Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Streaming video

I'm getting the hang of it, thanks to some dynamic software I found, and this interface is better than embedded video. I'll start with the mocku but do the journal in summer with streaming instead of embedded video, a more friendly interface.

Salinger at 90

Charles McGrath in the NYT:

On Thursday, J. D. Salinger turns 90. There probably won’t be a party, or if there is we’ll never know. For more than 50 years Mr. Salinger has lived in seclusion in the small town of Cornish, N.H. For a while it used to be a journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters up to Cornish in hopes of a sighting, or at least a quotation from a garrulous local, but Mr. Salinger hasn’t been photographed in decades now and the neighbors have all clammed up. He’s been so secretive he makes Thomas Pynchon seem like a gadabout.

Mr. Salinger’s disappearing act has succeeded so well, in fact, that it may be hard for readers who aren’t middle-aged to appreciate what a sensation he once caused. With its very first sentence, his novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” which came out in 1951, introduced a brand-new voice in American writing, and it quickly became a cult book, a rite of passage for the brainy and disaffected. “Nine Stories,” published two years later, made Mr. Salinger a darling of the critics as well, for the way it dismantled the traditional architecture of the short story and replaced it with one in which a story could turn on a tiny shift of mood or tone.

In the 1960s, though, when he was at the peak of his fame, Mr. Salinger went silent.

Read the story.

Streaming video

I think I'll take the leap from embedded to streaming video, both for the journal and Small Screen Video, using flash files instead of windows media, and I'll be getting some new software to make this chore easier. Quite a leap, or it feels such.

The Plan

Dinner and a movie tonight with a friend. H said she'd rather be home than downtown at midnight, so after we get out of the movie around 10, I guess it's home to watch fireworks on TV or something. Sounds fine to me.

Today I need to look at my syllabus, and I need to finish up and release the review. Also, I am absolutely delighted with yet another plot twist in the Cold War novel, something I created years ago actually but that will fit here quite nicely. Maybe this is finally coming together after thirty years. What a concept.

Despite the economy, despite the predictions of doom, I'm looking forward to 2009. I don't have all that many years left, I sure as hell am going to enjoy what I have. As a philosopher once said, the only thing I can control is my attitude.

We saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which H liked better than I. She said it reminded her of "Forest Gump." Well, both were written by Eric Roth. Indeed, it had a similar storytelling strategy and similar pulling of the heartstrings. I more eagerly await "Revolutionary Road," though this is probably setting myself up for disappointment.

Report from Saudi Arabia

My former student who went home with her Masters, screenwriting emphasis, and walked into a job as TV writer/producer emails that she's done 15 episodes of her show, with 15 to go. Good for her!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve

H put me on the spot and made me promise to stay awake until midnight, which is not something I've done recently. In fact, we're going downtown for dinner and a movie, hopefully timing our exit between 11 and midnight, then finding an appropriate bar in which welcome in the new year.

In my drinking days, New Year's eve was one of the two most unpleasant nights of the year, the other being St. Patty's Day. Why unpleasant? Because the bars were filled with amateurs. In fact, St. Patty's was the worst of the two because of all the green beer being consumed. I tried to get an early start on those days, like 7 a.m., so I'd be home into Oblivionland by the time the amateurs showed their partying selves.

Tonight will be fun. H just left on errands and social duties and won't return till 830, which gives me lots of time to have paella ready for her. And the Oregon game, which I really look forward to, starts at 5. I just hope they wear one of the traditional versions of their uniforms so I don't feel weird rooting for them. I hate most of their uniforms with a passion! In fact, I hate everything Nike has dished out to them, including a new basketball stadium. I've never worn a swish in my life and don't plan to start at this late date. Grumpy old man ha ha. (My antagonism toward Nike has its origins in my business magazine days when I did a feature on the company and was very, very unimpressed with Mr. Honcho and his reply when I asked why Nike didn't support the Arts as well as Sports. I mean, five digits to a small theater company would be a gold mine!)

Mindless entertainment

Went crazy at the supermarket -- shrimp, scallops, mussels, chorizo, chicken wings -- looks like the makings for paella, or my version of it, which I can make while watching Oregon play Oklahoma State in a bowl game, a perfect evening of mindless entertainment, which is great for the battery. Also bought the makings for the next batch of scrapple and the New Year's blackeyed peas, one of my last traditions. If it weren't for the Army-Navy game and New Year's, I'd have no traditions left!

To think, in one week I enter the classroom. Need to get to tweaking that syllabus.

I ordered the script of MILK, see if I want to use it in Spring. I may drop the 2nd text I'm using, though some students have told me they like it.

It's a mellow day. I watched the complete hour mocku, minus the one short scene ... I like it but at the same time could jump off a bridge for a couple directing errors I made, though perhaps many audience members won't even notice them. Have to do with directing performances, a couple things I could have done better. But I'm too damn close to this any more, I've seen it all too many times, to know shit. We'll see how the actors like it, coming to it fresh.

Fiction and autobiography

My Cold War novel-in-progress, Baumholder, 1961, is based on my personal experiences as a Russian linguist in the Army Security Agency, 1959-62. Although the story and characters are fictional, much of the atmosphere and descriptions in the book are factual. Here are some passages from my draft that are based on fact.

Someone fetched Bass’ guitar and brought it to him. Buddy-pooh suggested the next song, and Bass started it alone, to the tune of an old labor song, strumming along as he sang:

“I don’t want your spit shine, mister. I don’t want your shiny brass. As far as I am concerned, mister. You can shove them up your ass.”

By the time Bass reached the last verse, dedicated especially to the Russian linguists with their top secret codeword clearances, everyone was singing in a loud chorus, defiant and solemn, as if the song were an anthem:

“I don’t want your secret clearance. I don’t want your world-wide badge. All I want is a pair of my civvies. And the freedom I once had.”

I, in fact, was the guy who wrote and performed songs like this. Lyrics from a song I wrote then.


There were 57 bars in downtown Baumholder, a figure made astronomical by the fact that downtown consisted of nine square blocks. Most of the bars had names chosen to appeal to Americans: the California Club, the Florida Club, the Texas Club, Jazz Alley, Blues Alley, The Liberty Bar. Others tried to lure in soldiers with exotic names like The Golden Hirsch, Dancers A’GoGo, The Femme Fatale, Gangster Den. Bass believed the rumor that most of the bars in Baumholder were owned by a syndicate of German businessmen, most of whom lived in Berlin and Munich. But others were owned locally, the way Konrad was said to be a partner in The Family Club, which the linguists called their off-base home. Seeing how much money was being made by serving the troops, some local farmers joined the frenzy to make a quick mark off the Americans, who after all had more money to spend than the Germans had seen in a very long time.

The bars had come to Baumholder during the troop buildup of the Korean War. A Soviet invasion of Germany was a threat real enough to respond to, and the U.S. responded by bringing tens of thousands of soldiers to West Germany. Baumholder, before World War II a small farming community in southwestern Germany’s Rhineland area, with a population never exceeding 3000, was chosen for the major American buildup because the Germans themselves had trained here, taking advantage of the bare, rolling hills for their military maneuvers and war games. The Americans did the same.

Almost overnight, new bars opened downtown to entertain and serve the American G.I.s. Bakeries became bars, barns became nightclubs. Because the American army was segregated at the start of the Korean War, the new bars became segregated. The Florida Club, for example, became a bar that only black troops frequented. The tradition of segregation had remained even after the army became integrated, and today if Bass entered The Florida Club, he would be one of only a handful of whites there, the others young Germans eager to hear the American jazz on the jukebox. The jukeboxes in the white American bars featured country-western music.

The Family Club became the hangout for the Monterey Marys because it was the first bar one reached coming down from the hill at the east end of town, which also made it the farthest from Smith Barracks, Baumholder’s main post, where 30,000 Animals were stationed beyond the west end of town. There was a certain sense of security in the fact that a thirsty Animal would have to pass 56 bars before reaching The Family Club. Of course, under normal circumstances the linguists avoided the Animals at all costs and therefore stayed on the hill whenever the Animals came to town. The linguists, numbering only one hundred (with another hundred in Headquarters Company), knew full well that beating up a Monterey Mary would be considered great fun among the paratroopers and special forces after six or seven weeks of shooting at each other in war games in the field. It was always more fun to take hostility out on a stranger than on a comrade.

Not sure of the exact number of bars but this is damn close. I researched the history, not aware of it at the time. The Family Club is the actual name of the bar where we linguists hung out in town.


His first whore parade. Bass remembered it like it was yesterday. He’d only been in Baumholder for two weeks when the linguists learned from the girls at The Family Club that the Animals would be in town the following weekend, which meant the influx of thousands of prostitutes to serve them would begin in mid-week. Taking a newk to the train station to witness their arrival was a kind of initiation ceremony for a new linguist, and Sullivan, on whose trick Bass had been assigned at Operations, took the newk under his wing and together, with a dozen other linguists along for the fun, they gathered at the bahnhoff to watch the first trains arrive.

Bass had no idea what to expect. The train station was a square stone building with a tower, no larger than the several churches in town. Inside were benches for travelers waiting for the train and tables for those who wanted to eat or drink as they waited. The linguists pushed several tables together and took chairs around them.

Bass couldn’t stop grinning, partly from anticipation and partly from the feeling that he was somehow being suckered, like the country boy taken on his first snipe hunt. Bass knew from overhearing his colleagues that several trains a day would be pulling into the station, each filled with hundreds of women, but Bass had no way of realizing the enormity of this migration and its impact on him. So he just kept grinning, waiting, and listening for the punch line of whatever joke was being pulled on him.

The arrival of the first train changed everything. Bass did not have to watch the parade of girls long to realize this was no snipe hunt, here was an event even more surreal and dreamlike than the descriptions of his colleagues suggested. Several hundred girls spilled off the first train, marching in disorder into the train station, women varying in age from teens to forties, women of all size and description, fat and skinny and in between, pretty and plain, hardened and innocent-looking. What struck Bass first was that so many of them were younger than he was.

“They look so young,” he said to Sullivan at the table beside him.

“The youngest are escapees from East Germany,” Sullivan explained. “They think they’re taking a job as a server in a gasthaus or a waitress in a restaurant, but it’s the syndicate bringing them into their fold. Once they’re captured, it’s hard to get away. They arrive broke, often without family or friends. They risk everything for freedom and end up here. It’s a tragedy really.”

Only Sullivan’s tone didn’t suggest tragedy. His voice had the hardened neutrality of a doctor working the midnight shift in an emergency room, who has seen every bodily disaster many times over. Neutrality, lack of concern, was the best defense mechanism.

“Jesus, they’re young,” Bass said again. “The one in the bluejeans can’t be over fourteen or fifteen.”

“I think there’s a law they have to be sixteen,” said Sullivan.

“Young enough.”

Some of the girls flirted as they passed but most looked tired and travel-weary. How far had they traveled to get to Baumholder just ahead of the Animals’ weekend pass? Some from as far away as Berlin, the Netherlands, even London, according to Sullivan.

No sooner had the several hundred women passed through the station than the train pulled away to make room for another behind it, and the parade of prostitutes began all over again. As the second group marched through the station, Bass heard someone shouting and turned to find a small group of young German men holding up placards in protest, though he didn’t know enough German to read them. But their manner was clear: their shouts at the women clearly meant disapproval.

Sullivan leaned close to Bass.

“See the guy waving his sign? That’s Karl, son of the proprietor of the gasthaus at the bottom of the hill.”

“Are they a religious group or what?”



Bass stared at Sullivan in disbelief.

“Well, it’s illegal, so they have to be underground and pretend they’re something else. That D.P. on their caps stands for Patriots of the Homeland. Something like that. I forget the German exactly. Buddy would know. The thing is, this is so hypocritical because Konrad has a stake in the Family Club, yet his son is one of them. The Germans bitch about American immorality and then turn around and put the women in their clubs at starvation wages, which means they’re forced to put out on the side just to survive.”

“This is hard to handle,” said Bass. He stood up.

“Where you going?”

“To the can.”

In the men’s room he splashed cold water on his face. On the counter was a stack of neatly folded cloth hand towels, and he took one to dry himself.

So this was the infamous whore parade he’d heard so much about. The descriptions of what awaited him were too extreme to be believed – and yet they fell short of capturing the grotesque unreality of what he was witnessing. Bass had expected to be titillated but instead had escaped to the men’s room feeling light-headed and almost sick in his stomach. It wasn’t that some of the women weren’t attractive, many were – but there were too many of them, too extreme and blatant a display of commercial sex parading in front of him, he felt overwhelmed from the sensual overload of it all. This was more like a scene from a Felinni movie than an afternoon in the once-lazy farm village of Baumholder.

This scene is exaggerated a tad for dramatic effect -- not the women, but the coordination and organization of the linguists. Usually we weren't this cohesive as a group. The protesters are a fiction, added for the story. However, I did meet unreformed-Nazis everywhere in Germany at that time.


Sullivan disliked sentiment and sloppy thinking and sometimes performed a routine that demonstrated as much. With a few drinks in him, he was known to recite a portion of a poem by William Blake to much delight and hoopla from his inebriated colleagues: “Tiger, tiger, burning bright,” Sullivan would begin, his blonde hair short but long enough to comb, which really meant long enough to look uncombed because Sullivan always had the shaggy look of an absent-minded professor, and as he began the poem, his hand would sweep the hair from his forehead in a theatrical gesture, “in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye, could frame thy fearful symmetry?” Here Sullivan would look positively baffled by the question, as if it had cosmic significance. “What the hammer?” he asked next. “What the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil?” – and at this precise moment Sullivan would scrunch his ruddy face into an expression of speechless horror and bewilderment, as if the questions were too great for the contemplation of mere mortals, hanging in the air like painful reminders of human ignorance and insignificance – and after holding the moment for all it was worth, and perhaps making yet another theatrical sweep of his hand to brush hair from his forehead, Sullivan would shout with an exuberance that never failed to set the first-time listener aback, “What the fuck!? WHAT THE FUCK!?”

A true performance by one of our company. A hoot to see.

To some, no doubt, the above reads like fiction -- but it isn't. Baumholder was surreal, especially to a relatively inexperienced 21-year-old like myself, suddenly taken from home to be dropped into the middle of the Sin City of Europe (according to the German magazines of the time). Never before had I met a woman who greeted you by grabbing your crotch. Mother never told me about girls like this ha ha. Quite an adventure for a naive young man. It's fun to remember, though of course now the humor is dark rather than embarrassing. Quite an adventure, both to experience it, remember it, and write about it.

Count your blessings

"We should be thankful for what we have," H told me last night. Indeed. She'd just heard from two cousins, one whose husband died, the other (a librarian at a technical college) who went to work to discover she had been let off without warning, gather your things and go, a college acting like the cliche of a corporation.

We count our blessings. We have pretty good health, retirement hasn't totally tanked, I teach a course I love to teach and even though I don't have tenure, being an adjunct, each and every term the class fills with a waiting list, which suggests a certain security (falsely, since it's clearly the course rather than the instructor attracting the students: it's the Age of Film). We both do work we love. No mental relapses of importance yet, despite waning memory now and again. No physical challenges other than the usual aches of aging. We count our blessings.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Videos online

Finally got all the video for the new issue of the review uploaded. Took almost six hours (!!) with the DSL line (I never made it to my office, feeling under the weather). So I'll release the new issue in the next day or two.

Making a video for YouTube, a favor to an actress with a small part in the mocku.

Looks like I have a good room for winter term, i.e. it has a projector in it.

R.I.P.: Paul McCullough

A theater colleague, who died yesterday. Diagnosed with the Big-C a while back, recent time in hospice, died peacefully according to his wife. I didn't know Paul all that well but we'd crossed paths a few times and he even took a class of mine once. I knew him enough to see he was a good man.

Stay dry

Very wet outside, making my first priority staying dry. Feel a cold coming on, need to hijack it. I haven't had a cold in 2008, knock on my wooden head. School starts next week, need to be healthy. So I didn't go to the university because I'd have to walk from parking in the rain. I'll start uploading here, with DSL, and see how far I get.

Coming soon!

Feeling sick ... coming home from dentist, I think. Worry about video upload later.

A busy day

An early start to a busy day. Begin with the dentist, routine cleaning, from there to the university to upload video. Afternoon movie date with H. Not sure how long it takes to upload 900M on a T1 line ... more than the days it would take here in the basement ha ha! Tomorrow, time to look to look at my syllabus but first bring the Cold War novel to front burner, see if I can get into a new rhythm with it. I have a new plot point that has rekindled my interest. I'd love to finish this baby after thinking about it for 40 years!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Amazing day

Got a ton of editing done -- but then I put in the hours to do it. Really on top of the mockumentary now.

The primary goal tomorrow is to upload journal video.

Then, the rest of the week, writing projects and the tweak of my syllabus.

OLR videos

If all goes well, I'll go to the university tomorrow morning and upload the videos for the new issue, all 900M+ of them. Not sure how long that will take.

Presently rendering a rough cut of the entire mocku minus one 30-second scene. See how it looks and where we are.


After a week of being snowed in, what joy it was to run errands today! To the post office, the market, the coffee shop; the routine I love so much, both as a writer and as an old man. Writerly errands, elderly errands, you can't beat them. They can take forever. Very Zen.

Disappearing act

Woke up this morning -- and all the snow is gone! It's amazing how quickly it melted.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


We've been archiving issues of Oregon Literary Review on CDs but the issues have grown in size with increasing amounts of video, so with our last issue I had to go to DVD -- and I just received the test DVD of v3n2 and it's terrific in looks and, of course, content. Very nice.

Cold War

Read the first 75 pages of Baumholder, 1961, and really like what I have. Definitely not a project to abandon.

Red Ink

I love rewriting. Taking out the red pen (professor's habit), reading carefully and slowly, chicken scratches (like blood) on the page ... it has the same pleasure as editing video, the meticulous journey through something that must pass by much more rapidly in the later environment of perception. It's like reading or viewing in slow motion. Love it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Where am I?

Printed out all the pages in my three writing projects-in-progress. Will read it all and evaluate where I am and how I feel about them after some time away. And go from there. The storyline for the Cold War novel, about which I've been brooding today, is changing radically, hopefully for the better.


Here's a description of the "Santa shooter" by his friends and neighbors:

Friends and neighbors described Bruce Pardo as a cheerful man who seemed upbeat and doted on a big, brown Akita he owned with his former wife. He stood more than 6 feet tall and was always gentle and kind, said Jan Detanna, head usher at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, where Pardo volunteered.

Detanna said Pardo signed up to usher during the Christmas Eve service and always volunteered as an usher at the 5:30 p.m. Sunday service — the children's Mass.

"He was very outgoing, he was very friendly. He always greeted you with a smile, he was a pretty big guy and had a firm handshake," said Detanna, who didn't know Pardo was going through a divorce. "It's a shock to everybody that knew him. You just don't know what's going on sometimes."

Do you really knoooooooooooooooooooooow? chants the Epistemological Uncle.

Baumholder, 1961

Printed the 75 pages I have of the Cold War novel, read and see what I think. Thinking about "thoob" today gave me a plot twist idea. Hmm.

Trepidation, or I hope he's right

Why "Revolutionary Road" is going to be a big, practically zeitgeist-defining, hit

The thought occurred to me this afternoon, as My Lovely Wife and I were digging in to the Blu-ray set of the first season of "Mad Men." And digging it we were, and My Lovely Wife noted, "It's interesting just how much this show has already seeped its way into the culture. That new dress I bought to go to [Event X] is very much in the style of what a lot of the female characters are wearing here—its neckline, the cumerbund effect at the waist..."

Right. Absolutely. And Revolutionary Road, the Sam Mendes-directed film opening this winter, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo a 50s-set story about a disaffected in a conformist Connecticut suburb...and the husband's a self-loathing low-level ad man...the wife's an unfulfilled mom growing in neuroses...and so on.

It won't even matter whether Mendes can nail the precise note of despair that Richard Yates so terrifyingly rings throughout the massively great novel on which the film is based. Hell, 90 percent of the people who see Road won't even be aware of the novel's existence. Hell, 90 percent of the people who see it will well believe that the film is derivative of..."Mad Men." But see it, and talk about it, the "Mad Men" contingent will.

And that's why the film will be a hit. Let's check back in a couple months and see how right I was.

--Glenn Kenny

A day of rest

Today. Need the day off, I think. So I don't want to do anything requiring much energy today. Maybe read. Also taped a replay of the Texas -- Texas Tech football game, the one that may have lost Texas the national championship. I missed it live, might watch today. At any rate, a day to be mellow.

Mom's Cafe, Milford, NJ: Thoob!

Scrapple for breakfast, the batch I made Christmas morning, about as tasty a batch as I've ever made. However, it's a tad too moist, apparently not cooked down enough before cooling.

Brings memories of Mom's Cafe, the last commercial place I ordered scrapple (last I saw it on the menu), so long ago my dad was still alive. A fine little place, Mom's Cafe in Milford, NJ. Why in hell doesn't someone in Portland open such a place, with scrapple, grits and such on the menu? The trend, of course, is the other way, with Designer Gourmet Concoctions that are called breakfast.

Another thing that popped into my head this morning was the word "thoob." I think because if I ever found a local restaurant with scrapple on the menu, I'd shout, THOOB!

Thoob originated in the Army, the creation of a very bright, very eccentric classmate of mine at the Army Language School in 1959. Besides having the most amazing large collection of scatological literature, he drew hilarious obscene cartoons about the Army. Thoob first appeared in such a cartoon, an exclamation of "wow!" or "far out!" or, today, "awesome!" But thoob had a specific definition, revealed in a later cartoon. THOOB is the sound of an ejaculation bouncing off a wall. Unless it's an old man, in which case it's THEEB.

Needless to say, thoob was quickly adopted, adapted and used incessantly. In Germany, someone even created an amazing, hilarious FALSE secret classification for our company of Russian linguists/spies, TOP SECRET THOOB. The first time I saw a document with such a designation, I almost lost it. Hilarious! The hapless sergeants in charge of us (Russian linguists, all), who in typical military logic didn't speak Russian (therefore, letting us stage a successful strike at one point), thought TOP SECRET THOOB was a legitimate codeword. Of course, we let them believe exactly this! Ah, the surrealistic comedy of the Cold War! I really should finish that damn novel about all this.

Scenes to go

When the storm hit, I had 5 scenes left to shoot on the mockumentary. Hollie did one the other day, leaving 4. 3 scheduled for Sat. night, leaving one, which is scheduled for Jan. 10, the delay time for the actor to become unshaven. I can't wait to finish.

Once upon a time ...

... I was a writer, not a maker of digital films ha ha, so I figure I'll print out the two writing projects I've been working on most recently and see if I can rekindle some passion for them. I do think about the issues in the novel a lot. Alas, I don't think about the splay much lately.

Small world

Fascinating small world moment at dinner party last night, a fellow knew my ex and other common folks from 60s Salt Lake City folk music days, Bruce "Utah" Phillips and gang, and many interesting stories exchanged. I don't often talk much about ex, broken hearts being a dull melodramatic subject, but we knew so many in common, I said more than I usually do about the woman who has become "Sally" in my work (with a life quite her own by now, of course). Moreover, this fellow went to jr hi with the ex's sister, with whom I remain close, and had a huge crush on her and remembers her dearly as the first girl he ever danced with check-to-cheek, now there is a special memory! which, of course, I had to share, which I did a moment ago in an email. All this made the dinner party, otherwise a tad dull, interesting indeed. Another chap is starting the adventure of editing video, so I gave him my two bits of advice. It wasn't a bad night at all. A young man picked us up and delivered us, which is good since once out I saw we never would have navigated the side streets, no way. But I think I'm okay for Saturday, pretty much all expressway to and fro.

The dinner itself was ham, not my fav, but H made an incredibly fine pie that was pumpkin on the bottom half and pecan on the top half. She hardly ever bakes, alas. I guess she figures I'm big enough already ha ha.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Small screens

Man, I really love our videos when I embed them in a small screen, about 320x240 or about 2 inches square on a computer screen. They look visually "perfect" then, minus the distortions when they get blown up. Yes, from DVD they play on a TV quite nicely, with surprising quality really, but there are some obvious visual moments of fuzziness or blurring that is absent on the small screen. I love the small screen for our work. It's the SMALL in Small Screen Video.

The humor of the gods

Now that we're dug out, naturally it started snowing like crazy. We're taking a cab to our Xmas dinner destination, just to be on the safe side.

Freedom, I think

We dug one of our cars out of the snow. I think we're mobile. I think I can shoot on Saturday.

Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies at 78

A giant is gone. Playwright of The Homecoming and Betrayal, screenwriter of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Pinter was prolific and political, influential (my first play was wrongly called "ponderous Pinter" -- it was, as a friend pointed out, "awkward Albee"), a true literary and theatrical giant.

LONDON – Harold Pinter, praised as the most influential British playwright of his generation and a longtime voice of political protest, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.

Pinter, whose distinctive contribution to the stage was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died on Wednesday, according to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser.

"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter's award. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."

The Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform which he seized enthusiastically to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law," Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to Stockholm.

"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?" he asked, in a hoarse voice.

Read more.

Early start

Made scrapple, now cooling; Sketch and I had breakfast; now waiting for H to wake and enter the day.

Merry Christmas, ho ho ho!


What better Christmas morning chore than to make scrapple? Beats me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Warming up

Started to warm up appreciably today ... made me hopeful I can shoot on Saturday. The major roads are already clear but the trick is getting out of my neighborhood without chains or snow tires.

A mild case of the Christmas blahs.

Watched everything I've edited on the mocku, a DVD on the tube, but I really take "Small Screen Video" to mean what it says and I prefer watching our products on computer, even on a two-inch screen on computer rather than full screen. These are really made for iPhones and such, should format them for same.

I'm actually not looking forward to tomorrow. It will be a big hassle to get where we're going and back. I'm more or less tagging along with H. If we get snowed in tomorrow, that would be fine with me.

White Christmas

Portland rarely gets one ... and this one is a record for most amount of snow.

Today, hopefully a mellow day, nothing urgent to do except wrap a few presents. Be nice to read a lot today.

Earlier this morning I watched the hour rough cut ... looks good!

Twas the day before Christmas

A glance out the window suggests a couple inches of new snow. Will we be able to get across town tomorrow for Christmas dinner at a friend's?

The charge today is to wrap H's presents!

We haven't had mail delivery yet this week, and probably not today if the mailman couldn't make it yesterday. What happened to the "despite storm and snow ..." mantra?

Last night made a menu for the test DVD I'm going to burn, see how my edit looks so far. I'm doubtful I can shoot Saturday night 20 miles away but I'll wait and see.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Biggest upset in our university basketball team's history! Wowie ... just happened to catch the end, first on net, then on radio. And the team got to Spokane for the game in a snow storm!

1 2 Total
Portland St. 38 39 77 Final
(7) Gonzaga 37 33 70

Portland State upsets No. 7 Gonzaga 77-70

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—Jeremiah Dominguez scored 25 points and Portland State upset No. 7 Gonzaga 77-70 on Tuesday night for its first win over a ranked team since it reinstated its basketball program for the 1996-97 season.

Portland State (9-3), which relied on a short, quick lineup, managed to outrebound the Zags 39-30. The Vikings kept the lead by hitting 12 3-pointers.

Portland State, which is 1-11 against nationally ranked teams, broke a 10-game losing streak to Gonzaga.

Gonzaga (8-3) was coming off an 88-83 overtime loss to No. 2 Connecticut in Seattle on Saturday that resulted in the Bulldogs rising one spot in the Top 25. But they looked sloppy against the Vikings, committing 11 turnovers, missing layups and shooting only 42 percent.

It was the Zags’ third home loss in 58 games since the McCarthey Athletic Center opened in 2004.

The Vikings, the defending Big Sky Conference champions, endured a roundabout trip to Spokane after winter storms closed a portion of Interstate 84. They bused up to Seattle and then across the state to Spokane, arriving Tuesday.

Full story.

From last year:


Turning Page, E-Book Starts To Take Hold

Published: December 23, 2008
Could book lovers finally be willing to switch from paper to pixels?
For a decade, consumers mostly ignored electronic book devices, which were often hard to use and offered few popular items to read. But this year, in part because of the popularity of’s wireless Kindle device, the e-book has started to take hold.

Read the story.


The new issue is done! Well, except for correcting things and the considerable task of uploading it. I'll try to get to the university next Monday for this ... don't think I can get there before that, though I may try Friday on the bus if some of the snow melts.

The triumphant return

H ran into our neighbors at the store, who drive a 4-wheel with chains, so she went crazy and bought almost $100 worth of goodies, including (this being a Middle Eastern market) Lebanese "pizza" for lunch, makings I need for scrapple, ice cream, various meat and vegies ... a major shop, what with a ride back.

And I have about half a dozen videos to embed and the issue looks done.

The adventurer

Bundled up, with a back pack and two ski poles, H has ventured into the snow to walk to the market for supplies (luxuries, to be honest). She has far more a sense of adventure than I. My "adventure" was shoveling some snow off the deck, just in case the weight becomes a problem. H said if she's not home in 3.5 hours to send out the rescue team.

Oregon Lit Rev

Assembly of final pages. Should finish up today or tomorrow, with only the large upload of video left to do. I need to be at the university to this with sanity. Not sure when weather will permit travel. The two nearest bus routes are canceled today. About a mile hike through the snow to the transit center. We'll see how it looks at the end of the week.

More snow!?!

OK, I admit it. I'm an LA-bred winter weather wimp. I hate to be out in and have to deal with snow. I'm not all that fond of looking at it through the window and considerably less so without a hot buttered rum in my hand. I get cold when it gets below 60F.

So this morning's forecast of 3-5" more snow quickly compromised the warm glow of a glorious hot morning shower. At this rate, I'm not sure I can shoot this Saturday, i.e. get to where I need to get, and I'm beginning to wonder about getting to the university for the start of winter term. Enough already!

Who wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas"?

On this day in 1823 the Christmas classic, "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (commonly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") was published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel. Twenty years and much popularity later, Clement C. Moore claimed and was accorded authorship, but recent scholarship by forensic literary critic Don Foster -- he's the one who established the author of Primary Colors -- has cast this very much in doubt. Moore was a dour and strait-laced biblical scholar, a man decidedly un-jolly, and in Author Unknown, his 2000 collection of literary whodunits, Foster provides much circumstantial evidence against him.

Read more.

Harriet's photos

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter poem

From the late 1970s ...

Deleted by request

--Bill Deemer


Rendering the next to last video. I have to create the pages on which videos are embedded but that's a much quicker job than rendering them in preparation. I may finish up tomorrow. What a nice thought.

Brother Bill sent along a nice winter poem, "a notebook poem" from 30 years ago, and if he gives permission, I'll put it here.



Oregon Literary Review

I'm several hours from finishing now -- and naturally dragging my feet. If I finish by Christmas, Thursday, the staff still has a week to check it out before I officially release it on January 1. Actually it went more quickly than I expected. It's easy enough, just time consuming to render video. So you start it and go do something else. The new art gallery program saves tons of time. I love it. I also like how it looks. And it's all drag and drop.


A neighbor came by to see how we were, "checking on the elderly." Later, proving the point, my back gave out after shoveling a path in the snow about 1/3 out our long driveway. Not good for much physical any more.

Thought for the day

"Men of all shapes and sizes, ages and creeds, and states of marital or relationship bliss enjoy, every now and then, the sight of a woman with no clothes on. It's just as well we do, you know, otherwise there'd be no new little earthlings, would there? If you want to call that oppression or sexism or the commodification of the female body then go right ahead, but don't expect me to talk to you at dinner parties. I prefer to call it sexual attraction, but then I'm a sad fuck who spends half his life in front of computer, so what the hell do I know?" -- Michael Marshall Smith, "More Tomorrow"

Hyperdrama's changing meaning

If I coined the term "hyperdrama" as Astrid Esslin suggests in Canonising Hypertext, it was a technical term referring to stories with branching narratives. But pop culture has taken over the term to mean "extreme drama," as in "the trite hyperdrama of its title" or "novels where the girls are going through hyperdrama all the time." This really trivializes the term and doesn't help legitimate hyperdrama gain a wider audience. But I'm not surprised. The whale always swallows the minnow.

Surprising mileage

An essay I wrote for a graduate class and published in 1968 (submitted at the professor's suggestion) continues to be discussed and debated, as recently as two months ago in a Composition theory site:

While reading Charles Deemer and William Lutz's articles on bringing the Happening Movement into the classroom, I was struck by some of the deviations and parallels their pedagogy had with critical pedagogy as presented by Cathy Glenn in "Critical Rhetoric and Pedagogy." Both pedagogies utilize "shock tactics" in the classroom. Deemer insists that "shock and surprise are essential features of the happening, and they should also be frequent moods in the classroom" (124). He believes "clear writing" and "clear thought" go hand and hand with "clear experience." Deemer also states that the elements of shock and surprise allow a "teacher" (Deemer uses quotations around the word) to have "less of a problem...[getting] at the students' pat ideas and opinions and [inspiring] an experience, a happening, that will get the student to participate in the realization of his own awareness of his inadequacy" (124). Lutz also ruminates on the power of shock in the form of juxtaposition. He writes of creating an experience for students in which "hard core pornography [is juxtaposed] next to pictures and poems about real intense love" (35).

Read more.

You never know what your writing will do down the road. The main thing is to get it out there, make it available and get it archived somewhere.

And still snowing ...

Link checking

Caught a few dead links, always my fault (these damn computers are always right), but how great to have a site that does this service for you (free). Always more problems online than on my computer, i.e. I forget to upload a few files along the way. But it's looking better than usual, which is great since it's also considerably larger than ever.

Another snow day

Looks like we're getting out of our early winter more slowly than the forecasters thought at first. In fact, my 27th shoot day may be in jeopardy. We'll see.

Running a link check of the editing (journal) to date. Always good to catch problems early.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Notes through an afternoon

Back to rendering video on BOTH computers: for the journal on one, getting YouTube files of the mocku ready for those sections I'm satisfied with. But a game is on the TV, the space heater is helping, and I have a glorious view of white trees outside my window. As long as we keep our power -- knock on my wooden head -- we'll be fine. However, the forecast has the bad weather hanging on longer than earlier forecasts, my shoot on the 27th may be in jeopardy. We'll see.

I have a dozen or so videos left for the journal -- get those rendered, and I'll just about done, the new journal ready. I have a huge bin of video to upload, only sanely done at the university with its T1 line, and this means getting there. We'll see how that goes, too.

The week between Christmas and New Year's I hope to catch up on the "writing" projects on the table (as opposed to video projects and editing). No lack of things to do. Keeps me off the streets.

I remember how the bars would be filled this time of year. Everyone trying to cheer themselves up, which actually worked in the short run. There could be fun times in holiday bars. During one period, G. at Nobby's used to host a free Thanksgiving dinner for all those without an invitation elsewhere, and from time to time I'd contribute something like shrimp aspec or oyster dressing, what used to be my two holiday specialties. More good times. Counselors are nuts to try and convince drunks that they didn't have fun. Drunks have lots of fun; they just cause lots of self-destruction, turmoil and pain as well.


Rendering the last of the Wordstock poets. Seven more individual video readings to go. A few hours, not much, which I don't have to do all today. Looking good to finish before Christmas. That gives my staff a week to check it out for dead links and typos.

H is on a Charolette's Web kick, watching it for the second time in two days.

Sketch hates the snow, especially steep snow. He can't figure out where the hell to do his business. Finally crawled under a bush and did it there.


The deck is swarming with birds since we're feeding them.

We're pretty cozy inside. Xmas music on upstairs, the game on in the basement. I'm rendering video and doing other things while it gets done. Eventually going upstairs, where it's warmer despite the space heater, and watching a movie or reading, something apart from the journal and the mockumentary.

Are you happy?

The University of Pennsylvania will help you find out.


Added a late art submission -- and it took no time at all with "the right tool" I now have in the free software from Slovenia, the gallery creator. It's a very nifty program! The right tool makes any job so damn much easier. Well, it took a very long search to find just the right tool for my needs in this case. But now I'm set.


I've lived in Portland for thirty years and haven't seen as much snow as we have outside now. It must be -- and this is where folks with real winters break into hysterics -- eight inches out there. We're effectively snowed in, and so is the city.

But my basement office now has a space heater to help us along.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feeding the birds

Harriet comes to the rescue, and the birds get fed in the snow.

Baking, rendering, pondering

Many years ago, I used to bake break regularly. I even nurtured a very old sourdough starter. But I haven't baked for years -- until today, when on a whim I made a batch of peanut butter cookies. H's comment was "weird" -- though later I caught her eating one. So they did look a little non-commercial but they taste fine. Admittedly not my finest moment in the kitchen.

And I'm rendering video again, the last batch, readings from Wordstock.

And thinking about my projects. I made some editing changes on the mockumentary. It never ends.

A good question

How off the beam can Hollywood's history be when the director of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind" ends up a forgotten man? That's the question Michael Sragow's "Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master" seeks to answer.

Short book review.

A story is a promise ... the title of Bill Johnson's fine book about screenwriting. Can the same thing be said about blogs? The promise being to write in the damn thing?

Looking good

Only two artists to go to complete the Art section. This leaves only the video readings from Wordstock. Looking good to finish around mid-week, before Christmas.

This afternoon the Big Storm is due. I wonder.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The end is in sight

Most of what is left is rendering video from Wordstock readings. And the Art section. Time for another break, and I'll start one or the other later today.

Break time

Down to a few poets to format (text), then back to the remaining video readings ... and then the Art section, which should be a breeze with the new software, and I'm done! I should be ready in a few days, then, say early next week, to let the staff check their sections for errors. Not taking as long as I thought -- though I still do have a lot of video rendering to do, but I can be working on something else while that's going on.

I need to get to the university to upload all the video. Goes much, much quicker on their T1 line.

Weather doomsayers

Ice outside is bad enough to close all the local schools, but it doesn't look as bad as the weather folks predicted. And now they say the worst is yet to come, the biggest storm of this entire cycle coming tomorrow, 6-10" of new snow followed by a Sunday ice storm. We'll see. You don't get rich predicting the weather.

Slovenia software!

Since starting Oregon Literary Review, I've been looking for (preferably free) software to build and manage an art gallery for the Art section. I've downloaded demos, tried numerous Shareware programs, but everything I tried did too much and changed the look of the journal in ways I didn't like. But before loading art for each issue, I'd try again -- and finally, finally, I may have found what I've been looking for.

Mihov Gallery Creator from a programmer in Slovenia is freeware, a simple drag and drop program that creates thumbnails and links for an art gallery, without frills and "look good" arty backdrops, and which works when nested in my OLR templates. I think I've found it at last! This will reduce an hour's work to about ten minutes. Fantastic find. I need to go to their website and contribute money.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stocking up before the storm

The supermarket was a zoo, many like us stocking up with supplies before a predicted ice storm hits. Ah, I remember that wonderful film, The Ice Storm. At any rate, in a zoo it's best to mellow out. People watching can be entertaining. There were husbands with their lists, some scrawled, some computer printouts; mothers giving their kids a ride in the cart; fashionable women buying white wine and guys in baseball caps buying beer; a few bewildered elderly wandering around as if they were looking for something. We got in and out in less than an hour but still managed to spend $100.

Back home, I finished the large Fiction section of the journal. Poetry, Art and some straggling video left. Maybe 4 or 5 hours work? Damn close, at any rate.

I took out Revolutionary Road to read again. Been a while, a work of genius is always inspiring.

Plays in journal

Finished formating the plays I accepted ... three late submissions to consider, and I'll be done with the Fiction area, leaving Poetry and Art to do.


An interesting editorial observation: the shorter the bio sent for our contributors' pages, the greater the reputation of the writer. A writer stating "X's new book of poems is ..." typically is far better known than the writer who fills a long paragraph with all his/her publications. Working hypothesis: "A writer's reputation is inversely proportional to the length of his bio." I'd better go shorten mine.

Snow bound no more!

Warmed up enough to turn long driveway into enough slush that we got out and to the store to stock up, prior to tonight's predicted ice storm, though of course the weather watchers really blew it today. Was nice to get out, even stopped for lunch at a local place we've never tried in ten years. I loved it, H not so much. H, "blue collar, your kind of place." And they do karaoke, maybe a place to check out if I need additional footage. At least it's close by.

Not sure if I'll finish up the plays today. Running out of steam.

Editing the journal

A good morning: wrapped up the short fiction and screenplays, working on stage plays now. Time for a break.


Another leisurely but full day putting together the journal. Might actually get close to the end today, except for late art submissions coming.

A bust

Good news: this morning's snow storm is a bust. All the gloom and doom about the morning commute was just that. Looking like I might be able to shovel out of here soon.

R.I.P.: Slingin' Sammy Baugh

LUBBOCK, Texas – Slingin' Sammy Baugh, the ultimate three-way threat who revolutionized the use of the forward pass as a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Washington Redskins, died Wednesday night. He was 94.

Read the story.

Baugh played in the days when you went both ways, playing offense and defense. In my short football career at a small college, we still did this (behind the times doing it), and I played QB and safety. Baugh played QB, def. back and also was the kicker. Held records in passing, interceptions, punting. Those days are long gone.

Sometimes inspiration sucks

Got a brainstorm for new ending sequence to the mockumentary. Edited it and looked at it -- man, it really sucked. Back to the original.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another day, another ...

A full day of working on the journal, much progress. The end is in sight. I'd really like to have it online by Christmas so my staff can check out their sections for errors. I'd forgotten how quickly the text files go, unless there's a quirky coding problem in the manuscript itself, which sometimes happens. I then usually have it resent in a different format.

When will snow melt?

With two snow storms on the horizon, not sure when we'll be able to get the car out. We live on a steep hill that is impossible to navigate without chains. We're close to bus stops, so it's not that big a deal. However, for my shoots in Vancouver it is because buses stop running early over there. I could bus to a shoot but would have to catch a ride back to Portland with an actor, assuming I'm shooting one who lives around here. I scheduled the next shoot for the 27th but it's still uncertain if weather will cooperate.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Moving forward

A productive afternoon as well. Rendering the last of the First Wednesday videos as I write. This is a big section to finish. Only video left are readings by poets done by Primus.

Best, I got some writing done today. But I confess I'm impatient to get the last five shots I need to finish the mocku.

A good morning

Very productive morning, working on journal, writing (easy to multi-task with two computers when one is rendering video, which takes a while). See if I can get something done this afternoon as well, rather than watch season two episodes of Friday Night Lights, the DVD arriving from Netflix.

Up and at 'em!

Hope to spend many hours at the computer today, rendering video and otherwise working on the journal, just as I'm doing now. I'd like to make real progress, enough to see a glimmer of light ahead, encouragement that I actually can finish this by the deadline. It usually goes much faster than I expect once I begin. The trouble this time is that I've been spending all my time on the mocku, not the journal. Shame on me.

Going to miss a reading tonight that I had planned to tape. I do not venture out on wheels in weather like this. I confess I'm an L.A.-bred weather wimp. Give me 100 degrees over this any day.

Grunt work

Up doing various chores, rendering video on one computer, making backup disks on the new one. If I still have energy when all this is done, may work a little on the summer script, a scene in my head.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A great book comes to the screen

What none of the principals knew then is that for all its gloominess, or maybe even because of it, “Revolutionary Road” is a novel cherished by a passionate and protective coven of admirers (including, incidentally, Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men”) who pass it along, the novelist Richard Ford has said, like a secret literary handshake. They cherish its honesty, its uncompromising exactness, the austere beauty of its prose.

But despite its many champions, the book has slipped in and out of print, never quite catching on with a wider audience, and it would probably amuse and irritate the author in equal measure to know that it has been reissued in a movie tie-in edition. (There is also a new Everyman’s Library omnibus volume that includes “The Easter Parade,” another of Yates’s novels, and “Eleven Kinds of Loneliness,” a collection of stories.)

Though he would have hated the term, Yates was a writer’s writer, or even a writer’s writer’s writer. He was extravagantly admired by his peers and by many critics; but popular success, which he cared about more than he let on, maddeningly eluded him. He was dogged by bad luck — “Revolutionary Road,” his first novel and also his best, was a finalist for the 1962 National Book Award but lost to “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy — and bad timing. At a time when postmodernism and meta-fiction were starting to become fashionable, he clung to the realist tradition of his models Fitzgerald and Flaubert.

Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road is on my short list of Great American Novels, right up there with Evan Connell's Mrs. Bridge. As it happens, these are the two novels we studied in my novel writing class in grad school. Great choices.

Will the novel work on screen? Hard to say. I saw the preview and was not impressed but I'll definitely see the film.

Here's a preview in the NY Times.

Rendering video

Rendering video on the old computer, writing here on the new. Should be working on a script but my energy is low, easier to write here.

The reading of Juniper Tavern on Wednesday got cancelled. They hope to reschedule in January. I hope they do.

Once I get all the video rendered -- several days, a week, more than a week? -- I should be able to throw together the issue pretty quickly. I do want to meet the January 1 deadline even if it's not the end of the world if I don't.

So the forecast has a storm coming Wednesday to dump even more snow than the past one, and yet another snow storm coming Sunday. We may be in this for a while. I'm glad we're close to the bus route.

Things I want to do before school starts:

* get the new journal out
* get John's 5 short scripts adapted (3 to go)
* finish the mockumentary
* get back in gear on screenplay
* get back in gear on novel
* tweak my syllabus

I sent the first page of my chamber opera in progress, the libretto, to LF in Los Angeles. I want her to take a stab at the music. I haven't been able to write anything that interests me. I wouldn't be surprised if she writes something good, even though she's never tried anything like this before.

When I have energy to do real work here, this setup is great, rendering video on one computer while I work on the other. In the past, spent a lot of time just waiting around for it to finish.

If I can render the November First Wednesday videos this evening, that's enough, and I'll hustle back upstairs, get warm, and watch the end of the football game.

We're a hot tip

Click to enlarge.


On this day in 1922 T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land was published -- making something of a benchmark for modern literature, given that Joyce's Ulysses and Woolf's Jacob's Room were also published that year. The Waste Land had in fact appeared in two literary magazines in the previous two months (first Criterion and then The Dial), but this Boni & Liveright publication was the first in book form, and the first with Eliot's famous "Explanatory Notes" included to help out.

Read the story.

Offbeat Christmas music

There's Freddy King singing, "I hear Christmas bells ringin' ... but I haven't heard a word from you in years."

Or Chuck Berry, "Run run Rudolph, Santa's gotta make it to town ... if he's in a hurry, he can take the freeway down."

For something more traditional, you can't beat Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters' version of White Christmas.

I haven't heard any of these yet this year.

Quotation of the day

If I look dressed for winter, I am -- my basement office is cold! Over my right shoulder is a "Willie" (statuette from Will Vinton Studios), annual theater awards from the 80s, one of three I won for best new play, and one I cherish most because it resembles Richard Nixon.

End of the novel?

Philip Roth, a connoisseur of dying animals, calls literature "one of the great lost human causes." He explained to an interviewer: "I don't think in 20 or 25 years people will read these things at all ... there are other things for people to do, other ways for them to be occupied, other ways for them to be imaginatively engaged, that are I think probably far more compelling than the novel. So I think the novel's day has come and gone, really."

Read the story

I'm not sure I agree. Reading is still an activity the rate of which is controlled by the reader, a form inviting contemplation along the way more directly than other narrative forms. Maybe it is contemplation itself that is dying.


The city is always quiet at this hour but there's something about this cold basement and the snow outside that makes the stillness more overpowering. I'm not a great fan of snow. I don't like to drive in it. I don't like to walk in it. All those years in warm LA, no doubt. I prefer 90 degrees to 30. I get energized by heat, not cold. For me to like snow, I need a fireplace, a window, and a hot buttered rum, and two out of three won't do.

But here I am, stuck in it, which makes a perfect opportunity for spending most of the day editing the new journal. This seems to be the ticket for the next several days. And with two computers, I can work on the other while rendering video, which takes forever. Make some progress on my writing projects (the non-video ones) for a change.

When can I get the five shots I need to finish the mockumentary?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowed in

We are officially snowed in. All the roads out of here require chains, which we don't have. Well, no big deal actually, we're within walking distance of two bus routes. But I don't recall ever being snowed in before.

Summer project

Getting very excited about my new summer project, wrote 7 pages today. It's a story-within-a-story, it's both in color and B&W, it deals with contemporary issues, it's a serious drama, and it owes two debts, to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and to THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN, two of my favorite films, and it incorporates an adaptation of my play Waitresses, which a group is shooting with The Flip, hence the digital film's title FLIP. And our fine actors all get to play double roles, so it's challenging for them, too.

But first things first, the 5 shorts of winter. I'll be hoping to write the FLIP script in winter and spring and be ready to go in summer. I've already cast it with our seven main actors, and if there are conflicts I can recast someone else.

Let it snow ...

We got our snow ... maybe 4 inches or more around our house now and still snowing. Doesn't look like it gets above freezing all week. The shoot will be canceled I expect. We'll see.

Burning some DVDs for a Christmas present. I think he'll like it.

Not much else to report. Ah, my hyperdrama class online is scheduled for Spring, 2010 -- takes forever for academia to approve such things -- and a second college is interested. That seems so very far away, even though 10 years ago, when my buddy Dick died, feels close. Past and future have different modes of perception.


Here is my cameo in the mockumentary as Norm, a karaoke finalist arrested for drunk driving on his way to the contest.


Thought I'd give this new phenomenon a try. Not sure what I think about it. It was useful during the hyperdrama conference, I remember, because I got frequent updates and almost felt like I was there. But do I really care if a colleague is buried under final exams this weekend?

Where's the snow?

Went to bed with forecasters saying we'd wake to several inches of snow -- but it's dry as a bone out there at this early hour. Was thinking I may need to cancel the Thursday night shoot but we'll have to wait and see. Weather forecasters around here tend to go overboard. Makes you keep watching for updates.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A VERY small world

My first job in Portland some 30 years ago was as writer and AD and general go-fer on a kids' film being shot at Mt. Hood, Brats on the Mountain. I just got an email from one of the kids in the cast (!!) wanting a copy of it! I just have a VHS but this definitely is worth getting digitized. It's not very good but that's not the point.

Now what, coach?

OK, so now I have this tiny camcorder staring at me from atop my computer screen ... so what? How do I find someone with whom to video chat, or even to video chat with, if you prefer colloquial to grammatical? What do I do with this thing?

I figured out how to focus the cam, duh.

New toy


I may have found my summer project. I've been toying with the extraordinary idea (or really dumb one) of making a feature with The Flip, a natural progression after our last two projects (we being Small Screen Video). What came to mind first was a film based on my play Waitresses, primarily because I have two great actors to pull this mother-daughter story off. Also, this came closer than anything I've written to being made in Hollywood. I'd do a more indie, scaled-down treatment than that screenplay, however.

But I lacked "passion" for this project. I don't have a lot of time left. There's no point in doing a project just to do it. This is the conflict I have with my Cold War novel. It's great material. I should have written this novel years, decades, ago. Now it feels too "ordinary" and "traditional" to me, I'm not challenged by the telling of it. I fear I may never finish this -- unless I find some new narrative approach, something I can feel passionate about.

This is what has happened with Waitresses. I've found a way to use the story in a new way, making it fresh; I found a way to tell a story that challenges me. Moreover, I can precast it with the seven actors in our group. I'd need to spend the first months of the new year writing it, right after I adapt the Donnelly plays, which is our next project. I feel fresh passion about this new approach and expansion of the old story.

Of the five Donnelly scripts, I've adapted two in draft. Three to go. I actually do want to finish all the scripts before I cast and start shooting.

And meanwhile the mockumentary is looking good and I have an idea for a new mockumentary, which the actors like, a project down the road. Ah, it's great to keep busy! (Sometimes I say I keep so busy so I don't have to think about what a failure I am, but this really pisses H off when I say this, so I've learned to just think it instead ha ha.)

Sean Penn

There are actors, and there are movie stars. Movie stars by and large play themselves in a variety of dramatic and comedic situations. Actors play characters. The best ones, like Sean Penn, blow you away by their ability to transform themselves -- speech cadence, body language, appearance -- into different bodies and souls.

All this comes to mind after watch Sean Penn's performance in "Milk." The same admiration came to mind watching him in "Mystic River" and many other films he's done. He also directed one of my favorite films, "The Pledge" starring Jack Nicholson, another great actor, a story based on a Durrenmatt novel. Sean Penn is an artistic wonder.

"Milk," in the words of my wife, is good but not great. It's a tad too long, we both agreed. But it's powerful and even inspirational.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Santa tells the Christmas story

From my play Christmas at the Juniper Tavern. The fine actor is the late B. Joe Medley.

Broken record

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think the shoot last night went well. A late night for the old guy, however, and I need more sleep before getting into the day, which will be editing. The project is shaping up. Some usual glitches here and there, things too late to fix but minor, maybe the sort of stuff that separates the real pros from enthusiastic amateurs like yours truly, but many won't even notice them and, after all, there are no commercial options in these projects, we do them because we do them. I depend on the story and acting to mask the tech errors in a way, and usually this happens. We have no crew, none!, so we can miss a lot. Maybe it's amazing how few things we actually do miss. At any rate, I'm delighted with what I have thus far, and the key now is to get the karaoke performances next week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grades in

Ta da! The shoot tonight is in Vancouver, and I have to drive there during rush hour traffic ... might take me an hour to get where I'm going, east county in Washington. And a late night in a bar, past my bedtime ... but I'll have karaoke to shoot and I'll bring the AlphaSmart in case I get bored, can always write.

Karaoke Tonite! teaser

A long day

Three advanced students to deal with today. Tonight, a long shoot, primarily long because I have to wait around for an actress to get off work. But I'll try and get a lot of B roll stuff since it's the regular karaoke night at the bar. After tonight, only the performances and two short missing scenes left. I've been fiddling with the DVD menu design and learned how to create custom motion backgrounds, which can be pretty cool. The two Sony products, Vegas Movie Studio and Architect Studio, work seamlessly together for this purpose.

My first goal, see if I can finish up the grades today with enough time left over to rest before the long shoot tonight.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Productive day

Have my first batch of grades in, which is most of them. Might finish up tomorrow. And I have a rough cut of the first 40 minutes of the mocku, looking good. Will it be over an hour? Hard to say at this point. Not much time to shoot other than the performances, so it depends on how much footage of them I use, which in turn depends on how entertaining they are.

Thought of another subject for a mockumentary. This would be down the road, if at all. Brooding about it.

Screenwriting Telephone Seminar tonight

I'm not endorsing this, just passing it on. Does look interesting.

Dear Friends & Students,

I just wanted to send you a quick reminder that my FREE telephone seminar (teleseminar) is tonight (Wednesday, December 10, 2008) at 8pm. I will be discussing the Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting, which I first introduced at this year's Screenwriting Expo.

Directions How to Enter the Teleseminar:

STEP 1 - On DECEMBER 10th, at 7:55PM E.S.T. Call 1-218-936-7999
STEP 2 - You will then be prompted to enter in a 6 digit ACCESS CODE. That code is 383302
STEP 3 - The message will then read back the ACCESS CODE you entered, if it is correct press #
STEP 4 - The message will then ask you to say your name at the tone, speak your name and press #

The seminar is only available to the first 100 people to call and I hope you will be able to join me. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.

Looking forward always,

Marilyn Horowitz
ArtMar Productions

Note she is in NY. Adjust time accordingly.


Grade a few finals, edit a little video ... shaping up to be a back-and-forth kind of day. Which is fine. Finals surprise, as usual: a really good student does poorer than I expect, another much better than I anticipated.

Rough cut

Managed to edit rough cuts of parts two and three of the mocku ... but tomorrow, uh today, I have to focus on reading final exams. I read one, an amazing one, perhaps the best essay about structure I've ever read from a student.

I'm running on fumes. Feels like. Not bad for an old fart.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The last office hour of 2008

Pick up finals in an hour, meanwhile killing time in the office. Signed my new contract -- adjuncts go term by term here (recently changed from yearly, so the admin must've had a problem).

Did a rough cut of the hardest editing job in the mocku, a meeting of six people, lots of movement, exchanges, lots of angles taken, lots to weave together. I'll see how it sits.

The more I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio the more I prefer it to Adobe Premiere Elements. I used to think the latter was more powerful but I'm not so sure. The Studio interface is more visual and intuitive, is what I like best. Also, sound -- the major problem using The Flip -- is edited more easily in Studio, and with better results to my ear. I'm really glad I discovered this program, which I'd never have done if PE3 had not crashed on my older computer, forcing me to search for a quick fix and alternative. I'm primarily using PE still for the journal. There are a few features on Elements that I prefer to Studio's equivalent but not many.

So tomorrow I'll read finals until I burn out. I have 3 continuing students to evaluate as well, longer script reads. I think I can get my grades in Thursday afternoon, at least for the main class, and everything by Friday. I wish I wasn't so busy during the break -- the journal is the killer. So much grunt work to do.

Collecting finals

Finish reading projects this morning, then collect finals this afternoon. Should get most of them read tomorrow, my grades in Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, a huge amount of video editing to do on the journal, which is not as much fun as the editing on the mockumentary but which has an earlier deadline. It will be a Christmas break filled with many hours in my editing software. I can think of worse places to be.

I was hoping we'd take a few days and get out of town but apparently not, H wanting to hang for easy access by her troubled teen grandson. Understandable.

Tweaked the first part of the mocku again late last night. Little things occur to me ... damn, I should do a slow zoom on that clip etc. Maybe it never ends.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Enough for one day

Half a dozen scripts to go, which I'll do tomorrow morning. Done reading for the day. With what energy I have left, which is little, I'll get files ready for editing part two of the mocku.

Plugging away

Read five scripts, take a break, read five scripts, take a break ... slowly getting through them. During one break, rendered first part of mockumentary, exporting as mpeg to watch it on bigger screen. Looks pretty good on first viewing, before getting too particular.

A long day, actually.

Rough cut

Did some more editing work on part one, using the intercut strategy, and it works for me. Only decision left, other than fine-tuning, is about sound track.

But I can't edit today, alas, I read scripts today. All day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A new approach

Took the long monologue, cut it into pieces and intercut them with other characters, and it works while keeping the entire thing. Pretty sure this is the one I'll use, rather than the linear shortened one. Broken up, the character doesn't monopolize as much.

Cutting room floor

Working on the rough cut of part 1 (of 7) of the mockumentary, all the clips for it shot now. The challenge was this: I have an 8-minute monologue, which in and of itself is fine but which in the context of the whole is too long; that is, it tips the balance of the characters in a way that hurts the overall piece. So I spent a lot of time trimming the monologue by half, and even at that it's longer than anything else in the video but I think it doesn't damage the whole the way the original version did. Another alternative, which I may think about, is to split it up into non-continuous sections. But all 8 minutes at once, while maintaining interest because of a good performance (by the actor who wrote it), tips the balance toward this character too much. Interesting dilemma, which I could have caught in the script but wanted to see how it worked. As is, I don't think it does.

What a day!

Exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Good afternoon shoot, great working with these actors. I feel blessed.

Wonderful actors

Another fine shoot, KM, another actor almost written out of the script because of scheduling problems, rose to the occasion and created a very funny character, even though she's almost a cameo performance. I had to fight not to laugh out loud as I was filming! The actors in this project are really rising to the occasion.

Now to grab breakfast and head out again for the more difficult afternoon shoot. Tomorrow, a full day of reading student scripts, will be relaxing in comparison.

1 day, 2 shoots

Scrambling around, getting ready for the early morning shoot. A crazy day!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mellow Saturday

Surprisingly and unexpected mellow Saturday with the shoot changed. Navy creamed Army, and USC is in the process of creaming UCLA despite UCLA's defense playing a good game. The Bruins have a laughable offense.

Did do some prep work on both shoots tomorrow. Between them, need to rush home and download from the camera before heading out to Vancouver for the afternoon. I'm pretty well organized, it should be okay.

Even in the city...

...there can be silence, as there was outside a moment ago when I took the dog out. Not even a passing truck on the freeway less than a mile away. Silence under a clear sky, Orion in the west as a reminder of winter.

Up to do a bit of work. I'll crash an hour or several more before starting the day by preparing for the Army-Navy game, my one-man ritual.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rough cut

The rough cut of today's shoot looks pretty good if I say so myself.

Tomorrow's shoot moved to early Sunday morning ... making the day of rest a double-shoot day, here in the morning and 20 miles away in the afternoon. Actually it's nice to have tomorrow off, what with the Army-Navy game and its black-eyed peas, and later the USC-UCLA game (which I would have missed live), I can veg out on football before the Big Sunday Shoot. Maybe even read some scripts tomorrow! What a concept.

Portland event not to miss!

...In addition to First Wednesdays, Oregon Literary Review now co-hosts Third Tuesdays, a series of readings and performances held at Krakow Koffeehouse and Brew Pub, 3990 N. Interstate (at N. Shaver, next to The Alibi and a few blocks west of the N. Mississippi hip-zone), 7-8:30pm. (The Alibi, a 50s style bar/restaurant, is something of a Portland institution. The office of Oregon Business Magazine was just down the road when I worked there almost 30 years ago. I knew the bar at The Alibi well.)

December 16th is a special event reading works of Lawrence Ferlinghetti in honor of the 50th anniversary of his A Coney Island of the Mind. Performers are Aaron Kier, Ruth Oliver, Mindie Kniss, and Helen Gerhardt.

Sample of titles to be read:
Constantly Risking Absurdity
The Pennycandystore Beyond The El
Christ Climbed Down
Don't let that horse eat that violin
Oracle at Delphi
I Am Waiting
The World Is a Beautiful Place
Wild Dreams of a New Beginning

Wonderful actors

I'm very fortunate to have such good actors to work with. JR's shoot today went especially well because she had created such an engaging character. She was a little embarrassed, being a tad weak on her memorized lines, but that's trivial (that's what takes are for) compared to the "real" work she'd done in creating a character. We almost had to write her out of the show and I'm so glad we didn't.

Morning shoot

Prep for the morning shoot. Nice to get it out of the way early actually.

And I have a pile of final projects to grade before Tuesday.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Caught up

I'm up to speed preparing for class sooner than I anticipated. I should spend some time editing video for the journal but, given the avalanche of work ahead of me, I may mellow out while I can.

The last ritual

My life used to be filled with rituals. I'd spend Thanksgiving with the same friends -- but haven't done that in a very long time. I'd make for Thanksgiving both oyster dressing and shrimp aspic -- but H's lack of enthusiasm for either drained my energy for doing it since we've been together. Many rituals involved drinking, or mixing special drinks, or making special toasts, or combining special wines with special meals, or meeting special people at special bars on special days, and all this stopped when I quit.

About the only ritual left in my life is making black-eyed peas for the Army-Navy football game on television. I haven't missed a year, and this Saturday I plan to keep the tradition alive. It seems to me this is the last ritual left in my life. It's become a solitary ritual, to be sure, and not the social ritual it once was, but damn it, I have to have at least one ritual in my life. This Saturday, before the late afternoon shoot. The game starts at 9 a.m. Black-eyed peas for breakfast. I even have some homemade scrapple to have with them. Suddenly Saturday morning is looking pretty good.

Last day

So the last day of class is here (in about 13 hours). Like most terms, this one raced by. I have some tweaking of the syllabus to do before winter term begins.

It's going to be an interesting several days since I not only have term projects to read but a very busy shooting schedule. The next 5 days look like the busiest consecutive days I've had in a long time.

I look forward to my break, slowing down, and spending time with several projects in progress but recently neglected.

I was hoping we might go out of town over Christmas but H informed me she needs to stay here for her grandson. Understandable.

Have prep work to do before class today. First, of course, back to bed.


The season of lists is again upon us, and here is the NY Times list of The 10 Best Books of 2008.

I made a list like this once, albeit a regional one ("best books in the northwest"), years and years ago, and like most fame, it felt good at the time and passed quickly. Memories are short. Two decades ago, my play Christmas at the Juniper Tavern was widely called "an Oregon classic" but I doubt if there will be any mention or media memory of it on its upcoming 25th anniversary. However, in a less official way, I am pleased that two different play reading groups in town have chosen it as their December play.

The original telecast on public television (1984) is available online in its entirety.

Anonymous insight of the day

Life is like a shit sandwich. The more bread you have, the less shit you have to eat.

Small world at First Wednesday

Another fine First Wednesday evening of readings. One of the readers, Tim Sproul, ends up being the son of a woman long active with the Red Octopus Theatre Co. in Newport, a group I got to know in the late 70s. I wrote a piece on them for Northwest Magazine, although my original connection is from the Univ. of Oregon, where several of them were in the 60s (although the theater group moved up from the Bay Area later). Although I can't place her, surely I met her at one of the many post-play parties I attended in those days. Was Tim even born then? I know many of the old-time literary figures in Newport, all known by him. Small world -- and a reminder of how goddamn old I am ha ha.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Got some mocku clips shot by Hollie, which look good. Made a rough cut. Fri, Sat, Sun will be fun because so much will get shot. Nearing the end, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. This has turned out to be wilder than I originally wrote but this may be a good thing.

Monday and Tuesday will be dedicated to reading final projects, though I hope to get some done before, between shooting schedules.

T1 line

To the university early (before defense committee stuff) to download some large video files the quick way. Feel like I'm going too many directions at once -- and have the First Wednesday shoot tonight, then mocku shoots on Fri, Sat and Sun, none of them easy. PLUS final exams to read after Thurs pickup. Exhausted just thinking about it.

Busy Wednesday

Morning prep for the noon committee meeting ... then, this afternoon, I hope to catch up on some video editing for the journal before taking more on First Wednesday tonight. Ah, tis the season.

Past my bedtime


Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Photos by Adam in Texas and Don in California, of the recent moon-Venus-Jupiter conjunction. Source.

I was in class and missed this but the night before I managed to see it between clouds, with the moon below and right of the planets, though not quite as close. But nice enough that I called my wife out to see it. I told her, "Tomorrow should be really something."

R.I.P. Odetta

Odetta, the singer whose deep voice wove together the strongest songs of American folk music and the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She was 77.



Friday and Saturday will be my most challenging shoots on the mockumentary, I think, because each day I have an actress whose difficult schedule and unavailability made me revise the script. Neither can be in the "big scene" at end as originally scripted, so I had to change to story to justify their absence, then other complications in the "real world" required changes in the "story world" etc etc, it all got a tad messy. So this week I shoot each of them and hope that our final creations work. We'll surely see.