Saturday, October 31, 2009

New in journal

Henry Hughes & Clemens Starck read at Wordstock.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The trouble with C2C

I frequently check out the paranormal talk show Coast-to-Coast-AM to see who the guest is. 90% of the time it's someone I dismiss as a hack, charlatan, delusional personality, and so on; but 10% of the time it's a physicist, alternative doctor, or someone else I find worth listening to. And I always like to listen to the investigative reporter Linda M. Howe, who was on last night.

She reported on the seriousness of the H1N1 virus. And this didn't please the host, who thinks it's a government conspiracy. Their argument revealed exactly what is wrong with C2C: data doesn't mean anything. The host has no concept of what science is, or of what epistemology (which asks, How do you know what you know?) is. A conspiracy is a conspiracy and nothing will change his mind. Now I happen to believe in a few conspiracies myself because I think the data leads there: JFK assassination, Roswell. But you have to have credible evidence for your conclusions, and Howe patiently but completely destroyed the guy's irrational argument.

Alas, she is rare on the show.

Art labor

Help H take down a show this morning. A trip to town, dozens of paintings loaded into the van and car, a trip back, unload into house, and then one by one pass them up the ladder into the attic for storage. Should take most if not all of the morning. Whew. Art is harder work than writing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halfway celebration

Will have students read their midterms in class today, maybe 8 or 10 of them, all good work. Only a few are still not "getting it" and trying to write prose fiction instead of screenwriting. Time for the light to go off for them.

Stumbled upon yet another software package for structure, this for novelists, called New Novelist. Again, an organizational tool and a guide to discipline -- no one can write for you. Might check it out.

I do like Contour. The software "thinks" about structure the same way I do -- so it's a great tool for keeping everything in one place. For example, on the splay I'm developing as a test drive, I printed out a Beat Sheet that will be very useful when/if I start writing the script.

I suppose the key for any individual is to find the tool, the software, that speaks more or less the same structural language that you do. They are just tools, after all. It's always about beginning-middle-end storytelling, and the various tools give you benchmarks for organizing thoughts in a way that makes dramatic, structural sense.

New projects

Rec'd a video submission for the journal and spent time preparing it this morning. Also done with first take on a new splay in Contour, structured, 44 plot points, we'll let it settle a few days, revise, and then start writing script pages and see how it works.

A good batch of midterms although a few still are shooting themselves in the foot. Managing space and time as a screenwriter is their main problem, i.e. they do so as a fiction writer, unaware of screen time and scene space (slugline management). Basic misunderstanding of the form, blueprint v. literary document.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I really like this screenplay development software. I'll have more to say later when I have more time. I'm road testing it and find it quite useful, helpful, user friendly.

Taking a break

A good batch of midterms so far. Makes me think I'm doing something right.


Today I read midterms, and typically this is a good day because I see more good work than earlier, this being the point where most students begin to understand the screenplay form and stop shooting themselves in the foot by over-writing. So I always look forward to the midterms. And tomorrow, if all goes well, we'll celebrate in class by sharing the best of them. And amazingly enough, we are halfway through the term!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pitching Small Screen Video

Video by Bill Johnson. See Oregon Writers Speak.

Hangin' in

Most of my conferences are in the afternoon but I'm off and running. One-on-one is a valuable experience.

Busy few days

Today is my all-day conference day, always exhausting. Tomorrow I read all the midterms. I'm already tired ha ha. Apparently the bday is over.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy birthday to me


Notes on a birthday trip

SATURDAY. Originally we planned to drive along the Columbia to Astoria, then down the coast to Lincoln City, where we had reservations at our usual Sailor Jack's, until we saw how far it was. Too much time in the car. We discovered this on the map as we started, so we backtracked, caught the usual highway to LC, and get in mid afternoon. Got our room.

Along the way, in Carlton, we had lunch at an Italian cafe. It' s a farm town turned wine tourist town. Great lunch, though we had an inexperienced frazzled waitress.

Dinner was disappointing. One of our favorite LC restaurants has new owners, not nearly as good.

SUNDAY. A relaxing day planned. I have to write some letters of recommendation, want to get them done today so I can upload them when we get home tomorrow.

Also been taking notes for the new screenplay, using the Contour manual I found online as a guide, hoping the software is waiting for me when I return. I like being a tree person now and again. I do intend to go through the entire development process with the software. A full road test.

LATER. Started writing the opening of the splay, jumping the gun. Just to get the feel of it, I guess. With Contour, you're not supposed to do any writing until the entire script is mapped out, sequence by sequence. A true tree person tool. But I have a forest heart, eager to jump right in. Once the software arrives, I do plan to play by the rules.

7:30 ... probably over an hour before H gets moving.

NOON. Ah, one disappointing restaurant is followed by a great discovery this morning, where breakfast was so good we'll be returning for their “early bird” dinner special. Then to a bakery with great wifi, catching up on email. Now Sketch and I are back at the motel and H is off to spend hours in the outlet stores, one of her LC rituals.

We'll take a leisurely drive home tomorrow, then off to dinner for our bday ritual at Todai. And then back to the grind, a year older but no wiser ha ha.

LATER. A relaxing afternoon! Doing a little writing (on the splay, still jumping the gun – I may end up throwing it all away but it's a good exercise for defining the characters), watching a movie off and on, listening to the ocean, watching Sketch snooze. A good afternoon.

EVENING. Watching the playoffs, rooting for the Yankees for a more interesting Wprld Series. Ah, mellow and relaxed! A great getaway for my bday.

MONDAY. Happy birthday to me! The big 7-0. H gave me a handmade card, a drawing of the ocean view from our Sailor Jack's window. Nice.

A gallery to visit this morning, then home. A leisurely drive. Eager to return home. Not even sure I want to do Todai tonight. We'll see.

Actually, I'm hoping Contour arrived and I can crank it up! I'm incurable, I guess.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tick tock

A birthday tomorrow, the big 70. Don't feel a day over 80.

Still brooding about the new splay.

More bday adventures to report later.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New in journal

Marilyn Chin reads.


I'm going to develop a screenplay story using Contour, giving it a "real world" test drive. It's a program I found intriguing when it was available only for Mac, and now a Windows version is available. Eager to begin.

Most programs of this nature are overly complex. This one appears straightforward, yet powerful, and also consistent with my own ideas about screenplay structure. I've been curious about it for a long time.


I like my netbook (EEE PC) so much I'm going to upgrade and give this one to my wife. I'm in no rush. I'll check the daily sales at Red Tag and Woot. In fact, there was a perfect one a couple weeks ago but I hadn't decided to do this yet. What I want is a Windows netbook so I can load video editing software and do it on the run. That's all. No hurry. But the netbook has changed my routine considerably.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ready to boogie

Prepped and ready to go to the university. Some good student work to share today.

Primus coming in with video for the journal. Glad to see it.

Going to develop a screenplay with the Contour software, just to test it and because I am impressed with the manual I found online. Yet another spin of the usual stuff but this "take" looks especially succinct and user friendly. I'll test and find out.

I wonder what class would be like if everyone used a method like this. Lots of rebellion, I suspect.

A birthday coming up. Only a tiny private celebration but this will be quite enough. And the larger celebration, or at least one hopes (i.e. folks show up!), will be the 25th Swami Kree anniversary.

Looking forward to class today. Onward.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spendy colleges

A new list is out of the ten most expensive colleges. It caught my eye because we used to play #9, Harvey Mudd, in football during my brief, stellar athletic career at Cal Tech. Man, I remember when you could earn enough in a part-time summer job to pay for a year of college!

1. Sarah Lawrence College -- $54,410
2. New York University -- $51,991
3. The George Washington University -- $51,730
4. Bates College -- $51,300
5. Skidmore College -- $51,196
6. Johns Hopkins University -- $51,190
7. Georgetown University -- $51,122
8. Connecticut College -- $51,115
9. Harvey Mudd College -- $51,037
10. Vassar College -- $50,875


At the end of the day

A busy day reading student work, practicing piano, taking notes for the first short story in my new project. Then watching the Phillies cinch. I have many happy relatives in New Jersey.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The power of a good story

Brainstorm with PlotMonkey

I can't remember where I heard about PlotMonkey. I think something about it appeared in my mail box. At any rate, I usually ignore software writing tools like this but there were two things that intrigued me: it was developed by a guy older than I am, and it was darn cheap ($10). So I bit.

To my surprise, this is a fun and even useful program -- if you understand its use. It brainstorms story ideas with you. It goes from the ridiculous to something you can write. It does this by randomly showing you the Who, What, How, Why, When, Where of a story. It's user friendly and has an important feature: you can save any of the elements and randomly select new pairings for it. You also can add anything to its database.

Let's show you an example. I click the banana to "feed the monkey" and get:

Carl Hooker sells wine using an electric saw because it seemed like a good idea at the time after dinner in the phone booth.

Well, this certainly is ridiculous enough. But I like "because it seemed like a good idea at the time after dinner."

So I keep why, when and click the banana again.

Willie Cantrell marries an Indian with a hack saw because it seemed like a good idea at the time after dinner at home.

I keep where ("at home") and feed the monkey.

Todd Nieaber helps police track madman by hiding inside a cake because it seemed like a good idea at the time after dinner at home.

I pass on this one and click the banana again.

Curt Clakley stabs someone by pretending to be asleep because it seemed like a good idea at the time after dinner at home.

I like "stab someone" ... I save what and feed the monkey.

Leslie Goodrick stabs someone by hiding inside a cake because it seemed like a good idea at the time after dinner at home.

Eureka! I have a story idea! Leslie's in love with a guy getting married. He's having a bachelor party. She bribes a girl hired for the party so she, Leslie, can come out of the cake and stab her ex. This could be a short film, a short story, the big scene in a larger work. You get the idea.

The beauty of PlotMonkey is that it is quick and mindless -- you keep getting ideas and combinations thrown at you until something begins to click. This entire process above took about two minutes. This, in fact, is a workable story idea.

The combinations, the ideas, are endless, and I especially like the fact that you can add whatever you want -- any who, what, how, why, when, where -- to the database. This is a tool that is inexpensive, fun and easy to use, and actually gets your mind thinking about a story direction, which is exactly what a brainstorming tool should do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Read this if you dare

I can't remember when I've read a book so gripping, so frightening and so depressing as James W. Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. Its thesis is conspiracy, and its documentation extraordinary. Moreover, Douglass puts events in an historical and political context that makes perfect if terrifying sense.

This book already has many fans -- and debunkers. For this thesis to be wrong, however, requires a conspiracy of another kind, a conspiracy of many, many eye witnesses who testify to all its key points: that there were two Oswalds, one an impostor; that doctors were threatened into changing important initial medical observations; that JFK was preparing to pull out of Vietnam and to begin negotiations with Castro and Khrushev, angering the Cold War state establishment (particularly the CIA); that in later CIA classrooms, training assassins, Dallas is used as a model for how to do it right; and so on. Reflects one on-the-scene observer of JFK's original autopsy: "...all at once I understood that my country was not much better than a third world country. From that point in time, I have had no trust, no respect for the government."

Douglass has trust and faith in the American people, A Catholic, a peace activist, an admirer of Thomas Merton (from whom he borrows the term "unspeakable"), Douglass truly believes the truth will set us free. I wish I could share his optimism.

“Douglass presents, brilliantly, an unfamiliar yet thoroughly convincing account of a series of creditable decisions of John F. Kennedy—at odds with his initial Cold War stance—that earned him the secret distrust and hatred of hard-liners among the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. Did this suspicion and rage lead directly to his murder by agents of these institutions, as Douglass concludes? Many readers who are not yet convinced of this ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ by Douglass’s prosecutorial indictment will find themselves, perhaps—like myself—for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation. Recent events give all the more urgency to learning what such an inquiry can teach us about how, by whom, and in whose interests this country is run.”—Daniel Ellsberg, author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon

Caught up

Caught up with my advanced students this morning. One is adapting King Lear, which I was dubious about, but so far she's doing a great job. Wrote the midterm to pass out tomorrow -- midterms already! Make my conference appointments for next week tomorrow as well. Man, the term is flying by!

Hope to get piano and writing in this afternoon. But also am captured by a good book, about which more later.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Imago's No Exit: hell is technology

There's an important early clue about this production, first performed in 2006 and now back again in Portland. You find it in the program. There is no mention whatever of Jean-Paul Sartre or of his best known play. Nothing. Programs usually have something to say about the performance at hand and its author. Not here. Why? Could it be that the performance at hand has little to do with either?

As it turned out, I liked this production much more than I thought I would. I didn't expect to like the "tilting stage" I'd read so much about. I liked it less than I expected. And I very much disliked the dynamic light design, up and down, white and red, as if lighting itself were the subject of the performance. Both, I thought, considerably distracted from one of my favorite play scripts.

But I was won over by three brilliant performances: Tim True, Joann Johnson and Maureen Porter bring focus, intelligence and energy to the lead roles with such craft that not even keeping their balance on a tilting stage distracts them. Incredible performances!

How I would like to see these performances in the play Sartre wrote, not the one creatively and physically interpreted here. In Sartre's play, they wouldn't need technology to tease the focus away from their brilliant work. In Sartre's play, stark, clean, as written, this might have been a theater moment to remember forever.

Imago usually does original work, and brilliantly so. It does original work here -- it's just misnamed. This production needs a little truth in advertising. It's not Sartre. It's variations on themes developed by Sartre. It's interesting. It's engaging. It just isn't what the playwright intended and, as a playwright, I think this needs to be said.

Get rid of the intrusive technology, and there's a wonderful production of Sartre's play waiting in the wings.

Cranky old Sunday morning QB

College football is deteriorating in quality of play. Yesterday I didn't see a team that impressed me. Mistakes, bad play, even wrong calls, were everywhere.
  • A defense stops a 3rd down play, forcing a punt in a critical situation. Then some defensive lughead butts an opponent, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct call after the play is dead. First down! The drive continues.
  • A well-protected quarterback has a man in the clear, the end zone ahead. He overthrows him. Later he does the same thing. This is supposed to be a star player.
  • A runner is out of bounds. A defensive player creams him unnecessarily. Unnecessary roughness penalty. Again, the drive continues.
  • One penalty after another, on instant replay, is questionable.
  • On and on and on. Ineptitude is ruining the game.

I may need to find another form of Saturday escape and entertainment. I gave up on pro football years ago. Might be college's turn.

About politics

"A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man." e. e. cummings

"Politics is pissing in public." Norman O. Brown

"A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth." Adlai Stevenson

"We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." Aesop

"Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, political parties, nations, and eras it's the rule." Nietzsche

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." George Orwell

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." Groucho Marx

"A good politician under democracy is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar." H. L. Mencken

"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." John Kenneth Galbraith

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." Sinclair Lewis

"I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons." Will Rogers

What ever happened to the "Iran uprising"?

Good question.


This may be an early start. Or it may be a premature start. We'll find out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brooding for the next project

With the Cold War story in its final, rational stage of the process (a forty-year process in this case!), I brood about the next project, a collection of related short stories. I haven't focused on the short story form since the beginning of my career. This will be a welcome change, I think, now that I move slower. Stories can be easier to grasp than novels.

Along the way, I plan to test some development software that has intrigued me. I'll play with it during this project. If worth considering, I'll mention it here later.

A rainy day, good for hanging out and watching college football.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The 40-ton monkey

I think I got the Cold War off my back today. The novella is done, but still in private mode, a POD ordered so I can look at it in "a book envioronment," approve or reshape, probably the former -- after 40 years of wrestling with my army experiences, I've written a far less ambitious story than I thought I'd be writing, a buddy story set on the day the Russians converge on Berlin to build a wall. It comes in as a novella, 74 pages. I think this will get a very heavy monkey off my back.

Amit Goswami

About 30 years ago, when I edited a journal called Sweet Reason, I interviewed and solicited an article from Amit Goswami, then as now a theoretical physicist (emeritus today) at the University of Oregon. We talked and he wrote about the new physics. Today Goswami is "a quantum activist" and his website is well worth checking out.

A glorious day of red ink

My students sometimes look horrified when they get their script pages back, filled with my red ink. And yet this is the best part of the writing process, RE-writing, and to this end I just printed out the novella and plan to spend a wonderful morning filling my own pages with red ink. I like how rational this part of the process is, compared to the fragility of original creation. It promises to be a good morning.

We have a storm coming. I plan to rake leaves later this morning, maybe starting at 11, and I hope the storm waits for me.

Two good football games tomorrow, Oklahoma-Texas, USC-Notre Dame, and UCLA plays Cal but needs to play a hell of a lot better. Idaho, in which I've taken interest, plays Hawaii.

Visiting for an evening and morning with old friends from L.A. was a battery charge. Damn, I wish I had some friends left in Pdx, as opposed to acquaintances. I have a ton of these. But all my close friends here died or moved away. Mostly the former.


I just finished the ending of the novella in draft.

Revisiting Baumholder

Of my 75 pages, I really don't have to start major reworking until page 68. A relief. Onward.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The True History of Swami Kree

  • In grad school, when I began teaching, I became interested in the possible pedagogic uses of paradox and contradiction. This culminated in a very controversial academic article "English Composition As A Happening" that was published in College English in 1967. Read.
    The controversy was renewed as recently as 2002 when a book with the same title (with homage to my work) was published. Read.
  • Later I discovered a thin book called "Zen and the Comic Spirit." Forget the author. Historically, many zen masters used paradox and contradiction in their teachings. One was an 8th C monk named Teng Yin-feng. Teng presumably, as a lesson to his students, , died standing on his head. In 1975, before moving to Portland, I wrote a one-act play called "The Death of Teng Yin-feng." Read. This was my first attempt at Swami Kree.
  • In 1983 I was commissioned by New Rose to write the Moliere play. I had a situation where I could live rent free in Bend and went there. The papers there were full of Rajneeshi news, much more than in Portland. Also, the Bhagwan was on his vow of silence. This latter is hugely important. If he had been talking, he would not have fascinated me because once he talked, he just sounded like a politician to me. But silent, I could fantasize that he was a Zen clown. Bend was full of unemployed mill workers. What on earth would these two camps have to say to one another once the vow of silence ended? This was the question that created the play, fueled by my long interest in paradox and contradiction as methods of knowledge and enlightenment. Yes, the Rajneesh were an influence of sorts -- but Eng Comp as a Happening and Teng Yin-feng are far greater contributors to the DNA of Swami Kree.

The background of the pivotal character in Christmas at the Juniper Tavern. So he was almost 20 years in the making, 1967-1984.

Finishing Baumholder?

This may be the weekend I get the Cold War off my back and finish this project I've been wrestling with for 40 years! The insight that the novel is, in fact, a novella is the great insight. I've embraced the 75 good pages I have, cropped the last 10 or so, added a new ending in my head, played it many times, and I think everything works. I hope to write it out this weekend, then print it, then spend next week with the red pen, and before the end of the month, I may finally finally FINALLY have written about my Army experiences in the Army Security Agency during the height of the Cold War, i.e. the Berlin Wall going up. To no surprise, it's in the tradition of M.A.S.H. and Catch-22. But it will come in at 100 pages or so, short and sweet, and it's really a buddy story, not unlike Hooker and Bear in my novel -- indeed, this might be them, renamed, earlier in their relationship.

It's looking good and sounding good in my head. Hope to get it on paper starting tomorrow. This is exciting, cautiously exciting. It's been the longest creative journey of my career. 40 years for 100 pages!

No friends like old friends

I met T&C at the Ash Grove in LA at a Lightnin' Hopkins show. We both had bad tables and raced as people left at intermission for a better table, arriving at the same one at the same time. It was big enough for all of us, their party of 4 and our party of 3, so we shared it. Talking, we learned we all were amateur folksingers, so we exchanged phone numbers and actually followed up. Within months, it seemed, we were good friends, and by the time I left LA for grad school in Oregon, we were spending practically every weekend together. We continued to have Thanksgivings together until we moved east after grad school.

So it was a long fine visit, last night and all morning today. They continue north on their trip to Vancouver BC. T uses a walker now but their spirits remain energetic.

I have no friends in Portland this close any more, having outlived them all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The audacity of greed

A great title ... by Robert Reich:

The health-insurance industry has finally revealed itself for what it is.

Insurers hate the idea that's emerged from the Senate Finance Committee of lowering penalties on younger and healthier people who don't buy insurance. Relying on an analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers, insurers say this means new enrollees will be older and less healthy -- which will drive up costs. And, says the industry, these costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums. Proposed taxes on high-priced "Cadillac" policies will also be passed on to consumers. As a result, premiums will rise faster and higher than the government projects.

It's an eleventh-hour bombshell.

But the bomb went off under the insurers. The only reason these costs can be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums is because there's not enough competition among private insurers to force them to absorb the costs by becoming more efficient. Get it? Health insurers have just made the best argument yet about why a public insurance option is necessary.

Read more.

Govt efficiency

It took me all of ten minutes to renew my driver's license. They have the routine down. I had the good sense to go to a small branch office in the middle of the afternoon, which meant I had to wait all of 2 or 3 minutes. Everything was quick and cordial, the way government should be. Gold star to the DMV.

Surprise visitors

Call from LA friends who will be passing through on their way to BC. We'll see them tonight, have dinner -- a great surprise! Love these folks, whom I've known for almost 50 years.

My most frequent closing comment on student scripts: good storytelling, poor screenwriting. Students are shooting themselves in the foot, the pandemic among screenwriting beginners. Their over-writing gets in the way of their stories. Easily fixed, however, once you really understand the form. I'm encouraged by all the good storytelling I see, engaging characters, suspenseful action. Once they stop being their own worst enemy, they'll have a script worth reading.


A writer friend recently read my novel Kerouac's Scroll and gave me some feedback. (A while back my brother did the same.)

The raps tore me up. It was a sad and funny book. A great combination of political statement and existential salvation.

I really appreicate positive feedback from peers and here especially like that he singled out the "raps" in the book, which I think are among the most comic moments. Always great when someone "gets" what you do.

Hey, TS, you made my day!

Woke up

Doing some email chores, downloaded student work from my advanced students, who do the course via email.

A long day but should be a good one, reading the first script pages of students. Hoping I find a "natural born screenwriter" among them.

Not sure if I'll have time to go to the DMV today ... tomorrow morning might work better, or next Monday. I definitely need to do it within the next week or so!

Feeling good, if bewildered, by my encouraging bill of health at the physical yesterday. Who knew biscuits and gravy were so beneficial?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ATTN: Oregon Chamber of Commerce

Oregon boosters love to talk about livability and bikes and recycling and green things. But there are other hard facts they ignore, such as:

For years, Oregon has had some of the biggest class sizes in the nation. Normally, we have about the fourth-highest number of students per teacher of any state, with Utah, California and Arizona commonly the only states worse than Oregon when it comes to packing kids into the classroom.

But a new report, just out today from the National Center for Education Statistics, is even bleaker.

It says that, during the 2007-08 school year, 48 other states managed to have fewer students per teacher than Oregon. That's right, when it comes to small classes, we're No. 49!

Read on.

Only Utah has larger class size. In Oregon, education has been a major issue for all of the 40+ years I've lived here, with little progress whatever on making it better. Great scenery but a lousy place to educate your kids? What's it take to get it right? And why should Oregon be considered such a great state if its education system sucks?

Was Shakespeare Shakespeare?

I get tired of the old argument that Shakespeare's plays weren't written by Shakespeare. But here's a new twist on it all.

Scholars have long argued over whether William Shakespeare worked alone, collaborated, or even authored some of the works attributed to him.

Thanks to a computer program designed to detect plagiarism, researchers at the University of London claim they can put an end to the debate and prove that the Bard wrote at least one play, The Reign of King Edward III, in collaboration with playwright Thomas Kyd.

Read more at:

Caught up

With the review up to date, with student work read, I am caught up -- for four hours. Which is to say, I collect more student work in class today.

Tomorrow, if I get enough papers read in the morning, I need to go renew my driver's license in the afternoon. More complicated in the age of terrorism than it used to be. I have to prove I'm me.

Rainy, windy weather. Nice in spurts. Alas, it's supposed to last all week.

Journal updated

The readers at First Wednesday are now online. Go to Oregon Literary Review.

Monday, October 12, 2009

News rehab

I go off and on as a "news junky". I followed the news very closely after Obama's election but after a few months I didn't see the dramatic change I expected, Obama clearly no FDR, and the news became depressingly predictable, so I stopped. Now I barely watch the news at all, not even the local news, but this too will change in my rhythm of on-again, off-again news junky.

Looking down the road

My work schedule for the rest of the year has come into clearer focus. Missing is a video project. The next in line are short scripts by John Donnelly but I don't have the energy level to tackle it now, and I don't anticipate having it before the end of the year. I still want to do it, and it's first in the video line of creative projects. I still shoot video for the journal, of course.

Instead, some leisurely writing projects. First the army material, recast as a novella. I feel certain this is my 40-year solution. Next up, a collection of related short stories set in my Juniper County, a book in the tradition of Sherwood Anderson and Hamlin Garland. Very out of fashion. Perfect.

And with a clean bill of health and a flu shot, well, no time to start like the present. What a good day.


Simon and Schuster, the book division of CBS, have introduced the vook™, which they hail as a new form of eBook that integrates text with video illustrations. Of the vooks in the initial launch, two are fiction. The others seem to be what the platform is really designed for: instructional books, promising toned abs and better skin.


Still alive

For reasons known only to the gods, by all tests measured by my doctor today, from blood pressure to blood tests, I'm healthier this year than last, which was fine. I think I ate more high cholesterol breakfasts in the past year than in any time since the army, when I ate them daily. I did this because I enjoy them so much. I'd rather die earlier and have a great breakfast than live longer and have a lousy breakfast. But guess what? You guessed it. My cholesterol dropped from borderline high to acceptable. Nothing about my health has made sense to me for years but once again, I tip my hat to the gods and move on, enjoying myself as much as I can. (My bp was so low I believe it must have been an error. But there it is.)

Hey doc!

Off for my annual physical. Is this the year?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

13+ hours

I started watching college football at 9 a.m. yesterday and ended after 10:30 p.m. I began rooting for Bo0ston College against Virginia Tech, a losing cause, and ended rooting for Washington against Arizona, a losing cause until a miracle fluke of a play at the end of the game. I didn't only watch football, often multitasking and actually editing two of the readings from last Wednesday, and I flipped between games a lot. Hightlights:
  • UCLA held Oregon scoreless in the first half. Then the feathered Ducks came quacking out and scored three touchdowns in the first four minutes of the second half. The young Bruins never recovered. Oregon will be a contender, it looks like. Wish they weren't so wrapped in bad administrative decisions.
  • Navy won handily. They, too, have a better team than many think.
  • Oregon State mishandled Stanford for three quarters, a great upset, then hung on to win easily. Quite a feat. This year's civil war should be a doozy.
  • Washington was outplayed by Arizona but kept it close. They got within five points with two minutes to go and kicked off. Why didn't Arizona go for ball control and play the clock and run the ball? Instead they tried a screen pass, that was off target and ended up hitting the receiver's FOOT, bouncing up, being caught by a Washington defender -- and returned for a TD. Washington wins! Strangest ending I've seen in a long time.

It was a fun day on which I got some video editing done, did a few chores, and saw some great moments of college football.

A more serious day today, looking at student work.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


The notion that the army story is a novella, sitting there with everything but an ending, a good 75 pages needing no more than 25 more, may be just the insight I need. I even have several ideas for the ending. Damn, what if this is the key. The 75 pages I like aren't "a set up", they are IT. I think this can work as a novella, with some minor rewriting to clarify the focus ... and, of course, an ending, which suddenly appears before me as logical and inevitable. All this time I may have been looking for something that isn't there and missing the obvious -- it already is there. Amazing.

Anniversary dud?

It's early yet but so far there's only scattered interest in the 25th anniversary showing of Christmas at the Juniper Tavern. What if we have a celebration and no one shows? Hey, this is supposed to be "an Oregon classic"! Yeah, right.

The curse

This damn Cold War novel still isn't working out. What I have are 75 pages that I like. It's occurred to me: maybe this isn't a novel but a novella. Maybe this is what I have, and what I need to finish is the ending, period. This isn't "act one" of a larger story, this is the story. Hmm. More brooding. A novella is fine. Totally unmarketable but then my novels aren't marketable much anyway, no big difference. I really do want this army material off my back.

Meanwhile, a more manageable project has come to mind. Endless ideas. Even at my age.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Recall post mortem

Since I was active in the recall the mayor movement, I probably should say something about its failure.
  • All opinion polls suggested "a done deal" -- that is, far more than the required 32,000 voters wanted Adams gone. So getting it on the ballot should have been easy.
  • However, as a signature gatherer, I frequently was told by signers that they didn't have a clue where to go to sign a petition.
  • Most info was online because our honcho is a computer geek kind of guy. Most supporters were seniors with little computer savvy or access. This became a problem.
  • As an observer, I thought a number of strategic mistakes were made in the interest of short-term publicity and self-gratification, not the long term success of the movement. In other words, I think the movement was mismanaged.
  • Despite its failure, the movement gave me considerable personal satisfaction. I've never done anything where so many thanked me for my efforts.
  • In retrospect, I think the failure of the movement was a failure to recognize and respond to the generational parameters that had divided the city. I think the vast majority of those wanting to remove the mayor are over 50. This demographic was not important in the recall strategy.
  • I hope Willamette Week or another investigative paper does its own post mortem and tells us in more detail why the movement failed when all polls said it should succeed. I hope they also dig into what I consider to be "personal issues" that got in the way of good decisions about strategy.

It was a great experience. I'm glad I did it.

Despite "rumors," I don't think they'll be another recall movement. I also don't think Adams will be reelected.


My weekend is Friday-Saturday due to my teaching schedule. Today is the best day, goof off, no responsibilities, day. This morning I plan to practice a lot of piano and hope to give over a stumbling block I've been facing, perhaps the reason I stopped practicing months ago, using the labor-intensive video editing as an excuse. This afternoon I plan to make a new batch of scrapple.

I love Fridays.

Nobel and politics

Pres. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, and everyone is rightly flabbergasted. Surely he hasn't done as much as former president Clinton, for example. What is going on?

I think this award reflects how much the world wanted to move away from the Bush tone of self-reliance and bullying, my way or the highway. Obama is very upfront about working toward consensus, sometimes (I think) to the detriment of his policies. This is an award based on hope.

Obama himself captured much of this in his acceptance remarks, saying he didn't deserve it but that he accepts it on behave of everyone working for peace as a call to action. Just the right tone, I think.

The right wing will have a field day with this. But the international community, which counts more, will embrace this as a gesture of hope.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A fall day

The kind of day that makes you want to rake leaves -- and to shoot your neighbor who uses a blower instead of a rake. I'm a manual push reel mower and manual rake kind of guy. Noise is our most neglected pollution.

The New Luddites?

The Luddites, as you probably recall, were a social group in England that protested the consequences of the Industrial Revolution.

The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the early nineteenth century who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their entire way of life.

This English historical movement should be seen in the context of the era's harsh economic climate due to the Napoleonic Wars, and the degrading working conditions in the new textile factories. Since then, however, the term Luddite has been used derisively to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change.


But to Thoreau, the term would not be derisive.

Sometimes I consider "dropping out" of the computer age. To be sure, digital technology, especially recently, has empowered me as an artist/writer and let me do any number of things, such as make digital films, I never could have afforded to do otherwise. I also like the advantages of writing on a computer over a typewriter.

Nonetheless, I do not like all the changes I see as a result of the computer age. I don't like the loss of reflection that seems to come with added speed and frequency of change. I don't like trading 2 close friends for 543,544 Facebook "friends." The whole feel of daily life has changed by becoming more hectic, more layered, more driven.

This is the part of me that wishes I was living out my retirement anonymously in a small desert town in the southwest. Staying warm. Having breakfast and coffee out at the same place at the same time every day. Writing for myself, reading. And doing one hell of a lot of reflecting, brooding, contemplating my navel.

This said, I click the "Publish Post" button on my computer ha ha!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hypertext literature

A new site from Eastgate: HTLit, literary hypertext and the future of serious reading. Definitely a site to bookmark and visit regularly.


Have my stock for the fisherman's stew simmering. Ready to watch the first playoff game, Colorado and Phillie. Normally I'd root for the westmost team, CO, but all my NJ relatives, who are Phillies fans, would kill me ... and I've always liked the Phillies and when I was in grad school their AAA team was in Eugene. Go Phillies!

Later today I have student work to look at, their first take on their story "action ideas."

The house will be filled with great odors today! An early dinner so I can rush off to First Wednesday to shoot video.

Need to fit piano in somewhere today. Must stick to that.

An old man's rhythm

A little work on the novel this morning. Long gone are the days when I demanded five pages of prose a day, or 15 pages of script. Now I take what I can get, and that's fine. The key is regularity, steadily one foot after the other. The pages add up, just more slowly than when I was younger.

In the mood to make fisherman's stew for dinner. Shopping for it is one of the fun parts.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Mind reading

Been spending my office hour trying to figure out our new web interface here at the university. In particular, to access my class lists. There are various tabs and I kept snooping around in "Classes" but, no, the link is in a tab called "Employee." Makes no sense to me but there you have it. One can never read the mind of a computer programmer.

Wild Ocean Press

A new small literary press out of San Francisco, publishing print-on-demand books. Sharon Doubiago and Lynn Jeffress have new books here. Check them out.

Great morning

A leisurely yet productive morning:
  • Practiced a bit of piano, almost but not quite getting the latest hurdle
  • actually wrote a few pages on the novel. It's been weeks!
  • wrote a letter of recommendation
  • mailed off DVDs to a friend in Bali, which cost less than I expected
  • did prep work for class

Looking forward to class this afternoon. It's nice to be back in the classroom.


Every time I turn around lately, some celebrity or politician is confessing to adultery. What's going on? A number of explanations come to mind.

  • Men are just behaving naturally. They are hardwired to screw as many woman as possible as often as possible in order to perpetuate the species. Biology wins.
  • Actually the vast majority of men keep their pants zipped. The media explodes the few exceptions, giving great visibility to minority behavior and giving the impression adultery is more prevalent than it really is.
  • There is, in fact, more adultery going on but women, not men, are responsible. Women have taken control of their sex lives in historically unprecedented ways, seducing men being one of the easier components of their empowerment. Men are just men. Women are now the sexual aggressors.
  • This is about power, not sex, and men in power use sex to prove their power. More men than women are in power, which is why men are the sexual aggressors.
  • Like the fall of Rome, increased adultery in America is a sign of the decadence that precedes the Second Coming.
  • Men and women alike sense the environmental catastrophe ahead of us and are partying before the shit hits the fan.
  • Increased adultery, whether men or women are the aggressor, is a symptom of a larger cultural disease, the failure of the imagination, which results in a bias toward literal experience. But as Norman Brown has written, after Blake, (to paraphrase) the real fight is the mental fight, the Fiery Chariot of His Contemplative Thought. Reality shows, "based on a true story," adultery -- all are a consequence of the cultural failure to value the imagination and to treat imaginative acts as real.

I've never been a Brett Favre fan but wow, last night on Monday Night Football he was damn impressive. All the same, except for mistakes Green Bay still could have won the game. The rematch should be even more exciting.

Love the quiet in the house now.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Navy football

On one of the cable sports channels, I stumbled upon highlight short films of Navy football teams in the late 1950s, years when I would have watched the games on early TV with my dad. A Navy brat who joined the Army, I've remained a Navy fan all my life, the triumph of childhood experience.

I was thinking of my dad earlier because I have to renew my driver's license and I'm nearing the age when my dad was refused a license. He responded by keeping his old one before it expired and immediately began a 6000 mile road trip from east to west coast and back. That'll show them. I think he ended up getting it reneewed after all. Can't remember. What else is new ha ha?

Got copies of a flier for the 25th anniversary event in December.

Some student writing exercises to look at before class tomorrow. Later today or first thing in the morning.

Have to reread King Lear. One of my grad students is adapting it.

A nice mellow day, all in all. I like days when I get to move slowly since this has become my natural speed of late. Older = slower + sorer.

A few former students have taken the trouble to tell me how much they like Deconstructing Sally. I appreciate learning this.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Positive changes

A couple of positive changes in our gray city.

For years my favorite radio show was the local dixieland program on weekend mornings. But then the host died and was replaced by an earnest, sincere and, alas, unbearable young DJ, who sounded like he was poorly reading everything. He was terrible! After listening to him for a couple minutes, and he went on endlessly, I had to change the station or break the radio. I always chose the former.

He's been replaced! A new DJ with apparent experience and aural personality now runs the show. Hooray, I can listen again.

City streets are typically designed for traffic this way: cars park at the curb, next to them is a thin lane for bikes, and next to that a wider lane for cars. In this configuration, cars and bikes are dangerously close to one another.

In the university area a new design is being tested. The bike lane is at the curb, then the parked cars, then the traffic lane for cars. Cars and bikes have a barrier of parked cars between them! Now the only thing a driver must be careful of are doors swinging open. But this is a definite improvement and I hope it becomes the new standard.

Great screenwriting article!

J. turned me on to an outstanding article on screenwriting, "Heroic Hollywood: Charlie, the Kid and the Cop" by Russ Dvonch. Find it here.

It begins:

If you want to write for Hollywood, study this picture.
This faded lobby card from Charles Chaplin’s The Kid is the best lesson you’ll ever have in how to write for the movies. Despite its age, it illustrates many of the essential elements you’ll need to keep in mind today as your write your Hollywood screenplay. It’s a visual reminder of the kind of movie that producers, studios and – most importantly – audiences are looking for.
And that’s no accident. This lobby card had a specific purpose: to bring people into the theater. Chaplin chose this particular image because it effectively answers the first three questions that are always on the mind of the audience when the lights go down on a Hollywood movie.
1) Who is the hero?
2) What important thing does the hero want?
3) Who will strongly oppose the hero from getting what he wants?
The First Three Questions are important to your audience because they bring into focus the central conflict of the movie. The nature of the conflict is what the audience is curious about when the show begins. And, in large part, they will judge the movie as good or bad depending on how the conflict unfolds and how the conflict is resolved.

Sunday morning QB

Random thoughts about yesterday's college football games...
  • UCLA was completely outplayed by Stanford, the score closer than it should have been. They are good defensively but need a lot of help on offense. Still, a good foundation of offensive players who could be stars in a better environment. It's a young team. There's definitely hope.
  • Oregon smashed Washington State, may climb in the rankings, with added pressure to bring their screwup star back. I don't like what's happening in Oregon football at all, haven't ever since they sold their soul to Nike for a new stadium. The mess down there is a long way from being resolved. My prediction: the star will be reinstated. Other teams will bait him. Finally he'll break again, and the mess will be uglier than the first time, the coach will leave or get fired, and it's back to square one.
  • Caught the last half of the Idaho game. They looked good. An unusual coach! He hugged players who did something well, he climbed up to greet student fans at the end of the game.
  • Washington should have beaten Notre Dame but the latter made THREE goal line stands, two when Washington had first and goal on the one! All credit to ND defense but, man, if you can't score on six tries from the one ... Washington, too, has a bright future, I think.

Chores and maybe some writing today.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ragtime, the musical

We saw this last night. H loved it. So did the full house that gave it a standing ovation. However, I was disappointed. I found it insufferably long. I found the script scattered and unfocused, spending too much time, too many songs, on subordinate narrative threads; I thought the music and songs were instantly forgettable and the lyrics filled with politically correct pap; I thought it was an insult to a brilliant novel and a fine film. However, the production and performances were first rate: it's the script and music that didn't work at all for me. But I may be the only person in Portland who reacted this way.

Sometimes, leaving the theater after such a disappointing experience, I take solace in Thoreau's phrase "a majority of one" but last night I felt depressed. I told my wife, I belong on another planet. Yes, Charles, she said, I think you do.

So what does one do with that? You find other aliens to hang with, which I did through much of my life but I've outlived them all and haven't found others (haven't looked very hard). You go home, like ET. Not sure how to do that. What else?

All the same, cruising this morning -- jazz, coffee, a sausage muffin -- I once again reflected on the great blessings in my life.

And today promises to be more dramatic than last night. I have underdogs to root for! UCLA over Stanford, Cal over USC.

In the past year, I've failed miserably at my piano studies. So I sat down and played a bit yesterday. Shooting and editing video takes so damn much time, I just fell out of the routine of practicing, taking the time to practice. I'm going to try and pick it up again, which requires backstepping some. The good news is I've found the perfect self-study book for my musical interests, and it goes lesson by lesson, page by page, interesting from the start, and I'll just try to keep plugging away at it, a little every day.

And I need to get into a writing rhythm on the novel, too, of coure. That should happen soon.

I need to reread the Doctorow novel and get the bad taste of the musical out of my brain. This is a work of layered, complex genius, not simplistic politically correct pap.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Chicago rejected in first round

Chicago was rejected in the first round of voting for hosting the 2016 Olympics today. A shocker, say observers. Maybe. Obama himself went to Denmark to make the pitch. But this actually is good news. The finalists are Madrid and Rio De Janeiro. This is better for the world than bringing it to the USA yet again. I approve.

Told ya!

Oregon's talented but unstable running back, who flipped out after game one and was "banned" for the season but remained on the team, may be -- gee, what a surprise -- reinstated to play football. So much for principles. Win at any cost. Just win! Go Nike! And here I was getting comfortable rooting for the Ducks again, what with their wearing OLD uniforms last week. Now they've blown it for me again. Go UCLA!

Welcome back circus. Welcome back questions. Welcome back controversy. And distraction.

And so long dignity.

Read Canzano's column

Wee hours

This is my favorite time of day: not staying up, getting up. I crashed around 10. And I'll return to bed for another hour or two before facing the sun. But this, the 3 a.m. hour, is the best of the 24, followed closely by 4 and 5.

Fall term

Looks like a great class.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


I think I'm still recovering from the Sally video. Serious creative work always takes much out of me, mentally and physically, but much more as I've aged. Sally was done in such an obsessive rush, a pattern more suitable to my youth, and something I haven't experienced in a while, that I feel like I'm still on the ground, panting for breath. No doubt why I move so slowly these days.


Rhythm is everything. The daily routine. This is what I need to get together this week.

One foot after the other

Wasn't done helping H move her art until after noon, which messed up the rhythm of my day in terms of my own work. It happens. Class today and then, hopefully, in the next four days I can establish some kind of fall rhythm for the monkey on my back.

Tonight after class I'll stop by and check out H's opening. It's First Thursday in the Pearl, so it should be a zoo.