Sunday, December 31, 2006

Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne
by Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!


For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.


And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.


New Year's eve

I've never been a great fan of New Year's eve, so have few memories of them. Lately I haven't even been awake to see it in. Maybe four or five years ago was the last time I celebrated at midnight, this downtown at Pioneer Square. We are invited to a party tonight, but it remains to be seen if I'll make it the duration. I am feeling better for the second day in a row -- but I'll take any precaution to avoid another relapse.

As a kid, I loved staying up and banging on pots with the rest of the family. As a young adult, there were parties to go to. I have no idea how I managed to drive home after them but apparently I did. Later, as a bachelor, I spent them in my local bar. But I don't have really fond memories of this holiday except as a kid banging pots.

Colorado Blvd, Pasadena

New Year's day is another matter. Growing up in Pasadena, this was a huge day with the parade and then the Rose Bowl game. I've cooked blackeyed peas every New Year's day for as long as I can remember, even when I was alone. And I'll do the same tomorrow. Blackeyed peas for New Year's, blackeyed peas for the Army-Navy game: probably the longest kitchen tradition I have left.


Interestingly enough, for all my years in Pasadena, I never saw the Rose Bowl game in person. Always had a party to watch it on TV at home. Now, of course, it's lost all tradition of being a Big 10 v. the Pac affair, the BCS screwing it up. There used to be a Junior Rose Bowl Game that was just as exciting, Pasadena Junior College (before it became City College) v. the best junior college who would accept an invitation. These were great games because you always had the home team to root for. I did go to some of these. I met my favorite teacher, who encouraged me to write, at PCC when I took a year of courses there after the Army. I also did my last two years of high school on the PCC campus while they were building the new school at Victory Park. And my favorite aunt was the secretary in the math dept at PCC. Many connections to this school.

Another great Rose Bowl affair was the Football Circus, which was a cross town rivalry between junior highs, high schools, and junior colleges, each school playing the other for a quarter. A big fund-raising event involving about a dozen schools, all the students packed into the Rose Bowl.

Many fond memories from my Pasadena childhood and youth.

A productive year

Primarily a year of "housekeeping," 2006 was a very good year for fattening the archive. My books with a 2006 copyright are:
  • Kerouac's Scroll. Two old men, best friends for over half a century, take a road trip across the country, each bringing a secret the sharing of which will change the end of their lives.
  • Seattle Sonnets. 23 sonnets about love and lust.
  • The Brazen Wing: A Screenplay. When Emil learns he has terminal cancer, he takes his grandson Billy on a trip to his small hometown in Idaho to find the old man’s first love. Tracking her to a rest home, they take her with them on a camping and fishing adventure. By the time the authorities find them, Emil has decided on his final exit and Billy has learned valuable lessons about life, death and love.
  • The Man Who Shot Elvis and Other Stories.
    Eleven short stories by Charles Deemer, two of which were selected to the Roll of Honor in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES.
  • Famililly. A play in two acts. Winner, 1997 "Crossing Borders" International New Play Competition. Do children have inherent rights to be nurtured?
  • Sad Laughter: the stage play and the screenplay. A story based on Moliere's fear that he may have married his own daughter.
  • Dead Body In A Small Room. A screenwriter recoving from cancer in a small Nevada town investigates the death of a brothel prostitute.
  • The Sadness of Einstein and other plays. Two bright young students go in search of Einstein at the Solvay Conference in 1927. Plus a cycle of one-act plays, The Death Cycle.
  • Movies for the Mind: Volume One and Two.

  • Country Northwestern and other plays of the Pacific Northwest
    . 5 plays by Charles Deemer: Country Northwestern, Christmas at the Juniper Tavern, Varmints, Waitresses, The Half-Life Conspiracy.
  • Dark Mission. John Nugent's opera based on the Whitman Massacre of 1847. (Piano, vocal score. Coil binding. Libretto by Charles Deemer.)

But only four of these projects were new (and half of these were mostly written in 2005): Kerouac's Scroll, Dead Body..., The Brazen Wing, Dark Mission (this mostly done in 2004-5, but published in January, 2006). The rest are a repackaging of previous works for the archive in Special Collections at the University of Oregon. Housekeeping projects. Of the new work, the most promising (in commercial terms) initially was the mystery, Dead Body..., which landed me a top agent. However, this agent's initial great enthusiasm and confidence became decimated by initial rejection of the projected series; his staying power was poor, which actually became a blessing in disguise. Writing a mystery a year, I've come to realize, is not what I want to be doing right now. My interests, my real interests, are far less mainstream than this.
In 2007 I plan to devote more and more energy to operatic projects and fringe personal things. If I can rid myself of all commercial instincts, all the better, though they are so engrained in my upbringing and training that this is hard to do.

Change of subject. It's been suggested that I get the university to sponsor the review. I already went through and rejected this argument, even before I came out with the first issue. Such a relationship, in my view, would interfere with my vision for what the review is -- it would be restrictive. I'm not interested in editing just another literary or academic journal. I want something more reckless and more open to "reckless" work than this. I don't want to publish only what gets official academic approval. I want the review to reflect the personalities of its editors. I'm delighted with how it's shaped up, in fact. I think with official academic sponsorship, much of its contents would be rejected. In his interview in the current issue we called Fighting the Culture Police, OyamO says, "Academic theatre is dead, but it has many regular attendees who repeatedly come to view the preserved bodies." The strength of academia is to make sense of the past, not to embrace and explore the future. So as long as I am editor, Oregon Literary Review will have no formal relationship with academia.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Summer/Fall 2007

Today I started assembling the first files for the next issue of the review. Now if I can get a few of my editors to change habits and deliver things to me as soon as they accept them ...

The Good Shepherd

Thumbs way up on this riveting, intense, dark drama that is part political and psychological thriller, but mostly a personal tragedy about the consequences of living in espionage culture. Matt Damon is first rate as a CIA agent and deserves an Oscar nomination. The story is tragic -- but true in its nuances. My own experience in security work, although down the ladder from CIA work, nonetheless provides a background to some of what is here. I had a colleague defect to the other (Russian, East German) side. I lost friends in a plane crash, covered up (by us) as an accident though the Russians shot down what was, in fact, our spy plane. Dick, in fact, was supposed to be on that flight but they kicked him off because he was still drunk from the night before. This saved his life. We had a dark sense of humor about our work, at least some of us did, that is missing in this film but all the stress, the psychological double-binds, the personal sacrifices are here. First rate. Indeed, probably my favorite film of the year.

Growing up near the Granddaddy of Parades

We moved to Pasadena in 1948, and I left home for Berkeley in 1959. For a decade, then, I lived two blocks from the route of the Rose Parade, near its end before spilling into Victory Park, which was located across from my elementary school and later became the site for a new high school (too late for me). Living so close to the parade was an extraordinary experience. Sometimes we'd get to sleep out on the street with a supervising adult or two in order to save our spots for the parade. Our neighborhood became a parking lot for visitors, cars often ending up in our driveway, once on the lawn, no permission asked. Something of a zoo. But exciting to a kid, however frustrating to my parents.

The highlight of the parade for me early on was always the appearance of "Hoppy," or Hopalong Cassidy. He was a regular. So was Lash LaRue, and sometimes the parade brought Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. Or Johnny Mack Brown. Or Gabby Hayes. I think Randolph Scott was there a time or two. Bob Steele. When I moved to Portland, which has a summer Rose Festival and parade, I became a snob about parades, the one here such a sorry excuse compared to the Granddaddy down south. But I got over it.

Pasadena was a good place to live in 1948. Development hadn't gone crazy yet. A drive to Santa Anita, where my granddad liked to play the horses, was a country drive through Orange Groves. Not a bad place to grow up at the time at all.

Pasadena in the 50s, Portland in the 70s and 80s: I've been in some nice places just before they got too big for their own good.

Friday, December 29, 2006

An overnight guest, or the Puzzling Habits of Women

When I was a bachelor with my own pad, now and again I'd get a call from an out-of-town buddy saying he was passing through and needed a place to crash for the night. Cool! He'd come by, we'd hit the local tavern and catch up, go home and crash, and in the morning he'd be on his way. A good time was had by all.

With every woman I've lived with or heard about, something this simple never happens. Today, for example. A friend of H's from California is passing through and will spend the night here. Suddenly H has turned into a strange creature the likes of which I haven't seen since the last overnight visitor we had. Out comes the toothbrush and the Lysol, and she's been on her knees cleaning the house with more ferocity and meticulous attention than we ever find when cleaning up for merely ourselves. What's going on? Why are guests more important than ourselves? Why does the house become something we never, never, never see except briefly in the day or several when we have a house guest? What are little girls brainwashed into believing anyway?

I find it all amusing, even in my relapsed feeling-like-shit-again state. In a few hours, they'll be sitting around drinking wine and eating chocolate, and the house will smell like a sanitation lab. Very interesting.

Remembering Maxie's

Nurse Fusion posted this at her blog last night:

A British Study shows that English is the last non-vocational, traditional subject in the top 10 degrees secured by students these days. Link to the article at BBC News. Source indicates current students are only in it for the money.

Read full entry.

How different it was in the 60s when I was a grad student at the University of Oregon! Near campus was Maxie's Tavern (as everyone called it) where many grad students hung out. We argued, discussed, debated books and ideas till closing time. We lived on free peanuts, throwing the shells on the floor. In the long narrow room, we stood and sat elbow-to-elbow in an environment of intellectual intensity. I don't recall ever talking sports or jobs at Maxie's. We argued about authors and books.

Don't students do this any more?

My office mate (I had a teaching assistantship) was from Belfast, working on a PhD on Jack Kerouac. He had never had a checking account before, and I remember how he used to write SIXTY CENT CHECKS at Maxie's for a small pitcher of beer. The bartender could NOT get him to write a five-dollar check and get change for the life of him. So, during a night, Jack might write two or four or more sixty cent checks. Jack and I used to love to share a shrimp-anchovy pizza. I was best man at Jack's wedding in Manitoba one summer, and I recall lying on my back with his new father-in-law outside the Canadian Legion, marveling at the Northern Lights overhead.

At noon one day, Jack asked me if I'd drive him to a music store downtown. Sure. We fought noontime traffic, finally found a parking place, and went into the music store together. Jack went to the counter and asked if they had Dylan's new album (I believe it was Nashville Skyline). Not yet. Thanks. On the drive back to the university, I tried to explain to Jack that in America we USE THE TELEPHONE to find out information like this.

Jack did the best imitation of Bob Dylan I've ever heard. He had a thick Irish accent when speaking but when singing, he was Bob Dylan all the way. Jack hosted Son House when the old bluesman came through for a concert, and what an honor to meet the man and hear him in an intimate post-concert setting later. Jack and I did some folk duets from time to time.

I lost track of Jack Foster. I heard his dissertation on Kerouac got published. I may snoop around for it.

Mars is marvelous!

The holiday cabaret by Susannah Mars last night was spectacular. She's such a superb craftsman, it was joyous to watch her at work on stage.

A gentleman sitting next to me introduced himself, and he was an actor here as a young man during Portland's Golden Age of Theater, working on shows with the late Ric Young, Peter Fornara and others who have left us too soon. He was one of the inmates in Fornara's spectacular Marat/Sade when he had a company under a CETA grant. In the most memorable week in the history of Portland theater, Fornara's company opened four shows in rep on four consecutive nights: Marat/Sade, Joe Egg, American Buffalo and Cabaret. You seldom see as much theatrical energy as this.

Fornara did a gesture that helped me considerably during a time of mental grief. I still don't know how it happened. I had just ended my tenure as playwright-in-residence at the New Rose Theatre when the artistic director, Gary O'Brien, abruptly left in a squabble with his board of directors. O'Brien had hired me. So I was theatrically homeless -- and suddenly, at the same time, my father died. I was in New Jersey doing the things the oldest son does when the phone in my father's apartment rang. It was Peter Fornara! He wanted me to be the playwright-in-resident at his new company, the Cubiculo Theatre (Sirius Productions). I said yes, homeless in this part of my life no more. How did Fornara get the telephone number of my father? I must have left it with someone, obviously, but in my state I didn't recall doing this. This was great timing to say the least.

Unfortunately, Cubiculo only got to do my play Waitresses before going under. They had scheduled the four plays of my Quantum Quartet in four years, the first being The Sadness of Einstein. I never finished the quartet, having by then discovered that hyperdrama was really the "quantum mode" of theatrical storytelling. Sadness got scheduled to premier in Seattle, but then its theater, too, lost funding. The play is like a jinx and never has been done.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

More Jim Wylie Photos, 1981-4

Thanks to Ryerson once again. Click on photo for larger one.

The amazing Internet

So I'm working on my screenplay and I finally find my ending. My protagonist, a teenage girl, is left at the controls of a Cessna Skyhawk and has to land it. Trouble is, I don't know squat about flying -- so I need to learn enough to describe the action in a convincing manner. To the net, of course: and I find a flight simulator with lessons that is perfect! I swear to the gods, I don't think I've ever struck out on the net when I'm looking for answers. So, guess I'll take a crash online course in flying and continue on.

The bathtub hoax of H.L. Mencken

Today In Literature retells this delightful story.

Susannah Mars

Cabaret performers don't get better than Portland's own Susannah Mars, who has managed to craft a career and pretty much stay in town. She develops about two or three new shows a year. We have tickets to her holiday cabaret tonight, and I'm feeling better this morning, so we should be up to it.

A year or two ago she included in her show a song "Portland Rain" to which I'd written the lyrics, music by Robin Henderson. It was a thrill to hear her do it.

Susannah Mars Home Page.

Give us this day our DailyLit

Now here's a good idea: subscribe to famous literature, receiving installments of a work as email. Check it out here.

For example, get ...

A very cool idea!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Last Days on Earth

A new documentary on the History Channel considers the seven greatest threats to ending life on our planet. Number one? Global warming.

An interesting near miss will occur on April 13, 2029, a Friday:

Friday the 13th is supposed to be an unlucky day, the sort of day you trip on your shoe laces or lose your wallet or get bad news.

But maybe it's not so bad. Consider this: On April 13th--Friday the 13th--2029, millions of people are going to go outside, look up and marvel at their good luck. A point of light will be gliding across the sky, faster than many satellites, brighter than most stars.

What's so lucky about that? It's asteroid 2004 MN4 ... not hitting Earth.

Read the story.

I don't expect to be around in 2029 but I may hang in long enough to see the beginning of serious consequences from global warming. Indeed they have started with the melting of glaciers at a far faster rate than expected.

Nothing like a doomsday documentary to wrap up the year.

I dabbled in a bit of writing this morning but my energy level is remarkably low. I assume it's the virus hanging on, though I no longer have the usual cold or flu symptoms. Mainly tiredness and lack of energy now. I do anything for half an hour and I'm exhausted. This state of affairs can't end soon enough for me.


Getting an agent is perhaps the first validating event of a young writer's career. But agents have changed with the marketplace, and in recent years you see more project-to-project agents than career-nurturing agents.

I've had too many agents in my ragged career, perhaps a dozen. Only three bring fond memories.
  • A woman at Fifi Oscard took me on as a playwright early in my career. She loved my small town Oregon dramas but had a tough time getting NYC to agree with her. She was supportive, flattering, nurturing, everything a young writer would want. She's the one who visited me in Portland and said how much the northwest neighborhood reminded her of what Greenwich Village used to be. "Don't let it change," she told me. Yeah, right. She saw and didn't like the changes happening in the performing arts in the 1980s and left the profession. The best this agent ever did for me in practical terms was get the Actors Theatre of Louisville, then the center of new plays in the U.S., to commission a one-act from me. It got a showcase production and died. Another agent at Fifi took me on after she left but we didn't get along at all. He kept trying to get me to turn my Oregon dramas into HeeHaw. I couldn't take it and left.
  • A woman at Abrams took on my screenplays, and she too was supportive, flattering and nurturing. But she didn't sell anything, and when she got stolen away by Wm Morris, I wasn't making enough money to go with her.
  • In mid-career, a small indie agent repped my screenplays. He was especially enthusiastic about my screenplay about Moliere but couldn't find the producer who shared his enthusiasm. This was the last major fan of my work in the agency world. Others since then repped individual works but didn't have much endurance once initial pitches went nowhere. They weren't career-nurturing, just trying to sell a project quickly.

Of the half-dozen screenplays I've optioned (back in the days when you could make a real buck doing this), only two were arranged by agents. I found the other producers myself with blanket pitching. Even with an agent, you need to work hard at marketing yourself. I currently have a screenplay optioned with a producer an agent hooked me up with a decade ago. Networking. It's an old script I don't care much for any more but the producer wants to direct it himself, so he's working hard to make something happen. In fact, he's been trying for about five years now. Producers have more patience than I do. I move on to something else. I like writing, not marketing.

But I'm not in a place now, nor have I been for a while, where an agent is useful to me since I'm no longer focused on financially viable projects. I've thrown every measure out the window except my own personal aesthetics; I just try to be as good as I can according to my own literary values. All the same, I have a pile of earlier screenplays, many of which are still marketable stories, but I have no energy to market them myself. If an agent wants to pick any of them up, and one now is looking at five of them (his request, not my solicitation), well and good. Today I'm a passive marketer, not an active one.

Young writers need to play the agent game. It's important validation if nothing else. But I have no practical use for an agent any more. Ten percent of zilch is zilch.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wonder Boys

Yesterday's mellowest of Christmases ended with another viewing of Wonder Boys, which had me frequently laughing aloud. The more I see this, the more I think it's my favorite comedy about writers and English Departments. I have to get around to reading the novel -- but in a way, I'm hesitant because I like the film so much, I don't especially want to learn that the novel is different, which surely it is.


I got some significant writing on the screenplay done this morning but it pretty much knocked me out. Just don't have my stamina back yet. Dragging since then.

All I want for Christmas is a good blurb

I'm pretty terrible at marketing. Most of it is attitude: I don't like thinking of writers as salesmen. Part of it is my extreme displeasure with Homo Consumerus, our new cultural form, and part of it is dislike of competition in the arts. I must be a commie for I'd as soon see all art works published and presented anonymously and given away free with artists on a standard income from the government. I know, I know.

At any rate, this is the backdrop for something I did a few months ago that for me was very difficult. I'd decided to bundle two short novels sharing a theme of "love after 9/11" and bring the book out in 2007. I then decided to do something I'd never done before: seek blurbs. Blurbs are those nice things writers more famous than you say about your work. I decided to write five very well known Northwest writers, whose work I admire, to send them a pre-publication book (like a galley), and invite a blurb if they had time and inclination to give one. I requested to receive same, if one was coming, before the end of the year.

A few weeks ago, I heard from the most famous of the five, saying he didn't give blurbs but wishing me luck. As the end of the year approached, I wondered if I'd get any blurbs at all -- not getting any would be like being refused admittance into the literary country club. I prepared for the worst with my usual cynical egomania. Fuck 'em.

Well, wonder of wonders, today the mail brought a blurb! I can't believe it.

In his compelling work, Charles Deemer focuses on ordinary people whose lives undergo extraordinary windshifts after the tragedy. His vivid characters love, divorce, die, and go to war. Deemer’s fine portrayals make the reader care about each character – writers, students, teachers, patriots and even tramps. This is a fine work with strong narrative and clean, clear prose. Everyone should read it and rethink their own lives.
-- Craig Lesley, three Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards, the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel, and an Oregon Book Award.

There was a nice personal note attached as well. This is cool. I've had very little validation as a novelist, compared to my relative success as a short story writer, playwright and screenwriter, so it means a lot to me that Lesley dug the book and is willing to go on record saying so. All this is such a crapshoot, you never know who is going to like what.

I'm not sure when the book will be out. Spring, maybe. I have a lot of grunt work to do first.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mellow Santa

I can't remember a more mellow Christmas. Rather nice! We beat the crowd for brunch, a quiet affair near the airport, Prime Rib and Salmon, salads and fruit, a variety of desserts. Then a long walk in a park with the dog, where H tried out her new video camera. A leisurely drive home. H and S are both snoozing, and I've been watching the Eagles-Cowboys football game, in empathy with all my New Jersey relatives rooting for Philadelphia to make the play-offs.

Tomorrow I start a regular work schedule. Will spend some time deciding which projects to prioritize, I have so much going on. Sally and the screenplay surely, but which after that? I feel impatient about getting started on Nails in My Coffin, which are stories, so I may begin. These three would suffice for writing, the rest would be reading/research for future writing. I'm always most productive when I have lots going on at once, as long as I have the projects in an order of importance. I don't work down the chain-of-command, so to speak, until I've met my goals at the top.

Piano time, too, is important, especially now when I feel some solid progress being made. Next year at this time, I may be far enough along to start some simple composing of my own for a music-drama.

Running at about 75%, which is fine as long as I don't have another relapse.

A Christmas Wish

You don't have to be a Christian to believe
Peace-on-Earth would be noble to achieve.
The problem arises with those who pray
to a different God than ours: I daresay
more blood has been shed in the name of God
than over anything else. Isn't this odd?
The Prince of Peace is the General of War
in actual practice. The battle roars
with God on our side. On this day
of holy celebration, amidst all the cliches
of peace and hope, may we embrace
(even with enemies face-to-face)
a smaller prayer than Peace-on-Earth:

May we fill our lives with mirth
and joy; may we tell our friends
we love them; may we make amends
to those with whom we hold discord,
and walk the talk of kinder words.

Charles Deemer

Wild gray yonder

A good morning exchanging perfect gifts! Sketch made out like a bandit. Now we're off into Portland's damp weather for a mid-day adventure, brunch at the airport, cruising lights in the daytime, taking the dog for a run, and home before the holiday traffic. It's been a good holiday.

Merry Christmas

No plans today. Open presents in the morning, hang out, probably venture out later to see if we can get a meal anywhere without reservations. Or maybe we'll get inspired at the last moment to cook up a feast here -- or have Chinese takeout. We're playing this holiday by ear. I mainly want to see the look on H's face when she opens my main present to her. Will she be surprised! And delighted! It's more fun to give than to receive.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Barbaro update

On the wire:

Derby Winner's New Home Undecided
by Ron Mitchell
Last Updated: 12/22/2006 5:19:25 PM

Co-owner Roy Jackson said it still has not been determined where Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro will go once he leaves the New Bolton Center, but that the colt's ability to get regular exercise will be a priority.

Read the story.

Barbaro newswatch.

Jacquie Lawson's electronic cards

Jacquie Lawson makes extraordinary electronic greeting cards, which one can use on a subscription basis. My wife is a subscriber and, as an example, here's a Christmas card she sent me:

My Christmas card.

Jacquie Lawson website.

This woman has quite a talent for this.

Oscar Levant

NPR tells me that this week is the 100th anniversary of Oscar Levant's birthday. Now here was a special talent! Perhaps most fondly remembered as a pianist and interpreter of Gershwin, he had an acerbic wit second to none. I used to watch his TV show in L.A. when I was a teenager, and it was there I witnessed one of the truly amazing things I've seen on television.

TV was live in those days. Thus Levant did his talk show -- and his commercials -- live. One time he was advertising a clock but having trouble reading the cue cards. When he got to a line about the clock being unbreakable, he stopped. Suddenly he threw the clock down on the floor and started stomping on it. The camera had a hard time keeping him in frame but eventually he emerged with a devilish grin and pieces of the clock he'd just destroyed. I don't think I've seen a better commercial on TV since.

Info on Levant:

If George Gershwin had an alter-ego, most people would agree that it was Oscar Levant (1906-1972), film composer and arranger. Levant, who was best known as a jazz pianist, was considered to have been the most accomplished interpreter of the vast songbook of U.S. composer George Gershwin, and was the first performer to record "Rhapsody in Blue" after Gershwin. He also scored numerous Broadway plays and Hollywood films, composed classical music, authored several books, and contributed numerous articles on musical topics.

Read more.


Oscar Levant: Early-Night Talk Show Host, reminiscences by Roger M. Grace.

Famous remarks:

I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.

Elizabeth Taylor should get a divorce and settle down.

Behind the phony tinsel of Hollywood lies the real tinsel.

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.

Marriage is a triumph of habit over hate.

Happiness is not something you experience, it's something you remember.

Flash fiction: Politics

The trouble with conservatives: they’re so arrogant they believe their way is best for everyone.

The trouble with liberals: they’re so idealistic they believe there’s always a peaceful solution.

Conservatives attack too soon, and liberals run away too soon. Each believes the other is conspiratorially dangerous.

So goes the nation.

Charles Deemer

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday songs

I haven't heard either of my two favorite non-traditional holiday songs yet this season: the Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters' version of "White Christmas" and the rocking Chuck Berry classic, "Run Rudolph Run."

Run, Rudolph Run

Out of all the reindeer you know you're the mastermind
Run, run Rudolph, Randalph's not too far behind
Run, run Rudolph, Santa's got to make it to town
Randalph he can hurry, he can take the freeway down
And away went Rudolph a whizzing like a merry-go-round

Said Santa to a boy child "What have you been longing for?"
"All I want for Christmas is a Rock and Roll electric guitar"
And away went Rudolph a whizzing like a shooting star

Run, run Rudolph, Santa's got to make it to town
Can't you make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down
And away went Rudolph a whizzing like a merry-go-round

Said Santa to a girl child "What would you like most to get?"
"I want a little baby doll that can cry, scream and wet"
And away went Rudolph a whizzing like a Saber jet

Run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, a running like a son-of-a-gun.

Chuck Berry

"Can't you make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down." It doesn't get more "modern" than this.

Who wrote "Twas the Night Before Xmas"?

Today In Literature takes up the case.

Big time relapse, alas, so am yet out of my bathrobe and have done nothing constructive beyond blog entries.

Christmas trees

Little tree

Little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

e.e. cummings

Christmas Trees

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods--the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn't thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I'd hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while."
"I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over."
"You could look.
But don't expect I'm going to let you have them."
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer's moderation, "That would do."
I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, "A thousand."
"A thousand Christmas trees!--at what apiece?"
He felt some need of softening that to me:
"A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars."
Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter.
I can't help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Robert Frost

Friday, December 22, 2006

Feel-good sports story

So many professional sports figures behave like arrogant thugs that it's refreshing to read something like this on the wire today.

Ochoa remains humble at the top

Senior Writer

"Hello." It's the way Lorena Ochoa begins every news conference. Sometimes she even throws in a little wave to unsuspecting reporters. It doesn't sound like such an extraordinary gesture, but the truth is most players skip the salutations and go straight to the questions.

Not Lorena. It's amazing how one little word can set the tone for an interview. It's as if she's saying, "I'm not viewing this exercise as a chore. Let's talk."

In a time when so many of golf's superstars are weary of all that accompanies fame, Ochoa is a refreshing alternative. She relishes the spotlight but isn't defined by it. She is as humble as she is fierce. One would be hard-pressed to walk up and down the range or alongside the gallery ropes and hear one bad word spoken about Ochoa. Which is why so many players, fans and insiders were pleased to see good things happen this year to one of Mexico's finest.

Ochoa clinched Player of the Year honors when she notched her sixth victory of the season at last month's Tournament of Champions.

Read full story.

Photos of Jim Wylie

Mike Ryerson forwarded me these photos of Jim Wylie from his NW Portland days (1980s). Jim created a new network of friends after moving to Vancouver, including a lot of younger musicians for whom he became mentor. (Click on image to enlarge it.)

Old home week

A good writing morning, working on the screenplay. Feels good to be back in the groove again, or close enough to feel good about. I'm less than a week of writing from finishing a draft. So far, seems to be in fairly good shape as first drafts go.

The real challenge is getting back in the groove with complex Sally.

Started reading The God Theory. Difficult, fascinating.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Community support of the arts

When I moved to Portland in the late 70s (for the 2nd time), I was astounded by the civic support of the arts. All summer long in Washington Park, there were nightly free events in the amphitheater: opera, the symphony, plays, big bands, dances, jazz, folk music, an astounding variety of art and entertainment playing to thousands for free. Under the Portland Parks and Recreation Division were two theater companies!, each with an artistic director on the city payroll. There was a composer on the city payroll! I mean, I'd never heard of anything like this.

All this ended in the late 80s with budget cuts and more budget cuts. Today Portland's support of the arts is only a fraction of what it was then. And old-timers used to tell me about the 50s and 60s when support was really good. For example, in the early days of TV, the city theater companies used to write, perform and produce original theater on television on a regular basis.

One of the good things left is the Community Music Center, which is where I take my piano lessons at the ridiculous tuition of $48 for 10 weeks. It's perfect for me.

Little Children

I had expected more enthusiasm for this film than I have. What compromises my appreciation of it is the way it uses a narrator: didactic and, in its ending, self-congratulatory moralizing. I like the story here a lot, the screwed up characters and their screwed up lives, but the narration puts everything in a context that stretches to be self-important, at least to my sensibility. Not nearly as good as In the Bedroom by the same director.

Monster's Ball is a film that presents a similar ending with more dramatic power than a narrator telling us what we should think about all this. In both cases, we see screwed up people trying once again to put their lives back together: and the "message" is, we can't change the past but we can change the future, and we can begin doing this at any time. A glimmer of hope. In Living Children, we get the short sermon of this. In Monster's Ball, we have our central couple on the back porch at night, eating ice cream. She has just discovered a secret about him, which has the potential of ruining their beginning relationship. Very long silences here, which increases the tension because we know what she knows but he doesn't. Finally he says, I think we'll be all right. And she nods. We feel the tension, the difficulty ahead -- but we're on their side, we want them to make it. When we are told to hope, rather than feeling it, the experience is too cerebral.

I'd almost give LC a thumbs down but too much about it is very good.

Pinewood Dialogues

From the Museum of the Moving Image, the Pinewood Dialogues, interviews with film and digital artists.

New issue of Oregon Literary Review

Oregon Literary Review goes online today.

Here are a few things I recommend:

Jim Wylie passes

The Big-C strikes again: Jim Wylie passed away last night.

I'm pissed. It was beginning to look like Jim was going to be an exception to my thesis "the cure is worse than the disease." When diagnosed with lung cancer a few months ago, he faced it head on with high spirits, determined to beat it. Surgery went well. Then chemo. He hated it -- but figured it was worth it. But it didn't get far along when complications from chemo resulted, back in the hospital -- and a quick ending.

So the cure is worse than the disease once again. I know that many, many folks beat cancer. I just haven't known any. Every single person I've cared about who faces the Big-C ends up the worse for treatment, not better. Perhaps because it's so far along when diagnosed. At any rate, Jim joins Dick and Ger, victims of the Big-C, finding the cure worse than the disease.

Ironically, he is featured in the new Oregon Literary Review, which is being released today. Find him here.

A good memory: Oklahoma Hills, performed by Wylie and yours truly (mp3) (Wylie = guitar solo & harmony).

And here is pure Wylie on one of his own: The Pinto Song.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wedding Wars

My blog-photo function isn't working -- but this film, originally on A&E, gets a big thumbs-up. Like the Alexander Payne's first film, Citizen Ruth, this turns a controversial issue into a comedy, in this case gay marriage. Like Payne's (in which the issue is abortion), it's not preachy and shows both sides of the issue, although here the resolution is more stacked than in Payne's movie, in which every point of view looks silly. This is a gentle, funny, touching yet serious film that escapes all the ready pitfalls of such loaded material.


One of the many gruntwork-saving tools I use during editing the review is the W3C Link Checker, which lets you check for broken links. Quick and easy -- and a must when you put up the 100s of links that make up an issue of the review. The right tool for the right job, as they say. I also use an offline checker called Xenu, also neat.

Waiting now for one last thing from my video arts editor -- when I get it, I'll announce the new issue. I didn't realize how excited I'd get about this.

Oregon Literary Review: sneak preview

I hope to release the review on Friday morning.

Highlights of the new issue include:
--Jazz by Asuka Kakitani, winner 2006 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize (score, audio).
--New music by Greg Bartholomew, Alden Jenks, Jose Contreras (score, audio).
--Two full-length plays (with interview) by OyamO, award-winning NYC playwright (presently playwright-in-residence, University of Michigan).
--Essays by Carla Perry, Andrew Coburn, Lynn Jeffress, a new column by Evelyn Sharenov.
--Fiction by Melanie Jennings, Jan Baross (with interview).
--Poems by Alison Apotheker, Christopher Howell, Dorianne Laux, Judith Barrington, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marvin Bell. Two high school poets honored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.
--Translations by George Evans, Sam Hamill, Lars Nordström.
--Photography by Adam Bacher.
--Paintings by Peter Schwartz.
--A literary and visual art collaboration by Craig Van Riper and Suzanne Brooker.
--Storytelling by Mara Stahl (audio).
--Video Arts, a new section edited by Julie Mae Madsen (video).
--and very much more. 160M of literature, hypertext, art, music, and hypermedia.

So long, editor; howdy, writer!

Putting editing chores on the back burner now and becoming a writer again. I can finish up the review without obsessing about it. First up on the writing table, the screenplay I've been drafting, half done, should be able to finish in a few days of good work. Then, with it on the rewriting burner, I can focus on the Sally novel and see where I'm at, having some distance from it now, and see if its complex structure still makes sense to me.

The other thing I have to do is prioritize my various reading projects, especially two that are research for future works.

I'm feeling better today but having had one relapse, I'm prepared for another. I do have to get out this afternoon, to my office to upload the large music files.

I've said this before but this is a dynamite issue. My editors made great choices.

Almost home

Finished coding the music section this morning. Only two things left: uploading the music files, which I'll do at my office this afternoon; and getting the video arts material from my editor. A wrap is getting close!

This morning, if I have my energy, I'm getting back to some of my own writing projects. But first, I need more sleep. Been up since 3 working on this sucker. Onward.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Quick service

Last week I wrote about looking for Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack Forbes and discovering it's out of print and selling on the net for $100 to $500. So I searched for a copy in a library and the closest I could find was at Eastern Oregon University, which has an exchange policy with PSU. So I requested it, and here it is, arriving today. I'll pick it up tomorrow when I go in to do my large music uploads (assuming I feel up to it). Since I really want to read this, but surely won't pay three digits for it, this has worked out nicely.

Music uploads, a bit of page formatting for the section, and waiting to hear from our new video arts editor ... and I'll be home free. A long haul. But we don't do it again for six months. In fact, already have a play submission for the summer issue.

Low energy, but enough to read if not write.


Well, I think I have everything ready in the review except the Music and Video sections. Actually music is one of the easier sections from my end but I have large uploads, which I need to do at the office. Not feeling up to going out today. Still taking it easy, finding it hard to shake this virus.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The battle of the sexes: three sonnets

Imagine, if you will, a body tight
with stress; add a mind pickled with booze;
throw in a heart grown cynical by night,
by day asleep; put in the daily news
to taste; cowardice will keep the blend
alive, no falling soufle here; somewhere
there must be a past, memories of when
the world was right; yes, the mouth can drool
a bit; a tired dick grotesquely hangs
its chicken's neck southward like a fool
(a dick always points northward when it bangs):
all this - and then let enter Special She.
Witness resurrection of the He.

"A woman needs a man like a fish
needs a bike," she said before she kissed
him on the lips. Wondering what he missed,
he kissed back, which he later wished
he hadn't done because the police just stared
at him as he stammered through the story
that was his version of events, how sorry
he was about the whole thing, more weird
than anything else, there had been no rape
at all, unless his tongue was charged, and she
had started that, this he guaranteed,
he was a gentleman and not an ape.
Q: what in common have King Kong and Tristan?
A: a fish, a bike, an ape . . . Woman and Man.

When love is in the heart, the body waits
its turn. The fire in the heart can burn
without a need to touch: when lovers learn
this silence, they learn much. When passion baits
too quick a touch, then lovers can create
the parameters of their very doom.
The body when ablaze has little room
for heart - despite the myths of how we mate.
Patience is a virtue when in love.
The best that we can be takes time to grow.
True lovers find a way to rise above
their own desire, and to hold it so.
But ah!, when body gets its turn to speak,
the bed is all ablaze for weeks and weeks . . .

Charles Deemer

These are from Seattle Sonnets.

Making progress

Finished the poetry/translations section this morning, which is always the most difficult section to format. Not sure if I have energy to do more editing today. May take a break, then practice piano and look at my current screenplay. I need to go to my office to deal with the composers since the audio files are too large to upload here at home (with my dial up). But I still have some prose and scripts to finish up here.

The review is beginning to look nice.

Hanging in

Had something of a relapse yesterday and didn't get as much editing done as I'd like. Up early this morning to get at it and finished the poets. On to the translators (in this issue, from Greek, Swedish, Haitian/French, Spanish, French) and composers. But first, back to bed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Within the parameters of its genre, a Christmas fantasy, here is a delightful family film, full of comic moments, swiftly paced and logical within the structure of its promises ("a story is a promise"). I never would have watched this on my own but H decided to watch it, and after a long day of editing, I figured I could fall asleep in front of this as easily as in front of anything else, but the narrative quickly grabbed me and held my interest. Professionally and nicely done.

The God Theory

I like to check the schedule of the cult late night radio program Coast to Coast AM (made famous by Art Bell) to see if any credentialed scientists are guests. If so, they usually offer highly stimulating discussions and Bernard Haisch's appearance last night/this morning was no exception. Author of The God Theory: Universes, Zero-point Fields, And What's Behind It All, Haisch presented a stimulating synthesis of hardcore science and spirituality that was so intriguing I just ordered his book (before my resolutions take effect!) and also sent off a copy as a Christmas gift.

Most of the guests on this radio show strike me as not-quite-deranged but the scientists who are not afraid of "fringe" subject matter are among the more fascinating minds around today. For this reason, I applaud the show.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Zero Sum Universe

Somewhere between the carnage on the road in Baghdad
and the swollen face of the unhappy wife up the street
sits a boy at a piano sending musical chills through the mad
corridors where the bodies have been stacked. Dead

Somewhere between the decapitated head of the latest
victim and the still body in the doorway of the bank,
a woman climbs a mountain because she appreciates
the sweat and struggle. At the summit she gives thanks.

Somewhere between the high and the low, the best
and the worst, between heaven and hell, all the rest
of us live out our small important lives,
finding the spaces in which we somehow survive.

Charles Deemer

Radio highlights

Some highlights from public radio this week:

Editing chores

Been working in code all morning, getting poets online for the new review. About a quarter of the way through them. My goal is to be online with the issue before Christmas, and if I work a few hours each day, I should make it. But I'm scolding those editors who sent me everything at the last minute instead of when they knew they had accepted it. Last issue went much better in this regard.

All the same, it's likely our best issue yet, and this is a great motivating factor in getting through the grunt work.

Running at about 75% today, every day a bit more. Need to remember my own work amidst all this editing activity. Onward.

The pursuit of happyness

My wife and I came out of this movie with the same question: how can a film based on such an extraordinary true story be so disappointing? The film has high production values: good acting, good cinematography. But there's a weak link, and it's this: the screenplay! There is no story density here, nothing beyond a single thread that we quickly understand, and after that everything is repetition, repetition, repetition, and finally it gets old and, yes, boring. What this film needs are some twists and surprises along the way.

Why didn't anybody catch this in development? Maybe for some reason there was too much reliance on the "true" story at the expense of the "dramatic" film. Or maybe the fact that the writer and director are the same person reduced the usual amount of collaboration that goes into fine-tuning a script, the writer/director being blind to his own faults. Whatever it was, everything wrong with this movie, which feels long and repetitive, begins with the screenplay.

From Fortune magazine, here's an article on
the incredible story of Chris Gardner

Friday, December 15, 2006


Asuka Kakitani conducting jazz orchestra

John Nugent has put together another first rate music section for the review, including -- and am I excited to see this! -- Asuka Kakitani's Dance #1, which is the 2006 recipient of the Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize. We're publishing both score and mp3 of a performance. This means future jazz contributors will be in the very best company, hopefully a real draw for us. Great work, John!


We had quite a storm pass through last night, knocking out our power for a while.

The most stressful power outage I ever experienced happened in the mid-80s. I'd just been commissioned to write my first hyperdrama, although no one knew what to call this new form of theater at the time. All I knew was that the play would be performed in the Pittock Mansion, an extraordinary space to write for, and that the narrative would split so scenes would happen simultaneously throughout the mansion (at one point, 8 scenes on 3 floors would be happening at once!). I was calling the project "simultaneous-action theater." The original offer was for me to lead a team of writers in developing this but since the company wanted to open in a year, I convinced the artistic director (Steve Smith) that it would be more efficient to let me write this alone. No committee meetings to slow things down.

It took me a while to get started (see my essay What Is Hypertext?) but once I decided on a plan of attack, I was off and running. To focus on the project, I rented a cabin on Wallowa Lake for a month (at the time, they gave artists an incredible deal -- Joseph had not become artsy-fartsy yet). Man, what a fine month this was! Writing at all hours, boating on the lake for a break, kind and curious lake residents leaving me food and wine at the door ("We have a writer on the lake!" It was a big deal then.).

One afternoon as I was writing, I saw a thunderstorm forming over the lake, dark and menacing. I kept working. In these early PC days, I recall reading that a sudden loss of power could lose what you were working on or even damage your computer -- but I was in the heat of creation and kept working. Thunder and lightning started but I was oblivious to it all. Then pow! a blast of thunder, and I lost all power. My computer shut off, of course -- and that's when it occurred to me that I might have lost my work. I was near the end of my month, and if I damaged my floppy disk I was in trouble (I had a 2-drive Kaypro: programs ran from one disk, data stored on the second, i.e. no hard drive).

It took about three hours for the power to be restored, a very stressful time. I sat at the window, watching the storm, drinking wine, and imagining all kinds of horror if I lost all my work. But when the power returned, nothing had been lost.

The play opened, the most spectacular opening of my career (I wore a white tuxedo and my photo made the society page for the first and only time), an immediate sellout at $100/ticket on opening night, $50 thereafter, unheard of for Portland in those days. Later a Seattle magazine called Chateau de Mort the 2nd most important cultural event in the NW for the year. And I became addicted to hyperdrama.

Further reading:

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Tomorrow is the last class of the term. We get a month off before winter term begins, but obviously I'll continue to practice. A good term! Got my confidence up that I can do this, managed to gain some patience in letting things happen at my hands' pace not my head's. I think I'll be staying in this class for the foreseeable future. Next fall I plan to add a second, Music Theory, a year-long sequence.

Still feeling better but on guard against a relapse like H had.

Oregon Literary Review

Although we have six months to put together an issue, a few of my editors like to give everything to me at the end of the cycle. Consequently I am buried under in grunt work. I hope I can get the new issue out before Christmas. It's a great issue, however, which is ample motivation for Internet grunt work. All the same, I am running out of energy after only a few hours work this morning and thinking seriously of going back to bed. Surely not at 100%. But over 50%, I think. Onward zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Golden Globes

The nominations are out.


Anonymous Content Production/Una Producción De Zeta Film/Central Film Production; Paramount Pictures/Paramount Vantage

Bold Films; The Weinstein Company

Warner Bros. Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures

New Line Cinema; New Line Cinema

A Granada Production; Miramax Films

All the nominations.

I've only seen two of the best film nominations, so won't make a prediction yet. The gala affair is January 15th.