Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trail Blazers legend Maurice Lucas passes away at age 58 on Sunday |

Trail Blazers legend Maurice Lucas passes away at age 58 on Sunday |

Study: Alcohol more lethal than heroin, cocaine - Yahoo! News

Study: Alcohol more lethal than heroin, cocaine - Yahoo! News

Midterm elections: Most voters will skip elections -

Midterm elections: Most voters will skip elections -

"It may be the “ tea party” movement that is fueling the great political outpouring this year, but it is an even greater grouping -- those who don’t vote at all -- who will likely determine the elections."

Oregon #1

Oregon pass Auburn to become #1 in the BCS rankings. The rest of the season will be interesting indeed. And Boise State got passed by TCU to slip to #4. I would say the top two control their own destinies now if they remain undefeated. But Oregon State would love to be a spoiler in the last game of the season! And a lot can happen between now and then.

Nancy Snow: Ted Sorensen, JFK's Speechwriter: A Tribute

Nancy Snow: Ted Sorensen, JFK's Speechwriter: A Tribute

Haiku for a funk

The waiting kills me.
Not until we show the film
Will the end be real.

Coffee hand pump

This is the best gadget I've purchased in a long time. It makes a great cup of coffee!

Reflections on Grief and Thanksgiving

A dramatic collage for four actors as performed at the Unitarian Church some years ago.


Man, the ol' post-project heebie jeebies are worse than usual re the film. I can think of a number of reasons why, the most interesting being the autobiographical subtext of the story and its juxtaposition with the end of a certain path in my career.

A writer/filmmaker's relationship to his work is a mine field. And everything changes over time, of course. I look back at some of my short stories from the 60s and 70s and plays from the 80s and think, Man, this is great stuff, did I actually do that? And yet, at the time, I'm sure I was depressed after finishing it, wondering if it was worth a shit, if I'd just wasted still more of my time.

There's no answer because there's no question. The solution is to move on, though in the past I'd go on quite a bender to celebrate, or not, the end of a project before I cleared my head enough to move on. Actually those were pretty fun times, by and large, nothing like reckless abandon if you can survive it, and miraculously I survived far more than I had a right to survive, the gods caring for me for reasons still unknown.

The long Christmas break between terms will be an excellent time for me to regroup and get ready for a new direction in 2011. In the meantime, it's one foot after the other and a readiness to duck at any moment.

Virtual debate

Since Oregon's candidates for governor had only one debate and won't otherwise be seen together, Oregon Public Broadcasting brought together diverse clips of their views on comparable issues and put together a Virtual Debate, which is a great idea but which also gives considerable power to the entity arranging the clips. A lot of editorial manipulation is invited in this format. It's no substitute for a real debate but perhaps better than nothing.

Somewhere in the middle

I suppose my film isn't as good as I wanted it to be but isn't as bad as it might have been. I like the last half better than the first half -- indeed, the ten minutes cut from full to shorter versions all come from the first half.

I wish November 10th would get here. I feel like a guy waiting for vacation to start.

A student script to read today, the main item on the agenda. Practice banjo and piano.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rally for Sanity

Palin for President? Not Much Support, Poll Finds

Palin for President? Not Much Support, Poll Finds

Post partem

It usually happens this way. A week or two after completing a project, a little depression sets in. Part is missing the high of the creative process. Part is worry that your project isn't worth a shit. The mood passes, usually helped by renewed obsession about a new project.

Maybe the purpose of doing a new project is to distract oneself from the depression of the previous project. Nov 10th can come soon enough. Wrap this sucker up in a very official way.

Brain power

Columbia is making a comeback in the 4th quarter, now only 10 points behind. Making a game of it. I really am enjoying this game by amateurs. This is what college sports is really about, or should be about. Let the NFL form its own farm system and stop using colleges and universities. Get rid of all athletic scholarships, that would shake up things immediately.

LATER. Now a 3 pt game with six minutes left. What fun. I'm rooting for Yale, even though Kerouac went to Columbia and even played football there, because I was so impressed with campus and New Haven when I attended the first Hypertext Conference there some years back. Fell in love with the place, as a matter of fact.

Reading on YouTube

I didn't realize a reading some time ago had been put onto YouTube by JMM. I'm reading my short story "Lessons From the Cockroach Graveyard" on First Wednesday at Blackbird Wineshop, where my film will be shown on Nov. 10. Sound not in sync in part one, which makes it interesting.

Pop lit

I don't read a lot of popular novels. Damn few. Now and again I try. I remember trying several times to read The Da Vinci Code but never getting far, the last time throwing it across the room in disgust after about a dozen pages, so terrible did I consider the writing. However, there are a few pop lit writers whom I greatly admire. Elmore Leonard is at the top of the list. And more recently, Joseph Kanon, who writes WWII and Cold War thrillers. I just picked up his latest set in Hollywood during the witch hunt years.

I prefer Kanon to Leonard because I relate to his stories better. I love his first novel, Los Alamos, a thriller set in the Manhattan Project. The new one is starting out well and might rival this as my favorite by the end. We'll see.

Of course, I have my own novella about the Cold War, Baumholder 1961 but this is a literary book in the tradition of Catch-22 and M.A.S.H., not a pop lit book. The closest I've come to a popular genre are two mysteries, The Deadly Doowop and Dead Body In A Small Room, which was a finalist for one of those awards created to make authors buy into marketing plans. Most awards and contests are like this, based on the ego needs of authors rather than on the literary health of the culture.

Yale is beating up Columbia pretty badly in the first half. But what a joy to watch a football game that looks like a game, played by students enjoying themselves, rather than by egomaniac future football pros.

Is this all there is?

Dorothy Parker wrote that she hated writing but loved having written. I'm the opposite. I love the work itself, especially near the end of the process when things come together and the work really takes shape, and nothing that happens afterward is as satisfying. Not money, not popularity, not awards, not rave reviews, all of which I've experienced (as well as their opposites) -- nothing comes close to matching the intensity and excitement and satisfaction of seeing the work finally take shape. Often this happens alone, a solitary writer, a solitary film editor, but sometimes the moment is shared with a small group, a playwright in late rehearsal. When the work is done, it begins a new process of change by social and political forces within which it now must exist. It changes for the worse. Nothing again will match the creator's joy in seeing the work come alive. Now it's a corpse poked at by strangers.

This is why I never liked opening night receptions in the theater. Here I am, the playwright, and I always felt like I'd crashed a party where I don't belong. In my drinking days I got through it by feeding a constant buzz that removed me from the scene. I smiled and said thank you a lot. Oops, my glass is empty, excuse me. Without this crutch, I try to avoid the occasion entirely, which of course happens less often than in the distant past.

This is not to say I won't have a good time on November 10th at the showing of The Farewell Wake. I'll enjoy the actors. But I'm not sure I'll enjoy the film. I may even have to escape to Starbucks up the street while it's playing. First, we are not watching the version I prefer -- my choice because at a party staged for the benefit of the actors, it's not polite to put some on the cutting room floor, especially for no fault of their own. This evening will be a celebration of actors, my cast, first and foremost, and I will be delighted to be there for this part of the program. But watching the film, which I've already seen dozens and dozens of times? We'll see. Of course, I hope they like it. It's so much theirs. I think they will.

On November 11th I'll have a blank slate, which I really look forward to.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Goddamn it, feeling ... no, mind over matter!

A day of chores

Inside, outside,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saturday games

The two Saturday college football games I am looking forward to are: Columbia v. Yale ... and Harvard v. Dartmouth. Yes! Football by players for whom an education comes first. Players for whom college is not a stepping stone to professional football. Football by players who treat it as a ... game! I love it.

Fight fiercely, harvard,
Fight, fight, fight!
Demonstrate to them our skill.
Albeit they possess the might,
Nonetheless we have the will.
How we shall celebrate our victory,
We shall invite the whole team up for tea
(how jolly!)
Hurl that spheroid down the field, and
Fight, fight, fight!

Fight fiercely, harvard,
Fight, fight, fight!
Impress them with our prowess, do!
Oh, fellows, do not let the crimson down,
Be of stout heart and thru.
Come on, chaps, fight for harvard's glorious name,
Won't it be peachy if we win the game? 
(oh, goody!)
Let's try not to injure them, but
Fight, fight, fight!
And do fight fiercely!
Fight, fight, fight!
          --Tom Lehrer

World’s Most Precise Clocks Could Reveal Universe Is a Hologram | Wired Science |

World’s Most Precise Clocks Could Reveal Universe Is a Hologram | Wired Science |


Today will be a celebration in class. I'll have the better midterms read by their authors, and there are enough of them to fill the entire class time. Typically the midterm is when the "light goes on" and students start writing like screenwriters. A few are still shooting themselves in the foot but not many. So today celebrates progress -- and the real work for the remainder of the term, which is taking the basics for granted and focusing on good efficient film storytelling.

My Life In Letters

I came to writing late. I didn't start writing seriously until after I was discharged from the Army. My first success was as a short story writer and by the end of the 1960s I was publishing regularly in literary magazines. In 3 of 4 consecutive years during this period, I placed a story on the Roll of Honor in the annual Best American Short Stories anthology, a list of the best 100 stories of the year. This put me in very heady company indeed. Agents used this list as a clearing house and I had several in NY waiting for my first novel. At this very moment, in one of two changes of focus that likely hurt my career, at least as usually defined, I abandoned fiction for writing for the stage. The agents were left waiting. My best stories are collected in The Man Who Shot Elvis And Other Stories.

I received my MFA in Playwriting from the University of Oregon in the early 70s, went east for a while, and in the late 70s returned west to settle in Portland. I was in the right place at the right time, Portland about to explode into a vibrant theater center. I was lucky to find three directors excited about my work: Steve Smith at Theatre Workshop, Gary O'Brien at New Rose Theatre and Peter Fornara at Cubiculo Theatre. For a decade from the late 70s to late 80s, they were my champions. The best of this work is collected in Seven Plays, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

I had an agent in NY excited about my work. And once again, just when it looked like things might go my way on the national scene, I changed focus. This time to what is now called hyperdrama. Smith commissioned me to write one for the Pittock Mansion and I was hooked. Over the next decade I wrote and had 7 hyperdramas produced. As near as I can tell, this is more than any other writer in the world. Indeed, one history credits me with coining the term "hyperdrama," but I have no recollection of this. I started using hyperdrama because I was involved with hypertext. At any rate, my most ambitious hyperdrama was a retelling of Chekhov's The Seagull in the form.

In the 1990s I returned to fiction. Primarily I did this to take advantage of the new print-on-demand technology. I decided to abandon the commercial world of writing, where I was something of an outcast from the start, and now I had a new home for my work. A librarian at the University of North Carolina was so impressed with my online work in hypertext that she offered to host my archive in their electronic Ibiblio collection. I took her up on it. About the same time, I made arrangements with Special Collections in the University of Oregon Library to host my hard copy archive. I decided to complete my journey by writing for myself and my archives. This freed me to be even less commercial than I normally would be. Interestingly enough, the first work with this focus were rather traditional novels, Love At Ground Zero and Kerouac's Scroll. I made no attempt to find a traditional publisher for these. They would make little money even if marketed this way, and I had no desire whatever to go on a book tour. I was increasingly a stay-at-home kind of guy, practically a recluse after I quit drinking in 1993. My job now was to write something, put it in my archives, and write something else. I no longer belonged to the Portland writing community; I was invisible in this regard.

In the summer of 2007 I discovered digital film technology and started shooting films with a Flip minicam. I found myself working largely with the same group of actors, calling ourselves Small Screen Video. The best of these efforts is probably Deconstructing Sally. I just finished a first feature, The Farewell Wake

Once again I find myself changing direction. I plan to make a series of Art Song Music Videos, composing the songs myself. If I stay healthy, I hope to do a short animated chamber opera. From wordsmith to notesmith, as I end my journey.

The adventure never ends and, as Camus wrote, the struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart.

I like being invisible but I wish my work was more visible. When I reach the final invisibility, I embrace the common writer's fantasy that it will be. I'll never know.

Ibiblio Literary Archive

University of Oregon Archive

Interviews, Writers, Quotes, Fiction, Poetry - Paris Review

Interviews, Writers, Quotes, Fiction, Poetry - Paris Review

The Paris Review interviews online, all 57 years of them. What a treasure!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

IPads Gain Prominence in Hollywood -

IPads Gain Prominence in Hollywood -

Socrates – a man for our times | Books | The Guardian

Socrates – a man for our times | Books | The Guardian

A Rally for Sarah Stalin

The United States Of Movies: Map Assigns A Flick To Every State (PICTURE)

The United States Of Movies: Map Assigns A Flick To Every State (PICTURE)

Birthday dinner, World Series, midterms

A busy evening! I guess I'm rooting for Texas in the series, childhood over my usual west coast loyalties. A tad over half done with midterms, can finish in the morning but would prefer doing more tonight. We'll see.

Practiced left hand boogie for a while. Hands need to get back in shape. Concentrating on four patterns I like.

Heard from two actors so far about trailer. They love it. And they're not even in it ha ha.

Nov. 11th!

I am beginning to see Nov. 11, the day after the showing of my film (likely its only public showing), as the official Day One of Something New, and in this context I very much look forward to it. I'm not sick of the film but I have been spending many, many, many hours with it lately. Well, maybe I am sick of it. But I like it, particularly the shorter version, and it feels right for a "final statement," "swan song," or however one wants to label the end of a career, or at least a certain focus in a career, and I am eager to write my first art song, then to find a singer to sing it, then to figure out a way to video it, my first Art Song Music Video. A new gig! New territory! New unknowns!

I'm thinking of using a line, theme, by Thoreau for the first song. I think most of my lyrics will be spinoffs from favorite literary works. I definitely want to do a series around Norman O. Brown's incredible epigrams.

So this is all quite different from "storytelling" and I truly look forward to it. Come on, Nov. 11th!

p.s. Nov. 10th will be great fun. It's a night for the actors. They deserve it. The film would be impossible without them.


I have midterms to read today but I'm getting a very slow start. I've been glowing in the satisfaction of putting the trailer up. I've been taking a little break. Fortunately, the midterms are usually a joy to read, which means they go quickly once I start.

Assassin Bug Eats Spiders After Feigning Capture | Wired Science |

Assassin Bug Eats Spiders After Feigning Capture | Wired Science |

"A species of assassin bug has been found which creeps onto spiders’ webs and pretends to be prey, then devours the spider when it comes to investigate."

Something very human about this.

Right on

My friend Eric, an actor in Portland's golden age who now lives back east, called my film "a nice reward, a life-paycheck." That strikes me as very insightful.

The Farewell Wake: a 5-min. Preview

Howard Fineman: A New Appreciation for the 'Rally to Restore Sanity'

Howard Fineman: A New Appreciation for the 'Rally to Restore Sanity':

"I now think the rally is a fateful moment in this political campaign, an indispensable plea for a smidgeon of decency in a season of crazy, vicious assaults from both sides of the aisle.

For support I call in famous Irishmen, one of them 18th century conservative icon Edmund Burke, the other 20th century poet W.B. Yeats.

Burke said, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' Yeats wrote in his poem 'The Second Coming' that, 'the center cannot hold' in an era when 'the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.'

Less than two years after Barack Obama's inauguration offered the country a moment of what I thought was peace, we are at each other's throats with an intensity not seen in decades."

Birthday II

Quite a nice birthday yesterday actually -- and today is my official birthday dinner. I heard from an east coast relative I haven't heard from in ages, also from a first cousin in Calif the same. Coming home I accidentally ran into H and got a ride, and she was bringing me my favorite chicken chow mein from the only Chinese restaurant in Portland that makes it the way I remember it as a kid before rushing off to a meeting for the night. And tonight she takes me to my favorite Italian restaurant. Not a bad sequence of events.

Today I read midterms, usually an enjoyable experience before many students start writing like screenwriters for the first time. Tomorrow we share the best in class.

And tonight the World Series begins.

I also received a nice "kudos" email about the film. I've let a few out-of-town friends see a sneak preview.

Manuscripts Suggest Jane Austen Had A Great Editor : NPR

Manuscripts Suggest Jane Austen Had A Great Editor : NPR:

"Can't remember the 'i before e' rule? Don't worry, neither could Jane Austen.

The beloved novelist — author of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma — is known for her polished prose, her careful phrasing and her precise grammar. 'Everything came finished from her pen,' Austen's brother, Henry, said in 1818, a year after his sister's death.

But now — though it may pain die-hard Austen fans — it turns out that Austen may have simply had a very good editor. Kathryn Sutherland, a professor at Oxford University, has been studying more than 1,000 original handwritten pages of Austen's prose. She's found some telling differences between the handwritten pages and Austen's finished works — including terrible spelling, grammatical errors and poor (often nonexistent) punctuation.

Sutherland talks about the manuscripts — now compiled in a digital archive — with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On the downhill side

Only two hours to go ... Boise State football awaits me at home, something to look forward to.

I am reengaging my studies in boogie woogie piano after a long absence. Not quite like starting over but close. I figure banjo and piano studies will help me keep the creative focus on music. "The new me" etc etc. Always a challenge to reinvent yourself.

One last chore

Friday I need to make a trailer and put it on YouTube.

There's a birthday balloon in the house!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's a wrap!

Just watched and approved the short version DVD master. I'm publishing this at Create Space to get a limited number of boxed copies. I like the short version a lot. It gets more difficult for me to watch the long version consequently but, yes, I still can live with it in the context of being for the actors. And I am sure someone will prefer the long version for aesthetic, not personal, reasons. There's no accounting for taste.

It is going to be a very long day tomorrow. I'm glad I got all this done first, so I won't be bugged by it.

I'm not releasing the online versions until after the Nov 10th showing.


The full version DVD is delivered for copying. It is what it is.

I am more picky with the shorter version that will go into my archives. I decided on 3 more very very minor edits, enough to have to generate a new master. Ah, me. Several more hours of rendering.

A gift

I just received an email full of wisdom and wonder from "the real Sally's" sister after her first viewing of Deconstructing Sally. Her letter is a true gift. But also private. I'm so glad she has remained my friend over the years.

I told her that Deconstructing Sally got her sister off my back, my novella Baumholder 1961 got the Army off my back, and The Farewell Wake got MYSELF off my back. And now I can travel light.

I had to fix something in the director's cut, which means regenerating the DVD source file. Rendering takes so damn long.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


It's been pointed out to me that I'm the director of my film and edited both versions, so both are director's cuts. True enough.

I suppose a more accurate contrast would be something like the public cut v. the private cut, with "the public" being the cast. That is, I wanted a version that included everyone who worked on the film in some way; and I wanted a version that wasn't so nice and was determined solely by my aesthetic values, even if that meant cutting folks out. And I've been calling only the latter the director's cut.

Since this film has no commercial life, and no consequences of note, all this means little to anyone but myself. And I want a version that includes everyone, and I want a version that's the best film I can make, and in my vocabulary the former is the full version and the latter the director's cut.

And I like the director's cut, and I can live with the full version. So both will go online.


Hundreds came to Mac's funeral. He had a very wide circle of friends and a large stable family life.

I couldn't help but remember the funeral of my dear friend Ger some years back. Less than a dozen showed up. The life and death of a solitary poet. The contrast makes me sad.

And somehow the Farewell Wake fits into this, life imitating art once again.

A season of funerals

Time to head out ... at the funeral, after a few remarks, I'll read Shakespeare's sonnet #73. About loving people well while they are still alive.

Ready to burn a test DVD of the director's cut. Man, really moving through all this mostly grunt work.

How actors changed the film story

Although we started with a story outline I'd written, two actor-related things changed the story along the way. I might learn something personal and use it. For example, Rick playing the director actually had taken a recent motorcycle trip over old Rt 66, start to finish, taking photos along the way. In 1959 I had taken a long hitch-hiking trip across the country, keeping a journal, and I combined these in the story, using my trip as his high school Rt 66 trip and having him read a passage from my actual journal, and then having him repeat the high school trip as an adult on his motorcycle, which I use, including some of his actual photos.

Martha, playing a professor and critic, says about the director's "blank walls" art exhibit, "I wish I'd thought of that," which I use as a turning point toward a better appreciation of my brother.

Claire, playing a former student, tells me I changed her life by telling her, "You can filter what's inside you." This becomes a theme carried all the way to the end of the film as my character obsesses about its meaning and turns the advice inward.

Without these three moments -- and there are others -- the film story would have been far different than it turned out to be. This is collaboration at its best: there's still only one cook in the kitchen, which avoids chaos, but others make real and story-changing contributions. (In the interest of telling the complete story, there also were a few moments when an actor added something that didn't make sense and which I missed in shooting, requiring me to edit around it.)

What a great experience this was. Just the right feel for "a swan song," as I move from narrative to art song and music.

The Moral Landscape - The Barnes & Noble Review

The Moral Landscape - The Barnes & Noble Review

A new book by Sam Harris.

Start to finish in 3 months

I started thinking (again) about a feature with the Flip in late July after some conversations about same with Mark Marchus. Then I saw Dan Yost's improvised feature film and became inspired.

I started writing a story outline, contacted some actors I'd worked with in the past, and advertised for others in Craig's list. My ad appeared on Aug. 3.

So this project, start to finish, was done in about ten weeks! With no budget except about $20 out of pocket money. This strikes me as extraordinary, made possible only by digital technology, the availability of good actors in Portland, and my own incredible energy, even for an old fart (though I pay for it much more than I used to).

I still pinch myself, as if none of this really happened. How could it?

Happy birthday to me

It's my birthday Tuesday, the day I have all day conferences with students, so I'll be plumb wore out at the end. Just as well. After a certain age, birthdays are best ignored ha ha. Maybe H will take me out to dinner after my long day.

Maybe my present to myself will be approval of a director's cut! That would be cool. Order a few boxed copies.


I just watched the full version DVD on my television set and approve of it. I'll use this as the master from which to get copies for the actors. The director's cut is the version I'll distribute to my friends and put in my archive. Both versions will remain online.

A funeral this afternoon, one at which I'll speak, for Mac Kieffer, an old friend from grad school. The first line of the film is "it was the season for funerals and retirement parties..."

Director's cut

I have it down to 1:36, ten minutes shorter than the full version, and I think that's about as far as I can take it. I'll let it sit a few days and watch again. Meanwhile, I think the full version DVD master is ready to go. Need to watch it on my TV here to double-check.

I'm a fickle sonofabitch. Ready to move on to a new project. A musical one. Notes over words. A new direction -- but still and always a serial monogamist.

First Sound Press: Warring Against the Poor: Is That What's Beginning...

First Sound Press: Warring Against the Poor: Is That What's Beginning...:

"Every time I read Orwell I’m reminded of how wide-ranging his writing actually was. He may have been the last of those minds that have such..."

Mark Marchus is doing first-rate work at his blog. Check it out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sanity food

Made a batch of sausage-lamb scrapple this afternoon. One of the better rituals in my life these days.

Made a master DVD but hate the menu I created. New menu, new try.

Harriet's art website

Check it out, it's really nicely done.

Aesthetic value

Let's say my new film has an aesthetic value of "1". I had no budget but spent maybe $20 out of pocket, coffee for actors and such, so my film has an Aesthetic Value Per Dollar quotient of .05. Remember that.

Let's say some Hollywood film has an aesthetic value 1000 times greater than mine. Yeah, right. But this is an exercise to make a point. Let's say the film's budget is $10 million. So the Hollywood film has an Aesthetic Value Per Dollar quotient of .0001.

Mine is .05. Theirs is .0001. Think about it.

Baseball, football

It was great to see Texas beat the Yankees last night. I have a soft spot in my heart for Texas. Did my first two grades in Dallas, picked up an accent that took the SoCal school system Speech Therapy to get rid of. Lived in Navy housing. Which is why I am enjoying Navy's dominance of Notre Dame so far this morning. Looks like they should win. Go Navy! says the Army vet. Childhood wins again.

Got sidetracked and designed the DVD box for the film. Very very limited number of these, mainly for my archives and libraries. Spendy in small quantities. I give the actors DVDs in clam shells.

Coming soon

Gray morning tonic

My favorite ending of any dramatic narrative in any form, any time. (I speak of the music. I HATE the way this scene is directed!)

A new idea

Woke up with an idea in my head that's compatible with my upcoming new focus on music and which also is small, compared to past projects, yet expandable as a series: to produce an art song music video. Compose the music, find an actor/classical singer, make a video with the song as background music, several minutes long. If it works, I could do others. This would hone skills for a chamber opera down the road. Very doable if I can find the right actor/singer. Will brood on this. Already have first art song in mind, from a passage by Thoreau.

Will work on director's cut today and perhaps burn DVD of the full version, which I'm not going to mess with any more.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Extraordinary day

Although I only got 1/3 of the vids uploaded to the review, I have a presentable full version of the feature now. A very productive day, in other words. I'll finish the review work tomorrow.

A rendering fool

Video reading downstairs in my basement office, video rendering upstairs on the netbook, I am a rendering fool today. Working downstairs on the feature, upstairs on new video for the review. And feeling good, I'd say I'm at 95% and almost free of this virus, with the usual gesture to my wooden head etc etc etc.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going 'Back to the Future,' 25 years later -

Going 'Back to the Future,' 25 years later -

"CNN: How difficult was it to get this script produced?
Gale: The script was rejected over 40 times by every major studio and by some more than once. We'd go back when they changed management. It was always one of two things. It was 'Well, this is time travel, and those movies don't make any money.' We got that a lot. We also got, 'There's a lot of sweetness to this. It's too nice, we want something raunchier like 'Porky's.' Why don't you take it to Disney?'"

Warner Bros Closed To Pitches Until 2011? –

Warner Bros Closed To Pitches Until 2011? –

"Agents today are�complaining to�me that Warner Bros isn't going to hire screenwriters to embark on new projects for the rest of the year. 'Warner Bros is saying it won't hear pitches or buy specs until after January 1st unless it's something close to greenlight. So writers are out of luck until�then,'"

Small satisfactions

Grad alma mater Oregon is crushing undergrad alma mater UCLA. Without mercy. However, on the bright side for a UCLA fan, Oregon looks really stupid in their designer puke yellow uniforms. And UCLA, bless their souls, is one of the few major universities without a Nike swoosh on their uniforms. But the Nike Ducks Inc. are having it easy tonight.

The best thing about the Ducks today is Coach Kelly. He called Phil Knight (Mr. Nike) "the owner" of the football team during an interview. Tell it like it is!

Updating the review

The focus for Friday! I have 3 vids from Primus to get up.

Great "show and tell" class today. Great fun, great performances, great participation.

Hope to work on director's cut tomorrow, too. Definite ideas of who/what to cut.

Man, feel like lots of things about to wrap up. 2011 as a truly "new beginning," a retirement of old modes.

HuffPost TV: Roy Sekoff: With Palin, O'Donnell Voters 'Embracing Ignorance As A Virtue'

HuffPost TV: Roy Sekoff: With Palin, O'Donnell Voters 'Embracing Ignorance As A Virtue'

This is not a new story.  See this classic...

Show and tell

Had my students design their movie posters. A great exercise for getting the mind focused on the heart of a story. Show and tell today. Some will have scribbled concepts, others professionally presented posters. I'm interested more in the concept than the art.

Rough cuts

It looks like the full version will come in at around 1:45 and a director's cut around 1:37. First estimates. Looks great on the small screen for which it's made. Won't look so good blown up at Blackbird but will be watchable.

The one and only public showing, I expect, will be at Blackbird Wineshop on Wed night, Nov 10, 7 pm. It will be online before then.

Steven Johnson: Steven Johnson's 'Where Good Ideas Come From': 6 Brilliant, World-Changing Mistakes (PHOTOS)

Steven Johnson: Steven Johnson's 'Where Good Ideas Come From': 6 Brilliant, World-Changing Mistakes (PHOTOS)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Most Distant Galaxy Ever Confirmed | Wired Science |

Most Distant Galaxy Ever Confirmed | Wired Science |

First All-Digital Science Textbook Will Be Free | Wired Science |

First All-Digital Science Textbook Will Be Free | Wired Science |

"Within 2 1/2 years, the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, named after the naturalist and founder, hopes to complete a 59-chapter digital textbook about biology called Life on Earth. As each chapter is finished, the foundation plans to put it into the hands of anyone who wants it. For free."

AMPAS Names Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Winners –

AMPAS Names Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Winners –

"This year’s winners are (listed alphabetically by author):

Destin Daniel Cretton, San Diego, Calif., “Short Term 12”
Marvin Krueger, North Hollywood, Calif., “And Handled with a Chain”
Andrew Lanham, Austin, Texas, “The Jumper of Maine”
Micah Ranum, Beverly Hills, Calif., “A Good Hunter”
Cinthea Stahl, North Hollywood, Calif., “Identifying Marks”

The winners were selected from 6,304 scripts submitted for this year’s competition."

Director's cut

I definitely am making a "director's cut" of the film, eliminating at least 4 minor characters, but I'll keep both versions online so actors on the "cutting room floor" can still access their footage. I'll show the full version at Blackbird.

I think I'm close to making a final DVD. I'll know by Monday.

Reading scripts, editing, watching baseball -- all this still in my bathrobe! I may never get dressed today.

HuffPost TV: Howard Fineman On What Christine O'Donnell's Constitutional Ignorance Says About The Tea Party (VIDEO)

HuffPost TV: Howard Fineman On What Christine O'Donnell's Constitutional Ignorance Says About The Tea Party (VIDEO):

"What's really killing here, what's damning here, is that the tea party is run in the name of rights and freedom,' Fineman told guest host Cenk Uygur. 'And all of those rights and freedoms are enshrined in the very amendments that she seems totally ignorant of.'"

Film cast

Why it's a director's film, not a screenwriter's

Many screenwriters in LaLaLand turn purple with the opening credit "a film by [director's name]". They believe it is essentially THEIR film, or at least they should get more credit. I used to be on their side of the argument -- before I started making films myself.

The reason it's a director's film is because films are made in the material world, not the imaginative one. Screenwriters "imagine" the perfect film. The perfect film never happens. Problems, unforeseen and missed, happen almost every day of a film shoot, and it is the director who fixes them, or at least addresses them, on the spot.

For example, in THE FAREWELL WAKE I had my share of problems to address. A serious one was due to my own miscasting. I had to cut around an actor whose performance I didn't like, which meant getting the scene to do its charge in a new way, a creative way. I think I succeeded. In a crucial scene between brothers, I thought my own performance in one section sucked so much that I cut it entirely. I recut so Rick, the other actor, could carry the scene more than before (my performance was good in another section). The last scene that we shot had to be re-imagined because the 3rd actor went to the wrong location. Instead of a 3 role scene, it became a 2 role scene. It works fine.

These on-the-spot changes make the final product more a director's work than a screenwriter's work. Of course, this particular film was improvised around my story outline, cutting out the screenwriter's role even more. I think it's a better film than if I had written it!

Screenwriters still whine. My playwright-self shakes my head at this because, in fact, they are whining all the way to the bank. Remember, I've made more money in my life as an essentially unproduced screenwriter than as an award-winning playwright.

Some time back I began to think of THE FAREWELL WAKE as my wake, that is as a kind of swan song for a certain part of my career, a certain area of my brain. I still think this can happen. In fact, I hope it happens. I hope my energy moves to a new focus, writing art song and chamber opera. Notes, music, before words. Maybe after over half a century of scribble, scribble, scribble, I've finally run out of things to say. When words are done, start singing without them.

The plan

Here's how I hope it happens: this weekend I study the test DVD and find corrections to make. These do NOT require going back to the source material but can be fixed within the current edit. Then I'm ready to make a final DVD.  If I have to go make to source material and reedit, everything takes much longer. I'd like to get DVDs in for copying in time to have them Nov 10th to give to actors.

While DVDs are being made, I prepare the files for my site online. This, too, takes a lot of time.

It would be great if everything was online and DVDs ready by Nov 10th. Then it could be a real party because I'd be done.

And if I was at 100% by then (feeling about 80% this morning), I really could celebrate.

Fade to black

Have a complete rough cut, burning a DVD, which will take most of the morning, for a test viewing. Comes in, including credits, at 1:46, later I'll make a director's cut and eliminate some minor characters. But not now and not for the Nov. 10th showing. And even then, I'll make both versions, full and director's cut, available online.

A day with student papers and baseball playoffs.

I like the ending of the film a lot. Rick Zimmer really makes the meeting of the brothers scene work.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Age of Stupidity

Christine O'Donnell Questions Separation Of Church & State:

"When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: 'You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?'

Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

'You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp,' Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution."

Incredible that we've come to this, viable political candidates this stupid.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Print - Philip Roth Goes Home Again - Esquire

Print - Philip Roth Goes Home Again - Esquire:

"Roth's reputation, especially when it comes to stuff like doing publicity, is daunting. He is severely smart. Suffers fools badly. Parries, rather than answers, questions."

Robert Reich: The Perfect Storm That Threatens American Democracy

Robert Reich: The Perfect Storm That Threatens American Democracy:

"We're back to the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators. The public never knew who was bribing whom."

In the can, almost

Last scene using actors shot this afternoon at Kelly's Olympian bar. An actor went to the wrong bar, it ends up, so we rethought the scene without him and it came out fine. All that's left is a short solo rap up "video diary" scene by me. By the gods, we essentially are done! Amazing.

I think it won't be as good as in my fantasy but won't be as bad as it might have been. I think I'll like it, essentially, own up to it and probably designate it my "swan song", at least for a certain part of my brain, the part that keeps me awake at night. I really am looking forward to slowing down and getting more sleep ha ha.

But I'm behind on student work and therefore have to get an early start tomorrow to catch up before class.

Creativity. Faith. Impotence.

A short essay on writing. Creativity. Faith. Impotence.

Signature breakfast

I wonder how many people have discovered, as I have, the wonderful combination of oat meal and scrapple. Few in the west, where scrapple is unknown, I presume. This morning I had what has become my most typical home breakfast: a slice of scrapple, unfried, heated for one minute in the microwave; put in a bowl and smother with cooked oatmeal; top with two fried eggs, up; add milk; optional toast and bacon. Man, this is one yummy breakfast! I bet someone in New Jersey or Pennsylvania had this breakfast recently.

The last time I had scrapple for breakfast in a restaurant was years ago at Mom's Cafe in Milford, NJ, home of my father. In fact, it's so long ago, he was still alive.

Today a leisurely day of school and home chores. I look forward to it. Short but important afternoon shoot. This morning, early, I edited 4 minutes out of the first hour without letting much blood. I think it's going to come in at about an hour and 45 minutes. To shorten it, I'd have to eliminate some cameos, easy to do, but I won't for the showing to the actors. Later I may, or may not, make a shorter director's cut with eliminations.

I actually feel better this morning than in recent weeks. Knock on my wooden head etc.

Thursday night UCLA plays at Oregon. The new #1 Ducks should be 30 pt favs or so but I would love an upset, man I'd love an upset! UCLA was my childhood team, so when my two alma matera play, childhood often wins out. My anger at Oregon for its Nike wedding softens a tad because I like the new coach so much. He called Nike "the owner" of the team. I like awareness and political incorrectness like that. Our local sports columnist hopes Oregon wins the BCS, and then as winners Kelly, the Oregon coach, blasts the BCS and pushes for a playoff system. You can criticize as a winner more effectively. This also is true with regard to literary prizes! Otherwise it sounds like sour grapes.

Here is my fantasy with regard to this. Acceptance Speech for an Award I Never Received

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A relaxing day, some editing, some watching sports, trying to keep quiet and let the body fight the lingering virus. Need to be busier tomorrow, student work to look at.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The rewards of writing

As if the day had not gone well enough already, I received an email with genuine appreciation and praise for my novel Kerouac's Scroll, from an artist whose work I admire. Praise from peers is the best praise of all. What a fine day. Cough, cough (still!).

Check out Kerouac's Scroll.

A terrific shoot!

Shooting the wake went really well -- and we were done in an hour! It's called organization and knowing what I needed because I'd already edited it all in my head. We got some terrific stuff, with 3 cameras.

I'll less pleased with the brothers scene yesterday but it will work -- I need to cut one of its 3 parts entirely because I totally suck in it. But I'm ok the rest and rick carries his share as always. I'm a lousy quiet actor, better in noisy scenes. So I have to cut around me. Hell of a deal ha ha.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A very big Friday

Shoot the important last scene between the brothers this afternoon. I'm at 90% or so and should be fine. I've structured it into 3 parts. Hope it goes really well.

I've downsized online by deleting several minor blogs I maintained.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ellen Sterling: Want To Break Through & Get Heard In Hollywood? This Panel May Have The Answer For You

Ellen Sterling: Want To Break Through & Get Heard In Hollywood? This Panel May Have The Answer For You:

"'Finally, you have to be aware that today it's much more difficult than ever before to get theatrical distribution so you have to consider other possibilities -- the internet, online distribution, TV and, perhaps, distribution abroad first.

'What sets some people apart and gets them attention and a long career?' she asks. 'It is business sense and ability to change with the market.'"

Swan song

If everything works out, the feature will be a kind of "swan song" in my career, my last effort to tell a significant story, the curtain to a certain stage in my career. I think this would be appropriate for several reasons, not the least of which is that the film has an "upper" ending, rare in my work. I like the idea of "going out" with positive energy. I might not have another upper ending in me ha ha.

I am not quitting, I am changing focus. I'll do smaller things. I'll decrease my grasp. I'll be less ambitious. Long overdue, in truth. And I'll bring music front burner, also overdue.

I really look forward to this -- but the film has to work for me for this to make sense. I don't like "quitting" with something I personally don't like. So far, the film looks good to me. I think there's a good chance I'll like the finished product. Not perfect, mind you, but good enough to do the job, to be the swan song.

Well, we'll find out soon enough now. Maybe even next week at this time.

Love Makes You Increasingly Ignorant of Your Partner | Wired Science |

Love Makes You Increasingly Ignorant of Your Partner | Wired Science |

"BASEL, Switzerland — Long-lasting marriages may thrive on love, compromise and increasing ignorance about one another. Couples married for an average of 40 years know less about one another’s food, movie and kitchen-design preferences than do partners who have been married or in committed relationships for a year or two, a new study finds."

How to Make A White Hole in Your Kitchen Sink | Wired Science |

How to Make A White Hole in Your Kitchen Sink | Wired Science |

"That ring of water in your kitchen sink is actually a model white hole. For the first time, scientists have shown experimentally that liquid flowing from a tap embodies the same physics as the time-reversed equivalent of black holes."

Letter to a dead soul brother

Hey Richard,

Just a quick note to tell you how much I miss your wit and laughter. With the political scene even crazier and more surrealistic than when you left us in 1998, with the dumbest political candidates in the history of politics on the scene now -- well, maybe not -- you would have a full time job cracking jokes about them. 

Nothing new on my end -- well, I'm shooting a feature digital film, I guess you could say that's new. I should finish this month. I'm hoping it's a period at the end of one trajectory in my professional life. I'm ready to slow down and have a new focus, i.e. retire as a writer and storyteller. Focus on music. Catch up on reading. 

I wish I could figure out how to move to the desert without getting divorced. I'm cold most of the time.

Think about you often, brother, and very definitely miss your laughter and sense of the absurd. The world is much worse than when you left it. 

Guarded optimism

Continue to feel "improved" and may be approaching 90%. A very very big scene to shoot tomorrow afternoon. If the scene bombs, the movie bombs. Nothing like pressure.

Looking forward to class today, first sharing of student work.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best of CEATEC 2010: 9 Amazing Innovations (PHOTOS)

Best of CEATEC 2010: 9 Amazing Innovations (PHOTOS)

My best film

Watch Deconstructing Sally, probably my best film. But maybe the feature will be ... ?

Read a review of Deconstructing Sally.

New schedule

My last scene to shoot with actors is rescheduled for Monday. That same week I hope to finish the stuff I have left to do solo. Then I can finish editing and be done. Whew. A longer journey than I expected when I began. I retain optimism that the journey will be worth it to others. It already is worth it to me.

Slowing down

After the feature is done, I really look forward to slowing down. This project has taken a lot out of me -- as in, I'm too old for this shit. However, I am very glad that I did it. I rather think it was now or never. I don't see any projects this ambitious ahead of me. I see 2011 as the beginning of a quieter, less ambitious time for me. We'll see.

A slow good day in progress

Only a few more students to read. So far, 2 "natural born screenwriters" in class, which is great. Others, the majority, have the usual problems at this early stage, all easily remedied.

Been watching the rescue of the miners in the background. Quite a feat. Humans at our best can be inspiring to watch. But alas, we live in a zero-sum universe, as if with every rescue another serial killer gets born. Hmm, there's an interesting concept for a sci-fi thriller. Not for me to write, however. But interesting nonetheless.

I need to get some yard work done, which means getting to 100%, before the rainy season starts.

Very big scenes to shoot Fri and Sat. I'd like to feel a little better by then.

We're Number One! 11 Things America 'Wins' At (PHOTOS)

We're Number One! 11 Things America 'Wins' At (PHOTOS)


Mistresses and wives clash over trapped Chilean miners - Telegraph

Mistresses and wives clash over trapped Chilean miners - Telegraph:

"Tensions are rising above ground as wives and mistresses of the 33 miners trapped deep within the San Jose mine make rival claims for compensation."

Culture Evolves Slowly, Falls Apart Quickly | Wired Science |

Culture Evolves Slowly, Falls Apart Quickly | Wired Science |

"Societies come together slowly, but can fall apart quickly, say researchers who applied the tools of evolutionary biologists to an anthropological debate."

Scrapple at last

Our recent house guests eat Jewish kosher, which eliminated just about everything I enjoy, but I went along for the ride, a silent half-host. So this morning is the first scrapple for breakfast I've had in a week. Back to normal!

Guarded optimism

I feel better today than any recent morning, which may be a sign I'm finally on the downhill side of this virus. I'm glad I don't have to shoot today, though, which means I can spend a leisurely day with student first script pages, stretching two hours work over a slow day.

But I have to make up for the missed shoot. Next week is the only possibility, which pushes back the end.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mary Flower

Video profile

Virus morphing

Coughing stopped, mostly, but replaced by incredible lack of energy. Indeed I've slept most of the day, up to come to office hours now and class soon. Strange change.

An actor had to cancel tomorrow's shoot, which is just as well as I may have ended up cancelling it myself. Pick up first script pages today so tomorrow is full with reading anyway, or I hope it is. 3 weeks dancing with this virus now, someone can cut in at any time.

I'm still excited about finishing the film as a kind of plot point to move in a new direction. Music the focus.

Poem of the day

Deleted by request

--Bill Deemer

Is a poem like this "a downer"? Some, perhaps most, would think so. However, I find this exhilarating because it is true, or at least true from a certain perspective of reality, and insights like this are energizing to me. This is why my view of life is comic, not tragic. This is the sense in which Camus calls Sisyphus happy.

Birthplace of Modern Astronomy Faces Uncertain Future | Wired Science |

Birthplace of Modern Astronomy Faces Uncertain Future | Wired Science |

"WILLIAMS BAY, Wisconsin— Albert Einstein once said that he'd rather visit the Yerkes Observatory than Niagara Falls. And visiting this historic place, you can understand why."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Home town fans

In general, I love watching the home town fans at a sporting event. I love their enthusiasm and sense of community. However, there are two exceptions -- and for the same reason. The fans of baseball's Atlanta Braves and college football's Florida State Seminoles drive me bonkers with their tomahawk chops and Indian war cries. One of the most absurd things I've seen was Jane Fonda, when she was married to Ted Turner, doing the chop at a Braves home game. Talk about changing your image!

Fortunately, the Braves lost tonight so I don't have to hear the fans until next season.

Slipping and sliding

Late afternoon minor relapse, the virus flexing its tenacity. But I'm going to win this bodily battle.


Might be up to 85% on the health scale ... looking forward to 100%.

Students at Portland's Lincoln High School unplug, experience life without technology |

Students at Portland's Lincoln High School unplug, experience life without technology |

"For four days this week, Elise Cramer didn't pick up her cell phone. The 17-year-old Lincoln High School senior didn't check Facebook or turn on the television, either.

She and 53 other Lincoln students participated in a technology fast for the school week, which was shortened by a day for teacher in-service time.

Cramer coped better than one might expect for someone her age.

'It's liberating kind of,' she said. 'You're not connected, and you get to discover new things.'"

And now the news

A big week begins

And the sun is shining, at least for a bit, after days of rain. 3 days of filming, first script pages from students, lots happening this week. And, no small matter, our house guests leave today. Back to a normal routine. I am a man who loves my normal routine. Even when it opens the door to unsolicited advice. Amazing how many people think they know what's best for you. One of the more comic traits of the species, I think.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

First Sound Press: Life's Absurd! What About Becoming a Great Singer...

First Sound Press: Life's Absurd! What About Becoming a Great Singer...:

"Is That All There Is? This is by far the best take (on video) of this unusual song. I think it was newer to her at this appearance, and ..."

‘The Social Network’ Holds For #1 Again; ‘Life As We Know It’ Comes Close For #2, ‘Secretariat’ Comes Up Lame #3 –

‘The Social Network’ Holds For #1 Again; ‘Life As We Know It’ Comes Close For #2, ‘Secretariat’ Comes Up Lame #3 –

"All weekend, rival studio execs snarked to me about how the Secretariat marketing campaign was 'horrid,' in the words of one. 'The only audience interested was old females, but the print and the spots made it look like an action movie. Where was The Blind Side's spunky female empowerment, the comedy, the romance?' Criticized another, 'I think when you take the beautiful Diane Lane and turn her into a frumpy aged-up woman, you're flirting with danger. Then there's the whole horse thing, which is probably second only to boxing in moviegoing 'who cares?'. Plus, Seabiscuit opened in summer when there was a dearth of adult pictures and it really stood out. This one is awash in a sea of adult movies.'"

Portland's Mike Rich wrote this. I suspected it would bomb when I heard it was being made by Disney, which meant feel good etc, and also because the story didn't have the historical significance of Seabiscuit. So this doesn't surprise me at all.

Writing as resolution, or monkeys off my back

Sometimes writing, a particular work, has magnified meaning to its author. Thus in recent years, my novella Baumholder 1961, which got my Army experience during the Cold War off my back, and my short film Deconstructing Sally, which got the ghost of an ex-wife off my back. Each dealt with important and pivotal experience in my personal life that I had not "resolved," in the sense of understanding their meanings so I might move on. "Everything is material," I well knew, and here was some of the best material I had but I yet had shaped it dramatically into as powerful a narrative as the material deserved. And this bugged the hell out of me. What kind of writer was I if I couldn't even make use of my "best" personal material?

Sally happened by accident. I was invited to a graduate class reunion, which would return me to the scene of the crime, as it were, thrust me back among the people and the memories where the seminal experience had occurred. I went to the reunion not knowing what I would do except shoot a ton of video. Then something would occur to me, I assumed, as indeed it did, resulting in the "fictional memoir" that most observers consider my best film.

Baumholder happened a different way. I knew for decades my Army experience had been so surrealistic that it was material for a novel. I assumed a typical epic "Army Novel" in the tradition of James Jones or Norman Mailer. Only the material was more like M.A.S.H. and Catch-22. "Big novels" in any case. I made dozens and dozens of false starts through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Then one day, in a moment of frustration, I sat down and made a list of the essential things I wanted to communicate in my Army novel. I discovered it really wasn't all that much -- which is when it occurred to me I could do this in a shorter form, a novella, setting the entire story in one day, the day the Berlin Wall starts being built. Eureka! I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Ever since coming up with the ending of my feature The Farewell Wake I've had a sense that this project, too, might have special personal significance. But what monkey is still on my back that needs removal? This morning it occurred to me: the monkey is myself! This film might get myself off my back. Indeed, the narrator in the film is very much myself with my issues and his resolution, dropping out to become something of a private hedonist, his dog his companion, sounds very much like a remedy for my own fretting about the world. At least metaphorically. We'll find out soon enough if this notion has legs. I retain a sense that this film is special in my life in some way.

Something else I've been thinking about recently: James Otis burning his life's work. Otis is the man John Adams called "the first Patriot," the leader of the "no taxation without representation" movement, by which he meant representation not divorce. So history, the way things went, drove Otis literally mad and he was hauled out of Boston in a straitjacket, thinking the world had gone mad. After the revolution, he burned all his life's writing, which was going to be edited by his sister, Mercy Otis Warren, who is considered our first playwright. Otis became very depressed that the victorious Americans were still dancing the minuet and acting like regality, especially Hancock and friends.

At any rate, I can see why a man would get so depressed at how the world has changed that he'd destroy his life's work, assuming it meant nothing any more. I've had similar thoughts myself, and I'm sure I'm far from alone. More than once I've come close to deleting this entire blog, for example. But I babble on.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


I've never had a stronger sense of community than when I lived here during the late 70s through the 80s. Professionally, it was my most visible (as opposed to productive) period locally, with three talented directors committed to doing my work, Steve Smith at Theatre Workshop, Gary O'Brien at New Rose Theatre and Peter Fornara at Cubiculo Theatre, the latter two where I was playwright-in-residence. Only one play written during this period, Song of the Salmon, was not immediately produced. Personally I had many friends and acquaintances that I saw almost daily. I had a strong sense of belonging and contributing to Portland -- and indeed, in 1999, in its 25th anniversary, Willamette Week named me as one of those who in the past 25 years had "made Portland Portland." My participation in the community had been noticed (reference).

I say this because today, still in Portland, I have no sense of belonging to community whatever. Indeed, no one in the theater community, where my past activity had been strongest, who has been here less than twenty years has any evidence that I exist. This is not all a consequence of my "retirement" as a playwright. After a theater dedicated a season to my work in the late 80s, "Charles Deemer's Oregon," I became dead as a playwright here. The retrospective was, in fact, a funeral. Only one play was done here in the 90s, a play that bombed despite being a finalist for a prestigious award in Ireland after its premiere there (the play was "Who Forgives?").  My divorce from the local theater community was aided by my sudden obsession with hyperdrama and by the departure of my three supporters: Smith retired, O'Brien left town to care for his father in Ohio, and Fornara died much too young. Had I been single I would have left Portland in the early or mid 90s, I suspect. I didn't like any of the changes in the city. Still don't. Been my wife loves Portland, and here we are. Portland State University asked me to start a screenwriting program, which I did and where I still love teaching, the best thing about the city for me now.

Although my career is dead here, my stage actually widened as I became active on the net. Plays got done in Ireland, Chile, Mexico; students in Sweden and Denmark studied my hyperdramas; I was invited to submit papers to academic meetings, the latest a submission of a series of videos to a 2008 hypertext conference in Pittsburgh (I had attended the first ever hypertext conference at Yale some years before) (see Changing Key). And yet none of this activity and recognition actually gives me a sense of "community." I'm not sure why.

So I work in isolation. That's my sense of what I do. I have little sense of "having an audience." My real audience are my archives at the universities of Oregon and North Carolina, which is to say, I have a stronger sense of writing for future strangers, whom I assume to exist, than for any contemporaries. It's a very different feeling than the feeling of community I had thirty years ago. And perhaps my sense of "a future audience" for my work is an egotistical delusion. I'll never know. If I'm writing only for myself, then that's unfortunate because I don't get as much satisfaction from my work as I did when I was younger. Mainly I get tired. Very tired.

I look forward to finishing the film, putting it online, showing it at Blackbird, and then returning to Alice and my animated chamber opera. Very much look forward to this. Music comes front burner after the film is done.

Of course, I have the strongest sense of all of having lived a charmed, blessed life. It's not hard to find those who haven't.

Friday, October 08, 2010


Taking the weekend off to hang with the guests but in truth I look forward to next week when I have three shooting days, close to finishing up.

I am thinking there may be two versions of my film: "a full version" and a "director's cut." That is, if it is longer than I wish, which appears to be the case, I think the only way to reasonably cut it is to eliminate some characters. But I hate to do that since I am working with volunteer actors who have done good work. So there might be a version when I use everyone and a version when I tighten things up at the expense of eliminating a few folks. I know two I could cut, for example, and the main story wouldn't be hurt at all and I'd cut about five minutes. Well, I'll wait until I have it all done and then decide. But I do think eliminating entire characters, rather than tightening scenes, is the way I'd bring it to 90 minutes, which is my goal. I may be looking at around 105 or 110 minutes when I'm done. And maybe it works at that length and my pre-conceived length is just wrong.

Job Creation Idea No. 8: Time For A New WPA

Job Creation Idea No. 8: Time For A New WPA

Hear, hear!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

First Sound Press: Willie Nelson's Crazy. How do You Write a Hit So...

First Sound Press: Willie Nelson's Crazy. How do You Write a Hit So...:

"Willie Nelson wrote Crazy in 1961. He wrote it for country singer Billy Walker, but Walker turned it down. Patsy Cline, a big country sta..."

Nobel Prize Snubs In Literature: 9 Famous Writers Who Should Have Won (PHOTOS)

Nobel Prize Snubs In Literature: 9 Famous Writers Who Should Have Won (PHOTOS)

Graham Greene should be at the top of this list.

D J Taylor: When will Philip Roth become a Nobel Laureate? - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent

D J Taylor: When will Philip Roth become a Nobel Laureate? - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent

Again, not this time around. Overdue!

Getting better

I'm maybe at 75 or 80% now and as long as I don't have a relapse, recovery should be near.

Father, son, baseball

A nice moment on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" today when Mike G talked about watching the no-hitter last night with his 7-year-old son, who was excited and into it, jumping up and down at every out from the 7th inning on, a cherished moment. Glad he shared it. I recall moments in sports with my own dad, going to see football games at the LA Coliseum. But dad was also into sports I didn't care about like auto racing and boxing, though listening to boxing on the radio is a live memory from my youth.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It's loud in Philadelphia!

Roy Halladay pitced a no-hitter in his first post-game appearance. Ah, the fans in Philly are going nuts. Love it. Beats the hell out of politics.


Got my class work done, which takes the pressure off tomorrow.

Damn, my new hand pump makes a GREAT cup of coffee!

Enjoying the Phillies game, in sync with a ton of relatives in New Jersey rooting for them as well.

Sugar Ray Robinson Steps Into Biopic Ring –

Sugar Ray Robinson Steps Into Biopic Ring –

Writers Make Trailer For Their Screenplay –

Writers Make Trailer For Their Screenplay –

Leisurely work

Lots to do for class and house chores today. H taking guests on a tour, I believe. I'll hang here and try to finish my work so I don't have the pressure to do it before class tomorrow.

Looks like the film may come in at 1 hr 45 mins or so, which I think is too long, so I need to look closely at where I can cut scenes.

I am actually feeling better today. Knock on my wooden head.

Sick House

Ah, the guests arrived sick so now we can exchange germs. Otherwise I've been feeling better ... now to avoid a relapse of guest germs.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Office hours

Moving slowly but coughing less -- and nothing to do today but show a film. Home to guests, however. Not my favorite environment.

Monday, October 04, 2010

'I'm Still a Hippie Chick': Susan Sarandon interview - Telegraph

'I'm Still a Hippie Chick': Susan Sarandon interview - Telegraph

Invisible Ink

This excellent book by Brian McDonald on film storytelling is now available free online.

Invisible Ink

An acclaimed guide to storytelling by an award winning screenwriter

More than 130 retired lawmakers urge a return to civility in politics |

More than 130 retired lawmakers urge a return to civility in politics |

Wishful thinking? The patients, after all, appear to be running the mental ward.

Even Gunga Din gets tired

One of those days I would have liked to stay in bed. But I had to take the car in early for a brake job and I've been cruising at half-energy ever since. Worse, H's plane comes in very late tonight, far past my bedtime, so I can't crash early. Tomorrow won't be too bad in class, though, I am showing "Tales from the Script,."

On days like this, the thought occurs to me that maybe the film is about my wake. It certainly got more personal than I envisioned at the top. Hmm.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Khan Academy

Impressive free online education, primarily in math and science, is available at the Khan Academy. I'd love to see this approach expand to other subject areas.


An invigorating breakfast, even on half cylinders, with Mark of First Sound Press, a blog filled with prose and video worth your attention. Mark is inspiring -- and not only because he's older than I am.

Now I'm home, quiet and recovering and preparing for an afternoon shoot, thank the gods an easy one. Or should be.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Service academies

TV announcer at the end of Air Force - Navy game, which the former won as underdog. "If you only get to see one football game, see this one, or another service academy game, it's the way football is supposed to be played. Pure class."

I couldn't agree more and the contrast is greater than ever in this era of corporate sports arrogance. This is why Army-Navy is my favorite football game and probably always will be. Even if both teams have winless seasons, this is the best football you can see. This is what sports is supposed to be about. College teams used to demonstrate this kind of post-game attitude but you seldom see it any more. Instead, some Oregon thug punches out an opposing player. Very sad what has happened at Oregon and many other universities.

Saturday, hanging in

Mowed the worst part of the yard but may regret it.

Bought a coffee hand pump, which makes a great single cup of expresso or Americano, easy to make, easier to clean, I love it (esp at the 1/3 sale I caught).

UCLA looking okay but not great.


I found someone with the worst sense of direction I've ever seen. An actor was supposed to come over this morning to record some audio. He lives across the river, about half an hour from here. Pretty direct route. Well, not only did he get lost, but he called from 15 miles away, far north of here, so far off course I am fascinated how he manged to get there. We decided to do it another day and I tried to give him directions toward his home. Amazing.


The Friday shoot wasn't my best work but I'm not reshooting it, though I probably would if this were a commercial project. It's usable but definitely could be better. What I get for directing at half-energy. The actors, bless them, make it work despite my poor efforts.

An old friend from grad school, Mac Kieffer, passed away. I learned yesterday from an actress and mutual friend, whom I haven't seen in over 20 years. I think I'll speak briefly at the memorial later in the month.

Friday, October 01, 2010

R.I.P. Stephen J. Cannell –

R.I.P. Stephen J. Cannell –

"One of the most successful�creatives ever to work in the television business has died. Rockford Files and The A-Team and 38 other shows producer and writer Stephen J. Cannell passed away at his home in Pasadena last night due to complications associated with melanoma. 'He was surrounded by his family and loved ones,' his family said. He was 69. Cannell also was the bestselling author of sixteen novels, most recently the critically acclaimed Shane Scully series and the newest installment, The Prostitute’s Ball, will be released�on October 12th."

A good shoot, I think

Felt good but haven't looked at clips. A very long coughing miserable drive home, despite the wonderful 50s rock I found on the radio. Taking it very easy ... BYU, Utah State game on at 5, vegetate and try not to cough.