Monday, April 30, 2007

Dangerous travel

They say it's more dangerous to sit in a car than an airplane, and we almost added a statistic to the point on the drive home. A damn truck ran a red light and just about creamed us. My reaction time getting to the brakes was quicker than I would have thought, and we escaped disaster by a thread. Reasonably shook up after that, we stopped for lunch at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Hung, on the way home. I had a spectacular bowl of beef noodle soup filled with various goodies, among which was the best tripe I've ever had. Melted on your tongue. My exposure to tripe has been limited to the Mexican favorite, menudo, but I'll be back for more of the Vietnamese use of it.

Harriet brought me a superb present from the east coast: SCRAPPLE! Two pounds. Wonderful.

My favorite adventure story from her trip: she went to Atlantic City with the mother of her daughter-in-law. She played the penny slots, which is exactly her style: and she won $100! Moreover, she then quit.

Great to have her home. Sketch thinks so too. Now life can return to normalcy.

Ready or not

The house is clean (relatively speaking ha ha), fresh sheets are on the bed, the flowers and card are in place ... and I have a couple hours to kill before going to the airport. I think I'll take Sketch with me. He'll be very excited to see Harriet.

Panda porno

In another news item this morning, zoo officials in China are showing pandas videos of other pandas "making love" in order to teach them the moves and get them in the mood. This is a pedagogic logic that hasn't quite carried over to our high schools yet.

Little black book

There must be hundreds of nervous government officials in D.C. these days! Palfrey, who is "poor in power," is using the only leverage she has. By God, I'd do the same.

I'm reminded of an old English ditty:

It's the same the whole world over
It's the poor that gets the blame
While the rich gets all the pleasure
Why it's just a bloomin' shame
clipped from
WASHINGTON — The so-called "D.C. madam" on Monday apologized to a top State Department official who resigned after revealing to ABC News that he had been a client of her alleged escort service and called on the media to probe why the government isn't charging others in the case.
Allow me to say how genuinely sorry I am for Mr. Tobias, his family and his friends," Deborah Jeane Palfrey told reporters after a court hearing Monday. "I unfortunately know firsthand the impact such a revelation can have upon one’s life. My family and I have suffered considerably since the onset of the government’s charges against me, last October."
Palfrey earlier this month named Harlan K. Ullman, a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a military strategist who developed the combat theories known as "shock and awe," as a regular customer.
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Why I like country music II: Merle Haggard

Tonight the bottle let me down
It let your memory come around
The one true friend I thought I'd found
Tonight the bottle let me down

I've always had a bottle I could turn to
And lately I've been turnin' every day
But the wine don't take effect the way it used to
And I'm hurtin' in old familiar ways

Tonight the bottle let me down
It let your memory come around
The one true friend I thought I'd found
Tonight the bottle let me down

Each night I leave the bar room when it's over
Not feeling any pain at closing time
But tonight your memory found me much too sober
I can't drink enough to keep you off my mind

Tonight the bottle let me down
It let your memory come around
The one true friend I thought I'd found
Tonight the bottle let me down

The 2nd best version of this song I ever heard was by my late friend John Basham. He owned it. This was always my first request whenever he took out his guitar.

I've lost track of Peggy. Peggy Basham, where are you?

Sketch's rhythm

Waiting for Sketch to get up so I can put fresh sheets on the bed. He's buried under them at the moment. His rhythm is to go to sleep on the couch but somewhere between 3 and 5 in the morning he gets cold and so hops on our bed and buries himself under the covers, where he'll stay till he's ready to get up, which could be 8 or could be 10. All I have left to do is the bed. Then get some flowers for the homecoming. For a change, H's flight doesn't come in late at night (past my bedtime) but at noon. So if she didn't get fed, maybe we can go out to lunch. It's Fish Stew day at the Corbett Fish House. Then this afternoon, if the weather holds, I have lawn work to do.

Why I like country music

Click link for more lyrics.

motivator: George Jones

Bone Dry
Baby wants me to go cold turkey bone dry
No Jack Daniels no Jim Beam whiskey bone dry
No stoppin' after work for a beer with the guys
Nothin' in the mornin' to open my eyes
It's hard comin' down from a permanent high bone dry

I got my doubts if I can make it a'bone dry
It's a crazy world I don't know if I can take it a'bone dry
It's only been an hour I'm startin' to shake
Sixty more minutes and I know I'll break
How much more of this hell can I take bone dry

Well bone dry boy am I dry as a bone
Why'd I ever say I'd ever leave it alone
Break down shake down layin' in bed
Covers are soaked and I'm damn near dead and I'm bone dry

Baby took a look at her cold turkey bone dry
I tried to smile but my mouth wasn't working I was bone dry
This is one promise that I'm gonna keep
Unless I get lucky and die in my sleep
One way or the other I'm gonna be bone dry
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Triple play

Something you don't see very often.
clipped from

At Coors Field, Kelly Johnson and Edgar Renteria singled for the Braves in the seventh inning and were running on a 3-2 pitch when Tulowitzki caught Chipper Jones' line drive behind second base. The rookie stepped on the bag to double up Johnson and then tagged Renteria for the third out.

Apparently unsure if he had completed the play properly, Tulowitzki went back and touched second base again, then threw to first. Nothing to worry about — the inning was already over.

It was the 13th unassisted triple play in major league history and first since shortstop Rafael Furcal did it for Atlanta on Sept. 10, 2003, against St. Louis.

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From Haiku-A-Day

her eyes are blue ponds
wild neglect and overgrowth
where children have died
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Sunday, April 29, 2007

New direction

Lately I feel myself bending toward my new direction, music drama (or chamber opera or whatever it turns out to be -- it won't be "musicals" and it won't be traditional opera -- it'll be like the moment in the film Magnolia when everyone starts singing ha ha), and this is sucking away energy from my current "traditional" projects. I need to buckle down and finish the three short novels I have in the works, but after them I may well retire as a novelist the same way I retired as a playwright. I feel like I'm being tugged in different directions. But I want music to take up more of my energy.

Home team

While doing household chores this afternoon, I was listening to the Mariners game. They broke a tie to take the lead for good with a rally in the 7th, and the crowd went nuts. I love being at Safeco at such moments. Safeco is the most fan-friendly baseball park I've ever been in. H and I try to see at least one game each summer, but unfortunately the Mariners lose so often when we go up that we've come to believe we're jinxes. But last trip they won, and the excitement was electric. What a great ball park! What great fans! Even better, you can walk to the ballpark from any downtown hotel. Seattle is a great place to visit.

Boo hoo

clipped from

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The teen thriller "Disturbia" led
the North American box office for a third weekend, as another
slew of lowly new releases tried to get a toehold before next
Friday's release of "Spider-Man 3," the first big film of the
lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Sales for the top 12 films came in at just $63 million,
down 30 percent from the year-ago weekend, according to
tracking firm Media by Numbers. It was the lowest tally since
the third weekend of September 2006 ($61 million).

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Hitchcock on murder

    Finally, I think I can best describe the insidious effect of murder on one's character by reading a paragraph from Thomas De Quincey's delightful essay "Murder as One of the Fine Arts." He said: "If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begun on this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man dates his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time."
    They tell me that murder is committed every minute, so I don't want to waste any more of your time. I know you want to get to work. Thank you.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Brando coming

Not to be missed.
clipped from

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new documentary about Marlon Brando
shows he still mesmerizes fans who remember his range and raw
emotion during a stunning career that saw him evolve from sex
symbol to political activist to obese recluse.

"Brando," premiering at New York's Tribeca Film Festival,
argues he remains the standard against whom actors are measured
three years after his death and 60 years after he wowed
Broadway with his performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Cinema greats such as director
Martin Scorsese
and actor
Al Pacino
appear in the documentary, still awed by a career that
includes Brando's portrayal of sexy, volatile Stanley Kowalski
in "Streetcar," and his later days as obese recluse.

Many of the 54 celebrities, childhood friends and relatives
interviewed remain fascinated by Brando's range, subtlety and
raw emotion.

"Brando" will air in two parts on TV's Turner Classic
Movies May 1-2.

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Our creative students

clipped from

MERIDIAN, Idaho (AP) -- Banning baseball caps during tests was obvious -- students were writing the answers under the brim. Then, schools started banning cell phones, realizing students could text message the answers to each other.

Now, schools across the country are targeting digital media players as a potential cheating device. Devices including iPods and Zunes can be hidden under clothing, with just an earbud and a wire snaking behind an ear and into a shirt collar to give them away, school officials say.

"It doesn't take long to get out of the loop with teenagers," said Mountain View High School Principal Aaron Maybon. "They come up with new and creative ways to cheat pretty fast."

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Holt Uncensored

Pat Holt on what's wrong with book reviewing today.

To read reviews, you'd never in the history of the world have there been so many literary geniuses. Yeah, right.

In the last 25 years, just about everything about the print experience has changed — except the way critics review books.

Our audience zips around the Internet with tremendous agility and speed, and what do we give them?

  • Stodgy, dull, laborious and indulgent reviews.
  • The same old 16-300 column inches that digress and meander and oh, so slowly get to the point.
  • And our standards are dropping.

  • Gifted young writers who are wasting their talent on gimmickry and overblown novels are given rave reviews that mislead readers and contribute nothing to posterity.
  • Book reviewers waste the space they are given by wondering if readers will "like" a title. Audience tastes and publishing fashions are none of our business! Critics who could have nailed the "Harry Potter" series as fun but hardly brilliant, or explored the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien and Joseph Campbell, instead devoted entire columns pondering whether fans would "like" the last title in the series as much as the first.
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    When the reach is greater than the grasp

    Hit the road this morning, thinking we were taking a trip to Dufur. Had dog food, water, my camera. Then a funny thing happened. Or rather, a series of things.

    First, just under way, I thought, If I were younger, I'd pass Dufur and go straight to Idaho. I could make Orofino before dinner, visit Esther (Dick's mom), maybe even drive up to Moscow and visit Brad. 7 hrs driving was nothing then. In fact, 14 hrs driving was nothing. I used to drive from LA to Medford in one shot all the time when I was going to UCLA. Visit my folks, turn around and go back in one shot. No big deal.

    Today, about 4 hrs on the road and I'm ready to call it a day. And it occurred to me, this was about what the Dufur trip would be. A full day's driving for me today.

    At the same time, dialog was running in my brain and I wanted to get it down. Continuing where I'd left off in the novel. What was I doing on the road when I should be home writing?

    So we turned around and came back. The trip to Dufur became a morning drive to the suburbs. 2 hrs later, home. And I'm delighted to be here, too.

    One book wonders

    Being prolific, I can't say I understand them. Harper Lee is one of the more famous cases.

    On this day in 1926 Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. After the immediate and overwhelming success of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Lee is known to have published only three short magazine articles, all in the early 60s; nor has she broken the silence and anonymity into which she quickly retreated. Legions of readers, fans and homework-driven students continue to make the real or internet trip to Monroeville to see the old courthouse (now a museum), or to see the house where Lee grew up (gone, now a burger stand), or to espy the author, who still spends her summers there. From such research we learn that she apparently likes to shop at the Piggly Wiggly, and have coffee at Hardee's.
    Picture of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird; twentieth century American Literature
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    Letter to a dead soul brother

    Haven't checked in for a while, Dick. Thought of you early this morning as I ventured out for breakfast. Even at 6:30 a.m. Fat City was pretty full. How many hundreds of times have we gone out for breakfast together? I don't think we ever made Fat City unless it was in 1967 when you visited us in Multnomah Village but I'm not sure if FC existed then. If it did, we probably made it. I know we went to The Ship Tavern, which still exists and hasn't even changed much. You can't say that about many places in Portland today.

    At any rate, I often wonder what witticisms you'd have to offer about the many strange and idiotic things that wind up in the news these days. You always kept me laughing at the insanity of it all.

    Your mom is still alive. She may outlive me. I missed seeing her last summer but definitely will make the trip this summer, which means we'll likely swing south to White Bird and pay our respects where your ashes were scattered at the top of the grade and then at your plaque in the small country cemetery out of town. Doing that, I think we'll continue south -- we have to get over the Snake River gorge -- and swing over through Baker and back that way. Change of scenery from backtracking north.

    I'm working on a novel based on my Army experiences, a lot of which we shared. You'd recognize some of the characters. No one is modeled after you in this one the way Hooker is in Kerouac's Scroll. By the way, your sons and mother were quite moved by the book. Son #1, you'll be delighted to know, still has your business in good shape. #2, alas, is still fighting his demons.

    Well, just checking in, like I say. I'm still teaching a class at the university, which gets me out of the house and is something I have fun doing. I especially like helping talented students and recently I've met several who are very talented indeed. I try to be a cheering section for them in what is, after all, a tough and arbitrary and sometimes ruthless marketplace. Miss you much.

    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Lost language

    Here's a word you don't hear much any more. VENERABLE: commanding respect by virtue of age.... The baby-boomer "older citizens" are refusing to be "old", which is to say, venerable, because the culture demands they stay young. Well, you know what you can do with pop culture ha ha. Give me folks who relish in their natural "venerable" time of life.
  • Commanding respect by virtue of age, dignity, character, or position.

  • adj. 
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    Stepping out tonight

    Gonna step out tonight and see my piano teacher's jazz trio, which blissfully starts at 8 so I can get a set or two before my bedtime.

    I sure am tired of getting email lottery scams. Is anyone stupid enough to bite at this crap? I suppose so, or they wouldn't be doing it. Scamdex has an archive of all this crap.

    Signed up for my summer piano course.

    Not as nice a day as the weatherman promised. Duh. Not sure when to do yard work, when to take a short trip, and so on. Looks like rain any minute, so I'm not into yard work right now. I could relax. Or write. Or edit. Or watch a movie. Hmm.


    Check out an interesting exchange about the summer of love.

    Tanka Girl

    I didn't write this. Tanka Girl did. See comments.

    everything is text
    as molecules are a desk
    and the air is soup
    we are particulate bits
    of amazing alphabet

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    Full of good spirits and energy this morning. Will make some oatmeal, practice the piano, go to piano class, and afterwards I think I'll have lunch at a fine Italian restaurant up the street from my class. And since it's supposed to be a warm day, maybe get my yard work done this afternoon, which means tomorrow Sketch and I could take that road trip to Dufur I've been wanting to do. Clean house Sunday. Pick up H at the airport noonish Monday and a return to normalcy.

    Somewhere in there are writing and editing work to do. Onward.

    Critical v. public taste

    Ever wonder why there are so many lousy movies in the theaters? Guess what? It's because they make money, which means because more folks than you like them (sometimes these folks are in foreign countries). Hollywood isn't stupid. They don't go out of their way to lose money. Films are a business. It's the entertainment business. You ever hear anyone call it the entertainment art?
    clipped from
    The Condemned (2007)
    The Critics:
    Yahoo! Users:
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    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    My God, a protest in Utah!

    My favorite Utah story. Setting: Maryland's Eastern Shore, a farmhouse. I'm sitting on the front porch with a woman born and raised in Salt Lake City, though not a Mormon. Ahead stretches a dirt driveway to the highway, where the mail box is located about 100 yards away. Suddenly visible in the distance, two figures with bicycles coming down the driveway. They are very far away -- and yet the woman beside me suddenly exclaims, "Oh my God! Mormon missionaries!" What, what? She tells me the two figures approaching us are Mormon missionaries. They're not yet "an inch tall" -- how can she tell? The bikes. And they wear white shirts. They keep approaching and when they finally arrive, yep, she's right. Mormon missionaries, who weren't impressed when I invited them to join us in gin and tonics. But I was forever impressed that she could spot them from such a distance. Very impressed indeed.
    clipped from

    PROVO, Utah - Vice President
    Dick Cheney
    told Brigham Young University graduates on Thursday to savor second chances and be prepared for the unexpected throughout life in a commencement address that stirred up protests in one of the nation's most Republican states.

    On a campus where dissent is unusual, about 100 people protested quietly ahead of Cheney's arrival, holding signs reading: "Mormon for peace" and "Make soup, not war."

    Utah voters have consistently supported the administration, delivering
    President Bush
    his largest margins of victory in any state in 2000 and 2004. In the county that is home to the university, about 85 percent of voters chose the GOP ticket in 2004.

    But the war in
    has weakened support for the White House. Cheney critics at BYU have questioned whether he sets a good example for graduates, citing his role in promoting faulty intelligence and his involvement in the
    leak scandal,
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    Good ol' Sketch

    Got home to let the dog out and back with time to spare, thanks to Sketch being quick and efficient about doing his biz, and thanks to having a car in the parking lot pull out right in front of me on the ground floor, giving me a convenient space. Now for the busy afternoon.

    Ooligan Press

    PSU has its own literary press, Ooligan Press, and I ran into its main man in the hallway, and we chatted about an idea that is Primus', down the road to publish an anthology of the best from Oregon Literary Review, with a CD-ROM in a sleeve so we can include music, art, and hypermedia. He likes the idea. So a year or so from now we seriously can think of this.

    Forbidden kisses

    India May Arrest Richard Gere Over Kiss
    Thursday April 26 8:18 AM ET

    A court issued arrest warrants for Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Thursday, saying their kiss at a public function "transgressed all limits of vulgarity," media reports said.

    Judge Dinesh Gupta issued the warrants in the northwestern city of Jaipur after a local citizen filed a complaint charging that the public display of affection offended local sensibilities, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

    Gupta earlier viewed television footage of the event, which he called "highly sexually erotic," saying the pair violated India's strict public obscenity laws.

    Gere and Shetty "transgressed all limits of vulgarity and have the tendency to corrupt the society," PTI quoted the judge as saying.

    Such cases against celebrities often filed by publicity seekers are common in conservative India. They add to a backlog of legal cases that has nearly crippled the country's judicial system.