Thursday, July 31, 2008
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.
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.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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.
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
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.
The censored Internet is the latest broken promise on press freedoms
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.
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
- "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.
The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships.
By David Levy.
Illustrated. 334 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $24.95.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Doris Lessing Says She Used Pen Name to Show New Writers' Difficulties
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
I have to find the same focus and dedication to music. I am forever behind in my music studies.
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.
We plan a drive into the country today. I need to buy some water plants for the water garden.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I loved the Kaypro. With its green screen and aluminum box, I always felt like a WWII radar man when I used it.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
FORMER NASA astronaut and moonwalker Dr Edgar Mitchell - a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission - has stunningly claimed aliens do exist.
When I finish editing the silent comedy and make DVDs for the actors, now that will be time for a showing and a party!
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.
This will be a bear to structure, however. I'll start brooding about it.
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.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
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.
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.
- 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
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"
Monday, July 21, 2008
As many elite universities scramble to recruit more low-income students, Berea’s no-tuition model has attracted increasing attention.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
p.s. I found it!