Sunday, August 31, 2008


Talk about good timing.

Kenmore publisher strikes gold with Palin bio

Seattle Times staff reporter

A local publisher is scrambling to fill orders for about 40,000 copies of the only biography of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which until Friday morning had sold just 8,000 copies.

"What a stroke of luck," said Kent Sturgis, publisher and co-owner of Epicenter Press in Kenmore.

He had 3,000 copies of the hardback version left on Friday morning, when Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced Palin as his running mate.

"We decided right off the bat that we better go ahead and do a paperback version," he said. "We were producing copies of this paperback about 14 hours after the announcement, and they'll all be shipped on Tuesday."

The book had climbed to No. 7 on's best-selling-books list by Saturday evening. The list is updated hourly.

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How the storm helps McCain

McCain caught a real break. The approaching storm changes the convention, which makes comparison to the Democratic convention impossible, apples v. oranges; it keeps Bush from making a speech there; it gives McCain a chance to show the face of compassionate conservatism (he's even thinking of delivering his acceptance speech from the Gulf, which might be so obviously opportunist as to work against him); he gets to act to the camera in a crisis. If both candidates start grandstanding in the aftermath of the storm, trying to show they are more compassionate than the other guy, a better leader in a crisis than the other guy, well, here we go again. Politics is pissing in public, wrote Norman O. Brown.

I'm astounded how many commentators on the Sunday talk shows welcome the possibility of the good governor of Alaska being their President and aren't, like yours truly, scared to death of the possibility.

Politics as Hollywood

I'm not the only one to feel like recent politics came straight from Hollywood. Maureen Dowd has written a very funny column from the same premise. Only in America.


"He's so unhip that When you say Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas, Whoever he was. The man ain't got no culture,"

Paul Simon

I'll never forget the evening I stood in line behind two teenage girls in the supermarket. This must have been in the mid 70s. One was leafing through a magazine. Suddenly her eyes got wide and she said to her friend, "Did you know Paul McCartney had a band before Wings!?"

The secret ballot

I still recall a dinner conversation when I was a kid in L.A. My parents had befriended new neighbors and were talking about how much they liked them. Suddenly my dad said, I think they may be Republicans. My parents were FDR Democrats. He wondered this and changed the subject, which was never brought up again. They became good friends with the neighbors. I learned years later that, yes, the neighbors were Republicans.

Contrast this to several friends I have today who cannot imagine being friends with a Republican! What an extraordinary difference! It used to be that personal beliefs were personal. Your religion, your politics, were private matters. It was rude, rude, to ask, Who are you going to vote for? You seldom saw lawn signs pledging allegiance to a candidate. You seldom saw political buttons on a vest. Oh yes, you'd flaunt your beliefs at a political convention if you went, but then you returned to your community and played your beliefs close to your vest. It was nobody's business where you went to church or whom you voted for.

The ballot was secret, and the secret ballot was a sacred institution that deserved this kind of respect.

Where political differences were important to come into the light was in government itself. I had the good fortune to write a long profile about Oregon's former governor Tom McCall before he died. I spent a week hanging around with him, and in our long taped conversations he told me a remarkable thing about his tenure in office. His top advisor was a bright conservative Republican. McCall was a liberal Republican. In the governor's own description, "I thought he was a fascist, and he thought I was a commie." This was the way it should be in government, McCall went on, because every issue became a debate, and every decision became a careful compromise in the middle of extreme beliefs.

How different the Bush administration is, with its cadre of Yes Men and its disgraceful treatment of someone like Colin Powell who questions the party line! How refreshing for Obama to flat out say he doesn't want to be surrounded by Yes Men. (Of course, saying and doing are two different things. We'll see.)

The important subtext of a secret ballot is that our similarities matter more than our political differences. Who cares, finally, if the new neighbors are Republicans or not? We enjoy them for other reasons than their political beliefs.

Our culture has lost this respect for privacy. This has been lost in part because we've been shaped into a nation of consumers -- and political beliefs are just another product to consume. Politics is visible far, far, far more than when I was growing up -- ads, lawn signs, bumper stickers, talk shows, phone banks, door-to-door solicitations, all points of view screaming, Buy me! buy me! buy me!

One of the perpetual disagreements in our household concerns lawn signs. I will not put up a lawn sign for anyone under any circumstances. I think to do so undermines the sacred notion of a secret ballot. My wife would put up a lawn sign for dog catcher. Our house is far off the street, so now and again she puts up a sign far enough from our home that I can ignore it.

I love my parents, FDR Democrats, becoming great friends with neighbors "who may be Republicans." I don't understand my friends today who flat out declare, "I could never be friends with a Republican." Ironically enough, these same people in another context talk about the importance of diversity! "All people are equal but some are more equal than others."

Here's an irony: some of the lost older traditions of this country, like great parental focus on the education of children, are getting a shot in the arm by immigrant families, whose kids spend more time in books than at the mall. Many immigrant families respect the secret ballot because they come from state-controlled tyrannical environments. Many immigrant families behave the way Americans used to behave.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


It's been almost half a century since historian Richard Hofstadter published his cogent study, Anti-intellectualism in American Life. I don't know if a new book, Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason, is as impressive but I plan to check it out.

These books look at a real cultural phenomenon. Look at our brightest kids: check out the spelling bees, the science fairs, the scholarship winners, and you find a disproportionate (i.e. with respect to their population) number of non-white, non-mainstream "Mom and apple pie" Americans. You find a lot of parents from immigrant cultures in which education is respected more than in our mainstream. (Since whites will soon be the minority, maybe this will be to our cultural advantage.)

The trouble with our national mythology is that we confuse equality of opportunity with equality of achievement. I don't want "just your average [fill in the blank]" to operate on my brain, write my literature, compose my symphonies, represent my country in the Olympics -- or be my President. I want people far better than average in the appropriate skill set.

This is not to say "the best and the brightest" are always right, far from it. But the life of the active mind must be nurtured and respected. Ideologues, whether in a political party, a religion, an AA meeting or elsewhere, begin with conclusions and search out evidence to support them. The culture needs a shot of healthy skepticism and enough humble curiosity to let evidence lead, not follow, the journey to whatever makes the most sense at the time. We need a lot more epistemological uncles in the land.

Perhaps William James put it best: to be tough-minded and tender-hearted. The combination has become all too rare.

Friday Night Lights

I'm hooked on two TV series: Friday Night Lights and Mad Men.

I especially like the way FNL is shot.

Friday Night Lights is unusual in its use of actual locations as opposed to prefabricated stage sets and its lack of any sound stage for filming. This, along with the production team using hundreds of locals as extras, gives the series a uniquely authentic look.[24]

The drive towards authenticity continues in the show’s documentary style filming technique which employs three cameras for each shoot and shoots entire scenes in one take. This differs from most productions in that most productions will film scenes from each angle repeating an average scene several times and readjusting lighting to accommodate each shot. The show is mostly improvised and scenes in the show are usually the first takes. By filming a scene all at once, the producers have tried to create an environment for the actors that is more organic and allows for the best performances.[25]


I'm considering using a similar technique when I shoot my first feature next summer. I'm also thinking of doing something with the color to give it a faded older look. I don't want to do it in black and white, done that, but give it a less bright, more subdued color look. I'll start fiddling with settings soon and see if I stumble upon something that looks right to me.

Insight of the day

The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.

- Adlai Stevenson

Only in America

Channel surfing, I stumbled across the good governor of Alaska giving a pep rally speech, which was basically the same speech she gave yesterday, and I suddenly had the sense I was watching Sandra Bullock in a comedy. In this comedy, McCain wins, shortly thereafter has a heart attack and dies, and the good governor of Alaska becomes president in the midst of simultaneous crises with Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan ... you get the picture. In the movie, of course, she rises to become a true statesman and saves America from all bad guys on the planet. She ends up on Mt. Rushmore.

I think this election campaign is going to get very surreal. I think it's also going to make me cry.

Cruising & brooding

Up early to cruise and brood. Heard an inspiring reflection on the election by Scott Simon (NPR), regarding its historical significance no matter who wins. True. Yet there are clear differences in the political philosophies and proposed programs of the candidates, as often there are not, differences regarding abortion and gun control laws, tax policy and foreign policy, and it would do the country good to hear a genuine debate on these issues rather than the usual series of attack ads and cheap shots that define American politics. I'm not optimistic about getting it -- but what a welcome change it would be if we did! The winner is going to change the Supreme Court in a significant way, either continuing its move toward the right (and probably reversing Roe v. Wade) or stopping it. It's an important election. Too important to hold in the usual home of American politics, the gutter.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) is a controversial United States Supreme Court case that resulted in a landmark decision regarding abortion.[1] According to the Roe decision, most laws against abortion in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision overturned all state and federal laws outlawing or restricting abortion that were inconsistent with its holdings. Roe v. Wade is one of the most controversial and politically significant cases in U.S. Supreme Court history. Its lesser-known companion case, Doe v. Bolton, was decided at the same time.[2]

The central holding of Roe v. Wade was that abortions are permissible for any reason a woman chooses, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable,’ that is, potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."[1] The Court also held that abortion after viability must be available when needed to protect a woman's health, which the Court defined broadly in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton. These court rulings affected laws in 46 states.[3]


Overturning Roe v. Wade

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat.

However, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion. Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby. The pro-life movement has done tremendous work in building and reinforcing the infrastructure of civil society by strengthening faith-based, community, and neighborhood organizations that provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need. This work must continue and government must find new ways to empower and strengthen these armies of compassion. These important groups can help build the consensus necessary to end abortion at the state level. As John McCain has publicly noted, "At its core, abortion is a human tragedy. To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level."


(Note: Sarah Palin is even more conservative in her views than McCain. She wants to drill in the Alaskan wilderness, and she believes Global Warming is not manmade. I can understand Evangelical Christians being thrilled by her nomination. I can understand the non-evangelical far right being thrilled. But I can't imagine a supporter of Hillary Clinton being thrilled unless the support was completely ideological about gender issues, not a commitment to issues Clinton fights for. At any rate, the battle lines now are clearly drawn. We'll see what kind of future the majority of Americans want. Do I have a prediction? Not really. But I wouldn't be upset by an Obama landslide ha ha.)

Here is just one issue where the differences between the candidates are monumental. There's plenty here to debate without throwing mud.

Everything in my rhythm changes after this weekend. For me, the school year begins three weeks before I enter the classroom. As I usually am by this time of the summer, I'm eager for the term to begin. I like teaching and I like the schedule it puts me on. I didn't get everything done I wanted to this summer but I had a very productive summer nonetheless, writing two new screenplays and finishing a new video. No complaints. We still get a few days at the coast, our vacation, but mostly now it's time to get serious about putting together my new syllabus. Onward.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Tuesday it's time to put on my teaching cap and start preparing for the fall term. I'm adding a new book and videos, so have changes in the syllabus to make. Also considering a book for more possible changes winter term. I'll get the darn thing right yet ha ha.

The lines are drawn

Maybe it won't be as close as the pundits think. Conservatives aren't the only ones energized. I think young folks could determine the outcome. We'll see.
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The Main Event: McCain-Palin vs. Obama-Biden

DENVER - Republican John McCain shook up the presidential race with his surprise choice of little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday. Democrat Barack Obama, entering a crucial stage of the campaign fresh off his historic nominating convention, began a tour of battleground states.

Palin has a strong anti-abortion record, and her selection was praised warmly by social conservatives whose support McCain needs to prevail in the campaign for the White House.

"It's an absolutely brilliant choice," said Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law. "This will absolutely energize McCain's campaign and energize conservatives."

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Stirring the pot

I posted earlier that McCain's choosing a woman VP would really stir the pot. With major contenders being eliminated one by one, it's beginning to look as if he'll do just this. We'll see.
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Speculation over McCain veep turns to Alaska gov.

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

DENVER - John McCain kept his vice presidential pick a closely guarded secret hours before the high-stakes announcement Friday as top prospects seemed to drop away and speculation moved to darkhorse candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

A GOP strategist close to the McCain campaign said all indications pointed to Palin, 44, a self-styled "hockey mom" and political reformer. The strategist spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized by the McCain camp to discuss the matter. There was no confirmation from McCain or his advisers.

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Arrogance loses again

To set politics aside, college football season began last night -- and Oregon State lost a chance to tie the game late with a mindless player gesture that's become all too common today. A player tried to reach forward with the ball into the end zone, rather than take the ball close where it was, for a possible score on the next play, and in so doing lost the ball, making a touch back and giving the ball to Stanford, which secured the win with a knee on the next plays. Stupid! Players never did this years ago. They protected the ball. Now it's become fashionable to do this hot dog gesture and as often as not, it backfires. Oregon lost a game last year at Cal the same way. I blame the coaches. They let the players get away with stupid arrogant gestures like this. Bench them. That'll solve it pretty quickly. If you don't protect the ball, you don't play.

The video

Obama's Acceptance Speech from C-SPAN.


ME: What did you think of Obama's speech last night?

SHE: Somebody's gonna shoot him.

Here is the terrible legacy of the sixties, the memory of all those assassinations. I pray history doesn't repeat itself. I pray for the better angels of our nature. I pray for better security in this Age of Terror. I pray the newer generations don't have to experience the baptismal fires of the 60s.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


More than 84,000 attend Obama speech

Transcript of Obama's acceptance speech.

Here's hoping for a genuine political debate about the future and not the same old dirty politics. Obama's speech offers McCain a great opportunity to get serious.

The fragility of hope

Those of us who were adults during the series of assassinations in the 60s know first hand how fragile political hope can be. It seemed like whenever a progressive political leader took center stage, "they" killed him off. And so it's not surprising to me when a black friend says about Obama's nomination, They'll kill him. "They". Who is they? The opponents of progressive change, variously described as Power Lords, Big Money Interests, Status Quo Defenders, the nebulous "they." A long list of conspiracy theories gets added to the mix. "They". And now we can add racism into the mix.

But hope is on the horizon again, as it hasn't been experienced since the 60s, and we who were there can't help but worry if history will repeat itself, if "they" again will bring out the assassins to keep change from getting out of hand, from redistributing income in any significant way, to challenging corporate power in any significant way. What new conspiracy are "they" planning now?

Of course, Obama may not even get elected. I like to believe he will be but maybe the country isn't ready for the kind of change he represents. Unfortunately, it will be a mean-spirited and dishonest and dirty campaign, and Obama will be urged to throw as much mud as he gets. I hope the excitement and hope he inspires doesn't get lost in the smoke.

It's an extraordinary moment in our history. The question is, Is it a dangerous one as well?

Beer for breakfast

While I was having an early breakfast at Nobby's today, a fellow came in, sat at the bar and ordered a beer. Beer for breakfast, I remember it well. A quarter century ago, my favorite drinking time was morning when circumstances permitted, as they often did when I was supporting myself on grants and deadline-defined projects. My preference was red beer, beer and tomato juice. (There was a bar in Bend where Dick and I often ordered their morning specialty, beer and clamato juice.)

There were, and probably still are, bars in Portland that were more lively at 8 a.m. then at night. One was a bar close to the main station of the post office, home to the midnight shift getting off, who came in ready to party. Two more were Kelly's downtown and the Gypsy in NW, though both have been gentrified and no longer welcome the early morning alcoholics whose presence defines the lively morning bar. In fact, I'm not sure they're even open in the mornings any more.

Morning drinking was attractive in part, I think, because it was a way to give the finger to the 9-to-5 rhythm of the majority. Hadn't yet occurred to me that one prison is as good as another. I found much more interesting folks in bars in the mornings than at nights, and a part of me was always a spy, getting people to talk, stealing stories for my work. This goal deteriorated along the way, of course, as drinking became its own justification -- but at least I had the good fortune to find myself with a doctor who gave me a ton of shit and scared me into realizing what I was doing to myself. As the Japanese saying goes, first the man takes the drink, then the drink takes the drink, then the drink takes the man. I quit in the second stage, probably in the nick of time.

Although it's not fashionable or politically correct to say so, I don't regret my drinking days. I regret singular moments of bad behavior but not the broad spectrum of behavior. I learned things I never would have learned without the experience. I also had some amazing experiences and some incredibly fun times. Of course, I have the usual list of bad behavior as well -- it's a zero sum universe -- but if you are summing to zero, there's something to be said for +100 and -100 versus +1 and -1 in energy of life experiences. There's not too much in my life I would change, and having a beer for breakfast isn't one of them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When "awesome" is awesome

Someone I've known in LA since he was a kid, who's now a film/TV editor by profession, saw our silent comedy and called it "Awesome!" This is a great stroke, considering the source. Had to share this with the actors, of course.

Roll Call

Watched the roll call at the Dem convention. I love this parade of Chambers of Commerce and over-blown state pride, it's messy and rough around the edges, just like democracy is supposed to be. If democracy ever gets neat and tidy, it moves toward the efficient order of fascism.

And it was moving when Obama officially became the nominee, our first minority candidate in a major party, and many in the hall were in tears, and I don't blame them. An historical day. Obama has an incredible opportunity and audience with his acceptance speech tomorrow night. Talk about pressure. Curious how he'll do.

If I were advising McCain, I'd choose a woman as VP, just to stir the pot. I think it'll be Romney, which I think is to the Dem's advantage. We'll see.


I finally figured it out. I'm on vacation! I haven't gone anywhere but I'm on vacation. This explains everything lately.


The Democrats have not shown much passion like this by Dennis Kucinich, in an afternoon speech I saw on C-SPAN. In general, the convention is considerably more boring than this. One typically has three choices: the hot air of the politicians (uninterrupted on C-SPAN), the hot air of the political commentators (networks and cable, often worse than the politicians) -- or silence (turn the damn thing off).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The best book on dramatic writing

By my lights, Yves Lavandier's Writing Drama is the best book on dramatic writing. Unfortunately this book is not available at Amazon except in a much over-priced "collector's" edition, even though it is readily available from European booksellers (order page). As a result, this book may not be as well know among American screenwriting students as it should be. This book is comprehensive and clear and does not try to reinvent the wheel, bringing under single cover the accepted wisdom of the principles of dramatic writing. Very highly recommended.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Same o, same o

All the dirty politics cluttering up the atmosphere is just par for the course. I'm reminded how little things really change. I'm reminded of the closing monologue of my play about Moliere (from "The Best Stage Monologues (Men), 1996"):

28/ epilogue

MOLIERE: Shed no tears! You rot in one grave as another;
If you don't believe that, don't ever have a mother.
The luck that gets us all got me—
Though I'm better off than most, you must agree.
Consider this: though I am dust, you're glad to pay
Right through the nose to see my plays!
Without me, Montfleury's just a name;
Because of me, he has a kind of fame.
The Archbishop of Paris is no concern of yours
Except for me — I give him the notoriety he deserves.
In other words, why shed a tear for me?
My plays live on until eternity!
Oh, I know — in your age the time is getting short,
Everywhere there's war, famine, a great environmental wart.
Yet you insist your own age is unique:
"Never has civilization reached such a peak!"
But I question this wisdom found on TV and in "Forbes,"
Though maybe that's presumptuous, coming from a corpse.
Still, I don't see our times as different, I confess,
Since in your age, as in mine, it's all a mess.
Though you've reached the moon, discovered strange galactic gasses,
Three hundred years later, the world's still full of asses!

(LA GRANGE enters.)

LA GRANGE: So we hope we've moved you and given you a little fun; In truth,—
MOLIERE & LA GRANGE: — there's not a damn thing new beneath the sun.


A very old tradition

Slinging mud and telling lies is as old as political campaigning itself. Not much new under the sun.
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Founding Fathers' dirty campaign

(Mental Floss ) -- Negative campaigning in America was sired by two lifelong friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Back in 1776, the dynamic duo combined powers to help claim America's independence, and they had nothing but love and respect for one another. But by 1800, party politics had so distanced the pair that, for the first and last time in U.S. history, a president found himself running against his vice president.

Things got ugly fast. Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind."
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another day ...

... of grunt work and no forward progress on various projects. But I feel a new surge of energy coming on.

A shallow, dirty campaign

Let's fight over things that matter

Seattle Times staff columnist

Somewhere between hot chicks digging Obama and the search for all of McCain's houses, it hit me. My dream for 2008 is dying.

A campaign that began with as much promise as any instead has veered into the inane.

Two years ago, when Barack Obama came to Seattle's Benaroya Hall, he talked of how "negativity is the easy path." It's dreaming that takes courage. The next day I wrote this:

"My foolish dream is Obama vs. McCain in 2008. And that the two of them can somehow lift our desultory politics to a higher place."

Anyone feel we're in a higher place?

More like a puerile place. This summer our politics hasn't been all that brutal or nasty or hard-fought. What it has been is shallow.

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Rendering video of a rough cut of the Bon Voyage DVD.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Good stuff

My subject for the shoot isn't an easy one but I finally got the footage I wanted. I'm ready to finish it up. And came home to find the mail delivering the Create Space version of Digital Summer: man, is it professional looking, packaged down to the plastic wrap. Very, very nice. I am a big fan of their production quality. Of course, it's your responsibility to design it.


Morning shoot in downtown Portland. Should take a couple hours. Maybe then I'll finish editing this afternoon, get this one on track for a quick wrap.

Angry at TV coverage of the Olympics. Didn't show the women's 5000m final.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's a wrap

I just mailed off DVDs of The Heirs to the actors, which I think is the last thing left to do with this project. It's a wrap. I am free to move on to the mockumentary and other projects.

And the weather is turning back to summer, after too many days of unseasonal wet and chilly grayness. Into the 80s this weekend, they say, which is better than what we had before.

Kara Goucher, Portland's 5000m entry in the Olympics, finished 9th in the final but the good news is that she was the first American, beating out her constant rival from the east coast. Good for you, KG! Contrary to the common sports mentality, winning isn't everything.

I'm feeling mellow today. Maybe it's wrapping up the project, finally.

"Bon Voyage" project

Meet Saturday to finish up the "bon voyage" DVD I'm doing for a friend. Have about 8 minutes edited now, add a couple more, should be short and sweet, just about right. She's a jazz buff and created some really good tunes on Band In A Box, small combo, piano and vibes lead. Good stuff.

Music! I am behind, behind, behind. Well, I apparently have spent the work recuperating from the first six weeks blazing sprint through projects. That's fine. It all totals zero in the end ha ha. But I am eager to get back into a work groove again.

Received mockumentary script pages from H. -- the actors are writing much of their own parts. Good stuff! Not only a good actor, she's a talented writer and is working on her first video (directing), too. Tons of energy. I love working with her. Well, I like working with everyone in the company (Small Screen Video). H gets obsessed with projects the way I do and likes to do things sooner rather than later. I gave everybody an Oct 1 deadline, and it wouldn't surprise me if one or more don't quite make it. We'll see.

Picked up a copy of J.B. to look at after many years, thinking of using scenes in the documentary on Evil.

I can feel myself rising into productive energy again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A gift for a departing friend

A dear friend retires and moves next month to live with her son in Bali. Talk about an adventure! She loves Portland, so I'm making her a DVD focusing on her favorite things here, including a tour of the country house she rents. One of the things that's so much easier to do today than it was only a few years ago, thanks to technology.

As I was doing business at Create Space, the screen refreshed itself and I got the message of a sale of a copy of Kerouac's Scroll. Like a greeting in cyberspace. (So few buy the book, it's a big deal! ha ha)

More U.S. Olympic disasters

And the heavily favored women's water polo team lost, giving up 4 goals in the first 4 minutes to the Netherlands.
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Butterfingers drop US men, women out of 400 relays

BEIJING - Tyson Gay reached back to grab the baton "and there was nothing." He's not the only American track favorite who will leave Beijing empty-handed. The American men's and women's 400-meter relay teams both misconnected on the final handoffs in their preliminaries Thursday, a pair of stunning setbacks that made it that much easier for the Jamaicans to say the Bird's Nest is really their house.

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Mom and Hallmark

My mother always thought Hallmark screwed her. Right after World War II, she designed a series of Change of Address cards aimed at military families. Very clever and nicely done. She submitted them to Hallmark, the story goes, rec'd a polite rejection -- and then a few years later they came out with their own line of same.

But this is like the young screenwriter writing about storm chasers. Whenever a Big Event movie comes out, a zillion writers with similar scripts think they've been ripped off. You can't copyright a concept, only its specific execution. That adds a bit of danger to marketing high concept scripts!
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Now on the Hallmark aisle: Gay marriage cards

PORTLAND, Ore. - Most states don't recognize gay marriage — but now Hallmark does. The nation's largest greeting card company is rolling out same-sex wedding cards — featuring two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers, with best wishes inside. "Two hearts. One promise," one says.

Hallmark added the cards after California joined Massachusetts as the only U.S. states with legal gay marriage. A handful of other states have recognized same-sex civil unions.

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Win a few, lose a few

And they're dropping softball because it's not competitive?

I turned in at the 65th minutes in the soccer game, watched for 5 minutes and wondered why Brazil wasn't ahead 10-0. This was a victory for defense.
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US beats Brazil 1-0 for gold medal

BEIJING - Outplayed and overwhelmed for most of the night, the Americans got the only shot they needed.

Olympic champions, once again.

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US softball team denied gold, loses 3-1 to Japan

BEIJING - Losing for the first time since 2000, the U.S. softball team was denied a chance for a fourth straight gold medal Thursday, beaten 3-1 by Japan in the sport's last appearance in the Olympics for at least eight years — and maybe for good.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Also coming soon

A gift for the hyperdrama actors. I think they'll like it.


I have a small TV in my basement office that has a built-in VCR. I hooked up the DTV converter today, got a better picture and some new stations.

Otherwise another funky day, doing a lot of necessary grunt work, and made-up grunt work, and otherwise I somehow passed the time of day.


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Mourning gorilla holds on to body of her baby

BERLIN - A gorilla at a zoo in the German city of Muenster is refusing to let go of her dead baby's body several days after it died of unknown causes.

Allwetter Zoo spokeswoman Ilona Zuehlke says the 3-month-old male baby died on Saturday but its 11-year-old mother continues to carry its body around. Zuehlke says such behavior is not uncommon to gorillas.

Zuehlke says the mother "is mourning and must say goodbye." The mother gorilla is named Gana.

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Thoughts after a funeral

I did not know the deceased. I knew his wife (#3, it turns out), who had acted in several dramatic presentations I'd put together for the Unitarian church.

Several things stuck with me.
  • He died from complications following a medical error in surgery. Jesus. I have no idea if anyone is getting sued over this, but it's not all that rare. The moral is, be guarded and suspicious about your doctor. Half of them graduated in the bottom half of their class.
  • Ex-wife #1 gave the most remarkable, insightful, kind and loving tribute I've heard from an ex-wife. They were both mathematicians. I like to think this explains the utter logic of her remarks. There is great kindness in logic with a heart, and we see far too little of it. Her remarks about their breakup in the 70s after she became a feminist ("he couldn't change that quickly") hit home since my own marriage ended somewhat similarly, if in more radical circumstances. A lot of marriages ended in the 70s as wives demanded more than they were getting in their relationships and men were slow to make the right angle turns demanded of them. Decades later, of course, the picture has changed once again. May you live in interesting times.
  • Are large, well attended memorial services like this the exception or the rule? Not even a dozen of us gathered in the Shakespeare Garden to spread my friend Ger's ashes. Dick had no memorial service. My parents, by request, had no memorial service. If I have one, it will be my wife's doing. Many of us disappear with far less fanfare. And relatively speaking, we seem more quickly forgotten, too. Here today, gone tomorrow. The end. The loners, the folks living on the fringe, on the edge, the non-joiners, the existentialists. Who remembers them?

The ex-wife made a profound impression on me. What a heart! What a mind! They had met in grad school, both nerds. They apparently had a fine marriage until everything changed in the 70s -- and the question becomes, well, did they then have a fine marriage before or was it just fine to him, a nightmare to her? To a degree, my posthumous play Oregon Dream addresses this question. When is memory an echo of the past and when is it a singular hallucination? Many men, I suspect, believe the former about their past marriages, and many women the latter. If this isn't a dramatic situation ha ha, what is?

After the funeral I ran into one of my favorite directors, who did my work in the late 70s, whom I run into about once every five or ten years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Future documentary

Starting to line up people to interview on the future documentary on the nature of evil. Have a Unitarian minister and a philosophy professor / playwright lined up thus far. In the office this morning I was downloading video news clips of the spectrum of human horrors.

None of the above

I'm so sick and tired of the negative political TV ads infesting the screen that I can't get enthusiastic about voting for anyone. I wish there was a required addition to each race on any ballot: "None of the above." If None got over 50%, maybe it would send a message.

Ah, the echo of that wonderful very old woman who told me why she hadn't voted in twenty years (she was in her 90s): "I don't want to encourage them."



Going to a funeral tonight. I don't go to many. Nor to weddings. I can't go to a funeral without thinking of the ending of Saul Bellow's Seize the Day. Now there's a very fine novelist. So is Philip Roth, whose American Pastoral I'm rereading.

Weather turned gray and gloomy again but summer is supposed to return by the weekend. Very strange cycle of weather lately.

In between time

When I was younger and my body could take it, I had a rhythm of work hard, play hard. Playing hard, however, is a young man's sport. I gave it up but I haven't really replaced it with anything. I still work hard, as hard as ever, but when the work is done, I don't quite know what to do with myself now that "the sporting life" is history. I do some reading and relaxing but only with minimal success. I'm restless. I'm impatient to get back to work. It's like being tired but unable to sleep. This lasts from a few days to a week -- and I'm back to work again. Right now I'm sitting on ready. At least the Olympics permit a more interesting and time-consuming diversion than usual.


I'm beat. I think I'm collapsing after the absolutely incredible productive roll I was on the first six weeks of the summer: two screenplays and the silent comedy. I'm moving slowly if at all, reading a little but not much more, watching some Olympics, and trying to tell myself, Hey, this is fine, just relax, you'll get your second wind when the gods say you're ready.

In the office

To the office to do some video work. New office mate, prof emeritus working on a book, interesting lady.

On to the final

Kara Goucher, Portland's "other" distance runner at the Olympics (Galen Rupp the other), qualified for the finals -- but not by finish but by time. She finished 7th in her heat, the first 6 moving on. Her time, however, would have won the other heat! She was in the tough one apparently. She moves on, at any rate, can rest a day and then see if she can run the race of her life for a medal. Probably not but I'd like to see her do her best time.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Print-on-demand DVDs are a terrific idea for someone like myself who doesn't need very many copies. Just made two bundles for Small Screen Video at CreateSpace, the Digital Summer 2007 shorts and the three best to date bundle. Made the covers in Photoshop. If you do the production work yourself, everything is free. The individual DVDs cost a bit more per unit but I don't have minimums the way I do at Columbia, where even the 25 minimum order is sometimes a hell of a lot more than I need. So this will be an extraordinary convenience! And the packaging is first rate, very professional. I think CreateSpace smokes Lulu in this area. I already said that here, more than once. Books are another story: they are about even and the cost to the customer is a bit less at Lulu. But of course with CS you get automatic inclusion at Amazon.

What a fascinating world of technology we have. If I were younger, or maybe I should say young, I think I would found a periodical that reviews digital literary and film products, a kind of clearing house to bring the best stuff forward. This service is very badly needed. It's a jungle out there with a lot of home movies stuff and some crap and a ton of mediocre work -- but also a few extraordinary gems. There needs to be a trusted resource that sorts it all out.

Stormy Monday

What few thunderstorms we get in Portland have the energy of a stud field mouse. This morning, however, a great exception rolled into town, with crashing thunder to shake the house, buckets of water to flood the streets. As it happened, I was out on errands when it hit and had to pull over and wait for it to pass. A rare event here in the Northwest!

Mailed off some DVDs this morning, including to CreateSpace, a bundle of what I consider to be our three best projects to date. The packaging was posted below.

Coming soon

Using the impressive new interface.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kerouac's Scroll

Here's a novel that not only didn't set the world on fire, it didn't start a brush fire in anybody's yard that I ever heard about. I read it over the weekend, opening it for the first time in over a year. I like it. I'm proud to have written it. I put Kerouac's Scroll on my short list of my best work. My sensibilities are everywhere in this book, of course (two strikes against it right there ha ha), a story of male camaraderie, a road story following two old farts on the last adventure of their lives. I'm a fan, as one can be of things on the short list.

A lad with good sense

clipped from

Outside of Africa, Rupp has best result

by Ken Goe
Sunday August 17, 2008, 2:05 PM

BEIJING -- Galen Rupp made his Olympic debut Sunday night at 91,000-seat National Stadium, and he enjoyed it so much he wants do it again.

The 22-year-old from Portland ran in the lead pack with the world's top distance runners for the first half of the men's 10,000 meters before finishing 13th in a field of 35.

"He got lapped last year in Osaka," said Alberto Salazar, Rupp's coach, referring to the 2007 world track and field championships in Japan. "This year he was a half-lap behind. He's closing the gap."

A distance runner tends to reach his physical prime closer to 30. So, in four years -- assuming he stays healthy -- who knows where Rupp might be?

"Every time you come to a meet like this, you're excited to run," Rupp said. "Afterwards you're even more excited, because you see the possibilities. It's doable."

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Cruising and brooding

Hard to get out of my habit of early morning cruising and brooding despite the cost of gas. That's what I get for being raised by a father whose mantra was "100 miles before breakfast." Off to engage the habit.


A nice royalties check in the mail yesterday, one of those twice-a-year checks that always surprise me. Usually they trinkle in at ridiculously low amounts but this one got my attention. A nice surprise.

Heat wave continues, and H and Sketch are melting. I love it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Politics and biology

The older I get, the more I'm attracted to the hypothesis that most of our ills are the direct consequence of founding our social and political institutions on a misinformed definition of human nature. Everything from marriage to the two-party system, from family to Wall Street, is raised from a notion of the species that is not backed by what biology tells us we are. We become the victims of our own ignorance.

DVD Architect

This is a very powerful, nifty authoring program that I picked up for $10 new by buying an earlier than current version. I just burned a good DVD of the silent comedy in 8 minutes -- the editing program was taking almost an hour to burn one! So this is great progress. Moreover, this is a zillion times more powerful than the authoring capabilities in the editor. Happy camper! By the way, you always can get great bargains if you buy a prior version of a software program. Best ten bucks I've spent recently.

Multnomah Days today, a neighborhood parade, the usual Americana drill, and of course I wouldn't miss it. Might even shoot some video to add to my stock file.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wild west II

clipped from


Woman accused of beating fiance at prenup party

POULSBO, Wash. - A Poulsbo woman was jailed after being accused of beating up her fiance at their prenuptial party. Kitsap County sheriff's deputies said the woman's 12-year-old son told her he saw her fiance kissing one of her women friends early Thursday morning.

Deputies said the woman, 31, gave her friends the boot, told her fiance to leave, too, and then started hitting him in the face.

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Wild west

clipped from


Texas school district OKs pistols for staff

HARROLD, Texas - A tiny Texas school district may be the first in the nation to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes begin later this month, a newspaper reported.

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