Friday, August 31, 2007

Football fan

I watch a lot of college football, not much pro. I root for the following teams:
  • an alma mater. UCLA (BA) or Oregon (MFA). When they play one another, it used to be a struggle but lately Oregon has lost the rivalry because of their stupid designer uniforms, their unfortunate connection to Nike (see below), and their greater likelihood to whine.
  • Regional teams: Pac 10, northwest or west coast, in that order.
  • The rare team without a Nike swoosh on its uniform. I have never worn a Nike product and never will.
  • The team with the highest GPA. Go, scholars!
  • Navy, especially in the Army-Navy game, a highlight of any football year. Childhood legacy.
  • Underdogs and small colleges. I love Davids beating Goliath. Rutgers! Boise State!
  • Special circumstances. Go, Virginia Tech!

I watch a lot of football with the sound off. Most sportscasters, especially those on ESPN, babble endlessly, mindlessly.

Woody Guthrie: Reflections

From my tribute Ramblin': the songs and stories of Woody Guthrie:

When I think back through my life to everybody that I owe, I mean the ones I can remember. Of course I know that I owe these folks, and that they owe some other folks, these are in debt to others, and all of us owe everybody. The amount that we owe is all that we have.

I've heard a storm of words in me. I guess I got to where the only way that I could cry was on some piece of paper in words like these. But I know that these words that I hear are not my own private property.

I borrowed them from you. I borrowed them, the same as I walked through the high winds and borrowed enough air to keep me moving. You may have been taught to call me by the name of a poet but I am no more of a poet than you are. I am no more of a writer of songs than you are, no better singer. The only story I have tried to write has been you. All I am is just sort of a clerk and climate tester, and my workshop is the sidewalk, your street and your field, your highway and your buildings. I am nothing more nor less than a photographer without a camera.

I knew that my trail would be a story that whirls. I knew the tale would be a freewheeler, a quick starter, a high running circling chorus that keeps on repeating over and over, and would sing every song to be sung under the one tune and the one name.

And that song and that tune ain't got no end. It ain't got no notes wrote down and there ain't no piece of paper big enough to put down on.

Every day you are down and out, and lonesome and hungry, and tired of working for a hobo's handout, there's a new verse added to this song.

Every time you kick a family out of their home, cause they ain't got the rent, and owe lots of debts, there's another verse added to this song.

When a soldier shoots a soldier, that's a note to this song. When a cannon blows up twenty men, that's part of the rhythm, and when soldiers march off over the hill and don't march back, that's the drumbeat of this song.

This ain't a song you can write down and sell. This song is everywhere at the same time. Have you ever heard it? Woody has.

New priorities

After Labor Day, I put on my professor's cap and my priorities change. Moving front burner are:
  • Writing a new syllabus, adding the digital filmmaking option.
  • Writing my essay for the anthology.
  • Work on the next issue of the review.
  • Finishing new scripts for fall video projects.
  • Reviewing prior work on novel and an old screenplay, hoping to reengage energy and passion about them.

Actually I'm ready to return to the classroom. After such a very busy summer, teaching may feel like a relief!


A piano lesson on Friday is a suitable way to end the formal work week. Of course, to a writer "work week" has little meaning since writing is a 24/7 obsession. But the rhythm of the city changes on Friday, into the weekend, and my own rhythm tags along.

Next week I shoot the lunch scene for Sunset Hearts but I'm having trouble booking the actor for a number of solo scenes he has. I'm eager to wrap this up and get the DVD organized -- and then move on to the next round of video projects. But also, after the DVD, returning to writing. Writing! Yes, I remember, I'm a writer, not a filmmaker.


Special edition

Now and again something like this happens. As I recall, Harper's dedicated most of an issue to Mailer's "Prisoner of Sex" in the 1960s.

P.S. Actually it was March, 1971.

On this day in 1946, John Hersey's "Hiroshima" was published in The New Yorker. The article took up all sixty-eight pages of text space (everything except for the "Goings On" calendar), an unprecedented and unannounced event for the magazine.
The story was reprinted, broadcast and published in book form throughout the world, and has never been out of print. Book of the Month Club members received a copy free, because of its "importance at this moment to the human race." When Hersey died in 1993, one obituary called "Hiroshima" the "most famous magazine article ever published."
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Coming this fall

For friends, my archive ... not a commercial product.


So I get my teaching contract in the mail -- and discover I've had a 15% salary cut. Hmm. Budget cuts? I call the department to inquire about it and apparently it's a clerical error, I should be getting the same as last year. So the secretary says she'll send a corrected contract. Glad I asked!

Mellow end of week, which I need. Next week I'd like to finish up Sunset Hearts. Think I need two, possibly three, days.

Today, piano. And maybe write a short libretto. Have the opening phrases in my head, playing on morning and mourning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Roles Before Breakfast

Part One:

Part Two:

Wrapping up

Finishing up Roles Before Breakfast, which should be online in a few hours. So one more to finish (Sunset Hearts), then it's back to writing scripts for the 3 left that I want to get a good start on before school starts, shooting them in the fall.

What a productive summer! Quite amazing actually.

I'm putting all the summer projects on a DVD, not to sell but to give to friends.

The horror of failure

What frightens me about the blundering sad astonishing failure of the response to Katrina, both at the time and since, is that it may be systemic and not merely a reflection of our inadequate administration. The bureaucratic edifice may make common sense and human decency impossible. This frightens me because I expect Islamic extremists to nuke something somewhere any day now. Intelligence believes they now have the weapons in place. They are biding their time. Unfortunately, such a horrific attack appears to be inevitable. And then what will be our response? The world has become a nightmare. Back to making videos, which is as good an escape as any.
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Anger, sadness mark Katrina anniversary

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS - On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, anger over the stalled rebuilding was palpable Wednesday throughout the city where the mourning for the dead and feeling of loss doesn't seem to subside.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane that flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.
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The Five Satins

In the Still of the Night:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Honky Tonk

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Two new projects

This afternoon I take the one shot (!) I need to finish Honky Tonk, so it should go online tonight. Yesterday I shot Roles Before Breakfast, which is short and should be edited before the end of the week -- if, a big if, I can compose the soundtrack by then. At least should be up by next week.

Next up: Sunset Hearts, the first one I wrote. And then finishing new scripts to shoot.

Monday, August 27, 2007

E. A. Robinson

I did my English honors thesis at UCLA on Robinson's Arthurian trilogy, three book length poems, Merlin, Lancelot, Tristam. I've got a copy in storage somewhere around here. For some reason, I was thinking of it this morning and thinking I should read the trilogy again.

At UCLA, I was very much under the influence of the work of Denis de Rougemont (Love In the Western World), which informed my thesis. But I also was getting my first look at Norman O. Brown in a course on American Intellectual History, and with the subsequent publication of Love's Body, Brown would become an even greater influence.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I'm about to start a huge project. I have two large 3-ring binders filled with press clippings about my career, everything from profiles and programs to reviews and columns. I'm going to digitize and organize the highlights to add to my archive. No small amount of grunt work. Most of this material comes from the 1980s when I was at the height of my popularity. Since then I've gotten better but also less popular. Many writers report the same. Interesting. I used to think this was sad but it's too ordinary to be sad. It just is something that often occurs in the career of many artists. They become better and invisible simultaneously.

Adding options

On the first week of class, my students must choose their options in two areas: whether they are going to write the script for a short or for the first thirty minutes of a feature (act one); and whether they will develop their stories along a "tree" (strategy by plan) or "forest" track (by sink or swim). I'm adding a third writing option fall term, a direct result of my summer experience: write the script for a 10-minute vignette and then develop and shoot it as a digital video. The new option will include many requirements, including writing, revising, storyboarding, casting, shooting, rough cutting, final cutting and delivery. I'll be very curious about how many choose this new option.

I had planned to give my advanced students this option some time ago but yesterday I decided, what the hell, I'll open it up to all.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


We took a drive out the gorge to Hood River today. Can't do that without thinking of Guthrie.
That Bonneville Dam is a site to see
Makes that ee-leka-tric-i-ty
Ee-leka ee-leka-tric-i-ty
Makes that ee-leka-tric-i-ty

"It's a big river!"

In Hood River, we caught the Mt. Hood Railroad with its steam engine for a two-hour tour of the surrounding hills and orchards. Great scenery, a passenger list with more hyper humans than I would have preferred.

At one point, hoping to strike up a conversation with the guy sitting opposite to me, I asked if he liked baseball. Maybe we could talk about the Mariners. Not only did he say No, but his tone and demeanor made it clear I was lowlife to him, I could've just invited him to a dog fight. So much for a conversation.

But it still was a nice day.

Still in it

Cool to have the Mariners in the hunt as we begin crunch time.

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Angels, Mariners keep winning out west

If the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners keep winning close games, they won't need to worry about who wins the division. The runner-up will still have a place in the playoffs.

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Total Lunar Eclipse

Fully visible in Oregon, coming August 28.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The most remarkable season in the history of Portland theater

And Oregon theater, for that matter ... probably Northwest theater ... maybe west coast theater ... theater west of the Rockies ... west of the Mississippi River ... you get the picture.

Look at this calendar. 4 plays on 4 successive nights, at the same theater, by the same company. A new set taken down and erected, nightly. Many company members cast in multiple plays.

All this was possible because a core of actors had CETA grants, which is to say, they could be full time actors -- and not depending on box office, the company didn't have to play to "pop" tastes. Four serious, heavy, dark plays in repertory for two months.

They don't make theater seasons like this very often, folks. Those of us who were there to witness it will never forget it.

Fall, 1978, at Peter Fornara's Production Company. A season to remember. This is the subject of my essay for next year's anthology published by Oregon State University Press, celebrating Oregon's 150th birthday.

Essay energy

Been working on the first paragraph of my essay on Peter Fornara's 1978 theater season. So much is determined by first paragraphs: tone, narrative strategy. I plan to scan the program and put it here later today.

Today is a day of piano and household chores.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Let the gods bless D.O., who brought to today's interview a program for the very Fall, 1978, theater season I'm writing about in my essay. And there is documented the incredible sequence of four plays in rep, night after night, go four consecutive days and see four consecutive plays, and not a light escapist moment among them: American Buffalo, Cabaret, Marat/Sade, Joe Egg. An extraordinary season of theater! Nothing has come close to it since, and I'm finally meeting people who were there, witnessed the season, and agree with me. But D.O., by giving me a program to document the dates, saved me a number of hours in the newspaper archives, which I had planned for next week. I am ready to write my essay, even though I have one more interview to do.

What a great meeting! J.P. was there, too, one of the really fine directors this town as seen, no slouch of an actor either, who is finishing up her Ph.D. in theater at U of O. So good to see these folks from those Golden Years. Far better than a high school reunion.

At the office

Have an interview downtown late this afternoon, so I came into town early to stop by the university, check my mail, and air out my office. Very quiet around here -- is summer session over? At any rate, nice to be in my office, this home away from home.

An interview I'm really looking forward to! I need to start writing this essay soon now. I definitely want it off my back before school starts.

Real, real close with Honky Tonk. A tad frustrating to have to return for the wedding photo I need because the actor forgot his costume. But worse things can happen.

And I shoot another single location story on Monday! This now will be part of a trilogy, though I'll first release it alone. In a week or so, then, two new projects may be online.

And then I need to focus on Sunset Hearts, which has great potential. I still haven't verified the location I want.

A very talented grad student from last term has asked to study with me in the fall, even though she graduated. She's so talented I can't really refuse. She wants feedback developing a new script. I can do that.

With some time to kill, I'm going to explore a new story/screenplay idea I have. Having an agent I like gets my juices going.

A practical art

An ordeal of editing, cutting around yesterday's problems. But I think I came through it okay in the end.

Editing, filmmaking, is so practical, screenwriting so theoretical in comparison. Filmmakers, not screenwriters, win the "film by" sweepstakes after all. A major shit of opinion resulting from my own summer directing/editing experience. The screenwriter is a theoretician. The filmmaker is a practitioner.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The unexpected

My actor had two things to do today, one of which required a costume, which he forgot. So we'll have to pick it up next week. The other thing didn't go well at all, though we finally got something workable. But not exactly what I'd expected to get.

Ah me, the unexpected.

But got an email from my agent a moment ago, he's sending out a priority copy of BW to an interested producer. That didn't take long. But ... been there so many times I'm no more "excited" than if I hadn't heard a thing. I used to believe, Wait till you get a check -- till I got a check that bounced. Now I hold excitement until the check clears.

The screenwriting life. Ah me.

Poop power

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Experts tie pigeon poop, bridge collapse

By MARTIGA LOHN, Associated Press Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Pounded and strained by heavy traffic and weakened by missing bolts and cracking steel, the failed interstate bridge over the Mississippi River also faced a less obvious enemy: pigeons.

Inspectors began documenting the buildup of pigeon dung on the span near downtown Minneapolis two decades ago. Experts say the corrosive guano deposited all over the Interstate 35W span's framework helped the steel beams rust faster.

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God's warriors

This 3-part CNN Special, hosted by Christiane Amanpour, got off to a good start last night with "God's Jewish Warriors." Tonight is "God's Muslim Warriors," tomorrow "God's Christian Warriors." All these opposing extremists and fanatics with God on their side -- and all the rest of us like sitting ducks, waiting for the consequences.

Happy birthday, Dorothy Parker

...who is the subject of Today In Literature.

My tribute to her.

Summer winding down

Only a bit over a month before I'm back in the classroom. Usually the summer is rest from teaching but I look forward now to teaching as a rest from filmmaking!

At least three more projects to finish before school starts: Honky Tonk, which I finish shooting today; Roles for Breakfast, which I shoot Monday (which I hope to make a part of a trilogy, "Three Mornings After"); and Sunset Hearts, only about a third of which I've shot. Also, I have a script in the works and ideas for two libretti. Not sure how many, if any, of the latter will be done before school.

But the summer at least should result in this: 9 videos (3 dramas, 4 comedies, 2 musicians). Not a bad summer production at all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Honky Tonk

I get the three missing links of Honky Tonk tomorrow. The rest of it looks good to me. I'm beginning to think this is the first of the summer projects I might enter into next summer's Pocket Films Festival in Paris. Sunset Hearts has the same potential. And some upcoming projects. We'll see.

Football v. baseball

Watched a little football last night. A linebacker made a very routine tackle. Then he got up, did a little dance, pounded his chest and strutted around like the stud of the stadium.

Watched a little baseball last night. A short stop dove across what seemed to be half the field to knock down a line drive, then, sprawled on his stomach, he somehow managed a backhanded flip to second for a force out to end the inning. A spectacular play! Then he got up, dusted himself off, and trotted off the field. Not even a smile.

Too many football players showboat. Baseball players still have class.

In the 1950s, football players used to have class, too.

Monday, August 20, 2007


The forces of Puritan heritage, political correctness, and the gods only know what else, love to become hysterical over alleged crimes with sexual content. The rush, for example, of a DA needing votes to pre-convict the Duke lacrosse players of rape; and more recently, here in Oregon (where the Klan elected the governor in the 1920s), trying to turn young teen boys into sexual predators because they slap female fannies. What we used to do when I was in Jr Hi was throw water on girls wearing T-shirts so we could see their nipples.

At any rate, eventually justice sometimes wins out, as here with a sensible judge and even sensible "victims" putting this ridiculous case in proper perspective.
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Judge dismisses case against boys

By Susan Goldsmith

MCMINNVILLE -- A judge dismissed charges this morning against the two Patton Middle School teens accused of sexual harassment for swatting girls on the buttocks.

Judge John L. Collins said he acted "in the interests of justice" after both prosecutors and the boys' defense lawyers said four alleged victims had signed a civil compromise in the case, which drew national attention. The victims said they want to drop the charges.

The boys initially were charged with felony sexual abuse in February after a teacher's aide saw them running down the hallway at Patton and grabbing or swatting girls in the buttocks.

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Great pleasures in small things

I just took myself out to breakfast. It had been a while. The waitress brought me a paper, which was filled with the usual items of horror, mayhem and atrocity. Nothing is as predictable as the morning paper. When breakfast came, I set the paper aside and after a while I marveled at how much joy I was getting from eating breakfast.

History tells us that the world has always been in a mess. Yet we get by, "by the skin of our teeth" to use the phrase in Wilder's brilliant if overly optimistic play. Yes, we've survived despite it all. But only because the "weapons of mass destruction" haven't been big enough. If there's one area in which our species has progressed without qualification, it's in building more destructive weapons. Now we have the right kind of fanatics to use them, young and smart men who pursue an eternity in heaven with 43 virgins with energetic passion -- put a nuke in the hands of one, and we'll see how much skin our teeth has. If this doesn't happen (and how can it not?), Nature at least will show us who's boss, eventual revenge against the "prodding fingers" (cummings) of our arrogant "progress."

Against this backdrop, no wonder "live in the moment" is good advice. With blinders on. Look at the small picture, tend your own garden (Voltaire).

I think more than a few folks locked up in our asylums are there not because they can't perceive reality but because they perceive it too well -- but can't deal with it. They can't escape reality, they haven't learned how to filter it out. A cold, hard, serious look at reality would drive anyone mad. You get by by pushing the reality of the world away and filling the space with the great pleasures you find in the small things of your life.

Hence a solitary breakfast out on a rainy morning.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Just sent off a revised synopsis to my agent. Damn, I like this process.

Vinyl Record Generator

Astounded once again by what one finds on the web.

Make a 78 or 45 record with label. Amaze your friends about your former recording career.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Honky Tonk

Looking decent, if I say so myself. I need three files to finish, all of which I can get Wednesday: an image (wedding picture), audio (Buck singing "Wild Side of Life") and video (a grin from Gayle at the end).

I am sending the best one or two from the summer to next year's Pocket Film Festival in Paris, and this one looks like my first real contender.

Time to loaf for the rest of the day. Watch Little League baseball on the tube.

The night shoot

3 of the 6 "sexy ladies at bar" actually showed up, and they were great. Good skills, great enthusiasm. I was done with them by 9, then went to the river with the leads and finished up by 10. It looks good, though I have more tinkering to do with the images because of poorer lighting. But everything can be fixed for my needs, just takes more grunt work than usual. I finished a rough cut a moment ago, it times out perfectly against the song, and I think it's going to be great once I lighten up the images.

Scheduling the last thing I need for next Wednesday ... so "Honky Tonk" may actually be finished in about a week or so. This is the most complex editing job yet. So far, looking good and I'm optimistic about the final product.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Great honeymoon!

I love my new agent. He got back to me quickly with first rate suggestions about "cranking up" my synopsis. I mean, just first rate ideas. He has a good sense of "the Hollywood movie," more than I do certainly. His ideas make immediate and perfect sense to me. Cranking it up.

Moreover, he's just taken on a novel he's wild about and thinks I'd be a good one to adapt it to screen, so he's contacting the novelist about that. Feeling good about this new business relationship. Of course, I've been ... well, you learn to take nothing for granted in LaLaLand. It's a region of surrealistic geography where Yes usually means No. So excitement is always tempered by the guarded cynicism of experience.


Been working on the opening sequence of Honky Tonk. Love it -- but it has only a vague resemblance to what I scripted! Wonderful accidents intervened.

The first, I got the wild notion of shooting the star (Judith Richmond as country singer Gayle Goodwin, who also appears in my 25 year old play "Country Northwestern") from an odd angle below, the same one used on a Ramblin' Jack Elliott cover many years ago. Next, Judith, a talented folk/country singer, sang a fine old Johnny Cash song I hadn't heard in years, and I decided to record it. These two post-script factors totally changed the beginning into something far stronger. Love it.

Remarkable day

Yesterday was highly unusual in two ways: it's the first day of the summer I felt as if I was on vacation, which is to say, the day was slow, mellow, without goals, relaxing. But despite all this, I somehow seem to have accomplished a lot, finishing and uploading the kitchen video, doing some minor editing on the country western one I'm shooting tonight and, most remarkably of all, outlining a new screenplay and emailing it to my agent for feedback and/or approval.

This arrangement I have with my new agent is superb. We're partnering on everything from the get go. I don't write a script and THEN see if he likes it. I develop an idea and present it. This is the way it should be in a practical sense, saving so much time, but in my experience most agents just want to see a finished script. I haven't done it this way in years. What I developed is a romantic comedy, and I have four more concepts ready to develop if he passes on this one.

I developed this with the new edition of Storycraft Pro software. I like it. Well, I've always liked that program. This new version has a nifty interface for developing an outline. It's basically a tool for structuring a story by responding to the questions and ideas presented by "a tutor." Good stuff, though it may be too advanced for beginning writers.

Once the outline is done with the tutor, it is saved as a text file for revising. So this software gets you to your first draft of a story outline, following the mythic journey paradigm. It works but you probably have to have some background to understand what the tutor is talking about.

Today will be a long, busy day. It also will be fun -- everything I'm doing is something worth doing. Been brooding about the shoot tonight, how to make it as efficient as possible for the six extras. I wonder if they'll all show up. I'll have to wing it if they don't since I am preparing for them all. I need to shoot in two stages, first with the extras, about six scenes in the bar and two outside, and then release the extras and shoot half a dozen scenes in the bar with the leads. Despite all this, I think I can finish the first part in an hour and the second in less than that. We'll see! Onward.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Joe's "Down Home" Italian Kitchen

Free day

More or less. I need one.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Sent off five copies of THE BRAZEN WING to my new agent as requested. I also wrote him about my next script, and we're on the same page, which is to say, before I write a script, he'll approve of the logline/synopsis to see if it generates his marketing juices. Some agents won't do this. I like working this way when the goal clearly is selling. It's much more practical and saves a lot of time. We discussed genres to work in. My favorite genres, drama and historical, of course are among the most difficult to sell, so I'm going to work in romantic comedy and comedy since I really can't do horror and adventure (these are the four most marketable genres). I'll develop three stories and run them by him. Our contract is for two years, not just one which is typical, and I want to take full advantage of it. Two things inspire me here: he works for a well-placed agency, and he is male. It's been a while since I've had a male agent for screenwriting. Even though my fav two agents in my career were women, I think it's time to change. A superstition, I think.

Also new: he likes my craft and asked if I'd be interested in rewriting scripts from less skillful clients or adapting books they get the rights to. For moolah, of course!

Doing a little shooting this afternoon, to get a good sound track for HONKY TONK. The Friday night shoot should be a blast in the bar, working with six "sexy ladies at a bar."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Another hero from my youth...

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Yankees great Phil Rizzuto dies at 89

By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK - His speed and spunk made him a Hall of Famer. "Holy cow!" made Phil Rizzuto famous. Popular as a player and beloved as a broadcaster, the New York Yankees shortstop during their dynasty years of the 1940s and 1950s died Monday night. "The Scooter" was 89.

In an age of broadcasters who spout statistics, Rizzuto was a storyteller. He liked to talk about things such as his fear of lightning, the style of an umpire's shoes or even the prospect of outfielder Dave Winfield as a candidate for president.

Rizzuto's popularity was such that at a recent auction a Rizzuto cap embedded with a wad of chewing gum sold for more than $8,000. In the New York area, Rizzuto's antics became a staple for TV ads. Nonbaseball fans got to know him, too, when his voice appeared on Meat Loaf's rock hit "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

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Found the perfect location, Kelly's Olympian, which happens to have been an occasional haunt of mine 25 years or so years back. It was a great place to drink at 7 a.m. if I were between deadlines because one could marvel at the parade of big shots coming in for an alcoholic fix before work: judges, politicians, businessmen. Indeed, a week after jury duty I found myself standing at the bar beside the presiding judge of a case I was on! He was doing doubles, which is more than I was doing. I usually was doing a clam digger or bloody Mary at that time of day. This, of course, was not a luxury I often enjoyed but I always did think morning drinking included more informative people-watching material than nighttime drinking. During the time in my life when I was supporting myself freelancing, deadline to deadline, it didn't matter when I partied as long as I kept my deadlines, and I did. A functional reprobate, the best kind.

Kelly's is very different today than it was then (it was one of the last bars in Portland to allow women! -- as late as the 60s, I believe) but it has a jukebox (!!!) and a perfect floor plan. I just don't know what kind of zoo it will be. But it's one block from a hotel, I can get a good shot across the street of our actor taking his lady from the bar to the hotel, perfect set up for my needs.

Tough job but somebody's got to do it

Scouting bars downtown this afternoon for a Friday night shoot.

Finished a rough cut of "Joe's Italian Kitchen" and it works. The actors are great. Jan Kalberer and Dennis Tracy contributed so much I gave them co-writing credits. This may be the best of the summer so far.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Joe's Italian Kitchen

We had a ball taping this at the Sheridan Fruit Co.'s demo kitchen this afternoon. It's an actors' piece and they owned it. Should be edited soon.

An old story

I saw this happen in the late 80s in Pdx when I was managing apartments in NW. Rents almost doubled overnight when development corporations from Calif. bought neighborhood apartment buildings, many going the condo route. Retired people, who made up a sizable portion of the neighborhood, were forced out. We discard them so easily ... and now I'm in the club.

Seniors shoved aside by condo conversions

Times South King County Reporter

For a while there, the friends in 5D had a nice rhythm going. Dan Lewis, 71, cooked the meals. Robin Kissel, 61, did the laundry. Jack Mize, 68, paid for the cable.

They made the rent on time, every month, for 15 years, using money from Social Security and minimum-wage jobs. No one was living in luxury. But no one was heading into old age alone.

Then came the announcement: A developer planned to turn their tired, three-bedroom Federal Way apartment into something better — a $208,000 condominium they could never afford.

In the past few years, condo conversions have sent thousands of Puget Sound renters in search of affordable housing. It's not easy for the young and able-bodied, with a regional vacancy rate at 4.3 percent. For senior citizens, the search is that much harder.

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Every writer starts somewhere

Is it my age, nostalgia, or a genuine change in the world of letters? There seems to be considerably less "myth-making" about our artists in the last half century compared to the first half of the 20th century. All those American giant writers who matured in the 1920s-WWII. Before the explosion of MFA programs. There's probably a greater amount of literary talent on the planet today than ever before but the Myth is so much smaller. Writers seems so much smaller. Was Mailer the last of the breed?
Hemingway's Three Stories and Ten Poems

On this day in 1923 Ernest Hemingway published his first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems. This was an edition of 300 copies, put out by friend and fellow expatriate, the writer -- publisher Robert McAlmon. Both had arrived in Paris in 1921, Hemingway an unpublished twenty-two-year-old journalist with a recent bride, a handful of letters of introduction provided by Sherwood Anderson, and a clear imperative: "All you have to do is write one true sentence." This effort would take place in his garret hotel room and in the café -- bars where, if you were lucky, the oysters were fresh, the wine was dry, the girls were pretty and life was A Moveable Feast:

It was a pleasant café, warm clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a café au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil
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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Slow dancing

Still moving slow. Only two things I need to get done tomorrow: mail off scripts to my agent and scout Friday's downtown shooting locations, which I think I have but need to double-check.

I finished a rough cut today of an interview with Brad Crooks re blues harmonica. For the next review.

Eager to get back on all cylinders.


24 hrs.

The virus, or whatever it was, has come and gone. Feel like I've been run over by a truck but at least I can move about and think straight (or as close to same as I get). Shooting on Monday and Friday and tons of prep work for both, which I need to get to. Onward.

Missed my piano class but did sign up for fall and added Music Theory, earlier the same day. 3 hrs of piano on Friday starting in the fall.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Around 2 a.m. I got hit upside the gut with some kind of intestinal virus, cramps, runs, aches, the usual, and still not right. May not make piano and already canceled an interview. I can hear my sweet mother looking on the bright side: "At least it happened after you got home and not on the road." Whoopee.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Ah, finally a nice word about Scrapple, Grits, Biscuits & Gravy! No one prior to this has seemed to like this short video as much as I do. But while I was gone, this came from an actor/director whose opinion matters to me (who directed me years ago in Albee's "Zoo Story") and it, well, makes my day.

I really loved the film. Other than the obvious challenge of our inevitable respective demises, I loved the underlying cyclical drama that has played out over and over for eons. The theatricality of the actors playing both facilitator and the object of the grim reaper's nasty job is delightful. I'm sure your players must have had a ball. The Sisyphusianly tedious quality of the drama played a little like "Endgame" or "Waiting For Godot." Nice work.

Travel notes

As incomplete as they are ...

Day 1 - Portland to La Grande

About 20 miles east of Portland, the interstate begins to hug the Columbia River, and I always shout out, after the line in the Guthrie Talkin' Columbia, "It's a big river!" A tradition I have. When Dick was alive and we'd share this moment together, I might next burst into singing "Roll On, Columbia," but I haven't done that in a while.

It's a gorgeous trip out the gorge, of course, perhaps no well more spectacular than between Hood River and The Dalles and just beyond, where the Stonehenge replica overlooks the river from the Washington side. We had a delightful all night party there in the summer of 1967, celebrating the solstice, drinking homemade meade that "Sally"'s brother had brought from Seattle with his tech chums. This was the summer we were living in Pdx after dropping out of grad school, our good times. We had the stones to ourselves till late morning, when we were all crashed (that is, passed out) in sleeping bags hither and yon, and a group of tourists appeared. It was a long hungover tough ride home.

At about 200 miles of driving, I'm ready to pack it in these days. My back starts to bother me. La Grande is beyond that and we kept going. We got here early, before 3, and found a motel and then had early dinner at Mamacita's, where we know the owner, and chatted with her a bit. I went to grad school with her boyfriend but knew he was in Chile teaching English for the summer, well, their winter.

We have a very short haul today, just down the interstate to Baker (we'll go a back way actually) to visit with one of H's daughters, the messed up one who lost all 3 of her kids, grandkids H now can't even see, a daughter that has caused H more pain than families need but seem so often to get. I don't like this woman so need to be on my best behavior. But I'll be more than ready to move on tomorrow.

Tomorrow we continue south so we can get over the Snake Canyon, then up to White Bird, Idaho, to visit Dick's grave. Then on to Orofino to visit his mom. A long day tomorrow, thus.


In Baker City. H off to spend the afternoon with her daughter, I got off the hook as a compromise, promising good behavior at dinner tonight.

I love this town! Did the obligatory walk up and down the five or six blocks of Main Street. Nothing much open on Sunday but I was surprised at the cafes and Internet cafes that have opened since my last visit. I did a great reading here, great because of the spectacular setting, a room in the library with a full window, beyond which a river's rapids rushed by. What a setting! 20 years ago, touring an Oregon history play all summer that I'd written and in which I played a role, Baker was among the many towns we hit. And I'd toured here earlier, running lights for another show. I'll come to Baker any time, at the slightest reason.

On Main Street the Stockman's Bar and Cafe is still there, open, and I was about to enter when I realized that spending an afternoon with some cowboys, and probably drunken cowboys at that, would not insure my promise to have a good attitude this evening. Cowboys make you crazy, which is to say, honest, damn the social consequences. I walked on by.

Now I'm in the motel with a few hours to kill, delighted to have them.


Day 3: Baker City to Orofino via White Bird. The hardest day of the trip, I think. Hope to have lunch at White Bird at Dick's grave, then on north to Orofino to visit his mom in the retirement center.

Yesterday was not as bad as it might have been regarding the daughter.


In Orofino. Konkoville Motel, which in the old days had a very wild rep. Hopefully a tad mellower today.

It wasn't as long a driving day as I feared. Down from Baker to where we could cross into Weiser, Idaho, home of the old-time fiddlers contest (where "Sally" was in the house band with Utah Phillips in her undergrad days). A great drive marred by considerable smoke, forest fires in the distance. Cleared up by the time we hit White Bird, stopping at the cemetery to pay our respects to Dick. Then through Grangeville, up 13 to Kooskia ("KOOS-key"), hitting 12 to Kamiah ("KAM-ee-i") and on to Orofino. We're having their "grill your own" steak dinner, then off to visit Esther, Dick's mom.

Tomorrow, just a short hop to Moscow.


Day 4: Orofino to Moscow.

Morning in Orofino. The dog and I are up at 6 but H won't be up for hours yet, so we need to cool it. Spent the early eve with Esther. What a piece of work: mind still sharp, witty, active, in that small increasingly frail body of hers. We'll have lunch with ther, then go to Moscow to visit Dick's sons.

Continental breakfasts at motels are usually a joke. A few muffins, donuts, coffee, maybe some dry cereal. Here we had a rare treat: eggs, waffles, great muffins, fruit, outdoor patio dining. Very nice. We're hanging out till 11, then to Esther to see how we'll handle lunch. Looks like a scorcher today.

But actually I'm ready to head home, which is what we do tomorrow. I miss my routine, now that I'm 4 days removed from it. I enjoy my modest day-to-day living. Don't need to keep moving to be amused, I'm fine right at home.

I'm down to 42% battery strength here on the Alpha Smart, though I notice no difference of performance. But these are the original batteries!! 3 years come Xmas. Absolutely amazing.

I love this keyboard.

My ballcap this trip is a conversation piece. I brought it because it has "air conditioning" for the hot weather. It says Haiku. It's supposed to say Haiku Nurse but the Nurse is not legible. So it just says Haiku. The air conditioning works and sometimes I wear it backwards if I'm driving, for the fine breeze of it.


Day 5: Moscow to Boardman.

On the way home. Neglected some writing here yesterday and the day before. The short version, driving the Palouse in August is spectacular! Love this area of the country.

B., Dick's #1 son, having pancreas problems and not looking very well. Indeed, looks like a man with AIDS, though it's the bad pancreas. A great visit, though, and also with K., Dick's #2 son.

Only 160 miles from home. A leisurely day tomorrow will do it.

Boardman, which otherwise has little to recommend it, has a city park on the Columbia River that is among the best of its kind. Large, riverfront, hiking trails, tables and bbq pits, ball diamonds -- a very fine facility.


Last day, about to head home, the last 160 miles.



Back from Idaho with a charged battery and renewed energy. More about the trip later today.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Going to be offline for a few days. Taking a break. Remembering how life used to be before computers. Charging the battery. Eating lots of breakfasts out. Reading and probably diddling with my Cold War novel. Forgetting computer crashes and memory hassles, mellowing out. Taking a break. I already said that. Back later.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Just came to me: 48 years ago, to the day, I joined the Army in Berkeley, California. I was living in a tree house near the Cyclotron at the time, in Strawberry Canyon. I could've borrowed money from my parents, or moved home for that matter, but I was in my stage of independent stumbling and extreme confusion after realizing for the first time that I was not destined to become a great mathematician. I joined the Army because it was only three years, not four like the Navy, and this Navy brat almost killed my mother by the shock of such a decision. She was a good Navy wife. Dad, of course, understood completely, men being more commonly practical about such matters. I joined because the alternatives were to get a job or borrow money, neither of which appealed to me. And this stubborn decision turned out to be a significant one since I spent my career in the Army Security Agency (my recruiter had a quota to fill and I'd had some college) with 100 bright big brothers. An extraordinary experience! Half a century ago.

I just printed out the Cold War novel, BAUMHOLDER 1961, to take with me. See how it reads after a long spell away from it. Only 80 pages into it, but it will be short. I like about 175-225 printed.


In my errand-running about the neighborhood, I often pass the corner market where we regularly shopped in 1967, the year I'd dropped out of grad school "to become a writer" (and succeeded), when I was living with the grad student who'd left with me, as blissfully happy as I've ever been in my life. Well, that house of cards would self-destruct soon enough, but this doesn't erase the memory of those intense times. I became a writer and lost my innocence in successive breaths. In the next, I became a cynic about many things we encounter in living but always tempered by a sense of humor, a notion that the gods are laughing up a jolly good time while watching their playthings.

But the ghost of happiness hit hard as I passed the market today for some reason. As I've said so often, I'm not happy but I'm content and usually the difference doesn't matter much. Now and again it seems to, and I regret the loss. I get over it. There are worse conditions in this life than contentment.

I've heard from two singers regarding my concept of developing a short pop opera video, and I've seen both of them perform on our opera stages, frankly I'm amazed they're adventurous enough to do something like this, but this is a project I hope to do before school starts. Indeed, I have two "in the works" that I'd like to end my digital summer with. I'm going to throw everything on a DVD finally, Digital Summer 2007.

P.S. And later, from a married couple, young opera singers. Maybe I'll do two different piece, one for each pairing.


Check out my new custom video viewer at Small Screen Video. (Refresh if you don't see it at the top.)

Edith Piaf

La Vie En Rose, the biopic on Piaf, provides a moving emotional journey. You marvel at Piaf's survival instincts and at the performance of Marion Cotillard (an interview). It's one of those long movies that goes by without your being aware of the time. In other words, gripping.

The script is strong with some nice touches. This film about a tragic life ends on precisely the right moment. There's also a terrific (almost surrealistic) scene in which, right after learning of the death of her lover, Piaf's room opens up onto a stage onto which she walks to perform, a nice visual association of life and art.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Just the beginning?

It's scary to think of how much of this country's infrastructure is old, dated, possibly dangerous and surely in need of repairs. We should spend less money trying to repair foreign countries and more repairing our own. (Which reminds me: in trying to get tech support on the phone yesterday, I was sent to India or somewhere and rarely could understand the "English" that was being spoken to me. So this is what we've come to, all to save a corporate buck. Very sad. R.I.P.)
clipped from


Minn. bridge problems uncovered in 1990

By SHARON COHEN and BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press Writers

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota officials were warned as early as 1990 that the bridge that plummeted into the Mississippi River was "structurally deficient," yet they relied on a strategy of patchwork fixes and stepped-up inspections.

"We thought we had done all we could," state bridge engineer Dan Dorgan told reporters not far from the mangled remains of the span. "Obviously something went terribly wrong."

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Curiously enough, one of the few great constants in my life has been the music of Gerry Mulligan. I was a fanatic as a teenager. I'm a fanatic today, listening earlier as I was doing yard work. Wives and careers and pounds and booze and happiness and crises have come and gone, but there's Mulligan, still blowing on that big deep sax.


Happened to consider this: 6 or 7 weeks ago I was getting ready for finals and the end of the term, looking forward to a summer of writing and reading. I was going to finish the draft of my Cold War novel and read George Chapman's translations of Homer. A fine summer!

Then I saw the incredible video quality of The Flip and thought, wow, here's a mini-camcorder you could make movies with -- if you had a good editor. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I doubted if there was a decent economical editor on the market but how wrong I was. I bought The Flip, I bought Adobe Premiere Elements, and I was off and running, a summer digital filmmaker! Less than two months later, I already have a number of short projects to my credit, not all of them terrible, none of them a waste of time. You can check them out at my YouTube Channel.

And four more projects should be finished before the end of the summer. Onward.

The fix

Here's how I got PE3, my editing software, to run. From the beginning, the "advice" I was getting was that the new memory card was faulty. I refused to believe this since everything else ran fine, especially Finale 2008, which wouldn't run at all with the older, lower memory. But it made no sense to me that reinstallation didn't fix the problem. Well, this IS the answer but you have to do it right.

I was uninstalling using the Remove Software function in Windows Control Panel. Instead, following the advice on the net, I uninstalled from the installation disk itself. Moreover, and this appears to be the critical step, after removal I went into the Program Files folder, into the Adobe folder, and manually removed all folders associated with Premiere Elements. Uninstalling does not remove them. This done, I reinstalled -- and everything works!

As a matter of course, I save copies of everything on an external hard drive, so all I had to do is import my projects and I'm off and running. All I really lost was my Favorites folder, which is easily enough reconstructed.

A happy ending to a long day -- knock on my wooden head (in case the gods have other surprises to deliver).

P.S. This has been a trying year re technologyland, with two complete crashes and now this. Enough, already.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Google 1, Yahoo 0

I fixed it! Have my editing software running on the new memory card. Too pooped (9 hrs working at this) to explain, will tomorrow, except to say this ... I suspected someone had had this problem before, of course, and a solution was on the net. I'd been searching "Adobe 0x00000018" but getting nowhere -- in Yahoo search engine, which I habitually use. As a last resort, I did the same search on Google ... and there, at the very top of the page, was reference to someone with the same problem, and in a long discussion at a forum, after trying a zillion things, he tried something that worked. I tried the same thing -- and it worked for me, too! I'll give details tomorrow, it's an interesting thing to know.

Nightmare in Technologyland

I don't even know where to begin. Step by step ...

1. The geek doesn't show to put in my memory card.

2. I decide to do it myself. I worry most about removing the damn cover -- but it was a snap, no screwdriver even needed! I added the memory card with no hassle. Except ...

3. Now my editing program wouldn't open. EVERY OTHER PROGRAM I HAVE WORKED but the one damn reason I added memory in the first place, I get this error that it can't read at 0x00000018, terminating thank you very much. This is an Adobe product but Photoshop worked fine. What the hell?

4. I uninstall and reinstall Premiere Elements, the video editing program. Same error.

5. I do more net research. "Fix 0x00000018 problems!" blah blah, like my error message is everywhere on the net, so I get some software to do this, find out my computer has 1378 errors, I fix them all ... and still no fix. Same error message.

6. Back to the innards. I take out the new card. Now the computer won't even start. What the hell? I take out the old card, put in the new card alone, yep, starts right up ... but same error with Premiere. Put the old card back in. Won't start. What's wrong with the old card suddenly?

7. So that's where I am. New card works but won't run Premiere, everything else is fine. I need to go to a computer shop tomorrow and talk to live geeks.

8. Meanwhile cancelled my interview today, cancelled my rehearsal tomorrow, and no movie tonight. I want to fix this before I leave town!

9. The good news, if there is good news, is that this computer is very easy to work on, I slip off the cover in a jiff with all cables still attached, can work on it without the care I did the first time, unplugging everything and taking it to an uncarpeted workplace etc etc.

I need my video editor! Why in heavens doesn't reinstalling work? What if I'd just bought the software new, to install in this computer with the new card, which works fine with everything else?

10. I also started a "case" at Adobe's online help, but I don't have much hope there. Their knowledge base has nothing.


Adding memory

As my memory diminishes, my computer's memory grows: adding 1G today! Although I've added computer memory myself in the past, my old fingers don't work as well as they used to and I discovered it's dirt cheap to have a guy come over to do it, so that's the ticket today. This ought to make editing go more smoothly.

An interview late today, then off to see the Edith Piaf biopic. Tomorrow, a read-thru on a new script, the one I adapted from a play.

The darker side of Frost

He paid a price for self-promotion and ego.

I hear an old refrain: "He could live in his art but not in his life." No wonder the character in "My Dinner With Andre" who hears this is weeping. It's an artist's curse.

Robert Frost's "Road Not Taken"

    All this sickness and scatteration of the family is our fault and not our misfortune or I wouldn't admit it. It's a result and a judgement on us. We ought to have gone back farming years ago, or we ought to have stayed farming when we knew we were well off.

But as some point out, all this makes the closing "sigh" in one of the world's most familiar poems even more deeply ambiguous:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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