Sunday, September 30, 2007


Spaghetti weather, rain, and it takes me all day to make my "special sauce," so at 8a.m. I was browning 3lbs of hamburger. Drained it. Threw it in a pot and added half a bottle of red wine, simmered for a while, added a couple cans of crushed tomatoes, seasonings, a bit more wine, and simmered all day. Nice and thick and shiny is what I want. Threw in tons of mushrooms later. We'll eat about 630, some ten hours after I started. Yummy. No, this is not the recipe in Joe's Italian Kitchen ha ha.

Happy cousins in New Jersey

clipped from
Considered all-but-out of contention just 2 1/2 weeks ago, the Philadelphia
overcame a huge deficit in the standings, caught the Mets and won their
first NL East title since 1993 on the final day
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From The New Yorker.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Good reporting v. bad reporting

Bad reporting, from our daily, The Oregonian online:

Dixon found receiver Cameron Colvin on the left sideline. As Colvin headed toward the goal line, he took a hit from Cal's Marcus Ezeff at the 1-yard line that jarred the ball loose. It bounced into the end zone, then out of bounds.

Good reporting, from the AP online:

With 22 seconds to go, Oregon's Dennis Dixon hit receiver Cameron Colvin, who fumbled trying to reach the ball into the end zone when he was hit by Marcus Ezeff. The loose ball went through the end zone and was ruled a touchback and possession for Cal. The play was reviewed, the call stood and time ran out for Oregon (4-1, 1-1).

The difference? The AP correctly puts the blame on the receiver. He didn't have to reach the ball out, he could have protected it. Don't they teach fundamentals any more?

Too little, too late

I'm reading UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT about this case, perhaps the most depressing book I've ever read for what it says about American culture today. Most depressing to me was the behavior of too many of Duke's faculty, my colleagues in professional spirit. I'll have more to say about this when I finish the book. But almost everyone became irrational and hysterical in this sad moment, from the rogue DA to the cowardly university prez to faculty jumping on the band wagon for their own agenda to a mainstream media pandering to the commercial scandal at hand. Shameful. A bright spot was the student newspaper and student journalists, who kept their cool and waited for evidence before they started making proclamations. And there were individual faculty heroes, like a black woman professor who backed the lacrosse players from the beginning because she'd had many in her class and didn't see such behavior in their character. You have to prove this before I'll believe it, was her all too rare attitude. Good for her. Good for the student journalists. And shame on many more. (An interesting note: no professor in the hard sciences jumped on the band wagon, not one, as if by training they knew what evidence and proof are, something too many history, English and women's studies professors neglected to care about. These kids were privileged, white, rich, obviously they must be guilty, look at history, appeared to be their attitude.).
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Duke apologizes to lacrosse players

By AARON BEARD, Associated Press Writer

DURHAM, N.C. - Duke University President Richard Brodhead apologized Saturday for not better supporting the men's lacrosse team and their families after three players were falsely accused in last year's highly publicized rape scandal.

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Cal 31 Oregon 24

In an exciting game to watch, Oregon lost as a result of one of my pet peeves about the "modern" football player. They don't protect the ball. Instead, the current fashion is to stretch out the ball to get as much yardage as possible. More fumbles result and the one today probably cost Oregon the game, or certainly an opportunity to win in overtime. As an Oregon player headed for the corner of the goal line, he held the ball out loosely, getting ready to stretch it out into the end zone, when he was creamed. As the player fell out of bounds, the ball first fell loose, staying in the field and then scooted into and out of the end zone. A touchback! Cal's ball! Had the Oregon player tucked the ball securely, he would have been hit out of bounds with 15 seconds remaining, and Oregon would have been on the six-inch line. But Cal earlier was robbed of a field goal and should have had a ten point lead anyway. Oregon could have won this game but they didn't. But bad fundamentals and bad officiating make football less fun to watch than it used to be.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Chores in the rain

It's raining, and we can use it. We had an abnormally dry summer.

Off to do writerly chores, first to the copy center to leave the script (I get it done on 3-holed paper to save grunt work), to Starbucks next door to pick up a dime cup of coffee for a buck and a half, then to the library to pick up UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT, which I've been waiting to read. In fact, I may begin now, despite a list of writing and editing projects to do. Friday's a good day for mellowing out.

Let's remember John Dos Passos

Wikipedia entry.

Chronology and Selected Bibliography.

Witness to Our Times, an article.

The Three Soldiers, a novel. Free online.

USA Trilogy
from Amazon.

The Great American Novel

My nomination, the USA trilogy. Not much read today -- but there's nothing like it.
Dos Passos and U.S.A.

On this day in 1970 John Dos Passos died at the age of seventy-four. He is now one of the more forgotten Lost Generation writers, but the U.S.A. trilogy (The 42nd Parallel, 1919, The Big Money, published 1930-36) was important reading in the forties and fifties, both for its angry indictment of the "prosperity myth" and its style. Influenced by Joyce, Dos Passos incorporated a 'stream-of-society' technique into his best fiction: "newsreels" (pastiches of headlines, popular songs, etc.), biography (of the economic elite, juxtaposed against the radicals and downtrodden), personal memory, and roving, "camera eye" passages. The cumulative effect is difficult to capture,
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War and conservatism

Review of “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America,” out next week from Metropolitan Books.
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An Interview With Susan Faludi

Towers Fell, and Attitudes Were Rebuilt

Ms. Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two previous books, was perplexed by the cultural fallout from that day. What she found, she says, was a powerful resurgence in traditional sex roles and a glorification of he-man virility as embodied by Wayne, the ur-savior of virtuous but helpless damsels in distress. The prefeminist thinking was everywhere, Ms. Faludi said: in the media, where female commentators were suddenly scarce after 9/11 and specious trend reports appeared about women nesting and baking; in depictions of that day’s heroes as male and victims as female; and in movies like the 2005 “War of the Worlds,” Ms. Faludi said, with Tom Cruise as a “deadbeat divorced dad emasculated by his wife, reclaiming his manhood by saving their little girl.”

“It’s some bizarre, weirdly out-of-proportion fixation,” Ms. Faludi said, “an exaltation of American masculinity in an intergalactic crisis.”
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Busy agent

My agent requested more copies of THE BRAZEN WING, the revised version ("happier" ending) of which he's marketing, so he's getting us lots of readings. Be great to get one more fat check before I check out, something substantial to leave my wife.


A great weekend for sports. There's a group of Univ of Oregon alumni who gather to watch Ducks football -- I've never attended but might check it out for the Cal game on Saturday. They meet at a bar not far from home actually.
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7 NL teams chasing 4 playoff spots

How's this for a wild final weekend? With three games to go, seven teams were fighting for the National League's four playoff spots.

Philadelphia tied the New York Mets for the NL East lead for the first time since the season began, the Chicago Cubs held a two-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central and Arizona was one game in front of San Diego and two ahead of Colorado in the NL West.
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Thursday, September 27, 2007


I've forgotten, as I do every fall, how exhausting teaching is! A two-hour lecture really did me in this evening. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and four days of "being a writer" again, after a summer of shooting video and doing damn little writing.

The book on the Duke lacrosse fiasco is waiting for me at the library. I'll pick it up tomorrow. Also have Don DeLillo's new novel.


Made progress on two fronts this morning. Began putting down details of NAILS IN MY COFFIN, beginning with the dozen characters I'll feature, each of whom gets a chapter. I may use more, or even less. Some place to start. And I drafted a pitch to my agent on a new story. I sent him two loglines yesterday, and he wanted to see a synopsis of one of them. I'm itching to get writing a screenplay but I need to get his approval first so it's not a waste of time. Screenwriting now exists in the world of commerce, writing outside in. Fiction now exists in the world of art, writing inside out. A nice balance actually. But it's frustrating to be having such a hard time creating a commercial story that passes the scrutiny of my agent. Yet I've already written dozens of screenplays that are not commercial (apparently) ... surely have no need for more! This agent thing is a business partnership and I'm trying to get together a story he thinks he can sell. 0 for 3, but #4 coming to him soon as requested.

End of era?

Despite errors and a bad call that put them a player down, the U.S. women were outplayed on the field and the best team won. U.S. dominance is over.
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Brazil kicks U.S. from Women's World Cup

By STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Writer

HANGZHOU, China - The streak is over, and so is the United States' bid for a third Women's World Cup championship. Brazil and its star player Marta put on a dazzling performance against the Americans and cruised to a 4-0 victory in the semifinals Thursday, ending the U.S. unbeaten streak at 51 games and sending the Brazilians into their first title match, against Germany on Sunday.

Brazil went ahead on an own-goal in the 20th minute, and Marta made it 2-0 soon after. Cristiane and Marta added goals in the second half, with Marta becoming the tournament's leading scorer with seven goals.
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Hemingway to Fitzgerald: "Kiss my ass."
A Farewell to Arms, Scott, Agnes

On this day in 1929 Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms was published.
When Hemingway sent off the story for serialization in Scribner's Magazine that spring he kept back the last page, saying that after ten days working on the final three paragraphs they were "almost right." They would take another month, and hasten another farewell: in the interim, F. Scott Fitzgerald asked to read the manuscript, and sent Hemingway nine pages of suggested revisions, with a note saying, "Our poor old friendship probably won't survive this but there you are..."; at the bottom of the final page of Fitzgerald's comments Hemingway wrote, "Kiss my ass."
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Audio story

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Setzer Swings into Classical with 'Wolfgang'

Morning Edition, September 27, 2007 · In the 1990s, The Brian Setzer Orchestra helped reinvigorate interest in swing music. Now Setzer turns to classical fare with his CD Wolfgang's Big Night Out.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hanging out

One of those mellow lazy days when I feel like hanging out. Had breakfast at Nobby's and wanted to just hang around the neighborhood, coffee shop to coffee shop, people watching -- but it's more fun to hang out with somebody, in particular with someone with whom you have enough history that a lot of non-verbal communication happens. Alas, I've outlive all the candidates except for a few down in L.A. So I came on home to try and do some work.

I have two novels in progress, both based on personal history, what I think of as the Sally novel and the Cold War novel, and though I like both, I'm not wild about either. So I'm turning to the concept about which I am wild, NAILS IN MY COFFIN, the collection of stories as novel, all set in a retirement center, each chapter about the death of a character. A dark comedy, lots of unexpected behaviors among the geriatric set (to which I seem to be sprinting). I'm very, very conscious of time these days, not only because of my age but because both of my parents dropped dead on the spot without warning and I don't want to discount a family tradition therein. It's not like I have all the time in the world to write this and then that. I need to focus on the projects that excite me most and right now COFFIN excites me more than either of the novels in progress. So I am going to start building the characters in this work, and their stories, and we'll see if my excitement survives.

The new video is slow going, mostly because I still need a cast and even then my own time is more limited due to teaching, let alone scheduling shoots around every one else's schedules. So my goal is to finish before Christmas. Hopefully sooner -- I'd love to shoot it in October, but I have no idea yet what folks' schedules look like. Also, I may be doing more weekend shooting, something I didn't do on the summer projects.

Took a peak at the Norway-Germany women's soccer semi-final, hoping Norway would make a go of it. Alas...the defending champs looked damn good. I think the U.S. may have its hands full with Brazil tomorrow.

Good Saturday football games coming up: Cal at Oregon, UCLA at Oregon State and USC at Washington. I'll be rooting for Oregon, UCLA and Washington.

A week from Saturday we see CABARET. Looking forward to it, been a while. I've seen about 4 productions. It was on the amazing Fornara season I wrote about. No response from the editor yet, knock on my wooden head.

Still a lazy day, work to do or not.


Portland Opera presented a first rate Carmen, top to bottom. It's easy to understand why this opera is a popular classic: great music and a driving narrative. Curiously enough, however, there were more empty seats than usual in the auditorium. Too many folks have already seen it too often?

Looks like a decent class, although my classroom leaves much to be desired. My string of great classroom assignments is over. Maybe I'll do better next term.

A relaxing day of grunt work chores and getting into gear on several projects in progress. I got a lot of work done at the office yesterday, including preparing two new stories for submission to my agent. Maybe I can finish that up today. I'm eager to get writing on a new screenplay but I need a story he thinks he can sell! I've never been more aware of how story-driven (not writing-driven) LaLaLand is. I'm 0 for 2 in my story submissions so far.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Office time

Been in the office since noon, doing research and downloading clips to use later. Ran into Primus and he gathered some good stuff over the summer on video from Australia and New Zealand, for the winter issue of the review.

90 minutes till class time. I'm eager to start. Have a long waiting list, though, and I doubt if everyone will get in.

Good morning, professor

My first class today, so I've been printing out the roster and the usual other chores one does to get ready. I'll go to campus early, not only to make myself available for last-minute panicky students but to do some uploading for the review, the Crooks interview video files.

Have some auditions next week for the new project. I think one short film a term will be my goal through the school year. Not sure I'll have time to do more than that.

And we go to the opera tonight, Carmen.

Monday, September 24, 2007


A day dedicated to various chores associated with various projects. I'm beginning with the preparation of the OLR video files of the Crooks interview. After that, so much to choose from, not sure where I'll begin.

I'm thinking of doing an annotated re-reading of LOVE'S BODY. Chapter by chapter reflections. Might be a useful mode for my mind in these crazy times. I've been feeling intellectually lazy recently.

Norman O. Brown

We approach the 5th anniversary of his death.

Brown's mind was extraordinary. He faced the Big Questions head on. He saw the repetition in human history that we all see, and he went out, through vast reading and unfettered thinking, to explain why this should be so. The result, a very provocative and "new" view of man, which immediately was misinterpreted and misused.

I'm overdue for a reading of LOVE'S BODY. I can count on one hand the books that were major influences on my own thinking about the Big Questions: Russell's MARRIAGE AND MORALS and WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN; de Rougemont's LOVE IN THE WESTERN WORLD; Brown's LOVE'S BODY; Camus' THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS.

Yes, time to look at Brown again, to be reminded of his grasp for it all.
Norman Brown, Playful Philosopher, 89, Is Dead
October 4, 2002
Dr. Brown was a master of philosophical speculation, mixing
Marx, Freud, Jesus and much else to raise and answer
immense questions. Alan Watts, the popular philosopher,
sang his praises. His works joined David Riesman's ``Lonely
Crowd'' and J.R.R. Tolkien's ``Lord of the Rings'' on the
reading lists of undergraduates aspiring to the
Scruffy pilgrims streamed to commune with him, only to
discover a short-haired man who lived in a split-level
house and avoided drugs. A meticulous student of ancient
Greek who was given to long, meditative walks with his
golden retriever, he was not a little perplexed when
magazine and newspaper articles linked him to the new left,
LSD and the sexual revolution.
``I have absolutely no use for the human-potential
movement,'' he said in an interview with Human Behavior
magazine in 1976.
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Watching kids grow up

Had a nice visit this afternoon with R., the youngest son of a friend. I've know R. since he was about 8. He had a troubled childhood of sorts and I always liked him. Nice to see that he's now a sophomore at the Univ of Washington, on the Dean's list, a fine young man. The good news in the universe is usually personal.

Speaking of which

An unexpected call from a dear friend in LA with kind words about my DVD. "There's no accounting for taste" department: the several she singled out as her favorites are not the ones on my list of same. Always fascinating what folks like and don't.

Ecstasy in a vacuum

The highest moments of satisfaction in a writing career, it seems to me, happen when I am alone. I've just written, or more likely rewritten, a passage or section or work that really works for me. I finally got it right. Whoopee! Only nobody is around to celebrate with me.

Yet this, writing, is a kind of performance. One critic from the 1960s called it "the performing self" and I've always liked that description, right up there with "the unemployed magician" (Karl Shapiro) for a proper description of the literary artist. One of the advantages of playwriting over other kinds of writing is that the author can get a belated glimpse of audience response. Indeed, one of the highs of my writing career was when at the final curtain of my play Country Northwestern, a guy in the audience yelled out, "This play has balls!" This was more satisfying than a prize.

I was talking to a screenwriter recently who confided how lonely she's been the past year, with no one in her life to talk shop or share the craft with. Yes, writing can be a lonely occupation, which is why writing groups are formed, I suppose. One of the reasons. I've never been much of a joiner myself and have pretty much taken the journey alone. Early in my career I was blessed with important personal and editorial company and later I had good support from a couple of buddies. But I've outlived them, so now what strokes I get (and I actually don't need many) are from some fans scattered hither and yon, some former students.

Since I'm prolific, and since I always am interested in the current work more than anything else, often when I get a stroke, it's for something I don't give much thought to any more, which lessens the satisfaction. It's almost as if I'm no longer the writer who wrote the work being praised. No, I'm the guy writing this here now. There's a certain mystery to past work, especially when the past is far away. I look at my best short stories from the 60s and 70s and marvel that I wrote them, that I took that many risks and pulled them off. I couldn't do that today. I know too much now ha ha and wouldn't dare try some of the things I did. Youthful energy can blast ahead without worrying about what I worry about today.

Still, I think I'm a better writer today than in the past. I suppose if I didn't, I'd quit.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

ID: 124357, Published in The New Yorker September 24, 2007

Sonny Rollins

A jazz legend stepped onto a Portland stage last night, and a capacity auditorium worshipped him. On his way to Monterey for the 50th anniversary jazz festival this weekend (Rollins played at the 1st, and I was in Monterey during the 4th, studying Russian at the Army Language School), he made a stop in Portland. He moved like the old man he is but he played with youthful energy. Personally, I prefer a more melodic and mellow tradition in jazz (Gerry Mulligan, Ben Webster), but legends are legends and Rollins gave a great show.

Friday, September 21, 2007

From the New Yorker.

From the mail bag

A friend in LA sent this ...


40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they
were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't
get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs
covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when
we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats,
booster seats, seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE
actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank koolade made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because .


would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were
back when the streetlights came on.

one was able to reach us all day.

we were O.K.

would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride
the hill, only to find out we
forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we
learned to solve the problem.

did not have Playstations, Nintendo's,
X-boxes, no
video games
all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no
cell! phones!
no personal computers , no Internet or chat

HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found

We fell
out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no
from these accidents.

We ate
worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us

were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays,

made up
games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it
would happen, we did not put out very many

rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or
the bell, or just walked in and talked to

League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't
had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine

The idea
of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard

actually sided with the law!

generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem
solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50
years have been an explosion of innovation and new

had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we



Has there ever been a generation who didn't believe the world was going to hell? Well, I can remember my dad saying he's glad I didn't have to go through what he went through (Great Depression, WWII)...but as he got older, he didn't approve of much of what he saw. I wouldn't trade places with someone in a younger generation for any gifts the gods might offer. Not being raised on TV might be the greatest accidental blessing of my birth. But it was also very cool, as I've said here before, to be a teenager at the birth of rock and roll. See Birthing Little Richard.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Meeting With A Movie Producer

Three minutes in the life of a screenwriter.

Sorry, Sally

In her recent Emmy acceptance speech, Sally Field said if the world were run by mothers, there'd be no more war. Well, here are some mothers I'd just as soon not have in power, thank you very much.

--Beverley Allitt: Attentive pediatric nurse, suffering from bizarre Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, maims and murders many babies before the hospital understands the problem.

--Velma Barfield: This adoring mother and pious Christian grandmother had a secret habit -- she poisoned her husbands, boyfriends, elderly people in her care and even her mother. The amazing thing is how long this Black Widow serial poisoner got away with it.

--Diane Downs: "Somebody just shot my kids!" The blond woman yelled to the emergency room nurses. The two nurses teetered when they looked through the windows of the Nissan. Side panels were soaked in blood and amidst the blood lay three small children, one in the front passenger seat, two in the back. First glance told the nurses the children had been shot at very close range. Two of the children still breathed, although strenuously; the boy gasped for air. The child found slumped in the front seat appeared beyond help; despite frantic efforts by the doctors at the operating table, the damage had been lethal. She was pronounced dead moments after being wheeled to emergency. Someone without a heart had deliberately attempted to murder three kids in cold blood, and, despite the odds, despite a fate that looked gloomy, the caretakers hastened to keep that fate at bay and beat it at its own game: with deliberate intention. Who in the name of God could have aimed a pistol at three small children and pulled the trigger?" The facts came to light in a most suspicious manner and unlike those explained by the mother, Diane Downs.

--Kathleen Folbigg: Tragic crib deaths appear to be the reason that Kathleen Folbigg's babies died, but then her husband finds her terrifying diaries.

--Genene Jones: Texas pediatric nurse takes over the care of babies and murders them by injecting one after another. Almost as criminal is how the hospitals and staff ignored the problem until Genene's shift became known as the Death Shift.

--Katherine Knight: Katherine Mary Knight, though not the first person to skin and eat her lover, was arguably the most depraved monster in Australia's grizzly homicidal history.

--Sylvia Likens: Sixteen-year-old Sylvia Likens was found murdered with "I'm a prostitute and proud of it" burned onto her stomach. The perpetrators of her slow, tortured death turned out to be the family that was caring for her and several neighborhood children. A new attempt to bring the story of this 1965 murder to the screen is underway for 2007, but does it give us any insight into how mother and group of children could commit such a horrible crime?

--Dorothea Puente: The stench hovered over the Sacramento neighborhood like a putrid fog, sickly sweet and pungent. Everyone knew where it came from - the yard of the pale blue Victorian at 1426 F Street, where Dorothea Puente rented out rooms to elderly and infirm boarders. No one suspected that the sweet-faced, grandmotherly lady was systematically drugging and killing her frail boarders and burying their remains in the yard she so lovingly tended. She got away with murder for years.

--Marybeth Tinning: Marybeth Tinning was a familiar sight in Schenectady's trauma centers. She usually came running into one of the city's emergency rooms, confused and hysterical, typically with one of her eight children cradled in her arms, either dead or near dead. The medical staff knew Marybeth well. Some hated her. Others felt great sorrow and pity for her. That's because from January 3, 1972, the day her daughter Jennifer died, until December 20, 1985, when Tami Lynne was found dead in her home, all eight of Marybeth Tinning's children died suddenly and usually without any rational explanation.

--Andrea Yates: Woman drowns her five children -- one at a time after her husband goes to work. Is she psychotic or a monster? Incorrect expert testimony causes murder convictions to be overturned.

Many more.

It's fashionable and politically correct to assume that females are nicer folks than males in our species. So much for equality. But, in fact, I think the evidence shows a propensity for depravity does not respect gender. That's why Russia's Catherine the Great wasn't a peacenik. Sorry, Sally.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Out of the basement

It's been an adventurous day, spending so much time out of my basement office and so much on buses and downtown, both great people-watching venues. And on the various buses I managed to draft in my head the narration for a new short comic video. Will put it together very soon.

Gerry Mulligan

One of the great constants of my life. Listened a ton as a teenager and listen a ton now.

Prodigy: Ricky Skaggs at 7

Firehouse Five + 2

My fav during my heavy dixieland period in LA in the 50s.

Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry

They played often at The Ash Grove when I was going to UCLA, and I'd see them three or four times a week.

Little Walter

Rare footage of Walter on harp.

Barbara Dane

Too many folks don't know her work ... she got blacklisted (in effect) during the 1950s.

Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Woody Guthrie's best interpreter, with whom I spent a wonderful three days in the late 1980s.

The morning commute

Only a few times a year do I join the morning commuters and get a taste of what the morning routine is for most folks. It's shocking how few 9 to 5 jobs I've had in my work life. 24/7, of course, but this makes no sense to those who don't do the same themselves. Takes obsession to recognize it. At any rate, took the van in to be serviced early this morning, then hopped a bus to the university, so I got to ride with the commuters. Kinda nice in small doses.

There's a hint of excitement on campus, as we prepare for school to start next week. Last minute cosmetic fixes here and there. I'm excited myself -- and very, very curious to see how many students pick the new video option I'm offering them.

I brought headphones to school, a set to keep here, so I can do all my YouTube business with the T1 line, a real treat. Finished my uploading and now might do some video research while I'm here. I like it here, my office my home away from home. I like being at the university. It's really the only connection to Portland I have any more. Take away PSU and I could leave this town in the snap of a finger. I don't like most of the changes that have happened in neighborhood after neighborhood. I don't relate to what most folks think is "cool" about Portland now. I'd rather live in eastern Oregon, except for the winters. I'd actually rather live in Pasadena, where I grew up. But H will never move, and PSU at least makes my staying here comfortable.

Well, back to research.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

wouldn't it be lovely

Wouldn't it be lovely
if there was world peace

and if I didn't make a rolling stop
and forget to count the morning donut
and swear at the driver who cut me off
and sneak a gander at her cleavage
and forget to put the cash gift on my taxes
and lie that I was sick and had to stay home
and pretend to admire her new hair style
and forget to mention that he's a real ass
and access the porn site
and steal a ballpoint from the bank
and exaggerate my credentials
and pretend everything is really great

wouldn't it be lovely
if there was world peace

--Charles Deemer


I see I'm listed (well, as Charles Demeer) as an "Enlaces" in the Spanish Wikipedia entry for Ciberdrama, linking to my hyperdrama page in my archive.

You won't believe this

From my original blog:

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Writing on the run
Sometimes I have to grab my writing time whenever and wherever I can find it. Yesterday I had a business lunch. I arrived early, laptop word processor in hand, and managed to write 3 or 4 pages on my novel before my lunch partner arrived. My laptop is an AlphaSmart 3000 and I swear by it -- 700 hours on 2 AA batteries! All it does is write, and that's all I need it to do. No, I don't own stock. Honestly.

Note the date, 2003, almost 5 years ago. Actually it runs on THREE AA batteries, not 2. And I changed them today. I replaced the original batteries!!!!!!! I didn't have to, actually, it was still running fine but I was down to 45% battery strength, so I figured, what the hell. Memory told me I had almost 3 years on them -- not five!

Now why in hell don't they develop batteries for laptops that will do this?

I Want To Be Struck By Lightning

I want to be struck by lightning

I want to be minding my own business
pushing a cart in the supermarket
filling the car with gas
buying stamps at the post office
and be struck by lightning

It will happen the moment our eyes meet

It will happen without warning
no clouds, no wind
no weather forecast
minding my own business
when suddenly

what happens next doesn't matter

whether we kiss near the broccoli
whether we fondle by the ethyl pump
whether we fuck at the stamp machine

or whether we run in opposite directions
it doesn't matter

what matters is
I was struck by lightning

and didn't expect it
and didn't plan for it
and didn't understand it
and didn't know how to react to it

and found myself sweating
heart pumping
head spinning
losing breath
losing my mind

losing my comfort

I want to be struck by lightning
and go from there

--Charles Deemer

Link to audio story

I'm reminded of a former student who earlier had studied poetry with William Stafford. He said Stafford said that typically one of his poems would have four or five rejections before finding a home. I'm also reminded of Doris Lessing, who late in her career submitted a new manuscript to her own publisher under a pseudonym -- and was soundly rejected! "'I wanted to highlight that whole dreadful process in book publishing that 'nothing succeeds like success,' '' she said ... ''If the books had come out in my name, they would have sold a lot of copies and reviewers would have said, 'Oh, Doris Lessing, how wonderful.'"
clipped from

Famous Authors' Rejection Letters Surface

Weekend Edition Sunday, September 16, 2007 · Jack Kerouac, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath are just a few of the authors whose books were turned down by the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house. Researchers going through the Knopf archives have come across their rejection letters, as well as a few others.

Liane Hansen speaks to Richard Oram at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, where the archives are held.

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I always have mixed feelings about giving "advice" or feedback to young writers who already are accomplished in their craft. There's a period in artistic growth when the "student" is acting like a student longer than they should be; there's a time when you have to break away from the security blanket of "teachers" and just head into the wilderness on your own. You have to learn to be your own best/worst critic. At the same time, fresh eyes sometimes give fresh insights that can be helpful, even to a mature writer. We can get blinded by our own work by being too close to it. Hence my Cold War novel, the story strategy change I made that seemed so good at the time, elevating the story considerably, that looks like sophomoric cuteness some months later when I return to the manuscript with fresh eyes. Young writers are insecure by nature and sometimes I think the best thing a teacher can do for them, once they've reached a certain level, is to kick them in the butt and send them off on their own. The opinion of others can be helpful but it also can be a crutch.

At the computer/keyboard

A lot of time-consuming grunt work to do today at the computer, exporting video files for OLR. But a 90-degree turn in my chair puts me at the keyboard, so I can practice piano while they're downloading.

Been brooding about the novel, which is good. It's on my mind again. Some new ideas brewing. I do know better now than to mess with the narrative style. This isn't Joyce, it's Steinbeck.

One week away from returning to the classroom. I'm just about ready.

The Lone Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe was an unusual literary phenomenon. He was in the right place at the right time to find an audience because without the editors, Perkins and Aswell, his poetic and disorganized ramblings never would have been made into "books" and thus made available to the public. Writing as regurgitation.

I was never a big Wolfe fan, although no one can deny the poetic power of many passages. But I demand more efficiency in art I respond to. Wolfe, however, was my buddy Dick's favorite writer, the romantic outpourings of soulful writer a perfect fit for Dick's own romantic yearnings. So I got a good dose of TW over the years.

Surely the Beats were influenced by Wolfe's passion. And it would not surprise me if this tradition is continued somewhere on the Internet today, some blogger somewhere pouring out his or her soul, a rush of words that one day will be organized and re-presented as a "novel."

I don't think Wolfe is much in literary fashion today. I don't hear my students discussing his books. I don't see the books on the university bookstore shelves. But for a time, in the 40s and 50s, many considered him our most important novelist, my buddy among them.

See Today In Literature.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rendering & waiting

So much in the video production process requires time while files render, export, and such. I'm preparing the OLR files of my two interviews, which I edited some time ago, and tomorrow I'll prepare the Flash files, which also takes time but I'll practice the piano while I'm waiting.

Wednesday I'll spend some time at the university, taking advantage of the T1 connection to upload the Flash files to the OLR site.

Ah, youth

clipped from

Tattoo remorse fuels boom for dermatologists

By Judy Fortin

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Laura Hathaway initially had no regrets after getting a tattoo on her lower back when she was 21. But now, 10 years later, she wants it gone.

The pharmaceutical sales representative from Atlanta, Georgia, says it doesn't fit in with her current lifestyle as the mother of a 2-year-old boy who just started to talk. "The other day I bent over and he said, 'What's that?' and it just confirms why I'm having it removed."
The American Academy of Dermatology reports tattoo regret is common in the United States. Among a group of 18- to 50-year-olds surveyed in 2004, 24 percent reported having a tattoo and 17 percent of those considered getting their tattoo removed.
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Published in The New Yorker September 17, 2007

Renewal: Baumholder 1961

Just reread my pages on the Cold War novel-in-progress, and there's good news and bad news. The good news is I love the first seventy pages. I wouldn't change a thing. The bad news is that in the last several weeks of my last dance with this material, I made a major change in the story strategy, which begins to be reflected after page 70 -- and this material sucks. I started getting artsy fartsy cute in the telling and the story takes a back seat, suffering greatly. This story can carry its own weight, it doesn't need any pseudo-artistic help. So I'm throwing away everything after page 70 and keeping in the same straight-forward realistic narrative mode. But those first pages are hot, exactly what I want them to be. If I can keep the tone and if the rest of the story develops as well, I'll have something. But it's definitely something to get writing on again.

Busy, busy

This is the last week before classes begin at the university. I have a number of things I must get done and others I want to get done. Heading the list of the first category, polish and print my syllabus. That's really all the prep left to do. The other list is longer: bring OLR up to date, which includes doing a final edit of two long video interviews I did of musicians. If I have time, also read what I've written on the Cold War novel and evaluate its status.

Not all actors I pre-cast in "Like Mother, Like Daughter" are interested, so I need to replace them. This may delay the start of shooting but maybe not. I have some backups to try.

Various chores to do around here as well. H takes off for the east coast in about three weeks, will be gone about a month.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Will it never cease? Nope.

Bad enough the FOG (forces of gentrification) is changing Portland neighborhood by neighborhood (an aside: I was in the Clinton area last week, where the post-production company is, and was charmed by the neighborhood. Then I thought: they'll be next), now they are messing with radio stations. KMHD, the all jazz station for as long as I can remember, is changing its format. They added "Mississippi West," a roots music show. I happen to like roots music -- but not on an all jazz station!. KMHD no longer is all jazz. Duh. Next will be some goddamn New Age show. Another era ends.

And with the passing of Dr. Jazz, the dixieland weekend morning shows are not the same. They call it "tradjazz" now and they over-produce it and get cute with it and there is no personality, none, to the show. Why the hell don't they replay tapes of Dr. Jazz? He was there for decades. Who is going to remember his show from 19xx, say, and the music was all recorded years ago anyway.

Even with Portland changing for the worse, in my view, I could escape to a couple of good radio stations. Now FOG is even polluting the airwaves.

This and that

The reading yesterday was something of a joke but the experience good, I ran into some old friends.

This morning I read a new story from a young writer I've been mentoring. Damn, she can write! I wish I had her chops. But she's not as good a storyteller as she could be, which is where I might be able to help her. I run into a lot of young writers whose language skills far surpass their storytelling skills. I don't think much teaching of storytelling goes on in our schools.

I think storytelling begins with an insight by Aristotle in his Poetics, that Action is more important than Character. This is quite out of fashion in literary circles and completely misunderstood by Hollywood. But I think Aristotle was right, and ignoring his advice results in the avalanche of beautifully written stories in which nothing happens, a literary disease of recent times.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I don't go to many readings, and I don't do many. However, I jump at any chance I get to read in Eastern Oregon. Invite me to La Grande, Enterprise, Baker, and I'll be there! The last time I was there was on an Oregon Book Award tour.

The last reading I did was a couple years ago on Mississippi Avenue. I only did it because the street is special to me, where I lived in 1967 when I first starting publishing in the literary magazines. Where I became a writer. I went and wasn't disappointed. I read my very short story, "Meeting Nicole Kidman," and it went over well.

Today I'm going again for reasons of place and nostalgia. I was asked to participate in a neighborhood festival where I haven't lived for over a decade, but I was a visible presence when I was there. Fond memories of those times, the 80s in NW Portland, when (according to my NY agent at the time) the neighborhood was "the way Greenwich Village used to be." Long gone and no more. But I'll take the stage for fifteen minutes and relive the past a little, before gentrification crucified Portland's soul.

I'm reading from Christmas at the Juniper Tavern by request. I'll read a few monologues from the play and close with two logging poems by Fred Ross, the Poet of Juniper Mountain, including this short one, my favorite:

His hickory shirt was glazed with dirt
as he stepped up to the bar.
"Gimme a shot of rotgut whiskey
and the butt on an old cigar.
I'm in from the cold where the vine maples grow
and the dogwoods bloom in the spring.
I've been in the woods for thirty years
and I haven't accomplished a thing."

I'm Not Fit Company

I'm not fit company
for women of intelligence
if their necks are long
if their hips are slim
if their eyes darken
with forbidden possibilities

I'm not fit company
for women of intelligence
who reject an old biology
who prefer sensitive men
who talk about feelings

If a thought
is unspoken speech
then isn't a feeling
unthought thought?
And if a feeling is unthought
how possibly can it be talked about?

I'm not fit company
for women of intelligence
who mistake equality
for similarity

Which brings me to you

In these dim lights
I’m not sure what I see
but go on instinct when I say
the odds strike me as good
despite the pleasantries between us
I’m not fit company
I’m not fit company

--Charles Deemer

Food for thought

From Hank Williams, Jr.:

I myself have seen my wilder days
And I have seen my name at the top of the page
But I need to find a friend just to run around
But nobody wants to get high on the town
And all my rowdy friends have settled down

Well, actually most of my rowdy friends are dead or MIA.

So you want to win the lottery

clipped from

Winner reflects on nightmare lottery

MOUNT HOPE, West Virginia (AP) -- In his darkest moments, Jack Whittaker has sometimes wondered if winning the nearly $315 million Powerball game was really worth it.

The jackpot that was the stuff of dreams turned into a nightmare: His wife left him and his drug-addicted granddaughter -- his protege and heir -- died. He endured constant requests for money.
Almost five years later, Whittaker is left with things money can't cure: His daughter's cancer, a long list of indiscretions documented in newspapers and court records, and an inability to trust others.

In all, Whittaker says, he's been involved in 460 legal actions since winning. He recently settled a lawsuit that alleged his bank failed to catch $50,000 in counterfeit checks cashed from his accounts.

Whittaker believes he has been unfairly demonized by the media, which he says exaggerated his problems and helped drive his wife away.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Getting organized

Man, one thing about shooting video, you sure generate a ton of large files in a hurry! It's a major requirement to be organized, to know what to backup and what not, among all these files (video, sound, images, editing). It was obvious my 160G external hard drive wasn't going to cut it for very long, so I caught a good sale and added a 500G HD today. This should last me the duration.

Heard from one of my opera singers, who has the hots to get started on the pop opera. I started the libretto but I need to bring it front burner now. We still have music to write after that.

Reading tomorrow

A rare if short reading by yours truly at the Slabtown Community Festival tomorrow in NW Portland. I'm on at 5pm. This happened because the McMennamins Historian insisted I read from Christmas at the Juniper Tavern, which is something of a classic from the 80s, I suppose, in that pre-gentrification era that many will be remembering tomorrow. I'll read a few monologues from the play. McM Tavern & Pool, where I shot the lunch scene in Sunset, was one of my hangouts in the 80s, even staged a play there one night, so I'm considered "an old timer" in the neighborhood even though I haven't lived in NW for over a decade. Should be fun tomorrow.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

The new video project requires five actors. Made five offers, heard from two so far, affirmatively. I'm still tweaking the script and probably will be for a while. Want to shoot in October.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Flip Ultra

The Flip Video, which is what I shoot with, has some spiffy new models, called Flip Ultra. They've made cosmetic changes, like a choice of flashy new colors, and practical ones, like adding a tripod mount. They also claim improved video and audio quality, though the original quality blows me away. And they've kicked the price up, of course. You can still get the original model, however, at the old price. They've added some accessories, like special tripods.

Surprise, surprise

With an unexpected sudden surge of energy, I finished the draft to "Like Mother, Like Daughter." Now to rewrite and distribute to the actors I hope to cast.

It's Easy to Grieve

It's easy to grieve at the loss
of strangers. The mother in Pittsburgh,
her son blown into pieces in Baghdad;
the couple on vacation in Portugal,
their daughter kidnapped and then, incredibly,
themselves the prime suspect; the widower
who lost everything ("all my pictures of Alice!")
in the hurricane.

My eyes water when I hear their stories
on a nightly newscast too short to cover
all the personal tragedies in the land.

To grieve for strangers is easy.

Not so easy to look in the mirror
and see, behind the complacent neutrality
of my daily mask, the caravan of failures
that tromps over my soul like boots in dust
dryer than the fossils.

Not so easy to take myself
seriously enough to grieve.

--Charles Deemer

Cruising to a generic DJ

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road (see earlier post), the local jazz station is playing music in tribute to the Beats, bringing back tons of memories. Listening on my way to the post office to mail DVDs, I had to grab a Pepsi and cruise a spell, getting in the groove. Nostalgia, of course, but maybe something more than this as well. A highlight of my essay about Portland's 1978 theater season was getting Bob Hicks, the senior critic at the paper, who has been observing the theater scene here for 30 years, to go on record that, yes, this era was special in our regional theatrical history. We old farts aren't just sailing down memory lane -- we were actively a part of something very special here.

So with the Beats. A very special era -- the jazz/poetry collaborations so common, the coffee houses, the new voices in literature.

The jazz tribute is hosted by a regular DJ at the station, who sounds just like another regular, both of whom sound just like my friend Jeff, a DJ now in San Jose, whom I met 30+ years ago on Maryland's Eastern Shore, who directed me as Peter in Albee's Zoo Story, at Pemberton Free Theater, a company I founded to do outdoor summer plays for free. Jeff's a good man, now working on a one-man show for himself.

This morning I got some good writing done on "Like Mother, Like Daughter," an adaptation of my play Waitresses that I hope to shoot in October. I have it pre-cast if everyone accepts their roles. I'm less than 5 pages from the end, I think, so maybe I can finish the draft this week and distribute it next. I think I have my three locations as well.

I want to write something that takes place in the rain and shoot it in the winter. I like the ambiance of rain.

I'm also still thinking of a feature for next summer. I have an adaptation in mind, something in the public domain.

I need to spend some time on the piano this afternoon. Important! We have a harder-than-usual piece to learn this week.

Crime pays

Here's a marketing truism: want to increase your book sales? Assassinate somebody newsworthy, like the President or Oprah. Guarantee it will increase your sales.

Like the publisher says, " opinion about James Frey and whatever he did is beside the point." Business, dear friends, is business. Business is business!

e.e. cummings:
listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go
clipped from

Book Deal for Writer Who Fabricated Parts of Memoir

James Frey, the author who admitted making up portions of his best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” has signed a new book deal for his novel “Bright Shiny Morning,” with HarperCollins. The dollar figure was not disclosed.

In a news release yesterday, HarperCollins announced that Jonathan Burnham, a publisher, had negotiated the deal for “Bright Shiny Morning.” Minutes before the release went out, the news was reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Burnham said that Mr. Frey was a “media lightning rod” but that “my opinion about James Frey and whatever he did is beside the point.”

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