Thursday, July 31, 2008

12 hours later

Well, I think I'm pretty much where I was yesterday at this time. I'm sure there's software I've forgotten, stuff I don't use much, but I'll wait till I miss it before I deal with it. The stuff I use routinely is reinstalled and working. The only moment of panic was when none of my videos would play (audio only). Ends up I needed to reinstall some codecs and it took me a while to figure out which ones. Why is everything so damn complicated? We can walk on the moon and can't do better than this?

I did some research and installed a Swedish rescue freebie that geeks rave about and now have a plan for six months down the road when this happens again. Except this time was only five months. 3 crashes in 13 months.

I need some R&R.


Looking back through this blog, I see I crashed in Feb 08 and in June 07. Too damn often! Wonder what the problem is, other than all the shit I run. Memory isn't a problem. Drive space isn't a problem. Saying the problem is "Windows" sounds too easy.

Mellow in a disaster

Been sitting here since 5 a.m., when the computer wouldn't boot, and by now I can count the remaining re-installations on one hand. Jazz playing on the radio all that time -- it's actually been a remarkably mellow experience. But boy, does Windows suck. I feel trapped with so much Windows software I use regularly. I really don't want to buy another computer. When I bought this one I said, this will be your last computer.

I saved my video editing program -- the most important one at the moment, in the middle of a video project -- for last but I don't anticipate problems, knock on my wooden head.

I want to snoop around and see about this problem that seems to happen every 9 months or so. I don't lose anything but it's a time-consuming drag, even if mellow ha ha, to get back in gear again.

The mystery of software

What is fascinating during crash crises like this is that not all software has to be reinstalled. For example, some programs I regularly use -- Alley Code, Xenu, PDF-Edit, Contacts Plus, The Brain, even Band In A Box -- work fine after Recovery. Others -- Premiere Elements, Photoshop, Finale, Word -- have to be re-installed. The major times consumer is downloading all the updates for AVG, my virus program -- huge files, and here I am in the office still on dial up (well, I have the T1 line at the office but it doesn't help me here). I just did a 2 hr download and now I've started a 3 hr download. Mercy. Why don't all programs make reinstallation unnecessary? I didn't have to reinstall Final Draft or Celtx, but I did have to reinstall Sophocles. Fortunately, since the company disappeared, I still had the installation file and the key for the 2003 version, and now it's up and running fine. I can still use Sophocles! But I have a ton of installations to do, though first I need to get my virus program running, and looks like that will take all morning. Ah, life in cyberspace.

Zero-sum universe

It never fails. Just when things are going great, the gods remind you who's the boss. Woke up to an unbootable computer. What is this, my 4th or 5th crash in the last couple years? Tried everything I could think of to avoid running Recovery but ended up doing so, which means I have to reinstall the 20-odd programs I have to function normally in cyberspace. So, turn on the jazz, mellow out, and call today Restoration Day. I hate Windows.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Running in place

After a good morning of writing, the day became one of those fascinating exercises is keeping busy going nowhere. That is, it's been non-stop but I've accomplished mostly grunt work tasks, preparing files for Create Space to test it, making a DVD for an actor, this that and the other. I did get some piano work done while the DVD was rendering. I feel like I've worked a lot harder than I actually have. The real accomplishment was the morning writing (as it usually is).

The sun is back out, it's looking a little like summer again.

We may be having a cast party in September at a downtown bar that plays DVD shorts. Hollie will check it out in August. This could be a blast. We need a place to show the silent comedy and party. I was going to do it at H's daughter's house but the bar, with an audience to pick the winner, sounds more fun.

I miss hanging out. I don't hang out much at all any more. Now and again H and I will hang out but rarely, both being damn busy. I used to play harder after working hard than I do now. Part of it is age, part of it is quitting drinking, part of it is the different feel of the city now than twenty years ago, at least through my eyes.

I met Ger, my best friend in Portland (deceased; all my closest friends here are deceased), while hanging out at a sidewalk cafe in NW. A hot day, I was sipping gin and tonics, alone, just mellowing out. Ger and a lady showed up. After a bit, Ger came over and asked if I was Charles Deemer. The lady was a fan of my plays, and Ger was new in town. He invited me to join their table, I did, and I discovered Ger had a theater background in SF before we went into banking (!). He was moving here from Seattle. To make a long story short, I intro'd him to the artsy crowd at Nobby's and Seafood Mama's, the two artsy hangouts in NW then, and he fit in immediately. We became real tight.

Crooks, my best friend, my soul brother (deceased, naturally), and Ger could never get along. I was fascinated by this: by two best friends practically hated one another! Ger thought Dick was crude and something of a charlatan; Dick thought Ger was a sissy and something of a charlatan. So we never did anything as a threesome. Ger lived her, Dick in Idaho, so I saw more of Ger through the 80s and 90s, but Dick and I went back to 1960 in the Army, we were brothers.

Dick died first. Then Ger. Both from the big C, both miserable in treatment that was far worse than the disease. Deaths far uglier than they had to be, and I haven't forgiven the medical culture for that. Sometimes I think treatment is used as an experiment, not as a realistic option -- gives them things to try out and observe, to hell with the quality of life of the patient. I am determined not to play their game when it's my turn (long overdue, seems to me). I'm in no hurry to go but when it's my time, man, I'm out of here!

Ger and I used to get crazy now and again after he got off work at 5. We'd meet downtown and drink boiler-makers. It became our thing. Spend hours bullshitting about the terrible state of the arts and drink boiler-makers. I usually poured him into a cab and staggered home myself, our hangout being close to my apartment.

I wish Ger were here now, he'd be great in my videos! Man, he'd be good.

Ger was a crooner, too. Not half bad. One night, out and about, we crashed a jazz joint and Ger was high enough to talk himself into singing with the band. He sang Angel Eyes and brought down the house! Very cool. I could never get him to do something like that when he was sober.

One of my rebellious attitudes at the VA when I was getting straight was refusing to call my drinking days "bad." I still don't. Sure, I have the usual assortment of horror stories. But I also had some of the best times of my life, especially hilarious times. I'm not going to disown them. I'd have nothing to write about ha ha.
I quit for health reason, not moral reasons. I still find drunks usually more interesting than sobers.

So it's been a busy interesting day.

Productive morning

Wrote 7 or 8 pages on the new splay draft, moving forward. Only about 15 pages from the midpoint now. Some surprises this morning, always exciting to experience, especially when the wife character said something that blew me away. But I thought, yeah, this really stirs the pot and makes things more interesting! Sometimes being a writer feels like taking dictation.

Amazon spreads its wings

Amazon has a new subsidiary, Create Space, which is in direct competition with as a free production and distribution tool/center for print-on-demand self-publishing, with the automatic advantage of being included in the large Amazon inventory. These POD wars are interesting to watch, especially considering that it wasn't too long ago when few took this new technology seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes the main mode for all but pop lit. It just makes sense.

First Wednesday

Here's the lineup for next Wednesday at Blackbird Wine Shop in Portland, 7-9pm:

Cecelia Hagen, longtime fiction editor of Northwest Review; Kate Mann, singer/songwriter; Matt Love and guest Smoky Epley in a special program about prison writing.

And I'll be leaving as director of this series, passing the podium to Julie Mae Madsen, the review's video arts editor. The timing is right for new and younger blood, new energy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Weather feather

Don't like the weather? Wait a minute. Yesterday was a great summer day. Today a cool rainy day. According to a weatherman, this is only the 4th July 29th since 1940 when it rained in Portland. Now suppose to warm up again and be in the 80s by weekend. I prefer 90s but close enough.

Making progress on the splay, into the 2nd act. Made some notes for tomorrow's writing. Going forward leisurely, rather than obsessively, trying to write 5 to 10 pages a day. Another feature I like about the dead Sophocles, which I'm still using, is that "custom" notes can be written in the script that don't get printed or take up space. Like invisible purple ink you can read. So I can take notes along the way right in the manuscript and it doesn't change the pagination or anything. I prefer this to notes in an attached window or other ways different programs do it.
As ever, oh as ever, Act II is the big challenge. I know the midpoint and low point, I think, but I need more story density throughout the act.

Again, another day with much time devoted to music studies. I'm also itching for Sunday. The challenge is a morning shoot of a tango in which several surreptitious actions must happen. Hard to choreograph and then hard to tape. I need a squirting ring I ordered, which should arrive soon.

It's certainly a productive summer.

A disaster in the making?

Between censors and smog, this might prove to be an Olympics with a lot of drama outside the stadium. Too bad.
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Internet sites still blocked for Olympic reporters

By STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Writer

BEIJING - Olympic organizers are backtracking on another promise about coverage of the Beijing Games, keeping in place blocks on Internet sites in the Main Press Center and venues where reporters will work.

The blocked sites will make it difficult for journalists to retrieve information, particularly on political and human rights stories the government dislikes. On Tuesday, sites such as Amnesty International or any search for a site with Tibet in the address could not be opened at the Main Press Center, which will house about 5,000 print journalists when the games open Aug. 8.

"This type of censorship would have been unthinkable in Athens, but China seems to have more formalities," said Mihai Mironica, a journalist with ProTV in Romania. "If journalists cannot fully access the Internet here, it will definitely be a problem."

The censored Internet is the latest broken promise on press freedoms
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What can be done

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PC World

India Developing US$10 Laptop

India is developing a laptop to be sold at US$10, that will target higher education applications, a minister of the federal government said Tuesday in Delhi.

Research on the new low-cost laptop is being carried out at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, said D. Purandeswari, Minister of State for Higher Education, at a conference in Delhi. This measure will help raise the quality of higher education in India, she added.

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More music

I want to follow yesterday's good focus on music studies with more of the same today. I also am close to finishing act one of the new splay and might as well do it today as tomorrow.

I storyboarded all the shots for the Aug 3 shoot, using Storyspace. Hopefully I won't forget something as I usually do. I am eager to get shooting again -- so I can get editing again. It's editing that's the real fun but, of course, you have to have the right shots and the right performances to edit.

I still have a ton to learn in this video process.

What is success?

An email this morning ended with, "...and that's why you're successful."

Funny, I don't feel successful. No, that's not quite right. I feel more marginal and invisible than I was in the 1980s, for example, when I did feel successful. If I were "successful" today, I wouldn't meet people who were fans of my plays twenty years ago and who ask me, Are you still writing? Clearly I'm not as "visible" as I once was. My name isn't as widely known as it once was. I'm not the subject of magazine profiles as often as I once was. I haven't signed an autograph on a book in a very long time. Is all this a measure of success/failure?

There's one yardstick that would say, Not at all! My own. That is, in my own estimation of my own work, with all its inevitable biases, I'm a better writer today than I was 20 years ago. Visibility and size of fan base are other issues entirely, driven by forces unrelated to whether the work is "better" than before or not. Thinking you're better but also feeling more marginal is an irritant but not significant beyond that.

I suppose it's that question, Are you still writing?, that ticks me off. Another thing is, I was spoiled early in my career. Playwrights almost never, never, get the security of being a playwright-in-residence with a theater company, with a yearly slot devoted to their work, but I had this luxury through most of the 80s at two different companies. A hard act to follow!

Today, with a de facto video company that seems to have materialized without any plan to create it, I actually have more artistic resources and freedom than ever before, once again (as when a resident playwright) blessed to write for the talents of particular actors. The actor, after all, is the building block of script storytellers, whether writing for stage or screen. Now this feels like success.

And then there's the issue of money. Money is a standard measure of success in our culture. The income curve of any writer is uneven and often unpredictable, and that hasn't changed. I haven't written a "fat" project for a while, and I've abandoned journalism, long a significant source of income. The video projects are completely without commercial intent or projection. You don't make money writing posthumous plays ha ha. Income is only an issue with me in screenwriting, where I am consciously trying to write another "fat" project. But it's not something I lose any sleep over.

I'm in the best place of my career. So why this lack of feeling successful? I suppose, again, because I had so much visibility so early. The first one-act play I ever wrote placed in a national contest. I was flown across the country and treated like a big shot. This can be heady stuff. In the 80s, my work was treated by many critics and reviewers with admiration, respect -- and expectations which I didn't realize.

Expectations. One thing I can say about my career is that I've followed my own interests rather than follow up on potential possibilities. I began in fiction. When three of my short stories made the Roll of Honor in "Best American Short Stories," this suggested a future in fiction. So what do I do? I abandon it. I write plays. Even in the 80s, when my plays were getting attention, what do I do? I abandon traditional theater and spend a decade focused on hyperdrama, an upstream endeavor if ever there was one. I've never done what's "best" for my career if "success" as usually measured were a goal.

The thing is, I wouldn't change a thing. The 80s were great -- it was good to experience all that. It was good to have some stranger reporter call you on the phone and ask your opinion about something just because you are "someone." But it's easy to see how that would become a big pain in the butt if overdone. I'm not a very social animal. I probably don't have the constitution to be "successful" ha ha.

Our culture is a culture that rewards stars. The arts are star-driven, and that's a very small party. Anyone in a band, any painter, any writer, any actor, knows of someone more famous than they whose work is no better, and even worse, than one's own. It's a crap shoot, and if you're lucky, you get some attention. You get attention in small ponds or bigger ponds, a few even in major ponds. If you are a star like Doris Lessing, you write a new novel and send it to your own publisher under a pseudonym and get it rejected. It's not the novel they respond to, it's the name of the author, the star.

Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.

I suppose the best sense in which I am successful is that, even as an old fart, I am still doing what I do. And I can count on two hands the years in which I've held your ordinary 9 to 5 day job -- and in this culture, avoiding the daily work routine is surely a measure of something! Somehow or other, I've managed to survive doing mostly what I want to do the way I want to do it. Let's call this "success" and be done with it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Heady stuff

When I think about the sudden full video schedule ahead, I feel a little overwhelmed.

  • "The Heirs," a silent comedy. Two more shooting days, Aug. 3 and 10. This should be on DVD by the end of August.
  • Untitled mockumentary. A good start on the script. Finish the script, letting the actors collaborate, and hope to shoot in the fall and finish before the end of the year.
  • Adapting "Waitresses" to a feature. First, write the screenplay, a smaller approach to the adaptation than the Hollywood version I wrote in the 80s. Then find the locations. Cast the cowboy and the cameo roles. Fit a shooting schedule around Kate's world travels with a theater company. Hopefully shoot in summer, fall, 2009, finish before end of 2009.

18 months of work ahead.

Music music music

Been a piano-filled day, as planned. Grunt practice mainly.

Get cash for your gadgets

What a great idea!
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What Is Gazelle?

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I've been carrying around Chapman's Homer for some time now, putting off budgeting time to read it. In the fall, I noticed, was a non-accredited seminar in the Iliad, so I thought, here's discipline to read the first volume of Chapman! and inquired whether the instructor would mind if I read this translation. Her reply: Everyone must read the same modern translation! If I want to add Chapman AFTER reading the modern, fine. Like who has time to read two at once? Pretty tight-sphinctered of her, I think. It's not for credit or a grade or anything, the class costs a bundle, who the hell cares if I read Chapman's translation instead? Homer is always broken into verse and line, like the Bible, so it's easy to be on the same page. I would think a classic translation would add interest to the class. Well, pooh on her and her course.

I missed this last winter

The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships.
By David Levy.
Illustrated. 334 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $24.95.
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Robo Love


The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships.

By David Levy.

By the middle of this century, he predicts, “love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans, while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach more than is in all of the world’s published sex manuals combined.”
Humans, Levy writes, are hard-wired to impute emotions onto anything with which we’re in intimate contact, to feel love for objects both animate and inanimate. And robots, he argues, might turn out to be even more lovable than some humans.
I’d have liked a little less gee-whiz, and a little more examination about whether a sexbot in every home, a Kama Sutra on legs that never tires, never says no, and never has needs of its own is what we really want.
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Music studies

This morning is dedicated to music studies, both theory and practice. I also need to put together a practice routine that I can fit within my otherwise busy schedule.

Spent some time fine-tuning the editing of clips already shot in the silent comedy, so I can just insert what is left. It should come together reasonably quickly when I get the rest of the footage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mad Men

I just discovered this AMC series, alerted when it was nominated for an Emmy. I've only seen two episodes, a rerun last week and the premiere of season 2 tonight. Both were excellent. This really captures the environment of corporate America in the early 60s. I spent my one and only year in corporate America in 1962, working for a year at Burroughs after the Army, before returning to college, and it was a surreal experience. This series captures it nicely.

The bar closest to work, where many went after 5 (if not before if you were an executive), had a time card machine at the entrance -- you stamped a card to see what price your drinks would be for happy hour. Never got close to nickel and dime nights in the Army -- a military base being where the real happy hours happen in the drinking universe -- but it wasn't too shabby for a civilian approximation.

Storyspace for storyboarding

I decided to storyboard my shots for the Aug 3 shoot ... so I cranked up Storyspace, rather than using a program I have called Storyboard ... and I discovered what I suspected, that Storyspace is much more versatile, even though it doesn't have the built-in elements relevant to storyboarding. It's also quicker to use. It's one of those programs I always find new uses for.

Small strokes

Browsing in the library, I see that an anonymous reader gave my two short novels collected under the title Love & Country a five-star rating. Always nice to learn someone likes your work in what can be a pretty isolated, even lonely, profession. Craig Lesley, a novelist of considerable reputation in these parts, provided a good blurb, as did Michael Hollister, another novelist I greatly admire (his Hollywood trilogy is a gem). I also designed the cover and rather like it.

Making a feature

Well, the actress who would play the lead, Ruby, is on board. I wrote the candidate for the daughter, and we'll see how that goes. I have no idea about the third major role, the country singer. None of the guys in our company looks right to me. I'd like the Marlboro man.

Filming this in the Mamet style, more of a play set out in realistic locations than a blown up adaptation ala Hollywood, this is quite doable. Most of the scenes would be two-character between mother and daughter. Lots of mother alone visual storytelling, lots of daughter alone the same. That's half the film. Then the one guy in the mix for the other half. I could or could not write cameo roles. Yes, this strikes me as a long project (given everyone's schedules, i.e. we do this part-time) but quite doable.

Beginning to feel as if it might happen.

And it's far worse today!

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September 23, 1984
Doris Lessing Says She Used Pen Name to Show New Writers' Difficulties

In an attempt to dramatize the difficulties faced by unknown writers, the acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing recently wrote two novels under a pseudonym. After a rejection by her longtime British publisher, the books were published in Britain and in the United States with little fanfare and few sales.

Mrs. Lessing, who has written more than 25 books and has been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, said she had staged the ruse to point up the difficulties of unknown writers, to offer them encouragement and to fool reviewers who had complained that she no longer wrote in the realistic style she had once used. Mrs. Lessing said she had been planning her experiment for years.

Both her American publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, and Michael Joseph, which published the two pseudonymous novels in Britain, were aware of the experiment from the beginning.

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New work

Continuing progress on the new screenplay and the mockumentary. Most of the actors in the latter are going to participate in writing their own roles (monologues). No rush at all on this project ... looking at Oct, Nov for shooting. I'd like to finish the screenplay draft before Labor Day, by which time the silent comedy should be on DVD. If all this happens, what an incredibly productive summer! After Labor Day, of course, I also put my prof cap back on and begin thinking about my fall class.

Am I this ambitious?

I've been brooding for some time over whether or not to tackle a feature on the Flip. What makes the possibility attractive now is that I have the perfect actors for mother-daughter in my play WAITRESSES. This almost became a movie in the 80s, so close that the producer told me it was a done deal -- before a backer pulled out at the very last minute, the meeting to sign contracts. Damn close! The script I wrote in that adaptation, RUBY'S TUNE, was much more "Hollywood" than I'd go here. I'd rather be closer to the play, a kind of "filmed play" the way Mamet's adaptations of his own work are. I might add a character or two, or give the rest of the actors in our "company" bit roles. But the mother and daughter could be so perfectly cast in this mother-daughter story, it's damn tempting! I could probably tighten it to an hour, slap it on a DVD.

I'm serious enough that I told an actress to read the script and tell me if the role interested her. I could rework the script in winter, rehearse in spring, shoot in summer. Jesus, am I becoming a filmmaker at my age?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Booked up

The silent comedy will keep me busy until late August. The mockumentary likely will keep me busy until November or December. So I'm pretty much booked up for the rest of the year as far as video projects go. And I like the feeling.

I have to find the same focus and dedication to music. I am forever behind in my music studies.

Country road

I don't claim that Portland is paradise the way many local gushers do, but I concede that it's not a bad place to live. One of its strengths is location: you don't have to drive far in almost any direction to have a sense of being in the country and sometimes actually being there.

Our country drive today began in our favorite dog park in West Lynn, one of the many bedroom communities for the city (they probably don't like to hear that). We like the park because it's not fenced. Dogs run in a section of the park reserved for them. Today the park was a zoo with some kind of kids' soccer tournament going on but after finding a parking place, we discovered the dog park was less crowded than usual. Sketch had a good long run, and we were off again.

Next stop a water garden place in what might be Wilsonville, on a country road. I bought some water plants for the Kaypro 2x garden. I should've bought more, it turns out, but maybe they'll grow. They usually do but I also usually get the water garden up and running before the 4th of July. This year I was busily making videos instead.

And I guess I'll keep making them. Our "company," which is what we're beginning to feel like, has too much energy to dismiss. H. and I continue brainstorming her mockumentary idea and have come up with some really good bits. She's seen every Christopher Guest movie a zillion times; this is her favorite genre, so she is full of details that I would have missed. This has the potential to be our best project.

Just as "Heirs", the silent comedy, has the potential to be our best project to date. I still have two more shooting days: Aug 3 and 10, but the editing should go quickly after that. I have everything else edited, including some really fun cast credits. I think the biggest challenge left is taping the last sequence, a tango between the only two characters still alive ... H. assures me she can choreograph this so the gestures we need in the scene will be there. I've been listening to tango music generated by BIAB and getting some good possibilities. What is REALLY good, is that since in BIAB I change the the tempo without changing the pitch, I can easily match the rhythm of the music to the rhythm of the dancing.

A busy day. A good day.

New projects

Wrote the first 5 pages of the new splay and the opening of the mockumentary, introducing the characters. Something to make each more concrete. No rush with either, though I should finish the screenplay first. I think I'll invite the mock actors to contribute to their own monologues.

We plan a drive into the country today. I need to buy some water plants for the water garden.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why I own a push mower

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Angry man shoots lawn mower for not starting

MILWAUKEE - A Milwaukee man was accused of shooting his lawn mower because it wouldn't start. Keith Walendowski, 56, was charged with felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle and misdemeanor disorderly conduct while armed.

According to the criminal complaint, Walendowski said he was angry because his Lawn Boy wouldn't start Wednesday morning. He told police quote, "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want."

A woman who lives at Walendowski's house reported the incident. She said he was intoxicated.

Walendowski could face up to an $11,000 fine and six years and three months in prison if convicted.

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Kaypro 2x Water Garden

How I recycled my first computer. This CP/M machine was the most reliable and durable computer I ever owned. Loved it. Sometimes less is more -- hence my writer's version of a laptop, the AlphaSmart USB word processing unit made for elementary schools (probably made obsolete by the new school computers coming out), which runs on 4 AA batteries -- and my first set lasted TWO AND A HALF YEARS. How can you beat portability like that? What do you need to write? A keyboard and a brain.

I loved the Kaypro. With its green screen and aluminum box, I always felt like a WWII radar man when I used it.


I have this irrational feeling in my gut that something's going to break as a result of all this marketing I'm doing now and in the months ahead. After which, bank account fattened, I can retreat into more elitist dark private work than ever ha ha.


Been email brainstorming with Hollie about the mockumentary. It's such a pleasure to brainstorm with someone who works at lightning speed, as I do. My last big collaboration, the musical Sunset, was frustrating because I'd hit the ball, then wait for weeks if not months for it to come back, swat it again in a day or two, wait weeks, etc. H. is quick and full of good ideas. A joy working with her this way. (Plus she's a fine singer and actress, very talented lady.) Her memoir, I'm Not A Groupie, I'm IN The Band, is a gas and would make a funny movie. I have first dibs on the screenplay.


A good day to catch up on yard chores. Lawn work, water fountain work. I'll start as soon as it warms up this morning. Otherwise if I can put in a few hours on piano studies, it will be a full day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tick tick ...

I'm ready.
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Alien contact covered up, says Apollo veteran Edgar Mitchell

FORMER NASA astronaut and moonwalker Dr Edgar Mitchell - a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission - has stunningly claimed aliens do exist.
"I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we've been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomena is real," Dr Mitchell said.
"It's been well covered up by all our governments for the last 60 years or so, but slowly it's leaked out and some of us have been privileged to have been briefed on some of it.

"I've been in military and intelligence circles, who know that beneath the surface of what has been public knowledge, yes - we have been visited. Reading the papers recently, it's been happening quite a bit."
He told the astonished Kerrang! radio host Nick Margerrison: "This is really starting to open up. I think we're headed for real disclosure and some serious organisations are moving in that direction."
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Progress as sprinting

H., the actor with the mockumentary idea, sent me a story/character outline and it's right on. I'll give her story credit and just fiddle with it here and there. This means I can get to it sooner rather than later, though first I want to explore this new splay idea. But this has come together very quickly. H., who works in the field of our satire, knows what to poke fun at. Great stuff.

Young writer, old writer

When a day remotely like today happened to me a quarter century or more ago -- a script request, 3 definite live wires with other producers -- I'd be deep into celebrating by now. I'd have bought at least one round of drinks at Seafood Mama's, my hangout in those days. I'd be feeling on top of the world. As a younger writer, I often jumped the gun and over-rated the significance of "good news" in a business environment in which Yes often means No. Today I am excited, yes, but mildly so, briefly so, and quickly returning my focus to these two new wonderful projects I have to structure. What happens, happens. Usually nothing, sometimes something pretty cool. None of which is reason for a party.

When I finish editing the silent comedy and make DVDs for the actors, now that will be time for a showing and a party!

Think fast

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Boy, 11, bites pit bull to fend off attack

SAO PAULO, Brazil - An 11-year old boy is in Brazil's media spotlight after sinking his teeth into the neck of a dog that attacked him.

Local newspapers reported on Thursday that Gabriel Almeida was playing in his uncle's backyard in the city of Belo Horizonte when a pit bull named Tita lunged at him and bit him in the left arm.

Almeida grabbed the dog by the neck and bit back — biting so hard that he lost a canine tooth.

Almeida tells the O Globo newspaper: "It is better to lose a tooth than one's life."

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Marketing rarity

I subscribe to a newsletter in which producers list specific scripts they are looking for. Very rarely is anything listed that I can respond to -- but today, amazingly, I was able to respond to THREE different listings with an appropriate script, including the search for a biopic "like Amadeus" (Moliere!). 3 different scripts match this week's producer needs. Incredible. Now to see if any ask for a script. Crossing my fingers for Moliere. I think it's my best script (a former agent who worked damn hard to sell it thinks so, too).


Our next video project is going to be a mockumentary -- one of our actors has come up with an absolutely first rate subject matter. This is so hot I can't believe Christopher Guest isn't already at work on it. I'm really excited about this one, hilarious if done right. The actor also has an inside track re personal experience, location, etc.

Suddenly I have two new projects to brood about. Perfect.

This also is a perfect day. By 9, I felt like I'd put in a day's work. I like feeling that way before noon. Off on errands, breakfast at Nobby's, home to find this great idea for a mockumentary from Hollie. And summer is back. I call that a full house.

Some ideas never die

I think I have my new splay concept, a comedy. It's based on a play idea I had in the mid-80s but never got around to doing, which in turn is a takeoff on a comedy that was very popular at the time. Now a quarter century later, no one will put two and two together and see the spin off ha ha. And I think it works even better now because of the economy. Interesting how ideas stick around. They're like family. And the idea is "high concept," which means you can explain it in one sentence and a twit can understand it. Pure LaLaLand entertainment, if done right.

This will be a bear to structure, however. I'll start brooding about it.

Business moves forward, slowly

Script #4 sent out today. Agent says it's a VERY slow time, he's amazed I'm getting this many requests. We'll see what happens. It's a numbers game, always has been, and it just takes one. But you have to shake the dice. I've got 10 emails M-F down to a mindless routine. And a database of 100s of possibilities. So I just mindlessly throw the dice, and now and again, hit something, send out a script. Pretty automatic stuff.

But I still need a new idea for my third screenplay of the summer. Wouldn't be unusual to write two in six weeks, then nothing for the duration ha ha. There must be an inspiring idea out there somewhere! (I have LOTS of ideas, but my agent has trained me to wait for the one with real special possibilities; I add another way in, something I really care about, regardless of marketability. I have one of each that I'm pitching now, and the marketable one is winning, 3-1, in terms of requests.)

I need to catch up on music studies.

Extraordinary learning tool

I just discovered what an extraordinary learning tool Band In A Box can be. It's mostly used to generate music, of course; I'm generating the piano track for the silent comedy with it. But I can learn these catchy tunes myself this way: Band will print the sheet music. Morever, I can listen at a much slower tempo that does not distort the sound -- I can make it as slow as I want! With sheet music, audio, and an ability to slow it down without changing the pitch -- man, talk about a learning tool! Also, you can import midi files into Band and do the same. I didn't comprehend these features earlier, I was focused on generating music for video. But this may be the best learning tool I have. An exciting discovery.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We didn't like the new Batman movie, though I disliked it more than H. We both thought it was about 30 minutes too long. But I don't get into Batman the way I can get into Spiderman, and I think it's because I find a nerdy kid who doesn't get the girl a lot more sympathetic than a wealthy businessman. And in this version, Batman's voice drove me up the wall. I loved the performance of the Joker but that's about it.

I re-edited the bottle-poison scene, trying a different way to cover the real problem, which is that I forgot an important shot. This new attempt to fake my way out of it works better, I think. Editing often seems to be about yours truly trying to cover his own mistakes ha ha.

Been thinking about the next video project. Something noir appeals to me, as does a mockumentary. Also another silent. Also a series. Brood, brood.


While stumbling around for the next screenwriting project, I worked this morning on my second posthumous play, a non-commercial project I do feel passionate about. Only a dozen pages into it. Too early to know how it's working.

"The Heirs" Sneak Preview

Sneak preview

I made a little sneak preview of "The Heirs" ... I'll upload it to YouTube later today.

I need to find a new screenplay idea. Have tons but nothing really grabs me. I need to write something I feel passionate about, like the last two, those amazingly quick scripts that started the summer. Of course, that's a summer's work right there but I'm fickle, I need to be working on something new rather than congratulating myself on recent work. A serial monogamist when it comes to writing. Well, for that matter ... I won't continue this thought ha ha.

Behind on music studies. Par.

Reading about a few contemporary physicists who believe in time travel. Fascinating stuff.

I need to go back to bed.

The scheduling nightmare

Another actor change means it's back to the drawing boards for the last day of shooting. I'm beginning to think of ways to change the script to work around this but I'll give the script as written a couple more attempts at scheduling. If editing is the most fun part of the process, this is the least.

Right place, right time

I've had good timing on more than one occasion in my life. It was good timing to ...
  • Grow up in LA in the 50s. To be a white teenager in a city large enough to have vibrant black radio stations at the birth of rock and roll.
  • To be in the Army Security Agency, 1959-62, too late for Korea, too early for Vietnam, but with "safer" excitement with the Berlin Wall crisis.
  • Grad school, Univ of Oregon, Eugene, 1960s, early 70s, to be on any large university campus then.
  • Portland, Oregon, 1980s, particularly as a playwright in its vibrant theater scene.

And since then? Nothing like the same energy, I'm afraid. Times change. I count my blessings. I watch younger people create their special and different worlds. I find a few to cheer on. I marvel at how much changes -- and how little. I'm glad I'm not younger. I count my blessings again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

June, 2009

My old grad school office mate is putting together a reunion of 60s Univ of Oregon English Dept. grad students ... a tremendous idea! Count me in, the gods be willing.

Production photos

We have the good fortune of having a professional photographer, Robert Peate (playing the Son), in our cast. Some production photos of the silent video, still in progress.

Major work

The wife broke O'Neill's instructions very quickly. Greed? A mission?
O'Neill's Long Day's Journey
On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey Into Night to his wife, Carlotta. Accompanying the manuscript was O'Neill's letter of dedication
Also attached to the manuscript later were O'Neill's instructions, communicated to Carlotta and to Bennett Cerf at Random House, that the play could not be published until twenty-five years after his death, and not performed ever. In his diary he recorded that he was pleased with it -- "Like this play better than any I have ever written--does most with the least--a quiet play!--and a great one, I believe"
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Looking good

A good shoot yesterday, long and exhausting but the clips, sixty of them, look great. Started editing and pleased with how it's going. We have a two-week break before we shoot again. I'll have everything I have edited with "black video" spaces for where missing scenes get inserted. A terrific project, working with terrific actors.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A different approach

clipped from

With No Frills or Tuition, a College Draws Notice

BEREA, Ky. — Berea College, founded 150 years ago to educate freed slaves and “poor white mountaineers,” accepts only applicants from low-income families, and it charges no tuition.

Actually, what buys that education is Berea’s $1.1 billion endowment, which puts the college among the nation’s wealthiest. But unlike most well-endowed colleges, Berea has no football team, coed dorms, hot tubs or climbing walls. Instead, it has a no-frills budget, with food from the college farm, handmade furniture from the college crafts workshops, and 10-hour-a-week campus jobs for every student.

As many elite universities scramble to recruit more low-income students, Berea’s no-tuition model has attracted increasing attention.
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The NYer cover

Lots of debate in academia.
clipped from
The Chronicle Review
Brainstorm: Lives of the Mind
Laurie Fendrich

The Bad Cover

Are they really this stupid? I’m talking about the editors who decided on Barry Blitt’s cover for this week’s The New Yorker — the one depicting Barack Obama in a turban, his wife Michelle done up as terrorist with an Afro, the two of them gleefully standing in the Oval Office while an American flag burns in the fireplace.

It’s too bad that The New Yorker editors apparently know so little about how images work — in general, within art, but more particularly, as objects to be manipulated in the age of the Internet. More than words, images, once released into the public sphere, take on a powerful life of their own. Unlike paintings (which are special kinds of images that invite lingering and ruminating), images like The New Yorker cover hit the viewer quickly, decisively, and all at once. The first response is always and without exception the strongest one, and it’s very difficult for it to be fully erased later on.
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Shooting in the park

Went well yesterday. There was a festival in the park, making it a zoo, and if we were shooting sound, we'd have had to move somewhere else. The beauty of silent film is that it didn't matter. We found a patch of secluded lawn, set up the croquet, and did our work.

I edited it last night. Mostly looks great -- except there's a small reaction sequence I misdirected. I'll just cut it.

A much more complicated day today, the prep for which I need to start now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

This reminds me of some trips to Disneyland in SoCal in the 60s, a group of adults and kids, when some of us without kids would hop the park train for a quick trip to the bar at the Disneyland Hotel before riding back to watch the kids' continuing journey through the rides.

The shooting begins

Scheduled shoots both today and tomorrow for the silent movie. Today we're outside, a croquet game, a "meet the family" sequence. This will be about 30 or 45 seconds in the film, I suspect, but probably will take an hour or more to shoot. Each actor needs to find the expression and body language that instantly communicates their character, while playing croquet. We'll try lots of things.

Tomorrow will be more of a mess -- the kitchen scenes, which is where everyone gets poisoned, one by one, so we'll have a lot of falling bodies and the dragging of corpses. We have three hours scheduled in a friend's house. Needed a kitchen with a nearby escape route, a door, for dragging the bodies, in this case to a utility porch.

I had hoped to have only one more day of shooting but it can't be done with the actors' schedules, so we'll finish up with 3 hrs on Sunday Aug 3rd and 2 hrs on Monday the 4th. So it ought to be edited and online by mid August, knock on my wooden head.

The Old West project would require more time than I have to give to it now, alas. I'd have to reacquaint myself with too much research, which was done five years ago. It's a fun project but my time is more limited than ever. I have to pass for the moment on things that interest me, i.e. I don't do as much multi-tasking as I once did. Don't have the energy for it any more.

Heroes, past and present

Interesting article, with which I mostly agree. (Thanks to JM for alerting me to it.)
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Hollywood’s Hero Deficit

From the July/August 2008 Issue
A spate of movies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror came out last year, all of them hostile to U.S. involvement and all of them box-office flops. At the time there was a certain amount of soul-searching in the media as to why, when most Americans told pollsters they thought the Iraq war, at least, had been a mistake, they didn’t seem to want to go and see movies that sought to show them just how great a mistake it had been.
During and after World War II, real-life heroes often looked to the likes of John Wayne to see what a hero was supposed to look and act like. Such men hardly exist now.
The point of the heroes Hollywood has specialized in over the last 35 years has been to make sure that heroism can exist only on a plane far from the daily lives of the audience.
Where there is no hope of a better world, there can be little to distinguish heroes from villains.
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Saturday, July 19, 2008


Several years ago, I was researching a project set in the Old West. A dark comedy based on a mythical event. I knew "tone" was going to be everything in this book, a novel, so I wrote a variety of page ones, trying out different approaches. Well, today I decided to revisit them -- but I can't find them. I can't imagine I tossed them, it was a high priority project at the time. I have great "search" software and I know page one would have had a certain phrase on it but I still can't turn up these pages. I haven't taken the time to search the entire hard drive, just directories something like that should be in. Also searched my backup drive (the text one, I also have a video one) and did find all of my considerable source material, thank the gods. But I really did want to revisit the tones of voice I was trying out. I was thinking of doing something lighter this summer, and this old west comedy might be the ticket. I guess I'll have to start from scratch. Not a biggie, just frustrating. I don't like "the idea" of not being able to find something.

p.s. I found it!


I remember those fields when we lived in a farm house in Salisbury, MD.
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Tomato growers: Salmonella scare damages industry

By STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - The 6,000 acres of tomatoes grown on Virginia's sea-swept Eastern Shore were never implicated in the national salmonella outbreak — they were still on the vine weeks after people starting getting sick.

Since the government announced it was investigating whether tomatoes caused the outbreak that began in April, the nation's tomato industry estimates it has lost more than $100 million. Health investigators have not able to find tomatoes that contained the salmonella strain that sickened 1,220 people, and the government on Thursday lifted its salmonella warning involving tomatoes.

"The damage has been done. I don't think we'll ever get over it," said Madonia, sales manager for East Coast Brokers & Packers, which grows 4,000 acres on the Eastern Shore.

Madonia said it took too long for the government to rule out tomatoes in the salmonella outbreak.

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