Monday, August 31, 2009

Mad Men

Love this show.

By Lauren M.E. Goodlad

Like most women who call themselves feminists, I've spent my life avoiding men like Don Draper, the incorrigible ladies' man at the center of Mad Men, a show about a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the early 1960s. I took a pass on the show during its first season, catching up with it on DVD when the mounting enthusiasm of friends and co-workers piqued my curiosity.

By the time the season-three premier was promoted this month, my friends (men and women in their 30s and 40s) had taken to posting Madmenized avatars of themselves on their Facebook pages. And I was one of them, styling myself on in a chic red dress, gloves, and cat's-eye glasses. What had happened to make these politically progressive adults in the last days of their youth identify with characters from their parents' generation?



Really looking forward to college football season starting this week. I'm rooting mainly for UCLA, not Oregon, for two reasons: I can't stand Oregon's designer uniforms and relationship with Nike; and I like the new UCLA coach, Rick Neuheisel, who got screwed at Washington, and it's about time UCLA owned L.A. again. Go Bruins! And go Ducks except against the Bruins.

A busy morning

Morning hour at the library, then to the university for a couple chores, then home -- hope to spend the afternoon on the Army novel.

First Wednesday

Oregon Literary Review co-hosts First Wednesdays, a series of readings, performances and wine-tasting at the Blackbird Wine Shop, 3519 NE 44th off Fremont, 7-9pm. This show is 21 and over. Contact Julie Mae Madsen at for more information.

The readers for September 2 are Bruce Greene, David Cooke, Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk, A. Molotkov, & Evan Cooper.

This night features writers of a successful Portland writing group The Guttery (

Bruce Greene taught for 33 years at an urban high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a teacher-consultant for the Bay Area Writing Project at UC Berkeley for the last 20 years, he’s published numerous articles on educational issues in his own practice as well as personal essays based on his experiences and observations. An avid thoroughbred horse lover, and frequent contributor to The Blood-Horse magazine, he served as Northern California correspondent from 1985-2000. Bruce now lives and writes in Portland, Oregon and is currently looking for three new streams to fly fish, two more coffeehouses conducive to writing, and one literary agent for his recently completed memoir, Above This Wall: The Life and Times of a VISTA Volunteer 1969-70.

David Cooke is a former middle school special education teacher who operates a landscape maintenance business aptly named The Lawn Guy. He is a founding member of two writing groups– Leora: A Writing Group and The Guttery. He graduated from both the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Portland State University Masters of Special Education program. Raised Catholic in Oakland, California, he now resides in Lake Oswego, Oregon with painter, Jessica Acevedo. His debut as the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize winner is available in The Hunger Mountain Journal online and in print. He is currently compiling a chapbook entitled Discretion.

Before landing in Portland, Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk lived all over. She learned kickboxing in Turkey, faced-off with a rhino in Nepal, discussed the weather with Queen Elizabeth in England, and was chastised by Mother Theresa in India. She’s now proud to declare herself a coffee mug carryin’, microbrew drinkin’, Powell browsin’, environmental stumpin’, trail hikin’ Portlander. She writes novels about the adventures that occur when the will of the individual and the collective muscle of a culture clash.

A. Molotkov is a writer, composer, filmmaker and visual artist. Born in Russia, he moved to the US in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993. He is the author of several novels, short story and poetry collections and the winner of the 2008 E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award. The winning story “Round Trip” has been nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Award and accepted by Intramel for publication in Italian. A. Molotkov’s poetry and short stories have appeared in over a dozen publications, both in print and online. Visit him at

Evan Cooper is a writer of fiction. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Willamette University and an M.A. in Media and Culture from the Universiteit van Amsterdam. He often rolls them up and uses them for house fly-icide and K-9 reprimands. He lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

Work 1:1

The new literary magazine Work, which will feature a new online issue each Monday and an annual print anthology, is off and running with a poem by Doug Spangle and something different and welcome for a lit mag, an analysis of the mission statement of Whole Foods. In a single issue Work has taken a large, first step in presenting a new voice worth listening to, a lit mag focusing on "the daily grind". It will be exciting to see what develops. Work is "owned and operated as a nonprofit by Julie Mae Madsen and Claire Rudy Foster."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Renewed determination

I am going to wrestle this goddamn Army novel I've been fighting for forty years to the ground this time, I swear I am. I have a good draft of the first part of three. I am now front-burner brooding about the rest of the story.

This is great material. Here are some moments in Part One I like.

“The president thinks I’m a soldier, thinks I’m worth extending. Maybe it’s time to prove myself by punching out a paratrooper.”
Across the room, somebody yelled, “Fuck Kennedy!”
“I think the word’s spreading,” said Bass.
Buddy-pooh appeared and said, “Sullivan, you hear the news?
Sullivan nodded.
“I think some songs are in order,” Buddy-pooh told Bear.
Bass said, “I don’t think I’m in the mood.”
“He’s right,” Sullivan said. “I want to sing every anti-Army song you ever wrote.” Then he started singing at the top of his lungs, words Bass had written to the tune of “Ragmop”:
“I say F … I say F, U … F, U, C … F, U, C, K … F-U-C-K A-R-M-Y, fuck the Army, beetle-leet bop-be-da-ba … fuck the Army, beetle-leet bop-be-da-ba …”
As soon as other linguists heard Sullivan, they joined in, many standing and moving to gather around Sullivan and Bass, faces straining to sing louder than a neighbor, everyone spelling out the Fuck the Army Ragmop song. Someone fetched Bass’ guitar and brought it to him. Buddy-pooh suggested the next song, and Bass started it alone, to the tune of an old labor song, strumming along as he sang:
“I don’t want your spit shine, mister. I don’t want your shiny brass. As far as I am concerned, mister. You can shove them up your ass.”
By the time Bass reached the last verse, dedicated especially to the Russian linguists with their top secret codeword clearances, everyone was singing in a loud chorus, defiant and solemn, as if the song were an anthem:
“I don’t want your secret clearance. I don’t want your world-wide badge. All I want is a pair of my civvies. And the freedom I once had.”
No one wanted to stop when Jake decided to close at midnight.


There were 57 bars in downtown Baumholder, a figure made astronomical by the fact that downtown consisted of nine square blocks. Most of the bars had names chosen to appeal to Americans: the California Club, the Florida Club, the Texas Club, Jazz Alley, Blues Alley, The Liberty Bar. Others tried to lure in soldiers with exotic names like The Golden Hirsch, Dancers A’GoGo, The Femme Fatale, Gangster Den. Bass believed the rumor that most of the bars in Baumholder were owned by a syndicate of German businessmen, most of whom lived in Berlin and Munich. But others were owned locally, the way Konrad was said to be a partner in The Family Club, which the linguists called their off-base home. Seeing how much money was being made by serving the troops, some local farmers joined the frenzy to make a quick mark off the Americans, who after all had more money to spend than the Germans had seen in a very long time.
The bars had come to Baumholder during the troop buildup of the Korean War. A Soviet invasion of Germany was a threat real enough to respond to, and the U.S. responded by bringing tens of thousands of soldiers to West Germany. Baumholder, before World War II a small farming community in southwestern Germany’s Rhineland area, with a population never exceeding 3000, was chosen for the major American buildup because the Germans themselves had trained here, taking advantage of the bare, rolling hills for their military maneuvers and war games. The Americans did the same.
Almost overnight, new bars opened downtown to entertain and serve the American G.I.s. Bakeries became bars, barns became nightclubs. Because the American army was segregated at the start of the Korean War, the new bars became segregated. The Florida Club, for example, became a bar that only black troops frequented. The tradition of segregation had remained even after the army became integrated, and today if Bass entered The Florida Club, he would be one of only a handful of whites there, the others young Germans eager to hear the American jazz on the jukebox. The jukeboxes in the white American bars featured country-western music.
The Family Club became the hangout for the Monterey Marys because it was the first bar one reached coming down from the hill at the east end of town, which also made it the farthest from Smith Barracks, Baumholder’s main post, where 30,000 Animals were stationed beyond the west end of town. There was a certain sense of security in the fact that a thirsty Animal would have to pass 56 bars before reaching The Family Club. Of course, under normal circumstances the linguists avoided the Animals at all costs and therefore stayed on the hill whenever the Animals came to town. The linguists, numbering only one hundred (with another hundred in Headquarters Company), knew full well that beating up a Monterey Mary would be considered great fun among the paratroopers and special forces after six or seven weeks of shooting at each other in war games in the field. It was always more fun to take hostility out on a stranger than on a comrade.


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


His first whore parade. Bass remembered it like it was yesterday. He’d only been in Baumholder for two weeks when the linguists learned from the girls at The Family Club that the Animals would be in town the following weekend, which meant the influx of thousands of prostitutes to serve them would begin in mid-week. Taking a newk to the train station to witness their arrival was a kind of initiation ceremony for a new linguist, and Sullivan, who had known Bass at the language school and on whose trick Bass had been assigned at Operations, took the newk under his wing and together, with a dozen other linguists along for the fun, they gathered at the bahnhoff to watch the first trains arrive.
Bass had no idea what to expect. The train station was a square stone building with a tower, no larger than the several churches in town. Inside were benches for travelers waiting for the train and tables for those who wanted to eat or drink as they waited. The linguists pushed several tables together and took chairs around them.
Bass couldn’t stop grinning, partly from anticipation and partly from the feeling that he was somehow being suckered, like the country boy taken on his first snipe hunt. Bass knew from overhearing his colleagues that several trains a day would be pulling into the station, each filled with hundreds of women, but Bass had no way of realizing the enormity of this migration and its impact on him. So he just kept grinning, waiting, and listening for the punch line of whatever joke was being pulled on him.
The arrival of the first train changed everything. Bass did not have to watch the parade of girls long to realize this was no snipe hunt, here was an event even more surreal and dreamlike than the descriptions of his colleagues suggested. Several hundred girls spilled off the first train, marching in disorder into the train station, women varying in age from teens to forties, women of all size and description, fat and skinny and in between, pretty and plain, hardened and innocent-looking. What struck Bass first was that so many of them were younger than he was.
“They look so young,” he said to Sullivan at the table beside him.
“The youngest are escapees from East Germany,” Sullivan explained. “They think they’re taking a job as a server in a gasthaus or a waitress in a restaurant, but it’s the syndicate bringing them into their fold. Once they’re captured, it’s hard to get away. They arrive broke, often without family or friends. They risk everything for freedom and end up here. It’s a tragedy really.”
Only Sullivan’s tone didn’t suggest tragedy. His voice had the hardened neutrality of a doctor working the midnight shift in an emergency room, who has seen every bodily disaster many times over. Neutrality, lack of concern, was the best defense mechanism.
“Jesus, they’re young,” Bass said again. “The one in the bluejeans can’t be over fourteen or fifteen.”
“I think there’s a law they have to be sixteen,” said Sullivan.
“Young enough.”
Some of the girls flirted as they passed but most looked tired and travel-weary. How far had they traveled to get to Baumholder just ahead of the Animals’ weekend pass? Some from as far away as Berlin, the Netherlands, even London, according to Sullivan.
No sooner had the several hundred women passed through the station than the train pulled away to make room for another behind it, and the parade of prostitutes began all over again. As the second group marched through the station, Bass heard someone shouting and turned to find a small group of young German men holding up placards in protest, though he didn’t know enough German to read them. But their manner was clear: their shouts at the women clearly meant disapproval.
Sullivan leaned close to Bass.
“See the guy waving his sign? That’s Karl, son of the proprietor of the gasthaus at the bottom of the hill.”
“Are they a religious group or what?”
Bass stared at Sullivan in disbelief.
“Well, it’s illegal, so they have to be underground and pretend they’re something else. That D.P. on their caps stands for Patriots of the Homeland. Something like that. I forget the German exactly. Buddy would know. The thing is, this is so hypocritical because Konrad has a stake in the Family Club, yet his son is one of them. The Germans bitch about American immorality and then turn around and put the women in their clubs at starvation wages, which means they’re forced to put out on the side just to survive.”
“This is hard to handle,” said Bass. He stood up.
“Where you going?”
“To the can.”
In the men’s room he splashed cold water on his face. On the counter was a stack of neatly folded cloth hand towels, and he took one to dry himself.
So this was the infamous whore parade he’d heard so much about. The descriptions of what awaited him were too extreme to be believed – and yet they fell short of capturing the grotesque unreality of what he was witnessing. Bass had expected to be titillated but instead had escaped to the men’s room feeling light-headed and almost sick in his stomach. It wasn’t that some of the women weren’t attractive, many were – but there were too many of them, too extreme and blatant a display of commercial sex parading in front of him, he felt overwhelmed from the sensual overload of it all. This was more like a scene from a Felinni movie than an afternoon in the once-lazy farm village of Baumholder.


Lt. Brown sauntered into the room.
“Something I should know about, sergeant?”
“Yes, sir. We’ve intercepted and confirmed reports that a good many Russian units – maybe even all Russian units – are heading for Berlin.”
The lieutenant’s lips puckered while he thought.
“To Berlin, sir,” Malinowski repeated.
“Do you know why?”
“I think we can guess why, sir.”
“You’re telling me the Reds are invading Berlin?”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
“Has Central Command put us on alert?”
“Not yet. We just got our reports out to them. I suspect they’re still evaluating the situation.”
“If this is true, goddamn right we’ll be on alert.”
“I expect so, sir.”
“You heard these reports yourself?
“I don’t speak Russian, sir.”
“Right, right. But the reports were intercepted and translated.”
“Yes, sir. And confirmed by four other stations in the field. There’s no question about this, sir.”
“We’ll be on alert then.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Not like the monthly test. The real goddamn thing.”
Malinowski nodded.
“Well, sergeant, if you learn anything else, you know where to find me.”
“Yes, sir.”
After the lieutenant was gone, Malinowski turned to his men.
“Better go get yourself some coffee while you have a chance. Maybe grab a sandwich to go while you’re at it. It’s going to be a long night once the alert is called.”
Everybody but Buckley headed out. Buckley wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do, so he stayed right where he was, hoping the sergeant would give him a direct order.
It took a moment for Malinowski to realize his clerk had stayed behind.
“Buckley, you don’t want coffee?”
“I would, yes. Thank you, sergeant.”
“Just a minute.”
Buckley had stood up from the desk and now he waited for more.
“You know what happened to Sullivan last night?”
“I heard he went to town.”
“He’s still hot for that girl?”
“I think so.”
“Dumb shit. He’s just asking for trouble. He’s a damn good linguist, too. One of the best in the building.”
Buckley was silent, watching the sergeant try to make up his mind about something.
“I’m giving you a pass, Buckley. I want you to go to town and see if you can turn up Sullivan. You only have about an hour. Ask in the Family Club. If he stayed in town, he would’ve gone there. Tell him we’re going on alert and his ass belongs up here.”
Malinowski went to the desk and took out a form. He started scribbling on it. When he was done, he handed it to Buckley.
“This will get you through the gate and satisfy any MPs you run into. Get moving. I want you back here before things get crazy.”
“What about Bass, sergeant?”
“He’s probably in Denmark by now. Bass is a good soldier. Soon as he gets word the shit’s hit the fan, he’ll high-tail it back. Get moving, son.”
Malinowski headed off again. The newk stared at the pass. It was an emergency half-day pass. Buckley folded it and put it in his pocket. He grabbed his uniform jacket from the coat rack and slipped it on. He put on his overseas cap. He took a final look around the empty section and stepped out into the hallway as smartly as a soldier on parade.

Art for art's sake

I've never been much of an "art for art's sake" kind of guy since I supported myself through my writing in one way or another throughout my career. But that's changed now. As "an old fart," I don't have to write for money and I don't need validation or strokes really, though they are nice when they arrive (such as today's surprising review at Art Scatter). I can write for myself. Period.

Hence my digital film projects are about as close to "art for art's sake" as you can get. You can't really do anything with them except drop them into cyberspace. You can't enter them in festivals because they can't be blown up to movie screen size. The few "pocket film" festivals around have restrictive requirements, such as shooting them with a camera. There is no market for a film shot with a minicam. So you do them, make them available, and let your friends know.

So it is very unusual indeed when a respected critic like Bob Hicks takes the time to consider one of these small projects with as much seriousness as that with which it was created. Very gratifying.

The post below has the link.

A generous review

Bob Hicks at Art Scatter gave Deconstructing Sally a generous plug and review. "It’s a good example of how skillful and individualistic democratic filmmaking can be."

Usually these web-housed digital films get pretty much ignored, so the publicity is much appreciated.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

College football

The season starts in a big way next week, Thursday, with Oregon going to Boise State for a big opening game. Then on Saturday Portland State goes to Oregon State, where on paper it is outclassed. And so college football makes the new eeason, fall and school, feel very real. I need to get into the rhythm of school but I'll wait until after Labor Day. I'm cool about teaching even though the summer just rushed by. But we refinanced the house in our favor, and I did what is probably my best video to date, and I also seem to have recommitted yet again to bringing my Army material to the front burner.

A decent summer, after all.

When the famous die

The trouble with the death of famous people and all the attention they get is that the deaths of others at the same time are hidden. This was brought home to me with Michael Jackson's death and the moving column by a woman whose nephew died in Afghanistan on the same day.

Read it here.

I think of the dozen of us, only, who gathered a few years back at the Shakespeare Garden to spread the ashes of my buddy Ger. Or being alone to spread the ashes of my father in the same garden.

In our celebrity driven culture, the media go a bit crazy when a big name dies. But this, too, passes.

The Quiet American

Catching the end of the superb Michael Caine film version of the absolutely brilliant novel by Graham Greene, on my top five list for decades. (What a disaster the original Audie Murphy movie was!) Need to watch it whole soon ... and reread the novel for the upteenth time. Great art endures.

Baumholder, 1961

The first three chapters of this novel struggling for birth are very fine indeed. Strong narrative "what happens next" drive. Alas, the author doesn't know yet. More to read but so far I think I definitely need to move this front burner and figure this story out, 40 years plus is too damn long to sit on this great material.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What kind of a day is it?

A day to make scrapple! Today's variety, country sausage and lamb.

And my tomato-feta relish! By the gods, it is incredibly good! This will ALWAYS be around the house.

I printed the 78 pages I have of the Army novel to read carefully and decide whether or not I move it front burner. If so, then before I write a word I am going to have an outline of the story. I've been sink-or-swimming with this material for forty years -- and sinking. Time to get rational, left-brained and figure this sucker out.


We're happy to announce that our first month of WORK Literary Magazine begins on Monday, August 31.
Every Monday showcases a new poem, story, art installment, or photography series.

We'll be featuring the WORK of these fine people:

Doug Spangle
Moira McAuliffe
Sean Davis
Ileanna Portillo

As well as "career" application questions from these corporations:

Banana Republic
Whole Foods

And we're actively seeking submissions. Check out the submissions guidelines on our website.

See you on Monday at WORK!

Julie Madsen & Claire Rudy Foster
WORK Literary Magazine

Art and life (again)

No personal autobiographical material has gotten more mileage in my work than my years living with the model for the woman I usually call "Sally." Not only is she the model in Deconstructing Sally but also in my play The Half-Life Conspiracy (written over 20 years ago) and in my novel Kerouac's Scroll. It's fascinating to compare what different uses the same personal history are put to in these three different works. It's also another strong argument for what in critical circles used to be called, and maybe still is, "the biographical fallacy."


I have a love-hate relationship with the bicyclists of this pro-bike haven, and this morning brought out the hate. While on errands I almost got creamed by a bicyclist. Now this is a figure of speech describing motion vectors because, in fact, the bike guy, not I, would have been creamed if this had not been a near miss. But here's what brought out the hate: the asshole yelled at me for being in the way when he ran a red light! Alas, this is more typical than one would hope. These folks feel so environmentally superior that a car obeying the law gets trumped by a law-breaking bike every time. And these fascists think they are progressives, which only gives us (progressives) a bad name. Grr,

Thursday, August 27, 2009


A good hour at the library this evening. I continue to get thanks after thanks for volunteering my time this way. Never expected this.

And Deconstructing Sally is getting more praise than any work I've done in a while. I think it speaks to a lot of old farts ha ha,

My brother shares this: this best writing advice he ever got was in a Chinese fortune cookie. You'll be more convincing if you lighten up. Sally takes this advice. I believe it was my brother who also got my all-time favorite fortune cookie: You like Chinese food.

A relatively free day tomorrow, which I hope to spend in two ways: getting back to cleaning my office; and looking more closely at my Army novel in progress. I had occasion to open the file today and, man, some damn good writing is in there. The story is just such a mess. Maybe I can figure out the story and get this sucker off my back, The other novel that I moved to front burner is figured out, it's just the grunt work of doing it and then polishing it so it actually works. I know the story. The Army one is all great comic characters and surrealistic atmosphere -- but no real story yet. I need to figure it out. Maybe I can do that before school starts. It would be such a relief to get this wonderful material accounted for.


Toured million dollar condos in the Pearl again today. H is a hoot. "We can put this here, and that there" ... you'd think we were moving in tomorrow. We agreed on our fav of all the condos we toured, one we saw today, 2500 sq ft on the 16th floor, facing the river, for 2+ million.

I'd be feeling blessed all week until ... that's the trouble with temptation and consumerism, you get distracted.

Gary Miranda interview

At Oregon Lit Rev.

New interview

Finished the rough cut of the interview with Gary Miranda. Should be online later today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health care animation

National Arts Lottery

Who decides which arts groups or individual artists get Federal grants in the arts? There's a process in place but folks in places like Pdx complain that folks in bigger cities like New York, LA and Chicago -- even Seattle! -- are looked upon with kinder favor. I made a suggestion recently in a comment at Bob Hicks' Art Scatter blog that no one paid much attention to but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Award the grants via a lottery. Draw the names out of a hat. There are minimum qualifications to apply, to get into the hat in the first place, but after that, it's random. Luck of the draw.

What I like about this idea:
  • it de-politicizes the process
  • it makes it more exciting for the zillions of artists not in the major centers
  • invites wonderful surprises
  • makes centralized critical opinion irrelevant
  • has less administrative costs, hence more money for the artists

Another reason I like the idea is that I've served on a committee that decided how money went to artists. The process sucked. What happened, and rather predictably if you think about it, is that artists with passion had applications with great support but also heated opposition. In the end, the money was given to the "safest" applicants, those who did NOT generate any passion pro or con, the ones who were okay and were safe. I don't think the best artists got the loot. No way. This was another cultural machination, of which there are many, to inspire mediocrity in the middle.

Someone needs to propose a National Arts Lottery in Congress.


Got a necessary chore done on the car, mowed the worst part of the lawn. More to do but the day's not over and I ain't dead yet.

I also outlined a new idea for a posthumous play. I rather like it since it deals with a social issue close to my heart and somewhat unique to Oregon, doctor-assisted suicide. See how it goes ... I do have an unusually complete scene outline, I usually begin writing more in the dark and see what happens.

Kennedy's passion

Ted Kennedy in 1971:

And in 2008:

Clips from Daily Kos and YouTube.


Last week when we had lunch in the Pearl, with the bread they eerved a Greek tomato relish that was incredible. I knew I'd have to try and make it, and my first attempt is in the refrig. Not half bad.

My recipe: couple cans of diced tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives, chopped scallions, crumbled feta cheese, olive oil, red vinegar. The canned tomatoes were spiced so I didn't need to add anything. Not bad at all! Great on crusty bread, toast, bagels, fish, meat. Would have been good on the lamb sausage omelet I made for breakfast.

A glorious day

A decent hour at the library. Summer has returned. An afternoon of chores, in the yard, working on the van, maybe my office. Leisurely summer chores.

Grunt work

I'm archiving Sally, a time-consuming project because the files are so large. As in 26M!

A day for grunt work in the yard and office. Chores I've neglected recently.

Tomorrow we are seeing the rest of the "street of dreams" condos.

Time to get serious about the fall video projects, the Donnelly scripts. And to find a concept for my own next video script.

My computers are set up perfectly now, knock on my wooden head. Two in the basement office for video editing. Everything else I do on the netbook now, including uploading files.

Need another hour or two of sleep before I face the day. Well, also the sun needs to rise ha ha.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The human comedy

I can't stop grinning today. Fortunately, I'm staying home.

A few responses

Here are a few of the more interesting early responses to Deconstructing Sally.

  • It's an interesting concept, doing a film in which the main character virtually appears.
  • Good job, Charles. I enjoyed it. I wish I had your guts.
  • Fascinating! I thought all of the film elements worked together seamlessly--from the diverse music to the camera work to the writing to the editing, acting and narration. Such a painful story given such a light, ironic spin; the ending reminds me, slightly, of the sensibility of some of Charlie Chaplin's best moments; poignant, with a "cest la vie" comic shrug.
  • Nicely done. Story well told. I am left wondering about just how much of it was fictional.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed "Deconstructing Sally." It is interesting for me right now as I am ploughing my way through Paramanhansa Yogananda's commentaries on the Baghavad Gita.
  • Charlie, I truely enjoyed your fictional memoir. Thanks for sharing it. By the way, everyone at an academic gathering is a second class citizen.


I may have done something stupid. At the reunion, folks saw me shooting video and inquired if I were making a documentary of the event. No, I said, this is for a personal project, a fictional memoir. Some expressed interest in seeing it when it was done. So this morning I thought I'd send the reunion list a link, and I had meant to remove the inspiration for Sally from this list for fear she'd embrace the "biographical fallacy" and be blind to the fact that this is a work of fiction. I have witnessed the rage of this woman against her father over matters smaller than these. I didn't want to poke this particular hornets' nest with a stick -- but may have. We shall see! A dumb oversight I may regret. A neutral observer might well conclude that this is almost a love song to the Sally created, the failings belonging exclusively to the narrator (not based on fact ha ha), but no one is neutral here. Oh, my.

Fall approaches

Cooler and wet today but a final (?) heat spell upcoming, say the forecasters, before fall gets here. And school starts in about a month.

Yesterday was warm. I had a fine solo lunch in the sun on the patio at O'Conners, reflecting on my many blessings, feeling like one very fortunate human who has had a pretty amazing life. The perfectly timed generation: born before Pearl Harbor but late enough to be a teenager during the birth of rock and roll. I've said all this here before. I say many things here more than once. Old age repeats itself ha ha.

I may be showing one or more short digital films at First Wednesday down the road. It's interesting how little interest I have in "aggressive sharing" of my work any more. If folks find it, great, but other than alerting some past fans to new video work, I do damn little to toot my own horn. No commercial goals any more is part of it. No need for any kind of validation any more, although there are some individual "fans" whose responses I pay attention to because they are perceptive. If I please them, I'm thrilled. I've pleased a couple of them so far with Sally.

Brooding in search of another story to tell in a similar narrative approach but thus far, not a clue. Not the hint of an idea -- other than a noir detective story in this form. I wonder if I could adapt Dead Body In A Small Room into a short with this tone.

Well, first things first. Some video interviews to edit for the review and I do want to do two of Donnelly's scripts before I do another of my own.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Work Literary Magazine

WORK is founded and edited by Julie Mae Madsen and Claire Rudy Foster. They seek submissions, so there's no time like the present to get in on the ground floor of a new lit mag focusing on "the daily grind," stories and art from the workplace. Check it out.

Not shut out

Not shut out at the library after all.

Moreover, I feel "high" after the end of the project, which is rare. Most of the time I suffer from mild depression after finishing something. In the past, it's my better work that breaks the pattern, and I leave with confidence that I did a good job. That's the case here. Moreover, I already have some validation that the video works for a few folks whose opinions I respect. Some rewarding feedback. And I've discovered a narrative tone for video that works for me and that I'll use again. I just need the right story to which to attach it -- not a clue at the moment ha ha. In fact, my next "serious" video projects will be the overdue Donnelly scripts. I should be able to shoot two of them in the fall.

Narrative style

Deconstructing Sally is the first video I've made with a strong narrative voice, and I rather like how this approach turned out. I think I'll be telling other stories in this style.

I wouldn't be surprised if I strike out at the library this morning. I'll be hanging in whatever happens until Sept. 10, and then I'll stop my library gig.


This week is dedicated to physical and mental recovery from the exhaustion after last week's incredible journey. Read, work in the yard, play with the dog, and at most maybe add a few pages in the novel and start editing the Miranda interview. And even clean my office, still not done. But mainly recover. Intense work is much more tiring than it used to be.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

At last

I finally figured out how to sftp on this netbook, instead of just ftp. Use Konqueror, which I had tried but with the wrong protocol. I need sftp to access my archive at the Univ of North Carolina.

All is well.

Sunday in the Pearl

We spent the morning touring million+ condos in The Pearl district, the 80s skidrow area that is now yuppie heaven in Portland. I took lots of video clips -- now I can have characters living in penthouses ha ha. After enough touring we had a really first class lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the area, very nice indeed. Not a bad way to spend Sunday morning at all.

Back to the library tomorrow morning, wondering how the week will go.

Getting some nice comments on the video.

Unassisted triple play!

New edit

I did fix a few very minor things in a new edit, which I put in my archive. Many wouldn't notice the difference.

Literary quotations and page rage

Here, from Brazilian writer Sergio Barcellos Ximenes, is an offer you can't refuse. A free book, which you pay for only if you like it. And it's a fascinating companion to the writing life, as explained by the author:

It's a new kind of book, because the reader can continue the work by himself (a customizable book). And it's a new kind of quotations book, because the old focus on great authors is replaced by the focus on interesting and creative quotations, no matter who wrote or said them. It includes phrases from blog posts, titles of blog posts, commentaries written on the Web, answers from online interviews, tweets, and even an image of the cover of a book.
The file can be downloaded from here:

My writerly comments are represented. The author also has this to say: "For me, you and Tess Gerritsen (two authors travelling on roads so different) are the bloggers who most courageously reveal the personal soul of a writer."

This is a great bathroom table book: print it out for reading "in the library."


There are still half a dozen or so little tweaks I could make to the edit but they would be time-consuming and I'm not sure it's worth the effort, given the non-commercial destination and limited audience for this. I may let it ride as it is.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Deconstructing Sally... now online.

Deconstructing Sally.

And to think exactly seven days ago I was shooting video at the reunion. What an intense week.

Art and history

People who don't know how to read or view art/literature can make a real mess of works based on an event or person they "recognize." This has already happened with Deconstructing Sally, to my utter astonishment. I should know better. This is not the first time something like this has happened.

At the end of the video is a title card that reads, "Some of this happened, and some of this is made up. Therefore, this is a work of fiction." I don't know how I can be clearer than that.

And yet there is someone, and there will be more, who thinks this "fictional memoir" actually happened literally the way it is presented. This is the great mental disease of our culture, the inability to discern or respond to imaginative works. As a matter of fact and historical record, the fictional Sally is nicer than the woman who inspired her. I didn't take a leave of absence from the university, I dropped out -- and it was my idea, not hers. She didn't support me in Portland: I got a job as editor of the NW Mobile Home News (now there's another story!). I made her nicer and more supportive because I thought it made the drama of the story better -- the higher you are, the farther you fall and all that. There are many more examples.

Our culture, with its reality shows and "based on a true story" dramas, has created a population abysmally ignorant of the workings of the narrative imagination -- even though "creativity" long has been a buzz word.

Cruising at sunrise

I think the project may be done. Burn another DVD and check it out.

Meanwhile cruise, watch the sunrise and clear my brain. Wish I had a fan around to help me celebrate.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Made a test DVD, found a couple minor things to fix, fixed them, will check it out tomorrow. Exhausted.

End game

Done ... now it's getting the glitches out, fine tuning the editing, and so on.


There's blood in these old veins yet. A month ago, I wasn't sure I had it in me to work on a project with the energy, focus and obsession I brought to projects in the past. The current video shows I can be as obsessive as ever. I finish up the shooting this afternoon -- and everything is rough edited except for this final clip, so I may well be putting together a DVD menu this weekend. It's going to come in at 30 minutes.

However, the physical toll from writing is much more apparent to me now. I never worried about this in my youth. Now I'm not sure I want to do this again soon, for the physical consequences of it. I'll go back to the novel where a page a day is a decent accomplishment ha ha.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coming soon

More progress

A long full day of editing. Not much left, mainly the clip I shoot tomorrow. I like where I am so far.

The challenging part

What's left of the video project is by far the hardest part. But challenging and fun at the same time. I'll start with the narration, and I'm going to improv it, rather than write it as I have to this point, in order to tape spontaneity and emphasize emotion over content particulars. At least I'll try this approach and see if it works.

Almost done with the book of my Paris friend, helping her at Lulu.

Wee hours

Got up at 3 a.m. and back to editing. Have the first 17 minutes in pretty good shape. Not much to go. Will come in at what? a bit less than half an hour? But the ending is by far the hardest to write. I'll take my time with it.

Shoot tomorrow. Need it to go well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Progress, exhaustion

Finished a rough edit of part 3 ... of maybe 6 or 7 parts? Progress, at any rate.

Noon at the library. Afterwards, think I'll go to DQ and treat myself to a Blizzard!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

O happy day!

A surprisingly good hour at the library, given yesterday's dud. Premature to kiss the location off yet. We'll see how the rest of the week goes.

Started editing in young Sally layers and, man, it's working just as I imagined, very exciting. Tomorrow I have to record some more narration and go from there. First 7 minutes in decent shape.

I am ecstatic!

The clips from the shoot are incredible, perfect for my needs. Kate Mura is a gem. Her training is in physical theater and improv, so if you give her the emotional context of a scene, she runs with it and adds on her own more than you imagined yourself. A theater collaborator in the best sense. I have a delightful six-minute "bar conversation" from her that become a backdrop to more than I originally intended. She gave me great stuff. Now to make it work.

Important day

Essential shoot this afternoon with Kate Mura, playing the younger Sally. The bar stuff is what I really need, lots of it for layering. An exciting day, as a result.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mixed day

Good visit and shoot with poet Gary Miranda, the day's good news. Bad news, I struck out at the library this morning, not a signature. Might have milked that cow dry. If the week is dead, I'll probably stop.

Progress on editing the video, getting pieces together. About 7 mins into it ... looking like it will come out in the 15-20 min range.

A very critical afternoon tomorrow, shooting young Sally. Really important shots. Need to prep in the morning, making sure I get everything I need.

Hear, hear!

At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

Krugman on health care reform.


Today is an impossibly busy day. Library duty in the morning, shooting video in the afternoon.

Pay attention to small issues

It's time for the President to pay attention to "smaller" issues, such as gay rights in the military, where he can make progressive change almost unilaterally. Because it now looks like he will lose the big issues. If health care reform doesn't have a public option, it's a sell out to the insurance companies. And more and more it's beginning to look like Afghanistan will be Obama's Vietnam. I am no longer optimistic about meaningful change in this country, despite Obama's skills. His own party is caving, and he's caving with it rather than taking a stance of difficult leadership and changing minds. We need an LBJ at a time like this, a ruthless politician who can twist arms and change minds. Obama may be too nice and fair to be an effective president. The "new way of doing things" looks like a bust to me. It amounts to caving in.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eager to edit

Now the real fun begins ... first, selecting the reunion clips to use and then shooting "young Sally" with Kate on Tues and "older Sally" with Judith on Fri ... so by next weekend, I should have most of what I need. Now the project really gets fun.

Saturday Gold Rock n Roll

As a grad student I religiously listened to an oldies radio show by Jivin Johnny Etheredge. And I just heard an ad for Son of Saturday Gold, on at 11 this morning. I'll listen as we drive home and hope I can keep the signal. John is a master rock historian and as good as a DJ gets. Been listening to him for 40 years.

Homeward bound

I'm up and ready to go ... H is still in bed, so I'll go to the office for coffee, It was a very good trip for the video, disappointing personally that only another writer besides myself showed up, But I had a some good chats with old profs and students I sort of knew.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Of sixty at reunion dinner, only two of us from the MFA end. The disappointment of the affair.

More good chats, though. Met an old friend of "Sally" at the time, was surprised, even shocked, when I told her the "news." That was my reaction exactly at the time ha ha.

Have all the footage I need from here.

So far, so good

Good full day: great visit with my brother, lunch at the new Zenon's (not as good as the original), Saturday Market, which in tone is far, far different from the same in Portland. Eugene is uniquely Eugene, where much of the market still feels like the 60s. H bought me a wonderful blue tye-dye shirt.

Now to rest up for the reunion dinner tonight.

I miss Sketch.

A leisurely day

There being no grad students here I used to hang with, the writers clique smaller than the PhD clique, we're on our own today. Go to Sat market and shoot some, I suspect.

More tidbits from the reception. Bert Sabol, a PhD candidate I really liked, died 20 years ago! Cancer, far too young. I'll always remember the big deal he made at the reception after opening night of my MFA play, bringing a bottle of EXPENSIVE champagne to celebrate.

Barre Toelken has been recovering from a stroke. He said when he came out of it, he couldn't speak. Then he got a call from a colleague in Germany -- and he started speaking German! The doc said the Eng part of his brain was damaged but not the German part! Never heard of such a thing.

Two nice memories from folks there: "I always enjoyed your music so much" ... and another who intro'd me to his wife a "a very fine playwright."

I got to chat with Jack Foster, from Ireland, who had his first checking account as a grad student and who wrote sixty cent checks -- SIXTY CENT CHECKS! -- a Maxie's tavern, several a night for beer. Yes, he remembered.

This is fine so far but I wish some of the writing croud were here. Of course, some of my closest grad school friends, like Gerry McNamee, have passed.


A rough night, couldn't shut down the mind, kept creating scenes and replaying them in my head. I'll need a nap before the dinner tonight. First, meet my brother and his wife for morning coffee.

This, the video, is really shaping up well. Tuesday I need to shoot a lot of footage of the younger Sally in a bar.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grad reunion

Got a lot of necessary footage. None of my closest grad school buddies were at the first reception tonight but then they are all writers and the crowd was predominantly PhD students at the time. As a poet in the creative writing dept told me, leaning close to be confidential, "we writers are second class citizens among academics." Hear, hear!

But I had two good talks with professors here at the time, Barre Toelken and Ralph Salisbury, and chats with some grad students who remembered me. So far, so good. (No sign of "Sally" here yet. The big event, a dinner, is tomorrow.)

New search engine

Added Google's new blog search engine, upper right corner, and my early tests suggest it's quick and comprehensive.

LATER. This search engine is fantastic! Great interface, very fast, and even searches my original blog in a flash. Now anyone should be able to find anything here easily. Good job, Google!

My brother's sense of humor

I get an email from my brother, subject "For the record," with an attachment named after his publishing house. A new book? I wonder. I open the attachment: a single blank page. Love it.

Before the silence, there were books, and online you can find:

20 Poems by Bill Deemer.

Remembering Paul deLay

As I was cruising on early morning errands, the jazz station played a blues ballad that Paul used to sing. The man was such a virtuoso of the harmonica that it's easy to forget what a great blues singer he was, especially on ballads.

I met Paul first as a fan in the late 70s, the first time I saw him, totally blown away by his talent. Later we became more personal friends when I started dating his ex-wife, with whom he was still close. These were wild, crazy times. I haven't met too many drinkers in my life who imbibed beyond my limits but Paul was one. He drove this beat-up VW and on the floor was a half gallon jug of vodka, which he'd swill at room temperature. I get sick in my stomach just thinking about it.

What great music he left us. He made his mark, even if he left too soon.

A celebration

If I get it right, my video will be a celebration. Its statement will be existential but not tragic. It will poke some fun at the times, at myself, at "the battle of the sexes." But, in the end, it will be a celebration of positive energy, of embracing the moment. Hope I can pull it off.

The big day

So I begin shooting the reunion -- and experiencing the reunion. I am going to overshoot big time. In the final edit, I probably need only ten minutes or less but I want to make sure I have it. There are several settings: signing in; going over to the library en masse; looking at two library exhibits, and the exhibits themelves; a social hour; a dinner; and Saturday morning, I want to wander campus taking footage.

When we get back, I work with one actress Tuesday, the other Friday. Then I should have everything I need! I may get this together before the end of the month. Lots of challenges and narrative questions, however, the possibility of getting stuck is there. We'll see.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


My worst hour yet at the library: only 1 sig, and she was there when I arrived -- early. Yet the week was respectable. We'll see how it goes next week.

Had a great talk with Esther, telling her when I'll visit in Idaho, and learned she is 90 now. I thought 86. 90! On the phone, she sounds sharp, good, but she says her bones are failing and she's a physical mess.

A good full day of editing, prep stuff for the video. I shoot with the younger Sally actress next Tuesday, Still need to schedule the older Sally.

I start shooting in Eugene tomorrow afternoon. Lots of essential stuff I have to get tomorrow. Tomorrow is actually more important than Saturday.

Busy, busy! Not so long ago I thought my obsessive energy might be gone for good. Interesting.

Progress report

Here's a sequence from the video memoir, working title now DECONSTRUCTING SALLY. Structurally, this sequence is the 2nd of 4 parts about meeting Sally. I also have a rough edit of part 4, the sexual component of the early relationship, no doubt the hardest sequence to create. I want to communicate wild sexual abandon but don't want to end up with a porno clip, and I have an interesting approach to this challenge. We'll see if it works.

This all still needs music and perhaps an additional layer. But so far, so good.


Assembled and edited two major sequences for the video, things I can do without on-scene clips. This is shaping up well, and I found the sense of humor of the piece. I'm excited beyond my years ha ha.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Continued progress and the new narrative tone still sounds right.

Good hour at the library, my total for the week may be better than last week.

Writing is rewriting

Throwing out the narration and starting over. So far, so good, I have a better sense of humor in my tone and this material needs it desperately. Hopefully I'm on the right track now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Start over

I think the tone of my narration is wrong. Will look closely tomorrow. May have to start over.

Another good hour at the library, signatures, strokes.


I've now written a lot of the narration for the video memoir and I'm beginning to record it. I want a sense of how much edited material I'll need in what sections of the story structure. Going pretty well. Actually more than pretty well. A pretty naked memoir (no pun intended) but I hope to raise serious questions with it. Well, we'll see. It's far from certain how this whole deal will turn out -- but at this early stage, I'm very excited about its possibilities.

The Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961

I'll never forget it. I was in the Army, stationed in Germany, so didn't get to see it live. But I heard about it soon enough, a hoax of genius created by some students at Cal Tech, which I had briefly attended prior to the Army. This happened at the Rose Bowl Game.

The students got into the University of Washington cheering section and altered the flip cards for the halftime stunts. With the marching band on the field, the Washington students raised their cards, thinking they were producing the University of Washington spell out ... and the cards read, you guessed it, Caltech. Brilliant! And on national television to boot.

Techies were famous for their pranks. When I was there, the best two were: taking apart a student's sports car and reassembling it in his 2nd floor dorm room; and wiring a classroom so that when the lights were turned on for an 8 a.m. final, Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries blared all across campus from speakers hidden in trees.

Cal Tech was a spectacular experience.

Hear, hear!

Dean Baker's turn to talk sense.

The media have allowed the politicians to turn life into death and night into day when it comes to the health care debate because they decided that anything said against President Obama's plan should be treated with respect, no matter how absurd it might be.
The media have the job of informing the public. They have the time and the resources to know that when opponents of President Obama's plan talk about rationing, they are not telling the truth (i.e. they are lying). If the media just pass these assertions on to the public without comment, then they are giving them credibility.

And if the opponents of health reform think they can get away with one really big lie, then why shouldn't they start moving forward with even bigger ones. It was only a matter of time before someone came up with Governor Palin's death panel line. For this we owe our thanks to The Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream media.


Title sequence

It took a long day yesterday, a night of restless brooding with little sleep, an early start and more work this morning -- but I think I have the first 28 seconds of the video memoir just about where I want it. Hours for 28 seconds. That's editing.

An extraordinary day

I'm still up, working on the video memoir, writing narration, a very long day of work, which I haven't had in ages. Exhausted -- but it feels damn good!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hear, hear!

Nicely put, Howard Dean.

Former Governor Sarah Palin made some preposterous claims over the weekend which attracted mainstream media attention. She made up the term "death panel" and claimed that part of the health care reform bill now working it's way through Congress required that families with children with disabilities, or elderly people who are infirm, could be judged by one of these death panels, which could control their fate and decide if they would die. GOP leadership repeated this outrageous claim across the airwaves on the Sunday morning talk shows. The mainstream media gave this claim credibility simply by repeating it.
In fact, these kinds of claims are lies. There is no nice way to say it. This kind of stuff is far beyond the usual politicians' tricks of shading words and imputing meanings that aren't there. To quote a famous American who began the process of ending the McCarthy era in the fifties I address the MSM: "At long last, Have you no sense of decency?"


The California Dream

This house in Pasadena must have seemed like a little slice of Eden to my parents in 1948. No more moving at the Navy's whim. For the first time, a home of one's own, in a nice middle class neighborhood, with a backyard filled with fruit trees, peach and apricot and lemon and avacado, close to everything, and for me, at 9, close to a huge park within bike riding range, where later, after I was long gone, a new high school would be built. I have fond memories of growing up there. They say the Dream may be over in California. I'm glad I was there in the late 40s and 50s when indeed, California seemed like a little piece of Eden.

Coming soon

What's wrong with the recall

An older couple coming to the library saw me and exclaimed, "At last!" Ends up they have been looking for a place to sign a recall petition for over a month. And therein is the problem. This should be a slam dunk, according to the polls. But there is yet a good strategy to get petitions in the hands of those who would sign it, especially because so many are older folks without computers, as these were. If this fails, and now it's looking like it will, it's not for lack of numbers but lack of methodology.


I like to remind myself that there always have been crazies and always political viciousness. You don't have to read too many 19th century newspapers to realize this. When it was discovered Grover Cleveland had a child out of wedlock, he was the recipient of attacks much more vicious than what Obama is experiencing now. 19th century political cartoons were much more personally vicious than they are today. Less has changed than one may think.

But what has changed are media and a shift of focus. Talk radio now has the tone of those muckracking 19th century newspapers. Moreover, listeners can call in, so the media is more interactive and there's a stronger sense of community among those who believe lies and distortions. They reinforce each other's false ideas. An additional change is the increased power of corporate "bottom line" thinking in media decisions, which results in content moving toward the lowest common denominator. Many so-called news programs are an insult to intelligence.

How do we know what we know? This is the question no one asks and which everyone should ask. I swear to the gods, we should start teaching Epistemology in kindergarten! And Logic right along with it. Our national ignorance is a disgrace and should be treated like a disease, an epidemic that threatens our national security. In less panicked terms, this is what Obama means when he talks about beefing up our educational system and emphasizing science again. We've created too many generations of high self-esteem ignoramuses who don't know the first thing about a process for finding out what is fact and what is not. Who cares if we can think or not as long as we can consume? Homo consumerus.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Whole cloth

I've always had a sense of my work being made from whole cloth. What do I mean by this? That everything comes from the same source and everything is related. It's as if there's one Large Work, maybe we can call it My Life, and from this come small individual works, a play or screenplay or novel or even a video, but it all comes from the same stock, the same source, the same Large Cloth,. which looms like a mother ship.

And another part of this is that everything is written in the present tense. Just about everything I've worked on has been changed in process by a book I read while I was working on it, or a movie I saw, or a person I met, or even a joke I heard. The present tense input always influences what I am working on.

Thus just a moment ago I realized that the difficult novel I'm struggling with (not the more recent one coming quickly, easily, because its form is so traditional) and the video memoir share a good deal. Hadn't occurred to me before.

A day to cook!

This morning I got both writing and video editing done. Checked the yard and it's been so dry only a small section needs mowing. H is gone all day. So I have the game on and I'm cooking up a storm.

First, made a batch of scrapple. Have an idea it's a good one.

For dinner, making Navy bean soup with lamb sausage and okra. Yum. My Virginia, Texas first roots, rather than my LA later roots.

Having a good day. I can use all of those I can get.

No coincidence

At 6ish in the morning, Saturday or Sunday, I'm likely to be listening to the jazz station on the radio. A favorite DJ works each time then, radio hosts I've listened to for years. Imagine my shock and sadness when each announced this weekend that it was their last show.

This cannot be a coincidence. This reeks of new management setting a new policy and getting rid of the old farts who have been there forever. The same thing happened at the paper years ago, all my writer friends there getting booted. It's the way the new boss flexes his (or her, in the case of the paper) muscle.

Obviously I don't like this. When the DJ of the traditional jazz show, Dr. Jazz, died a while back, he was replaced by a kid who sounds like he reads everything, and I can barely listen to the show any more (if there were more music and less talk, perhaps I could). I fear the same may happen with my favorite weekend shows.

These old jazz shows are important moments that keep a body sane. What is the station up to?

Unusual rhythm of late

I crashed early, up to work a bit on the novel. The rhythm of my younger self. I haven't done this lately at all.

A day game today -- the Mariners got creamed yesterday -- so I'll listen while doing yard work.

Next weekend is the reunion. Glad I have a project to keep me centered with regard to it.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Made another fantastic one for lunch today.


Recipes are not invented, they evolve. In the case of the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich (BLT), culinary evidence confirms this recipe descended from late Victorian-era tea sandwiches. The earliest recipes for BLTs were listed under different names in cookbooks.

Most of the ingredients of the BLT (bread, bacon, lettuce) were known to the Ancient Romans. Methods for toasting bread were also practiced during this time. Tomatoes were introduced to Europe in the 16th century. Mayonnaise? An 18th century French invention. According to the food historians, modern sandwiches were also invented in the 18th century. We searched serveral 19th-20th century European and American cookbooks to pin down the introduction of the BLT. It can be argued that the progenitors of BLTs are Club Sandwiches as they are similar in composition and ingredents. About club sandwiches.

The earliest recipes we find that begin to approximate the BLT were printed in the 1920s. Seven Hundred Sandwiches/Florence A. Cowles [Little, Brown:Boston] 1929 notes:
"Bacon sandwiches. Bacon is an ingredient of many of the sandwiches in this book, but in those under this heading it is the principal one. Sandwiches containing bacon are particularly good for on hikes or picnics. The recipe below is specially suited for such an occasion, when the bacon may be broiled over and open fire in the woods."
---(p. 31).
This book also includes recipes for "Summer Sandwich," "Bacon Salad Sandwich," Baconion Sandwich." and more. These sandwiches feature bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise, and other ingredients (pickles, onions etc.). They do not yet include tomato. Separate recipes for tomato sandwiches (p. 127) and lettuce sandwiches (p. 128-9) likewise do not include bacon.
Recipes for BLT-type sandwiches printed American cookbooks in the 1930s-1950s typically include cheese.

Our food history books, dictionaries/phrase books and databases do not reveal the person/place responsible for coining the name "BLT." John Marinani, American food historian, hypothesizes this term evolved from diner/lunchroom slang:

"Lunch counters have provided etymologists and linguists with one of the richest sources of American slang, cant, and jargon, usually based on a form of verbal shorthand bandied back and forth between waiters and cooks. Some terms have entered familiar language of most Americans--"BLT" (a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich)...and others--but most remain part of a bewildering and colorful language specific to the workers in such establishments."
---The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar Freidman:New York] 1999 (p. 190)

Ingredient notes:

tomatoes (in Europe)
bread & toast


Where did this come from?

An old project I set aside some time ago returned in new clothing, demanding attention, and it began to write itself as I sat at the computer ... and I've learned to hunt this dog as long as I can, it's not something that happens every day. Suddenly three projects are in gear.

Days like today ...

... are great. Not even noon and I feel like I've put in a day's work (on the video memoir).


I love the creative process. Often it is frustrating, maddening, elusive, confusing, but somehow there is progress toward resolution and greater clarity. Hence my brooding about the video memoir project. Enough is coming together now -- I just made a list of shots for the actress playing the younger Sally --that I am genuinely excited to begin, rather than feeling trepidation about the reunion and bewilderment about the project. I still have a very long ways to go before this becomes a coherent project but I think I'm on the right track now. I'm reminded of one of my favorite lines about art, from William Goldman: It's all material. Another comes from Gilbert Sorrentino: Art doesn't rescue anyone from anything.


Last night the Mariners gave fans hope again. For the 3rd outing in a row, their ace Hernandez wasn't at his game and by the 7th, they were behind 5-1. Then they exploded and tied and ended up winning in the 11th. This was the come-from-behind Mariners who give fans hope.

Frank Schaeffer on the right wing

This guy understands the danger of what's coming down.

Kooks, audiences and the media

We've always had kooks among us. I remember as a kid finding them in the park. Some guy yelling about Jesus, another guy yelling about communists, gathering a small audience of curiosity seekers. You never read about these nuts in the paper. They were pretty much ignored.

Today a whacko gathers a crowd saying Obama wants to eliminate elders with forced euthanasia and video of it gets played over and over and over again on the news. Sure, the footage is labeled shocking, ignorant, racist, but it still gets shown over and over and over again. Susan Jacoby has written eloquently in her book about American unreason about how this coverage provides a kind of legitimacy, Millions see this, not a handful in a park as in prior times. The more who see it, the greater the chance that it will be seen by the special whacko with a gun who decides to save the world from Obama.

Glenn Beck jokes about poisoning the Speaker of the House. Hitler moustaches are painted on posters of our President. American unreason isn't going over the edge. And the trouble is, a lot of kooks have guns.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Prep work

Been editing clips that might be used in the video memoir. Nice to be editing again, I may enjoy it more than writing in my old age.


Damn, I just made a great BLT for lunch. H picked up some fat juicy tomatoes at the farmers market. Supermarket corporate tomatoes are tasteless mush. These were great!


A great leisurely late morning! Watching the Oct. 7, 2000. football game between Oregon State and Washington, which W. will win 33-30. Both teams ranked with great coaches soon to be gone, Dennis Erickson to greener pasters from OSU and Washington's Rick Neuheisel totally screwed by his Athletic Director for betting on an office pool and fired. She was a feminist, he a traditional male, and -- excuse my political incorrectness -- he must have opened the door for her one day ha ha. She hated him, but he sued the university and won big bucks for her error -- and now he's UCLA's coach, which is great. I think he'll turn the program around.

College football

Back when my buddy Oklahoma Tom was still alive (the guy whose grave I visited on Veterans Day), this was the time of year when we'd be chomping at the bit for college football season to begin. Less than a month away now. He was a big Oklahoma fan, of course, and I call myself primarily a UCLA fan rather than an Oregon fan, childhood trumping everything, though I root for the Ducks against everyone except the Bruins. College football gets a little more contaminated every year, however, and maybe before I pass I'll end up being a high school football fan first and foremost. I don't like watching arrogant players who think doing their job deserves special fanfare,

But I don't have a sports buddy these days, so football isn't the social event it used to be. I always enjoyed the leadup to the season, August, when Tom was around because we had an entire month to rant and rave and argue about the season ahead. It could be as much fun as the season itself. It's not the same without him and his wonderful drawl.

Has it really come to this?

Old farts screaming for the government to keep its hands off Medicare! Mob rule at town meetings. May the gods help us all.

Bill Maher on American stupidity

Until we admit there are things we don't know, we can't even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can't stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: "My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying... It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" To which most Americans would respond: "Are you calling my mother a drunk?"

Read it.

Extraordinary books

My short list of books that absolutely blew me away -- and still do.
  • Love's Body by Norman O. Brown
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee
  • The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, a libretto by Bertolt Brecht
  • Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell
  • The Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
  • Genesis Angels by Aram Saroyan
  • Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss

Recall numbers

I read in the paper yesterday that our leader says we have 4500 signatures so far. This is terrible! To be on track, we should be at 17,000. I've turned in 120, so if 200 did the same, we'd be at 24,000, ahead of schedule -- and I'm not busting a gut doing this, I'm just VERY consistent and reliable, at the same place at the same hour, four days a week. I'm dependable.

This suggests a terrible strategy because the numbers are there. Every poll has close to a 50-50 split on the recall, which is many more than enough numbers to make it happen if, and only if, those who agree to a recall actually sign a petition. The major complaint I hear, over and over, is, Nobody knows where to sign a petition. This is because the info is online and only online -- our leader is a techie. But here's the generation gap: a high percentage of people wanting the recall are seniors without computers! They don't know where to go. I hear this constantly.

About 900 folks signed up at the website to be "active" in gathering signatures. Where are they? If each gathered only 20 so far, we'd be on track!

So something definitely has to change if this recall is going to make it. The numbers are there, more than enough. The strategy to reach the folks is not. Nor is there communication -- I had to find out where we are in the paper! Our leader should be keeping us informed, giving us pep talks.

Meanwhile I'll keep doing my same old reliable as clockwork thing. (There are little branch libraries all over the city where folks could do the same.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

2-finger picking

Doc Watson got this style from Merle Travis, after whom he named his son.

Reenlistment Blues was one of my most requested songs in my folksinging youth, right after my own Army career.

Merle Travis was a regular on a weekday all-afternoon TV country music show when I was growing up in So Cal. Sometimes mom would use the studio as a day care center while she shopped at a nearby Farmers Market, so I saw Travis many times live as a kid.

The genius of Tom Lehrer

Also check out The Recall Rag


Tom Rush, of course.

An old story relevant today

Started a book I can't put down: Rick Wartzman's Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Focusing on a single week in 1939, the book reads like a suspense novel, and I can't stop turning the pages. Quite a read. Alas, it also sounds very contemporary.

P.S. This book is less gripping later on when the author expands the focus to put the story in historical context. I would have preferred a tighter focus. This could have been a little gem, like Aram Saroyan's Genesis Angels, the best book ever written about the Beats. I ended up being disappointed (of course, I already knew all the history and context.)

American Unreason

The media really feeds these idiots. Susan Jacoby is right on:

From The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby:
"If enough money is involved, and enough people believe that two plus two equals five, the media will report the story with a straight face, always adding a qualifying paragraph noting that "mathematicians, however, say that two plus two still equals four." With a perverted objectivity that gives credence to nonsense, mainstream news outlets have done more to undermine logic and reason than could ever do."

More brooding

Perhaps the most challenging part of the video memoir will be the sensual/sexual part of the story, which contributes hugely to both the positive and negative outcomes of the story. How much to do? How literal to get? I can "fake" whatever footage I need, don't need to video any sex scenes ha ha. Not hard to find sex scenes on the net.

Cruising before sunrise

More brooding about the video memoir. Getting closer. At least I have some direction before I get down there. H is going to take video of me taking video of the reunion, since this clearly will be useful. Artistically excited and personally apprehensive about the reunion.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

More on video memoir

I'm finally getting a notion of what shape it might take. I'm getting H to get tape of me taping the reunion. And I've contacted a younger and older actress to play the "love interest" in the 60s and now, ghostly images from the past. I may need to stage some scenes later, too, esp around parties and folksinging. Not much progress but at least I'm beginning to see parts of it.

R.I.P.: Bud Schulberg

NEW YORK – Budd Schulberg, the son of a studio boss who defined the Hollywood hustle with his novel "What Makes Sammy Run?" and later proved himself a player with his Oscar-winning screenplay for "On the Waterfront," died Wednesday at age 95.


The magic in The Magic Flute

I've said here before that the Met's HD telecasts in national theaters are the best arts bargain in the country. Tonight we saw The Magic Flute, which was an abridged film based on their 2006 HD production, the first in their new series. It was spectacular.

The Magic Flute is H's favorite opera. Not mine. It doesn't make my short list. I don't buy into the heavy symbolism, myth or didactic tone, which are seldom rescued by the music for me. But what a production this is! With puppets and dazzling costumes, an amazing set, stagecraft and theatricality of the highest -- and most expensive -- order, the film is a visual feast. I really don't like the opera that much but tonight I wasn't bored for a moment.

Print On Demand and Writers

It's astonishingly easy and inexpensive to publish a paperback book today. There are great advantages and also disadvantages to writers as a result.

An advantage is expressed by a writer friend, who recently wrote me about her desire to learn how to publish POD books herself.

I want to do just what you have done: get out of those corporate clutches, bypass their absurdities, get on with my writing and to hell with their agents and their bullshit. I'll judge my own work. And Amazon for me is a way to archive what I write. Thank you, thank you for leading the way on this. Now I get what you have been up to for the last ten years, shouting in the wilderness, sometimes, but the snails like me do get there. I feel liberated, thanks to you. [name deleted] evidently does, too.

It must be said that both this writer and the one referred to are seniors with traditional writing credits in their past. One, a well known poet, had a memoir accepted by a prestigious small press but publication delayed not once or twice but three times because of a shortage of funds. She gave up and decided to publish POD herself.

These writers, like me and so many thousands of writers of literary work, have been marginalized by changes in the marketplace dictated by the corporate takeover of publishing houses and a new "bottom line" philosophy. A generation ago, literary books were published by major houses in hopes they'd break even. Then why publish them? Because they were good, even though their audience was small. It was a publisher's duty to do this, to keep the literary culture healthy.

Ha ha ha ha! Boy are those days gone!

So in the new marketplace, writers of literary books that couldn't be marketed as something else -- a mystery, a memoir, a thriller -- found few places to go to get publlished. And then came digital technology. Today writers can publish themselves with very little tech skill required, except for cover design. But should they?

There is no doubt that POD technology is a great blessing for older writers who have a track record, or at least experience, in traditional publishing. The new tech lets their work exist. Existence of work is no small benefit. At least it's out there, at least it can be found. Many of us have experiences of an old work being "rediscovered" by someone after years of gathering dust somewhere. This would not happen if the work doesn't exist somewhere. Cyberspace is as good as a library shelf.

But for younger writers, I think POD tech is a temptation to avoid. This is when it flirts with being an easier clone of Vanity Publishing. Young writers need the experience of being edited and improved, and being rejected. Rejection is an essential part of the real world. They need validation despite this. If a younger writer starts publishing POD from the start, I fear the work will suffer from the lack of editorial input, feedback, challenges -- unless the writer is a rare genius.

I would like to see major publishing houses start POD imprints of literary novels. I have no idea why they haven't done this already.

I also would like to see the birth of an influential critical journal that focuses on POD and online work with the purpose of bringing the good stuff to a wider audience. There's too much stuff out there. There's too much bad stuff even as there is good stuff.

It's all too easy today. As Stein said to Hemingway, "Remarks, Ernest, are not literature."

Library wars

A good noon hour at the library, gathering more than my bottom line of daily signatures. But a very different hour it was!

As my first signer, a man in his 70s, was at work, another 70s man passed by, saw my sign and said, The son of a bitch we should have recalled was Bush. The signer looked up and said, We should recall Obama for what he's doing to the economy. The other, He inherited the economy from Bush. And off it went, Bush v Obama as faces got redder and voices rose, I had to step in between them and declare the library a national politics Free Zone. Finally they went on their ways, screaming at one another.

At as I was packing up for the hour, another old guy passed and said, Don't you have anything better to do with your time? I told him that I'd never done anything in my life that was more appreciated by folks. He said I shouldn't distract the mayor from doing his job, he had very important things to do. I said, Yeah, like renaming streets, you mean? The guy sputtered something and retreated into the library and I came home.

So today was a little different.


Time to get new video projects scheduled, beginning with the Donnelly scripts I had to interrupt earlier. The house business should be done soon now.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Why politics sucks

Tonight is Neighborhood Watch night, when neighbors gather for block parties and park parties throughout the city to meet, come together, and help one another out with regard to crime watches, looking out for one another's kids, and so on. Since large gatherings are happening, the recall honchos have urged us to go with petitions and get signatures.

I absolutely refuse to do this. It betrays the theme of the night. This is about coming together over common interests. It's counter-productive to enter this atmosphere raising a divisive issue of partisan politics. Activists totally disagree, of course, which is the basis of my argument with them.

Nope, not for me. Instead I had my hour at the library and a good hour of signatures it was, too.

Video memoir

Maybe the theme will be, In Search of My Former Self. I was a young hotshot in grad school. The day the English chair had a reception for new grad students, my review in The New Republic appeared, which the chair had on his coffee table. I already was publishing stories in top literary magazines, including one a later teacher had been trying to get into for years. Yes, I had better literary credentials (in short fiction) than some of my professors! I was full of confidence, energy, and the reckless abandon that can come with both. The energy continued for 20 years or so, but began to dissipate after my retrospective as I became more secluded and private, though actually I believe my work continued to improve. But I was less interested in spending energy to market it.

The Performing Self, a book title that also is one of my favorite descriptions of the artist. What happened to the performance of my youth? This is a very old theme, of course.

Just brooding around an idea or two for the video. Be nice to have a sense of some direction when I start shooting. Less than two weeks away now.