Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Twisted reality

Strikes are good for "scabs," and any screenwriter who hasn't sold enough to join the union is suddenly a scab because producers give new writers more attention when strikes last long enough that established writers aren't filling the well. Writers desiring an actual full-time career can suffer later but part-time screenwriters, trying to sell a spec script, have been known to score during a strike. Take the money and run.

From the point of view of a playwright, I find it very hard to have sympathy with screenwriters about anything. From the point of view of a playwright, they are ridiculously over-paid as it is. It is totally ridiculous that I've made more money on screenplays that never were produced than on plays that got produced and won awards. Or that you can make more selling the film rights to a play than on the royalties for the play. Totally ridiculous. But that's the marketplace for you.
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Hollywood contract talks resume

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Hollywood writers have a revision ready for TV and movie producers.

Contract talks resumed on Wednesday, with the Writers Guild of America ready to submit a revamped contract proposal with the hope of avoiding a strike after the current pact expires at midnight.

Details of the proposal were not released.

Producers said they would consider the revision but won't agree to anything that would restrict their ability to experiment with new Internet and other digital delivery options for films and TV shows.

A key issue in negotiations involves giving writers more money from the sale of DVDs and the distribution of shows via the Internet, cell phones and other digital platforms.

It was unclear when writers might walk off the job if a new deal isn't reached. More than 5,000 guild members recently voted, with 90 percent authorizing negotiators to call the first strike since 1988, if necessary.

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Where you buy medicinal pot?

Webster's names its Word of the Year

The 2007 Word of the Year at Webster's New World College Dictionary is "grass station" -- a term so sizzlin' hot it already has appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times.

It's a play on "gas station" and refers to a theoretical fill-up spot featuring ethanol and biomass fuels, some of which are distilled from actual grass. Grass station beat out such entries as freegan, aka Dumpster diver, and iPodization. This doesn't mean grass station will show up in Webster's anytime soon. As one editor said: "It's merely one that made us chuckle, think, reflect, or just shake our heads." Last year's winner: crackberry.

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Close but no cigar (again, etc etc etc)

My agent passed along a flattering "pass" from a producer. My craft is solid. But LaLaLand is story-driven, and actually a more poorly written script will sell before a superbly written one if the former story is what they want. Not that craft is irrelevant; craft puts the story in its best light. But it's still a story-driven industry.


A really cool belated birthday present in the mail!


This is the most productive morning I've had in a while. Finished the student scripts by 10, and in the last hour I wrote ten pages on the splay. I feel like I've put in a good day's work, and it's not yet noon. But want to keep at it and see if I can make similar progress on the novel this afternoon.

Dark beginnings

Up before sunrise, scraping ice off the windshield, I felt like it was winter, not fall. Off to treat myself to my favorite breakfast for the first time in a few months, the Farmers Sizzle at Fat City Cafe. Few patrons, the waitress dressed in a Halloween costume, strange "scary" music playing, dark and foggy outside, almost a surreal breakfast.

If all goes well, the day will break down this way: a morning of reading student scripts; an afternoon of writing on both front-burner projects; an evening of studying music theory. We'll see how it goes.

Sketch recovered quickly with the vet's medicine, which I'm still administering. Great to see his old self back, eager to play tug of war at any moment, day or night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


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House votes to extend Net tax moratorium

WASHINGTON - A bill to extend a moratorium on Internet access taxes for seven years was approved 402-0 by the House Tuesday, less than two days before it was set to expire.

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A must see!

Hope this comes to Pdx soon ... sounds terrific.
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Dylan documentary shows genius in the making

By Sheri Linden

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) -
With all due respect to
"I'm Not There," Todd Haynes' imaginative and often dazzling
meditation on the pop-culture mythology of Bob Dylan, there
ain't nothing like the real thing.

In "The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the
Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965," documentarian Murray Lerner
delivers the genuine article, on shimmering B&W film, in some
of the most significant performances of his early career. The
film receives its West Coast premiere Thursday as part of the
Mods & Rockers Festival at the American Cinematheque in Los
, and will remain forever young on DVD, a must for any
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20 poems by Bill Deemer

Coyote's Journal features an online poet each month and for November, 2007, they've selected the work of my brother, Bill Deemer. A few favorites (link to all follows):

Deleted by request of BD

Twenty Poems by Bill Deemer.

Books by Bill Deemer

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Lives of Others

I saw The Lives of Others when it first came out. It blew me away. I watched it again on cable tonight, and it blew me away again. What I like most about this film is how quietly it builds its emotional power and how well it uses visual storytelling (it knows it's a film and not a play). First rate.

Here's the
New Yorker review

Our wealthy neighbors

Pulled into the post office to drop off a letter, taking my place behind a fancy Mercedes. Suddenly the passenger door opened and a middle-aged woman dressed for cocktails stepped onto the divider, which was lined with rose bushes. And she has a pair of scissors! Snip, snip, the dear lady began stealing herself a bouquet! I couldn't believe it. Should have made a citizen's arrest but by the time I recovered from the shock of it, they zoomed off. As luck would have it, I found myself right behind them as I continued on another chore. Along the way they pulled into one of those luxurious snotty condo developments with fancy entrance way and Arthurian name. Apparently well off but still needing to steal their flowers from the post office.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What a day

I actually had a full day planned, which of course went down the tubes once I awoke to a house without power. And then it took most of the day to get it back.

But at least I got most of the leaves raked up. But no writing or music studies done today, and tomorrow I have school chores to do. That's the way the mop flops, as Elvis used to say.

Will hope to see the Rockies finally win a game tonight. H and all her New England relatives love it, of course. They're having a hot old sports time with the Red Sox, the Patriots, and Boston College.

But Oregon is looking damn good -- well, no, they look stupid with those godawful Nike uniforms -- they are playing football damn well, an explosive exciting team to watch (if you can forget the uniforms). Wonder how far they will get. Hell of a game next week against Arizona State. And, the Pac 10 being what it is, I think upsets are still ahead of us.

"The Last Summer" in detail

An extraordinary use of the Internet, making The Last Supper available in spectacular resolution. (Use text link, not image link, to get there.)

MILAN, Italy - Can't get to Milan to see Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece "The Last Supper?" As of Saturday, all you need is an Internet connection. Officials put online an image of the "Last Supper" at 16 billion pixels — 1,600 times stronger than the images taken with the typical 10 million pixel digital camera.

The high resolution will allow experts to examine details of the 15th century wall painting that they otherwise could not — including traces of drawings Leonardo put down before painting.

The high-resolution allows viewers to look at details as though they were inches from the art work, in contrast to regular photographs, which become grainy as you zoom in, said curator Alberto Artioli.

Neighborhood adventures

At around 230 in the morning, while I was asleep, a car zoomed past the house, ran the stop sign just down the way, crashed into a utility pole and took out the neighborhood's power. I slept through it, and amazingly so did Sketch. The driver was drunk, and his passenger split the scene. I learned all this later, after waking up to a cold, powerless house. It took over ten hours to get the power back, and now the heat is blasting, trying to warm up this place. After I learned what had happened, I grabbed the dog and we went cruising with the car heater up high. Then I came home, Sketch found his usual spot of sun on the bed, and I raked leaves to Chris Connor and friends. Then I got cold again and took another cruise with the car heat up. This time, I came home and the power returned -- which is now.

Everything in this damn house depends on power, including my piano. Apparently no one was hurt from the accident. Maybe he came from the nearby titty bar at closing time.

I still feel cold but the house should get warm soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Does it ever end?

Double-tasking in front of the Oregon-USC football game (Oregon won!), I did yet another major rewrite of the first 15 pages of my new screenplay, determined to get the set up as strong and right as possible before moving on. This rewrite included a huge supporting character change (from asst to the protag to boss of same), with major consequences down the narrative path. Hopefully this rewrite will set better than the last one did ha ha. I think it might but one never knows at this stage.

Never too late

Link to audio story.
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Millard Kaufman Writes First Novel at 90

Weekend Edition Saturday, October 27, 2007 · Millard Kaufman publishes his first book Bowl of Cherries at age 90. Before then he was a U.S. Marine in World War II, a test subject in a cobra venom experiment, a screenwriter, and the co-creator of one of the most enduring characters in cartoon history: Mr. Magoo.

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Where have I heard this before?

WWU bans swimsuit calendar sales on campus

BELLINGHAM — Western Washington University has told a former student he cannot sell his "Women of Western Swimsuit Calendar" on campus after the school received complaints that it was demeaning to women.

"I asked why and they said it doesn't fit within university's mission statement," said WWU graduate and calendar creator Jason La Baw said, noting that the decision came during the national banned book week. "My response to that was, 'How does selling hot dogs fit within the university mission statement?' "

La Baw said 300 people have joined an online Facebook group in support of the calendar, and he will circulate a petition to persuade Schuster to reconsider.

Kendra Lee Timm, a 20-year-old psychology and child development double major with a music minor, said she saw the calendar as empowering, not demeaning.

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Kindred soul

Stumbled upon this response to the death of Dr. Jazz:

I'm so sad to hear that Dr. Jazz passed away. I listened to him every weekend - he always helped me get out of bed in the morning. Has anyone heard what will happen to his weekly show? Will someone else take over, or will they play re-runs (I hope!), or what?

I'm sure all his fans would prefer reruns to the sad attempt of young DJs, none of whom appear to have a radio personality, all of whom try too hard (talk too much), to create a new dixieland show. I've almost stopped listening, the DJs are so painful to hear. Didn't anyone ever tell them that often less is more? Particularly when you are filling the shoes of a legend.

Quotation of the day

"Either I am a great writer or a nincompoop." VW

And she's not the only artist who has felt this way ha ha.
On this day in 1922 Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room was published. This was the first full-length book put out by the Woolfs' Hogarth Press, with a Post-Impressionistic cover designed by sister Vanessa. It was "a new form for a new novel," wrote Woolf before starting; afterwards, she felt confident "that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice," and that "Either I am a great writer or a nincompoop."
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Giving gifts

I caught a great sale and bought an early Christmas gift for someone who will really appreciate it. I feel certain of this; and therefore get great pleasure in having purchased it. I can't wait to see the reaction.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Birthdays II

This is turning out to be a damn nice mellow birthday! My sweet wife, who is back east, had hidden two cool presents in the house for me. The dog, who goes to the vet in an hour, is looking better, so I'm less worried. Piano class was great, and things are starting to make sense in theory class. I have the one and only TV series I really like to look forward to tonight (you'll never guess: Friday Night Lights), tomorrow there are three back-to-back great Pac 10 football games to watch, one of which I'll listen to on the radio while I'm raking leaves (unless my damn neighbor is out with his power blower, a tool invented by the devil). I have energy to do a lot of writing this weekend as well and hope to start next week with both new projects, novel and splay, showing new momentum. I can't quite believe I'm still here, and I'll never get used to outliving my closest friends ... but I still dig the scene, as we used to say. The gods have been kind.

But don't outlive your oldest and closest friends. It sucks. You can't replace half a century of history with someone by meeting an interesting guy in a coffee shop. Not even close. What you do is count your blessings for having this kind of friendship (many don't), remember it fondly, and move on, alas alone.


The most remarkable thing about a birthday at my age is that it's a kind of official marker of continued survival. I've been living what Raymond Carver called "gravy" years for some time now. Both my parents dropped dead instantly, and if I did the same five minutes from now it wouldn't surprise me, nor would I particularly regret it. Not that I'm suicidal. I just realize how damn lucky I've been already, so why get greedy? I think of survival as having time to finish the current writing project but every time I finish one, I immediately start another, so that line goes on into eternity -- or rather, to whenever it is that good fortune finally catches up with me. While I'm still around, I try to have as good a time as possible, which generally means spending as much time as possible in the creative world and as little as possible in the world of realpolitik. I'm not a masochist. I'd like to live long enough to actually retire and settle into a neighborhood where I can walk everywhere and don't own a car and in fact don't own much of anything, into a rhythm where an afternoon walk for a cup of coffee is a Big Deal. I feel like I'm nearing the end of my writing life, which is to say, I've been writing for so long that not much excites me any more. I've been easily bored all my life, which has made me adventurous and prolific, always trying new things, but also ends up leaving me exhausted without energy to conquer, or try to conquer, new horizons -- and bored with the old ones. Fortunately, I'm excited about COFFIN, the current book, because it's peopled with eccentric old farts and will be filled with, if I do it right, dark social and political satire. In a sense, it feels like a swan song. After that, however, I don't expect to become silent but to shift gears once again because I am getting close in my music studies now, perhaps less than a year away, when I can jump into my ideas for music drama with focused front-burner energy. So if I still hang around for a while, I expect to stop writing "prose" or "scripts" and start writing some bastardized form of musical drama, writing the narrative and music both. I expect to die with my boots on.

But probably not today.

Another bad corporate idea

The NFL is playing its first regular season game in London in an effort to turn on England, Europe and the rest of the world to American football. Terrible idea! But a clear logical move on the part of corporate culture, in which expansion is good by definition. Greed.

The world already has an expansive football league: it's called soccer and the World Cup. We're just too arrogant to plug into it with energy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Almost got creamed on the road today. My knee jerk mind's road rage thought, Where'd you learn to drive!? ... which, a block later, fertilized pleasant thoughts of my own experience learning to drive.

L.A. is a great place to learn to drive. First, there are huge parking lots everywhere in which the novice can safely practice. For me, it was the lots at the Rose Bowl and Santa Anita race track. You could practice everything there, including parallel parking into a marked space.

Later, I graduated to my neighborhood streets and after that to a trip along Colorado Blvd., Pasadena's main drag. But the big promotion and challenge came when you first ventured onto the Pasadena Freeway. Talk about stress and fright! This was a very early freeway, perhaps the first, and it's narrow and full of curves, no great joy to drive even today. If you made it on the Pasadena Freeway, you knew you were ready to drive just about anywhere. At least in this country ha ha.

Sonnet on Insomnia

Living in this world can drive
you nuts. Perhaps it's always been
this way; perhaps the dusty archive
of history reveals more than sin
and mayhem, a propensity of doubt,
a human attraction to the loss
of sleep. You lie awake on stakeout
of your very soul, which gathers moss
in shuddered stillness. You don't pray
because you don't believe. Relief comes
occasionally -- a nap. And then another day,
your sanity in doubt; your demons, chums.
Your life becomes an existential rut:
Living in this world can drive you nuts.

--Charles Deemer

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Series

It will be fun to root for the Cinderella Rockies and amazing to watch them play baseball in the snow in Denver.

The natural world

Watched a bit of the new CNN series, "Planet in Peril," which I found disappointing and journalistically self-indulgent. I still am appalled that they replaced the excellent journalist Aaron Brown with the touchy-feely Anderson Cooper. But that's another story.

At one point, Cooper was reporting on the return of wolves to Yellowstone. An environmental success story, a scientist called it. Once again wolves are killing bison and fighting bears -- the natural order of things.

Which raises an interesting question: perhaps human aggression and war also are part of the natural order of things. This was the thesis of two books in the 1960s ("On Aggression" and "The Territorial Imperative"), which I happened to review for The New Republic, my break-through with that magazine (and the issue with my review came out the very week the University of Oregon hosted its new grad students, so that the first thing the English Chair said to me was, "How nice to see your piece in the New Republic, Mr. Deemer!" There's no place but down after that ha ha. I didn't disappoint the gods in this regard.)

It was exciting to review the books for a major magazine. I had sent along a review of one on a whim, and they telegrammed back (remember telegrams?) asking if I'd expand it and add the other, newer book. Better, this all happened when I was house-sitting my parents' house over the summer, with many L.A. friends visiting. Felt like a real big shot, and had a short deadline, so I worked in the middle of a party some of the time. The experts hated my review since I had no anthropological credentials to review such material but I liked the credit nonetheless.

In grad school, as later, my career seems to be to start at the top and fall from there, finally disappearing into the literary margins (which is where Kazantzakis says everything happens). I publish a math article as a sophomore; the review above is out the very week I meet my boss, the Chair; my first play wins a national contest; I arrive in Portland at exactly the right time for a playwright to put down roots; I talk myself into being instrumental in founding and shaping Oregon Business Magazine; I go crazy with hyperdrama, far ahead of the curve; and so on. Hit the ground sprinting, zoom to quick success, and disappear into oblivion.

Who needs a near-death experience? My CAREER is a near-death experience! Ah, the writing life!

New Orleans v. San Diego

Two disasters, two football stadiums housing evacuees -- but what an extraordinary contrast! In the N.O. stadium, chaos and mayhem; in S.D., community and good spirits. Why?

Many will bring ready-made explanations, theses just waiting for data: note most evacuees in N.O. were black, in S.D. white -- hence, racism! Note most in N.O. were poor, in S.D. at least middle class -- hence, classism! Or both!

Many will say the N.O. and LA governments were corrupt, hence gross mismanagement there.

4 years ago S.D. didn't do it so well, so some will note that they learned a lesson. Sometimes you actually do learn from your mistakes.

Others will blame the media. In N.O., rumors became headlines -- raping gangs are in control of the stadium! In the S.D. reporting, arsonists and looters are mentioned as a sidebar. Again, the media are racist, classist.

Whatever the causes, how refreshing to see evacuees pulling together and forming a sense of community in the midst of disaster. But why couldn't this have happened in New Orleans?

Raymond Chandler

From The Long Goodbye:
The Long Goodbye

...There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Room and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provençal.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Russian spam

Anybody else getting a huge increase in spam from Russia in recent days (at least the email is written in Russian)?

The over-written screenplay

I'm appalled every time I judge a screenwriting contest to see how many scripts are over-written, even hugely over-written, as if the writer assumed s/he were writing a novel in a different format. Where are they getting such wrong information?

I just talked to a student who has this typical problem but has quickly and easily corrected it. In another class at another college here in town she over-wrote but the teacher never said a thing about it. What!?? Well, the teacher was a playwright with no experience in the real world of screenwriting, especially with regard to spec screenplays ... and I fear this is a universal problem, some playwright or fiction writer being assigned to teach the screenwriting class when they have no experience in Reality 101 in the evolving world of screenwriting. The students are the ones who suffer, and it's too damn bad.

So Cal

I was raised in Pasadena. After the Army, first working, later going to PCC and then UCLA, I lived in Altadena, Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. Used to drive up the coast to Malibu a lot to watch the sun sink into the ocean from a barstool. Malibu was always in some kind of trouble, it seemed ... if not fires, mud slides, spendy homes falling into the sea. But they always rebuild because it's so damn beautiful.

All my LA friends are away from the flames so far. Not a pretty sight on TV, to be sure. And less chaos and administrative failure than in New Orleans, it seems.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Crank it up

Pleased with a major change in the first 15 pages. We'll see if it sticks as I write on.

Perverse reminder

With Southern California on fire, I was reminded that it's been too long since I've read Nathaniel West's The Day of the Locust. I was delighted to discover that West, a commercial failure in his lifetime, has his readers today: I had to get in line on the reserve list at the library, so it'll be a few months before I get it.

I'm reworking the first 15 pages of the new screenplay, trying to pump it up and plant more explosives for down the road.

Conference day tomorrow; read midterms Wed.; deal with midterms in class on Thur.; and so ends another week. Next week we study Sideways. Now you see the week, now you don't.

From The New Yorker (where else?).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Oregon Literary Review

Did a significant amount of editing this morning. Catching up. A play and two essays, and I'm temporarily caught up. I'll hope to get them done later today but right now I need a break.

The weather is supposed to improve, today being the transition day, so maybe I can get some work done outside tomorrow or Wednesday. Tuesday is student conference day.

Because of my two classes, music taking up more of my day, which is fine. Should have done all this in the third grade. I think piano should be required in elementary school, just as arithmetic and reading are required. Basic Skills and all that.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Modern education

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AP: Sexual misconduct plagues US schools


Students in America's schools are groped. They're raped. They're pursued, seduced and think they're in love.

An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.

There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. Yet the number of abusive educators — nearly three for every school day — speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims.

Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can't be proven, and many abusers have several victims.

And no one — not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments — has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.

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Rose Bowl

Watched my first alma mater UCLA upset Cal in the Rose Bowl ... and of course, seeing the occasional overhead shots of the area brought flashes of memory of growing up in Pasadena, a great place to be in the late 40s and 50s. All those fruit trees in our yard! All those orange groves surrounding the city! I bet Dad, getting out of the Navy, thought he'd bought a house in Eden. Two decades later the neighborhood was removed for a freeway.

The PTA sponsored an annual Football Circus in the Rose Bowl, all the schools of all levels playing in the Rose Bowl, East against West, a huge community fund-raising affair, always quite a night. And all those kids getting to play in the granddaddy of bowls.

Friday, October 19, 2007


The woman who started this program is remarkable.
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Breast Milk Shipped to Africa to Help Feed Orphan Children

On a loading dock outside a nondescript warehouse in the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of Monrovia, men and women in suits join mothers with babies strapped in slings and strollers as toddlers race around their knees. As the last pallet of boxes emerges from the warehouse, they break into a spontaneous round of applause.

Inside those boxes is what they affectionately call "liquid gold" — human breast milk donated by mothers across the United States.

For more information about the International Breast Milk Project or to apply to be a donor, go to:
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Change is not necessarily progress

What a shock when the car radio came on as I started off on an errand. A discussion of "dress for success" was in progress! What? This is supposed to be an "all jazz station." Fine, they added "Friday Freeway Blues" some time ago, I could deal with that, but then recently they added weekend roots music, which is going too far (Yes, I love roots music, I even play it, but it doesn't belong on an "all jazz" station), and now this, talk radio or something? I switched to the classical station in shock.

On the way home, a second try. Aha, it was fund-raising time, apparently various guests were on plugging the station. Presumably they are not adding discussion shows, New Age shows, and all the rest of the fashionable stuff. All jazz (with a Friday freeway exception)!

And how I miss Dr. Jazz, the weekend dixieland guy, so warm and personable, a radio legend in his way, and the show suffers without him because the new young guys talk too damn much and try too damn hard to have a radio personality (if you have to try, you don't have one)...and why the hell they don't just play tapes of old Dr. Jazz shows is beyond me.

Once I get into NAILS IN MY COFFIN, it should be a ball because I get to sublimate all my old man bitching into my characters in a dark comic light, not only poking fun at the culture but at myself, and there's nothing quite like poking fun at yourself. You become your own best comic material. I'm glad I set everything else aside (Sally, Cold War, two novels in progress and now hibernating) to do this now because it's what I've been obsessing about, not the other, I suppose because the material (aging, dying) is so close to me since the death of my best friends, leaving me to be next.

So I'm not really in gear yet with COFFIN but I'm getting close. I think I have a shot at drafting it before summer.

I've also been thinking about what to do with video. I don't what to repeat what I did this summer. I mean, I could make short films like that for as long as I have but I need something different. I'd like to do a series -- the same character in different situations. I also like the voice I used in Sunset Hearts ... I want to do something more with it. I also want to do more with Judith Richmond, whose talent is extraordinary. But nothing has come together to excite me yet.

My "deadline job" is a screenplay, and I've fallen a tad behind but hope to catch up this weekend.

Off to piano class in a minute. I get lazy because I seem to progress more quickly than the others and the class is aimed at the lowest common denominator. But that's fine. I'm in no rush and have no desire to actually perform, my interest here and in theory is in future composition for dramatic projects. I performed a lot through the 60s, 70s and 80s but I think my live performance days are over.

I used to sound like this.

Old age and dying according to Swift

Swift is a true gem in our literary history.

Swift at the End

    Yet, thus methinks, I bear 'em speak;
    See, how the Dean begins to break:
    Poor Gentleman, he droops apace,
    You plainly find it in his Face:
    That old Vertigo in his Head,
    Will never leave him, till he's dead:
    Besides, his Memory decays,
    He recollects not what he says;
    He cannot call his Friends to Mind;
    Forgets the Place where last he din'd:
    Plyes you with Stories o'er and o'er,

    He told them fifty Times before....

    For Poetry, he's past his Prime,
    He takes an Hour to find a Rhime:
    His Fire is out, his Wit decay'd,
    His Fancy sunk, his Muse a Jade.
    I'd have him throw away his Pen;
    But there's no talking to some Men....
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We finally reached the last song in book one in my piano class. I imagine we'll spend a couple weeks on it, then on to book two. I don't have it down yet but getting closer.

We are supposed to get some warmer sunny weather on Monday. I really need to get outside to do some chores, so I hope the good weather arrives. Rake leaves while listening to a football game on the radio and such. Raking leaves is so mellow. My neighbors, alas, use those noise-polluting blowers, even for a very small lawn. With my push mower and rake, I embrace the glories of old-fashioned lawn care! I mean, in a production of OUR TOWN, what a nice moment to hear the push mower, right? I have a vintage Scotts and love it. Abandoning my gas mower a number of years back is one of those good decisions I've made. Aren't all that many so I treasure them. (And I have a bigger, hillier lawn than my neighbors!)

Peeked at the opening of the first story in COFFIN ... on the right track, I think. Need to get some writing done this weekend!

Tuesday I spend the day in conferences with students. I like to do a one-on-one early on just to make sure they understand what they are doing wrong. It's a very rare student indeed who doesn't come to screenwriting with the common disease of over-writing. Screenwriting is the only form of writing about which you can say, "Don't let your writing get in the way of your story." It's story driven, and that's why it is the easiest form of writing to teach. There is a clear subject matter.

Corporate power

I really fear corporate control of the Internet. This has been happening for a while, at least since the early days of AOL, where I suppose one traded limitations for user-friendliness in the early days when the net frightened a lot of users. But here is an example of how "bottom line" concerns can compromise freedom of access issues. Internet rights could become like water rights, an area of conflict.
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Comcast blocks some Internet traffic

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK - Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.
If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Internet scams

I, like you, am always getting these scam invitations from banks in Africa or somewhere to get a cut of millions of dollars for helping to xfer funds and such ... it never occured to me that anyone would actually fall for this. But I guess that's why they do it -- "there's a sucker born every minute." You just have to find him, and with the net and email, it ain't as hard as it used to be. I heard one on the radio last night. Couldn't believe it! Was expecting to make $5 million for a mere $50,000 fee to expedite the transfer. So they actually lost 50 grand! Astounding.

Hell hath no fury...

Snubbed woman allegedly steals ex's ashes

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) -- A woman accused of digging up her ex-boyfriend's grave and stealing his ashes pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony vandalism, prosecutors said.

Martha LaFollete, 48, lived with Roger Barber for five years until his death last November, said Athens County sheriff's Lt. Darrell Cogar. Police speculate she may have stolen Barber's ashes because she wasn't invited to his funeral.

The grave was dug up in June, but the theft wasn't discovered until about two weeks later, authorities said. Police found Barber's ashes several weeks ago at a home belonging to one of LaFollete's relatives, Athens County prosecutor David Warren said.

"I have a category of crimes that I like to refer to as 'aggravated stupid,"' Warren said. "I have been doing this for almost 30 years now and I have never had anyone steal someone's ashes."

What I'm working on

With the screenplay, my two front burner projects.

Chekhov's The Seagull

The source of my most ambitious hyperdrama. See link below.

The Seagull Hyperdrama.

First Seagull Flops

On this day in 1896 Anton Chekhov's The Seagull opened in St. Petersburg. This is the first-written of Chekhov's four masterpieces -- Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard are the others -- and though now regarded as one of the most influential plays in modern drama, its opening night was an infamous flop. During the writing, Chekhov admitted that he was "flagrantly disregarding the basic tenets of the stage," not only for having so much talk and so little action, but for having "started it forte and ended it pianissimo." During rehearsal he had implored the actors and the director to give up the usual bombastic style and give his understatements a chance: "The point is, my friends, there's no use being theatrical. None whatever. The whole thing is very simple. The characters are simple, ordinary people."
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The sexualization of children

I've been observing the world with interest and concern for over half a century now and certainly one of the most startling changes I've seen is the sexualization of children. Long gone are the childhoods of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Kids today stop being kids at what ... 8?

At any rate, by middle school many boys are acting like studs and many girls are dressing like vamps, so no wonder somebody gets knocked up. But I think this change is really a subset of a larger change: the making of children into major and commercially important consumers. To be a vamp (or a stud), you need a vamp costume and you need vamp role models, and both were hard to find half a century ago. The creation of Homo consumerus has changed all that.

Of course, kids of my generation were curious about sex. I got caught in the closet with a girl when I was 10 or so. About the same time a teenage female niece used to like to show me hers if I showed her mine. This is all biological and natural.

What isn't biological is turning kids into major consumers and creating sexualized images, images requiring considerable consumer buying to clone, for them to imitate. TV has become a pedophile's heaven for all the pre-teen sexualization going on in shows and especially in commercials.

So this is the reality today. You are not going to change it unless you get at the root problem, which I believe is advertising in a capitalist culture. Fat chance of changing that. The only other sensible alternative is to say, ok, this unfortunately is the way it is, how can we minimize the damage?
clipped from

Maine middle school to offer birth control

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- After an outbreak of pregnancies among middle school girls, education officials in this city have decided to allow a school health center to make birth control pills available to girls as young as 11.

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The new rhythm: Thursdays

With my new schedule, Thursdays are the most hectic. I have papers to return but before I go to the university, I have my Music Theory class across town. With the car, I've been driving there for class, driving home to let the dog out, driving to park and ride and catching a bus to school. A lot of running around, made even more hectic if I bus to class. I'm reluctant to put the van in park and ride after it was stolen from same.

I've been in a long funk since H left but I think I'm crawling out of it. I still am way behind on the review and on digitizing my scrapbook, grunt work chores largely, plus the novel and splay in progress ... it's not as if I'm lacking for things to do. The theory class takes more time than the piano class, it appears, so I'm busier than usual apart from writing and teaching. You'd think I'd be too busy to find time to be in a funk but it doesn't work that way, of course. Funks have their own life and energy. Mine usually takes the pattern where I expand my sense of lack of connection into cosmic proportions.

I think my ego is shrinking as I get older. That's dangerous for a writer. If I ever stop being the fan of last resort of my own work ...

My mind may be starting to go as well. Yesterday at the store I couldn't remember the PIN for my debit card. Somehow, though, my finger's memory punched it in while my mind was starting to panic. Since I'm writing a book full of old farts, I must remember to put in a scene like that. It's all material.

In the end, maybe that's the final (if sad) salvation in this life. It's all material. (That probably should be the name of this blog.)

From the New Yorker.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Carver edited v. Carver originals

One of the more interesting recent literary controversies.
clipped from

The Real Carver: Expansive or Minimal?
Tess Gallagher, the widow of Raymond Carver, one of the most celebrated American short-story writers of the 20th century, is spearheading an effort to publish a volume of 17 original Carver stories whose highly edited versions were published in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” his breakout 1981 book.
Largely as a result of that collection, which became a literary sensation, Carver was credited with popularizing a minimalist style. But many of his fans have been aware of reports that Gordon Lish, Carver’s first editor at Alfred A. Knopf, had heavily edited, and in many cases radically cut, the stories before publication to hone the author’s voice. At the time, Carver begged Mr. Lish to stop production of the book. But Knopf went ahead and published it, to much critical acclaim.
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Fascinating reading

Carlyle, Marriage & Biography

On this day in 1826, Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh married. Acquaintances knew them both to be difficult personalities -- George Eliot's husband quipped that it was a marriage made in heaven, as it would make two people miserable instead of four -- but no one was prepared for the portrait of a marriage that eventually emerged. When both were dead, the Carlyles became one of the most discussed couples of literary Victorian England; as an issue in the ethics of biography writing, most recently described in Ian Hamilton's Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography, their relationship took on the status of a parable.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cold Case

Prof. Housely at the University of Mary Washington is again teaching her seminar "Cold Case: Mystery and History in the Theatre," which sounds like great fun, and she's again using my play Sad Laughter to elicit discussion around the question, Did Moliere marry his own daughter? This is very satisfying to me, in some ways more satisfying than a production since the play will be studied with more focus and energy than an audience manages. Last year I also visited the class via a chat room to answer questions from the students. Hope we can do that this year as well.

Moliere's epilogue to this play remains high on my list of "best theatrical moments" I've written. He pops up out of the casket and says:

MOLIERE: Shed no tears! You rot in one grave as another;
If you don't believe that, don't ever have a mother.
The luck that gets us all got me—
Though I'm better off than most, you must agree.
Consider this: though I am dust, you're glad to pay
Right through the nose to see my plays!
Without me, Montfleury's just a name;
Because of me, he has a kind of fame.
The Archbishop of Paris is no concern of yours
Except for me — I give him the notoriety he deserves.
In other words, why shed a tear for me?
My plays live on until eternity!
Oh, I know — in your age the time is getting short,
Everywhere there's war, famine, a great environmental wart.
Yet you insist your own age is unique:
"Never has civilization reached such a peak!"
But I question this wisdom found on TV and in "Forbes,"
Though maybe that's presumptuous, coming from a corpse.
Still, I don't see our times as different, I confess,
Since in your age, as in mine, it's all a mess.
Though you've reached the moon, discovered strange galactic gasses,
Three hundred years later, the world's still full of asses!
(LA GRANGE enters.)
LA GRANGE: So we hope we've moved you and given you a little fun;
In truth,—
MOLIERE & LA GRANGE: — there's not a damn thing new beneath the sun.

This got published in "Best Stage Monologs" for whatever year it was.