6/22/20: Charles Grodin #poetry #successandfailure #rejection #choice

5/18/21: RIP Charles Grodin … from June 2020

The Rick Blog

character film

6/22/20: Charles Grodin #poetry #successandfailure #rejection #choice

Success and failure

Acceptance and rejection

“Rich and famous” and “getting good”

“Anger and aggression” and self-esteem

Charles Grodin went back to the Neighborhood Playhouse in 2008

He had studied acting there

He didn’t have much good to say about acting teachers

“They are usually too self-important”

“If I were teaching acting I would get out of the way. Just create a place where people can get up and act in front of other people. That’s the whole point of acting class. You can’t get work so you go get some experience and the experience teaches you. If I were teaching, I’d be sure not to say anything negative. Let people do scenes again and again. They will get better with repetition — simply learning from the experience.”

Grodin was talking to Dabney Coleman, another talented actor who didn’t have Grodin’s self-esteem.


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5/17/19: Gratitude and Exuberance

A poem that I like from May 2019 … describes how I feel this morning … I’ll add this … I don’t write for recognition. I recognize myself. I write because I believe that my experience, when viewed from an artistic and existential perspective, represents universal experience, and can be useful and helpful to some people with whom it resonates. My greatest wish for my writing is that it reaches every one of those people. Art can be wise sometimes, but it isn’t born of wisdom. Art can be beautiful but it isn’t initiated by aesthetic intent. Art is simply the documentation of the human. When I taught, the students who learned approached me. They never had to be cajoled in any way. Art works in a similar way. The audience member has to find the artist. An artist can’t work at self – promotion. This lack of careerism isn’t egoistic in any way. When an artist regards his or her audience in that way, his or her work ceases to be work and turns into sales and marketing. I am happy to be able to work and be open to opportunities to share my work with people who will respond to it. I feel a personal relationship with my readers. It is a mysterious and intimate connection. I am very grateful to you, dear reader and so happy that you are in my life. My writing educates, comforts, leads and inspires me, and is certified by the evidence of what it does for you. We are sharing our lives with one another in a deep way. How wonderful. Art makes us strong, accepting, understanding and free. I so appreciate you this morning.

The Rick Blog

rembrandt laughing

5/17/19: Gratitude and Exuberance

I promise you, I’m not manic.

My mother had a photo of me

It’s still around somewhere.

I’m about three years old.


In a horizontal striped short sleeve shirt

and short pants.

Mid-century toddler.

Thick wavy hair.

Smiling mouth wide open.

Hand extended high in the air

A maestro at the crescendo

In love with sound of my own voice.

The acorn that grew into this ancient oak.

The Essential Rick

Rick Redux

Rick un – Redacted

I became an actor,

but I don’t want to pretend.

I became a lawyer,

but I don’t want to argue.

I just want to talk.

I still have the kernel of the baby even younger than the little boy

Delighted with making sounds.

Thrilled when they become vowels.

The gift

and curse

of indefatigable innocence.

Life celebrates and assaults purity

The toddler saw the world as an infinitely…

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5/14/19: Darkest Mood in Decades

https://richardsteventhomas.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/5-14-19-darkest-mood-in-decades/ 5/14/21: From this date two years ago — a good poem about a bad mood. This piece doesn’t represent my mood today — I just like the writing.

The Rick Blog


5/14/19: Darkest Mood in Decades

I was born an optimist.
I have died.
I know that there are wonderful people and places in the world and in my soul.
But I can’t access them.
I am in exile
from myself
from you
from possibility.

Can anyone give me a sign?
A reason for hope?
Things outwardly aren’t that bad in my little world or the great big one.

But faith is a gift.

And it doesn’t come every day.

The ancient frustration is back

The eternal moment of feeling wronged

The grievance

The sense of injustice

has returned
My way!

My way!

My way!

I demand it.

I shout it at the walls.

And no one comes.

They walk away.


An astronaut untethered from the mother ship

Life is impossible

death doesn’t matter

beyond suffering

my own

and especially yours

Nothing makes sense

All this chaos

Brought on by…

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5/13/21: Lincoln (2012) — American Reality Beyond All Myth #poetry

5/13/21: Lincoln (2012) — American Reality Beyond All Myth #poetry

America inhabits one moment. History is an eternal thing. Myth makers festoon America with bunting made from bullshit — all the scams, and public relations, and propaganda and sales pitches — all the beliefs and ideologies — all the nonsense masquerading as big ideas — all the claims of somehow escaping the fallen nature of all mankind …

America is a complex thing … a real thing …a thing of many, many aspects …America is the highest achievement of humanity and humanity’s greatest shame and disgrace …

American History is the best of times and the worst of times. Lincoln’s moment is our moment too. Everything changes and everything stays the same.

It takes artists to capture America — the likes of Daniel Day Lewis, Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg. Kushner captures what it is. Day Lewis captures how hard it is to be America. Spielberg captures how big it is.

Lincoln was a genius of political strategy, a mystic and a a virtuoso of emotional intelligence. Lincoln knew what was right, and skillfully acted to further what was right. The best of mankind embodies skill and conscience.

The worst of mankind is the burden of the best of mankind. (A play on the racist trope “white man’s burden” — the real burden is not the outsider, the poor, the enslaved or the weak, the poor and unhappy — the real burden is ignorance, ego, violent proclivities — pleasure sought from the suffering of others and the insecurity of spirit that leads to condescension — the perverse need of men to feel that they are superior to other men, and greed — the cold hearted will to hoard the necessities of life while others are held down or even die from want. Misbegotten souls that personify all of these sins — sins, they invariably claim as virtues — are very bit as American as Lincoln.)

Power is a neutral thing. Lincoln wanted power. He desired it. He enjoyed it. He wanted the massive power that the Constitution gives the President. He maximized his effectiveness in the application of that power employing his mastery as a lawyer, and as a politician. His manipulations massaged both law and public opinion to his will. His will was congruent to the will of God. That came from the mystic in him.

The American Civil War began at the dawn of man and is in full progress today. America is eternally a cause of reasonable and legitimate optimism — always a true promise of equality, enlightenment and prosperity that is always threatened with negation, a negation executed by stupid, mean, selfish and vain nihilists who yearn for what some of them call “the end times”.

Mary Todd Lincoln is America too — she represents our national disposition to a madness that is rooted in a refusal to abandon innocence. An innocent view of the world leads to heartbreaking disappointment. America expects too much, and often gives up in the face of what our most noble desires cost. Abraham Lincoln knew the price of freedom. His natural state was melancholy.

Democracy is generally a fool. The people make damn lousy choices most of the time. The result of the errors finally makes all that is wrong so obvious that enough of the people turn to a leader who is good and smart and makes things better. This is the nature of progress. America is a jackass that periodically wakes up.

Lincoln was a man of equality and peace in the midst of a war. That’s America — the situation described — the Union and the Confederacy — and the men and women involved, the great Lincoln and his followers, and his adversaries — the forces of treachery and injustice.

America is Ulysses S. Grant — a great man, an artist, skilled in war and writing and naive about money. America is the greedy businessmen who nearly ruined Grant in his youth, maturity and old age. He always saved himself with his art — his military victory, his just Presidential administration, and finally his accomplished autobiography.

I wanted to write this morning about another movie featuring Daniel Day Lewis, “My Beautiful Laundrette” from 1985. It isn’t currently streaming. The choice was an intuitive one. I’ve never seen the movie, and didn’t know what it was about. I am painting my portraits and landscapes of the world organized by my experience of watching movies. I think it might be a book. For as long as I can remember, I have had this involuntary, but pleasing and welcome, internal monologue running through my head while I watch movies. I have often made big life decisions while sitting alone in a movie theater, the sound, the light, before me, the darkened room — how the state of watching a movie approximates Stanislavski’s advice to “be alone in the public”. Solitude brings freedom, autonomy, sensitivity and openness. Real action is born in solitude. Solitude commingles with the world — the public and the other facts of life — and the resulting concoction is one’s destiny.

I now sit in my recliner and tune in Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, and travel to the local cinema in my mind. Prime does have a trailer for “My Beautiful Laundrette” and I see immediately why my subconscious whispered its title to me. I have been thinking about effectiveness in the world — specifically thinking about getting my writing “out there”. I want some money and recognition for my words … and I want them to help other people … writing can reassure people, encourage them, affirm what is best in them, help them understand, help them discover what they already understand, show them what they never knew was possible … and I want to be fully alive — to be a writer in full …

The trailer for “My Beautiful Laundrette” teases a story of a Pakistani Britisher who opens a business with his gay lover, a man with a racist past, and creates a beautiful laundrette, which does much more than wash clothes … it is a place of love and equality and art … The men create something “beautiful” in a diverse and complicated world … Daniel Day Lewis leaves his racist former crowd behind, and the Pakistani characters dance in the laundrette with unfettered and unobstructed joy … the protagonists serve themselves, their true natures and a community of feasting guests.

What are the lessons here?

  • Recognize the nature of things — there are always fascists and racist confederacies and the like in the world.
  • When you discover your true desire and your highest angels, you must part company with some former running mates who will never go where you are headed.
  • Partner with people who love you and share and support your dreams and values.

That British movie from the 1980s is America too.

I am so blessed or lucky … choose your term. I love my wife, I’m free from material want, I’m just plain free, my solitude is a cauldron of high minded intentions and personal desires, I am presently healthy, I have so many gifts of nature and nurture, I have a personal experience filled to the brim with saints and benefactors and heroes and idiots and villains and fools …

I can do what Lincoln and the men of the “Beautiful Laundrette” and Daniel Day Lewis, Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg have done, even as I accept my weak failings — my inner Mary Todd Lincoln, my inner Ulysses S. Grant — both of whom overcame their humanity to achieve greater humanity …

Persist … Obama to Trump to Biden … in the times of light, darkness encroaches … in times of darkness, light creeps in …

Hope is not the same as optimism … hope says do what is right and honest regardless of outcome and you may be fulfilled … Optimism says everything will work out fine — always. I’m an optimist. My life has taught me to be that way. Everything always works out.

I am also a realist. Happiness rides the eye of a hurricane … calm and light, defiant of the thick black clouds swirling about.

Last lesson for the day:

-Note to self — heaven, hell and purgatory co-exist. Continue working to see them as they are and always choose heaven — when heaven appears in one’s solitude (easier) or in the world without (requires patience and faith).

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

5/9/21: Woody Allen, a Documentary (2011) — Inspirational Pariah #poetry

5/9/21: Woody Allen, a Documentary (2011) — Inspirational Pariah #poetry

I’m not so sure that Woody Allen would have cooperated with the making of this documentary if he hadn’t been accused of molesting Dylan Farrow. He once mistrusted self-promotion — or at least posed as if he didn’t care, or at least thought it was embarrassing in certain circles, and I think that he genuinely doesn’t care what people think of him while he is making art — he has integrity in his art and doesn’t often make choices because he is trying to get over in some way …

but he is human and he cares what people think of him — as a person, not an artist — especially now, especially since his notorious scandals of the early 1990s.

Woody Allen wants people to have a positive idea about him, and in this authorized (auto)biography of a documentary gets to tell his version of the traditional success narrative — the hard work, the good luck, his own inspirations, the instrumental people who mentored and furthered his fortune — but he can’t avoid giving hints of the undertow of darkness in his generally happy childhood — especially in the beginning of the film. The nanny who threatened to kill him. (What else did she do?) The strict mother who loved him but also beat him. One wonders. The most blessed of us contain within us the seeds of our own destruction.

Show business is myth. Art is truth. Woody Allen wanted to be a contradiction — a myth and a truth teller. His art is inspirational. His show business public relations strategy is a disappointing fact probably born as much out of personal need as practical reality. He needed the personal approval along with sufficient box office receipts in his niche market.

Did George Washington go out and personally find his hagiographer, Parson Weems? Probably, Washington was a politician. He must have appreciated a good publicist. Weems wrote that Washington chopped down the cherry tree, and couldn’t tell a lie about it. That might be technically so, but if not viewed in its childish vacuum, it is surely bullshit. Come on. Complete transparency is professional malpractice in a general or politician. Washington’s impure worldliness helped defeat the British redcoats, and later establish our democratic system of government. That is pretty admirable. The little boy with the hatchet was concocted for the innocent, naive and simple masses in the cheap seats. Not being capable of telling a lie was a necessary lie in furtherance of something noble and important.

Oh yeah — Washington also owned slaves — and the lie helped paper over that murderous disgrace for subsequent generations too.

To a greater or lesser degree, we all have positive myths about us that are recited if we get awards, and that are mentioned as anecdotes in our eulogies. And we all do some good, and have a positive impact on other people and the world in general — again to a greater or lesser degree. And we all own slaves or molest seven year olds … or engage in some other lesser or greater bad behaviors. Face it, we are capable of living out our most beautiful dreams, and can also be big pieces of shit.

To be human is to be a saint and an artist and a slob and a victim and a bully and a criminal and a pervert … To be human is not to be exclusively a hero or a villain. So l beseech you, please stop playing pin the tail on the Woody or the Washington, or the me, or the you, or the mankind in general, or the whoever — if that’s a form of child’s play that you play.

The director, Peter Brooks said that theater is “dreams mixed with shit.” Woody Allen opens this documentary saying that writing is the ideal state of being (I paraphrase) because everything feels perfect and wonderful and you feel you have done something great. He said once he starts making a movie he will prostitute himself in any way just to get out of the experience alive.

So, Woody Allen is an artist and a whore. This is my Woody Allen inspiration number one. My work would be better if I was more of a whore. My work is incomplete. I have to get it out into the world more. It takes guts to be a whore … and brains to be an effective whore. You don’t want johns who will kill you or who aren’t worth it. I don’t want to just fuck anybody. The fact is that no one is the sole author of anything. The artist has to spread her legs and let the world fuck her and then see the hopefully gorgeous progeny. Oh yeah — and then pick up the money the world leaves on the nightstand.

Woody Allen has some admirable qualities that don’t exactly inspire me just because I am the same way. He is willing to follow his own artistic inclinations even if the next honest thing defies others’ expectations, or are even unconsciously programmed to fail so that he can learn something. I’m like that too, so I don’t learn from it, but simply appreciate and identify with his values.

Woody Allen also is open to very disparate influences from Bob Hope to Ingmar Bergman. I’m that way too — more kudos from a fellow traveler.

Woody Allen learned how to be a film director by doing other things — comedy writer, comedian, actor. I’ve learned how to be a writer by being an improvisational comedian, a trial lawyer and a college professor. More hats off to my fellow traveler — admiration, not inspiration.

Oh yes, another thing that I share with Woody Allen — but I still am inspired this time— is that a major part of the make – up of his inner artist is the life experience of his inner fuck up. Woody Allen is courageous in his art. It gets him into trouble. John Lewis wanted “good trouble”. An artist has to get into bad trouble too. Our artistic beat is exploration of the human condition, and if you really live you can’t avoid being an asshole. A stupid asshole, a mean asshole, an ignorant asshole, a clueless asshole … bad with sex, bad with money, bad with people … Woody Allen has survived because of his great good judgement in his art, life and work, and has been nobly endangered by a mysterious and slender self-destructive strain in his personal life. Woody Allen is a mature artist capable of adolescent error, particularly in the field of romance, which is one of great themes in his work, of course. Woody Allen may be a great sinner for love, and he is at least a fool for love … for real, not just on screen and page. The poet says the road to wisdom is paved with excess. Woody Allen’s genius is connected to his human frailty.

Woody Allen writes fast. I do too. van Gogh painted fast. More admiration and if not inspiration then at least gratitude. It is comforting to feel a resonance in the approach of an artist that you admire.

How can any artist not be inspired by Woody Allen’s work ethic and productivity? He is sure of what he wants. He is committed and focused. He was clear regarding his internal directional device early, felt it, sensed it, and never failed to follow it. I didn’t have that freedom and clarity until quite late in my life. But Woody Allen’s inspiration doesn’t make me feel bad or inadequate in any way, because of another thing that inspires me about Woody Allen …

Woody Allen is 85 years old and is still fervently interested in making his art. I am certain that this is true for several reasons … he likes how it makes him feel … the work feeds his soul … he gets “stuff” from it … connections to people who sustain him … and he helps other people … his work is purposeful … he helps people deal with the struggle to be a conscious human being. Woody Allen is a kind of spiritual leader. He might recoil at that description. You might too. But all artists are spiritual leaders in the sense that they explore the unseen essential dimensions of life that people often lose track of in the struggle for survival. He considers religion and philosophy as topics. He may or may not have a conscious faith, but he writes a new scripture … a kind of contemporary Bible. Work, sex, relationships, even God for Christ’s sake — what is of constant interest to him is what is of ultimate spiritual relevance to everyone, and accessible to anyone who is drawn to his art.

I admire Woody Allen’s range and pride myself with having a similar range — but every artist has that range … Martin Scorsese sums it up nicely. Woody Allen is an artist who paints all the time, and has a lot to say. I like Woody Allen because on one level we are of a similar type.

What is quite admirable and inspiring to me about Woody Allen is how he uses the events, attractions, thoughts and feelings of his life in his work. He works with the personal and deepens it to the universal. Me too.

Even after Woody Allen became a figure in a tabloid scandal, he never stopped working. Nothing distracts him as an artist — better for the artist, maybe worse for the human being — maybe he should have stepped back and tended another part of his being besides his art — but nevertheless he creates with a relentless and persistent power. And repeatedly exposes himself to the reactions of the world to his art (doesn’t worry him — he just keeps going) and his person (more problematic — his real risk and sacrifice). He has chosen his main thing. He inspires me to keep plugging and to live as expansively as I write, and in so doing to more fully participate as a writer in the broader world.

In summation, ladies and gentleman of the jury, I admire and yes, am inspired by a guy who I think could well be an incestuous pedophile. But in my defense — humans are complex creatures, and someone can be pretty awful and pretty great at the same time — as a matter of fact, you can bet on it and will seldom lose. Also, I think Woody Allen is an incestuous pedophile because of some things he has let me see about him in his writing, but I am not really sure. I’m not a seven year old girl whose life he has ruined, or been unfairly accused of ruining. I’m an audience member and a fellow writer — and Woody Allen has never let me down. He has fulfilled all of his moral responsibilities to me.

Woody Allen says that he isn’t made of the stuff of a great artist, and I have mistakenly agreed with him. I thought he was an entertainer who occasionally achieved art. I thought wrong, because I hadn’t gotten around to looking closely enough as I have lately. I think Woody Allen honestly believes he isn’t a great artist because the need to be great is a paralyzing thing for an artist. (Also I am sure expressions of humility makes the transactions of his daily life easier to navigate.) An artist is better off just working and not worrying about comparisons and assessments. As a currently obscure artist I take an opposite approach for the same effect. I look at great artists as if they are my peers. That might be a grandiose and crazy idea, but it is useful. If I feel that equality, I can learn from the great ones — and not learn like a kid, but learn the way every pro grows while they keep working.

Woody Allen doesn’t care about being successful. He cares about sustaining his output. I don’t care about being famous. I care about being effectively out there in the world. Even all the writing I’ve done since I started on this path in 2014, won’t be complete until I get more of an audience. I want to touch the people who want to be touched by my words.

That’s what inspires me the most about Woody Allen. He found his natural audience doing exactly what he wants to do … what he is meant to be doing … exactly what makes sense to that inner impulse that animates a creative person.

I used to think that Woody Allen was immature. I was wrong again. Now, I see that he embodies constancy in change. We are the same person in our essence, when we are old or young. Our circumstances change, and we transform in many ways, but the core of our character and personality is set from our first breath. Sometimes we get confused by our experience and are alienated from that which makes us who we are, but even when we can’t see it, it is always there. Woody Allen is in some ways far more mature than I have ever been. He says that from the time he writes a script to the time it is completed as a movie, there are many surprises which change his original vision for his script, usually for the worst. I have been so wounded by such surprises for my writing — blows that I have received in the world, and those blows have slowed me down — sent me to my room to write in paradise. Woody Allen inspires me to get back out there, and to roll with the inevitable punches more philosophically. Woody Allen plays a neat trick of being sensitive and vulnerable, yet being wise enough not to get hurt — wise about the nature of people, skilled at protecting himself in the clinches, making smart choices in life that match the sure footedness of his art.

I can’t sacrifice such a wonderful example because he might have done something horrible. I just can’t do it. I can’t look at life and people that way. We lose so much because we want things simple, superficial and easy.

Woody Allen ends the movie saying he has had many lucky breaks. He has, it’s true … but I know that any good luck that I have had was most often accompanied a smart decision on my part. Woody Allen has been exceedingly smart in his life as an artist — one great decision after another, and his body of work is inspirational to all who want to do the same.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

5/8/21: Blue Jasmine (2013) — Tennessee Williams, Mia, and a Guilty, if Detached, Conscience #poetry

5/8/21: Blue Jasmine (2013) — Tennessee Williams, Mia, and a Guilty, if Detached, Conscience #poetry

How does he do it?

Someone said that a person is not a good writer until they can write about someone other than themselves. That can’t be right. An artist cannot remove themselves from the picture. perspective is a fact of life. Everyone occupies a unique and specific point within the field of existence, and no one else can have the exact same point of view. This limitation and opportunity of being alive is the raison d’etre of all art, indeed, all communication.

Woody Allen famously writes memorable woman characters. He does not define women with his writing. He explains what he sees.

I watched “Blue Jasmine”, a good Woody Allen movie from 2013 to check my theory. I had just viewed a more clearly autobiographical piece, “Manhattan” (1979) yesterday. “Jasmine” is the story of a woman married to a Bernie Madoff -esque white collar criminal fraud, who loses her worldly status and possessions, the love of her son, and her mind after her husband is arrested.

What does this material have to do with Woody Allen?

Woody Allen said that if you want to learn how an artist does something watch him do it. Here’s how I think that Woody Allen went about writing “Blue Jasmine”.

First, he took a dramatic structure from Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar Named Desire”. He drew sketches of two sisters, Jasmine, a parallel for Williams’ sophisticated and mentally unstable, Blanche DuBois, and Ginger, Jasmine’s sister, a parallel for Blanche DuBois’s sister, Stella. Jasmine, fragile and broke, shows up to live with Ginger, just as Blanche DuBois came to live with Stella in “Streetcar”. Stella is married to the brutish working man, Stanley Kowalski who hates and resents Blanche. Ginger is involved with two working class guys, Augie, her ex-husband, and Chilli, her boyfriend. Both men dislike and resent Jasmine.

“Blue Jasmine” does not follow “Streetcar’s” plot, but borrows the core relationship between the sisters, the fragile, cultured dreamy one, and the grounded, plain and practical one.

There is nothing obviously autobiographical about Woody Allen’s approach as I have described it so far — unless you think that an artist’s influences are relevant to understanding the artist and his work. I do. Woody Allen has always been a student of writing and filmmaking. He has unapologetically used plots, dramatic devices and characters that he has admired in the works of Eugene O’Neill, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Anton Chekhov, Shakespeare, Tolstoy and more. “Blue Jasmine” was Tennessee Williams’ turn.

Woody Allen’s personal story is well disguised in “Jasmine”, but if you look closely you can see it in the relationship between Jasmine, and her Madoff figure husband, Hal Francis.

I once saw a breathtaking exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, A long rectangular room had Picasso portraits of his lover, Dora Marr, hung in sequence on the walls. One walked around the room and saw the evolution of Picasso’s view of his mistress. The first paintings portrayed a beautiful creature. As one progressed, the paintings displayed a descent into madness. Dora Marr becomes ugly and disgusting. The last portraits were reminiscent of gargoyles. Picasso displayed negative emotion in these paintings, presented with a paradoxical detachment. Picasso told a story of the destruction of Dora Marr as a result of his abuse and her dependence and self-loathing. The exhibit made me think of some color photos that I have seen of hydrogen bombs. The mushroom clouds were awful to look at and oddly beautiful. Picasso depicted horrible pain in a spiritual way. An artist has to have this ability — to look from his or her point of view, not with an objectivity — that’s impossible, but rather with a silence — to simply paint what is there. Picasso extinguished cigarettes on Dora Marr’s person with a reprehensible cruelty. Yet his paintings of her disintegration could be described as holy. This in no way excuses or redeems Picasso’s abuse of Dora Marr. And I am not saying that cruelty is a requirement of being an artist. Picasso was all wrong as a person, but he painted a masterpiece showing all of his and Dora Marr’s sins and weakness.

Woody Allen did something similar to Picasso in “Blue Jasmine”. Jasmine turned a blind eye to Francis’ marital infidelity and financial crimes which destroyed many people’s lives. She ignored them because she was getting wealth and status. When she discovered that Francis was leaving her for a teenage au pair, she turned him into the authorities out of spite. This act of revenge led to Jasmine’s mental, familial (she was disowned by her son) and material decline. At the end of the movie she sat on park bench, far away from reality, on her way to homelessness or institutionalization.

The parallels to Woody Allen’s life, at least his sincere version of events, are pretty clear. He offers that Mia Farrow knew of his tendencies toward incest and pedophilia, but ignored them because she was half of a cinema power couple. She made thirteen movies with Woody Allen, and enjoyed several great, well – written parts that few mid to late career actresses ever have the chance to do. When Woody Allen left Mia Farrow for the then teen aged Soon Yi Previn, she blew the whistle on Woody Allen’s sexually perverse attitude toward underaged children.

Mia Farrow did not descend into obvious madness. Allen goes back to Tennessee Williams for direction to conclude his script. Allen did not commit suicide like Francis. He is decidedly not self – destructive in that way. A real life circumstance that is cuttingly included in the script is Jasmine’s loss of the affection of her son, Danny Francis. who blames her, more than his father Hal Francis, for the obliteration of the family’s fortunes. This tracks with Moses Farrow, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s adopted son, who defends Allen in his conflict with Mia Farrow involving the alleged sexual abuse of Dylan Farrow.

I am interested in Woody Allen as a writer. Writing is something that has to do with me. I am not interested in compiling a true crime blotter, and I am a bit surprised that I have had as much interest as I do in this topic. But I am fascinated by the detachment of Woody Allen and Picasso. They are not defensive at all. They are not concerned about what people think about them. And they are evidence of the diverse complexity of reality — how an individual person is capable, and maybe even destined, to show such a diversity of qualities — from great beauty to ugly abuse and criminality.

Picasso and Woody Allen inhabit heaven and hell, and evade purgatory. They accept their immorality and show it for what it is. They don’t cover it up or rationalize it in their art (Woody Allen does both of those things in his maneuvering in the face of the legal, career, financial and social pressures arising from by Mia and Dylan Farrow’s allegations).

The Dylan Farrow allegations date to the early 1990s. “Blue Jasmine”was released in 2013. That Allen could take such bitter experience, great suffering for himself and people quite intimate with him, such socially unacceptable and immoral behavior — and turn it into art is a great creative achievement.

Artists get no passes from me for misbehavior. If a man puts out cigarettes on a woman’s arm and torments her toward a madness that she was vulnerable to anyway, or has sex with a seven year old girl, they should be brought to justice. But that doesn’t change the fact that the ability to use such experience to make accomplished art is an extraordinary thing.

I’ll also add, as I have said before, I am not Woody Allen’s prosecutor. My analysis of his script for “Blue Jasmine” is obviously not remotely admissible in a court of law on the question of whether he molested Dylan Farrow.

This is just what I think. Writing is described as a craft, and I think that is bunk. Writing is a function of who the writer is. One can be suspicious of, and/or appalled by, Woody Allen’s actions, and still admire his focus, and honesty, and not objectivity exactly, but a kind of fair mindedness in the way he looks at everyone in his life, including himself.

I wrote this piece because I wrote yesterday about what I thought Woody Allen did in regard to the alleged abuse of Dylan Farrow. I find Woody Allen’s implication of Mia Farrow’s complicity in “Blue Jasmine” to be persuasive as well.

Of course, I don’t actually know what happened in these people’s lives. This piece is not about the truth. It’s about being true. And — in his role as artist (not as public figure), Woody Allen gets high marks for being true.

Football coaches call players who give maximum effort on every play “high character guys” even if they beat their wives. In that limited sense, Woody Allen and Picasso are high character guys.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

5/7/21: Manhattan (1979) — Under a Spell #poetry

5/7/21: Manhattan (1979) — Under a Spell #poetry

When I was in the Fourth Grade, I did a school project entitled “The Romantic Heart”. It was pictures cut out of magazines of people loving each other — parents, nurses, teachers, kids — taking care of one another with affectionate eyes. My teacher, a nice lady, and my mother were over the moon about my creation.

They wrecked me — almost for forever.

In 1979, Woody Allen made a list of what he loved most and turned it into a movie —

New York City


Black and white cinematography


Philosophical conversations

Underage girls

Inappropriate conversations with little boys about sex


Artistic integrity

Creepy interactions with a young girl that mix lust with fatherly concern …

Harvesting the events of his life and his innermost thoughts and feelings to make it in the movies

Art, success and recognition as a success in the arts

Being daring and heroic … living an extraordinary life …

Passion and …

freedom …

and the satisfactions of creative autonomy …

and a psychological love triangle between a romantic, a sophisticated neurotic and an old soul girl in high school …

even ex -wives are treated romantically …

Romance itself makes the list of things that Woody Allen feels romantic about … that’s the thing about romance, it’s not about the object of affection, it’s all about the eye of the beholder …

We, my generation that is, were disappointed with our governing institutions in a vague and barely conscious way, and unreasonably optimistic about the potentials of our personal lives.

We were forever young, living in suspended animation, entitled to live our lives in a perpetual state of falling in love.

And Woody Allen showed off for us. His insight was that he knew that we felt the same way that he did. We may not have had all of the same specific obsessions — but we all wanted the love and the work of our dreams …

The bill came for all of us later, the burden of those dreams …

I had watched that Allen v Farrow documentary about the accusations against Woody Allen involving pedophilia. I looked at “Manhattan” again, looking for clues. I feel a little guilty. It feels like an invasion of privacy. The artist uses his life as raw material to make something. The actual life is none of my business, is it? The only thing that I can honestly do is talk about what Woody Allen’s life makes me think about his life. He put out an image of his life that gets more complex every time look at it — I contemplate his image and I create an image of his image. I paint him like a pear that turns into an onion when peeled. (Hello, Dali!)

I met Woody Allen, but I didn’t know him at all. It was confusing. I still believed in heroes when we met, but my capacity for adoration was just starting to wane. I auditioned for Woody Allen twice. He hired me twice. I liked him as a person. I never cared much about the acting jobs one way or the other. I most wanted to see him in his natural habitat. I was like a tourist visiting his world. I wanted a glimpse in real life of this psychological presence in my life who was usually projected in front of me on a huge screen. He seemed to kindly regard others, and seemed a diligent and focused worker, a human being and a pro. But I want to speculate here— not ultimately to consider Woody Allen, but to see if my reflections lead to some useful truths that might help me understand my life, and therefore live it more effectively, and maybe how my sharing my process might help you in the same way.

I don’t romantically idealize people and things and write about them. I follow my interests and try to understand them. Maybe, I learned that from Woody Allen. Maybe I learned that specifically from “Manhattan”. “Manhattan” isn’t a romantic comedy. It’s a comedy about romance. “Manhattan” ends with Woody Allen not sure if he could trust romance, but wishing that it was possible. That’s not a wise ending, but it is a natural one for a man in his early forties, as Woody Allen was at the time. Love has its seasons, and at 42 the leaves are changing.

So, my thoughts about Woody Allen are some thoughts about life itself. I’m not his prosecutor. Maybe my ideas about Woody Allen are provoked by his own artistic achievement. He has a telling line in this regard in “Manhattan”.

“Gossip is the new pornography.”

And he has his ex-wife in the story write a tell all book about their relationship. Woody Allen teases us with the line between his characters and himself. Tellingly, his conflicts in Manhattan are never with other people. The drama is in his struggle with decisions about women, work and … love. Woody Allen offers himself as a human sacrifice. He wanted the attention. Maybe, now, in retrospect, he files that desire under be careful what you wish for … He famously avoided the press, at least stateside, but his autobiographical fiction is more revealing than any interview could ever be. His interviews are self -promotional. His movies are his truth. He hides the ball in his films, but an undercurrent of his not-so-secrets bleeds through even the lightest moments.

The main concern of the romantic is himself. The rest of the world gets jealous and eventually comes looking for him.

The world is our equal, not our oyster. In making love or making war, the attempted subjugation of the other always ends badly. The people and things that we love aren’t only around to make us feel good.

What can we do for who and what we love? Not much, I think … not much … we can only see them and stand by them …

When I first saw “Manhattan” in 1979, the movie, for me, was all about how it made me feel. I now see a little more about how Woody Allen felt. He was inappropriately attracted to little girls and defiant about it. He wanted to be an artist, and he wanted money and status. He saw himself as a faker and a fraud. He had a dark side and was given over to rage and narcissism. He was slapped around as a little boy, and treated as a sexual being too early. He tried to escape everything difficult in his personality and personal history through romance. It’s all in the movie. Watch it. He comes right out and says all of this.

Woody Allen asks us to love him in a mature way, but sabotages his efforts by defining love as romance. He offers romance as option for meaning in life, when romance, when persisted in too long, actually is a means of avoiding the truth, and the responsible joys of life. But oddly, he knows what he is doing. I’m gaining more respect for Woody Allen as an artist as I go through this exercise. He’s not admirable, but he’s honest. He was wrong in “Manhattan” when he offered romance as a potential out from reality. but he kept going in later movies and looked from other points of view.

Every artist writes a journal. Every Woody Allen movie is an entry. That’s why they can be repetitious sometimes. He puts down his best understanding at the time. Art isn’t always pure or wise. It must be honest.

Woody Allen was wrong about a lot of things in 1979, and as a result of those errors everything turned to shit — for him and the rest of us. But that always happens. It’s nothing to condemn.

Wisdom? That’s the residue of processing the ways that we fuck up.

I think Woody Allen molested seven year old Dylan Farrow. I think he did a monstrous thing, but that he is not a monster. I think he succeeded, on one level, in escaping adulthood, and spent his life addicted, on one level, not to love exactly, addicted to the feeling of falling in love. I think he is a sucker to nature’s trick — the fall from from Paradise is initiated by the apples of our eyes.

I think Woody Allen gave himself permission to fall in love with anyone and anything, and rationalized that such freedom included little girls. His wonderful feeling did great harm.

Woody Allen is a tragic figure … all of that perfection … the personification of an ideal that was very easy to love in a romantic manner, marred by a flaw as great as all of his beauty … he inherited incest and pedophilia like a dominant gene … and he kept it in check with work and thought and wise indecisive dithering … but when he felt most powerful, when he gave in to the siren call of power, his hubris let loose that which he kept in check most of the time …

That’s all just what I think. I have no right to judge Woody Allen or even say anything about his life. Woody Allen isn’t even a person in this piece. My thoughts about Woody Allen are of a more universal nature. When we are knowingly sentimental, cling to foolish innocence, when we are lars to ourselves and others about the facts of who we and the rest of the world are, and deny darkness because we want to believe in a perfection that we know doesn’t exist, a perfection that will always excite us and makes us feel as if we have cheated death … when we ignore darkness … we are overwhelmed and destroyed by the objects of our willful feigned ignorance.

Woody Allen was a big part of my view of the world in 1979, but thankfully only a part. I moved to New York looking for the beautifully photographed fairy tale kingdom in his movies. I became a comedian because I thought it was the greatest thing to do on earth. I am thankful to Woody Allen because New York and comedy gave me great joy and terrific memories, and by 1989 led me to a nervous breakdown. Thank God. God took a sledge hammer to my head and chest and yelled SNAP OUT OF IT!

Adult love has nothing to do with ideals. It involves loving the person or thing in front of you. The world is perfect and it is perfectly fucked up — just like Woody Allen.

Romance is lovely and compassion is hard. Mature love trades in adolescent excitement for deep satisfaction. A time comes when love affairs are silly, and marriage is a great fulfillment. I got so jazzed when I was onstage. Writing makes me … happy.

I am loving Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow tonight. Woody Allen achieved the power to think that he could stay forever young, forever in the thrilling first movement of a love affair. No one was in a position to call him on it. And he bequeathed to his daughter, Dylan Farrow, a destruction of her innocence, a denial of the right to be young and in love, and an intimate acquaintance with the harshest reality. And empowered her to call him out on his darkness, a challenge that he subconsciously longed for …

Woody Allen wrote about a powerful man who gets away with the murder of a lover whose existence threatens his successful life in “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Allen concludes that first the criminal is scared that he will get caught, and then he feels guilty, and finally after he is sure that there will be no repercussions, he gets back to his successful life with no more thought about what he has done. Maybe I’m being the romantic idealist now, but that isn’t the way I think it works. I think that when someone does something horrible, shame is a natural and involuntary response. Even if the shame is repressed and denied, it has a corrosive effect on a person.

So I feel sorry for Woody Allen. Nobody ever really gets away with anything …

and I feel sorry for Dylan Farrow, but I see an upside to her experience. When you endure an awful trauma … when someone or just fate really does a number on you, and you see how horrible life can be … and you still come back and love … when you know the gamut of what can happen, and still get back out there … nothing is better than that.

Woody Allen, “Manhattan”. me and 1979 look different every time I look at them.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

5/6/21: Somewhere (2010) — Faith and Boredom #poetry

5/6/21: Somewhere (2010) — Faith and Boredom #poetry

Boredom is a state adjacent to wonder. Boredom falls when one thing is over and necessity has been taken care of … what now? who now? how now?

I haven’t been bored in years. I appreciate my current boredom. Necessity has always been back of mind and desire in the front. No room for full wonder … always a problem to solve … always a riddle … never just an open space … or more accurately only an open space for a narrow window of time … the time to write something that I like … but never that window as a constant state of being, never the sense that I am writing my life like a poem, facing an empty page and listening for what is true … never that luxury …

Boredom and wonder happen in comfortable, safe places … the Chateau Marmont, the Carlyle Hotel … my recliner, Amazon Prime Video … my headset is on, and tuned into nothing … that whooshing sound … a cloudy day beyond the sliding doors, gentle on my eyes …

The guy in this movie sits still but doesn’t know it. Then it’s a girl, a drink, a long shower, a road … the old escapes don’t work anymore.

The old dead life invades the ennui. Boredom beats bullshit. It’s confusing when you don’t know that something is over. It’s OK. You work your shit out in purgatory.

Boredom is a blank canvas that starts talking back. Not so blank anymore.

Wonder is not knowing. Wonder is humbling. Humble brings peace. Vulnerability is liberating.

I want credit for my ideas here. They aren’t Sofia Coppola’s.

I want to be seen, to be recognized. I don’t want the world where I was ignored or worse, misinterpreted. It’s not about fame or fortune. It’s about connection. Hollywood ain’t nothing compared to poetry.

A writer is not a person of action. A writer is a witness and a witness needs to testify.

This movie might be better as a short story. It’s still a pretty good movie, though. A lot of seemingly mundane uneventful scenes — the action is interior. The acting and directing does the short story trick — double though.

Sofia Coppola is brave. This isn’t a show about nothing. It’s a show about being and nothingness.

I can’t keep Elle and Dakota Fanning straight. They are both good.

Boredom comes when you know yourself, but you don’t know where to go.

I got over “I’m sick of” …

I’ve done “This is who I am” …

now I’m on “where do I go?” …

This guy just lays around and eats and drinks and occasionally has sex …

Why isn’t he fat? Talk about a good metabolism …

I must be bored … I’m giving this movie the Mystery Science 2000 treatment …

Mystery Science 2000 bored me … an escape that didn’t work …

Back to our regularly scheduled poem …

This guy lives in a hotel … the rich homeless live in hotels… this piece is a sequel to “Nomadland”

The more bored I am the more abstract and experimental my writing becomes. …

untethered …

freedom in search of …

I stroke my face with a disposable razor to catch stray hairs missed in my morning shave …

I got a new IPad … it took me two days …

by the time I got the screen protector and case and extra charger cables … are you bored yet?

I had a four hour conversation with an old friend … that was fun …

I stopped writing for a while …

I’m tired of the reach of this blog …

another old friend told me to ask my subconscious for opportunities to be published and forums and audiences where I could do readings and talk and to keep at it … (he had asked me what was my ideal “theater” and I told him published in collections and/or series in a periodical; and staged readings where I read my pieces and talk around them … I also said maybe teaching the ethical presence class that I developed in higher ed, but I am editing that part out … I don’t need the day job money now, so fuck it … I just want to write {and talk} …)

It was good advice, I’m doing that …

He also said to ask my subconscious for direction as to what I can do proactively … I’m doing that too …

Pointedly he said “repeat” …

Boredom is a prayer … an act of faith …

Growing something is different than building it …

It’s not the old places or the old ways … this is something different … it’s not job interviews, and auditions, and writing submissions, and networking, and trying to fit in …

My old friend (of the four hour conversation) told me “You want to be paid fro doing exactly what you want to do” …

Exactly … I’ve never been precisely in this space before, and in fairness to me, I don’t think too many people have either

I don’t think babies are conceived during intercourse. I think they are made when the lovers lie next to each other in their respective solitudes, unsure whether they feel like getting out of bed or not.

Oh, here’s the scene where he realizes that he doesn’t know what to do. His epiphany. He’s crying, but it’s good … how much time in my life have I spent doing nothing? I’m not sure, but it was a lot, and it was time well spent.

Man, this guy can eat … he’s making me hungry …

You’re lucky if anxiety turns into boredom and if depression turns into patience and faith. You’re lucky if you are bored, if you aren’t preoccupied with survival and have the opportunity to … whatever …

(I believe in luck … no way you make things happen alone … we are carried to our destinies transported by the gravitational pull between our bloodstream and the time space continuum …)

He gets out of his sports car and starts walking and its over … and he’s starting over … holding on to what matters and tossing out the rest …

THE END … on come the credits and the director’s favorite songs …

All good movies are personal to the filmmakers and their audiences …

I’ve wanted to see this movie for a long time …

Life is paradoxically most interesting when you are bored, and vaguely aware that a new iteration of your life is waiting for you …

Somewhere …

this year of the pandemic has been one of the best years of my life …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

Clouds of Sils Maria

5/4/21: Facebook gave me this memory to share — I wrote this piece about a movie I didn’t like six years ago today. I like the writing and I like the place this piece has in the development of the writing. It foreshadows later work.

The Rick Blog

clouds of sils maria

Clouds of Sils Maria is a new art film. The clouds of the title refers to a natural phenomena in a part of the Swiss Alps. When conditions are favorable a river of dense mist snakes its way down a significant stretch of mountain valley. The clouds are symbolic in the movie of the reality of aging and the nearly intangible river of life. This picture has all the depth of The Lion King.

Paula and I saw this pretentious piece of garbage about bored and boring rich and famous people who create problems for themselves because they can’t think of anything else to do at the Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park. The filmmakers hoped we would be fascinated by this tale of witless narcissism supported by seemingly endless means. The owners of the movie theater catered to our comfort. We sat in very wide thickly cushioned leatherish…

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4/30/21: Allen v. Farrow (2021) — It doesn’t matter what people believe – the truth is what matters. #poetry

4/30/21: Allen v. Farrow (2021) — It doesn’t matter what people believe – the truth is what matters. #poetry

Mia Farrow alleges in this documentary that Woody Allen told her, “It doesn’t matter what’s true – it matters what people believe.”

After watching this four part series, I have no beliefs related to the accusation that Woody Allen molested the daughter that he adopted with Mia Farrow, Dylan Farrow, when she was seven years old in the early 1990s. I also have no sense of whether or not it is true that Woody Allen is guilty of incest and pedophilia, or if Mia Farrow manipulated her little girl to use her as a pawn in order to exact revenge against Allen because he left Mia Farrow for her then college aged adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn, and subsequently married Soon Yi Previn when Allen was 51, and Soon Yi was 21, thirty years his junior.

Kurosawa’a film “Rashomon” explores how several characters have different, sometimes wildly different, perceptions of the same circumstance. “Rashomon” considered the reality of point of view. No two people can stand in the same place at the same time, therefore our sense of the happenings of the world are necessarily always personal and subjective. I’ll add that the same person can have a different perception of the same situation depending on which modality of thought he or she applies in making his or her determinations.

Many of these different modalities of thought are represented in Allen v. Farrow. Most of them have everything to do with belief, and little to do with truth.

“It doesn’t matter what’s true – it matters what people believe.” If Woody Allen said this, he was asserting the primacy of public relations. I used to believe that Woody Allen was above public relations. He made his two movies a year, and played his clarinet at Michael’s Pub every Monday night. He didn’t acknowledge awards, and blocked out the outside world. His entire focus was on his work and his personal life. My view of Woody Allen derived from my unconscious acceptance of the messages of Allen’s very sophisticated public relations activity. Allen was not the detached artist (or at least aspiring artist) that I had imagined. He was a powerful man, of high status and influence. He represented an image of artistic purity that had nothing to do with reality. Allen consciously pursued societal success, and enjoyed his status with the public, critics, film industry professionals and the wealthy and intellectual elites of Manhattan. Allen’s skill at public relations does not necessarily make him a pedophile, but he did work to control the narrative revolving around his relationship with Mia and Dylan Farrow. Mia, and later Dylan and Ronan Farrow, played the same game with increasing success over time.

The truth has nothing to do with the charm, appeals for sympathy, persuasive arguments and strong expressions of outrage that are the common currencies of public relations.

The law requires evidence and rigorous procedure, but ultimately the results of legal proceedings still fall in the purview of belief instead of truth. A Connecticut prosecutor never filed charges against Allen, because, he says, he thought putting then seven year old Dylan on the stand would not be in her best interests. A child welfare investigator in New York City, believed Dylan and Mia, but said that the investigation was taken away from him by “higher ups” who protected Woody Allen.

The law aspires to finding out the truth, and responding to that truth justly, but the fact is that the law is limited. It can only, at best, reach a determination of what society will accept as the truth. Innocent people are punished and guilty people get off scot free every day.

Many people identify with Woody Allen, and don’t want to believe the worst about him. Many people identify with Mia and/or Dylan Farrow, and want to believe that they were wronged and deserve justice.

If people don’t identify on a personal level, they may view the controversy as a political one. They might see women and children as being abused by powerful men. They might see powerful men being slandered by vindictive women.

It doesn’t matter what people believe – the truth is what matters.

So how to get at the truth?

Regular readers won’t be surprised that my answer is “art”.

Mia Farrow was involved with the late novelist Philip Roth after her time with Woody Allen ended. Philip Roth could have written a great novel about this entire affair. It definitely deserves that type treatment, not the true crime docudrama provided by this potboiler of a TV series.

Fiction gives more of the truth that matters here, than the definitive Perry Mason climax that Allen v. Farrow teases, if never fully brings forth. The truth is that we can never really know what happened in these people’s lives. We can’t know who they are or what they did or didn’t do. We can look at the situation and empathize and imagine. We can discern and not judge and maybe create something that allows us to understand a little more about what it is to be a human being.

I don’t write fiction exactly, but I write about my personal experience. This piece for example, is about my experience watching Allen v Farrow. My thoughts were about living and speaking my truth.

I made some personal decisions while I watched this series. I rejected for my own life ever courting the status and power and success that are so important to Woody Allen. I always thought that Woody Allen was what I call a “near artist”. He sold himself as an artist. He sometimes achieved art, but mainly he is an entertainer.

There was discussion in Allen v. Farrow about the need to separate the life of an artist from his or her art. I disagree with this true -ism, at least when it comes to the area of public relations — the conscious manipulation by the artist of what people think of the artist. Allen makes a lot of choices in his movies currying favor with the people he wants to think highly of him. He has a lot of intellectual and artistic characters. He argues for his romantic proclivities — “the heart wants what it wants” is one of his famous lines. Allen cultivated popularity in the movie industry. Every actor (and every other kind of film professional) wanted to work with him. An artist can’t make strategic decisions and be true to his or her art. An artist listens to his or her inner voice, and listens to the world that he or she encounters. The artist then reports what he or she found out faithfully.

I always react a bit when someone describes what I write as an opinion. I write to attempt to understand the truth. I don’t always get there. Sometimes I get it wrong. Always, I only go so far — no matter how deep I get into something, I always wind up on the edge of a new mystery. That’s why I write the next day.

Allen v Farrow is more about how the filmmakers look at things than about the conflict in that unhappy family. The truth is that I stopped thinking about Woody Allen’s alleged crime, or the nature of Dylan Farrow’s pain. The series presentation was so thin and incomplete, I got no reliable understanding of any person, crime or issue.

What I did get was a chance to meditate about many of the forms of thought control that distort our lives: infotainment (Allen v Farrow itself), public relations (Woody Allen’s canny manipulation of people’s view of him as a person), elite authorities (expert psychiatric witnesses), lawyers and investigators (the justice system) and the push back of muckraking reporters and their subjects (adult Ronan Farrow of Vanity Fair and adult Dylan Farrow speaking as part of the Me Too Movement).

Nothing in the previous paragraph is the truth. It is just the stuff of the truth.

Where is Philip Roth when you need him? Oh yeah, he’s dead. Well don’t look at me. I don’t know enough about the world that Woody Allen, Mia Farrow and their kids live in to write about it. So I write about what I do understand — what I thought and felt while I watched this program.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas