Friday, October 31, 2008

R.I.P.: Studs Terkel

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Terkel dies at 96

By CARYN ROUSSEAU, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO – Studs Terkel, the ageless master of listening and speaking, a broadcaster, activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose best-selling oral histories celebrated the common people he liked to call the "non-celebrated," died Friday. He was 96.

Dan Terkell said his father died at home, and described his death as "peaceful, no agony. This is what he wanted."


His oral history books are significant contributions. I especially like Division Street about the 60s.

Food for thought

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
Those who count the votes decide everything."

- Joseph Stalin


Had the most productive morning I've had in quite a while, beginning in earnest the long editing process of putting the new issue of the review together. Got much of the video section in order and looking good.

Reflection of the day

...the television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little...

- Ray Bradbury


Not video, for the review ... a high priority this weekend. Making a little progress.


Up late doing a little editing for the review. It's about time ha ha. Hope to get the video section mostly together this weekend, screenplays next. Also hope to work on the music drama, splay and novel. In other words, a busy weekend! H returns Monday, at last, and I'll return to a more normal routine.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quotation of the day

"A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain."

-- Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Headline of the day

ExxonMobil Posts Biggest Quarterly US Profit In History

What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good news

Rec'd a long, detailed email from the Saudi woman, A., who wrote a screenplay for her graduate thesis under my supervision last year. She's home, very busy, and doing some amazing things, including developing a TV series as the head writer in a "writing room" group. She's in the right place at the right time with the right talents, I think. Exciting to learn how well she's doing. She's also very perceptive and sensitive to some of the traps and mine fields that adorn the entertainment industry's landscape anywhere in the world ... she has her head screwed on right and is going to be able to wiggle through it all with her sanity and values intact, or so it seems to me. Look forward to the next installment of her adventure.


Almost through the midterms ... should finish tonight. Found a third I'd like to publish.

Maybe the Phillies can wrap it up tonight! My dad would love it. Need to study music in the morning, before class. Still not putting in the hours I need to. Too much going on -- and I'm behind on everything.

A nice royalty check in the mail today. I'm always surprised because I always forget what's due from where. Works out fine this way.

Youth and inspiration

This is the Moment my Generation has Been Waiting for
by CaelanAegana

Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 01:58:19 PM PDT

As many "twenty-one-ish" adults in my economic bracket did, I spent a large chunk of my adolescence watching The History Channel's documentaries about the 1960's. I listened to my parents' stories and subtle revolutionary music.

I can recite most Jackson Browne songs by heart.

While we may be some distance away from rioting in the streets, drug cults, and revamped cult folk rock (accounts vary), there is a stirring in my heart that is at once unique and familiar.

We are about to radically change the culture of this country. It's about damn time.


My generation strongly supports gay rights, women's rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. We believe in a flourishing, multifaceted media. We believe money isn't speech, and that access to the internet, music, knowledge, discourse, healthcare and social security should be free and available to all. We know that there are people out there who need a little help from the government in order to help themselves.

We are sick and tired of being told by the older generations, who have forgotten what it means to be newly in the world, that they know better. We are not apathetic; we have been suppressed, waiting for that spark to light the fires of passion.

We have found it.

This is the moment my generation has been waiting for. This is what the 1960's was to our parents. This, right now, is meaning. It would be so foolish to let it slip away.


Man, would I love to see a landslide! It might renew my faith in my fellow citizens. We'll see what happens.

Left foot, right foot

About halfway through the midterms. I found two that are so good I want to publish them in the review! Always exciting to find. So far, none are "bad" though many have the usual problems that beginners have.

I've been blessed with shockingly good health through my seven decades on this planet, so I have no right to complain. However, I'll complain anyway. This pulled hamstring really sucks. And the thought that it's going to be around "for months" really sucks. That said, I'll go back to remembering how lucky I've been.

November 8th at the downtown library.

I survived the marathon

Today I read midterms, usually a good reading experience. Yesterday was exhausting, of course, but Sketch welcomed me home with usual canine enthusiasm, and I crashed early. Nothing on the agenda today but reading the short scripts. Thursday, I hope to have enough good midterms to share with the class. Onward.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Downhill side

Only a couple more hours to go ...

Short break

Have a short break, rushed to get a sandwich, my only meal until dinner, and in the shop the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" album was playing -- what a work of musical genius! Been a while since I took the time to listen to it. An extraordinary achievement -- and as fresh today as the time in Salt Lake City when I first listened to it with "Sally", in those early days of my adult life and career when all things seemed possible, when the fact that in less than a decade my world would turn upside down was not even a remote possibility, happiness felt so secure. And thus the gods are forever surprising us, reminding us that nothing should be taken for granted.


My marathon day with student conferences. I really earn my wages today. But although it's a long exhausting day, I always feel it's worth it to touch base one-on-one and make sure the students understand their format and rhetoric issues while there's still time to correct them.

I pick up their midterms, the reading of which defines my day tomorrow. It's going to be a sprint of a week.

Sneak preview

Monday, October 27, 2008

New reading series

From Julie Mae Madsen:

A new Reading Series

To compliment the First Wednesday series held at Blackbird Wine Shop, I am pleased to present: Third Tuesdays at Krakow Koffeehouse!

Oregon Literary Review co-hosts Third Tuesdays, a series of readings and performances held at Krakow Koffeehouse, 3990 N. Interstate (at N. Shaver, next to The Alibi and blocks from N. Mississippi hip-zone), 7-8:30pm. Readers and performers interested in participating should contact Julie Mae Madsen at maemadsen AT with an expression of interest and sample work.

November 18 is Awareness Theme. [October was Breast Cancer Awareness and November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month.]

Samantha Waltz, Susan F. Lick, and Christy Caballero read November 18 at Krakow Koffeehouse.

Continuing First Wednesday, the readers for November 5 are Molly Gloss, Daniel Skach-Mills and Johnny Wow!.

Below schedule is for your December calendar bliss:

December 3: Evelyn Sharenov, Leslie Wetter and Moira McAuliffe

December 16: Lawrence Ferlinghetti Appreciation night: Ron Bloodworth, Mindie Kniss, Helen Gerhardt, Aaron Kier, Ruth Oliver and unconfirmed. If you are interested in reading, please contact me.

It never ends

Just spent time touching up the edit of the first forty seconds of the new video project, blending the audio differently. Editing, like writing, never ends. Projects aren't finished so much as abandoned ha ha.

Ah me

My doc says it will take "months" for my hamstring to heal, so I guess I hobble around for a while.

Going to spend a lot of time on music this morning. Then prepare for class this afternoon. Tomorrow is my one-on-one marathon with students.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama draws 100,000 in Denver

Birthday "adventure"

Well, it came down this way (so far). Breakfast at Nobby's, nothing unusual there, but then a trip with the dog up the gorge to Lewis & Clark Park and some runaround time. The milk run home, ending up lost in the close-in SE industrial area, navigating construction, detours and closed bridges; but along the way, an idea for the Official Celebration: make meatloaf! Yep. I have a specialty meatloaf, lamb/beef/sausage, and I made some as my gift to myself. And actually I'm glad to be home. Birthdays aren't what they used to be.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy birthday to me ...

... in an hour, and I just may be up. I'm up past my bedtime, having stayed up to watch the World Series. The Phillies, which took a 2-1 game lead tonight, was my dad's team. First big league ball game I ever saw was a Phillies home game against the Cubs, maybe 1948 or so. They won the pennant in '50 but I think it was before that. Richie Ashburn hit a home run, I remember.

Maybe I'll grab the dog and do a late night cruise, see what the street life in NW is like on a Saturday night. Been a long, long, LONG time since I was a part of that. Close down Seafood Mama's at 2, go to Quality Pie for breakfast, get home after 3 (unless you got wind of a neighborhood party to crash at QP and stumbled home at sun rise). Back when NW Portland was "just like Greenwich Village used to be," at least according to my NY agent at the time. I'm glad I was there to experience it because it's long gone.

Productive day

A productive day but in editing, not writing. Put together to opening 30 seconds ("opening credits") of the mockumentary, using footage shot by Hollie earlier. I really enjoy editing and was happy to be back at it.

But I do need to get back to the writing.

Well, the bday tomorrow and still not a clue what, if anything, I'll do to celebrate. Play it by ear obviously.

Shooting schedule, round one

Just finished the first round of shooting, 8 days in November, all the solo stuff. Now we get real. I'll need two or three more rounds ... all the dialogue scenes out of the main setting (a club), and at least one night in the club. I'm ready to rock and roll.

A busy multi-tasking day

Some terrific college football games today, which I'll watch with the AlphaSmart in my lap, writing as well. Plan to make progress on the splay and novel and also begin a shooting schedule for the mockumentary.

Still undecided on birthday plans tomorrow. Depends how ambitious I am, I guess. Could stay in bed all day ha ha.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quotation of the day

"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid. "
- Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855)


A relaxing mellow fall day. Made my fish stew for dinner.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Harriet's next opening.


Been brooding about what to do with myself on my birthday: I could take myself out to dinner, of course. Maybe go to Jake's or someplace I haven't been for a while. OR I could have an early bday, like tomorrow, and cook up a feast. I make a hell of a fisherman's stew but haven't made it for a while. The problem is cooking for one person, of course, so I'd have to make an effort to make less than usual, maybe 2 or 3 meals worth. I love cooking -- as long as it's a project. I don't enjoy sustenance cooking.

Or if the weather is good, the dog and I could take a day trip for an early dinner. There's a great family restaurant just out of The Dalles that serves turkey dinners, Thanksgiving style, year round. I might be up for that. And it's a great drive, especially if you take the back roads.

I could do both ... fisherman's stew tomorrow, turkey dinner Sunday.

Headless chicken

Man, I've been running non-stop since 6 a.m. Good to have office hours so I can sit down and relax. Exhausted but need to maintain energy for a few more hours for class, then I can collapse. Tomorrow may be a play day. TGIF.

Music class a bear. I need to find time to do more ear training on my own or I'm going to get nowhere. I actually am optimistic I can do this if I put in the work.

Been brooding a lot about Thought v. Action, writing in the head v. putting it on paper. Thought as Action. Not very existential ha ha. Mainly I brood about the novel, the subject matter of which interests me more than the other things on the stove. I'm doing nothing very fast these days.

Literally. I need to find how long it takes for a pulled hamstring to heal. It's been several months now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a wrap

Finally finished the scripts, well, all but one I'll tackle in the morning. Ended up being a longer day than I thought. I'm looking forward to Friday and the weekend actually. Lots to catch up on.


So the good guv of Alaska spends $150,000 on clothes in the month of September, paid for by the RNC. Just a hockey mom, after all. Meanwhile Obama resoles his shoes. (Memories of Stevenson ... who lost.)

Fall colors

Every fall I remember the mysterious way my father died after telling me, the last thing he ever said to me, "I'm sure glad I got to see the leaves change before I go." The reference, I assumed, was to our flight west in the morning. But it wasn't. Read the story: The Weight of My Father's Soul.

A leisurely day with papers

Have two or three hours of work to do, student scripts and such, and I plan to take all day doing it, a mellow fall day. I have a birthday Sunday and I'm at a loss what to do with it, what with H gone and our bday dinner ritual not possible ... if the weather is gone, maybe the dog and I will take a day trip. Well, first things first ... student work calls.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Office hours

On the bus ride to the university (I use park and ride) I remembered assorted programs I'll need on the new computer to do my video editing routine (Lightscribe, for example, in case I want to use it on a DVD label). No biggie. I'm really excited about having this new setup and hoping, assuming, I'll save a lot of grief down the road from trying to do too much (too much resource demand) on my old computer.

The next 2 weeks of class are pretty set and pretty busy. Next Tuesday is my marathon day, the all day conferences I do early each term.

Quotation of the day

Sometimes, I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door, and just visit now and then."

- Katharine Hepburn

2 computers

My new computer arrived and I set everything up without a hitch, the KVM switch (if I have the name right) works like a charm, I have one monitor/keyboard/mouse and simply push a button to switch between computers. So the new computer is for video editing ONLY and will NEVER go on line (safety precautions), the other is all my usual stuff. Programs and hardware needed for video editing are installed and everything looks great so far. This is a terrific setup. And computers keep getting smaller. The new one, twice as powerful as the other, is half the size. So I actually lose no desk space -- in fact, I gained space because I had to clean my desk before setting up ha ha. All is well, knock on my wooden head. Now to put on my professor's cap and head to the university.

New computer

I see it's on the delivery truck. Lots of scripts to read tomorrow but maybe I can get this set up today or tonight before I hit them ... if not, well, then on Friday. Eager to get the new environment up and running.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In the mail

I did something useful today after all: I voted. My ballot arrived today, and now it's in the mail.


Low energy day. Feel like I'm coming down with something. No!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Already sent out my first revision pages of the mocku script ha ha. It never ends. But I moved to production mode in the software, so pagination is retained and all that, it's very easy to add substitute revision pages (and at the top it's even noted that they're blue ha ha).

Hope v. fraud

I see a lot of posts like this one recently:

A feeling I havn't felt in a generation
by bj57

Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 02:34:28 PM PDT

It's been a long time since I've felt the anticipation and hope building like this. This election is going to be as much generational as anything else. The young people want Obama, among others, and they are the future indeed.

I've voted already, I live where we can do mail in, and it felt good, it felt inclusive, it felt like I belonged to a movement that is the soul of my nation.

In talking to people, in reading and watching, in all my senses I feel a wave building, something right, and more than anything else, something that is needed desperately at this point in our history.

There is something coming indeed, you can feel it, like thunder in the air.

God bless America


But then things like this are beginning to appear:

Action Alert: Votes for Obama not being counted in NC!
by urthwalker

Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 12:13:13 PM PDT

My mother has been working the polls in North Carolina for early voting and has alerted me to something that I think would be important for NC voters to know. If you circle in the choice for a straight Democratic ticket (or republican for that matter), you ARE NOT casting a vote for the presidential race - you MUST fill that in separately.

She says that in the last few days alone, she has personally seen at least 200 votes intended to go to Obama that were not being counted (in other words, people telling her how excited they are to see Obama elected, only to find out that by selecting the straight democratic line, they never even cast a vote for him). It's a damn shame the polls were designed this way, but the word needs to get out about this.


Other early voters have reported a machine vote for O registering as McC right before their eyes! They report it, of course.

I'm resisting all the conspiracy theories and sticking to my belief that a landslide for O is in the making, so large that even scattered fraud can't derail it. And I surely do hope I'm right.


Just emailed the mockumentary script to the actors. Major progress today! Feel like playing the rest of the day (with the dog, I guess, ha ha).

Our worst nature

Poulsbo man's home burglarized while he's at funeral

Kitsap County sheriff's deputies say a 67-year-old man's Poulsbo, Wash., home was burglarized while he attended his wife's funeral.

POULSBO, Wash. —
Kitsap County sheriff's deputies say a 67-year-old man's Poulsbo, Wash., home was burglarized while he attended his wife's funeral.

The thieves ransacked the house and stole a decorative box that had contained his wife's urn.

Deputies told the Kitsap Sun they were called to the house on Friday afternoon. Also stolen were five firearms and the man's nearly complete collection of U.S. quarters featuring states valued at about $89.

Investigators say they have no suspects.


A very productive day so far. Did a good rewrite of the mocku script, making cuts, rearranging scenes, noting where additional writing is needed -- still hope to get a draft together today and email it to the actors tonight. Have a decent shot at doing it. Then I can think about scheduling the shoot. Only one real complicated part of this, the performances at the contest. Onward.

1000 words

And this from the eloquent Colin Powell:

I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.


Chatting with Esther

Reading that the Idaho Statesman endorsed Obama, I had to call my surrogate mom, Esther, who is in a rest home in Orofino. Esther, former mayor of Orofino (mother of my best buddy Dick, now gone 10 years), the most energetic and loud Democrat in northern Idaho, is now legally blind, she tells me, but her energy on the phone was good. She's quite a lady. She's a lady even though she tells jokes like "she was so fat if she had a broomstick up her ass, she could sweep both sides of the street." There's logging camp roots for you.

Even more amazing...

...the Idaho Statesman just endorsed Obama! This is a very big deal for a very Republican newspaper.

The Sunday Cook

Swung by the grocery store on the way home from breakfast. A chilly gray day, perfect for cooking at home: a big old turkey leg, okra, blackeyed peas from scratch, Sunday cooking and working on the mocku script.

The Sunday Plan

Off to breakfast. Then back to print what I have of the mockumentary script, which is almost everything, finish it on the AlphaSmart upstairs, back down to the basement office, input and a final rewrite ... see what I have. If I do nothing else today but finish the draft, it will be a very fine day.

Spirits up!

Headlines of the day:

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama
GOP Houston Chronicle endorses Obama
Salt Lake Tribune Endorses Obama
Very Conservative Daily Breeze endorses Obama
Naples (FL) Daily News Endorses Obama
Powell Lays The Smackdown on Bachman

Barring fraud and tragedy, it's looking better and better for election day with thoughtful Republicans and the Republican press abandoning McC's smear tactics and grossly unqualified VP selection. Almost too good to be true, so I'll hold the celebration until it actually happens.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Say what?

The Oregonian, our statewide daily rag, a mediocre conservative paper (whose new publisher cleaned house upon arrival a decade or so ago, ridding the paper of many of its best writers), endorsed Obama for President. Remarkable. It also endorsed Sen. Smith (R) for reelection, which is more in character (Smith recently called O a socialist).


Tomorrow I need to finish the draft of the mockumentary. It's doable but only if I keep my butt in the chair and the script on the screen.

The Seagull

First Seagull Flops

On this day in 1896 Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, the first of his masterpieces, premiered in St. Petersburg. The opening night was such a disaster that by Act Two Chekhov was hiding backstage from the jeering, and by 2 a.m., after hours of walking the streets alone, he was declaring, "Not if I live to be seven hundred will I write another play."


My most ambitious hyperdrama is my expansion of Chekhov's work, The Seagull Hyperdrama. Where's the equally ambitious, eccentric producer/director who would do it?

100,000 in St. Louis

No shouts of "Kill him!" or "Terrorist!", just a massive feel-good rally of hopeful optimistic supporters, over 100,000 of them. A remarkable photo, even more impressive than the one taken here during the primary.

For me, the most amazing thing about Barack's speech in Saint Louis wasn't or anything he said in particular, although it was a fine speech. It was the amazing crowd that had assembled to hear him speak. I've never seen Saint Louisans celebrate together so joyously, except maybe after a Cardinals World Series victory. I saw aging suburbanites, young loft dwellers, and elderly African-American women chatting together spontaneously, and old folks and emo kids smiling and warmingly nodding to each other. Everbody's on the same side, we' re going to restore American and we know we can pull it off in just a couple of weeks.


Dramatic structure

Willamette Writers asked me for "a writing tip" to include in an email series they have. I sent them this:

Playwright, screenwriter, director David Mamet presents the foundation of storytelling this way:

• Once upon a time …
• And then one day …
• Just when everything was going so well …
• When at the last minute …
• And then everyone …

If you can complete these sentences, you have the outlines of a tight, beginning-middle-end story. Let’s work it out for a film you probably are familiar with, E.T.

• Once upon a time … there was a lonely boy.
• And then one day … he met a stranded alien.
• Just when everything was going so well … the alien said, “E.T. go home.”
• When at the last minute … the boy revived E.T., rescued him from scientists, and helped him catch his spaceship.
• And then everyone … was sadder but wiser, learning that love is letting go.

Mamet’s paradigm focuses on the major turning points in the story, the foundation of a tight structure. Structure is like a skeleton: as skeletons, all of us look alike. But add flesh, we are different. We react to the flesh of a story – but it is the tight skeleton, structure, that holds it all together.

I incorporated this into my own take on structure to create ...


100 miles before breakfast

If I were younger, I'd grab the dog and head out, making a quick trip to Idaho to visit Esther in the old folks' center in Orofino. A seven-hour drive. However, I'm only good for about three hours these days. So no trip. However, I might do a cruise to a 24-hour restaurant for a cup of coffee. And maybe not.

Headline of the day

Conservative Talk Radio Host Endorses Obama


Friday, October 17, 2008

The coming landslide?

It's going to take fraud or something worse to budge Obama off the track he's on, which leads to a landslide. Thinking conservatives have moved his way, newspapers that seldom endorse Democrats endorse him. McCain/Palin are increasingly desperate and negative, and it still gets uglier every day, but today the Dems won a victory in court for a change, keeping the Republicans from removing hundreds of thousands of registrations from the Ohio voting lists. It's going to be an ugly couple weeks, full of attempts to remove voters, full of incredible smears, but the backers of O have to hang in and be sure to vote. O well knows, and spoke to it today, that the Democratic party is famous for grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. Not this year, he says.

There's no way this can be anything but a landslide if everyone votes fair and square.

Lifted spirits

Having a good writing session on the splay this morning definitely lifted my spirits. Seeing a good film is always uplifting, too. I was surprised how full the theater was for noon on a working day.

I feel a high productive rhythm returning -- I'm ready for one.


I was blown away by this film, to my shock. First, I have no idea how historically "accurate" it may be -- I don't care that much. What I care about is that this is a damn good film about a simpleton born into a political family and his struggles to please his father. The protagonist here is sympathetic! Maybe it's Bush, maybe it isn't -- but it's a gripping, moving, satisfying movie. I like the Bush in this film better than the Bush I've gotten to know via news media.

Morning sprint

Man, I got so much done on the splay in the last hour, I might go watch W. at noon after all. Have to decide in next half hour.

Old times, new times

B, a waitress from the "old days," was working at Nobby's this morning. She's retired but came it to help out -- and also to calm her nerves about her shrinking retirement program. At any rate, we chatted a bit about the "good old days" and retirement and the insecure future and such.

The film W. is out and I thought about seeing it at noon today. But I've already been out and I think if I keep my butt in the chair, I'll get some work done. At breakfast I came up with the next two sequences of my "stuck" screenplay, brooding even as I was chatting with B. Mental multi-tasking is the norm for a writer.

Conservatives with brains

It's important for liberals to admit that there are conservatives with brains, and two of them are Kathleen Parker and Christopher Buckley. The former writes about the latter's departure from the National Review in a recent column:

By Kathleen Parker
Friday, October 17, 2008; 12:00 AM

Christopher Buckley's endorsement of Barack Obama -- followed by his abrupt departure from the back page of the magazine his father founded, National Review -- has caused a ripple of contempt from the conservative right.
Nay, make that a tsunami of hostility. An avalanche of venom. A cataclysm of ... well, you get the idea. People are mad. Good riddance, they say, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Let us proceed, gingerly.

I am not a passive bystander to these events. Buckley is a friend, as are other members of his family, especially Uncle Reid, with whom I have worked for several years. National Review is home to many friends, and its online editor, Kathryn Jean Lopez, kindly subscribes to my column. Like Buckley, I have enjoyed a decent fragging for suggesting that Sarah Palin excuse herself from the Republican ticket.

What gives here?



My new computer has shipped and is scheduled to arrive next week. I should be in business soon thereafter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Office hours

End of week 3 -- almost 1/3 through the quarter already! Time really flies when I'm teaching. A busy class day, as I mentioned earlier I believe, but I'm caught up and ready to go.

This weekend I have a ton of stuff to do on at least 3 projects. And with the house to myself, I can work & sleep to a more erratic schedule, making noise at 3 a.m. without bothering anybody.

All is well.

One day, one deal

I bought my new computer at Woot!, a site that features a deal a day, usually a very significant sale. A video forum colleague, knowing I was looking for a 2nd computer, alerted me to it in the morning, and I ordered it immediately. By noon it was sold out. These deals, the good ones, generally sell out early.

Bon voyage

Take my wife to the airport this morning, then rush to music class, then home for last minute prep before my screenwriting class. A busy class, discussing their first script pages, which have the usual assortment of format and rhetorical errors. Only one of the students so far seems to have an immediate grasp of the form.

This weekend I hope to get a lot done on the musical arrangement for the video tone poem. Going to edit it in Vegas Movie Studio. I'm liking this program more and more, the more I play with it. It definitely is not as powerful as Premiere Elements. However, my projects don't require a lot of bells and whistles, and the Studio interface is easier to work in. I think a lot of time could be saved working in it. But I need to give it a full test run first. One possibility is using Studio for a rough cut, then importing that into PE for more sophisticated final touches. Studio also uses less computer resources, which my taxed system appreciates, although this will no longer be an issue when my 2nd computer arrives. It should ship today or tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Counting my blessings

I have my share of demons, disappointments and regrets but at the same time my life is full of fond memories, work of which I'm proud, and rewarding relationships (though I've outlived most of them). In balance, the gods have looked down on me with favor more often than with scorn. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, it doesn't take me long to find someone with far more reason than I to complain. In this context, my complaints fall into two categories: childish ego tantrums and inevitable existential angst.

This morning I awoke with more than usual appreciation of my good fortunate. And given the state of the world, I don't mind having the abundance of my life behind me. In the present tense, I still feel productive and useful. What I don't feel is connected to the degree that I used to feel, part of the price of outliving most of the important people in my life, but I manage "as a loner" well enough.

I seem to enjoy teaching more than ever, including this term, which is good since I spend a lot of time at it. In my work, I'm finally back to writing prose with energy, though in the longer run I see myself moving away from prose toward more video projects. I hope I finish my Cold War novel before I abandon prose, however. But it feels like such a "genre" piece, an outside-in piece despite its autobiographical roots, I have a hard time sticking to it. The far less commercial, more existential story I'm working on now is what keeps my interest, inside-out writing instead of the reverse, writing as exploration as much as storytelling. The Europeans still do this often. Americans, if they do it, have a hard time placing it unless the writer made a reputation decades ago when "the literary novel" was more in fashion. However, I'm sure a good deal of amazing writing is hiding somewhere on a website that gets a dozen hits a month. One day someone is going to discover and champion the significant accomplishments of these hidden works. I may not be around to see my prediction come true.

Vegas Movie Studio

Been learning the new editing program. First impression: for the basics, it's actually easier and more visual to use -- clipping, fading in and out, panning, zooming -- but the program is much less powerful than Premiere Elements. I think I'll do the video tone poem in Studio just to do a project with it. It may grow on me since the basics are so intuitive and quick.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Video editing

I still can't get Premiere Elements to run! A mysterious glitch indeed. I'll load it on the new computer coming and don't expect problems there but we'll see. In the meantime, I stumbled upon a dirt cheap copy of Sony Vegas Movie Studio, a competitor, and it arrived today, so I'll load it and see what it looks like. Good to try different editing programs, I think. Seems to have a similar feel to PE.

If all goes well, very soon I'll have two computer towers side by side, one dedicated to video, a switch to move from one to the other using the same monitor/keyboard/mouse, and an ability to share files and programs between them. This sounds too good to be true but that's what they tell me I can do. We'll see. I'm hopeful it happens without stress ha ha.


Today's bus adventure.

On the ride to school, a couple in their 20s with 2 kids about 5 got on the bus, their arms full of bakery goodies. The couple sat down together, and the kids raced to the back of the bus.

The woman was very much overweight, so much so that she had navigation challenges. The guy was football player big with spiked hair and very dark glasses, one cool dude.

We had moved along to much farther when the woman, on her cell phone, lost control of a stack of baked goods, which fell into the aisle and made a mess of crumbs and icing. The cool dude said, "Fuckin' told you this would happen" and put out his best not-my-problem, your-problem pose. The woman scrambled to the floor to try and clean up the mess, getting help from a nearby passenger.

When the mess was more or less cleaned up and the woman off the phone, the couple started bickering under their breaths at one another. Meanwhile the kids had found a passenger in the rear to befriend and entertain. Bicker, bicker. Ah, young marrieds, I thought! So much to look forward to.

What dead language?

Leave it to Maureen Dowd ...

Bellum Gallium

Manes Julii Caesaris paucis diebus aderant — “O, most bloody sight!” — cum Ioannes McCainus, mavericus et veteranus captivusque Belli Francoindosinini, et Sara Palina, barracuda borealis, qui sneerare amant Baracum Obamam causa oratorii, pillorant ut demagogi veri, Africanum-Americanum senatorem Terrae Lincolni, ad Republicanas rallias.

Rabidi subcanes candidati, pretendant “no orator as Brutis is,” ut “stir men’s blood” et disturbant mentes populi ad “a sudden flood of mutiny,” ut Wilhelmus Shakespearus scripsit.

Cum Quirites Americani ad rallias Republicanas audiunt nomen Baraci Husseini Obamae, clamant “Mortem!” “Amator terroris!” “Socialiste!” “Bomba Obamam!” “Obama est Arabus!” “Caput excidi!” tempus sit rabble-rouseribus desistere “Smear Talk Express,” ut Stephanus Colbertus dixit. Obama demonatus est tamquam Musulmanus-Manchurianus candidatus — civis “collo-cerviciliaris” ad ralliam Floridianam Palinae exhabet mascum Obamae ut Luciferis.

Obama non queretur high-tech lynching. Sed secreto-serventes agentes nervosissmi sunt.

Vix quisque audivit nomen “Palinae” ante lunibus paucis. Surgivit ex suo tanning bed ad silvas in Terram Eskimorum, rogans quis sit traitorosus, ominosus, scurrilosus, periculosus amator LXs terroris criminalisque Chicagoani? Tu betchus!

“Caeca ambitio Obamana,” novum rumorem Palina McCainusque dixit. “Cum utilis, Obama laborat cum amatore terroris Wilhelmo Ayro. Cum putatus, perjuravit.” McCainianus bossus maximus Francus Keatinx vocat Obamam, “plebeium,” et ut iuvenum snifferendum cocaini minimi (“a little blow.”)

Cum Primus Dudus, spousus Palinanus, culpari attemptaret “Centurionem-Gate,” judices Terrae Santae Elvorumque castigat gubernatricem Palinam de abusu auctoritatis per familiam revengendum.

Tamen Sara et Ioannes bury Obama, not praise him. Maverici, ut capiunt auxilium de friga-domina, hench-femina, Cynthia McCaina Birrabaronessa, (quae culpat Obamam periculandi suum filum in Babylonia), brazen-iter distractant mentes populares de minimissimis IV 0 I K.ibus, deminutione “Motorum Omnium,” et Depressione Magna II.0. Omnes de Georgio Busio Secundo colossale goofballo. “V” (because there’s no W. in Latin) etiam duxit per disastrum ad gymnasium.

Gubernatrix (prope Russia) Palina, spectans candidaciam MMXII, post multam educationem cum Kissingro et post multam parodiam de Sabbatis Nocte Vivo atque de Tina Feia, ferociter vituperat Obamam, ut supralupocidit (aerial shooting of wolves) in Hyperborea.

Vilmingtoni, in Ohionem, McCain’s Mean Girl (Ferox Puella) defendit se gladiatricem politicam esse: “Pauci dicant, O Jupiter, te negativam esse. Non, negativa non sum, sed verissima.” Talk about lipsticka in porcam! Quasi Leeus Atwater de oppugnatione Busii Primi ad Dukakem: “non negativus, sed comparativus.”


Sudden turnaround

On the Alphasmart at Starbucks, a change of scenery to get some work done on the novel, and by the gods, it worked! I started writing up a storm as soon as I got here. Not a bad little ritual for the day. Feels good to be "into" the story again.

Still "stuck" on the splay, however, and maybe I need the same sort of abandon to get back into it.


It's rather spectacular how much writing I'm getting done here. It's as if all the buzz around me requires increased concentration, which in turn gets the juices flowing. I'm writing practically non-stop on the novel, occasionally switch here, a typing machine!


4 pages on the Alphasmart, a good morning of prose work. Now to return home, imput it into the manuscript, polish and see what I have.

Back home. How invigorating to write over 1000 words on the novel this morning! Been a while. When the work is going well, my attitude improves exponentially. A good day, and I'm looking forward to class.


At the end of class on Thursday, I gave my students an in-class writing exercise -- and they nailed it. Really nice to see. Today I pick up first script pages from them, so Thursday we'll get into gear in earnest, focusing on their work. Looking like a good class. I've been getting good ones lately.

A little prep to do but I also hope to write another short chapter on the novel this morning. And maybe work a bit on the music drama and/or screenplay. Lots of projects lined up ... maybe too many. But better too many than too few.

Palin & Orwell

Editorial in this morning's Anchorage Daily News.
clipped from

Palin vindicated?

Governor offers Orwellian spin

Sarah Palin's reaction to the Legislature's Troopergate report is an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation.

She claims the report "vindicates" her. She said that the investigation found "no unlawful or unethical activity on my part."

Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.

Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says: "I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."

In plain English, she did something "unlawful." She broke the state ethics law.

Palin's response is the kind of political "big lie" that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down.

You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?

Bottom line: Gov. Palin, read the report. It says you violated the ethics law.
 blog it

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is an entertaining movie, how can it not be with Bill Maher as our guide?, but it's also a stacked deck. It's not grossly manipulative the way a Michael Moore "documentary" can be -- Maher seems like a hell of a lot nicer guy, with fewer chips on his shoulder, than Moore -- but it's also not entirely fair to its subject matter. The failing here is to concentrate on religious extremists and not address the more challenging and interesting question of the role, if any, of faith and spiritual matters in a "rational" approach to human events. The result is that the movie is more entertaining than enlightening but well worth seeing.

Lolita at Middle Age


"Just look at the text, damn it! 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.' See that? Not just 'fire of my loins,' which you respond to clearly enough; but also, which you don't see at all, 'light of my life'! See that?"

That is a beleaguered office mate I once had, trying hard to complicate the point of view of a student, a student who said he regarded the novel as "porn, pure porn, and I should know."

My colleague, maybe not displaying the calm and respectful manner we all don when dealing with students, still managed to catch in his quivering paws one enduring conflict that has marked responses to the novel: love or lust, romantic classic or evasive testimony to perversion?

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, published in America 50 years ago, has engendered the most embarrassed, looking-sideways-for-the-exit, highfalutin, and obscurantist talk of any book ever written — any. Only a handful of critics have been forthright, most famously, Lionel Trilling: "Lolita is about love. Perhaps I shall be better understood if I put the statement in this form: Lolita is not about sex, but about love."


106-Year-Old Nun First Vote in 50+ Years -- for Obama

Bless Sister Cecilia Gaudette, a 106-year-old American nun living in Rome. The BBC News reports that Gaudette has registered to vote -- Democratic -- and is casting her first ballot since voting for Eisenhower in 1952 for Barack Obama.



Looking over my most recent site stats. The blog here is getting 111 unique visitors daily. The review, 36. Not great but not bad.

Wee hours

Crashed a few hours ago but can't get to sleep, the head buzzing with this and that, so back up to do computer grunt work. Managed to get some good work done late Sunday, which pleases me. While cleaning up directories on a hard drive, I found the beginning of a two-voice music drama I started summer before last and liked it, so I fiddled with it some, beginning to compose for the opening of the libretto. It's a simple, clear story. Only two voices. Something I might be able to handle already. I'll keep it on the back burner to turn to periodically.

I believe we're going to a film tomorrow afternoon, the documentary on religion I've been eager to see. H leaves Thursday to spend time with a new grandchild in D.C., so I'll be baching it for about 2 and a half weeks. I'm married to a traveling lady.

Sitting on ready for the new computer and switches I bought. I also bought some dirt cheap copies of editing software for backup. I still can't get my program running. A pain in the butt. Nobody (on the forums) can figure out what's wrong either. All because I tried to install a demo. Jesus. I can see why the old hands at editing have a dedicated computer which they guard with their lives. I'm going to start doing the same. Get it right and then add NOTHING to it and keep it OFFLINE. That seems to be the ticket if you don't want to flirt with crashes.

Heard a bit of Harold Bloom on the radio. Optimism for the future if we generate solar energy from panels put in space. I'd love to see us hit full speed on developing energy independence. It would change so much for the better. Get our infra-structures repaired, focus some energy at home for a change. Such projects would put lots of people to work.

Projects on the burners (too many, but that's par for the course):
  • screenplay
  • novel
  • 3 video projects
    • mockumentary
    • Donnelly project
    • tone poem
  • 2-voice music drama

Not to mention teaching, ear training ... and I still find excuses not to work ha ha.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


UN Drafts Green New Deal For President Obama
by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse

There has been some debate over the impact of this financial crisis on President Obama's ability to address global warming. Well, UN leaders and top economists are not buying the can-not-do meme. Instead, they are drafting a "Green New Deal" to "create millions of jobs, revive the world economy, slash poverty and avert environmental disaster, as the financial markets plunge into their deepest crisis since the Great Depression."

The Green New Deal will ask world leaders, including our new President Obama, to "promote a massive redirection of investment away from the speculation that has caused the bursting 'financial and housing bubbles' and into job-creating programmes to restore the natural systems that underpin the world economy." Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Green New Deal is based on providing work for the poor as well as reforming financial practices while sustaining environmental resources.

This new initiative has already received funding by Germany, Norway and the European Commission and is based on a 2006 G8 summit study on the economic value of ecosystems.



Suddenly to work, made good progress on the mockumentary script, maybe one or two sessions from finishing a draft. Going to be great fun.

Sunday inertia

Getting very little done today, which appears to be the story lately. Old age? Cosmic funk? Paying dues for earlier high production?

The Donnelly project

Selected five of John Donnelly's ten-minute plays to adapt to video on a single DVD. This is a project I look forward to. It's a "different gig" when you're trying to communicate/adapt someone else's story and vision. I think this can be a hot DVD if I do my job right. The material is there.


3 priorities today: the mockumentary script; ear training; the novel. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

McCain according to Hollywood

Barry Levinson

Hollywood Memo to McCain: "Don't Start Shooting Without a Script."

Over the years since directing Wag The Dog I have been asked whether Hollywood producers are directly involved in political campaigns. I hear rumors from time to time that they might be pulling the strings but no hard evidence. But my suspicion is, no Hollywood producer is involved in the McCain presidential run. I say this for a simple reason, it's badly orchestrated, lacks a narrative, and when they come across a good story idea they bungle it. An example: When McCain left the campaign trail to return to Washington to help solve the financial crisis it blew up in his face. It made him seem erratic, ineffectual, and worse of all, not true to his words. There's an old Hollywood axiom that says, "Don't put the leading man in a scene that makes him look bad."

The shooting script of McCain's failed political move would have been played out differently.


(A light rain falls.)

(DON ANDERSON, a young correspondent, talks to the camera)

We are getting reports that John McCain is leaving the campaign trail within the hour.

(Now on a split screen)
What reason are they giving, Don?

What we are hearing and this is unconfirmed, but Senator McCain is going to Washington. The speculation is, it has to do with the economic crisis the country is now facing.

This would be unprecedented, actually stop campaigning?

That's right. But I have no other information at this time. We can only confirm that he in fact is going to Washington

This is a big story and we're going to stay on top of it.

(4 hours later)

(Don, our correspondent, now in front of the capital.)

We have been hearing rumors that John McCain has been meeting with members of both parties in private talks about the economic crisis. I have heard this from a number of Congressmen, but no one in the McCain camp will confirm this.

And Senator McCain has not spoken to any reporters at all?

No. But an aide has said to me privately that John McCain is trying to stay under the radar--he doesn't want to make this about him. He is trying to work with various members of Congress without the glare of the cameras.

What about the debate on Friday?

Hold on one second, I am getting some new information here.....A close aide to John McCain had this to say, "John would prefer to cancel the debate on Friday due to this unprecedented financial crisis, but if his opponent, Mr. Obama, wants to debate, John McCain will make himself available." So the ball is in Obama's court now.

Will McCain make a public appearance on this situation?

What I am hearing is "no" ......His camp has made it clear, he doesn't want to make this a political football.....there is too much at stake. But I re-iterate, John McCain has not made any statement on what might be called a historic decision. In my memory, I have never heard of a candidate leaving the campaign trail. But it is consistent with his maverick style.


This is a rough draft of a scene, but the point being nothing is better than letting others build the drama, others talking about your integrity, others calling you a maverick.

In the old westerns, the fastest gun in the west never said he was the fastest, others said it. And if the gunslinger said he was the fastest? That was comic relief.


The Met: Live on HD!

I cannot recommend this series highly enough. You feel like you're at the Met with better than box seats, and you also get rare views behind the scenes and interviews with leading participants. This is a great way to see opera.

But some contexts serve this approach -- opera as film -- better than others. Today we saw Strauss' Salome, which didn't work as well as film for me. The reason? The casting. Karita Mattila is fantastic as Salome except for one thing: she is too old for the part. On CD, in a traditional setting with the audience distant from the actors, this would not matter. But in film closeups, when you see a daughter that looks older than her mother, well, it ruined my suspension of disbelief. When she did the famous dance of the veils, I didn't see an erotic daughter dancing (Isolt at 16, according to the composer), I saw a middle-aged stripper in a downtown dive still having to dance to make rent. H didn't have this problem, so maybe it's a male thing. But Salome as middle-aged simply didn't work for me.

All the same, two parts of the opera, the rabbis arguing about religion and the ending with Salome's long aria to a severed head, worked well in an opera that isn't a favorite of mine anyway.

Next up, which I'm really looking forward to, is Adams' Doctor Atomic on November 11th.

We'll see over a dozen operas this year!

P.S. We estimated that about 90% of the audience was ... over 60! You'd think music students would take advantage of this. I suppose 10 a.m. is too early for them.

Adventures at Catlin Gabel

One of my fond memories of teaching is of my experience at the Catlin Gabel school, a special private school in Portland. This was in the 1980s.

Catlin Gabel serves Portland and the world as an educational catalyst, drawing together dedicated educators, motivated students, superb curricular resources, and thoughtfully applied technology, in a beautiful and functional setting, all for the purpose of forming bold learners who become responsible action-takers for life. Catlin Gabel is an independent, non-sectarian, progressive coeducational day school.


Catlin Gabel has a special fund for hiring artists and writers for residencies at the school. I received a Writer in Residence invitation and accepted it. I spent a term up at the school, teaching a class and working with students on their writing projects. The experience was so successful that students wanted me for a second term, but the fund permitted one term only. However, the administrators found a way around it and hired me for a second term as a "Scholar in Residence." It was during this second term that I had the memorable experience.

For the second term, I suggested teaching a class in hyperdrama, directing the students to write and produce a one-act hyperdrama for campus. So this is what we did. I had ten students. Class was held in a cabin in the woods near the soccer field. The only drawback, for the students not I, was that the class began early in the morning.

Here are some random memories of what proved to be an extraordinary experience.

The students. Varied, all bright, but from different backgrounds with different future goals. This became epitomized by the latent hostility between two young women in the class (these were all high school seniors): one, wealthy, wearing the latest style, who wanted to become an art director for an ad agency; the other, bohemian, unkempt, who wanted to ride her bike around the world. The latter used to love to sit across the seminar table from the former and cross her hands behind her head, lifting her arms to reveal her unshaved armpits, which grossed out the former so much that she eventually took me aside to ask if I could get her to stop it.

The bohemian girl was quite her own person and refused to do any of the assignments or any of the collaborative work involved in writing, rehearsing and presenting a hyperdrama. However, a student came up with a brilliant way to include her. The woman wrote poetry -- so in the play, a part was written for her as a ghost who wandered randomly through the action reciting her poems. Amazingly enough, it worked! It actually was quite comic in effect.

One morning on the bus up to campus, I found the bohemian girl sitting in the back of the bus. I joined her. She looked totally hungover. What's going on? I asked. She brought out a handful of Russian coins. She told me she'd spent the night on a Russian ship that was docked in town, spent the night partying with Russian sailors on their ship! (I hope this woman became a writer ha ha.)

The hyperdrama was brilliant and included a film within the play. Not only did they write and produce a play, they made a film that was shown during the play! Absolutely amazing kids. The story was about a student rebellion at Catlin when a new Head Master decides to make French the official school language. (They came up with this because they all hated their French class.) The film was a satire of the video sent to parents of prospective students.

The production was brilliant, I thought, but in fact it puzzled almost everyone, who had never seen a hyperdrama before. But the kids -- the performers and the audience -- loved it. Everybody wanted to do it again but no more funds could be found to return me to campus, so that ended my wonderful experience at the Catlin Gabel School.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quotation of the day

"The cure for anything is salt water -- sweat, tears, or the sea."

--Isak Dinesen

Opera HD Live at the Met

First in the series tomorrow morning, Salome, a great way to start the weekend!

The state of literature

First of all, I'd like to congratulate J. M. G. Le Clezio, the French-born author who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, announced yesterday. In 2004, my publisher, the independent non-profit Curbstone Press, published a translation of Le Clezio's Etoile errante, with the title Wandering Star. The novel--about two women, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and a Palestinian refugee whose paths intersect with the birth of the State of Israel--was one of founder and editorial director Alexander Taylor's favorites in his 32-year career.

...three years after its publication, it had sold less than 500 copies.

It was also one of his biggest disappointments, as he told me when we had lunch together a year ago. The book received minimal reviews, media coverage, and bookstore orders; three years after its publication, it had sold less than 500 copies.


Change of tactics?

From a McCain rally in Minnesota today as reported by Politico's Amie Parnes:

A man in the audience stood up and told McCain he's "scared" of an Obama presidency and who he'd select for the Supreme Court.

"I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain said as the crowd booed and shouted "Come on, John!"

"If I didn't think I'd be a heck of a lot better, I wouldn't be running for president of the united states."


Letters to Marilyn

In the 60s and 70s, the gifted writer Marilyn Krysl and I were energetic pen pals. Yesterday the mail brought a shocking, surprise gift from her: all of my letters. (I never saved letters from anyone myself.) A huge number of them. Curious to look at them before sending them on to the library for my archive.

Krysl is funny, fierce, and feminist in the best possible way, and a technician of variety and resourcefulness. I read her short stories with considerable pleasure, surprise, and admiration.

—John Updike

Yeah, right

N.Y. county sends out absentee ballots listing Barack 'Osama'

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's last name is spelled "Osama" on hundreds of absentee ballots mailed out this week to voters in Rensselaer County.

''This was a typo,'' Rensselaer County (N.Y.) Republican Commissioner Larry Bugbee tells the Albany Times Union in one of the biggest understatements of the campaign.


More moderate Republicans are leaving McCain. But McCain, instead of trying to calm the ugly rallies of late, calls them normal down home Americans.


I give lousy interviews. I go off on too many sidetracks with too much excitement. But I did it, and it's done.

Wall Street Blues

Basing an economy on the fears and expectations of stockholders strikes me a little like basing a justice system on the whims of a mob. There must be a better way. Of course, the old Soviet Union tried something very different and made a total mess of it. There appear to be no easy ways to structure an economy. But by the gods, does it have to be this irrational and crazy?

I wonder if my friend in Bali has room for two people and a small dog to crash.

Hero of the day

Christopher Buckley is a very fine comic novelist. His comedy on aliens Little Green Men is wonderful. He also, of course, is the son of the famous Conservative Guru and a conservative Republican himself. So this is a significant change for him.

Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama
by Christopher Buckley

Let me be the latest conservative/libertarian/whatever to leap onto the Barack Obama bandwagon. It’s a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive. They’d cut off my allowance.

Or would they? But let’s get that part out of the way. The only reason my vote would be of any interest to anyone is that my last name happens to be Buckley—a name I inherited. So in the event anyone notices or cares, the headline will be: “William F. Buckley’s Son Says He Is Pro-Obama.” I know, I know: It lacks the throw-weight of “Ron Reagan Jr. to Address Democratic Convention,” but it’ll have to do.


The Phillies

Saw the end of the Phillies game last night, Phillies beating the Dodgers 3-2. I'm rooting for the Phillies, my dad's team, since my teams (Mariners, Giants) are long gone. I saw my first major league game in Philadelphia, Phillies v. Cubs, in 1950 when they won the pennant. Moreover, as a grad student in the 60s and early 70s, the Eugene had the AAA Phillies team. I have many fond memories of beer and peanuts at an Emeralds game with a dozen fellow grad students. Indeed, in one memorable game, when it was announced that beer was a quarter (I believe it was) through the entire fourth inning, something like a dozen runs were scored in the 4th! The inning lasted forever and few of us stayed upright for the 9th. Ah, great times.

I never liked the Dodgers. I rooted for the Angels in the old Pacific Coast League. I hated the Hollywood Stars. I hated the Dodgers, especially when they came west. But I did see a lot of Dodger games because my in-laws at the time had fancy season box seats. But this was baseball? No beer and peanuts. We sat in office chairs at small tables, being served by Hollywood starlet waitresses, drinking martinis and eating stuffed mushrooms. Seems like another life, so long ago. I hated going to those games but didn't see a way to get out of it without destroying the marriage, which, of course, eventually happened anyway.

One thing I miss about not being a grandpa is having no grandkid to watch in baseball, soccer, basketball, etc.

Insight of the day

The difference between philosophy and theology:
if you have an argument over philosophy, you get red in the face. Over theology you throw bombs.

(Source unknown.)

Radio interview

I'm being interview this afternoon by Wayne Potter for his Keeping Kurrent radio show, on the OMNI Media Network (Tuesdays, 2pm) and later archived on the web. I'll provide a link when it's up. He wants to talk about contemporary issues of publishing and literature, the kind of things I write about in my blog.

I don't do many interviews any more. During my most visible decades, the 70s and 80s, this sort of thing happened regularly, but I can't say I've missed it. I'm far less interested in "publicity", indeed in all the social wrappings of the arts, than I used to be. This is more true all the time as I age, it seems, especially recently when I've been fascinated by a subtle change in my process and the suggestion that eventually I'll do all my work in my head, not even bothering to put it on paper. This sounds like the ultimate action of "art for art's sake" -- one doesn't even communicate the work or give it body for future communication! I'm far from being there yet but I sense the shift, however slight at the moment, in this direction. In a sense, this is the same mental journey Brown reveals in Love's Body but it all seemed so theoretical before. Now I am beginning to sense it more in my own writerly rhythm. Fascinating stuff.

The last radio interview I did was on our local public radio station. Publisher Joe Bianco and I plugged the new anthology I edited, Oregon Fever. Access the interview here.

Hello from Bali

Finally heard from my friend who moved to Bali. Sounds like this will be a great move for her.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Personal consequences

In the past week, due to the market plunge, we've lost about a year's living expenses. And the week ahead?


A decade and more ago, we talked of living downtown when we retire. Soon enough, alas, downtown property values skyrocketed out of our price range. New condo projects, however, included units for limited income folks -- but we had too much money to qualify. Well, the way the market is going, we might not have too much money to qualify a month or several from now! Of course, by then the waiting list for those living quarters will be very long indeed.

Music class (sight singing and reading) was incredible. He threw us into the water, sing or swim, by playing simple tunes and having us write down the music. I didn't do well at all. Of the 16 in class, about 4 or 5 seemed to know what they were doing, the rest of us were throwing darts in the dark. "Well, that note goes up, maybe it's this ..." etc. A challenging class, to say the least, and there's nowhere for me to go but up.

Friday's two heroes


Chicago's Cook County won't evict in foreclosures

CHICAGO (AP) — The sheriff here said Wednesday that he's ordering his deputies to stop evicting people from foreclosed properties because many people his office has helped throw out on the street are renters who did nothing wrong.
"We will no longer be a party to something that's so unjust," a visibly angry Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at a news conference.
"We have to be sure that when we are doing this — and we are destroying some people's lives — we better be darned sure we're talking about the right people," Dart said.
Dart said that from now on, banks will have to present his office with a court affidavit that proves the home's occupant is either the owner or has been properly notified of the foreclosure proceedings.
Illinois law requires that renters be notified that their residence is in foreclosure and they will be evicted in 120 days, but Dart indicated that the law has been routinely ignored.



From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli

ST. JOSEPH, MO – Joe Biden echoed the campaign’s response to continued Republican efforts to highlight Obama’s past associations, adding a personal touch to the idea that McCain wasn’t willing to make the attacks in person.

“All of the things they said about Barack Obama in the TV, on the TV, at their rallies, and now on YouTube … John McCain could not bring himself to look Barack Obama in the eye and say the same things to him,” Biden said this morning. “In my neighborhood, when you’ve got something to say to a guy, you look him in the eye and you say it to him."

Observation of the day

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture...

--Elvis Costello

Hence, "The proper response to poetry is not criticism but poetry" (Norman O. Brown).

Has American lit become irrelevant?

The Nobel Prize committee seems to think so.

"...remarks by the secretive Nobel Academy’s permanent secretary, Horace Engdahl, suggesting that American writers were too much under the sway of American popular culture to qualify for the prize..."--NYT 10-9-2008, "French Writer Wins Nobel Prize" by Alan Cowell.

This echoes my own sentiments about our literature being too driven by "pop lit", which began with comments on Amazon's new book popularity contest. Go to discussion.

But artists are artists despite the political or economic or literary climate. I believe certainly that extraordinary literary writing is being put somewhere on the net even as I write. There's extraordinary, if invisible, talent out there.

Dedicated computer

Networking with video folks, I've learned that many have a computer dedicated to their video work, then use a 2nd for email, the web, etc. They do this to keep the video computer "clean" from the many changes that can affect temperamental editing programs. They use a switch between the computers, so they need only one monitor, keyboard, etc. Sounds like something to look into.

Wishful thinking?

458-80 ... wouldn't this be sweet?


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Good for Campbell Brown!

Look, everybody, we all know that we are in unchartered territory here. Never before has there been an African-American presidential nominee. So without question, race is going to be part of the conversation. Race baiting doesn't have to be. And yet, it is happening in this campaign.

Twice this week, surrogates for Senator McCain had made a point of calling Senator Obama "Barack Hussein Obama." The implication here is clear. It's foreign sounding. It's Muslim sounding. It's un-American sounding. It's dangerous sounding.

What it is, is race baiting. And that is what is dangerous. Inciting crowds, encouraging their angry outbursts. McCain supporters shouting "treason" and "terrorist" about Obama at these rallies — that is dangerous.

Earlier in the campaign, McCain denounced this stuff. He strongly denounced it. And today, it requires a stronger response, a much stronger denunciation than a campaign-generated paper statement.


Instant T-shirts

Man, it didn't take long for the "that one" shirts to appear! Check them out.

Another day, another computer nightmare

This time not a crash but a software problem, which I still can't fix. Actors party tonight to watch the silent comedy, so I definitely need to improve my mood.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Body language

After the debate ...

In a quick, easily missed moment, the camera is alternating between shots of Obama, McCain and their wives walking around, shaking hands with the audience. Then... the McCain's and Obama's end up next to each other. John, Cindy, Michele and Barack. McCain proceeds to reach behind his wife, and gives Michele a couple of quick pats on the back. Barack reaches out in front of Michele and Cindy to shake John's hand. McCain, hesitates briefly and proceeds to gesture to his wife to shake Obama's hand.

McCain can't even bring himself to shake his opponents hand. The most basic and civil of human interactions. It was actually shocking and we watched it several times, in disbelief. This from the candidate who asserts at every opportunity that he can work with others. If anyone is able to find this clip and provide and youtube link, that would be great. The visual was truly shocking on a fundamental, human level.


Our sad state of affairs

Retirement Accounts Have Lost $2 Trillion

WASHINGTON — Americans' retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion in the past 15 months _ about 20 percent of their value _ Congress' top budget analyst estimated Tuesday as lawmakers began investigating how turmoil in the financial industry is whittling away workers' nest eggs.



Did a lot of necessary grunt work on the mockumentary script this morning, importing what some of the actors have written. I'll get heavily into shaping the script this weekend. Only about half of those saying they'd contribute actually sent me pages, so I also have more writing to do myself. I'd like to have a good draft by the middle of the month, so I can schedule the shooting.

Their hate-mongering strategy

Where's it end?

Obama Hatred On Display Again At Palin Rally, Supporter Screams "Treason!"

In the latest instance of inflammatory outbursts at McCain-Palin rallies, a crowd member screamed "treason!" during an event on Tuesday after Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of criticizing U.S. troops.

 blog it


The worst thing about growing old is not that your bones ache or your memory lapses or a youth-obsessed culture pushes you into the shadows -- no, it's that you've lived long enough and observed enough human behavior to realize that our species learns nothing from past mistakes; that the darkest moments of history repeat themselves. I fear we are approaching such an encore performance, what with the McCain/Palin campaign egging on our worst, bigoted crazies; the consequences of economic deregulation raining down in a firestorm; extremists of every brand winning the fight for minds as an enlightened educational system becomes more and more marginal; the consequences of global warming just beginning to come into play. The new Dark Ages that Andre talked about in My Dinner With Andre, which seemed theoretical in the present tense of the film, doesn't seem far away at all today.

And yet there are huge crowds of enthusiastic citizens who want and see something better in the future. Our better nature isn't giving up without a fight.

I have no idea how all this is going to turn out. But we can't get by "by the skin of our teeth," to use Thornton Wilder's phrase, forever.

An open letter to Colin Powell

Dear General Powell,

I am writing today to urge you to end your silence on the presidential campaign and to publicly endorse Barack Obama. I do so because I believe you to be a man of honor and integrity who has devoted his life to the service of our country. I do so because I believe your country needs your service now more than ever. Given the numerous problems America now faces at home and abroad, and the severity of those problems, this election was already going to be the most important of our lifetime, but by his desperate - and dangerous - efforts to avoid defeat through demonizing Barack Obama, John McCain has upped the ante even further. This election is now about hate, about fear, about the resurrected nightmare of open and overt racism. This is no longer merely a battle for control of the White House, it is a battle for the soul of America. And it is a battle you must join, sir, as difficult as that choice may be.
I assume you have heard the statements by John McCain's campaign staff that their new attacks on Senator Obama's character and associations were needed because they knew their candidate would lose if voters continued to focus on the actual issues, especially the economy. I assume you have seen the means by which that despicable strategy was launched this past weekend with Sarah Palin's assertion that Senator Obama was somehow directly connected with terrorists, a speech which even the Associated Press described as "racially-tinged."

But sir, have you seen the effect this new campaign ploy has had on the public? Have you seen how the racists who have been smearing Senator Obama for months on the internet and through email campaigns have now been empowered to emerge from the shadows in which they were hiding and openly proclaim their hatred? Have you read the grotesque racist rantings of Senator McCain's campaign chair in Buchanan County, Virginia? Did you watch Seam Hannity's recent broadcast featuring Andy Martin, a notorious anti-Semite who proudly claims to be responsible for launching the baseless rumor that Barack Obama is a Muslim? Most important, have you read the reports describing how members of the audience at recent speeches by both Sarah Palin and John McCain have shouted "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" when Barack Obama was mentioned, and that McCain and Palin said nothing in response? This situation is not merely ugly and it is not merely dangerous. This is insanity.

Full letter