The Best Things in Life

I just finished watching the final season of Mad Men and wanted to write an appreciation, but…

Where to begin? The writing, the acting, the directing, the design… They’re all wonderful, all outstanding.

The characters and the actors who portray them have become welcome guests in my world. The dialogue reminds me of classic authors. A lot of praise has been showered on the look of the series — and deservedly so. The direction is a master class in how it’s done.

I guess most of all I simply want to give a warm thanks to everyone concerned for many hours of amazing drama.


True Detective

Mesmerizing, beautiful, scary, profound and all too real, this HBO series is not for the squeamish. As T Bone Burnett says in an interview with the writer, Nic Pizzolatto, our heroes peer into the skull of the most hideous evil imaginable.

Judy, Judy, Judy

Judy Collins


I love Judy Collins — who doesn’t?

I saw her in concert last night. It was quite enjoyable, especially when we heard her singing — about half a dozen times, with an encore number thrown in for good measure.

The rest of the time she talked and joked about the weather and her glamorous life. The jokes were funny, the stories interesting enough. The singing was remarkable and she remembered most of the lyrics.

Her flight had been cancelled and she’d had to take a limo from Chicago. Her luggage and her guitar were lost in transition, but she soldiered on.

Good for her.

She was running on very little sleep from the night before — but whose fault was that? After all, that’s life in glamorous NYC.

I could forgive all that, on a good day, as did the audience.

What’s harder to pass over is the fact that we were made to listen to the opening act for far too long.

What lyrics we could make out were instantly forgotten. The piano playing was OK, but it all sounded the same.

The performer’s hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in a month and was dyed a color deliberately left out of nature.

There was a fair amount of screeching and foot stomping. I don’t know why. It seemed unfortunate in a musical event. As did the kazoo.

At one point she enjoined us to snap our fingers along with her.

When the audience declined, she said she’d thought we were folkies.

Maybe Judy could bring her up to speed with another history lesson.



A Modern Master



 I took in the Summer of the Arts festival this past weekend in Iowa City. Every once in a while you will find a visual artist there who stops the show. This year that was Yan Inlow, whose brilliant, shimmering work with fabric seems impossible, but there it is, ready to take your breath away.



Three Fish

Three Fish

Unfortunately, the examples pictured here can only hint at the delicate, vibrant quality of her work, which gets lost in translation to the web.


Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass

It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet Ms. Inlow and to see her astonishing work in the bright sunlight, where her artistry dazzles like sunlight on blue water.

Golden Weeds with Lavender

Golden Weeds with Lavender

Posted in art.



I’m delighted to see that season four of Merlin is making good on the promise of the show.

I love the Arthurian tales. Their telling is like pizza — good, even when it’s bad. Not that there’s anything wrong with the first three seasons — on the contrary, there is much there to love and admire.

But toward the end of the third season, the show really seemed to find its legs with the coming together of the round table. No doubt the good people who bring us the series realized they have a hit on their hands.

Now the story is going from strength to strength — with verve, sweep, and romance … and magic!

Good for them. Good for us.



O, drat — they’ve cancelled the series.


 Merlin @ BBC 1

A Glorious ‘Hobbit’

I loved it. I wondered how Peter Jackson would make the book into a trilogy.

Well, he embellished the tale — lovingly, brilliantly.

The Hobbit is great fun — exciting, suspenseful, funny. Just right.

I don’t know what so many people were kvetching about — don’t much care. It all seems like so much sophomoric fault-finding, compared to the beautiful, sweeping story up there on the screen.

Game of Thrones

There is a wealth of good things to be said about Game of Thrones, the terrific series on HBO, easily the most grownup sword & sorcery epic I’ve ever seen.

Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, is at the top of my list. He’s a generous actor, but his instincts, intelligence and gift for invention make it impossible to take your eyes off him.

Fascism TV

I have nothing against cops on TV, per se. Like many others, I think The Wire was one of the best offerings in the history of television. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed Without a Trace, Law & Order and CSI. My new fave rave is Justified.

That said, I’m increasingly tired of the whole genre. It’s gone way beyond the saturation point. In recent years we’ve had The Shield, The Academy, Cold Case, and Flashpoint. Today, we have The Closer, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-O, Prime Suspect and multiple clones of Law & Order and CSI. We have NCIS and now NCIS: LA.

It gets better. Tuesday nights on CBS, all of prime time is dedicated to cop shows. Last week, I had a gander at the ironically titled Unforgettable. It’s about a beautiful woman cop who never forgets anything. It’s a predictable procedural, but with a twist. In this episode, she tells a bunch of activists to go ‘camp out in the park, knock yourselves out.’ You could cut the sneering condescension with an axe.

Friday night, confronted with a vast wasteland, I had a peek at CSI: New York, which is typically all too forgettable, and with no twist in sight. We find a noble cop talking with his adorable girlfriend. It’s an intimate morning-after scene and all very affectionate — right up to the point where she makes a smirking reference to some “sexually ambiguous” person of interest.

In the cop show called Person of Interest, we recently had the computer-savvy-nerd half of a vigilante team make an approving remark about fracking.

You get the picture.

#OWS Highlights Authoritarian Police

Allison Kilkenny on December 18, 2011 – 10:47am ET

A funny thing happens when one uses the term “police state” to describe behavior by authorities in response to the Occupy protests.

Free Speech Zones

In late November, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a midnight press release in anticipation of a raid on Occupy LA, which included this line: “During the park closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.” The absurdity of that statement should be immediately apparent to anyone who understands how real journalism works. Good reporters don’t obediently stand in a “First Amendment area,” deliberately placed far away from the heart of the story. Reporters need to be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with protesters, precisely so they can witness how the police interact with them.

Earlier in the month, journalist Josh Harkinson reported on being alerted to the existence of something called the “frozen zone” when he attempted to cover the eviction of Zuccotti.

A white-shirted officer moved in with a bullhorn. “If you don’t leave the park you are subject to arrest. Now is your opportunity to leave the park.”

Nobody budged. As a lone drum pounded, I climbed up on the wall to get a better view.

“Can I help you?” an burly officer asked me, his helpfulness belied by his scowl.

“I’m a reporter,” I told him.

“This is a frozen zone, all right?” he said, using a term I’d never heard before. “Just like them, you have to leave the area. If you do not, you will be subject to arrest.”

He grabbed my arm and began dragging me off. My shoes skidded across the park’s slimy granite floor. All around me, zip-cuffed occupiers writhed on the ground beneath a fog of chemicals.

“I just want to witness what is going on here,” I yelped.

“You can witness it with the rest of the press,” he said. Which, of course, meant not witnessing it.

“Why are you excluding the press from observing this?” I asked.

“Because this is a frozen zone. It’s a police action going on. You could be injured.”

His meaning was clear. I let myself be hustled across the street to the press pen.

“What’s your name?”

His reply came as fast as he could turn away: “Watch your back.”