Wednesday, April 30, 2008
"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.
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.
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
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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I really enjoyed this guy and writing the story was great fun, too. Haven't thought about him in, well, decades.
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.
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
We may have a dry sunny weekend, if not a warm one, but maybe I can get out and do some yard work.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
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.
Excited about developing a hyperdrama class. Haven't heard back concerning a hypertext lit class here.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
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.
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.
• MiniDV Camcorders
• 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.
I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I see one of the presenters is from WSU-Vancouver, just across the river.
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.
Anne Sexton, "Her Kind," Suicide
Monday, April 21, 2008
Now on to student work, then with what's left of the day to music.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
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
Friday, April 18, 2008
In good shape with the two piano pieces for this week.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
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.
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."
Lessing's Golden Notebook
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
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.
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.
Monday, April 14, 2008
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.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
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
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.
What am I doing up at 4 a.m., working in Finale? Being myself ha ha.
Friday, April 11, 2008
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
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
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
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
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.
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.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
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.
This surely will keep me busy through April into May.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
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
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
Reviewing music theory things before the class at one. Then off to campus. Busy, busy.
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
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
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.