Sunday, November 30, 2008

Short but sweet

Short, efficient shoot ... clips look good. Actor has little experience but came off natural.

Cruising, coffee, fog, brooding

A foggy day in Portland town. Off for morning coffee, then cruising and brooding a bit, I found myself brooding about the novel in progress, the "literary" one (not the Cold War one), which appears to be in the family of Bellow's Seize the Day, in this case the last day in the life of an old man. At any rate, during the holiday break I'll print out what I have and read it and see where I am. It is the story I'm most drawn to lately. End of life issues etc. but in a darkly comic package.

Another shakeup in the mocku cast situation requires me to shuffle and reinvent some plot points. What an adventure ha ha. The final script will be far afield from the original one, most of the changes in response to practical necessities.

A twenty minute drive to the shoot out of town. But the shoot itself is short, should be done in an hour. Friday and Saturday are challenges, roles in flux in each case.

I continue to create the sound track concept based on what I found in my head earlier. I like how it's evolving.


This week I shoot today, Friday and Saturday.

Oregon creamed Oregon State yesterday, pretty much ruining the Beavers' Rose Bowl trip (first time in 44 years) -- unless UCLA miraculously beats USC next week, which of course I'm rooting for. Next week is Army-Navy! My shoot isn't until late, so I can watch it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Notes to actors

Just finished scene notes for shoots tomorrow, Dec 6 and Dec 7.

Student scripts to read today, this morning if possible.

A busy time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Worst night for a QB in recent memory

Tonight against Arizona State, UCLA's quarterback (I'll spare his name, the poor guy has enough bad publicity, all of it earned) had three -- count 'em, three -- interceptions returned for touchdowns, including one for 100 yards. I don't recall a worse game for a college QB. I mean, even I didn't have a game this bad back in 1959 when I was a college QB (!) for a winless team.

Wonderful accidents

So I'm taping this breakfast scene, and we forgot to turn the stove off under a frying pan, which starts smoking and sets off the alarm -- and the actor stayed in character and dealt with it. It's perfect!

The day after

I had the most mellow and nice Thanksgiving in recent years. This morning, H wanted to sleep in, so I grabbed the dog and her grandkid (13) to take with me on a variety of errands. Now back to prepare for my shoot this afternoon, an especially challenging one with respect to choreography.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday frenzy

Ran to the store for eggnog and entered a zoo. Man, shoppers were everywhere! Later drove by my usual coffee shop and the line was out the building and into the parking lot, which I've never seen before. The economy may be crashing but on this Thanksgiving there's sure a lot of folks out there lining up to buy something.


I tested eight bars of the soundtrack that was in my head this morning, and it actually may work. We'll keep the possibility open, but I like it, though it's actually quite unusual. I also have an idea for the musical pacing throughout the piece, increasing the tension. This is either really cool or the idea of an idiot ha ha. I trust we'll find out.

Daily deals

There are two daily sites I check out:

  • Giveaway of the day is just that, a 24-hour opportunity to download licensed software for free, one featured package a day. Now and again something you need turns up.
  • Woot!, a 24-hour electronic sale. This is where I bought my 2nd computer at an incredible price. The good items sell out quickly here, so check it in the morning. An hour after I bought my computer, alerted to the sale by a forum friend, it was sold out.

An amazing student script

I just read one of the most amazing student scripts I've seen. She has mastered the hardest thing about screenplay rhetoric: how to write both with economy and style or authority. She has a very funny script!, wonderful characters and dialog, with lots of commercial potential. But here's the real challenge of screenwriting: story matters more than writing. So her wonderful screenwriting will keep the reader in the script but only long enough to see how the story develops. Storytelling matters more than writing, that's the hitch. But if this student can tell a story as captivating as her writing style, wow, she has a screenwriting career ahead of her big time.

Mockumentary update

The actress with the scheduling difficulty wants to stay in the project. I've rewritten her role to make it easier to schedule, and we'll go from there.

A good talk

My godson in Idaho called yesterday, and we had a good long chat. He's been having some health problems that he hopes recent surgery will improve. He was still weak from it but in good spirits. He was skipping Thanksgiving at his mother's in order to escape family melodrama that he wasn't up for, instead having a small meal at home. I don't blame him. Many holiday meals end up with family melodrama. There's nothing quite like it. Hence all the comedies on the subject, like Home for the Holidays.

I've been blessed with good health despite my somewhat sordid past. Quite amazing actually. I pull a hamstring and it's the most serious "injury" I've had (which finally is beginning to get better, by the way). This is either luck of the draw or the favor of the gods, I'm not sure which.

Our few dinner guests arrive this afternoon, so I'll help clean house this morning and get ready for them. Looking forward to a low key non-melodramatic holiday. Knock on my wooden head for luck.

Still have some student scripts to read, which I'll take care of soon, before H and Sketch crawl out of bed.

I woke up with a head full of pulsating music, an idea for the soundtrack of the mockumentary, which would be easy to compose in Finale. I'm going to test the idea out. It is outrageously simple and sometimes simplicity is the best way to go. I'm rather excited about dropping the music track down and hearing how it works out.

I shoot tomorrow afternoon. Need to do some prep in the morning.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why the printer won't work

The perfect Oregon holiday gift

The mail brought my two contributor's copies of Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anthology, Matt Love's fine anthology of 60+ Oregon writers (myself included) and 61 primary document excerpts. Here is a list of contents and authors. Here is my contribution, Risk in Rep, an essay about 1970s Portland theater and director Peter Fornara. The 500 page paperback is only $30. Order here. You can't find a better taste of Oregon than this.

Thanksgiving memories

As a young man, I embraced Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. It wasn't a family holiday but a holiday of friendship. For a decade, roughly the mid-60s to mid-70s, a core of half a dozen couples in L.A. gathered together each Thanksgiving to feast, party and make music, many of us being folk musicians. Even when some of us left California (I headed up to Oregon for grad school), the tradition continued. Indeed, one of the more memorable Thanksgivings was hosted by my best buddy Dick and his wife in San Jose, "Sally" and I coming south from Oregon, a bunch of folks coming north from L.A. These out-of-state gatherings lasted several days. Much food was eaten, much drink consumed, from Ramos fizzes in the morning to beer through the day and wine with dinner, much food eaten, much music made. An incredible amount of laughter lit up the entire day. We were a loud laughing, boisterous bunch! Man, those are great memories. (The tradition on a lesser scale continues to this day in L.A. with several of the original participants still gathering.)

Here is a short story that begins on Thanksgiving, The Epistemological Uncle, which appeared in Whirlwind in 1994 (with embarrassing typo Palousse), one of the last stories I wrote. The title character is based on one of Dick's uncles. His "Do you really know?" antics inspired the story, which ends up being a rather traditional coming-of-age story.

Decision time

I rewrote the part for the actress who may have to drop out, deciding to recast if she does -- but making the part more flexible to cast. Indeed, if she does drop out, I'm going to offer it to a singer friend in L.A., getting another friend to tape it down there for me. But I need to keep the role.

Book life

Sign of the times?

Book Publisher Suspends New Acquisitions


Published: November 24, 2008
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of authors including Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer, G√ľnter Grass and J. R. R. Tolkien, has temporarily suspended acquisitions of new manuscripts, a company spokesman said Monday.

The company, which was formed by Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep’s $4 billion takeover of Harcourt in July 2007, has undergone staff layoffs and other turbulence during its consolidation period. But just a month ago, the company held a party in its downtown Manhattan offices to celebrate the completion of the union.

Now the company is not accepting submissions.

Full story

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The great canine welcome

Nobody welcomes you home like a dog. Sketch is no exception. He goes ape when I come home from the university, especially if H is gone, as tonight. And we've developed this "welcome home" ritual, that goes like this: he leaps up on me until I sit down, at which time he leaps into my lap and furiously licks my face. Eventually he jumps off and races into the bedroom. When I enter, I find him on the bed with his butt stuck up in the air. I obediently scratch it, and after a while he jumps up to lick my face again, balancing himself with two paws on my chest. When he tires of this, he runs around the house some more, on and off and over various items of furniture, eventually finding his bone, grabbing it, and racing to a corner to settle down and chew on it. The welcome is over. Now I can think about dinner.


Caught up, ready for class, and have a few hours to mellow out before going to office hours. Been fiddling with concealing identity on video face, blurring, pixelating, great fun. I think I'll use this devise so I can use both characters created by the actor yesterday. Also adds an interesting subtext to the story.

Marketing lecture today, and next week is the final week of regular classes, followed by finals week. I'll have my grades in before mid-December. I'll enjoy the long break before Winter term, hopefully getting most of the mockumentary finished. Then it's on to the five short pieces project.

Writing has really taken a back burner to video lately. In fact, I bet I've written less in the past six months than in any six-month period since 1965! I'm still enthused about the "heavy" novel I started, and trying to figure out how to rekindle energy for the Cold War novel, which I feel obligated to finish on principle, which is a terrible reason for writing. But video is my passion at the moment.


Crashed early, slept a few hours, up and editing. Re-edited the opening sequence, adding a new character from yesterday -- like the new version better. Does pose a dilemma later, however, which I'm not sure how to handle. But I'll figure something out.

Need more sleep, obviously, and also time to do a lot of prep work before class today. A long day, I expect. Tomorrow I hope to read student scripts, freeing Thanksgiving from anything but Thanksgiving. Friday and Sunday I shoot again. This is a long project but only a fraction of what a feature will be. Do I really want to tackle one?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Broken record

Hate to sound like a broken record, but I put down another good shoot this afternoon. I'd never worked with TJ, the actor, before, and he was thoroughly prepared with voices, accents, lines. I got great footage. And I want to work with him again. Big time.

A grave at White Bird, Idaho

December 9th is the tenth anniversary of Dick Crooks' death. Dick was my best friend from 1960 to when he died in 1998 ... 38 years. We met in the Army, hit it off pretty quickly, and (both living in the west) kept close thereafter. Dick introduced me to the northwest and logging culture.

He doesn't seem gone that long -- or even gone at all. His presence remains real to me, and I still can hear his laughter. We laughed a lot together, and I miss it.

My dad and his stepdad on different occasions told each of us how fortunate we were to have such a close, long friendship. Apparently neither had experienced this. So as much as I lament outliving Dick and all my other close male friends, I remind myself how fortunate I've been to have the friends I did. Luck of the draw that I'm the last one standing.

Dick's two sons live in Moscow, Idaho, and I especially keep in contact with the oldest. The other has a booze problem and isn't reliably in a space in which to communicate. But I regard both as sons, my godsons. I've known the older since he was a kid, the younger since he was a baby. The older has a blues band and is one of the better harp players on the planet.

Video interview with Brad Crooks.

I miss Dick, of course, but in a sense he hardly seems "gone" at all.


Finished a rough cut of the shoot yesterday ... a short shoot this afternoon. But I also have lots of prep for school tomorrow, so it's a pretty busy day. Editing the review on the back burner until I get a breather from end of the term business.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Oregon Literary Review

I've chosen my successor as editor, and the person accepted. This will happen eventually but not in the next two years, I hope: I'd like to remain for the journal's first five years, and our upcoming Winter/Spring issue is v4, n1. After five years, I'll see how I feel about it.

I have a new sense of security knowing that a very capable person will take over when I decide to step down. This is my baby, after all -- not only did I found it, but I turned down an opportunity to partner with the university in order to maintain total control over its direction, paying for the web space myself. I wanted to take more risks than I think the university "committee" would have agreed to. I'm pleased with our development, though there are still many ways for us to improve. But especially in video, we are doing things few journals are matching.

And younger blood will be taking it over, which should move the journal in more exciting new directions.


Began editing today's clips ... looking good.

Actors as collaborators

Another good shoot. I was delighted with the comic character R.P. came up with. He really did his homework and prep, which makes shooting pretty easy. We created a number of bits on the spot. More progress, one foot after the other. And to think that a feature would be at least twice as much work as this! If we're actually doing one this summer, I have a busy five or six months of preparation to do.

Sunday shoot

Another shoot this morning. Moving right along.

I should be done and home by mid-afternoon, so there's time to do other things, including house/yard work.

The clips so far look great.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oklahoma Tom

Oklahoma is obliterating Texas Tech is tonight's much hyped football game, 58-14 at the start of the 4th quarter, and my old drinking buddy Tom Campbell, a Sooner fanatic, is smiling out there in the next dimension. He was a fun guy to hang out with, retired and living on a few oil royalties, a decade older than I (well, Oklahoma just scored AGAIN -- this must be one of the more embarrassing games on record, with TT ranked #2 in the BCS). Many comic memories of hanging with TC.


Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust" is filled with gorgeous music, which is its pleasure. The Met's production was high tech and very, very busy, with such far out effects as "virtual projections" that were determined by the singers' voice, movement and even body heat. All of it was technically impressive -- and to my tastes ("less is more") very much in the way. I preferred shutting my eyes and listening to the music.

Saturday morning opera

Rushing to get breakfast and out the door for the morning's "Live at the Met" opera. What fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The shoot

Got some really good footage today. J. is so easy to work with, always prepared, always good. Makes my job easy.

e=mc2: 103 years later, Einstein's proven right

PARIS (AFP) – It's taken more than a century, but Einstein's celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists.
..."Until now, this has been a hypothesis," France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) said proudly in a press release.
"It has now been corroborated for the first time."


Shooting this afternoon

And prep to do.


Encountered a computer problem last night that I spent hours trying to fix, unsuccessfully. USB ports on my old computer stopped responding. Finally found a suggestion on the net, tried it and it worked. The solution was: unplug the computer from the wall and plug it back in! (I keep forgetting that rebooting is NOT the same thing.) So I'm back to full speed. Whew. Spent maybe 3 or 4 stressful hours before doing this. Duh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scene workshop

Still a few more scenes to prepare before I'm ready for class.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reality check of the day

"We don't want the television script good. We want it Tuesday."

Dennis Norden.


Site traffic at this blog and Oregon Literary Review, last 30 days. So we're getting about 100 visitors a day at the blog, 50 at the review (who sometimes make 250 page loads). Not too bad.

Gallery of Heroes

In no particular order.


Getting excited about the new issue of the review. I'll do more video editing on it this weekend, well, on Saturday, when I don't shoot. For the next issue, I'm going to see if I can get some local blues musicians on video & interviewed.

Have my workshop scenes organized and stacked. This is a fun exercise from my end, too. Keeps the chain saw sharpened.

Scene workshop

Another long, but leisurely, day with student work, in this case long dialogue scenes. We workshop them tomorrow, and today I prepare how I'll direct each scene, about 20 of them altogether. It's a very informative exercise and fun to do.

25th anniversary

January 5, 2009, will be the 25th anniversary of the opening of my play Christmas at the Juniper Tavern, which remains my "claim to fame" in the Northwest, I suppose. (My play Famililly, which won an international competition and several other awards, still has never been produced in the Northwest. Go figure.)

There are a lot of amusing war stories associated with this production, which I'll save for January 5th. A local play reading group asked for permission to read it next month. Often someone is producing it around now but this year I haven't heard about anyone. Of course, one wonders how much is done without permission. Twice I've stumbled across small theater groups who produced a play of mine without permission, and therefore without royalties. My personal favorite play was done in NYC this way in a cafe! This pissed me off. I didn't learn until over a year later, when I found the poster on the net. Actually if a company identifies itself as poor, I often waive royalties or insist they be divided among the actors. You don't get rich on small theater productions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Office hours

Got a lot of online research done during early office hours. Collect scenes today to workshop on Thursday. Usually a good activity, lots of learning about scene efficiency.

Friday, Sunday and Monday are shooting days. And Saturday is another Met Live HD opera. Busy week.

Scheduling actors

The mockumentary has a large cast, which has been difficult to schedule together. Fortunately, the structure here is driven by monologues/interviews, solo actors. Otherwise I'm not sure we could do it. Reminds me of definite advantages of small cast shows.

The next project, 5 short scripts by John Donnelly, won't be as hard to schedule, I assume, since the casts are small. This will be especially fun to get away from my own writing and work on interpreting someone else's stories.

The feature for the summer seems more formidable than when I decided on it. I may rethink this. Depends on scheduling my two main actors, I think.

I am especially eager to return to the video chamber opera project. A real challenge.

Crunch time

Just about ready for class. These last few weeks are crunch time. Today we'll read some of their scripts. Thursday we'll workshop some of their scenes. Next Tuesday I give my marketing lecture, and Thursday is a holiday. Then it's the last week of school. Amazing!

Late start

I was skimming through my original blog and found this interesting list:

Key "firsts" (by age) in writing career:
19, first publication, Mathematics Magazine (a number theory problem)
28, first writing award, Haycox Short Story Prize
29, first story published, "The Scrapbook" in Northwest Review
30, first play produced, "Above the Fire," award-winner, University of Missouri
31, MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon, Shubert Playwriting Fellow
38, first performance of "Ramblin': the songs and stories of Woody Guthrie"
44, first theatre residency, Playwright-in-residence, New Rose Theatre
45, first book published, Christmas at the Juniper Tavern
45, first TV production, Christmas at the Juniper Tavern, ACE award
46, first screenplay optioned, "Ruby's Tune" (based on my play "Waitresses")
48, first school residency, Distinguished-Writer-in-Residence, The Catlin Gabel School
58, begin teaching screenwriting at Portland State University
63, first opera libretto, "Dark Mission" (for John Nugent)
65, begin Oregon Literary Review
67, shoot first video

I really was a late starter in the writing game.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Next shooting days are Friday and Sunday, considerable shooting on each day.


Didn't quite finish, two more scripts to read in the morning. Had it for today. Seeing lots of improvement, which makes me feel good. Now to veg out for the rest of the evening, crash early no doubt.

A full day...

...of reading student scripts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Another day of home chores and car chores. Tomorrow I have a lot of student scripts to read. Also need to get some shoot-prep work to actors sooner rather than later. In other words, busy (as ever, it seems, but no complaints).

Passing it on

Heard from a Brazilian journalism student, writing for permission to use my essay The New Hyperdrama in a paper she's doing on computer games. This sort of thing happens reasonably often and is one of the more satisfying "side dishes" of being a writer. In an extreme case, we have G. Sirc finding an old essay of mine, English Composition As A Happening, and getting inspired to write a book of the same title (and this, decades later). From a review:

The current conservative trend in composition is analyzed allegorically by Geoffrey Sirc in this book-length homage to Charles Deemer’s 1967 article, in which the theories and practices of Happenings artists (multi-disciplinary performance pioneers) were used to invigorate college writing.

We hope our writing matters to someone, and now and again it does. This is why it's important that the work be available, which of course the net makes possible more vigorously than ever, including work that is not very good. Anyone can put anything on line. But at the same time, I'm sure brilliant things can be found in the dark corners of cyberspace.

For those of us who are not commercial writers, reward comes from "passing it on," from having the work referenced in other work by other writers, in inspiring others to continue the journey or to begin similar ones.

As Norman O. Brown wrote, "The proper response to poetry is not criticism but poetry."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Change of schedule

The actress I was scheduled to shoot tomorrow has to reschedule. So tomorrow looks like another homeowner chores day, with some student papers thrown in, and maybe a little video editing for the review. I'm going to cover my ass in case she has to drop out entirely, too. She has a new job situation (having to come out of retirement and back to work because of the economy, alas). If she drops, then another actor whose only scenes were with her has to be changed as well, so I'm writing a short alternative part for him to cover when I shoot him in two weeks. Lots of thinking ahead and ass-covering in this project.

Fall chores

A pleasant homeowner day, raking leaves, running errands. The royalties from down south arrived today, before the play even opens, which is not always the case. Their prompt attention to finances lets me forgive their negligence in forgetting me on the poster. Money over fame. How much? as Yeats asked about the Nobel. Kissin' don't last, cookin' do, to quote dear Esther about marriage. The practical v. the romantic views of life and the arts.

Speaking of which, no film buys more into the romantic view of the writer than Some Came Running, which I caught on cable yesterday. Corny, melodramatic, unrealistic, I still watch it for Shirley MacLaine's performance and for the scene when she confronts the school teacher and later tries to explain the meaning of Sinatra's short story. My first love affair, in Berkeley just before I joined the Army, was with a high school senior (!) who looked like "Jennie" in this film. Astonishingly, a couple years later in Germany I ran into her in the Px, married and with a kid whose paternity puzzled me. Mine? I'll never know.

Mailer may have been the last novelist to buy into this WWII era romantic view of the writer, writer as Byronesque epic tragic warrior hero. Mailer was always trying to get his rivals in the boxing ring. It's fun to watch this myth in action now and again, and the film based on the James Jones novel does a decent job of its propaganda. I bought into it myself as a young man, though the real world is a quick, tough teacher in this regard. Kissin' don't last, cookin' do.

1000 words

What extraordinary change is on the horizon.

The new "fireside chats"

Obama's Transparent Presidency: Weekly YouTube Addresses

President-elect Obama's office gave the media a new way to present him as Franklin Roosevelt 2.0 by announcing Friday that it will be posting weekly addresses - fireside chats for the web generation - on YouTube.

The first address will appear on this Saturday, after it airs in audio. An Obama spokesperson says that this innovation is just the beginning of the digital, transparent presidency.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Rough cut

Up to date on the clips I've shot, all edited into a rough cut. Looking good. Next shoot, Sunday late afternoon, early evening. Some tricky calls to make because we may lose the actress for the actual club performances in December, so I have to cover this possibility, i.e. alternative plot line.


The clips from this morning's shoot look really good. And I cast our missing link, so things are looking good. Onward.


On this day in 1851, Herman Melville's Moby-Dick was published. The British edition, entitled The Whale, had appeared the previous month, but through a sequence of error, poor judgment and bad timing, it had a rearranged and incomplete ending. This set off another sequence of error, poor judgment and bad timing, this time involving not the publishers but the critics, who looked upon the botched ending as the last straw in a book already too unusual and obscure. The upshot was that Melville's masterpiece, the book he was counting on to rescue his reputation and his finances, was so belittled and slandered in the crucial first weeks following publication in America that it never had a chance.


Melville's next book was Pierre, or The Ambiguities, in part a dark, bitter satire about what happens to a writer who writes a masterpiece that no one appreciates. A fine book, though in the 1960s it was regarded as a failure. Thus I intended to write my PhD thesis on its brilliance when I entered grad school at the University of Oregon in 1966. Doing research my first year there, I discovered someone had beat me to the punch: a Univ. of Michigan grad student had just published a dissertation with my thesis! Par for the course, my advisor told me, but I was devastated. I dropped out of school. What on earth could I write about if not about the brilliance of Pierre? My personal life also was crumbling and changing. When I returned to grad school, it was as an MFA candidate in Fiction, later switching to Drama. What would have happened if that Michigan fellow had not beat me to the punch? I have no idea. And everything worked out fine in the end.

And the winnah is ...

At our last Live at the Met HD film, Harriet entered a drawing -- and won! Her prize, a DVD of Tristan and Isolde, a German production, which she presented to me as a breakfast gift this morning. How neat, how sweet.

Prep for shooting

OK, I think I have the two scenes I shoot this morning storyboarded to my satisfaction. I now get a two hour break or so before auditions. Looks like the weather is cooperating for a good shooting day (it's mostly EXT today).

Thursday, November 13, 2008


A long day tomorrow, especially with my auditions scattered through the afternoon. But I think I'll enjoy it. I enjoy shooting.

Office hours

Waiting for a late student.

My prime candidate had to cancel his audition tomorrow. Have 3 others to look at, see how it goes, try and reschedule this one if I'm not pleased. He lives on the coast, so it might be a hassle anyway.

Need to rake leaves! This weekend looks good, i.e. dry. I enjoy raking leaves. I hate, despise, and get potentially violent when I hear those noisy suction "rakers." Raking with an actual rake is such a mellow, reflective activity.

Short week but I'm already glad it's almost over.


Finished editing Monday's clips this morning. Now for some reading before class: I'm reading, for the second time, the monumental Pulitzer prize winner, THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB by Rhodes. Extraordinary book, all 800 pages worth.

Skipped music class to finish reading student work, and I think I'll drop it next term. Just too much on my plate for a luxury like that. I'll have to do the best I can on my own.

One script to go

...and I'll be ready for class.

First Wednesday

The readers/performers for December 3 are Tim Sproul, Leslie Wetter, Evelyn Sharenov and Moira McAuliffe.

Scrapple recipe

I spent the first eight years of my life in Virginia, New Jersey and Texas before we settled in Southern California, in the west where I mostly stayed thereafter. A memory of this experience is scrapple for breakfast, which I love. But it's hard to find scrapple in the west, and if you do find it, it's probably frozen. From time to time, therefore, I've tried making my own.

Scrapple is a dish whose origins go back to the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers of the 1600s and 1700s. Consisting of pork and cornmeal moistened with broth, the scrapple is seasoned with various spices, formed into loaves, and allowed to cool and set in the refrigerator. Before serving, the scrapple is unmolded, cut into ½-inch (1.25 cm) slices, and panfried in butter, bacon drippings, or oil.

Yesterday I made scrapple, and I had it for breakfast today. It's good! Moreover, it's easy to make. Let's call it "easy scrapple" because to make authentic scrapple you need a meat grinder, which I don't have. This is a scrapple clone, easy and a good substitute if you don't have the real thing. I put together this recipe from a dozen I saw on the net, incorporating their easiest and most intriguing parts.


1 lb. pork sausage
1 slice beef liver
2 cans (3 c.) chicken broth
1 c. white corn meal
1 c. cold water
Season to taste (I just used a few dashes of tabasco)

Fry and drain the sausage. Set aside.
Fry the liver, cool, and mince the meat. Mix with the sausage.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the meat mixture.
Combine corn meal and cold water. Slowly pour into boiling mixture.
Continue to boil, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.
Cover and cook over low heat, 10 minutes.
Pour into loaf pan.
Cool and then refrigerate overnight.

Slice scrapple, lightly flour, and fry for breakfast.

This is something I'm always going to have around the house. It's easy and damn good. Try it.

Scrapple’s long shelf life was much valued by the colonial-era Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, who had no means of keeping their foodstuffs cold other than sinking them into streams or half-buried ice houses. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were both said to have been fans of scrapple’s charms, the latter having developed a taste for the dish during his visits to Philadelphia.

Fried scrapple is typically served as a breakfast meat. It is eaten plain, between slices of bread as a sandwich, or with fried eggs, and popular accompaniments are ketchup, maple syrup, applesauce, or butter.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Royalties v. Ego

Just rec'd a flier about my play opening in LaLaLand -- and the Russian author is listed but not yours truly as translator/adapter! Scandalous, really, but I shot back an email saying I'm at the age where generous royalties, which I'm getting, are preferable to publicity. Long as I'm in the program ha ha. But of course they are all devastated down there etc etc etc -- maybe I can weasel a free plane ride out of it.

O christalmighty.....the official poster better have your name on it. Let me check.
How awful! Glad your ego can take this. You know how I love this translation. B. (the director)

I'm reminded of Yeats on winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. First words: How much? Writers damn well know how the world works.

Meanwhile, almost caught up on the things I wanted to get caught up on today.

Stormy Wednesday

A good day to catch up on school work and a couple other things. Try to get to the starting line by the end of the day.

My doc's final advice: "Call me if it doesn't get better." Yeah, I'll do that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bad news

In my email box:

We received some bad news Friday. Paul (McCullough) has a very aggressive colon cancer that has already spread into his abdomen and lymph nodes. We saw the oncologist today and there is no realistic treatment even to slow it down. We'll be meeting with hospice this week. Paul has days to weeks left.

The zero-sum universe strikes again.

Veterans Day

An important holiday when I was growing up. A Navy family and all that. My mother lost her brother, to whom she was especially close, at Pearl Harbor.

When I was in the service, hitchhiking with your uniform on was guaranteed to get you a quick ride. I once hitched from L.A. to Philadelphia in four days. Later, in the Vietnam era, wearing a uniform might get you spat on. I think, or maybe just hope, it's not that bad any more. But a national disgrace is how poorly our veterans are treated when they return to civilian life. I think Obama will fix this.

Half the doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class

To the doc this morn, back this afternoon for an ultrasound, see if there's a blood clot in my swollen leg. Don't get a lot of confidence that anyone actually knows what is going on but maybe tests will reveal something. I remember what someone pointed out once: half the doctors etc. (the title here).


Started editing the clips from yesterday, some funny stuff (thanks to the acting). This is a fun project.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A good shoot

Managed to get everything I could get in two hours, a good efficient shoot. Now to look at it, edit. (An actor in our group jokes that if I'd directed Apocalypse Now, it would have taken two weeks. Yes, I don't waste time.)

The new video project

First day of shooting on the mockumentary today. 9 scenes to shoot, 25 miles away, using two actors. Glad to be in gear, finally. A long shoot because the project is longer than we usually do but also because of scheduling problems with about 10 actors. Be the last half of Dec. before I'm done shooting -- at least I hope I'm done by then. Edit it over the holiday break to release in the new year. That's the plan anyway.

Going to the doctor tomorrow to have her look at my knee/leg, which isn't improving and now is swollen. I hobble along.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Election observation of the day

The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.

--Frank Rich



The best and worst of the royalties game happened last week. The best, a surprise windfall, the children's play opening in SoCal with very decent royalties; the worst, a check from a publisher Saturday for $4.40, a joke. I wish I'd saved all these tiny checks over the years, made a collage of them. At least it still buys a cup of coffee ha ha.

My favorite royalties nightmare story concerns John Dos Passos. In his time, copyright law secured a writer's rights for 26 years, renewable once -- so he was still alive when his great U.S.A. trilogy, taught in many universities at the time, entered the public domain! In a single year, he lost tens of thousands of dollars in royalties.

Mellow work

A nice few days now when I can work without pressure of deadlines, though the gods know I have enough projects to attend to, including a tad of student work to look at before Thursday. But all in all, I like this lower key rhythm, in contrast to the demands of the normal teaching week.

An opera this afternoon, Beethoven's only one. Looking forward to it without the high expectations I had for yesterday's, so presumably I won't be disappointed ha ha.

Start shooting tomorrow and still have some prep to do for it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Dr. Atomic & The Physicists

Sometimes I so much look forward to seeing a production, so elevate my expectations, that I end up being disappointed even though the work is strong. This was the case with Dr. Atomic this morning. On the one hand, this opera has moments as powerful as anything I've seen on stage, such as the aria that ends Act I. And yet as a whole it felt imperfect. It felt to me like a one-act opera stuffed to become full length. I thought there were as many repetitive and slow moments as powerful ones. So I was disappointed, while still admitting this is a powerful work.

The ending also disappointed me. It was pat and predictable -- tragic, to be sure, but it didn't "blow my mind," say, the way the ending of Durrenmatt's The Physicists, a work with similar themes, does -- surprising, under-stated, sad. So both in its pacing and ending, the opera came up short for me. But it still has moments of extraordinary power.

Seeing it, I think I'll reread the wonderful book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which I read early on, before it went on to win the Pulitzer. This is a favorite period of history for me.

Dr. Atomic

Opera this morning -- and I can't think of a better time to see an opera than at 10 a.m.! I've really been looking forward to this one, the Manhattan Project being one of the great historical stories. The only challenge of the morning is getting my wife out of bed early enough to make curtain ha ha.

So far, have 3 actors to audition next Friday and might get a 4th. I already have a good feeling about one of them, given his experience and photo. He's the pre-audition front runner but I'll give everybody an equal shot.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The future


Begin in earnest next week, shooting Monday and Friday and also auditioning actors to replace one of ours who had to drop out. This morning I went through a stack of short plays that had been submitted to the review, accepting four of them. Tomorrow and Sunday are operas. Busy, busy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Office hours

Not long now ... finish the film, discuss the film, head home with a week to catch up on various projects, plus next week start shooting the mocku. Good email exchange with the actress I shoot on Monday, setting up the scene. Came up with some funny business to do.

Black humor

One of my L.A. friends emailed this to me this morning:


Busy, busy

Visited my friend K. in the hospital on my way to First Wednesday yesterday. He'd had a seizure, is in general poor health due mainly to drinking, stop or die the doc says, the same message I got 15 years ago when I was about his age now. He says he'll do it but likely doesn't know it's harder than it sounds.

Stepped out of the hospital during rush hour, decided to eat first before navigating the bridge across the river. Went to Nobby's and was shocked to find it dead. In "the old days," when it was my 2nd home, 530 on a weekday would find it packed with the after work crowd. About half a dozen customers last evening, not 100 or more. Times change, I guess the younger work crowd has "cooler" watering holes now. Makes me wonder how C., the owner, stays in business. Still gets a good lunch crowd from the hospital across the street, I'm sure. But it must not be like the past when business was always booming.

First Wednesday was good, though the crowd smaller than usual. Took video, which is my task now.

Scripts to read this morning, rush to music class, rush home, rush to the university, finish showing Sideways and discuss it. Tuesday is a holiday, which is good -- maybe, with the long break, I can do something outrageous, like finish the splay draft and move forward with the novel, besides the usual video editing. Next Monday I start shooting the mockumentary. I'm ready!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The youth vote


Two operas this weekend, one each day, the first HD from the Met, Doctor Atomic, the Sunday here live, Fidelio, two I've been waiting to see. Looks like a great weekend!

I've been asked about the new Met Player for web telecasts 24/7. Here is a link.

Hope > Hate

And so there was extraordinary celebration all across the land and much dancing in the streets...

--"At least 1,000 people gathered on Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House late Tuesday night, shouting "Obama! Obama!" and "Yes we can!" Uniformed Secret Service officers were overheard, saying they'd never seen anything like it."

--"In Boston, Massachusetts, thousands of people -- many of them college students -- hit the streets to celebrate the election of the country's 44th president. The sound of car horns could be heard across the city, CNN affiliate WCVB reported."

--"In Chicago's Grant Park, where police estimated at least 200,000 had gathered to hear Obama claim victory, the crowd erupted in cheers and screams after news organizations projected him the winner."

--"In Seattle, crowds of thousands of people spilled into the streets near the Pike Place Market and on Capitol Hill Wednesday night to celebrate the election of Barack Obama."

--"They streamed into the streets of downtown Detroit -- black, white, Asian, Indian and Arab -- all Americans who were proud to celebrate president-elect Barack Obama and the new America he represents."

--"Six days after crowding streets to celebrate the Phillies' World Series victory, thousands of Philadelphians marched downtown on Tuesday night to celebrate Barack Obama's victory over John McCain."

--"Celebration is spilling into the streets of Newark as New Jersey's largest city rejoices in Barack Obama's momentous election to the White House."

--"After the presidential race was called for Democrat Barack Obama at 11 p.m., motorists driving on Broadway in downtown Louisville honked their horns and yelled "Obama!" out the windows."

--"Sometime around 11:30 Tuesday night, the cheers could be heard reverberating across downtown Ann Arbor, steadily growing louder and louder. An impromptu parade that started on the University of Michigan Central Campus wound along downtown streets as hundreds of students - joined by passersby and others who spilled out of bars - joyously celebrated the election of America's first black president."

--"Two hours later, downtown Santa Cruz was seized by a spectacle of mass celebration as hundreds of Obama supporters poured out from the sidewalks, high-fiving with hands

from honking cars cruising by, hugging strangers and weeping like they must have done on V-E Day."


I had to call my friends in L.A. to share this moment of history. Joy does not explain the feeling down there, especially in their black community. Wrote one this morning in an email:

Wow! There was screaming and horn honking going on in my neighborhood and I have to admit to being one of the screamers. I have never felt such emotion over a political event – never felt so proud of my country. ... Last night I wept with joy and hope. Now the work begins, but the voyage is so much better when you have confidence in your captain.

Americans of every color, all who believe in progress, are dancing in the streets. An amazing historical moment to witness. And such extraordinary opportunities and challenges ahead. I applaud the younger generation, who had so much to do with this. Let them make a better world than my generation passed on to them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Lots of nervous folks on campus. Glad I'm showing a film in class, hopefully keeping my mind off the election until I head home. The huge lines to vote are appalling -- and so unnecessary. This has to be fixed.

Remembering Ricky

From Tim Bazzett of Rathole Books:

The realization of encroaching old age sometimes sneaks up on you in strange ways. Yesterday I got out my Rick Nelson boxed set and put on disc one and sat in my rocker listening once again to the insipid but to me still poignant sounds of "A Teenager's Romance," and I thought about that first Ricky record, a 45 rpm on the Verve label. Almost four years older than me, Rick was just sixteen when he cut the tune, but he was already a nationally famous TV star, thanks to his dad's brainchild, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. So he had a built-in audience for his music. I first heard the song on the radio. The WLS deejays out of Chicago were playing both sides of the record in heavy rotation. The A-side was "I'm Walkin'," a cover of Fats Domino's already-popular tune. But if you were just thirteen and feeling the first pangs of puppy love, there was no way you could ignore the plaintive B-side lyrics --
"A teenager's romance is fickle or true.
A teenager's romance is red-hot or blue.
You're either in misery or high on a crest.
A teenager's romance is like all the rest..."
Like a few million other teens across America, I could relate, so it was small wonder that the B-side ultimately charted higher than the A-side.
I wasn't one of those ready-made TV fans. In Reed City in 1957 we could only pull in two and a half TV stations with our much-tortured and twisted rabbit ears. There was the Cadillac station, which boasted such kid favorites as Uncle Glen or Kenny Roberts (the "jumpin' cowboy"). WOOD TV out of Grand Rapids also had a cowboy kid show in Buck Barry's Buckaroo Rodeo, and the older kids could watch Bop Hop, a regional rip-off of American Bandstand (which we didn't get either). Ozzie and Harriet wasn't on the schedule of either station. And that other always-snowy "half station" out of Lansing or Bay City didn't really count. So as a teenager I never saw Rick on his family TV show. I became a Ricky Nelson fan solely because of his records. Of course his face was plastered all over every teen magazine imaginable in the late fifties. And in December of 1958, the year he was the unrivaled top-selling rock and roller in the country (Elvis was in the army), Rick even made the cover of LIFE magazine.
The hits came fast and furious for Rick those first few years -- "BeBop Baby", "Stood Up", "Poor Little Fool", "Travelin' Man/Hello Mary Lou", "Teenage Idol", "Young Emotions", and others. I had them all on 45's and could sing along with both sides of every one. In 1959 I bought my first Nelson album (his third). It was titled, simply, Ricky Sings Again, and was, arguably, one of the best rock and roll albums of the era, and probably the finest LP Rick ever made. He was just eighteen when he cut those twelve tracks, but the Rick Nelson sound, characterized by the classic guitar licks of James Burton and the buttery-smooth backing vocals of the Jordanaires was dead on letter perfect. Rick's voice had deepened and matured and the tight Jimmie Haskell arrangements blended all the elements to perfection. In addition to the hits ("Lonesome Town" and "Believe What You Say"), the album featured "It's All in the Game", "I Can't Help It (if I'm Still in Love with You)" and an infectious western-flavored rocker, "Restless Kid", penned by Johnny Cash. Rick had hoped to get this song into Rio Bravo, the film he was making with John Wayne and Dean Martin, but it didn't make the soundtrack, which was strictly controlled by Dimitri Tiomkin, the top film score composer of the time.
Yes, Rick made a few movies too, but the truth is he was a crappy, wooden actor. Just watch an episode or two of Ozzie and Harriet with its cast of non-actors and you'll see what I mean. And Ozzie liked it that way. It was easier for him to control things. Because Rick's dad, "easy-going" Ozzie, was a control freak, and he poked his fingers into every aspect of Rick's musical career from the very beginning, so their adult relationship was always a rather tenuous and tortured one.
By the early sixties Rick's musical star had probably already peaked, but his Billboard track record was so impressive that Decca signed him to an unprecedented twenty-year million-dollar contract. Then the Beatles and the subsequent "British invasion" struck America, and Rick's career never really recovered, although he did score one final top ten hit in 1972 with the self-penned autobiographical "Garden Party."
I met Rick Nelson in the spring of 1977after a sold-out concert at a club in downtown Santa Cruz. He very graciously signed about a dozen albums I'd brought along and took time to chat with me, expressing a genuine interest in three of his records on the Brunswick label that I'd bought in Germany. He said he'd never seen those covers before. At 37 years old, Rick still seemed very much the same shy, polite kid he'd been at the start of his recording career. Twenty years of fame had not visibly changed him. And perhaps that was at least part of his charm. He had always seemed a lot like, well, like me -- and like millions of other good-son white-bread kids across America and around the globe.
For the remainder of his life, Rick kept making music, some good, some not very good at all. He kept searching for his true voice and seemed poised on the verge of re-discovering his pure California rockabilly sound the last years of his life. Then, on New Year's Eve, 1985, Rick Nelson was killed in a plane crash on his way to do a concert in Texas. He was 45 years old. I was crushed when I heard the news. The next day I pulled out all of his albums that I owned. I had over twenty of them. I had kept buying Rick's albums even when no one else was, always hoping for just one more "perfect" album. I studied the covers and re-read the liner notes, perhaps looking for clues as to why I had remained such a faithful fan for nearly thirty years when so many others seemed to have forgotten Rick Nelson, and why I felt such a personal sense of loss at his death.
It's 2006 now and Rick has been gone for over twenty years. I think I've finally figured out why I followed his career with such interest and why I still listen to his songs. I should probably be at least a little bit embarrassed to still be a Rick Nelson fan. I'm old. My hair has thinned and turned grey, my muscles have gone slack and my face is filled with lines. But I'll tell you a secret. Whenever I pull out that one perfect album from 1959 -- its worn cover smudged with the handwritten inscription: "To Tim, Hi! - Rick Nelson -- and cue up the needle in that first track, "Old Enough to Love", and hear the Jordanaires mellow introduction and then Rick's newly-found eighteen year-old baritone, if I close my eyes and listen closely as I rock gently in my chair, for just a little while I am suddenly fifteen again, as "Ricky Sings Again".

What the gamblers say

Historically, gamblers have proven better election forecasters than polls. However, in 1948, my granddad bet on the longshot Miche at Santa Anita and that gray horse went on to beat the horse-of-the-year Citation! Improbable longshots happen. Yep, I'll always find a reason to remain anxious ha ha.