Friday, July 31, 2009

Food for thought

Acceptance Speech For An Award I Never Received.

Sex appeal

I keep reading that Sarah Palin is "hot." You've got to be kidding. There's no accounting for taste.

By my tastes, a woman politician who is "hot" is Kathleen Sebelius.

Flash fiction

Dashed off something for a harmless little competition.

By Charles Deemer

I stepped out of the Henry Building downtown into an afternoon that had had the color sucked out of it. The day looked like I felt: gray, gloomy, without prospects of sunshine. A typical February day in Portland, and a typical Sunday afternoon in my throbbing head.
At Kelly’s Bar, only a few blocks from my apartment, I’d made the mistake of switching from beer to Jameson’s Irish last night under the pretense of celebrating a gift in the mail, my final divorce papers. I should’ve known better. I’m not as young as I used to be, and Frankie was there to dare me on. He or somebody else had ended up getting me home after the bar closed. The night’s details were as lost as color in the city’s winter coat. But it must’ve been a hell of a night.
Then I saw the blood on my hands. It was crusted into a dark rusty grime, a splattering of stiffness on the backs of my hands and fingers. I didn’t remember taking down a deer and cleaning it last night. I didn’t remember tearing someone’s throat out.
I stood outside the door of the Henry Building, staring at my hands. I smelled them. No clue there. Maybe there was one back in my apartment.
As soon as I opened the door, I saw the bare legs sticking out from behind the sofa. Shapely legs. Womanly legs. I heard something and realized that the shower was on. Who the hell was taking a shower in my apartment? Then I heard voices in there.
I stepped toward the bathroom. As I passed the sofa, I looked behind it. The legs belonged to a young woman wearing a nightgown. Was she dead? If she was, she was a damn sexy corpse.
Someone in the bathroom laughed, then a couple others. Maybe three voices coming from there. The shower was still running.
I moved into the hallway, the bathroom just down the way.
Suddenly a woman’s voice behind me said, “I’m still waiting in here!”
I jumped. The corpse spoke? Who the hell else could it be?
I turned back toward the bathroom and faced Frankie.
“Where the hell’s the coffee?” he asked.
“I’m cold in here!” said the woman behind the sofa.
“Everybody take fifteen!” Frankie yelled. To me he said, “Why didn’t you get coffee?”
“I have blood on my hands.”
“Of course you do. You’re a zombie.”
“I am?”
The shower went off. Three people came out of the bathroom.
“Where’s the coffee?” someone asked.
“Charlie, do you want to be in this movie or not? You said you did, but I need to know you’ll be there. You were supposed to get coffee. Now can you do that?”
I stepped into a February Portland afternoon that had had the color sucked out of it. Frankie was making a movie. I was a zombie. Perfect.

A party filled with imbeciles

Less than half of Republicans believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America, a new public opinion poll finds.
Ninety-three percent of Democrats say the president was born in the United States, as do 83 percent of independents.


What my father taught me about race

My father was a remarkable man. He escaped working in a mill in his small New Jersey town by lying about his age to join the Navy. He learned amazing things in the Navy. He went to China in the 1930s and later told me, "If I were Chinese, I'd be a communist," figuring anything was better than the poverty he'd seen there. He had planned to go for 30 years but shortly after his last reenlistment an episode happened in Guam that changed his plans -- and taught me my first lesson about race.

After the war Dad was captain of a small supply ship that made the rounds of the islands. One day he encountered a native ship on fire. He successfully rescued all the natives, who considered him a hero. The Navy, however, had a different interpretation of the event. He received a reprimand for putting his men in danger. In other words, the lives of natives were not worth the risk of putting American sailors in danger.

Dad told me this story several times over the years. It's the reason he got out. And it was a powerful and early lesson about human equality.

Playing God, or something from nothing

Now and again I forget lessons I learned decades ago.

I've been taking myself seriously as a writer for half a century. In that time, I'm accumulated a large archive, in which are a number of works I am proud to have written, I've received awards but could have received more. I've received grants but could have received more. I've made money but could have received more. I've had and flirted with various levels of success (Harold Prince was interested in a play for a short time), but could have received more. I had a great regional run in the 1980s, which surprisingly, if appropriately, ended with a formal "retrospective" of my work, after which I was dead meat here. About the same time, I became obsessed with a special form of storytelling, hyperdrama, that damn few others were interested in and most of them in Europe, culminating in my hyperdrama version of Chekhov's The Seagull. With a solid if obscure reputation in this form, I was invited to make a presentation at last year's Hypertext Conference, which became a series of videos called Changing Key. I'm even credited with coining the term "hyperdrama," which may or may not be true. In the spring, I begin teaching an online hyperdrama class (by invitation from a college ahead of the curve in hypermedia), though it remains to be seen if anyone actually signs up for it.

In other words, I've been around the block a few times in the writing game. I've stuck with writing because every project is different -- or at least is different in the "creative writing" arena the way I've practiced it. When I wrote for Oregon Business Magazine, my last "day job" oh so many years ago, all writing became the same -- so I quit as soon as finances permitted and have an Oregon Arts Commission fellowship to thank for my escape. Every project is different.

I also do little planning of a new project. I'm a "sink or swim" kind of writer, a "forest person" in the terminology I use in my classes (as opposed to "a tree person," a planner). Consequently rough drafts can be very messy. This is the lesson I've forgotten in my stress over the novel in progress, And especially with this story, in which the method of storytelling is so unusual (though I'm sure it's been done before, I just don't know where), it's tempting to be overwhelmed by the chaos of it all. I think I let this bog me down and should have known better. There's really only one goal at this stage, to get it down. I can mess with it later -- but I have to have something to mess with. It doesn't matter how terrible the draft is as long as it exists. I am playing God now, creating the clay. I shape the clay later.

So, at this stage, a mindless full-speed-ahead and let the consequences be damned kind of attitude works best. Just get the damn thing down in whatever way I can. Just get it down.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recall has an office!

From Willamette Week:

American Property Management, which is owned by real-estate titan Joe Weston, has just given a $795.83 in-kind contribution to the Community to Recall Sam Adams, according to Orestar.

The contribution from American Property Management makes Weston the most prominent financial contributor so far to the recall campaign.

Jasun Wurster of the campaign to recall Mayor Sam Adams says the in-kind contribution is for office space at 421 N. Broadway St. The recall campaign will have to pay $5 a month, Wurster says.

“We are really, really happy they have made it possible for us to have a campaign office,” Wurster says.

The office will open Monday.

Update at 4 pm: “I think the people have a right to vote again,” Weston tells WW. “The people weren’t given the facts to begin with.”

Weston has also signed the recall petition. “If you were an employer and a prospective employee did not state the truth in his application, would you say ‘Well, it’s OK, you already have the job?” Weston asks.

This is great. I assume it will be manned by volunteers, so I'll figure out some time to be there.


Shatner performs Palin's tweets.

Signatures! Writing!

An above-average hour at the library. Moreover, over half the signatures belonged to persons in their 20s, a first for me. And a young couple signed up to gather signatures on their own. Plus the thanks that is becoming commonplace.

Before this I had the first full productive day of writing I've had in a while, not counting writing here. A good day! Now to see how the Mariners are doing.

Good deed

Helping a writer friend in Paris publish her POD book, which is to say, I'm formating it for her and also doing her cover.


Actually had a good morning of writing.

Blue collar progressives

Where have all the blue collar progressives gone? There were so many in my father's generation. Construction workers carrying a copy of Leaves of Grass or Emerson in their pocket. Bus drivers who'd recite Shakespeare. Janitors reading philosophy. I've met each but that was a very long time ago.

With media today, it's hard to compare the past with the present. Are there more whackos today or are we just hearing about them more? I think there are more. I think there are more because our educational system is dysfunctional, especially where it counts most in the lower grades. Elementary school teachers should earn more than college professors because their job is so much more important. But they must do their job right. We've incorporated too much social engineering into early education, worrying about a child's self-esteem, for example, more than their ability to read, write, think logically, and be creative not as a function of "self expression" but as a daring leap into thinking in new ways, putting ideas together in new ways. We've created generations of philosophical wimps.

I miss the literate farmers of old: "Take the two old parties, mister. There's no difference that I see. But with a Farmer-Labor Party, we could set the people free. I don't want your millions, mister..."

Attitude adjustment

Mine. This is a major focus today. Get myself into a different place and start getting some work done on various projects.

One bit of good news, we cleared the first hurdle on the housing crisis, the major one, and the monkey is almost off the back now. Our house, according to this recent appraisal, is worth 175% what we bought it for 10 years ago. That's wild. Might be worth twice when we sell in 5 years or less.

But I need to look at my projects, look at my time, and figure out why so little is getting done. I think most of it is attitude, as in running out of steam, which is fine. Maybe all it takes is a more realistic set of expectations now. Obviously my work life and rhythm are in transition, and no doubt a good portion of this has to do with age and energy. Fine. But I've been expecting of myself what I expect every summer, which is considerable writing, and it's not happening. That may be fine.. I just need to get my expectations in sync with reality.

What is going well is the recall, or at least my part in it. But we have so many signatures to gather -- somebody told me it comes out to 500 a day! -- it's a chore. Apparently there are 300 of us ... well, I'm getting about 10 a day average, so that's 3000 a day if everyone is doing the same. Lot of wiggle room there. But this is just the first month, we have to maintain energy and results over three, a long haul like I say. If it doesn't make it, well, I see a long-lasting split in the city.

On the brighter side, gathering sigs is one of the more rewarding things I've ever done. I'm met many, many, many more good folks than whackos. Many of them thank me profusely for volunteering, for being where they can sign a petition, and most of these are of my generation or a bit younger. I haven't gotten many sigs from anyone under 30, say. I do think there's a generation gap at work. At any rate, I'll keep doing my library schedule as long as folks show up to sign. When they stop, I stop. But I definitely feel like I'm providing a service, and it feels good when so many let me know it.

Lot of birds feeding this morning! My vacation morning on the deck.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dress rehearsal

Off to a dress rehearsal of EVITA because the great S. Mars stars. It's in a high school auditorium. Might be a scorcher.

Mariners 3-2

Mariners won a day game. I love day games of the last slow dance. Used to be the norm, now most games are at night. Mariners start a road trip and they've done well on the road. Keep it going.

A second chance

Supporters of the mayor say he deserves a second chance. I agree! A second chance is exactly what a recall election is! Since the election was a fraud, we have no idea what the majority think about our mayor. Let's give the mayor a second chance and find out. Let's have a recall election, he can run again, and we'll see what happens. A second chance.

Who would've thunk it?

An unusually good hour at the library, despite the heat wave. Delighted. So far, my worst hour has been 4 sigs, my best hour 25. 10 today, which is great, the daytime usually slower than the evening sessions.

A first for Ichiro

Bottom of the 9th, tie game, 2 outs, bases loaded, Ichiro up. He gets a bloop single to win the game: and this proves to be the first "walk off" hit of his career! Amazing actually. The Mariners win 4-3 and break a four game losing streak. A day game today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Heat exhaustion

Man, the heat really got to me by the end of my hour outside the library. Heat normally doesn't affect me like that. Aging, I guess. At any rate, only four signatures but that's what I needed to fill a sheet in progress, so I'm happy.

Wm Shatner: Palin as Beat poet

You gotta see this!

Getting through the heat

Sketch and I are surviving. H is out in a park, taking a landscape class, and probably melting. Not sure if I'll get much of a turnout at the library this eve since it may still be over 100 by 7.

Surviving but moving slowly and doing nothing I could and should be doing.

What happened to Mariners pitching?

The Mariners have given up 10 or more runs in each of their last four losses. What is going on?

Letter to a Dead Soul Brother

It's been a while, Richard. Of course, you're often on my mind. In fact I was talking to your son the other day on the phone, and we imagined your laughter at the Sarah Palin affair and other recent gems on the political scene. I swear, the levels of stupidity and hypocrisy in politics are much greater than in your day a decade ago. It's hard to imagine, I know, but it's true. That great classic book we both love so much, Hoffstadter's Anti-intellectualism in American Life, has been joined by too companions, a book on American Unreason and another on the dire consequences of our national scientific illiteracy. For the first time since JFK we have a President who embraces the intellect but whether or not there's time, or political backing, to turn this around is uncertain. Our fall may be in the clutches of political gravity. We may be doomed.

Your mom is still hanging in, amazingly enough, and we'll be visiting her this summer. She'll probably outlive me as well. She is very frail but her mind is still active and her sense of humor as ribald as ever. On last visit she was complaining about a nurse she didn't like: "She's so fat if you put a broomstick up her ass she could sweep both sides of the street." I don't know another 88? year old woman who would say that ha ha.

I'm hanging in, too, although I have no desire to hang around one moment longer than the gods have in mind. I don't have any kindred souls left with whom to use black humor as a defense against the foibles of the day. It's not as much fun to laugh alone. So I miss you terribly and a handful of others as well. I seem to be outliving everyone, which makes no sense at all since the "accepted wisdom" would have me the first to go. If the gods have something in mind for me, they haven't told me yet.

I don't write with the same abandon that I used to have. I suppose that is mostly age but also I think it's running out of steam. This summer has been especially slow on that front. A change of life, maybe. Or again, just running out of steam. I've been doing it for so long and my archive is so large. I'm not quite ready to stop but I may be getting close.

I keep thinking, of course, that "my best work" is still in me, that some great revelation is just around the corner. Most, maybe all, writers think like that.

I'm on our deck in the cool morning of a rare heat wave, watching the birds feed. Not a bad morning at all. It would be better if you were here so I could hear that laugh of yours and see the gleam in your eye as you read the paper and saw the latest bit of national stupidity. You were a wonderful soundtrack for these times. I miss it -- and you.

A cool story

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A zombie movie made using a camcorder for less then the price of a DVD box set is set to be distributed in cinemas across the UK.

"Colin," made by budding British director, Marc Price, will now get its own DVD as well as hitting the big screen in time for Halloween alongside Hollywood blockbusters like "Zombieland."

"It's kind of scary in a cool way," says Price of his success on a shoestring.

Read the story

Heat wave

100 yesterday and the radio forecasts 105 today. With the humidity that yesterday came with it, it's too hot even for a desert rat like myself. I like dry heat. H is melting. S doesn't like it either. Won't break till later in the week, they say.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My summer of the recall

10-11 at the branch library this morning, and I got twice as many sigs than a number I would have been happy with. Moreover, a woman volunteered to give money and get her friends to do the same, so I gave her the donation forms. This may end up being my most productive activity of the summer but I hope not. I hope I still get significant work done on writing and video projects. We're still waiting for our housing situation to become final -- we signed papers but need approval. Middle of August, we should find out. So half the monkey is still on our backs until everything is actually over. This zaps energy from other things.

Tomorrow I do 7-8 pm, which last week was an active hour. Onward.

R.I.P.: Dallas McKennon

His July 14th death went unnoticed here in his home state but not in Hollywood.

Read Bob Hicks tribute
. I had the good fortune of spending time with him for a profile I wrote, decades ago.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

3-game disaster

Cleveland arrived in Seattle complaining about its lack of offense and extra-base hits. They left after hitting 11 homers, scoring 31 runs, collecting 39 hits and sweeping the Mariners in Seattle for the first time in 11 years.


Many are saying Seattle now is out of contention. There's lots of time left but they surely need to regroup and get back into earlier form.

Out of sync

We saw the new Harry Potter film this afternoon but neither of us liked it much. My wife, who liked it better than I did, called it a bunch of vignettes, some of which were good, but nothing held together. I thought it was rather typical Hollywood these days: high production values, good acting, and a script that sucks. Make that a million dollar script that sucks.

Mariners crash

Since the All-star game break, the Mariners at home have been playing like last year. Lowly Cleveland came to town, creamed them twice and is creaming them today, probably sweeping the series. Where are the Mariners from the first half of this season?

Shopping for a religion?

Buddhism wins. Well, if tolerance is your thing.
Go to comparison.

Summer of 1969

Moon landing ... Manson murders ... Stonewall riots ... Woodstock ... ah, those were the days.
Read CNN special.

Heat spell

An unusual weather pattern for Puddle City, over 90 all week with two days above 100 forecast, my kind of weather. Very pleasant at this morning hour, Sunday on the deck, feeling as so often on the deck like I'm on vacation, not a bad way to go. Not sure what I'll do today other than hear the Mariners day game. Maybe dabble at a little writing, do some reading, even do some yard work. Or not. In a mellow what happens happens mood. Also not a bad way to go.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


A summer evening on the deck, thinking about the lightning bugs of my youth. They made summer perfect. New Jersey had them, Texas had them, but not California or Oregon. Maybe they couldn't get over the Rockies.

As a grad student in Eugene, I brought home several jars of lightning bugs in my baggage after visiting my parents in N.J. I had one Oregon night of firefly splendor! And never saw them again.

Maybe this is my problem ha ha.

And yet again!

A second writing session on the novel. Feels like a miracle, given my low energy lately for writing.

And again!

Cranked up the weed eater and trimmed our large yard, which needed it desperately. More done so far today (not counting the recall) than in the past week.

How about that?

I actually got some work done on the novel this morning. Will the wonders never cease? Moreover, I reengaged my enthusiasm for my wild man protagonist. But there's no doubt my rhythm has changed, I don't seem to be obsessed -- or possessed -- by writing the way I long have been. I suspect this story is going to move forward on tip toes, not in the sprint of old.

Hear, hear!

Former state Sen. Avel Gordly backs mayor recall campaign

by Mark Larabee, The Oregonian
Friday July 24, 2009, 4:32 PM

Former state Sen. Avel Gordly said today that she's put her name behind the effort to recall Portland Mayor Sam Adams because she thinks a referendum on his leadership will be the only way the city can "get on with the healing" it needs.

"This is a defining moment in the life of our city," Gordly said. "This is about who we are collectively."

Gordly, who represented Northeast and Southeast Portland in the Oregon House and Senate from 1991 until December 2008, said it's not up to Adams to decide whether to stay in office.

"I believe it's up to the people to decide whether he stays or goes, and that decision should be made through the ballot," she said. "If the decision is made that he should stay, then we need to help him get on with the healing. We're in a very unhealthy place as a city."

Read the article

Slowly but surely, some folks are coming to their senses.

"We have a status quo political leadership that is behaving in a manner that says its OK to uphold and accept morally corrupt behavior," Gordly said. "It's a political climate that is incestuous and would rather get on with business and not look deeply at the core issues around leadership and what that says to our young people."

Friday, July 24, 2009

More eclipse video

From Japan. Especially good.

Obama rocks

The President's surprise appearance at the daily press briefing in order to defuse the controversy about the arrest of Prof. Gates was extraordinary. Our previous president never admitted an error about anything, period. Here we have our president talking directly to the press to admit he contributed to ratching up the controversy, then urging everyone to calm down and use this as a teachable moment about the racial issues that still hang on in our society. A spontaneous and extraordinary moment that only an Obana could pull off.

Old home morning

I had a great visit and breakfast with Eric Pedersen, who now lives in NJ near Philly but was an actor here in the early 80s. He also writes and did a long profile on me for the Neighbor newspaper in 1983 (online in four parts, starting here, "Playwright-in-residence in Northwest"). Who should walk in the door but another actor from our Golden Age, Tony Armstrong, who certainly makes the short list of the best actors I've ever seen in this town, his lead in OyamO's wonderful The Resurrection of Lady Lester a highlight of my theater audience experiences. (More about OyamO in Oregon Literary Review, here).

OyamO on the play:

I call this piece "a poetic mood song based on the legend of Lester Young" because it does not attempt to present Lester Young's life as chronological biography or as factual "docudrama." This piece is not a schoolroom lesson on an eccentric American genius. Just as Lester used the standard notes of a given melody to create a hundred new melodies and just as he used the words and grammar of English to create his own poetic language, so too have I used the "legend of Lester Young" to create a universal story of an American musical hero. I sought his essence, not his obituary. This play is intended for a general theatre audience as opposed to the specialized audience of jazz cultist "Lestroians."

The structure of the piece is informed by Young's musical style, which broke most conventions in an easy, laid-back virtuosity that used rhythm but was not dominated by it, and the mysterious nature of memories, which are not bound by traditional dramaturgical considerations. The entire piece is designed to flow like music across the stage, but it is not to be simply another black revue.

The language of this play is an extension, of sorts, of Lester's linguistic inventions, but actors should not get hung up on attempting to recite "poetry." They should simply speak the words with the passion of ordinary dialogue. If the character is achieved, the words will speak for themselves. There is much-intended humor in this piece, which should be consciously played to balance against the tragic aspects of Young's brief life. A lexicon of jazz argot could be helpful for those words, which might not be understood in context.


So it was a great morning of nostalgic conversation and blessings, the blessings that we were able to be a part of such an extraordinary time. Charged my battery. The joy of having been there is greater than any sadness that the time has passed. Change is inevitable. What matters is the good fortune that we were in the right place at the right time.

Catching up

Today is catch up day: catch up on writing projects and catch up on yard work.

First, a treat, breakfast with an actor from the Golden Age, who lives in Philly now and is visiting. So I'm off to Nobby's in a bit.

Need a good day of writing for my sense of purpose.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Busy hour

Best hour ever at the library. More younger folks, too. And many thanked me profusely for being there for them. Gratifying to hear. All in all, a productive week for the recall.

Fire in the belly

I've been aware of the physical changes of aging for some time: everything that moves aches. I thought of the mental consequences as something that comes later, in the direction of losing mental sharpness, but there's a more subtle change I'm becoming aware of: I'm losing the fire in the belly. I don't have the obsessive energy to write that I used to have. I am not driven the way I once was. None of this is "bad" but it's different, enough so to change the rhythm of my activities.

Interestingly enough, the mental activity alone feels the same but the fire that drives this energy to specific articulation, to actual "writing," is now just a glowing coal of its former flame. Not so long ago, getting as little actual writing done as I've managed so far this summer, I would have felt unproductive and depressed. Not so. I feel "strange," still adjusting to this new rhythm, but I definitely am not experiencing the negative consequences that inactivity used to trigger. I've always made large demands on myself, and this too has changed.

Changes, changes. Interesting to watch yourself as if from afar.

A nostalgic meeting

My morning meeting was in the Eliot Tower downtown, an 18-story condo project. It's in the same block where the New Rose Theatre used to be, my artistic home through most of the 80s. Lots of nostalgia in the block, therefore. Spent some time in a gorgeous coffee shop also in the block, full wall-sized windows, decorated with art, lots of computer hookups, a great place to hang if I'm downtown, which actually I seldom am.

The meeting itself was mainly to hold the hand of the woman who put it together, who had everything under control. Again, all seniors.

I mailed off my first package to recall HQ. About 1/3 to my minimum goal.

Mariners have a day game in Detroit, watching it. Onward.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


A warm summer evening, cruising with the car windows down, a baseball game on the radio -- my o my! And the Mariners came from behind to win 2-1.

Never did get any writing done today. This is getting to be a problem, what with all my energy going to the recall effort so far this summer.


Slow day at the library, in contrast to yesterday, but not a disaster and the morning group meeting was good. Another group to meet with tomorrow morning, downtown in a fancy condo project.

Listened to Obama's press conference. I love his common sense. I wish he'd come talk to this city's so-called progressives. He'd say something like, "Look at the facts. The mayor lied to you and more than once. He got other people to lie. His own former chief of staff is suing him for lying to the press about the circumstances of his departure. What makes you think you can trust this guy? It just doesn't make sense. You can do better but it won't happen by sitting on your butts. You have to go out and make your government better." Amen.

A busy morning

Two recall stops this morning, first to meet with a coffee group, get sigs and train a few who want to get their own signatures; then to the library for its first hour, on the heels of a great evening there for its last hour.

So this afternoon I definitely, definitely, need to make progress on a project or two! I feel like I'm spending all my time on the recall.

Watched THE RIGHT STUFF and again was awed by the feats of the early test pilots. Definitely a rare breed. I've never read the book. Might do that. Right now I'm reading an extraordinary book, a short history of the world, originally written in German, poetic and gripping even though written for children. More to say about this book later. I'd never heard of it but I'm sure it's a classic.

Since I have a meeting at coffee/bagel shop, should pick up some jalapeno bagels.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today's eclipse

Great evening

Really successful hour at the library tonight, many more signatures than I expected. Onward.

Solar eclipse

The solar eclipse that begins in a few hours in India is being shown on the net, so I definitely will try and check it out.

Still feels like vacation

A good productive morning, though I haven't done any writing. Expect to later this afternoon. Got some necessary chores done, some writerly, some not.

Finished the Fowles novel and started my revisit of Pinter's screenplay. Each visit I admire both more. I stand in awe of the novel. Time to revisit some of his others.

Love this deck! Best thing about the house. Alas, weather being what it is in Portland, we don't use it as often as we'd like. But on days like this, it's perfect.

For the grad reunion, the library will display books by us all, so I sent them the three requested: my collection of plays that was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; the opera to which I wrote the libretto; and a DVD of three short digital films. Variety! That should wow them ha ha. I'm sure a few of them will wow me in return.

I still don't have a handle on the video memoir documentary thing I'd like to do. I may get an actress to play "Sally" and shoot her later -- much of the thrust of this, the theme, it seems to me is my hallucination that I was going to Live Happily Ever After With A Soul Mate, who in truth was struggling with coming out as a lesbian. Talk about passing in the night! This, my life then, strikes me more and more as a dark comedy but also one perfect for the times.

So my approach is going to be to overshoot and overshoot some more. Get a lot of footage of the event and the area. (A beautiful butterfly just joined the birds, my colleagues out here.) It woould be great to get some historical footage, not sure if I can.

The other thing I can do is cheat a little, shooting campus scenes here that belong down there ... lines at the registration window, that sort of thing. If I can find the handle, this can be a first rate piece but I still am adrift in my brooding about it.

On the deck

Writing on the deck feels like being on vacation. Pretty nice.

Success & failure

Some years back I was going over an anthology I had edited with my editor. During a short break he shared an argument he'd had with his girlfriend: he considered himself a failure, which upset her because she considered him a great success. "She doesn't get it," he said, and we went back to work.

I get it. I got it then and I get it now. In fact, it's the same discussion I get into with my wife from time to time. It's a disagreement worth looking at more closely.

With regard to the editor, I was on his girlfriend's side. I considered him a success. He had done terrific things in his career. His resume was impressive. At the same time, I knew where he was coming from: he had failed in some regard on his own terms. Or perhaps not. Perhaps he was referring to his lost visibility, compared to his youth. I understood this, too.,

Both the editor and I had had early success. The disadvantage to this is that one gets used to a certain place in the literary universe. A lot of nonsense comes with success, and one even gets used to this, too. For example, some 25 or 30 years ago my phone rang and it was a reporter wanting to know what my favorite ten films were. They were doing a feature on the favorite films of "famous people." I was on the list. (Today, I can't imagine a reporter calling me to ask my opinion on anything. What I've learned is, this is a blessing.)

In this star-oriented, youth-oriented culture, early success can be very misleading. I think it conditioned both the editor and I into unrealistic expectations for the rest of our careers. In my case, the death warrant was formal: a theater season dedicated to a retrospective of my work. At the time, I thought this was a great honor. What I didn't know was that it marked The End of my run here at home. It was over ten years before anyone here did a play of mine again. And this despite the fact that in the larger world at large, my new work was winning international awards. The retrospective was my funeral here. Fascinating!

When I tell my wife I feel like a failure, I say so in a specific context. I no longer have a sense of having an audience. I feel invisible. So I feel like a failure in a social sense but not in a personal sense. My writing has changed over the years, I realize, and perhaps my earlier work will outlive later work. As Albee says, a writer considers the current work his best, otherwise why write? But earlier my work had a reckless abandon that I don't often capture in later years. Indeed, one of the joys of the current novel I'm working on is its unusual form, the "reckless abandon" suggested by the way I'm telling the story. Not all stories improve with this approach, but this one does.

But I write in a vacuum. I write for my archive, not for an audience. I actually have a small audience, still, or at least get email from fans now and again, so it's not complete invisibility I experience. I am comparing this, of course, to my extraordinary, if often silly, visibility a quarter century ago when almost anything I did was news. I bought into all the bullshit of the star-driven culture. If I'd missed it, today I'd still be longing for it, I'd be wondering what I'd missed. Now I know most of it is bullshit.

But there's another kind of success that's important to me: the respect of my peers. I have that, by and large, the downside being that many of my colleagues are gone and more are passing away all the time. If I get occassional "good press" even today, it's only because the editors have been in town as long as I have. It's a younger generation of writers making the local waves today, and few of them have the slightest idea who I am or what my work is about. This is an old story, and it helps me understand the body language of some of my older writer friends and teachers when I was younger (and making waves) myself. A big circle. An oft-repeated tale.

When I had early success, I assumed greater success would follow -- public success. It didn't, at least not locally, even though the work was better. Interesting. Today I hope to capture, when appropriate, some of the reckless abandon of my youth. I hope to write something that will interest someone a long ways down the road.

And I've already had the best success, the best experience, I can have. The perfect image is a young writer in a basement taking a dusty journal off a library shelf and finding my essay, being inspired by it, and later writing a book in homage to it. Passing the baton. That's what it's really about. Finding the right reader now and again. The guy who yells as the lights come down on a play of mine, "This play has balls!" No one has ever given my dramatic work a greater compliment. Or the poet who told me my short story The Idaho Jacket was as good as any fiction ever written for capturing the soul of the Pacific Northwest. Wow. I don't agree but I'll take it.

We can't all be rich and famous, but a lot more of us can be successful, on our own terms, than we're given credit for.

But it cuts both ways. I'm reminded of a poem by my brother, Bill Deemer:

Oblivion, greatest of gods,
even Death is your servant.
My scraps of paper all for you.


Time to get back into a writing routine. Took some time to figure out a workable rhythm in the recall activity but I think I've found it. But my work has suffered and it's time to correct that. This is a good day to do it, with no recall obligations until evening.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon landing

False comparison

The Republicans are trying to pull a fast one. Do you want your health controlled by the government or you and your doctor? Wrong question. Doctors haven't controlled much for a long time. In practical terms today, the question is, Do you want your health controlled by the government or the insurance industry, who controls it now? At least we can throw the government out of office.

At the library

Began my routine gathering sigs at the library this morning. I have a goal, of course, and I more than met it. Hope it proves to be the trend. A couple interesting observations: 1. everyone who signed was older than I am; 2. half drove just to sign, no business at the library, which is good, it means the publicity on where to sign is working.

Each of my four days I have different hours. We'll see how the other days go.

I had intended to move from the library to a store for another hour but after an hour of standing my knee is killing me, so I came home. If I can repeat today 4 days a week, I'll feel like I'm doing my part. That will make me happy.

Wednesday is a big day, I meet with a coffee club, get sigs, and train them to go out and get more. Seniors, again. Does this issue have a generation gap?

Let's Reach for The Stars Again

By Michael D. Griffin
Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is most striking about this 40th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon is that we can no longer do what we're celebrating. Not "do not choose to," but "can't."

By the 40th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Oregon Trail was carrying settlers to the West. By the 40th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a web of rail traffic crisscrossed the continent. By the 40th anniversary of Lindbergh's epic transatlantic flight, thousands of people in jetliners retraced his route in comfort and safety every day. And on the 40th anniversary of Sputnik, hundreds of satellites were orbiting the Earth.

Only in human spaceflight do we celebrate the anniversary of an achievement that seems more difficult to repeat than to accomplish the first time. Only in human spaceflight can we find in museums things that most of us in the space business wish we still had today.
We gave up the frontier of our time -- hardly typical American behavior. We see ourselves as people who, in all things, push past the boundaries that halt others. Abandoning the enterprise of space exploration is a striking decision because it violates something that makes us human: the desire to know new things through personal experience. Mankind is mankind in part because we voyage, and because we do it personally, not because we send machines in our stead.

If that is true, why did we close the door to space?


Pink Floyd jamming to moon landing

We were in a BBC TV studio jamming to the landing. It was a live broadcast, and there was a panel of scientists on one side of the studio, with us on the other. I was 23.

The programming was a little looser in those days, and if a producer of a late-night programme felt like it, they would do something a bit off the wall. Funnily enough I’ve never really heard it since, but it is on YouTube. They were broadcasting the moon landing and they thought that to provide a bit of a break they would show us jamming. It was only about five minutes long. The song was called Moonhead — it’s a nice, atmospheric, spacey 12-bar blues.

--David Gilmour of Pink Floyd


Creative scam

Scam emails sent by a Canadian pharmacy try to entice you with creative personal subject lines. Recent ones have been:

  • Check this codec
  • Let's try this bar
  • Next day training
  • I prepared a speech. Check it.
  • Please, erase the materials
  • I love your work
  • Are you available?

If you bite, then find out you've been had, do they actually think you'll then become a customer?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A world without Cronkite

Actor George Clooney said, "I don't want to live in a world without Walter Cronkite." I know what he means. Cronkite was an iconic representation of integrity and high values in reporting. Even though his standards have been long gone, it was comforting to have him there to remind us of our better selves. It's inconceivable, in the age of Cronkite, that a progressive could support a mayor who manipulated an election with lies and distortions. But today Portland is full of them.

Now who or what will remind us of our better selves?

Dog and pony show

My chops are more rusty than I thought and now I doubt if I can put together my planned dog and pony show of parody songs. I'd need to spend much more time rehearsing than I have. Also, thinking about it, this is a pretty masturbatory project -- I doubt if anyone will support the cause just because they hear s song. It would be fun and give humor to the choir -- but in practical terms, I probably can contribute more by standing in front of Home Depot with a petition.

Over 200 sigs gathered at the bike thing in the parls, and I'm surprised and pleased we got that many since the biking community struck me as pretty solidly behind the mayor. Maybe not.

Hear, hear!

Glenn Greenwald
Saturday July 18, 2009 07:19 EDT

Celebrating Cronkite while ignoring what he did

In other words, Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do -- directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won't even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

Read the story

Later in the same article Cronkite reveals his biggest regret: "What do I regret? Well, I regret that in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn't make them stick. We couldn't find a way to pass them on to another generation."

It's all about hype and celebrity today. Isn't this one of the markers of democracy in collapse?

Man on the moon

40 years ago tomorrow. Amazing. I was in Eugene, in grad school, and I have vivid memories of walking in the early evening, the moon overhead, eating an ice cream cone and talking with "Sally" about how surreal it all seemed; and I said the moon as metaphor would never be the same. Actually I was wrong. I envisioned a series of other moon landings to follow, and quickly, and eventually some housing project up there. But in the moment of glory, the space adventure seemed to end. Something was lost.

Now there's energy to get it back, land on the moon again in preparation for going on to land on Mars. I'm all for it. Yes, there was more immediate challenges right here on Earth. But now the survival of the species may be at stake. We may need a new home to flee to after we've destroyed this one.

On the deck, watching the birds feed, a glorious day. Not a great day for the recall, in my opinion, too much "show" and not enough results. The biking community is a poorer demographic for the cause than blue collar workers or senior citizens, for example.

If there is a recall election, Adams surely will run again. And if he faces the same opponent, I think he'll win again. A new progressive candidate has to come out of the woodwork. I like Amanda Fritz. What I like about her is she is the ONLY council person ever to reply to my emails about Adams. I also like her study against the Lents ballpark. I don't agree with her on everything but I find her to be conscientious, reachable, a refreshing change from the arrogance at city hall.

I like this new experience of blogging, of getting online, from the deck.

I'm staring at a patch of blue sky where once the tallest tree in the area stood. Came down as part of the development going on here, came down for an entranceway that easily could have been moved, despite our protests. Gone and forgotten, I suppose -- except I remember it, still.


A leaping bottom of the 9th rob a homer catch with two outs preserves a win for the Mariners, who take the series against Cleveland 3-1. Onward.

Political activism

I'm not a political activist by temperament. On the contrary, I'm a secret ballot guy, so strong in my belief of the importance of this that I abhor lawn signs and bumper stickers as "bad form." I think the world would be a much better place if everyone kept their political opinions to themselves. Religious opinions, too.

So this recall activity doesn't come easily for me, and I'm definitely more passive in my style than others are. It takes a Major Issue on my scale of things to get me to do this.

The boss says we're just about on target with signatures so far. You wouldn't know it on my end ha ha. I know too many goddamn liberal ideologues. I'm beginning to think they're worse than conservative ideologues ha ha.

However, I think this recall procedure is out-dated and more difficult than it needs to be. Surely there's a way to find out electronically if enough folks want another election. I can understand making it hard enough to recall someone so it's not frivolous but this process reeks of 19th century methods. Dumb, inefficient way to find out where folks stand.

And as I do my rare dance of activism, I'm also reminded of the old lady who told me why she finally quit voting: "I don't want to encourage them." I wouldn't be surprised if I embrace this attitude before my race is done. I don't want to encourage them. Personal responsibility in the larger sphere of things. The lady's an existentialist.

A recall day

Off to do recall chores at a park event. All morning, maybe into afternoon. Got my small radio, a Mariners game starts at 10, keep myself occupied.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cadillac Records

Here's a musical biopic based on the founder and founding of Chess Records, and it may be the worst musical biopic I've ever seen. Too bad since it's about a great era of music. Here the music is fine, but I would have preferred the originals with actors lip-syncing. As a story, this is scattered and without focus, using the music to elicit the cheap shots of emotion along the way. Characters aren't developed, we're left with cardboard figures and the musical myths we may be bringing to the material. The reach is much too great here, and the grasp small. This story still needs telling in powerful dramatic terms.

A musician highly recommended this to me. The difference, perhaps, between musicians and screenwriters watching a musical biopic. I say no story, therefore nothing to make me care. Some good cover music, however. I'll grant that much.

What an evening!

With the new home network, I am online from the deck -- man, is this nice or what? Starbucks is going to lose a lot of money now that I don't have to go there to get online wirelessly.

Got a call from a recall woman with interesting info. Got a lot of sigs by hanging outside a Home Depot and later a Walgren's, her theory being the largest % of support comes from blue collar workers and seniors. "Every carpenter in Portland wants him gone," she said. I may try a local Lowe's for this reason, maybe go over there after my Monday hour at the library. Her goal is 1000 sigs. Wow. My goal was 100. Of course, she has lots of friends on her side and I have damn few. Most of my friends are misguided progressives.

Home network

Man, we got our home wireless network up and running in a breeze, following CD instructions that came with the router I bought at Woot for a song. This is very cool. I can get online upstairs out of my dungeon on the netbook. Cool indeed. However, this has changed H's experience a bit.

R.I.P.: Walter Cronkite

What can one say that hasn't already been said? I feel sorry for people too young to remember Edward R. Morrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite from the days before what Cronkite called "the trivialization of news", i.e. most of what gets reported today wouldn't even be on a newscast then. Our unenlightened citizenry makes democracy weaker. How else could a Sarah Palin be taken seriously?

What's wrong with this FedEx driver?

For the third consecutive time, a package delivered by FedEx has been left at the wrong house. I've bitched each time but no improvement. Fortunately, the neighbor kid brings the package over but it's really a pain in the butt. Is there no learning curve at FedEx? I wouldn't recommend them for any delivery.

The writer's curse

Woke up with a head full of lyrics, rushed down to my office to get them down. Another parody, I Think About Your Lies, Sam, to the tune of Tom Lehrer's "I Hold Your Hand In Mind." 3rd Lehrer tune I've used in 3 days.

And now I'm up. But surely not for good. Snoop around, see if there's anything in my mail box I need to pay attention to.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Man, my musical chops are so damn rusty I'm not sure I can get this together or not, but I'll give it the ol' university try. I want to put together a medley of the parody songs, accompanied with ukulele.


Seems to me this was a strange waste of a day. Went to Pioneer Square but didn't check if anything was going on: it was, zillions of folks making sand sculptures, a zoo of workers, no atmosphere for politicizing. So a wasted trip. Then home and didn't get much done.

Guess the highlight of the day is the Mariners won.

But I got a good email from the library with rules for collecting signatures outside, and now I have a schedule at my branch, an hour a day Monday through Thursday, schedule in the right panel here at the blog. Also, getting scheduled for something Sunday and I meet with a coffee group Wednesday morning. So I'm keeping busy at it.

Tomorrow I need to get some writing done. But we also want to try and set up a wireless network in the house.


What I consider to be the best in my large body of work. Not everyone would agree. There's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quiet desperation

When I got out of the Army, I worked for a year at Burroughs Corp. before returning to school, and that's the closest I've come to the dismal work/life environment that's the backdrop to Revolutionary Road. It was a year of much learning. I befriended some older employees who worked in PR, English majors who wrote company propaganda, each a frustrated novelist, each a heavy drinker (as I was), and they were great models of what not to be, an inspiration to return to school and do whatever it took to escape the corporate world. I succeeded.

One of my memories of that period is about my car. I drove a 5 or 6 year old car, a Ford, in pretty bad shape. I came to work early because I'm a morning person and got more done when no one was in the office. However, I also was on the clock and as often as not would forget to punch in when I was supposed to, which always created a hassle. I also parked up front near the entrance in the then pretty empty parking lot -- until I was forbidden to! Burroughs Corp was ashamed of my car, and I was ordered to park in the back corner of the lot. Hell of a deal.

On my last week there, an emergency came up on a day my boss was home sick. I took over (no one noticed at the time) and ended up solving a crisis. My boss' boss was so impressed he wanted to promote me onto his staff on the spot until he learned I was leaving. He told me to look him up after I graduated. Of course, I never did. My PR drinking buddies resolved that issue for me long ago.

So although I'm not as rich as I might have been otherwise, I've lived a great working life in that I've been my own boss most of the time. Much of my life revolved around project deadlines, giving me considerable flexibility (perfect for the drinking life, too). My Social Security isn't worth much as a result but what the hell, I wouldn't trade up to have joined the ranks of those in quiet desperation. I consider myself blessed, as a matter of fact.

A recall kind of day

A morning full of grunt work related to the recall effort. A good day! Finally called it a day and watched Revolutionary Road for the second time. Still love it.

I have a new regular table gig: Every Friday at Pioneer Square, 11am to 1pm. I'll be parked someone with an identifying sign and petitions. I prefer a passive to forward approach, i.e. I'm available and you come to me.

90 or more today! My kind of weather!

The Masochism Tango

Check it out.

The Recall Rag

(Tune: Tom Lehrer's Vatican Rag)

Look around and find the sign
Step right up, you're just in time
Think about the mayor's shame and
Sign-your-name, sign-your-name, sign-your-name!

We need 50,000 signatures
In three months, that's lots of work for sure
Citizens participate
There's no time to hestitate
Doin' the Recall Rag.

What's at stake is how the city works
Do we answer lies with deeds or shirks?
Every time a politician smirks
Citizens can fight with fireworks.
Do your part, sign the petition
Apathy's the great addiction
Two, four, six, eight
Time for Sam to abdicate!

So step up and do your part
Bring your friends and show some heart
Think about the mayor's shame and
Sign-your-name, sign-your-name, sign-your-name!

Put your name down on the paper
Hurry up, it's getting later
Think of your children
They know what you're doin'
Gathering wherewithal
Time for an overhaul
Doin' the Recall Rag!

More songs

2 views on recalling the mayor

My op ed piece, which concludes...

It’s time for Portland to embrace the vision Obama brings for a new politics, and the first step is to recall Mayor Sam Adams.

An opposing view, which begins...

The hysteria over Mayor Sam Adams’ romantic life has mostly died down. Except for a few die-hards who can’t seem to get Adam’s sex life out of their dreams, most Portlanders have moved on.

The opposition can't get it out of their heads that we actually don't care about the mayor's sex life. Personally I think the age of consent should be 15. So what? This is completely about lying to get elected. It is about orchestrating a fraudulent election. And I find it depressing that otherwise good "liberals" like the history professor don't give a rat's ass about this. Progressives who support the mayor depress me as much as right wing whackos do, and this city has too many of both.

In this same issue, the Tribune supports the recall (for reasons much like my own):

Adams ought to face recall not because of his politics, but because he lied in order to win an election — and he did so after exercising extraordinarily poor judgment by becoming sexually involved with a teenager.

Adams’ deceptions influenced the outcome of the 2008 mayor’s race, and without a recall election, Portland voters will have no other opportunity to make a fully informed decision about whether they want Adams to continue as mayor. We urge Portlanders to sign the recall petitions now circulating and force Adams to be accountable for his behavior.

Full editorial

This is a sensible attitude. Want the mayor? Fine, vote for him in a new HONEST election.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Letter from ex-mayor Potter

My support for Mayor Adams’ recall is not about his actions with Beau Breedlove, because we may never have the complete information as to whether or not he committed any criminal act(s) with Beau. This is not about the Mayor’s sexual orientation. The only person I know who used his sexual orientation as an argument in this issue is the Mayor himself.
What this issue is about for me is the Mayor’s attempt to deny and cover up his actions with Beau before and after Beau turned 18. He lied to us all in order to win an election. He made false accusations about a gay man’s integrity while cloaked in self-righteousness. In the attempt to cover up his involvement, he lied right up to the time he recognized he could no longer hide the truth. He demonstrated a serious lack of integrity and ethical behavior. His actions caused many Portlanders to distrust him, and he was shunned by politicians at the state and national level. He was not invited to local events which necessitated other elected leaders filling in for him. Most every major print media has called for his resignation, including Just Out. He caused a division within the gay community in Portland and across the country that still sits heavy with us today. Today, there are many people who are afraid to speak out against Mayor Adams, yet feel they were duped by him.

Read entire letter

This was a letter to the editor at our gay newspaper. Good for Potter! His argument is very similar to mine, and my op ed piece should be out tomorrow. Let's get momentum. Onward.

Portland at its best

My wife is an enthusiastic Portland booster. My own relationship with the city is more complicated and less enthusiastic, but one thing I do appreciate is the city's fine public transportation system. We took advantage of it today for a fun excursion to lunch.

First, we parked at the hospital on the hill. We took the tram down to the south waterfront, then hoped the streetcar to the main waterfront. We had lunch outside on the river. Then we reversed the journey.

This is Portland at its best.

Tonight and Sunday I'll do my recall duty.

Online hyperdrama class

Setting up my Spring online hyperdrama class at Tunxis CC in Farmington, CT, which requires learning Blackboard and an interface I'm not familiar with. But they have good tutorials and I think I'm getting the hang of it quickly enough. This actually should end up being a lot of fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Star game

I've always been an American League fan but growing up it seemed the National League was always winning this baseball ritual. Indeed, the NL won 7 of 10 in the 50s. And overall, despite the current losing streak, the NL is still ahead:

But here’s the rub: the National League still holds the all-time advantage at 41-36-2, meaning the NL went 38-19-1 from 1933 to 1987 with the following dominant streaks of their own:

11 in a row (1972-1982)
8 in a row (1963-1970)
19 out of 20 (1963-1982)


The AL leads 4-3 in the 9th as I write but I wouldn't mind the NL making a bottom of the 9th comeback, just to give the St. Louis fans a thrill. We'll see.

Hear, hear!

Cesar Chavez Boulevard: When "no" really means "yes"

by Sue Fischer, guest opinion
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 11:30 AM

Residents and business along 39th Avenue feel violated by the City Council's decision to change, against our will, the name of the street where we live and work.

In some cases our ties to the street go back many, many years. We said "no," but because we needed better reasons to say "no," we apparently really meant "yes." We fought back, but not hard enough. The only resistance we were credited with was resistance to change. Besides, we were told, we deserve what we got because we're all racists by association, according to city leaders, because of a few ugly opposition letters.
For those of us who live, work and pay property taxes on 39th Avenue, it's not only about the expense and inconvenience of an involuntary and unwelcomed address change. It's about losing a sense of identity, losing the sense of feeling in control -- however tenuous or illusory -- over the personal space provided by our homes (which include our addresses) and businesses in a turbulent economic environment.

Read more.

We'll get a ton of recall signatures along this avenue ha ha.

Obama's style

I love our President's style. He wears a White Sox jacket to throw out the first pitch of the All-Star Game. This seems like an insignificant gesture but in politics it's huge. Almost all politicians tip toe down the middle of the road in public affairs, trying not to step on toes. Obama is a big White Sox fan and he's got the balls to show it in a huge arena. I love it.

And today, asked about the economy, he said:

"I love the folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, 'Well, this is Obama's economy,'" the president told an outdoor crowd at Macomb Community College, veering off his scripted words. "That's fine. Give it to me. My job is to solve problems, not to stand on the sidelines and harp and gripe."

Read the story.

I love what Obama has brought to politics. Unfortunately, here in Puddle City we haven't been able to join the party yet because our mayor is an old-school, conniving liar of a politician who calls himself a progressive but acts like a big city hood.

But I digress ha ha.

A film on Secretariat

Hollywood likes to label and cubbyhole its artists. Thus Portland screenwriter Mike Rich keeps getting assignments to write feel-good sports stories. His latest, scheduled to start shooting this fall, is about the great race horse Secretariat. I'll be eager to see it. Rich's challenge, and it's a big one, is to match the quality of the most recent Seabiscuit film, and he doesn't have the historical backdrop that the other horse had. I'll be very curious to see how it all turns out. I wish him luck.

Sotomayor's Woody Allen/Marshall McLuhan Moment

There is a famous scene in Annie Hall in which Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are on movie line, and a guy in back of them is pontificating endlessly about Fellini and Beckett. Allen is getting more and more annoyed by the pretentious guy and finally, when the guy starts talking about Marshall McLuhan, Allen steps out of the frame and confronts the guy with the actual Marshall McLuan, who tells the pretentious fop, "You know nothing about my work." Allen then says, "Wouldn't it be great if life were really like this?"

Today, Sonia Sotomayor had an actual Allen/McLuhan moment.

Check it out.

I love it.

Karaoke Tonite!

Watched the DVD start to finish this morning. Although there are things I'd change, in sum there's much more I like than dislike and this definitely is "a keeper" in my body of work. Even charges my battery to do more video.

Gaining speed

A really good morning writing session on the novel. Like the old days ha ha.

At the speed of gray

Yesterday was a trickling slow motion of a day. Got precious little done but sure took a long time doing it.

One thing I did get done was more reading in Fr Lt's Woman. I had forgotten the wonderful scene, not in the movie as explicitly, of Charles getting sick in the room of a prostitute after she tells him her name is Sarah. What an incredibly fine book. It's good to read a book like this because it reminds me of my limitations. Nothing wrong with knowing your limitations.

Two writer friends in Paris are starting their own POD press, and I'm going to help them with the design of their books, the technical stuff. Wild Ocean Press. Both Oregon writers. A worthy thing for me to do.

Looking forward to spending some time with Miranda tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Op ed

My op ed piece will be published Thursday, the "pro" recall half of a pro-con spread in The Portland Tribune. Wonder if the con is someone I know.

Meet us at the Bipartisan Cafe

Poet and screenwriter Gary Miranda and I will be manning a table on Wednesday nights, 7-9pm, at the Bipartisan Cafe, 7901 SE Stark St., with Recall Sam Adams petitions at hand. Come sign a petition -- or come to talk writing with a couple of old farts, I mean pros.

Childhood regression

For lunch I made myself a peanut butter and bologna sandwich on white balloon bread -- and damn was it good! My fav as a kid. Need to have another soon. Maybe for dinner ha ha.


Money Mag has come out with its 100 best small towns in which to live list. NW towns are:

10 Mukilteo, WA
12 Sammamish, WA
17 Newcastle, WA
51 Richland, WA
64 West Linn, OR
79 Lake Oswego, OR
92 Silverdale, WA

There's no accounting for taste.

Top 5 were:
1 Louisville, CO
2 Chanhassen, MN
3 Papillion, NE
4 Middleton, WI
5 Milton, MA

Video update

The first short I wanted to do this summer can't be done -- an actor isn't available. I could recast and do it or wait, and I'm going to wait and see if I can schedule it in the fall. There's a second video to check out now.

A gray dull day. Jesus.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Woody Allen

If I'd never seen a Woody Allen film before, I'm sure I would have loved Whatever Works. But I'm a fan who has seen most of his films, and as a result I was very disappointed. Here we have little that is fresh. So similar is the lead character to the iconic protagonist usually played by Allen himself, so familiar all his complaints, jokes and wry observations of life, that the film comes off as a caricature of a Woody Allen movie, almost a self-parody. It's entertaining but it's too familiar to be special. I was glad when it was over.

MJ wasn't the only one to die on June 25th

My 24-year-old nephew, Brian Bradshaw, died in Afghanistan on June 25, killed by an IED, but you'd never have known it from the national media.

I cannot tell you how that silence added to the pain of losing this bright, funny, thoughtful young man, whom I remember so vividly as a toddler, wandering the house in cowboy boots and hat (and nothing else).

I suspect it's a pain shared by many of the 4,000-plus grieving families whose loved ones have sacrificed their lives in two wars that have largely disappeared from the news.

When I flew West for Brian's funeral, the mayor of his small home town personally met each of dozens of flights of arriving family members. Flags flew at half-staff. Six hundred people attended the funeral service.

That is partly a testament to Brian's remarkable capacity to connect with people and leave a lasting impression - his lopsided grins were so infectious. It is also a testament to the level of caring and support the town offered to my bereaved sister and her husband.

Even the desk clerk who checked us into our hotel attended, as a simple gesture of common humanity.

Along the route from the church to the cemetery, people came out of their houses to stand with their hands over their hearts or to wave small American flags. Cars going in the opposite direction stopped. Some drivers got out to stand in respect.

To all of them, I say "Thank you. You know how to honor those who serve to protect you."

Once I left town, though, soldier's deaths once again became invisible.

Because of the incredible kindness of the people of Steilacoom, Wash., however, I wonder how many other people, in Maine or Texas or New York City, would also have honored Brian and the other soldiers who have died in the last two weeks if the media had simply let them know:

Somebody's little boy died today. Someone's little girl found out today that Daddy is never coming home.

That news is hard to bear; when the nation they died for barely notices, it's crushing.

--Martha Gillis

CBS Sunday Morning

Watch the video.

A book I've been waiting for

Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future
By Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum
Basic Books, New York, July 2009
Hardcover, 209 Pages, $ 24.00 New
Extended Author Q & A Here

Forty years after Apollo 11 half of all Americans believe that humans were created in their present form less than ten thousand years ago. Senators, Representatives, and influential pundits proudly deride global warming and ridicule the overwhelming scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change. Science sections in traditional media outlets are reduced or eliminated completely, while virtually every newspaper runs a daily astrology column. How did the most advanced scientific nation on earth end up like this, what are the consequences, and what can or should be done about it?

Read the review.

Young Bob Dylan

Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues is playing at the moment, a perfect example of why author comes from "authority" -- which is to say, the artist is a "performing self", to use a term that was the title of a book of critical essays popular among grad students in the 60s, and coming with this must be confidence, even arrogance; a clear individual voice; and considerable energy, as in full steam ahead, the critics be damned! Dylan had it, Ray Charles had it, Norman Mailer had it, Salinger had it, Faulkner had it, all important artists have it. Voice, authority, confidence, energy. My way or the highway.

I don't think our MFA programs teach enough recklessness. Everybody begins to sound the same. Literate, surely; but the same, the same, the same.

The plot thickens?

Our former mayor and his wife, both "establishment progressive" figures in the city, have come out in favor of the recall movement. This is EXACTLY what the recall has needed, some visible liberal support (other than what visibility yours truly has, which isn't much any more), and we can use as much as we can get to disassociate the movement from its homophobic fringe of support. I have no idea if this will help but I know it can't hurt. I still think the task is formidable, but perhaps doable. We'll see.

In the past week I finished two pieces for publication, both requested, a big deal since I don't write for publication these days: a contribution to an upcoming anthology on screenwriting craft, and an op ed piece I am calling "Why Progressives Should Support the Recall of Mayor Sam Adams," which now seems well timed. I really stress my argument that supporting both Adams and Obama is a contradiction in political values. I hope I can change some progressive minds.

Adams is a tragedy in classical terms since his own flaws have caused all of his problems. If he came clean in the beginning, resigned in order to have a new election, which he himself supported, I think he could have won again. He has a lot going for him. But out of fear, arrogance, ambition, or something else or combinations of these, he kept digging himself deeper and deeper into the black hole of lies and deception. I keep waiting for the kid to file a civil suit, Adams ended up using and betraying him so much. I haven't seen such a self-destructive politician since Nixon.

And the movement to get Nixon a street, 23rd Ave., has begun in earnest. Ah, what a delightful comedy of political bravado! When the chips come down, don't know if I could vote for a Nixon street or not but if I do it's in the spirit of balancing one absurd decision with another. There are so many constructive, creative ways to honor folks who deserve honoring, without making innocent small business people and residents pay the bill. Talk about knee-jerk old school ideological decision making! And Portland considers itself some kind of liberal vanguard. The bottle bill was creative. Making the beaches public, decades ago, was creative. Renaming a street is knee jerk nonsense. We've lost the creative edge we used to have.

blah blah blah.

Well, it's gray and rainy, what else is new in July in Portland? But we are supposed to have 80 degree weather through the week, so we'll see.

Going to church with H today, as I usually don't, to hear a sermon on the nature of evil, a subject of interest to me. Then we plan to see the new Woody Allen movie. Then, depending on the weather, I may canvas -- or consider my op ed piece a decent contribution to the cause for the weekend.

3 police officers are sitting across the way. Wish I had a recall petition on me. Would they sign it? Or are they not permitted to while on duty?

I just hope this recall business doesn't get ugly. There was minor ugliness reported on the news, a canvasser yesterday chased off with "homophobic" accusations. The recall movement has the support of gay publications but it also could use a very visible gay figure in active support. If nothing else, this is going to be a fascinating process to work in and witness. Democracy at work, after all. But man, the rules sure make it hard to pull off. I suppose this makes sense or recalls would happen all the time for trivial reasons.

I had a recent conversation with an articulate bright doctor in town, a progressive, who was against renaming 39th, and he told me as soon as that battle was over (he lost), he'd get behind the recall movement with all his energy. I wish I had taken his card. I really dug his mind and his style.
Are there more progressives with common sense in town or more ideologues? We'll find out.

Another summer task is to clean my office. I want to get rid of 75% of what is in there. I started on one small bookcase. It's a summer long job but what I'm done, hopefully I'll look like I've begun the transition to traveling light. I remember one move I made years ago, driven by the dictum that if it didn't fit in my VW bug, it didn't go. Tough love ha ha.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oregon Authors

I just discovered the Oregon Authors website and was irritated, once again, to discover on their long list of writing forms nothing relating to playwriting or screenwriting. Why are playwrights and screenwriters typically forgotten as "writers" or "authors" by so many institutions? It pisses me off.

Op Ed

I've been asked to write an Op Ed about the recall movement, and naturally I plan to call it, "Why Progressives Should Support the Recall of Mayor Sam Adams." This won't be hard to do.

2 films about Steve Prefontaine

Rewatched Prefontaine and Without Limits within days of one another. Interesting comparison. The former is shot in semi-documentary style, a chronological biopic that's pretty straight forward. But Without Limits, directed by Robert Towne, is more dramatic, focusing on the relationship between coach Bill Bowerman and his running prodigy. As such, it's more satisfying, at least to me.

The two films have very different takes on Pre's death. The former, which I've read is "officially" sanctioned by the family, clearly makes the death a tragic accident. Steve is driving his sports car at a very slow speed -- we see the speedometer! -- and is driven off the road by a hit and run driver.

In Without Limits, however, Pre is driving recklessly, speeding, fantasizing about breaking a record, not really paying attention to his driving. When he meets a car coming the other way, he is a participant in the accident, not an innocent victim.

I was at the U of O when Prefontaine was there. I didn't know him but there were many occasions when I could observe him in social situations, including when he bartended at The Paddock, and I saw him speed around in his sports car, habitually reckless. No way do I believe he was going slow before the accident that killed him. I don't buy the "official" version but the Towne film's version, that Pre was reckless. I'd never seen him otherwise. A tragic death, of course, but not so innocent a victim.

Without Limits is a fine film. I recommend it.


Man, low energy today! Took H to the train station early in the morning so she can spend a day in Seattle with her grandson, tanked after that, though not back to bed, just zombying around.

A writer friend told me the name of the Russian comedian I was trying to remember. I already forgot. But I'll look at the email again. Thanks, Barbara!

Hate being listless, just hate it. Used to being full of piss and vinegar. All writing projects are going fine, though, if not driven by the obsession of my youth. In old age, writing definitely is a more casual activity than it used to be. Well, not exactly that -- the MIND writes as much, I think, or almost as much, but I'm slower to get it down. Eventually, I suspect, writing in the mind will be enough, and I'll be one of those old men mumbling to himself on the sidewalk and thought crazy but, in fact, I'm at work on my best piece of writing yet! Talk about false appearances.

It is supposed to be 86 today but at noon it's gray, chilly, and soporific. It's Portland.

Heard on the news that the recall movement must gather 386 signatures a day to get the required number. That seems like a HUGE number to me. I set a goal of gathering 100 myself. If our 700 people gather 100 each, we'll be great. But I don't expect 100 to be easy. In fact, I hardly know anyone in my usual circles who is for the recall. The few who are tell me surreptitiously, as if they can't let their progressive friends know. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how someone for Obama can be AGAINST the recall since the mayor's behavior is a casebook for everything Obama is against. Ideologues don't see the contradiction, obviously. I think the main thing that keeps progressives away is being bedfellows with all the nuts who also are for the recall, and I am sympathetic to this feeling. However, I take this new Age of Obama seriously, the possibility of it, and Adams' behavior contradicts everything Obama stands for. Adams should have called for a new election right off -- in fact, I think he would have won again if he had. But he kept digging the coverup deeper instead.

I wouldn't be surprised if Breedlove sues him in a civil suit. The kid got screwed in more ways than one.

Well, enough of politics. Although seeing video of Obama in Africa is heart-warming, it's so great to have a president one can be proud of, who represents the best of us. It sucks to have a mayor who represents the worst of us, and even worse that so many "progressives" don't give a shit.

Enough of politics!

Watched a 1962 scifi movie this morning called PANIC AT YEAR ZERO or something like that, with Ray Milland, and it wasn't half bad. Missed it. Of course, in 1962 I was in the Army and didn't go to films when I was in the Army. It was a post-nuclear war story with an incomplete, forced happy ending, directed by Milland himself.

I need a battery charge. A battery charge beats a lobotomy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quotation of the day

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

- Adlai Stevenson

I've long been a Stevenson fan. Obama, in some ways, impresses me more than anyone since Stevenson, but I'm also disappointed that the President isn't moving more quickly in areas where real change could happen quickly, such as changing the military's policy toward gays, i.e. letting them serve openly. But O may know what he's doing since this policy fits within a larger picture in which he must juggle many issues at once. So I'm not condemning him, just wondering why it's taking so long. I love the respect he's brought to the office in international circles. I love that he is not an ideologue, understanding that politics is the art of the possible. Ideologues, of which there are very many (and many in Pdx), are bitching already, of course -- on both ends of the spectrum. Ideologues are blind to grays and compromises.

Close but no cigar

A former student of mine went phone-shopping for an agent and connected with a former agent of mine.

He asked if I was in Portland and I said yes. Then he asked if I went to Portland State. I said yes. Lastly he asked if I knew a Charles Deemer. I said, of course. This agent was Michael Sommer. He wanted me to tell you hi for him and he said your "A Sad Laughter" is one of the best things he's ever gotten and is still one of his favorites.

One of my favorites, too, and it's a shame Sad Laughter never became a film. MS tried like hell to sell it, a true enthusiastic fan of the script. Close but no cigar. But it might sell yet one day, a history play is timeless. It's based on my stage play, of course.

Insight of the day

"Most rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."

--Frank Zappa.

What a country!

There's a Russian comedian, I forget his name, who was popular a while back and whose punch line, in comparing the U.S. to the Soviet Union, was "What a country!" He comes to mind as I read my email this week:
  • I'm the winner in half a dozen lucrative lotteries, making millions of dollars
  • I am offered several PhD's of my choice "with no study required!"
  • I am offered all variety of pills, lotions and gadgets to increase the size of my penis
  • I am offered extraordinary savings on Viagra and its various clones
  • I am sought after as the American representative of several foreign businesses
  • I am invited to write for secrets on how not to pay taxes ever again
  • And this is just the stuff that got through the spam filters!

What a country!

Maybe this explains Palin

Actually, it's arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.


Security blanket

A few days ago I made what in screenwriting would be called "a step outline" for the novel at hand, which has proven to be the security blanket I need, especially since my storytelling strategy is convoluted, not at all linear or traditional. I found myself getting lost, and if I'm lost, the reader is lost. The outline is to keep me on track as I develop this and surely I'll have to add more clue during rewrites. But first things first.

Our good, which is to say hot, weather is supposed to return today. Hope so!

A clear day to work on projects and house chores. And reading, into two wonderful books, still at the Fowles novel and also reading Terence O'Donnell's short history of Oregon, surely the best of its kind. O'Donnell, unlike most writers of regional history, writes like a poet.

Made a terrific batch of scrapple early in the week. Getting close to time for breakfast.

The upcoming grad reunion will have an exhibit of books by us all, no more than two from each, and I have to decide which to submit. Seven Plays with its Oregon Book Award Finalist sticker for sure, but what for the 2nd? At first I thought the opera for which I wrote the libretto but now I think I'll do a DVD, 3 Short Digital Films. Which reminds me, I still have video projects to schedule and return to.

The tentative removal of the monkey off our backs feels good. In a few weeks we'll know for sure if all is as we think it is.

We have 700+ folks trying to collect 50,000 signatures. Wonder if we'll make it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Dedicated political activists are a different breed. They breathe and bleed politics. A campaign is the rhythm of their life. I see this in the honchos of the recall movement. Very different sensibilities and life rhythms from my own. But I can be a good worker drone for the right cause, and so shall be.