This Poet's Corner



This Poet's Corner



    Shhh! Please be very quiet. They are sensitive. These are some of the books I care for. I am their caretaker. Please be considerate. They are old and very particular; so particular and delicate of where they lie. I can not disturb them too often for each touch takes away something especially in matters of love. I do want to share them with you though, and they are happiest when useful if only for a few minutes. I want to show them to you and to tell you how much they mean to me. Please excuse them if they are not quite themselves today. They do not like so much light and are tired for I have worn their patience. They are eager to sleep, again, so we must only stay a little while.
    People call me an antique dealer. Depending upon where I hear the stress placed this can be offensive. I deal very little. I serve much. The responsibility is serious. When things are very old, over a century old, like some of these, they are dealt with very little. That is the objective; to find a caretaker for the particular things who can keep them for at least a while. All caretakers are fragile though and eventually move on. My responsibility is to pass these things between the different caretakers down through time. I suspect that the books I show you have had several handlers, already, and will know many more. For this service, of soliciting and finding caretakers, I am fed and housed by the antiques including antique books. I like to think of myself as a family retainer, but if you must and are respectful you can call me an antique dealer. It is a small matter but I am too sensitive to the stress on syllables.
    The first thing, then, I must admit is that I like the custom or trade these old books provide. They and other very old things support me and although it is not so fair as you might think, I am lucky and it is worth the trade. So let us be frank. There is value and reckoning, here. I suppose, too, I am lucky in that the commerce in them engenders the meeting and interaction of such interesting people. It can become very Dickens-like, and as I am easily bored, this is a bonus.
    But truly I like the old books for much more than their worth or the company they collect. I am fond of their younger facsimiles too but they are not so beautiful and are usually too course and rude to be treasured. Much of the reproductions I encounter on modern shelves today are as low as whores and I will only pay to use them and care little where they go after I am satisfied. So much today are picture books. Many are fast and loose quickly made up in flashy and glossy dress with little care for their deportment. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I love these for the care that went into their making; they’re make up, if you please, to add some femininity. They are beautiful outside and in. That is often the way of very old things. I am prejudiced and a bigot I know. Like Jefferson, I am a victim of my situation and must sully my character to satiate my lust. There is no excuse. Just judge me for my good deeds and then bury me, but please do not hurt the books or the best of the messages within. In the end it is often what is written that takes longer to return to dust. Lust can dissipate, too, in many different ways. But let us continue the tour of my personal library; the books I have not the heart to trade.
    See the skins of them. Study the many shades of brown, the occasional black, as black as jet flapper beads once made in France. Caress them if you like but just a little. Do they stir you as they do me? I don’t let children touch these. You must be older and careful. Some are sheathed you see. Reach under and feel the skin. Let’s move on. You know, now, how much I love the touch of moleskin or leather. I wish that I were bound so.
    Next, let’s turn them on their sides. They delight in so many positions. The printers took the care to marble here, to decorate in stripes; such attention to detail! Sometimes you will find this done in gold, though I don’t know if it is a kind of gilt or not. It lends religion, does it not? The spine, that is this, is sometimes gold too but mostly India black. I don’t care. It’s all impressive to me.
    And feel that weight! That is paper! All or most of the good trees are gone now and everything is economized. I love this balk, too. These old books are heavy and fat. There is something to squeeze.
    Now, let’s open one. Are you ready? Take your time. Here, you must do it so that it is evenly laid, half here, the other there. Again, it is the weight. Spread them with both hands and lay them open. I love doing this.
    We’re in now. Everything is much different here. It gets more exciting, too. This one is a little diseased but have no fear. This is why I would have you put the gloves on. There is nothing that you can’t touch. See the little spots. That is called foxing. Old hands show liver spots and old books show these. Today both can be treated. I have seen some paper made to look like new, although I am partial to this look. I’m way past virgins.
    I know, the type is regal yet readable, isn’t it? Just different enough to know it’s not typical. I’ve often wondered if the blind can feel this. Is it so imprinted in its making that it is Braille? It is unusual to experience text as texture and must to some degree comfort the blind.
   If I may, let me talk of the steel etchings you see and my appreciation of these. I had occasion thirty years ago and more to play at this on the large iron presses high in the attics of a school; a college that housed treasures like ancient presses for printing. I was lucky. This machinery on which I labored to ink or grease my poor pictures not so good I fear as these are gone, victims of technology that thinks too hard on only productivity and profit. It seemed all very masculine to me, then, this digging into metal and the lugging of stone. There were women about but they often feigned weakness to attract all the muscle there. I suppose I am bitter as they often succeeded where I did not dare. I love this old black and grey way of picture making that was much drawing and if colored at all was that much more difficult. It is in the difficulty that much of my respect lies.
  Oh and look at this. Now, here is something very touching, but I beg of you do not disturb it. Neither of us has the right. It is a flower left here long ago and has a story that is lost. The flower is nestled just so. I am too romantic I know to sanctify such a weed. For me some spirit lies vaulted here within and I think it no accident it is right at this place within the book. I often encounter these pressed things or letters and notes that start my imagination and take me on little journeys all their own.
    I hope you do not misunderstand and think that I pay no attention to what is within, here, as seduced as I am by their bodies. No I listen to their words too and some have spoken words to inspire or entertain me. Some have information critical to my very self or how I perceive me to be. This set contains much history of my family and I spent two whole years in here. No, I assure you, I have read or at least fondled; in some way used the books. I would not want you to think I over decorate although I confess I do. I have always admired beauty and wanted to arrange it to my own ends. I’m superficial but very good at it and even vices carry a sort of penchant if you have élan as I flatter myself I do. Some people label this effeminacy and belittle. They are too cruel considering the price they will pay for its company. I once had someone say to me there is no such thing as taste but she was too loud and as she had none I credited it to jealousy. She promptly coughed up a great sum for something I thought tasteless.
    I’m sorry, I tend to wander and I try too hard to please. Let’s move on but, first, glance there at a whole ensemble of them nestled in that bookcase that is like many of them signed and won’t be going any place soon. I am adamant in my greed.
    I am too hard on myself though. I give these things away as gifts sometimes. I love to bestow gifts. It is an especial mark of affection when I do give one of these though. The gift of a book is a kind of kata.
    Occasionally I’ll come across old bookmarks to tag the pages. I have none to show you, though. They’ve gone missing. Tags are good. You mark a place or honor it. I tag daily and often and occasionally I leave a tag outside my books for someone else to make use of. I’d be lying if I said I have never folded the pages of some books but none of these. Young dalliances, mere dainties you see too often cluttering the shelves today, must not expect too much from what goes on in folded sheets.
    I grow tired, like the books, and I do not want to keep you too long on matters so personal. I hope you have enjoyed visiting with them as much as I have enjoyed your visit. When next if you should find yourself about or in an old book think of me, please. I would take it as a kind of legacy to our brief time here together. I and the books bid a fond adieu and carefully close here.
E.D. Ridgell, 2014 


Breakfast on Pluto (2005)

You have to have been to Pluto to know Pluto. I welcome you to BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, and my DVD review, albeit twisted to some degree. This remarkable movie will affectyou to the degree that you can accept what is. I liked this movie a great deal. I am very curious, and I had heard this was a curiosity. We are all curiosities of a sort. If you concede this you may just find this movie interesting. I suspect most of you will find it educational. I forewarn you, liberal or conservative you must be the open minded sort of either or just donít bother, please. And for pity sakes donít blame it on Herald-thatís me.

Let us first get something straight. We are none of us one hundred per cent straight. Everyone is somewhere on a scale moving to left or right or exactly in the middle. We are all of us filtered in different degrees, and some of us in self defense don sunglasses as well. Who has not dealt with a lie, deliberately told or not? Did you really believe Pluto was a planet? Get over it. Itís not. It was only a planet before it was not a planet. Straight talk? Believe what you will. But please donít live an act for itís a fact that whatever you are, you are, and thatís, by far, far better than deception or worse still a delusion.

Honesty is hardest when confessed to the mirror. Iím not talking about sex, how much a man you are or how much a woman. Iím talking about being the real you. There is nothing quite as sexy as someone who is exactly exact about it no matter where that might be along the scale. A number nine can dress hair and a number two can wield a bat and vice versa. Some are comfortable, but some are not. The character in the movie is hardly comfortable at first, but very, very, honest and because of this the journeyís end was in my opinion a good one. I like the way the movie ends. There is a sense of closure that has a future after a past of much self disclosure and searching.

This character finds himself or herself: or does it really matter?

Now, you know, I never write about what has already been written about, so letís not bother with all the bother. What is Google for but for the bother of it all? No, letís cut to the chase. Weíve talked about the sex; now letís talk about something much more. What was all this bother for? What aside from a beautiful score, music quite good, was this edgy story for? Was it to reminisce? Most today are not that old. Did the movie solicit approval for a life style? I think not. This is hardly the era of approval seeking, each of us on our own iPods, or talking in the air with something robotic hanging out the ear. Are any of us ever completely here or there? Everybodyís got a planet in tow, or at least it seems so.

The movie is about ďseekingĒ; the searching that is the journey to the fulfillment of us all. Whether itís the lost mother, a sorted sexual identity, or the one true God, each of us is the same in this way. Life is sometimes a series of very, very, awful things we must survive, with good moments in-between, but if we can survive and in the end we find a truth we can live comfortably with, we will have lived life well. This is what in my opinion the movie was about; arriving at that special place where, when all is said and done, you feel you were not wasted upon yourself or anyone else, and your unique journey, no matter what it is you are searching for--has come home to rest.

The movie is about being at peace with you. And when you arrive there, well the journey has really just begun. But donít mind me. I am growing old and very little shocks me anymore. It hasnít been easy but somewhere on the journey, Earth turned into Pluto, and vice versa. But, you see, Iíve seen BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, and I can assure you I was not as shocked as I was kept from being bored. Nothing is as boring as more of the same.
Straight to a ten or somewhere along the scale, I think youíll like this movie; a trifle long but surely you caní be boredÖoh well, never mind. Youíll probably be shocked by it! Wait till youíre a little older.
© 2005 E.D. Ridgell

Merchant Marines not included in Washington, DC salute to veterans!

My face is red in the white, hot anger and outrage I feel at the missing, of perhaps one of the most selfless, indebted to, and unabashedly courageous branches of a service to which these  United States owe their survival, strength, and freedom..."That's you folks!"

My father, Merchant Marine, Chief Engineer, Edward D. Ridgell, Sr., who ran away to sea at eleven, who volunteered, and studied in Alameda, CA to become an officer, went to sea with his fellow comrades, sailing back and forth, over and over again, sometimes without escort and at the mercy of enemy submarines, continuing that tradition of a couple of hundred years of selfless service to this country, do not rate a place with the other honor guards on stage in any tribute to veterans of this country? My father had no less than three ships shot from under him, suffered Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for the rest if his life, masking it as best he could. He used to brag to me that he never did learn to swim. He only relied on the dog paddle, popping down under the burning oil, hoping that someone would maybe bother to rescue him. I  remember the pride I felt each time my mother and I braved the visits to him on ships in countless harbors in other cities, away from home, sometimes boarding on just a one foot wide rope with another line to hang onto, before he was off again on another world wide tour of serious business! I remember the last letter, the one I wrote, the one that finally found him on the other side of the earth, in Alexandria, Egypt. "Dad, Mom has cancer...just months... I'm so sorry!" I remember meeting a man at Baltimore's, Friendship Airport, who seemed to have aged twenty years in the eight months since I'd last seen him as he dog-tiredly made his way into my welcoming arms!
My father was just one of many heroes who supplied England with vital supplies to keep the Nazis at bay until, that day, one of Germany's allies made the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor- that day, "a day that will live in infamy", finally convinced a hesitating Congress to go to war! I remember and I think it only right and fitting that anyone who should read this knows it as well!
                                                                   Edward D. Ridgell, Jr., the eve if Veteran's Day, 2014.

The reserves also do not rate...never mind the countless tours of duty in hostile lands so recently served!


As I recall we had the first Studebaker, not the second, yet. That's how I kept time then, and I was just beginning to count those, warm, idyllic summers at Grammy's, down south of the fence at Leonardtown that always told me we were almost there, to Scotland Beach in St. Mary's County, Maryland, just a block or so from The Confederate Monument at the turn in the road. Behind that monument, spread out a half mile or so, stretched land that had once been a confederate prisoner of war camp. This is at a tip of the bay where the Potomac River collides with the mighty Chesapeake Bay. Automobiles had long, door to door, cushioned, front seats, then, and I would stand between my Mom and Dad on the yearly, long, summer's drive down to visit family. I don't recollect seat belts at all. It was the early Fifties when there weren't a lot of frills, or laws for that matter to tie you down and in, always for your safety, of course.
Grammy was a comfortably, fat woman with snugly bosoms that welcomed me in her warm embrace that smelled of eu de violet. She was always dressed in a flowered, bart clothe dress and had the air of one who ran the place which she did, a nursing home for twenty or so retired, old, naval sea dogs, with my grandfather mixed in, though I never quite warmed to him, or mores so, vice versa. The white wooden house, with red trim, floated on cinder blocks, all above  where the wild cats lived, underneath- no mice safe or welcome. Mary Allen, a young woman who was in some way related was her right arm, and Dick an old man and another kin kept the pigs and gardens. To this, finally was added two or three black women, hand picked and upstanding, who seemed chained to two huge black and white enamel gas ranges that seemed to always be in use. There was one other black woman or negro as people of color were sometimes called, who seemed to reign over these, much the way my grandmother reigned over all. This was Sophie, and it was to Sophie, that I was charged, a nanny or mammy I suppose depending on if you'd seen Gone With The Wind yet. 
I was a wild little thing, nicknamed Butch, a perfect balance of sweetheart and devil, as is often the case. Somehow, without ever a mean word, Sophie commanded my complete obedience. All adults were the same to me as I had no brothers or sisters. I was three and as happy as the pigs in the mud out back in their log stye.
One summer in particular, and this brings me to the point of this here yarn, I wandered into the long front room that had once been the dining room, but for now for some odd reason had a made-up, big bed, with one of those all white, chenille bedspreads with a million bumps all over it, pushed right up under the open windows. I climbed up with difficulty and, before I knew it, I fell into a deep sleep. I still remember to this day as this being the best sleep I've ever had. The breeze felt so good, and the smell of the fields, drifted through the open windows. Here, I must have slept in innocence for a good while, and then I awoke and opened my eyes.
There, sitting at the foot of the bed, was the most beautiful boy, smiling at me, a little older I felt, but more importantly he seemed to be so clean, that is he had no tan. He sat there smiling at me, invitingly, and I made to get down off the bed and go up to him, but when I again turned around, the boy had gone. I looked one way and then the other, but I knew, as a child knows, that he was simply magical. And I've known ever since, I had a magical, friend and later that this secretive friend was my own guardian, and still later that he was an angel, a guardian angel. I call him Michael although I'm not quite sure why to this very day, do you, Michael?
                                                                                                                     c. E. D. Ridgell, 2014


A Review: Atonement [2007]

Atonement [2007] an adaptation for film by screenwriter Christopher Hampton of Ian McEwen’s prize winning novel has received mixed reviews. I do not pretend to give the normal kind of review. I let you do the work in regards to names of stars, director, cinematographer, etc. If the movie is good you’ll be interested enough to take note of these, and if not you’ll hardly care. I am reviewing the movie from the eyes of the artist. Film is art on myriad levels. My business has been art in divers and sundry disciplines. I have the credentials. Whether or not you like my reviews waits to be seen. The critic’s lot is often a thankless one.
This film is at one moment a delicious visual experience and at another a graphic and realistic look at war in all its horror. I like the juxtaposition. The photography thought overdone by some critics was superb in my opinion. I think the set pieces done in different periods at different places are marvelous; English countryside set in the thirties, the expected manor house, London just before the blitz, the war torn and dreary fogginess of France during the initial blitzkrieg, and especially a surrealistic and fanciful look at the phenomenon that was Dunkirk, all work for me. The scenes shot at Dunkirk are ‘risk taking’ on the part of many people concerned, and I applaud them for it. I was captivated.
This is a British film so the acting is excellent with modulations on that level. The British unlike the Americans don’t churn their artists as much so their actors whom you tend to see over and over again in varied roles can hone their craft. That said the few American stars that do become icons deserve it.
Costume is to the period and I saw no mistakes. I personally liked the dress both female and male.
The directing by Joe Wright is certainly different from his direction of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, and you are either going to like it or you are not. I don’t want to tell too much but there are flash backs but not of the usual vein. They are integral to understanding the characters involved and the pivotal accusation made that must be atoned for. I think Mr. Wight has used this technique well.
The adaptation of McEwen’s work takes very much artistic license especially in the story so let me forewarn you. You are going to either find the ending believable or not. It does give pause which is why I waited at least twenty four hours before writing the review. Partly because of the actor involved, I swallowed it as I thought she delivered it with the aplomb that only an actor of her skills could. It’s audacious but I lean towards the audacious in art at times. Life can be so very audacious.
I’ve left the score till last. It’s not necessarily novel. Things like this have been done before but perhaps not exactly with such a poetic effect. The sound of a typewriter and the subtle, single, note of the piano are used to great effect to add tension, emphasis, and dramatic effect, whatever. These results are not pretty but anxious, uneasy and at time stressful. Even the banging of an umbrella on a car hood speaks words for the script and screenplay. The overall score along with this unifying kind of poetic refrain in my opinion make for a good soundtrack. More importantly, for the poet it will make you muse on the use of the refrain for purposes other than just repetition of feeling or message.
Atonement is a cut above most and in many respects is about artistic license which for this artist and critic are always valued. I rate the film four stars or an eight and I hope if you should see it, that you will like it.
Cheers, Ed
© 2008 by E.D. Ridgell

Creative Commons License

A Christmas story! Now in a time honored tradition of many American men I waited until the very last minute to even go on the hunt, let alone bag, Christmas presents that would both surprise and delight, in this case, the grandson and his Dad, two gentlemen with particular tastes as well as everything material, already. The chase inevitably led me into Dick's Sporting Goods Store as I had in mind anything whatsoever left among the, plunder and pillage of earlier more pragmatic shoppers that might bear the logo and insignia of The Pittsburgh Steelers, this family's Knights Templar! Not finding anything of the sort, my Impatient eye fell upon the camping department with its many environs, and what should I spy but a serious thing, a long honored thing, a tool to feed not just the stomach but the next most cherished thing thereafter, freedom.  Yes, my eye had fallen upon the sleek and sexual form of "The Remington", and with that, a light went on. I had found the father and son. perfect gift a grandfather could pass on down the line. I could feel the benevolence of ancestors, no less my own father's spirit, leading me on into this special rite. With the help of an experienced, slightly, hunched backed, keeper of Dick's sporting, slash Safari Hunting Department, I was soon out of there and on my way to wrap and proudly present these presents, that very same night.That evening in that half hour of the festivities when at last "Little Sam" could fully see what already he had deftly, managed to tear and partly reveal, after a stern, but plainly not meant, admonishment from his grandfather, both "Big" and "Little Sam", at last were at it, the careful and polite ripping open of the Christmas quarry. Now, with hushed breath on my part, there followed a brief pause and then a gradual realization and affirmation of all this good largesse entailed, and soon, we were giving our first lessons, heartfelt warnings, and massaging of what we hoped would never prove to be more than sport and, God forbid, nothing ever so much as a bit beyond it, I swear upon my war worn heart!    But, wait. The best and not unanticipated was yet to come, because you see sitting through all of this were two slightly smug and feisty, granddaughters, both feeling sorely used. Now, what should the oldest, but by no means always the boldest, finally question, just as I knew in my pride's heart she would? "Why was the gun reserved for a boy, and not a girl?” The implication hung on the air where I let it take flight for but a second before winging it with the retort that I had reasoned that because their excellent, unbiased, and noble father had already singled out not just she but recently her sister to go both hiking and camping to the exclusion of their tike of a little brother. There, then followed a brief but well aimed shot across my bow from her younger sister but the event was too fresh, the facts too true, and I soon silenced both with the knowledge that  I knew very well the implication, indeed the accusation, was that I could ever be a sexist grandfather. I was puffed up in all my righteous, indignation! The rest was silence, and so ends my Christmas story. Game, set, and match, for the men in the family this Christmas, holiday evening!  © 2011 by E.D. Ridgell


Factotum: A Review [2006]

I saw this movie on my birthday, that dreaded day none of us can avoid but most of us would like to, relenting to that inevitable question, “what would you like to do?”, with a decision to see “Factotum”, an independent and interpretive movie of the poet and writer Charles Bukowski’s novel of the same name.
This movie is about obsession. This movie is not about choices, but about surrender. Bukowski, played by Matt Dillon, in perhaps one of his better performances, playing Henry Chinaski, a down and almost out drunk and near derelict, has certainly surrendered to his unapologetic desires to drink and get laid.
But anyone who knows of the life and works of Charles Bukowski, or may have seen “Bar Fly” (1987), years ago, in an autobiographical screenplay of Bukowski’s, already knows of this, dare I say romantic, reputation of Bukowshi’s. It is a reputation for honesty regardless of what anyone thinks or says.
This is interesting because all obsessive behavior is a kind of co-dependency, a pattern of painful dependence on a compulsive behavior and on approval seeking in an attempt to gain, safety, identity, and self worth. Charles would seem, especially in his early works and life, to have wanted us to believe that he didn’t give a damn, that he didn’t seek the approval of anyone or anybody. But as the movie shows, and as his later works and poems attest to, he was so “busted” from the very first submission that went into the mail! Many more artists than not are social at least to this degree. I’d venture to say most of us. We create it. We “get off” in doing it in a sort of “high”, but then there comes that need to, “show and tell”. If you believe like me that life and art are intertwined and that all human beings are social creatures to some degree, then you will understand this need to be seen and to be heard, and to not just make your mud pies for yourself alone. It is not always about fame so much as the period at the end of a sentence; a final stroke of the brush on the signature upon the canvas. We want and need something more.
There are two songs set to poems of Bukowski’s in this flic, and it is in one in particular that sums the movie up. So as not to let the “cat out of the bag”, I will merely tell you to, “wait for it”. It is Charles Bukowski telling you of a bigger obsession than to drink or screw; the thing he had no choice but to do. And, I’ll give you this, as well, as it is not his alone to give, but, the universal message of all artists who are self-fulfilled: Follow your bliss! Surrender to the better of your obsessions and don’t look back. Substitute this, less the others unfruitful, kill you. Death has taken its toll down through the ages of artists who did not do this; follow the better bliss, of the many obsessions that would and did unfold.
Factorum is about obsession. I recommend it to you, and I give it an eight. See it if you like an independent and interpretive kind of thing, if you like Matt Dillon, or, needless to say, if you are a Bukowski fan. It does drag a little, especially after mid-way. It is not for everyone. You must decide. Google the details. I am not about working for you. I am about working for me, and then forwarding that to you, simply because I must write, that being my obsession, and for my pain, I would garner your applause. Not all artists are vain, and in this case certainly not Bukowski, but most do bow some little way for applause. Charles Bukowski would understand. Do you?
© 2006 by E.D. Ridgell

Creative Commons License


Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby- A Review!

In a country where ever since 9/11 we have slowly learned to live daily with a heightened state of anxiety; where we are watched by cameras everywhere; drive under lighted billboards telling us to report any suspicious activities; meander past a half dozen police cars, marked and unmarked, on a short drive to the grocery store at four dollars a gallon and rising, to buy groceries more expensive this week than the last; and must guard our very identity from “an intruder” lurking in the wires or pillaging in the mailbox-- it tends to make us tense. Everyone is worried about or worrying someone else. We are a nation adrift in a sea of worries, amidst stock market fluctuations, worldwide surrealism, and a media addicted to its own bad news. Those of us who are poets must take care less we despair.

Well, this is America and when the going gets this rough, there is only one thing to do; screw it and rent a movie. And, in particular, be sure you rent something funny, anything to lift you up and out of this seeming cesspool, this swamp of seriousness.
And so that’s what millions of Americans will do this weekend. They repeat a cycle. They duly worry all week and then take a few hours every weekend to laugh at it all and in particular to laugh at themselves. “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, has been out awhile but if you missed it, why not put your poetic pens and computer keyboards down and have some laughs. The poet who forgets to laugh is loosing both subject matter and vocabulary.

This film is a wonderfully uplifting experience for anyone and in particular the poet who forgets sometimes to experience life and spends far too much time in his own head. Seriously, IMO your poetry will improve as soon as you take it just a little less seriously. In my experience, others will then tend to take your poetry just a little more seriously. It’s one those opposites that gives life an evenness. Ask any Smith Islander.

All the “stuff” in this movie is good; direction, script, acting, photography, yada, yada, yahoo!!!! It usually is when the box office was so good. ‘As usual, I’ll leave you to google the director, actors, screenwriters, yada, yada, yada. I’m stereotypically lazy about these things.

This movie is an all American “Roast”. Everybody gets roasted; the Right winger, the Left swinger, the Holy Roller, the Advertising Busynessman [typo deliberate]with his bored alcoholic wife in toe, and yes, even you, the perhaps too serious artist.
The main set, just another one of those Great American Coliseums, with a capacity of 200,000 or more; The Talladega Super Raceway, is worth the rental price to see in all its color and excessive glory. If there is one thing history confirms is that Americans love their “wheels” and are all about speed.

It isn’t about the wonderful ability of this nation to laugh at itself. It’s not really anything about what’s hap’ in on the screen. It is about the audience; that irreverent American who will light heartedly laugh at everyone including himself until he enters his house of worship or that voting booth. Can you laugh at you? Do you habitually vote for yourself?

This movie is about democracy. Democracy defined by this man is the right of the minority to be safe, so that even though it ain’t go’ in to happen, each and everyone of us has the right to one day feel, if they follow their bliss, they too can be in the majority. It is about that feeling of being a people who will applaud their idiosyncrasies and yours and respect the rights of everyone to give it a go, to follow their bliss, without too much constraint. The viewer is what this country, bottom line, is all about; not winning the race but racing, following that mad bliss. And if you think the storyline too ridiculous and far fetched, well visit Times Square and speak to the Naked Cowboy. He’s real and he’s freely, following his bliss. I for one am proud of that. Aim for the sun. If you miss you can rest on a star. This movie gets four of ‘em and its viewers five.
© 2008 by E.D. Ridgell

Creative Commons License


Loafing With Walt: A GLBT 'Zine
Reflections on CAPOTE 2005 – by Hephaestion

I’ve never written anything like a review before for a motion picture, a book yes, but never a film. That does not make me feel unequal to the task, however, especially for this movie, CAPOTE.

My credentials then: I am first and foremost an artist of many genres and mediums; from paint to paper and everything in between.  I have painted, drawn, sculpted, wove, photographed, and taught the fine arts. I am a writer and a poet; in short, I am an artist not restricted to or contained in any one and only one discipline. I am a sort of modern day Renaissance sort with many interests and talents enmeshed in the vast milieu of Art as we lovingly live and experience it today. And as I can find few art forms that encompass so many different artistic venues as doe’s film making, I feel perfectly at home and at ease. I have missed very few cinematic endeavors of anything worth seeing in a lifetime and far too many of those not worth seeing to not be able to offer something here to mull upon. Add to these qualifications the fact that I am as much “Gay” as Mr. Capote was and there you have it! Finally, without boring you with the tedious list, I am well acquainted with many of the works involved, including “In Cold Blood”.

For my part I do not like reviews [ if that is what we will call this thing] that repeat all that has been said or is being said about a book, movie, etc. I will endeavor then to offer something new for you to chew upon and hope to perhaps give you more than you already know of the movie and its characters. There are so many facts in the vastness of the media today that one is forced to be creative to expound upon anything and give it some momentum.

So as to be fresh, I will avoid too many of the credits, the biographies, the divers names involved and concentrate rather on observations, reflections, questions, etc.--that arose as I watched CAPOTE--just a few days ago. Suffice it to say the acting, direction, writing, photography, etc. will all be dissected and given their just rewards and accolades before all is through. I intend here to interweave what I might surmise you do not know or may not have reflected upon thus far; to direct your thinking in directions perhaps not taken: a sort of signaling, blinking first to the right and then to the left and so on. Try then to not crash into the back of me and excuse whatever confusion I throw you into in my endeavors to inspire you and give you fruit for thought in your decision to take the film on, or leave it to wither in the box office.

Let us begin then with the story. It is--I presume-- supposed to be a story about Capote as he might have been back around the early 60’s when he and his childhood friend Harper Lee went to Nebraska to write what may have been the first of a type of journalistic writing to do with criminal investigative reporting. The story is almost as good as the acting but nevertheless like the acting is very much flawed, not in its craft but in its truth.

The writers are so far as I know not homosexual. The principal stars are not homosexual with the exception of one.  And although statistically homosexuals no doubt are involved in its making--CAPOTE is flawed in that it would portend to have insights into and know of things it does not. I am homosexual as well some of you may be. Or you may be lesbian, transsexual, asexual, or whatever, and therefore like me will need to overlook very much that to us does not quite ring true. That said, it does nothing to detract from the very excellent fiction that results.

The story as it is written and as it is so excellently acted by pretty much all the cast, in my opinion, is very entertaining and not implausible. Rather it is just a little presumptuous. Most film making of this sort is. We may as well overlook it but nevertheless not fall into the trap of taking it too seriously. Nor do I have any problem with heterosexual actors portraying homosexual, lesbian, etc. characters. A good actor is a good actor. Anthony Andrews back in 1981 in his role as Sebastian in the PBS interpretation of Lord Flythe in the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Brideshead Revisited” certainly addresses any such doubts as to the ability of a “straight” to play a “gay” or vice versa.

This season we have Heath Ledger a heterosexual actor playing a gay cowboy in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and also a formidable “straight” in CASSANOVA with both performances perfectly believable--and in my opinion creditable. And if anyone doubts that Philip Seymour Hoffman did not study his character, Capote, to judge best how he, being a straight actor, would portray this rather flamboyant and overtly “gay” genius of the past, he must surely think again.

No, I do not have a problem with the sexual preferences of the actors in real life but in any actor’s ability to play it too close. It is in the end  not entirely “comfortable” or at least at times does not seem so. If all agree, this need not be an impediment. Indeed to deem it so would be a sort of prejudice. I merely address the facts of the matter. By the way, they are remaking BRIDESHEAD REVISITED for release in 2006 with Jude Law in the role of Sebastian. As I saw Mr. Law, a heterosexual actor, in something recently in which there was a very full frontal nude shot in one of his scenes, I do hope he brings to bear the full bounty of his endowments as an actor to this role as well. You see, I am fully open to a diverse range of acting abilities and attributes.

Moving on, the movie makes much of the supposed similarities of character between Perry Smith and Truman. There is one particular line recited by Capote when he says something to the effect that Perry and he are alike except that Smith went out the back door and he, Truman went out the front. I felt this was loading the story rather heavy with some rather overworked psychoanalysis. The whole story is burdened with this sort of too heavy a motive or overdone character or relationship dissection. Granted the very essence of the movie is about this, but I feel at times it is overworked. I feel at times like I am on the shrink’s couch or one of the characters is.

Take the relationship between Truman Capote--his life long friend and lover Jack Dunphy. Many liberties are taken, here. I will be blunt. No one but the two gentlemen involved will ever know the depths to which they were committed nor the love they shared, but the fact of the matter is it was a bond enduring for most of their adult lives and both their ashes now abide in some sound or inlet off their homes in Long Island--mingling still together at least in spirit as a testament to something I think this movie could not and did not do justice to. It was treated far too lightly in this movie. I thought the scene where Truman leaves the telephone booth after a chat with Jack for the obvious gay bar nearby was unnecessary, however possible, given their open relationship. It was superfluous and contrived.

I am warming to my subject so forgive me if I am here, there and everywhere, but then like the murders in the house--they were scattered and that much the colder and therefore I will not labor over the form but give you my thoughts in like manner: hot to the subject but coldly clinical. One need read only a few pages of Truman’s style to forbear any suggestion that he became too infatuated with (let alone fell in love with) either of the two killers. As to Mr. Capote’s reflections, comments, etc. on the facts of the period in which he wrote “In Cold Blood” one of the endearing and at the same time irritating things about Truman is we are not always too sure of what we can believe. Such is the artist, Truman Capote.

Regarding the two murderers, the one is and was given heavier weight than the other. Richard “Dick” Hickock is treated as no more than that, some “dick” interested in nothing but pornography and not to be taken too seriously. But, Capote was too good a researcher to have not balanced the scales of the two in his dealings, and the movie almost forgets the lesser of the two for what it would have us believe was the greater. Truman did indeed become very passionate and at the end quite “moved” but the artist had just finished a Pulitzer Prize worthy work of several years and might be expected to be a trifle emotional. This is shown and played and acted oh so very well, but in my mind can be too easily misconstrued to be about the emotional events rather than the emotional turmoil of art. Truman Capote was a great writer. He wrote about two cold blooded murderers. What he wrote far surpassed the story and took on a meaning and a body all its own.

And after having said all of this what a very good job they all did of it and how thoroughly convincing and plausible it is. A wonderful job of writing and acting deserving of whatever awards will no doubt follow. Do not mistake it though for historical accuracy. Indeed, history is never accurate, in my opinion. Such a thing is impossible and would dull the art of it as well as the value of it. Nebraska? I hope it will forgive and forget!

Could Capote who most assuredly was an alcoholic and would end dying due to complications of alcohol and too much reliance on pills decades later, have drunk so much as he is supposed to in the writing of “In Cold Blood”? Later, perhaps, I think when he finally published that self destructive thing that so infuriated the better people of New York society—a sort of self destruction so common to certain kinds of artistic temperaments—I think he may indeed have tried to write in such a state. But, this is nothing new to the literary world. In fact, I doubt, Truman could have written this book so well as he did if he had not been fairly sober at the time; at least not to the degree depicted in the film. The music was stunning in its Classical Restraint. This is not a criticism, either, as in this case it maintained that steady tension of a kind of mid-Western silence that otherwise would have been distracting.

I close with a few words about Harper Lee and then leave off summarizing as I promised to be short. There is an odor of mendacity in this film that would have you believe that because Ms. Lee was a friend and associate at the time of Truman’s that it stands to reason she is a lesbian. So far as I know the lady is still alive and I have never heard her to say one way or the other. Not that it matters to me or probably to her. It is nevertheless, again, a presumption too ready to be misconstrued as true history.   Now, I have criticized much. I am an artist and I am about the art of constructive criticism. Do not misunderstand. This is just juicing the turkey to flavor the meal, stir your appetite, and give you something to eat complete with leftovers to pick upon and consume as you will.

What did I feel about the motion picture, CAPOTE? I would not have missed the farce for the world. I give it a resounding two thumbs up, hope it sweeps many well deserved awards, makes much money for needy artists, and is remembered for the excellent piece of fiction that it is. It is one of this year’s best. Granted this year’s pickings were slim, but this film, CAPOTE, is done just right, basted to a golden brown, stuffed nice and full with everything save the kitchen sink, and if you are like me and savor the Pope’s tail--you should enjoy the feast.

Note: The above reflection on the movie entitled “Reflections on CAPOTE” is co-authored by Hephaestion [a pseudonym] and Dylan Mitchell: the Co-Editor of the ‘zine, “Loafing With Walt”. Dylan has provided the graphics as well as nipped, tucked, and added to the story with my full permission as well as respect and gratitude.

© 2005, Hephaestion [ a pseudonym ]