Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Too bad

clipped from


BCS rejects plan to turn system into 4-team playoff

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - There will be no playoff for the BCS anytime soon. Bowl Championship Series officials rejected a plan Wednesday to turn the controversial system for deciding a national champ into a four-team playoff, starting in the 2010 season.

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Adventures in etymology

I love stories like this.
clipped from


People of Lesbos take gay group to court over term 'Lesbian'

By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS, Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece - A Greek court has been asked to draw the line between the natives of the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos and the world's gay women.

Three islanders from Lesbos — home of the ancient poet Sappho, who praised love between women — have taken a gay rights group to court for using the word lesbian in its name.

One of the plaintiffs said Wednesday that the name of the association, Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, "insults the identity" of the people of Lesbos, who are also known as Lesbians.

"My sister can't say she is a Lesbian," said Dimitris Lambrou. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos," he said.
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The screenplay at a glance

Sometimes a screenplay comes in from a student that I can tell at a glance has serious problems. I can do this without reading a word. The giveaway is "text density" -- there is so much of it on the page, so little white space, that the writer clearly misunderstands what it is s/he is supposed to be doing. The same thing happens when I'm a judge in a screenplay competition: I find scripts I reject unread. They simply do not present themselves as screenplays. This is the classic case of the writer shooting himself in the foot.

I had an extreme case this term. A student turned in a script with two long paragraphs that took up the entire first page. Well, he turned in the rewrite with the midterm and it's great! Short paragraphs, simple sentences, the narrative darting forward nicely in an airy script that moves the eye vertically as much as horizontally -- a spec screenplay! It's satisfying to see someone "get it" and especially as quickly as this. From disaster to good screenwriting in one rewrite.

The reason I have one-on-one conferences with each student is to make sure they understand the format and rhetorical hoops they must jump through. Screenwriting is primarily about storytelling, and the quicker all the other issues are out of the way, the better. Let format and rhetoric serve the story, which comes first.


Today is dedicated to reading midterms -- and it's usually a good experience. I always have them write a short script to a specific requirement (in this instance, I give them the required first scene of the story), and most do a decent job, showing they are beginning to master the format and rhetorical issues of the craft and can begin to focus on storytelling issues, which is where the emphasis in screenwriting should be. Correct format and a lean, clean writing style must become "givens." So this is a day I look forward to.

And I'm already ready for my Finale class tonight. I'm not, however, ready for music theory tomorrow, so I need to spend an hour on that today as well.

I'm excited to have drafted the silent comedy yesterday. It's very rough -- but hey, any start is better than none. You can't rewrite a blank page.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sophocles again

Sophocles users, including myself, are still trying to find out what's going on with the screenwriting software company. There's some discussion of this at the Done Deal forum. The Sophocles website has disappeared. The domain, however, remains active until July 1, according to domain records:


Promote your business to millions of viewers for only $1 a month
Learn how you can get an Enhanced Business Listing here for your domain name.
Learn more at

Administrative Contact:
Tim tsheehan@SOPHOCLES.NET
Tim Sheehan
Sheehan Software
3248 Washington St., #2
San Francisco, CA 94115
999 999 9999 fax: 999 999 9999

Technical Contact:
Uzzanti, Tim
Crystaltech Web Hosting Inc.
6135 N 7th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85014
915-479-5151 fax: 915-585-9400

Record expires on 01-Jul-2008.
Record created on 01-Jul-1999.

I've had cordial communication with Tim in the past but he hasn't replied to a recent email about his company. The email did not get returned, however. One theory is that the company was sold but if so, this is a poor way to do the business of transition (unless it was gobbled up to get rid of it). We may never know what happened.

Meanwhile, I'll keep using the program, a damn good one, until it crashes and I have to use something else.


Got through all the student conferences with a tad of energy left for class. Just have to show a video and discuss it afterwards. Onward.

Student crises

A couple of my students may be asking for Incompletes, their personal lives rearing up stressful obstacles to doing the work they should be doing. I'm always ready to be flexible on such matters. After all, I had something close to a nervous breakdown in grad school and dropped out myself, and if it had not been for my department chair, Kester Svendsen, I might not have been readmitted later. But Svendsen put a letter in my file to reinstate me whenever I reappeared. Lucky because he died of cancer while I was rehabilitating (and becoming a writer in the process), so couldn't have stood up for me in person. I owe Svendsen a lot -- and try to return his favor to my own students.

What, a draft?

Somehow or other, pounding out script between student visits, I have a draft of the short silent comedy. At least, I typed THE END. We'll see how it looks after a few days simmering. I may have too many title cards. But lots of intrigue, fun, double dealing, and opportunities for wonderful exaggerated acting, especially of grief and of suspicion. What fun.

In the office

Met with my three early students, had a break sufficient for running out for a quick breakfast, back and waiting for the deluge. While waiting, started the silent comedy script and already have fun with it. But what a different story strategy in this genre!

A long day

Once a term I spend a day meeting one-on-one with my students, and this is the day. Fortunately I have a break around ten, so I can grab some breakfast. In class, I'm showing The Monster That Ate Hollywood. Be about a 12-hour day.

Once is not enough

G. and M., the stars of that gem of an indie film Once, passed through town last night, and we were there in the large auditorium to see them. After handing over a complete first set to two Irish musicians traveling with them, they came on stage, where a huge adoring crowd kept them singing for almost two hours. This has been quite a ride for them, a real fairytale. (In a zero-sum universe, balances out that creep who kept a daughter in a basement for decades, screwing kids out of her.) G. seems like a nice guy. He even brought a local guy he'd met that afternoon on a walk on stage to sing.

I'm not big on crowd-events, be they musical or sports or anything else, so I didn't enjoy the evening as much as H. did. I prefer the movie to the concert, and I like the songs better in the film's context than otherwise. But my lack of ga-ga put me in a small minority.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not with a bang but a whimper

clipped from


Iranian official warns against importing Barbie dolls

TEHRAN, Iran - A top Iranian judiciary official has warned against the "destructive" cultural and social consequences of importing Barbie dolls and other Western toys.

Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi said in an official letter to Vice President Parviz Davoudi that the Western toys was a "danger" that needed to be stopped.
Iranian markets have been inundated with smuggled Western toys in recent years partly due to a dramatic rise in purchasing power as a result of huge increase in oil revenues.
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Virtual Yardy

Imagine a novel that takes place in cyberspace. Now imagine a group of mainly Jamaican bloggers who have never met each other and they plan a meet-up in Negril and one of them is murdered. Then, they find out that the murderer, a Jamaican Cotton Mather, has plans to kill all of them to rid the island of “fornication, corruption, and battymanism.” This is Geoffrey Philp’s introduction to Virtual Yardies, his recently completely “hypertext novel”. Virtual Yardies is a novel told via blog posts, e-mails and instant messages—a 21st century epistolary novel, as Nicholas Laughlin says over at Antilles.

Check it out.

Writing a syllabus

This summer, I hope to put together a syllabus for Hypertext Literature to present to the chair here. This will take considerable research but fortunately many universities, unlike ours, have been teaching this for a decade. There are many different approaches in online syllabi. I was happy to see that my own work was on many of the class reading lists.

I was able to sit down and write the Hyperdrama syllabus with hardly any research at all because I know the field so well. Not so in the broader context of hypertext, where I'd want to cover matters of history, poetics, trends. This will take some research, thought and work to put together.

Free software

101 Fabulous Freebies from PC World.

Morning stew

Looks like my syllabus for a hyperdrama course has initial approval. The procedure moves forward.

Dinner party last night. Nothing like a dinner party hosted by a younger generation to remind you of aging. While this was an energetic gathering I might have hosted myself 40 years ago, conversations and subjects did remind me how much of the world is not "mine" any more. Which actually is fine. I also was reminded of how lucky I've been to belong to my generation, not anyone else's. I have no desire to be younger. If I'm jealous, it's of older generations, not younger.

Not sure what's on my plate today. Tomorrow I have a full day of student conferences. Thursday I return midterms. So the class week is set. Lots of balls in the air but not sure which to catch today.

Need a free HTML editor? I swear by Alley Code.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Apparently my screenwriting software of choice, Sophocles, is dead, gone, out of business. Website dead for weeks now. Too bad. My students could get it for half price, hell of a deal. No more, I guess. I'll still use it, of course, for as long as it runs.

Not too bad?

Maybe my bass run isn't as bad as I think. Hearing it again, I almost like it. Maybe it helped that I actually made the playback instrument an acoustic bass (instead of piano, the default).

The moment is fragile

No matter how well things are going, they can change in an instant. In life. In games. In the Mariners game today, the very talented young pitcher Felix Hernandez pitched 7 innings of brilliant ball, 10 strikeouts, scattered a few hits, no runs. Mariners went into the 8th looking good at 2-0. Then Hernandez hit a brick wall. Walks, hits, and before it was over, the A's had a 4-2 lead, which became the final score. 7 innings of pitching brilliance -- and then everything turned upside down. Such is baseball. Such is life.


The teenage TV star looking for a feature vehicle passed on our script. He'd already played a kid with a dying grandfather before.

I'm ready to move on to a new splay and will soon. Have one in progress but first I'm revising a script that's maybe 15 years old, have what I think is a good new way to come at it. We'll see how it goes. Eager to hear what my agent thinks about the current new one, sent with the new ending.

Musical challenge

Tried to write a bass part to "Take the A Train" for my Finale class. Ended up with something pretty mediocre. I guess the good news is that I know it stinks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lost art

Listening to the Mariners on the radio tonight, I remembered a story I wrote for Northwest magazine decades ago about the Portland Beavers play-by-play announcer who had to re-create away games in the Portland studio because the team couldn't afford to take him on road trips. Man, was this guy an actor! He had a small bad hanging from the ceiling and a second to hit it with, before saying, "Base hit!" or "Foul ball!" He wore a glove and threw a ball about 18 inches into it in front of the mic, "Steee-rike!" He had sound effects, the popcorn guy, booing the umpire. He had amazing stories. The way it worked was that someone phoned in what happened inning by inning -- but he only got the results, not the details of an at bat. He'd get "grounded out to short" and had to improv how many balls and strikes happened before then. Once he lost phone contact entirely and had to create a thirty minute passing thunderstorm and delay of game before getting back to it after reconnection.

I really enjoyed this guy and writing the story was great fun, too. Haven't thought about him in, well, decades.

Thornton Wilder's optimism

The nightly news brings up thoughts of Wilder and his firm optimism in the human capacity for avoiding species disaster "by the skin of our teeth." Each year this optimism strikes me as harder to defend. I like Wilder, in my book his work still stands despite the optimism, which is out of fashion, but the case for the cynics does appear to get stronger. We are forever creating new problems from well-meaning solutions. We decide to make fuel from corn -- and contribute to a food shortage. 25 years ago a report documents the failure of American education -- and now a new report says, despite all the money to inaugurate improvement, we're even worse than before. Corporations wave American flags and claim patriotism while moving jobs overseas, even critical airline maintenance jobs. Your computer breaks down and you deal with someone in India whose English accent you may or may not be able to understand. We, who led the fight to save the world from Hitler, are "world leaders" in almost nothing, although political leaders like to posture, and alas even act, as if we were.

World history is driven by the rise and fall of global powers. Maybe it's just our turn to fall. I wonder what Wilder would say today.


Today's "must do" project, a new ending to the current screenplay, is finished. Ready to print the script now and send to my agent. Onward.


In many writing careers, perhaps even most, there is a tension between art and commerce, writing inside-out v. outside-in, writing as exploration and discovery v. writing as communication for remuneration. I began my own belated writing career (coming from mathematics) with a focus on art, expressed successfully as a short story writer (three "roll of honor" citations in Best American Short Stories) and unsuccessfully as a novelist (2 unpublished) but soon enough found myself in the school of hard knocks, trying to survive after dropping out of grad school, and embraced writing as commerce, first becoming editor of a trade newspaper and later a regular contributor and sometimes guest editor at Northwest Magazine (and much later editing an anthology from this period,
Oregon Fever

After returning to school and getting an MFA in playwriting, I was able to exist with a rare focus on the artistic side of this tension, thanks mainly to a new skill in writing grants. But I had to return to writing as commerce eventually and became managing editor of a business magazine. Later I began teaching, which released writing energy for more non-commercial projects.

I bring all this up because I think today I have the best balance between art and commerce that is available to me. The only commercial writing I'm doing is screenwriting. I've returned to playwriting, where I have the most experience and success, in a series of posthumous plays in which I have absolute and total control. Whatever happens to them, if anything, happens after I'm not around to fret about it. I'm energized by learning a new craft, musical composition, which I plan to apply to drama. I'm shooting videos, another energizing and new craft. I'm teaching and enjoying it because what I teach actually can be taught (screenwriting).

Writing also has its frustrations. In the commercial world, you're not getting the income you want. In the artistic world, you're not getting the respect you want. What is curious if you work in many genres of writing as I do, is that your frustration (or lack of it) varies from genre to genre. I'm still a frustrated novelist, my own assessment of my work here greater than the evidence suggests; but in hyperdrama, for example, I have a solid international reputation and even am given credit for coining the term, which may or may not be true (it wasn't coined consciously -- I just started using it, can't remember the context). Overall, I think I deserve more respect than I get but I think most writers who aren't household words feel this way.

"Fame" is flighty, in any case. My own reputation certainly was stronger, or at least more visibly so, twenty years ago than now, even though my work is so much better now. I know of many other writers in the same boat, perhaps an extreme case being the late Robert Sheckley, a true giant in the Golden Age of Science Fiction, who was struggling at the end of his life to get published, who broke my heart in my last coffee visit with him when he asked if I knew of any cheap apartments to rent, he no longer could afford rent where he was. Robert Sheckley, for God's sake! Yes, fame is flighty.

You learn to live with what crumbs the gods drop for you. You learn to find the balance between art and commerce that works for you. You especially learn why the hell you're writing in the first place. And I've never been more content in the balance of all these balls in the air, or more content in the way my writing goes today. I'm still frustrated, of course, but that's part of the package. I suspect most writers think they're better than many more famous contemporaries. They also think they're worse. And that's another important balance to maintain.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Piano II

When I started piano a year and a half ago, I was part of our teacher's first all male class, five of us. This by accident but kinda cool. We all lasted a year together. But then things started to change. Some women joined the class; a couple guys dropped out; a couple more couldn't keep up and moved back a class. Now there are only three of us, two women who have played piano all their lives but are brushing up -- and me. Consequently, I now am the slowest of the bunch and struggling to keep up myself. But I tell myself this is good for me. Makes me work harder than I would otherwise. Interestingly enough, this is my least favorite of my three music classes. I have no desire to "play piano" other than to play while I am composing. My goal is composition, period.

We may have a dry sunny weekend, if not a warm one, but maybe I can get out and do some yard work.


Don't have today's piece quite down yet, so it's a morning of practice before class. Then I think I'll treat myself to lunch somewhere. Saturday remains splay day. Finish the sucker!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Office hours

I have two students who are still screenwriting as if they're writing a novel, and I'm puzzled why they don't "get it." I've rewritten over-wrought prose to proper screenwriting economy ... I've shown many examples of good screenwriting ... I've emphasized the "blueprint for a movie" aspect over "literary document" aspect ... I've pounded in the idea of lots of white space and verticality on the page ... and then they turn in huge single-spaced paragraphs of descriptive prose. How do I get to them? It's not a matter of "skill" but of understanding what the hell they're supposed to be writing. We'll try again. Most, fortunately, "get it" and a few are already getting good at it. But I don't understand what the block is to the few who don't get it. Next week I meet one-on-one with everyone, maybe I can get through then.

Music theory was a bit of a waste today, full of storytelling by our teacher, but that's cool. At least we're moving on into the next chapter. We've been treading water while folks learn their 7th chords.

Saturday is going to be devoted to my screenplay. I must rewrite the ending and get it off to my agent. It's less than an hour's work once I'm back into the rhythm of it. Saturday! I must.

Actors are sitting on ready for the summer silent comedy. What a great group. We'll be doing this one a little differently, far more rehearsal and concern for style and look.

Finale class

I'm doing fine so far, better than most in fact, and am keeping up with the assignments. But thus far it's been more of a computer course than a music course. I'll have a slower, harder go of it as the music comes forward, I suspect.

Excited about developing a hyperdrama class. Haven't heard back concerning a hypertext lit class here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Green light

Initial enthusiasm for my hyperdrama class proposal at Tunxis CC. Next step is to develop a syllabus/outline, which is high on my list now.

First, time to get my head in gear for the music class tonight.

Possible futures

I envy the support for digital storytelling at Tunxis Community College, WSU-Vancouver, and other institutions across the land. We have nothing here at PSU. I asked my chair about this, and she asked if I wanted to develop a course. I think I might: Hypertext Literature: Its History, Its Development, Its Future. The new digital book readers certainly support the possibility of a growing audience. And I also noticed Tunxis has online courses. I'm looking into proposing a course in writing hyperdrama. I feel the old obsession returning. I think the future belongs to branching narratives, have thought so since the mid-80s. It's just a better map of reality if our physicists are correct about how the universe works.

Crazy rhythm, or The Postpartum Polka

It happens this way most of the time: I finish a project with great excitement and exhilaration. I'm done! I did it! It works! But in the next day or two, a cloud nudges all this away and I'm asking myself, Yes, it's done -- but was it worth it? Does anyone actually give a damn? Is this all there is? And then, in the next day or two, I turn to a new project with all the excitement and passion of the serial monogamist. And I'm off and running. No wonder so many writers become mad.

Hypertext fiction

Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in "literature" and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a story from a deeper pool of potential stories. Its spirit can also be seen in interactive fiction.

The term can also be used to describe traditionally-published books in which a non-linear and interactive narrative is achieved through internal references. Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (1962) and Julio Cortázar's Rayuela (1963; translated as Hopscotch) are early examples (predating the word hypertext), while a common pop-culture example is the "Choose Your Own Adventure" format of young adult fiction.


Never read any? You should give it a try. Hyperizons (Duke Univ.) has a directory pointing to some on the web.

Steve Ersinghaus won a prize in UK for his hypertext novel, The Life of Geronimo Sandoval (Windows and Mac versions).

Eastgate Systems is the leading publisher of serious hypertext.

To my knowledge, a hypertext literature class has never be taught at Portland State University. I think I'll check it out.

And hyperdrama is even more invisible than hypertext fiction.

Doing it right

Now here's a summer program in digital storytelling for high school students that makes me envious: Tunxis Summer Mash-Up.

The Tunxis Summer Mash-Up is a two-week intensive program designed for high school students interested in combining their creative talents with contemporary technology to explore the world of digital storytelling.

Students begin with the story. These stories are brought to life through motion and sound. The final products are films that can be viewed on DVD or the Web and used as part of the students’ academic portfolios. All phases of the production process are covered through lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on exercises to give students an understanding and appreciation for planning and organizing.

By the end of the two week program, students will have written and produced two short films that will culminate in an evening community screening of the students’ finished works. Parents and friends are cordially invited to the screenings and share in the student’s accomplishments. Details for the screening will be provided during the first week of the program.

Class size is limited to 20 students maximum.

Program Resources

• MiniDV Camcorders
• Scanners
• MacBooks
• Final Cut Express HD
• Housed in our new facilities!

This is a community college (!) in CT obviously on the cutting edge of digital storytelling education. I don't know of a program close to this in Oregon. Shame on us.


The Democratic Party, so energized and optimistic just a few months ago, thus finds itself in a position few would have expected: a nomination battle unresolved, with two candidates engaged in increasingly damaging attacks. At a time when the Democratic Party would dearly like to turn its attention to Mr. McCain, it now faces continued damage to the images of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.

--NY Times

I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat.

--Will Rogers

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hypertext 2008: The Program

The program, which includes my video project Changing Key, of the conference in Pittsburgh, June 19-21. The things a guy will do to avoid giving a speech! (Do that enough in the classroom ha ha).

I see one of the presenters is from WSU-Vancouver, just across the river.

Did I coin the term hyperdrama?

I did according to Astrid Ensslin, author of Cononising Hypertext: Explorations and Constructions:

The term was coined by hyperdramatist and theorist Charles Deemer, who understands `traditional drama as a special case of hyperdrama' ("The New Hyperdrama") because of its mono-perspectival approach."

Now this is all very interesting (mono-perspectival!). I don't recall "coining" the term. I know when this ride began with Chateau de Mort in the mid-80s, we wanted to call this new theater form "a living movie," which is what Tamara was called, but the term had been registered as a trademark(!). We called it "simultaneous-action theater," which sucked. Some time later I began using hyperdrama, a natural derivative from hypertext, of course, but I don't recall if I read it somewhere or just started using it. At any rate, apparently I have early documented uses of the term and for this reason alone, perhaps, am given credit for it. I'll take it -- but frankly I have no idea if I coined the term or not. I just started using it. I don't recall if I first saw it somewhere else.

Summer video

During the hyperdrama shoot, I ran an idea for a summer project past the actors, and they liked it: a silent comedy. Black and white, speed a tad fast. Today I awoke with a concept for same, which I think will work, which is to say it is both comedic and melodramatic. It's a spin off from the concept of one of Durrenmatt's more obscure plays. Yes, I'm pretty sure this can work. Onward.

Writers and suicide

Anne Sexton, "Her Kind," Suicide

    I have gone out, a possessed witch,
    haunting the black air, braver at night;
    dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
    over the plain houses, light by light:
    lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
    A woman like that is not a woman, quite.

    I have been her kind.

    I have found the warm caves in the woods,
    filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
    closets, silks, innumerable goods;
    fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
    whining, rearranging the disaligned.
    A woman like that is misunderstood.

    I have been her kind.

    I have ridden in your cart, driver,
    waved my nude arms at villages going by,
    learning the last bright routes, survivor
    where your flames still bite my thigh
    and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
    A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
    I have been her kind.

Sexton began to write poetry in 1957 after watching a half-hour show on educational television entitled "How to Write a Sonnet."
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Monday, April 21, 2008

The Nuts & Bolts of Hyperdrama

The project is now complete. The start page is Changing Key.

Changing Key

I just approved the final video. Need to upload and then update the web pages, and the hypedrama video project is done and ready for its June presentation at the Hypertext 08 conference in Pittsburgh.

Now on to student work, then with what's left of the day to music.


Done or close with the last video. Look at it today and see if more needs tweaking. Otherwise, a student feature script to read, some pages from another, and the rest of the day I hope to do music and splay stuff.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rough cut

Edited a very rough cut of my final video for the hyperdrama project. I have a few gaps to fill. This one has been the hardest, the challenge being to make information visually interesting.

I've lost track of Peggy Basham, the wife of my friend John who died a few years back, so I snooped around the net. Apparently she had a recent bout with cancer. At any rate, the American Cancer Society was raising $100,000 in behalf of a Peggy Basham, RN, which she was, of Houghton MI, which is her home town. Must be the same one. The money was successfully raised but beyond that, I found out nothing. I'm still wondering how she's doing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Student work at a professional level

One of my students from last term's extraordinary class, who was one of three who completed a feature script in 10 weeks, and a good one at that, presented me with a new complete script at the start of this term (he's taking the advanced option to continue). Although it's in the horror genre, not my favorite, I was riveted by this suspenseful tale, cleanly written, terrific characters, lots of suspense and frights -- and this is such a popular genre, I think he has a real shot at selling it. Moreover, he's been a "freelance" Sundance goer for years, making many industry contacts. He just loves film. Well, I'll be surprised if he doesn't sell this script or another soon. He's written two first rate screenplays since the first of the year. Go, R.S.!

Champion of new plays

Once upon a time it was Louisville. For a moment in the 80s, there was an opportunity for Portland to emerge as champion. Now it appears to be Denver. New plays gravitate to where an artistic director with vision gives playwrights more than the token staged reading which has become the mainstay of "supporting new work." The theater world needs more Kent Thompsons.
clipped from

Enter New Playwrights, Stage Left, in Denver

Weekend Edition Saturday, April 18, 2008 · During Kent Thompson's three years as artistic director, Colorado's Denver Center Theatre Company has become one of a handful of regional theaters regularly staging full-fledged productions of new work.

When Thompson took the position, he had two goals: to serve the local community and to develop new plays.

"What Kent's doing is extraordinary, because so many plays get workshopped to death," says Herendeen. "They get read and read, but they hardly ever get full productions."

Thompson admits that the traditional subscription audience of any regional theater isn't always open to new plays by writers they've never heard of. But so far in Denver, ticket sales are holding steady, and, besides, Thompson thinks hiring new writers is worth the risk.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Editor's cap

My piano songs for class are in good shape, so I've been doing grunt-editing work on the summer issue of the review. Actually, in short spurts, I enjoy the work, which mainly is working with html software. Always nice to see the new issue take shape, too. Stats tell me we have a steady audience now.

Posthumous blog

My posthumous blog goes in spurts. I ignore it for months, then I write in it a lot. I've been writing in it lately.

Discovering Chaucer

Perhaps there is no moment of revelation quite like the young literature student's discovery of Chaucer and "The Miller's Tale." The landscape of literature thereafter changes forever.
Chaucer's Pilgrims

On this day (or possibly the next) in 1394, Geoffrey Chaucer's twenty-nine pilgrims met at the Tabard Inn in Southwark to prepare for their departure to Canterbury. Chaucer's poem condenses the four to five day trip into one, and scholars have used various textual references and astrological calculations to establish that day as the day before Easter, thus allowing the pilgrims to arrive at Canterbury Easter morning, after a fifty-five-mile hike through a pleasant English springtime
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This weekend I hope to make significant progress toward wrapping up two projects: the screenplay in progress and the hyperdrama project. I also have two full-length student scripts to evaluate. A busy weekend ahead, in other words. It's supposed to rain, maybe even snow, so I might as well stay in and work.

In good shape with the two piano pieces for this week.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What happened to Spring?

This return to winter weather is a real drag. Zaps my energy. I need the sun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Finale class

What's surprising to me about my class in Finale is that in general the other students have poor computer skills. My fear that I'd be behind because of my formal music inexperience has not come to pass. My good computer skills have me near the top of the class; in fact tonight I was the only to finish the in-class assignment by class' end. So far, I'm ahead of the curve in class. It helps, of course, that I'm doing everything twice: in class on a Mac and then here on my PC with the 2008 (newer) version of the software.

What worries me is that the really complex stuff is yet to come -- and most folks are having trouble this early on. It's going to get interesting.

Whatever happened to respect for the Secret Ballot?

clipped from

Wife takes divorce drama online, vents scorn via YouTube

NEW YORK (AP) -- We're the YouTube Generation, living in the YouTube Era, in a YouTube World. And now we apparently have a YouTube Divorce.

Some prominent New York divorce lawyers couldn't think of another case where a spouse -- in this instance, the wife of a major Broadway theater operator -- had taken to YouTube to spill the secrets of a marriage in an apparent effort to gain leverage and humiliate the other side.
"This is absolutely a new step, and I think it's scary," said Bonnie Rabin, a divorce lawyer who has handled high-profile cases. "People used to worry about getting on Page Six [the gossip page of the New York Post]. But this? It brings the concept of humiliation to a whole new level."
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Often writers are praised for things they deny. Here is one of the better known cases.
Lessing's Golden Notebook

On this day in 1962, Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook was published. It is the most highly-praised and still the best-selling of her two dozen books. Lessing has described it as an attempt "to break certain forms of consciousness and go beyond them"; she has also said that the novel became "an albatross" hung around her neck by a feminist misreading.

In volume two of her autobiography, Walking in the Shade, Lessing elaborates on her regret that ""Feminists discovered the book, in Britain, in the States, in Scandinavia, and it became the 'Bible of the Women's Movement.' A book that had been planned so coolly was read, I thought, hysterically":
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A busy day

I have a busy day ahead of me. I need more sleep before I begin. Thought I might do some work now but I can't get going. Back to bed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lunch date

To the office early. Nice thing about going from campus to Nobby's for my lunch date is that I hop the Portland Streetcar, which comes through campus, and it takes me almost to Nobby's front door. Public transportation is one of the great gifts in this city. It's not my favorite city by any means but you can't beat the public transportation.

Creative courtship

clipped from


Programmer pops question on girlfriend's video game

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Hiding a ring in a bouquet just wasn't enough when a computer programmer decided to pop the question.

Bernie Peng reprogrammed Tammy Li's favorite video game, "Bejeweled," so a ring and a marriage proposal would show up on the screen when she reached a certain score.
Li reached the needed score — and said yes.
The word of the romantic feat last December filtered out after Peng, a financial software programmer, posted details on his blog. The reprogramming was a tricky task and took him a month.
"I thought it was pretty cool, in a nerdy way," Peng told The Star-Ledger of Newark.
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What the week looks like

Today isn't too shabby. Only a few things to do to prep for class. Lunch date. Classroom discussion and collect first script pages.

Tomorrow, read student work. I'm already prepared for Finale class, having gone over the material early on the PC at home. Do the same thing on the Mac Wednesday evening.

Thursday, music theory homework to do. Should do it Wed. so I'm not in a rush before class. Discuss student work in class.

Friday. I'm already almost up to speed on the two new songs we have to learn. Only three of us in class now, two women who are refreshing lifelong piano skills, and yours truly, so we get to zip right along. I'm the slowest one for a change.

This weekend, damn it, finish the screenplay rewrite! And get started on the last video of the hyperdrama project.

Busy, busy. The way I like it.

Hyperdrama cast

Five of the seven actors in CHANGING KEY have their own web pages.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Two down, one to go

The branching narrative section of the hyperdrama CHANGING KEY is now online here, which leaves only the final "nuts and bolts" section to write and edit. I should be able to get a start on it this weekend, perhaps even complete it. It shouldn't take all that long.

Busy work

Just about finished making all the clips for assembling the branching narrative version of the hyperdrama. Too much work. But almost done now. I'll hope to get everything up tonight so I can start checking for path errors. This weekend I'll hope to start the final "nuts and bolts" video. I'd like to finish everything by May 1 and have a shot.

Still haven't gotten to the splay rewrite. And have homework for theory and piano to do.

Lunch tomorrow with a poet friend I haven't seen for a while.

Lifting the spirit

With so much bad and depressing news bombarding us hourly, we must remember that in a zero-sum universe there must be good stories to balance out the bad. Here are two.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Production photos

Robert Peate, photographer and actor in the hyperdrama (see Robert's Story and also his online gallery), took these production photos during our shoot. It's astounding to see how small a camera we use! Somehow it feels "larger" when I actually use it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A busy day

Working in the yard; practicing piano; hyperdrama grunt work. Never did get to the screenplay, though. I'm going to try and focus on it tomorrow -- and finish the new draft.

I decided to stick with YouTube regarding the branching narrative clips. I thought about embedding them from my archive but why take up the space when YouTube will and the embedding is easier to code? This decided, the rest of the grunt work should zip along.

I'm delighted with the work I did in Finale early this morning. Only two weeks into the class and I've learned a ton. I already know enough to make a perfect lead sheet.

Finale class

It's always been a struggle for me to input lyrics into Finale because I learned how to do it, like most things in the program, the "wrong" way -- which is to say, a simple way but one which does not take advantage of the software's real power. The beauty of this class is learning how the Finale tools work and how to engage the real power of the program. Thus, I just input lyrics to our class project (next week's activity) in about five minutes! I couldn't believe it. Earlier I had inputted chords. This class is just perfect for me right now. What a loss if I had not taken it.

What am I doing up at 4 a.m., working in Finale? Being myself ha ha.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Today felt like the first day of Spring. While not exactly warm, at least it wasn't cold. The sun stayed out. Tomorrow is supposed to be even better, and I hope to spend some time with my wonderful Scott push mower.

Getting a second wind for the grunt work of assembling the branching narrative clips. I'll use the character videos as resource. Interesting thing about editing: the challenge always seems to be how to edit around errors, either technical or acting. For example, Holly decided to name her character Heidi, not Holly. Some of the actors called her both at different times. Usually I could edit lines using Holly out. However, in one essential monologue, Holly was used and I went into the sound wave and chopped out a bit in the middle and managed to get something sounding like Heidi with a British accent! Fascinating ha ha. I don't think any of the character videos got by without editing around some mistake or other. Nature of the beast.

What is missing in film hyperdrama, compared to live performance, is any sense of counterpoint. In live performance, I love the playing of scenes against one another when I am standing between them.

Peeking ahead at the Finale class, we have some heavyweight work ahead. We add more instrument parts -- bass, drum, jazz quartet -- and arrange them. I wonder if I'll be able to keep up. And I am not the slowest one in the class so far either, thanks to my good computer skills. It will be interesting how many keep up to speed.

Actually I feel like I'm getting two classes for the price of one. In the MIDI lab, I work on a Mac using the 2007 version of Finale. At home, a PC with 2008. So I have two learning curves.

as long as you and i have arms and lips which are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed sonofabitch invents an instrument to measure Spring with

--e.e. cummings

Friday and the weekend

Good weather ahead, if the forecasters are right. I hope they are. I'd like to spend some time outside Saturday catching up on lawn chores. I also have catching up to do on the splay rewrite and editing the new review.

A smashing First Wednesday scheduled in the fall, with Primus St. John, Craig Lesley and Julie Mae Madsen all on the same bill in October. Many good writers coming before then, of course. Here is the May 7 lineup.

Music/piano this morning, catching up before class. Lunch afterwards at the Corbett Fish House. Maybe some grunt work on the hyperdrama this afternoon. The next step requires more organization and assembly and web page editing than anything else. But I still have the last "nuts and bolts" video to do, the challenge of which is to write an interesting, short narration for the piece. Then we'll be done! I may try to get a computer room at the university to show my students and colleagues the results.

Busy and well. H returns tomorrow night. The house looks like a bachelor lives here, especially the kitchen.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hyperdrama: Dennis' Story

Here is a link to all 7 character-path videos. Next to edit, the various branching narrative options.

An extraordinary course

My Wednesday night class in Finale, taught by composer Jon Newton, is first rate. I am learning a ton. I should come out of this in good shape for using the music composition software as a "power user." The class has already changed the way I use the software, and for the better.

We seem to be "stuck" in Music Theory until the class gets to seventh-chord speed before the teacher thinks we're ready to move forward.

A bit of prep before school today. I may get started on editing my last character video.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


A couple of great resources:

Thanks to Ed and Engels at for the links.

Stir crazy

I've spent so many of the last 60 hours editing video on the computer that early this morning I reached critical mass. I had to get out of the house -- immediately! My first inclination was to grab Sketch, our rat terrier, and head up the gorge to a park along the Columbia River and mellow out. But it was cold and drizzly outside and Sketch was hunkered down under his security blanket. No way was he going outside! Alternative plan. Breakfast at Nobby's, where maybe I'd run into someone I knew. Great idea! The owner himself was at the grill, and we caught up on news and rumors, including good news about a regular from the 80s who hasn't had good news in a long time. Before my breakfast was served, I called my former muse to catch up, and we made a lunch date for Monday. I then returned home with renewed energy.

Hyperdrama: Kate's Story

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Office hours

Managed to finish and upload the "John's Story" video this morning. And also managed to get ready for my class. Now some time on my hands. When students aren't here, I hope to catch up on music theory things. A busy class week, this. And I'm really looking forward to Finale class tomorrow.

Hyperdrama: John's Story

Monday, April 07, 2008

May you live in interesting times

clipped from


Olympic torch relay descends into chaos

PARIS - Paris' Olympic torch relay descended into chaos Monday, with protesters scaling the Eiffel Tower, grabbing for the flame and forcing security officials to repeatedly snuff out the torch and transport it by bus past demonstrators yelling "Free Tibet!"

The relentless anti-Chinese demonstrations ignited across the capital with unexpected power and ingenuity, foiling 3,000 police officers deployed on motorcycles, in jogging gear and even inline skates.
Chinese organizers finally gave up on the relay, canceling the last third of what China had hoped would be a joyous jog by torch-bearing VIPs past some of Paris' most famous landmarks.
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March madness

The men's final was exciting. Memphis blew a 9 pt. lead with 2 mins. left by an inability to hit clutch free throws, then got blown out in overtime. Quite a comeback by Kansas -- the team that beat PSU on the tourny's first day.

Lots of minor glitches -- continuity things mainly -- in the videos but they are great for my purposes at the conference. You really need a staff to do this right ha ha. I have four character narratives done, three to go, then all the other stuff. Onward.

Waiting for a second wind

Once again. Did too much editing today, I think. Exhausting work. I still have some things I need to do before class tomorrow.

Hyperdrama: Judith's Story

Hyperdrama: Bobby's Story

Sunday, April 06, 2008


A good day of shooting video. I should have everything I need now to finish the hyperdrama project. Just a lot of hours of editing.

Even managed to get home in time to see Stanford beat Connecticut in women's bb. Go, west coast!

Tomorrow I'll start editing. I'd like to finish one or two character videos before I go to class Tuesday.

Final shoot

Today, barring the unforeseen, I should finish shooting the hyperdrama. I'm eager to get back to editing. I want to finish up the 7 character narratives as quickly as possible so I can get to the more difficult task of assembling the branching narrative.
This surely will keep me busy through April into May.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Disappointing day

Did a little work on the splay, a little work on piano -- but it's been a slow, disappointing day for the most part. Tomorrow I shoot, which will give me a lot of editing to do.

It just ain't the same

For many years, a weekend ritual was to listen to Dr. Jazz's Dixieland radio show on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Then he (Bill Fetsch) died (ref). A local legend. How would he be replaced? I was among those who hoped against hope that the radio station KMHD would have the good sense to play tapes and keep the show alive. Fetsch had one of those warm radio personalities that made you think he was sitting across the breakfast table. Obviously he couldn't be replaced.

But the radio station tried. It's a college station, and they replaced Dr. Jazz with a series of earnest young men. What they had in common were wooden personalities. Everything they said sounded like a poor reading -- and they talked to much, trying to be informative and personable, which in fact just made it worse. They were as wooden as any DJs in America. This was at a college, for Chrissake, couldn't they send these young men off to take an acting class?

Today the Saturday DJ who settled into the job, young and earnest and very wooden, called himself Dr. Jazz. What bad taste. Sacrilegious, in fact, an insult to the memory of the "real" Dr. Jazz.

The show now depends on how much these wooden DJs talk. The less, the better. Unfortunately, in their earnestness, they talk a hell of a lot.

Friday, April 04, 2008


A piano morning, practicing before class. Tomorrow I need to do more editing on the review and also look at a student script. Sunday the final shoot for the hyperdrama. A busy weekend, which is good. Even have some basketball games to watch along the way.

H caught the red-eye last night and should be in Florida now, meeting her girlfriend and hopping the cruise ship tomorrow.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lazy students

Man, my fellow students in Music Theory were braindead today, as if no one had studied the material over spring break. Class really dragged as a result. Eager to get moving into new material.

Baching it

H flies off tonight for a week-long cruise in the Caribbean to celebrate a girlfriend's 75th birthday. Meanwhile, still high from the class last night. And eager to finish shooting footage for the hyperdrama on Sunday. Maybe I can get the 7 character videos finished before H gets back. That will give me the rest of the month to do the biggie, the "true" hyperdrama with the viewer deciding on the narrative path.

Reviewing music theory things before the class at one. Then off to campus. Busy, busy.

Fantastic night

I can tell, from only the first class, that my Finale workshop will be outstanding. I'm already learning a ton of "shortcuts" and theory about the software I didn't know. This is exciting. Looking over the syllabus, I see this is just what I wanted it to be. And Jon Newton is a fine teacher (I already knew he was a fine composer.)

From class to First Wednesday to find the largest audience we've had yet. Everyone was beaming with that "successful event" look. Craig Lesley was there and wants to read, which is great. So was Doug Spangle. I think the word-of-mouth is getting out that this is a cool venue.

Music Theory starts up again today, Piano tomorrow, so we're getting into high gear. What a busy term! That's fine by me.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Waiting for a second wind

Put on my editor's cap and worked on the review for a few hours. Did some piano work. Now I need a second wind before my first night of Finale class, after which I rush to the last half of First Wednesday readings. Tomorrow is an easy day in class, thank the gods.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thinking of tomorrow

On the agenda tomorrow, getting back to the screenplay, hopefully finishing the next draft with the "bigger" ending. Also need to put in time at the piano. Nothing to do with video tomorrow, however, and too early to worry about student work. If the sun is out, maybe I can even fit in some lawn chores time. I'm ready for spring, and I don't mean spring snow showers. The sun, the sun! Famous last lines, right? Ibsen's "Ghosts."

Thinking of summer

I know I want to move music front burner this summer and start composing a music drama, or something music-based. But I also enjoy working with these actors so much, I hope to think of another small project to do with them. Something unusual -- even more unusual than hyperdrama. I was even thinking of a black and white silent comedy! And speeding up the frames etc. That might be real fun. A black and white silent comedy! Hmm. That certainly would be good training in visual comedy. I must give this serious thought.

In my office

Ah, my comfy little office at the U. Actually it's nice to be back in my normal routine. Teaching is not an interruption of my "real work," as shit jobs can be, but a welcome break from it. I need to be led out of the basement from time to time ha ha.

Eager for Sunday and the final shoot. I'll spend time Saturday making sure I have all the bases covered. I received an email from the hypertext conference, my official "acceptance" for the hyperdrama project. This is great fun putting together, though also a ton of work. The real work will be the "audience choice" narrative sequence. These character stories are relatively easy in comparison. On the other hand, I think they'll be a way to slice up the character stories to make it somewhat easy to assemble the "real" hyperdrama package, the one in which each view selects the narrative path. There will be so many branches and paths, is the deal, so it's as much an organizational challenge as any. By that stage, it will be more grunt work than creative work. The creative work goes into the individual stories. When it's done, this will be quite a presentation, I think. And, of course, I still have the "nuts and bolts" video to do.

I have a longer than usual waiting list for my screenwriting class. I hope they don't all show up or it will be a zoo. Today is introductory stuff, Thursday we hit the ground running, watching CASABLANCA, mainly as an example of beginning-middle-end storytelling strategy.

Had a long chat with Phyllis Kerns, my 85-year-old writer friend who has become blind to reading text (but who still drives!). She's looking for a collaborator with whom to do a play about Victoria Woodhull, a return to her favorite material. Her screenplay about Woodhull, which I read decades ago, was my introduction to this remarkable woman, who ran for President in 1872 and was a hell of a lot more interesting than H.C. I should do a video interview with Phyl for the journal.

Hyperdrama: Heidi's Story


Finished editing "Heidi's Story" in the hyperdrama. Will post online later this morning.

Now to get ready for the first day of class.