "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy is a "nearly perfect novel" and that it is Cormac's "most hopeful novel," he told me on the phone the other day. I invited him to post something here, but he didn't want to.

I had written him the following e-mail: 

In "The Road," nature is gone, virtually destroyed.
There are no birds in the sky, no fish in the streams and no fruit on the trees.
The world is reduced to ashes and ruins.
Most people are dead.
Of the few that are left, some are killing children to eat them.
How is that hopeful?

On the phone, Kem said that he loved the language of the novel, the sheer brilliance of the writing, and the fact that the father does everything he can to protect his son.

I guess Kem focused on that one ray of hope. I suppose he found that one thing even more hopeful in contrast to other characters in the novel who turn to violence and become like animals to survive.

Also, Kem read it as a parable, not as a realistic story. I guess that means he didn't believe the horrific imagery. I guess that is why he didn't get depressed by the devastation.

OK, so what does this prove? That Kem and I are both nuts? Maybe. But more likely that reasonable people can disagree. That one man's meat is another man's poisson, as my friend Andy used to say in Europe. (Poisson is French for fish.)

As Kem said, some critics think "Moby Dick" is a great novel, and others don't. (I do, BTW.)

I suppose there are always people who disagree about works of art, who have wildly different sensibilities and tastes.

I never understand why everyone doesn't agree with me. Anyway, I think you should check it out for yourself. Get it from the library, so it doesn't cost anything. That's what I usually do.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


This morning, I listened to "Le Show" by Harry Shearer on KCRW and NPR. It's one of the best shows on radio, I think, entertaining and informative at the same time.

It always hands me a few good laughs and I learn a bunch of new things. Today, I learned that developers in Afghanistan are building new high-rise luxury homes for the people who have gotten rich from NATO and USA involvement there.

Hmmm. Makes you think, doesn't it? Here we are laying off teachers and sweating over the future of Medicare, and some Afghans are getting rich off our war. Hmmm. I think something is wrong here.

Anyway, I recommend Harry Shearer. He's smart and funny and full of good, new info. His show is available any time at:

Right on, Harry. Give 'em hell, Harry.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I don't know about you, but I am bad at picking winners -- in life, in business, and in sports.

Years ago, when Novak Djokovic was losing and then losing again at tennis, I thought he was  always going to be a loser. Shows what I know, and I played tennis from age 16 to about 60, so I thought I knew jack.

Now Djokovic has a 42-match winning streak, one of the longest in tennis. My hat is off to him. Then I will eat it.

Also, years ago, when I heard Amazon was going to expand from books to every damn thing in the world, I thought they should stay focused on books. Easy to pack, easy to ship, easy to track. Boy, was I wrong. Colossally wrong.

I don't know how much Jeff Bezos and his company are worth today, but it must be up in the billions. Congrats to him. My hat is off, and I am sprinkling it with hot sauce as we speak.

In high school, I thought all the most popular kids were going to be the most successful. Not so. When my son was in high school, I thought his friends who were the smartest and presented themselves the best and were the most respectful to me were the winners. No so. Some of them went to prison, and some are dead.

So it's hard to pick winners. It's hard to predict the future. My advice: Leave your expectations open. Realize that no one has a crystal ball.

Let them surprise you. Most of the time, they will.

(PS: Picking winners is different from picking friends. I'm good at that.)

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


I've been reading early Hemingway stories, and I am struck by how different he is from Borges. 

At first glance, Hemingway seems like the lesser writer, and yet the more I think about it, the more I see similarities and strengths in both writers.

When I was in Spain, in 1969, I saw young American men living the Hemingway life: drinking beer in the afternoon, with that Hemingway look, of exploring life in that way; going to the bullfights every Sunday; living in Spain to find something they would not have known was there except for Hemingway. Chasing Hemingway's memories and his ghosts.

There was a beauty and strength and dignity in the Spaniards that I didn't see in the often sleazy Italians or the stoic Greeks.

While I was in Spain, I read "Death In The Afternoon," about bullfighting. Hemingway thought he could tell what the bull was thinking as he charged the matador. That struck me as complete baloney at the time, but now I remember a scene in Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" from the point of view of the dog.

While Ernest Hemingway inspired macho behavior, I doubt if any young American adventurers went to Buenos Aires to live like Jorge Luis Borges, who spent his life in libraries and books. He was the more intellectual of the two, with a more subtle intelligence.

Yet the stories I remember best from Borges were about knife fights among thugs in cities and about hatred and jealousy among gauchos.

So both men were interested in macho behavior. Oddly, they were born the same year, 1899.

To tell the truth, I like Borges better, although Hemingway has a muscular strength in his language that I admire and enjoy. Borges has a more modern sensibility, playing with story and language and meaning in a way I've never seen in Hemingway.

Obviously, I find both worthwhile, for different reasons. Reading Hemingway is like eating steak and baked potatoes. Borges is like French cuisine, with delicate sauces and subtle flavors.

Depends on whether you'd rather shoot lions or see them in a zoo. At different times, I like to do both.

(BTW, I shot a lion in my pajamas last night. It was strange. I don't know how he got into my pajamas... Har-har-har.)
-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


One of the giants of modern music died yesterday (27-May-2011): Gil Scott-Heron, made famous by "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised":

He was an enormously talented man, a genius, in my opinion. I never saw him in person, but The New Yorker did a profile on him not long ago.

Some of his music is the most intense, rich, amazing stuff you'll ever hear. I don't think it is easy to categorize. It is part jazz, part spoken-word, part soul, part almost rap, part poetry.

I recommend exploring his work on YouTube and anywhere else you can find it. Especially, I recommend "New York Is Killing Me":

May he rest in peace. RIP, brother.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Friday, May 27, 2011


As The New Yorker magazine pointed out in its May 16 issue (Page 89), Osama bin Laden was increasingly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

He was cut off from the "Arab Spring" and most of the Muslim world. He had established no permanent power base, and had done little to change politics or anything else.

As Steve Coll says in his article "The Outlaw," Bin Laden didn't leave much behind. "Other leaders claiming to be vanguards of revolution, such as Lenin and Castro, remade their homelands and altered global affairs."

Bin Laden did not. He "didn't leave behind ideas, either."

All he left behind was a hatred of the West, especially the USA, and one spectacular terrorist attack, on 9/11.

If we do little to fan those flames of hatred, I believe they will die out.

I don't think we should be very proud of killing Bin Laden, after all these years. There wasn't much left to kill.

What we need is a new foreign policy that will promote peace, prosperity, and democracy in the Middle East, at home, and around the world.

Here's hoping Obama can do that. The Republicans don't have a clue. I wish they did.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


I saw part of a Lady Gaga video on Cable TV the other night, and I don't think she's a lady at all.

She was dancing around in an outrageously high-cut outfit showing most of her anatomy up to her waist and singing, "I want to take a ride on your disco stick."

Disco stick? Please.

It was disgusting. We all know that sex sells, in this oddly Puritanical country. But I think it has a deeper purpose here. She's a shill for corporate America, an opiate for the masses.

While the high-priced goons on Wall Street and the healthcare CEOs make millions, the entertainment "industry" clouds the minds of the masses with blatant sex shows.

As Leonard Cohen sang in one song, "One thing, of this you can be sure, / the rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor."

That's what's going on. Titillate the suckers and take their money. While they are slobbering and drooling over sexy pictures on their boob tubes (pun intended), they won't know the difference.

It's all a carnival show, and Lady Gaga is a big attraction. The rest of us are suckers. Welcome to sucker-land, where Lady Gaga is the queen.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I have been reading some early Hemingway that I never read before. I used to agree with the late avant-garde writer Ron Sukenick that Hemingway was an overgrown boy scout. I didn't want to read how to put up a tent or how to cross-country ski or how to catch a catfish.

But lately I've been reading some early Nick Adams stories, and frankly some of them don't make much sense. At least to me. But what do I know?

In one story, "Indian Camp," Nick goes with his father, a doctor, to deliver a baby by Cesarean section, of an Indian woman off in the woods. They go there across a lake, by rowboat, and the woman is on a bunk in a shanty. She is screaming in pain, and the baby is breech.

They boil water and the doc uses a jack knife and he seems to do a good job. So the baby and the mother are safe. Whew, a relief.

But then, they discover that the squaw's husband is dead, in the upper bunk, his throat cut from ear to ear. They assume he committed suicide.

I don't get the point. This event doesn't make sense to me, in its symbolic action. What is Hem trying to say here? And how do you cut your own throat? Seems dubious to me.

Then there is some dialogue between Nick and his dad about suicide and dying. None of it seems meaningful. It seems flat.

Nick asks his dad if dying is hard. His dad says, "No, I think it's pretty easy, Nick. It all depends."  

Huh? So what?

The whole story seems pointless. Several of these stories are like that. Maybe the genius is there, but I don't see it.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


I'm starting to hear more about that right-wing moron, to see that manipulative con lady's name in the news again.

Apparently, Sarah Pylon, or Pile-On, or Pale Face, or Palinca, has bought a house in Arizona as the basis for her run for the presidency next year.

Guess she figures there are enough crazies there to provide her a base.

I don't know about you, but I am going on a Sarah-free diet.

Every time I hear her name on the radio, I turn it off. Every time I see her name on any website, I shut it down. Every time I see her name in any newspaper or magazine, I turn the page.

I suggest you do the same.

Let's see if we can starve that woman of attention. Maybe she'll go away.

God, I hope so.

No more Sarah! No more Sarah!

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Please join me in writing periodically to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., to ask them to free Ai Weiwei, the famous dissident artist.
Chinese Embassy:
I sent the following e-mail to them this morning. Feel free to copy it:
Why is the Chinese government so afraid of Ai Weiwei?
Is it so fragile that it can't stand a little criticism?
Such great leaders of such a great country should not be so full of fear.
They should welcome Ai Weiwei's art and his statements and listen to him a little bit.
The country would be better for it.
Roger R. Angle
Culver City, CA


I finally gave up on Cormac McCarthy's exercise in grand guignol, "The Road," a horror story cum fairy tale.

I got to Page 86 this time. To me, the book is self-indulgent, with nothing but pain and no reward for the reader. No valid theme that I could find.

Here are my notes:

Page 10 – Manipulative baloney: talking to God, telling the kid you remember what you want to forget and forget what you want to remember. Not true. The mind blanks out trauma.

Inflicting this much pain on the reader is misusing your power as a writer.

The father recalls his lovely bride and that makes him feel better. Nothing like a little co-dependence to gird up your loins. Hurray for neurosis. 

The lake memory with his father is great. Well written. The guy can write. He perverts his talent here, as he did for different purposes in "No Country For Old Men," a poorly plotted potboiler that made him a lot of money.

Page 27 – Sometimes Cormac indulges himself in terrible lines:

“Not all dying words are true and this blessing is no less real for being shorn of its ground.”

What the hell does that mean? It’s true even though it’s not true? 

Hemingway said you have to have a built-in crap detector to be a good writer. This is just the opposite. Cormac is not detecting it, he's shoveling it.

The whole book is self-indulgent. It isn't devoted to an objective truth, like “Suttree” and “Blood Meridian.” By that I mean it doesn't create a world that seems real, and that resembles our world, and it does not provide insights into human nature and into the world at large. In “The Road,” there is no insight. 

Page 60 -- The story is episodic. One melodrama after another. A bad guy grabs the boy and holds a knife to his throat. Why? Because Cormac so wishes.  Because the melodrama jacks us up. Oh, Lordy, reader, there are bad people out there.

We know, Cormac, we know.

This book is part poetry and part “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” And all bullshit, as far as I'm concerned. Obviously, it made me mad.

I think that as a writer you have an obligation to your readers, not to bullshit them, not to lie to them, not to create a meaningless world.

Some of the writing is good, of course. But the story is an elaborate exercise in nightmare. What is the point of all this horror? To torture the reader? 

As I said before, this is a kind of torture porn.

Where did they get the water to drink? Isn’t it all full of ash? How do they filter it? By magic, I guess.

Page 86 - I hate this book. An occasional good scene, and parts remind me of “Blood Meridian,” derivative, borrowing his own stuff. This is like a horror movie. Constant blood and gore. A relentless downer. Not what art should be about, I don’t think. Should be called “The Toad.”

The book has no sense of reward. It’s saying over and over, life is shit, you are shit, we’re all shit, we’re all going to die, and life is pointless.

I don’t see any point in reading this crap.

I wrote to my friend Joy -- I started reading it so we could talk about it -- and asked her if I could beg off. She let me off the hook. Thank God.


I skipped ahead to read the last few pages, where the father dies and the son finds new people to go on with. What bullshit. How convenient. How nice. Oh, goody, Cormac, there is a ray of hope.

At the very end, there is some kind of homage to nature. I guess this is Cormac’s self-indulgent way of warning us that we are destroying the environment. We knew that already, Cormac .

I’d say the purpose of this book is to transfer anxiety and pain from the writer to the reader.

No, thanks, Cormac. You can keep it.

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Don't forget to send e-mails to the Chinese Embassy in D.C. to ask them to free Ai Weiwei, the famous dissident artist:

Please be polite.

This is the most recent article I could find:

It says the authorities allowed Ai Weiwei to meet for about 20 minutes with his wife last Sunday afternoon. She said he seems to be in good health.

I guess the Chinese government doesn't believe in freedom of speech.


-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Lately, President Obama has been getting a lot of credit for "taking down" Osama bin Laden.

I think the whole thing is pathetic. We broke into an old man's house and shot him. Hooray for us. 

I know, I know. It was Osama, the guy behind 9-11. I always thought this should be an international police matter. There were probably fewer than 200 people, worldwide, who were involved in the 9-11 conspiracy, including planning, funding and executing the plan, which was wildly more successful than they could have envisioned.

You have to remember that Osama's stated motive was to get foreign troops out of the Arab peninsula. He thought, as he said in a number of published letters and videos, including a long letter to then-President George W. Bush (which Bush never publicly answered or even acknowledged, as far as I know), that the only language the USA understood was violence. He wanted foreign invaders out of his homeland, and he didn't believe diplomacy would ever work.

I always thought that  police departments around the world should have hunted down and arrested everyone connected with the operation.

Instead, as we all know, the good old USA invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and spent $3-trillion trying to "bring justice" to perhaps 200 attackers. Instead of bringing justice to a few, we have killed many thousands of innocent people and destroyed our reputation around the world.

So now, after ten years and trillions of wasted dollars, we finally find Osama. Do we arrest him and try him for crimes against humanity? No, we shoot him.


Hurray for us. Let's all chant, "USA, USA," like a bunch of mindless, jingoistic morons. Let's prove to the world that we deserve their disgust. We have certainly earned mine.

BTW, Obama didn't "take him down," as Newsweek said. The military did it, and they could have done it if Mickey Mouse was in the White House.

The truth is that Obama is continuing the failed policies of George W. Bush. I think he doesn't see a way out of this mess.

I wish I did.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Do you have weirdly site-specific dreams?

Lately, my dreams have been very site-specific. This morning, I woke up remembering this dream:

I was trying to find a gas station to have my car serviced. I wanted it lubed. I was in a small village amid green rocky hills. It was a very pretty place.

I drove around and found a Phillips station on the side of a small, steep hill.

It was very strange place to have a service station, nothing like real life, although the dream seemed very real.

If you wanted your car serviced, you had to drive up and around and come in the back. But there was no service bay, in a normal sense. They had steel ramps that slid out over the canyon, and it was maybe ten feet down to the drive where you got gas.

You were supposed to drive your car out onto these ramps.

So I drove up and around, and the door slid up, and a pretty young black woman, in a service-station uniform, came up to help me.

I got out of the car and looked around, exploring the set-up, the machinery. I stood on part of it, to see how it worked and to see if it was safe.

She said, "Be careful there," or something like that.

I wondered how well this would work. I had never seen anything like it. She said, "It will be OK," or something like that. 

It was like having an exciting adventure trying to accomplish a normal, mundane task.

That was it. I woke up. I don't know if I got my car serviced or not. I don't remember driving out onto the cantilevered steel ramps. I don't remember what happened with the pretty woman.

I have no idea what that all means.


Let me know if you have any ideas.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Do we expect too much of our leaders? Should we actually expect them to be as human and as flawed as the rest of us?

I was terribly disappointed in Bill Clinton, both for getting involved with Monica Lewinsky and for handling the scandal badly. I thought he should have said, when asked about her, "None of your business. Next question."

But of course he didn't. The country got embroiled in that scandal while it neglected more serious problems. The Republicans said it was an issue of character, something they didn't mention when their oxes were being gored.

Now we are visited by the ghost of Clinton past--Arnold Schwarzenegger, a.k.a. Don Juan in boots. Swordsman extraordinaire.

I read now that his womanizing was an "open secret" in Hollywood:

I guess no one told Maria.

But should we expect anything less of our leaders or more than we expect of ourselves?

Of course, we want our fearless leaders to be knights in shining armor. But why should they be better men than we are?

Because, for one simple reason: They carry our hopes and our dreams. They spend our money. They make our decisions.

We don't expect them to lead us into temptation.

We expect them to lead us away from it. When they don't, we are disappointed. And disillusioned. Until the next flawed leader comes along.

My prediction: We will continue to expect from our heroes perfection, moral clarity, and shining examples. And we will continue to be disappointed.

-- Roger
© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This week we found out that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child out of wedlock ten years ago. Sounds like he was shtupping the maid.

And his wife found out about it in January, after almost ten years (which is hard to believe), and now she has left him and moved out of their house.

What does all this mean?

One, that Arnold is a horn-dog and has always been one?
Two, that he is the Natural Man who lets his appetites run free?
Three, that he has probably been chasing young nookie the whole time?
Four, that he will probably always chase young nookie?
Five, that powerful men often exercise their power through their tallywhacker?

I don't think we should be surprised. Powerful men often let their instincts run free. That is often why women are attracted to them. All that power, and masculinity, and energy, and studliness. The alpha male.

Power to the big dog. 'Twas ever thus. And always will be. Arnold isn't the first, and he won't be the last.

-- Roger

PS: I just heard a statement on the radio, by Arnold, saying he is "truly sorry."

Bullshit, Arnold. You aren't sorry. Next time you see a pretty little female ass, you're going to grab it, just like you always have.

You may be a one-eyed Jack to some people, but we have seen the other side of your face.

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Many years ago, when the world was young and innocent, or I was, I went to the Bing Theater at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) to see an on-stage discussion of film with Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond.

I thought it might be instructive, or mildly amusing. Little did I know. This was Hollywood, and these were two of the most successful and famous writers (and in Wilder's case, also a famous director) in the movie biz.

They had written a string of hits as long as your arm: "Some Like It Hot," "The Apartment," "Irma La Douce," on and on. 

The year must've been 1974 or '75. The theater was packed. They showed one of their movies first, I don't know why, since everyone knew their work. But we all sat through the flick--I don't recall which one--and the audience laughed and was well behaved.

Then the two giants of show biz sidled out onto the stage and sat down in two overstuffed armchairs, as I remember it. They were quiet, shy, typical old Jewish gentlemen.

They took questions from the audience. The first one: How do you make it in Hollywood?  

Everyone was stunned. How do you answer such a question? It reminds me of an old joke. A tourist on the street asks a taxi driver in New York, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" He answers, "Practice, practice, practice."

That's funny. But the two creative lions of show biz didn't know what to say. What could you say?

First, have tons of talent and write brilliant stuff for your college humor magazine, as Izzy had? Start out as a journalist in prewar Germany and then write brilliant screenplays, as Billy had?

I don't recall what they said, but I do recall a sense of embarrassment. I looked around and realized that the auditorium was full of ragged, bedraggled, lonely, forlorn people--skinny young men who had what Shakespeare called that "lean and hungry look."  

I remember one guy especially who looked like he hadn't eaten or changed his clothes or had a bath in a year.

It was sad. It told me something about Hollywood. "Many are called and few are chosen," as the old saying goes. Another old saying is that Hollywood is like a life raft that will hold five people and 500 people are trying desperately to get on.

Many people are attracted to the glitz and glamor of Screenland. The ones who get on the life raft are Winners. Those who don't are Losers. It's a brutal business. Hooray for Hollywood.

I am so glad I don't care about that.

But it reveals a dilemma for creative people. Do you go for the big bucks, or do you follow your own lights? Do you sell out, or are you content to labor in obscurity? Is the work its own reward? Or is it a means to fame and fortune?

It is hard for the work to be its own reward when you have to buy food and pay rent and put gas in your car. But that's the creative life, if you chose it, or it chooses you.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I don't understand my fellow Americans' concept of evil.

Why is it supremely evil for Osama bin Laden to defend his homeland with terrorist tactics and kill 3,000 innocent people on 9-11-2001, while it is good or OK for George W. Bush to invade Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, and kill 200,000 innocent people?

Can someone explain that to me? I don't get it. Who is more evil?

Osama's main goal was to get foreign military troops out of the Arabian peninsula. With no army, terrorism is a highly effective way to leverage small resources for big results.

Bush admitted killing 30,000 people in Iraq, and estimates have run as high as 500,000. Yet I didn't hear any Americans complaining, and then people gathered around and cheered when we killed Osama.

We sent a hit-squad into his house and shot him to death. I don't see how that is heroic. Let me get this straight. When we kill people, that's justice, right? And when they kill people, that's evil, right?

I still don't get it.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Monday, May 9, 2011


I have been agonizing over my novel. I'm happy with Act One, about 200 pages, but have been at a loss to make the story build toward the climax, which I have in mind.

Then I realized that it takes time. My friend Harry was in a movie once that I thought was terrible. He told me the studio only gave the screenwriter three weeks to write the script.

No wonder it was so full of cliches, which are quick and easy. The people at Pixar Animation, the great studio that did "Finding Nemo" and the "Toy Story" movies, take five years to produce a movie. They take three years just to develop the story, and they are bunch of pros.

OK, that makes sense. Stories are complicated. If it takes them so long, I should take my time and not expect to do it overnight.

That makes me feel better. So I have a new attitude, a new feeling about plotting my big hairy 600-page novel.

I felt like I was hacking my way through the jungle with a machete, blindfolded, and wondering why I was getting nowhere fast.

I feel a lot better. I thought there was something wrong with me.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Weirdly enough, as soon as I wrote that post yesterday about bad movies, I saw a movie I liked last night: "The Patriots" about the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. It seems to be a docudrama based on real life.

I found it engaging, which is rare, because most movies these days bore me out of my beanie in about five minutes. (I especially hate movies by Judd Apatow, like "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year Old Virgin," which are each based on one lame idea. I also hate movies about stupid people. There are several whole genres of Hollywood movies that I can't stand.)  

Anyway, "The Patriots" is quiet and intense and at times almost uncomfortably suspenseful. Here are my notes, which I wrote for Netflix and then revised:

This is pretty damn good. I am surprised that I never heard of these people before, especially the writer/director, Eric Rochant. This is one of the most engaging films I've seen lately and one of the best spy movies I have ever seen. And I love spy movies. I like the shifting identities and the shifting versions of truth and reality. And the shifting loyalties. Fascianting.

I don't know if I liked "The Patriots" as much as "Spy Game," with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, but "The Patriots" is more realistic. In fact, it is one of the most realistic films I have ever seen.

It isn't a conventional thriller, and it isn't like "Munich," on a similar topic. It is dense at times. I had to watch the ending twice to make sure I got it.

(SPOILER ALERT) Early on, when we first meet the "hooker," I thought she was probably a spy, too, and I was surprised the main guy didn't suspect that. She is way too good at following the tricky directions he gives her. She only has to be told once. I would have to hear them three times and write them down. I would not trust an outsider to follow those directions and not screw up. Oh, well. Maybe that is just me.

Anyway, i recommend it. Does this mean that movies are better than I said they are? No, it just means good ones are hard to find. 

-- Roger

PS: Don't forget to write the Chinese embassy and ask them to free Ai Weiwei:

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Friday, May 6, 2011


When I was a kid, I loved the movies.

I loved John Wayne, and Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart, and Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton, and Burt Lancaster, and many others, too many to name.

I used to walk to the Tower Theater, in Wichita, KS, and see the Saturday afternoon matinee. It was wonderful.

I remember getting old enough to go with a buddy on the bus downtown to see double features, and going early so we could see them twice.

Wow, what movies. I learned much of what I "knew" about the world, and love affairs, and adventure, and how to be a man from the movies.

But now? Who even goes to the movies now-a-days?

Who has even heard of these movies? "The Beaver"? Is that what I think it is? "Thor"? What? It makes me thor to say it. "There Be Dragons"? Huh? Isn't there a word left out?

The last movie I saw in a theater was "Black Swan," which I thought was powerful and memorable, a tour de force piece of film-making.

The movies started to lose me about ten years ago, and it's been a long slow downhill slide. Maybe part of it is that I'm an old fart. I have seen too much, and been too many places, and loved too much, and lived too much life to feel that there are many things to learn or many things I haven't already experienced in real life.

Most of the time, I'd rather read. There's never enough time for books. You can always find good writers, but you can't always find a good movie.

I don't know why that is.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


You may wonder, these days, just who was Osama bin Laden and how did he get to be such a big deal?

Remember this: We, the good old USA, armed and trained and exalted Osama bin Laden, back when he was part of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

Remember that our widely admired Republican President Ronald Reagan said these guys, including Osama, were heroes.

The best article I've seen on this is by Robert Scheer in TruthDig:

So now, when you hear people chant "USA, USA," like a bunch of mindless morons, and when you hear people cheering the death of Osama, remember this:

The USA giveth, and the USA taketh away.
Blessed be the name of the USA.

In other words, like Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak, and Anastasio Samoza, and Moammar Qaddafi, we love you when we need you, for our own political purposes, but when the tide of history turns against you, so do we.

When someone criticized Samoza's use of torture in Nicaragua, one of our CIA men there, I think it was, said, "He's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

The same thing could be said of Osama: He was a son of a bitch, but at one time he was our son of a bitch.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Don't forget to write to the Chinese embassy and ask them to free the famous and widely admired dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Here is the address again:

I'm trying to e-mail them once a day, so they don't forget.


-- Roger, aka, "Ai Weiwei in the USA"

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Thursday, May 5, 2011


The famous revolutionary leader Che Guevara wanted to change the world. Stamp out imperialism. Eliminate hunger and poverty. Rein in the greed and violence of those right-wing governments that take it as their mission to protect the golden lifestyles of the rich.

Che's goals were not bad. Spread the wealth. Lift up the poor. Perhaps Quixotic, naive, and romantic. But basically his heart was in the right place, more or less.

Anyone who has a heart wants to do some of those things.

There are a million things I'd like to change. End war in the Middle East. Get rid of American exceptionalism, the snobbish idea that somehow we are better than other people. We need universal healthcare. Subsidies for artists and writers. A negative income tax. A pretty young assistant for every old writer. At least for one. Free Ai Weiwei.

I'd like to pay teachers more, enough to attract and keep the best young minds. (See this great op-ed piece co-written by Dave Eggers in the NY Times:)

But Che thought that violence was the only way. He saw what happened in Guatemala when democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown by the U.S. CIA, which rallied the opposition. Che's answer was simple: Kill the opposition.

As a kind of chess match--Che was an avid chess player--this makes a kind of brutal sense.

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara wanted socialism, so they took the means of production (the land, mills, factories, and businesses) away from the traditional owners and gave them to the peasants and the workers. Or, more accurately, took them for the state to run.

Che wanted people in Cuba to throw themselves into their crappy mundane jobs, so he preached to them and did volunteer work on weekends, as an example.

Again, chess moves, without considering human nature.

In my opinion, Che and Fidel replaced an unfair economic system with an incompetent one.

Che is a complex figure in history: adventurer, idealist, vicious killer, inspiring leader.

It's hard to explain why his image became such a huge international symbol. Here are two photos, one famous and one not so well known:

In the second photo, notice the beautiful woman by his side. I don't know who that was, but he was something of a ladies man. Women loved him.

The first photo is obviously more heroic. But that doesn't explain the myth that has grown up around that image and around him.

(I have the feeling my friend "Lito" is going to hate me for what I am about to say.)

Partly, I think Che died at the right time in his career. He was 39, still young and handsome. He was on a foolhardy and Quixotic mission, doomed from the start. There is something romantic about fighting for a hopeless cause, fighting till the end, and dying for that same cause.

Che was extremely charismatic. He embodied the ideal of resistance, which is always romantic, and of fighting for the little guy, of being the underdog, of fighting against fat cats and against imperialism.

Like a lot of symbols, his image and his reputation oversimplify the reality of his character and his life. He could be cruel and vicious, even to his friends. 

One of his most loyal followers begged to go to Bolivia with Che on what turned out to be his last mission. Wisely, Che wouldn't let him go; he was too valuable to the new government in Cuba. But then, at a farewell dinner, Che made fun of the younger man and shamed him in front of his comrades. 

Also, as I've said before, Che neglected his children and his family.

So the myth is more glamorous than the man.

My question, when I started reading Jon Lee Anderson's excellent biography, "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life," was whether Che was a good guy or a bad guy. I wanted to settle an argument between two friends, Lito and Richard.

I hate to say it, but finally I have to come down on the side of Richard. Che was 60% insensitive, selfish bastard, and 40% hero, in my judgement.

And that is being charitable. He put his own ideals above humanity. He was trying to save people by neglecting and destroying some of those around him. He was a self-appointed judge and jury. He did some good, but he caused a lot of pain.

For me, I am glad to finish reading about Che and move on to other pursuits.

Adios, Che. I'm glad I'm not like you. And, BTW, I won't be wearing one of those T-shirts. Not anytime soon.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Remember that scene in "Spartacus," the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas, where the vicious Roman general says he will spare hundreds of slaves if they will give up Spartacus, leader of the slave revolt?

Of course, we know they are going to kill him.

Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) stands up and says, "I'm Spartacus."

Another man stands up and says,  "I'm Spartacus." And another. And another. Pretty soon all 200 of them are shouting the same thing.

Here is a link to the scene:

Every time I watch it, it makes me cry.

Well, that's what I think every artist and writer in the world should do.

I'm Ai Weiwei.

If you are Ai Weiwei, or if you have seen him, or if you think he should be released, please report your sightings or plead for his release by sending an e-mail to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Please be respectful.

Thank you.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I think I spotted the famous Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei today in downtown Culver City, at Ford's Filling Station, a chi-chi restaurant near the Kirk Douglas Theater.

Or at least I saw someone who looked very much like him. I was sure it was he, even though I had never seen him before in person.

Then I saw this same person later at the old Culver Hotel, and later yet on the 405 Freeway headed south toward Orange County.

He was riding the biggest Harley Davidson motorcycle I had ever seen. He looked a bit like Santa Claus.

It was amazing to me. He must have escaped from Chinese detention, where he has not been seen in public since April 3.

He must have gotten out. Perhaps he escaped. Or more likely he is capable of transporting himself through time and space.

I think that explains it. These artists can do almost anything. Once they set their mind to it.

I would guess that Ai Weiwei is everywhere, and there is more than one Ai Weiwei out there. Maybe they are clones or even identical twins.

My guess is that he can replicate himself, perhaps using a giant holographic photocopy machine in 3-D.

I would suggest that everyone keep an eye out for Ai Weiwei and report your sightings of him.

I hope we will all be lucky enough to see an Ai Weiwei soon.

Here's to Ai Weiwei. Bless him and protect him. May he live long and prosper.

I look forward to seeing him again. He seems like a kind and lovable person. 

Why would the Chinese detain him? Who is afraid of Ai Weiwei?

-- Roger

(Watch this:)

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


The last two years of his life, Ernesto "Che" Guevara traveled around the world trying to foment armed revolution.

He spent six months in the African Congo involved in a total debacle, a mess of classic proportions. The Congolese rebel soldiers were undisciplined and unmotivated. They got drunk and visited whorehouses, and most of them had venereal diseases. Che, a doctor, spent time giving them penicillin shots.

Che couldn't speak the native language, so he talked to the officers in French. The soldiers blamed invisible spirits and other people for their own failures and refused to train or learn weapons.

When Che criticized the soldiers, they laughed hilariously. The one disciplined Congolese officer he could rely on drowned under suspicious circumstances, perhaps killed by his own men.

Che spent time in Prague and Paris, Moscow and Beijing. He burned up a lot of jet fuel.

Throughout his life, he neglected his own family, putting his epic dreams of international Communist revolution ahead of his own parents, his two consecutive wives and his five children.

The most horrific event occurred the last time he saw his wife Aleida and their four children in Cuba. He had snuck into the country in disguise, under the name Ramon:  

His wife knew who he was, but his children did not. He pretended he was "Uncle Ramon" and played with his kids in disguise. He didn't want anyone to find out where he was. He knew the children couldn't keep the secret.

That seems incredibly sad. In my opinion, he was playing games with people's lives, including his own and that of his family. He was more interested in his grandiose plans, and in sending men off on dubious missions, where many died.

As he predicted, after his death the two littlest kids had no memory of him whatever. I think that is a misplaced value. What a horrible way to treat your kids. I have to say, I am not a fan. I don't have a lot of respect for a man who put his family last.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I noticed today that the Jazz Bakery in L.A. is going to have a birthday tribute to Miles Davis, on May 26. He would've been 85.

When I was young, I loved Miles. Kind of Blue. Sketches of Spain. Miles Ahead. Bitches Brew. God, I loved that mellow trumpet and those artistic arrangements. Super cool, I thought. Powerful, too.

But some years later, in Irvine, CA, I saw Miles live. He was into his beep-squeak phase. God, I hated that music. To me, it was offensive, not even music.

OK, what does that mean? Does it have something to do with being true to yourself?  

I always think that you have to be true to yourself, that you should follow your own lights. Screw everybody else's ideas of what you should do. Follow your own ideas.

OK, great, so far.

But what happens if you are in show business, as Miles was, and you lose your audience?

How important is that? How much attention should the artist pay to his audience? To his bread and butter?

Of course, it is nice if you can be true to yourself and still get rich.

I knew a woman once who was (and still is) a famous mystery writer. Twenty years ago, she was making a million dollars a book. That was real money, back then.

Wait. What am I saying? That is real friggin' money, right now.

Anyway, she said, "I never think about the reader."

What? I don't believe that for a minute. Everything she wrote, she wrote for the reader. Here is a line I remember, because it is one of the worst lines in all fiction:

"Wedges of fear drove themselves into his groin."

Ah, lord, how painful that must've been. Painful to experience and painful to read. Of course, I have no idea what a wedge of fear is, or where it came from, or how it drove itself into his groin. The line was complete BS, I thought.

But do you think that wasn't for the reader? Of course it was. Who was supposed to react to the line? Who was supposed to feel the fear? Who was supposed to get jacked up?

The reader, of course. For Christ's sake.

People create certain myths about themselves. She believed in her own artistic purity. I myself believe that I am 22 years old and play basketball professionally in the winter and volleyball professionally on the beach in the summer.

You see me out there, don't you? Well, I do too. In my mind's eye.

Meanwhile, back to Miles Davis, one of the great jazz musicians of all time, no doubt. I prefer John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but still Miles is great.

Do you think Miles should have paid more attention to his own artistic tradition than to his new music? Or more attention to my taste than to his new ideas? Or more attention to the rest of his audience? Who should he have listened to? Me? You? Or should he have followed his own lights and told the rest of us to flake off?

If you go too far one way, you sell out and become a hack. If you go too far the other way, you edge over into obscurity. That is what Miles did, I think, with that beep-squeak music.

As Napoleon Bonaparte said, "Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever."

My answer is that you have to find a way to stay in touch with your audience. After all, the work doesn't come to life if it's totally obscure, if the novel sits in a drawer, or if no one listens to the music.

You want to shock 'em, but not run them away. It's one of the problems of being an artist. Find a balance and bring your audience along with you, if you can.

Sometimes you cannot. But you should try. At least, that's what I think.

-- Roger
© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


Two famous men, Osama bin Laden and Ernesto "Che" Guevara, had several things in common, it seems to me:
  1. They were both extreme idealists, focused more on the way the world should be rather than the way it is.
  2. They believed they had the answers to the world's most pressing problems, more so than other people.
  3. They believed in violence, often extreme violence, as the best way or only way to create political change. Elections were not good enough.
  4. They both thought they were special people in the world. Perhaps they were narcissists. I'm not a shrink, so I don't know.
  5. Both men, although violent, were known as polite and sometimes even deferential in person. Che was extremely attractive to women, and admirable to many men personally. He was hard to resist in person. Very charismatic. I don't know about OBL.
Che killed or participated in the killing of several hundred people in Latin America. Osama, of course, planned and took credit for the killing of about 3,000 people in the USA on 9-11-2001.

In case you don't know, Osama Bin Laden was the "head" of Al Qaeda who was killed last Sunday night (1 May 2011) by U.S. special forces in in his walled compound in Pakistan. I say "head" because apparently Al Qaeda is extremely decentralized.

Here is a photo of Osama:

Che Guevara was an Argentine adventurer who helped Fidel Castro overthrow Batista in Cuba in 1959 and establish a Communist state there. His is the revolutionary image you see everywhere in the world: 

The second photo is Che fishing on May 15, 1960 off the coast of Cuba in the "Ernest Hemingway Fishing Contest," a photo that is not so famous.

Guevara was killed in Bolivia in 1967 while trying to "export" the Cuban Communist revolution to other Latin American countries, a long-term project that Che believed in and which led to his death.

To me, the most interesting things are two: their belief in violence and their extreme self-confidence that their way was the right way.

They seemed to admit no higher authority than themselves. Even though Che was against "imperialism," it seems to me he was extremely imperialistic himself. He was a follower of Fidel and always deferred to Fidel's leadership, but he always thought his ideas and his ideals were correct.

Both men, it seems to me, were unwilling to accept the flaws and the foibles of human nature, and of human society, the way that it is and probably always will be. They clung to their ideals, in spite of everything. And tried to force their ideals on others.

They were both arrogant and violent, a bad combination. A fatal flaw.

-- Roger


© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Monday, May 2, 2011


This is truly a clash of titans. It never occurred to me before to compare Jorge Luis Borges and Cormac McCarthy.

They are very different writers, but I think it might be interesting to compare their minds. That is what you engage when you read.

Borges's mind is like an infinite palace of countless rooms. Some rooms are libraries filled with unforeseen books by myriad authors. Other rooms hold chests of jewels, like those you imagine pirates once buried in the Caribbean.

All in all, Borges is a magical and transcendent experience. How did one man contain so many mysteries?

It is impossible to conceive of such a writer, to understand him all at once. Reading him is like living in New York City. You could live there a thousand years and go out every day and every night and still not see everything.

Cormac McCarthy, on the other hand, is different. He is like going on a long voyage by ship. He reminds me most of Herman Melville. Reading him is like living "Moby Dick" over and over again. You become the whale, and you become the harpoon. And you die over and over.

I don't know how to explain what I mean. 

Both writers offer profound experiences of the imagination. At the moment, I prefer Borges. Perhaps that is because I am stuck in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," an annoying and tedious story that is apocalyptic, episodic and bleak, to say the least.

Both are great writers, and I recommend them both. But not every book by each.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle