Sunday, July 31, 2011

The deal sucks

This deal really sucks. From Daily Kos:
Let's keep this simple, and let's not kid ourselves:
If the committee fails to reach $1.2 trillion, it will trigger an automatic across the board spending cut, half from domestic spending, half from defense spending, of $1.5 trillion. The domestic cuts come from Medicare providers, but Medicaid and Social Security would be exempted. The enforcement mechanism carves out programs that help the poor and veterans as well.
If the committee fails? As if the Republicans want it to succeed. All they have to do is to ensure that it will fail and then there will be $750,000,000,000 of domestic spending cuts.
It will get worse.
I mean, are Democrats so stupid that they believe Republicans want this committee to succeed -- when they get huge domestic cuts if it fails? This is insane.

Mixed day

Great writing day, which saves it, because we're hosting a late afternoon BBQ, which doesn't excite me. I'll get through it but not much else. I'd rather have my own solitary company today than pretend to be social.

I probably should be living alone and incognito in a small southwestern desert town. Doing my work and minding my own business.

Oh what a good boy am I

Instead of opening the Sunday Times first thing, I'm down in my office, working on a vignette. Coffee at hand, vignette almost done, perfect way to start the day.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


This has been a very exciting day. I got a lot of chores done but most importantly the novella started coming together in important ways with the addition of new structural elements. Tons of work ahead, of course, but it's looking good early on.

The King


A few decades ago, I acted in a couple short films by Terry Simons, who founded Round Bend Press, and he's just re-edited one. I hope to get it online in my archive. Hope he returns to his others, too. This is long before the digital rev that made this much easier. He used community access equipment etc. A much larger project then, even larger than shooting my digital feature last summer, in terms of grunt work. That's how easy everything has become.

Book fairs

I've sold books at a few book fairs in my career but never made a habit of it. Most of my work isn't accessible to the general public. However, the recent book of poems is probably as accessible as anything I've done, so I looked at a brochure I rec'd about an upcoming bookfair. It would cost $30 to rent half a table and I doubt if I'd sell enough books to break even, especially if I calculate travel costs. Just not a commercial dude.

I remember one book fair when I was seated next to the very fine NW novelist Craig Lesley. I was selling Christmas at the Juniper Tavern, recently published. Down the way Jean Auel was selling her new book and HUNDREDS of readers, mostly ladies, were in a very long twisting line to get to her. Craig and I marveled at the phenomenon of the "popular author" (Craig would become much more popular himself later ... this may have been his first novel). Auel sold 100s of books that night. Craig sold half a dozen. I sold two. And this was my best experience with a book fair!

Actually, the best experiences connected to book fairs have been re-meeting people I haven't seen in years. They don't buy a book but it's great to see them!

I'd entertain a book fair where I don't have to pay for a spot. Like Oct 5 at First Wednesday at Blackbird. But so far nothing has dropped into my lap.

I come alive in heat!

I swear by the gods, I become a different person in sunshine with the temperature over 75. A new brain kicks into service or something. I am full of energy and optimism, breeding serial killers across the land (it's a zero-sum universe), doing my work, doing chores, smiling, listening to jazz, reading, amazed at the accomplishments of the spirit that surround me everywhere, marveling at the birds and bees and butterflies on my deck, loving life even as the species races toward a cliff of doom. I am a guy who loves warm weather! So what the hell have I been doing in Portland for over 30 years? Oh, I ask myself this often.

But not enough to be a distraction from the glory of the day. Heat! Heat! I love it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Why Americans Are So Angry

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Why Americans Are So Angry:

"The rich are getting richer. Their effective tax rate, in recent years, has been reduced to the lowest in modern history. Nurses, teachers and firemen actually pay a higher tax rate than some billionaires. It's no wonder the American people are angry."

What a hoot

I can get down on myself and down on the state of the world, etc etc etc, but in fact my life has been quite a hoot, filled with enough wild adventures and comic extravaganzas to fill several lifetimes. I have no right to complain about anything. I try to put this spirit into my work.

Making a puzzle

There's a sense in which writing this first draft is like constructing a puzzle piece by piece. You have an odd shape, you paint on it; you make another odd shape that can fit against it, paint so that the connection is coherent; add a third etc; and so on, adding more pieces, piece by piece, vignette by vignette, with the goal of having a great coherent image made up of all these tiny individual self-contained pieces.

Rewriting is always, ALWAYS, the most fun part of the process. This, the chaotic initial draft, is fun, too, if you let it be, and I do because I trust the process so much, because I've been successful with it for almost half a century, but there still is a tad of stress here, in the creation stage, nothing is really certain. But once you have a draft, then the process becomes more logical, more manipulative, now it's more like becoming a magician and designing a trick, you want to pull off the trick without the audience seeing how you do it. In the early part, I feel like a stranger in a strange land, but during rewriting I feel like God.

Coming in August


My dream life, which I mentioned was unusually uncooperative a few days ago, delivered three vignettes this morning, as if making up for it. Off to jog them down for later development.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Back to work

Enough celebrating the past. Back to work.

Novella's ending

Wild, wild -- if I can pull it off, it will be so damn great. Far too early to know but I love thinking I can.


"What happened to the bold, kicky promise of writing instruction in the 1960s? The current conservative trend in composition is analyzed allegorically by Geoffrey Sirc in this book-length homage to Charles Deemer's 1967 article..."
I don't get all that many strokes in my old age, so forgive me for harping on this. But the more I think about it, the more incredible it is: a paper I write for a grad seminar in 1966, which at the prof's urging gets published in 1967, becomes immediately controversial, then forgotten until "rediscovered" in 2002 in a book length "homage" to the piece and expansion of its ideas, and in 2010 is studied in a grad seminar on Writing Studies, 44 years after it was written, also for a writing studies seminar -- I mean, if this isn't a cool thing to happen to a writer, I don't know what is. The work remains alive! Yes, indeedy, I'll take it.

Sirc on Deemer ("Deemer gave up and went off to write plays." Love it!)


My head bombarded today with far out notions for story points in the novella, several looking like they will stick regarding the ending, based in spirit on the ending of a foreign film I remember and admire, but in a direction I never imagined even yesterday. This is what I mean by the surprises that get missed if one plans too much too soon. The first draft is the vehicle with which I learn what the hell I want to write about. In many ways, despite its messy chaos, it's the most fun part of the process. Out of nowhere, something enters my brain and I think, Great idea! Why didn't I think of that?

What a mess!

My first drafts are typically messy because not a lot of planning goes into them. I'm a sink-or-swim writer. I make a lot of false starts. But the other way, planning, outlining, misses a lot of surprises along the way, I've found. I only go this route as a last resort. What I've learned over long years is, Hey, hang in and keep the faith because it WILL all come together and eventually give you a draft you then can look at with the left side of your brain. But creation itself benefits from messy chaos. It really does.

What of the hardest things I teach my students is to keep the faith. Just because it's shit now doesn't mean it has to be shit later. I remember seeing early drafts of short stories by famous American writers -- they were terrible! But they BECAME great stories. It's a process. Keep the faith. Trust the process. Hard to do in the beginning, without a track record, but after you succeed a few times, you just learn to hang in and keep putting one sentence after the other. You keep the faith.

My novella is a bit of a mess right now, in other words, ha ha.

Absurd drama of dysfunction

I love theater of the absurd but I prefer seeing it in a theater to in the halls of Congress. An article in the current New Yorker makes the case for abolishing a debt limit entirely. It's artificial, and most countries don't use it. Here we are, stressing out over something that doesn't have to matter much. Incredible. No, not really. Alas, not really. It's what I've come to expect from politicians of late.

What do (old) writers want?

Maybe because I've been listening to a reading of Dos Passos, I've been thinking of an office mate, a retiring professor, who was a great champion of the work of John Dos Passos -- and depressed that Dos Passos is virtually ignored today. What I remember now is something in my colleague's eyes. Something more than disappointment -- some confusion and disbelief, too, as if to say, Have we become this stupid, this decadent, that we ignore a genius like Dos Passos?

Literary fame is fickle. I am reminded of a course I took at UCLA, 19th Century Popular Lit, in which we read almost unreadable novels by writers no one had ever heard of. There's contemporary fame for you! In this century of classic American literature, the era of Melville, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, the popular writers were others who are forgotten today. Whose books I considered terrible today.

Tastes change. And there's no accounting for taste. Which makes it all a crap shoot.

Where does this leave the older writer? I'm not sure there are many generalities to make here but I think one is this: any serious older writer wants to be taken seriously. S/he wants a sense of the work having mattered, that it is still worth reading today. That's why it is so exciting, so satisfying, but also a bit mystifying, to learn that my 1967 essay is being studied in a graduate seminar today. 44 years later, it still is worth discussing! This essay was a paper I wrote for my own graduate seminar, which the professor (who disagreed with it!) urged me to send out. I did and it got published immediately ... and became controversial ... and much later inspired a book length treatment under the same title. And is still read today.

Now a writer can't ask for more than this. I've never deluded myself into thinking I'd ever be a "popular" writer but I always wanted to be a writer that "mattered" and getting evidence relevant to this is not easy and is accidental when it appears. The circle in which my work matters is small but that's fine. I want the work to live. I want it to live longer than I live. Then I've made a contribution, I've stirred the pot and kept the juices flowing for others. Maybe I've even inspired someone.

So the most satisfying moments at this late stage of my career are when I learn this has happened. By and large I am as invisible and marginal as most writers in this country. Nonetheless I get periodic news that the work has mattered to someone -- an essay is required reading in a class, my work in hyperdrama is the basis of a dissertation in a foreign country, a fan letter comes out of nowhere that's written with passion and understanding ... small and insignificant from one point of view but large and essential from another.

The main thing I feel is a sense of being blessed. I've had incredible good fortune. I've been in the right place at the right time more than once. I've had extraordinary help and support along the way. I've put myself and my work in a position at this late stage of the game that I can say I've given my best shot to keeping the work alive. It's accessible, for one. No small accomplishment, though much easier today than in the pre-digital universe. I've always been comfortable with letting my work speak for itself. It will never be widely popular and shouldn't be. But it has the opportunity to find its audience, and I believe it will continue to do so.

I really like the fact that my professor, who disagreed with my 1967 essay, nonetheless thought it should be published and told me where to send it. That's what education is about. That's the karma I try to repeat as a professor myself now.

The beat goes on. And the beat goes on.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where is Our Crisis President? | Common Dreams

Where is Our Crisis President? | Common Dreams:

"Instead, his manner—conciliation at all costs—in addition to costing the Democrats a midterm blowout, has only produced a more radical and intransigent Republican Party. Even this week, his manner at his address to the nation was earnest, professorial, even pleading. So if the Republicans, like Europe’s leaders of 1914, miscalculate and create disaster, the responsibility will partly be theirs but also partly our overly eager-to-please president."

Oregon Poetic Voices

Here we are.

Portrait of the poet as a teenager

Stumbled upon the cover of my brother's first book. He was 19, I think. Published by the very prestigious Auerhahn Press in SF.

Still alive after all these years

My essay English Composition as a Happening, controversial when it was first published in 1967, is on the reading list for a 2010 graduate course in Writing Studies at the Univ of Illinois. 44 years later! Man, I love shit like this. (Blue link below gives prettier copy than one above in my archive.)

The Oregonian writes

The online version of our paper, The Oregonian, is putting together a network of local blogs and invited me to participate. Sounds good to me -- might gather some more readers and keep me on my toes. We'll see if it comes to pass.

Children Play Like Scientists Work | Wired Science |

Children Play Like Scientists Work | Wired Science |

Netbook reborn

In Starbucks, running the netbook, which appears to have a new life. Apparently a virus caused the crash, my geek installed a different protection program. Onward!

Watch out for free samples

I got an online free sample of something, didn't like it. Today I rec'd an order of it with a very fat bill! Took a while to get it straightened out and the customer service guy was quite professional about it but nonetheless the practice sucks. Might have been very small print somewhere I missed but nonetheless, not a way to win customers.

Good session

Added two vignettes, onward.

Some recent observations

On my mind recently:

  • I haven't written a poem since I started putting the book together some time back
  • recently my dream life has been uncooperative, not delivering vignettes for the novella to me
  • I feel myself slowing down and, for the first time, can imagine a life when I'm not writing (but still being creative, probably composing)
  • I liked, despite a rational understanding of its ego-centered irrelevance, the recent name recognition, like a sense of having "fans" out there somewhere. I got spoiled early in my career, getting a lot of it.
  • But I don't lose any sleep over this issue.
  • I lose sleep over much larger issues ha ha.
  • I like my basement office. Had forgotten.

August 3

For me Aug. 3 is memorable not because it's the day the country may default but because it's the anniversary of the day I joined the Army. I didn't have to join. I joined because there was a draft and I was a lost soul. In fact, I was jobless, penniless, and living in a lean-to tree house I had built in Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley. I could have contacted my parents to bail me out but I was too proud to do so. This Navy brat joined the Army instead and, because I had a couple years of college, my recruiter stuck me into the Army Security Agency. So began the most influential consequential experiences of my life.

I came out of the Army with three new influences in my life:
  • an interest in literature, including the possibility of writing it
  • a fascination with the Pacific Northwest, having been captivated by Dick Crooks' stories of northern Idaho, eager to check it out (and my parents had moved to Oregon)
  • a new marriage of alcohol and my social life, laying the foundation for a difficult divorce decades in the future

Clearly I would not have become who I am today without the Army. So Aug. 3 is a major anniversary. I joined in 1959. After a year at the Army Language School in Monterey, I was stationed in Germany, a Russian linguist with a Top Secret Codeword clearance, when the Berlin Wall went up.

Baumholder 1961, my Army novella, tells some of this story but not all of it. (Note link for free pdf). It's a story set on the day the wall starts going up, a buddy story, written against the surreal but true backdrop of the hell-hole called Baumholder.

52 years ago. A long time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

on the deck

butterflies ... bees ... birds ... SUN

Mariners win, end 17-game skid with 9-2 victory - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

Mariners win, end 17-game skid with 9-2 victory - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

King Felix mastered the Yankees as usual, and the offense returned to life. They are in last place, 15 games out.

Jane Van Boskirk

Visiting after 9/11
A surprise call from actress Jane Van Boskirk, a figure from my past. Great to hear from her. Jane was a real pioneer back in the 70s and 80s, managing to get grants from the Humanities commission for touring historical drama, and for a couple projects I was her playwright. Financially it was a good gig and a challenge dramatically, working with historians attached to the project. Jane was making a living at this, doing theater,  before anyone else had figured out how to tap into state resources for drama grants. She also did considerable contemporary theater, a co-founder of Eugene's best company at the time, and she portrayed the best Martha, opposite Alan Nause as George, I've seen on stage in Albee's masterpiece.

Oregon pioneer woman
Anyway Jane called to say she was thinking of reviving Abigail Scott Duniway, an historical figure I had scripted for her. Some anniversary coming up. I wish her well. It was great to hear from her.


When I first got my Kindle, I went a bit crazy subscribing to newspapers, magazines and blogs. I tried a ton of 2-week free trials and at one point subscribed to 7 or 8 things. But now I've settled into 3: the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and a blog about free things for the Kindle. I also get a few free issues of The Oregonian per week and a free issue of Scientific American each month, via a website. So that's my periodicals reading list for the Kindle.

One thing I'm discovering, audio books move forward slowly. I enjoy the hell out of them but it's slow going, much slower than reading. I can live with that but it is giving me a backlog of items. I'm still doing Dos Passos front burner.

Mariners drop 17th in a row, striking out 18 times - Yahoo! News

Mariners drop 17th in a row, striking out 18 times - Yahoo! News

18 strike outs!

Opera class II

At the registration table for the first class last night, the woman in charge asked if I was "THE Charles Deemer, the playwright." I don't get much of that any more -- in fact, I'd say it's been over a year since this kind of name recognition has happened for me here. Today the arts communities are headed, by and large, by younger artists who were just kids, if even born, during my period of greatest local visibility in the 1980s. So, yes, it was nice to hear this. Even dinosaurs need love ha ha.

The class was informative last night but I'm not sure I'll embrace it with as much enthusiasm as H does because of certain pedagogical issues at work. More about this later. But it will be fun, even if it turns out being something less than I had hoped for.

The forecast has a week of seasonal, summer weather ahead. If true, maybe I finally can get into the work rhythm I envisioned for this summer when I turned in my grades with such anticipation six weeks ago. We've had six weeks of gray unseasonable summer weather.

Read up on the novella, re-engaged and excited about it, so presumably I'll get some writing done later today. I am not up now for the duration -- but I'm up. I'll return to bed eventually before I begin the day in earnest.

Looks like the netbook can be repaired for a price making it worth while. Get the final word in a day or two.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Opera class

Our opera class starts tonight, a six-week class that looks "behind the scenes" at opera production. We both have been there but thought it might be a fun class.

Slow reading

Nothing like a careful slow reading of the novella's first 25 pages to renew my enthusiasm and energy for it! Should be back on track soon.

Chores and work

Going out to breakfast, then taking the netbook to the shop and see what's what. After chores, should be able to spend the afternoon in the office, getting back up to speed on the novella.

I've started using the Amazon Cloud for backup. Get 2G free storage. More than enough for writing.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Watching our inept Congress, I am reminded of the old lady who told my buddy Crooks why she had stopped voting. "I don't want to encourage them." No lie! I may stop myself. Except for Bernie Sanders, who is there to admire? We used to have quite a few statesmen in Congress, a few decades ago. Now it's idiots and ideologues.

New at Oregon Literary Review

Kenneth Rexroth reads.


Yep, yet another diversion from summer weather back to cool gray Portland. This pattern gets old. Will we get any sustained summer at all this year?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Boston's 17-hit attack beats Seattle 12-8 - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

Boston's 17-hit attack beats Seattle 12-8 - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

Losing streak at 15, franchise record. Let's go for 20.


Love this 80s weather! Feel like my internal battery has been charged. Did some yard work, got up a sweat, quit, got an iced coffee, checked in on the Mariners, behind 10-3 my gods ... and into the basement office for some chores. Back to the novella tomorrow.

Long-range planning

The novella will engage me until the end of the year, possibly into 2012. When it is done, my next project should be my libretto Varmints, writing the vocal score, while I still have faculties to do it. It's be sitting unattended every since the deal fell through with the composer for whom I adapted my stage play of the same name. But I love this libretto! I must do something with it. I need to begin the opera and get it out there for some energetic young composer to find and finish.

The opening:

(MUSIC: tragic, epic. Darkness. Perhaps reddish lights, the aftermath of fire, a blaze. Into which the shadowy figures of the four ghosts appear.)


We are the dead

Our rotting flesh
The buzzards’ treat
Killed because
We dug for gold
And found instead
Ancestral bones

Our souls wander
Because our stories
Are untold

Listen then
To our grave tale
And give our souls
Their weary rest

We begin
In Oregon
In a desert
Filled with gold
Into which
Comes other news
Of a crime
Daring and bold

We are the dead

This is our tale

Why is anyone surprised?

What surprises me about the terrorist attack in Norway is that anyone is surprised by it. If you don't know by now that the entire world, all of it, is infected with the mad ideological rantings of conflict and violence that have overwhelmed cultures everywhere, then you're not paying attention. These ideologues, often under the disguise of being religious, are everywhere and everywhere dangerous.

We must also come to grips with a harsh fact: we caused this ourselves. This isn't God's doing. This is our doing. This is a consequence of a series of failures over time, in education, in spirituality, in preferring myth to history. We are reaping what we've sown.

And wait until Nature really gets into the act! Then we'll really see some bad shit. Because no ideologue is going to win. But Nature always wins, almost by definition.

Yes, it's a great time to be an old man. It's likely I'll miss the worst of this.

Red Sox send Mariners to 14th straight loss - Yahoo! News

Red Sox send Mariners to 14th straight loss - Yahoo! News

Late work

Ah the basement office is quiet, even eerie, at this hour. Rather nice.

Tomorrow, yard work!

I also need to figure out how to get a stronger wireless signal down here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


may not replace netbook if dead and make do with k on road. hmm

Crash II

One of those days. Decided to take advantage of weather, push back crashes and hassles until Monday, go for a nice drive out the gorge. Car trouble on the way home -- made it but not the first sign it's time to think about a different car.

Meanwhile I'm reacquainting myself with my office. If the netbook is totaled, I don't think I'll replace it. I think I'll start living in the basement again.


Netbook crashed. Looks like it might be pretty serious. I have everything backed up, more or less. I may not replace it if it can't be fixed inexpensively. I can access email on my Kindle, which retains portability. I'm working in my basement office and remember how nice it is. Definitely more private than upstairs.  Hmm. Decisions, decisions.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Red Sox extend Mariners' skid to 13 - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

Red Sox extend Mariners' skid to 13 - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

How long will it go on? Next up, after this series, the Yankees!


Roswell UFO Controversy: Former Air Force Officer Says Gen. Ramey Lied To Cover Up Space Ship Crash

Roswell UFO Controversy: Former Air Force Officer Says Gen. Ramey Lied To Cover Up Space Ship Crash

While the country sweats ...

... it's 64 degrees in Portland. Sigh.

Chaos & Challenge

I've a messy first draft writer. Always have been. If a draft is not so messy, it's an accident of more initial clarity than I usually start with.

The current project -- Sodom, Gomorrah and Jones -- is messier than usual. In part this is because I have a very complicated protagonist -- a retired history professor emeritus, Native American genocide his specialty, almost clinically depressed by the state of the world and the death of his wife, music his only outlet, suddenly thrust by a friend into contemporary mores he's successfully avoided thinking about -- a layered storyline, ala Durrenmatt, hopefully wedding a page-turner with a sense of slower reflection on important issues, and structured as titled vignettes, ala Connell in Mrs. Bridge. A whole bunch going on, in other words, and little of it under control yet.

But this is exciting -- thanks to experience. I've been through this before and learned that, despite the chaos and challenge, it somehow comes together, it somehow works. So I steadfastly go forward.

Uploaded my first 25 pages to Kindle, took notes, with do minor revisions today and move on. I'm having fun and am excited at grandiose possibilities here. Edward Albee was asked, What's your favorite work? He replied, What I'm working on. Why else would I write?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Full day

Probably my most overall productive day of the summer. Happened because I got my writing on the novella done early! See if I can keep this rhythm going.

The book audio is now done and online. RBP gave it a good plug on its blog.

Bill ordered a proof of his book.

Sketch got a trip to the park to run and run and run.

Also started a mind-boggling book I've long known about but never actually looked at. More about this later.

Even got a phone call from Brad, my godson, thanking me for the book of poems I sent him. His latest project, building himself a music studio!

A damn good day!

Mariners lose 11th straight, 11-6 to Blue Jays - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

Mariners lose 11th straight, 11-6 to Blue Jays - MLB - Yahoo! Sports

Reality bites.

The sun is a blessing

A spectacular morning! Maybe because the sun is still out. I wrote the vignette I've been carrying around in my head for a week. I finished recording the poems in my book. Still have the one-sitting read to finish. I made medical appointments I've been putting off. It's 10 in the morning and I feel like I've done what needs to be done today, which is perfect. On my best days, I feel like I'm done by mid-morning because I get such an early start.

I'll keep working until I run out of steam. Or the gray Portland weather returns, guaranteed to put me in a funk.

Morning rituals

There's a "syndrome" for everything these days. H has long suspected that I have the one, I forget its name, about deprivation of sunlight. Might well be! My spirits rise with the sun and sink otherwise. This morning's forecast, continued gray and chilly and drizzly, is belied by sun and blue sky this morning but western clouds suggest its later realization. In the meantime, my spirits soar at the sight of the sun.

Up late for me, 630, made a quick breakfast, out to find sun, off to get my iced coffee to go, home to see if I an get a little work done. H with an early dental appointment, I should have a good morning with an empty house. Still need to write vignettes in my head, finish recording, do some video editing. A full morning.

Been helping my brother navigate print on demand tech to come out with a new book, revising and gathering a lot of previously published work. I'm glad to see him do this. Terry at Round Bend Press is bringing it out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Return of the butterflies!

A big swallowtail butterfly just flew by the window on its way to our butterfly bush off the deck. Hooray! We didn't get one last year and have noticed their dwindling numbers. Welcome back.

In My Old Age: a reading

I read the poems in my book. Go to reading.

Sports: men v. women

There's a lot of interesting post-WC discussion going on. A male reporter on ESPN radio and a female columnist at ESPN both see a double-standard in being "too nice" to the defeated women, who blew a game they should have won and, in fact, won easily. The "choke" word should be applied, as most assuredly it would have been used in a comparable men's defeat. Women should be treated equally, which is to say, like men. Don't soften the gloves.

I agree with a bit of this.. At the same time, there was something refreshing about the WC final that you don't often see in men's sports any more. You used to in the 1950s but not any more. Good sportsmanship! Lack of individual arrogance! Men's sports have established a culture that brings out all the worst in aggressive and selfish behavior, it seems, and there was none of this in the women's world cup.

Yes, the women and their coach can be criticized. They lost this in the first 30 minutes, not being able to finish drives. The coach should not have replaced Megan Rapinoe -- in fact, the replacement is who missed the decisive penalty kick, and a very feeble attempt it was at that. In the PC the team totally choked.

But the women played with grace and honor that the men would do well to emulate. Women's sports can change the sports culture -- well, that's wishful thinking, but surely they can provide a model that reminds us what men's sports, too, used to be before it was taken over by greed, arrogance and testosterone jerks.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Headcheese sandwich

Got headchesse from Otto's deli across the river, which they make themselves -- good stuff!

World Cup

In summary:

  • In the quarterfinal, Brazil outplayed the USA -- and lost.
  • In the semifinal, France outplayed the USA -- and lost.
  • In the final, USA outplayed Japan -- and lost.

A little strange.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Maddening Mariners

Was it early in June when the Mariners were half a game out of first place? Tonight, after losing four in a row to Texas, they are eleven and a half out. Done, in other words. So we'll call it a rebuilding year. Again.

Nervous breakdown

Japan wins in penalty kicks, coming back twice when it looked as if they had lost in regular and later extra time. All heart. Well officiated, great sportsmanship, terrific sporting event.


USA playing their best game but can't finish attacks. Scoreless at half, could be 2 or 3 to 0. Hope this doesn't come back to bite them. They can win if they play the same and finish, can win by more than a goal. We'll see.


an approximation
Eggs, scrapple, hashbrowns for breakfast. This must be heaven.

Another good morning ...

... of writing. Can't start off Championship Sunday any better than this. Now to make some breakfast.

Championship Sunday

The soccer game doesn't come on until almost noon, so I have the morning to get a few things done. Had a great dialogue scene in my head this morning. Need to get that down.

Yesterday was a good meeting with J., H's friend, about my book. She's well read with literary, as opposed to popular, tastes in books. Indeed we have similar tastes and spent a lot of time talking about Mailer, Baldwin, Bellow, Roth, Malamud, writers of that generation. She had more articulate flattery about my poems than I've heard, a bit overwhelming. She  thinks more of them than I do ha ha. It was fun to talk about writers I admire with someone who agrees with me.

Raining. Real rain, not the usual mist.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What a morning

Wrote another vignette ... suddenly the work is going very well indeed. Time for a break and a trip for the coffee meeting. Very curious about that.


Really good writing on the novella this morning! Updating, a new vignette, but best, renewed enthusiasm and excitement in the story. One of the more challenging things I've written -- but an important story, too. Nice to experience it again with positive energy, and I hope I can maintain the flow. We'll see!

Mid-morning coffee with a friend of H who wants to talk to me about my book of poems. Hmm. Should be interesting. She likes the book a lot, which is nice. But what can be said about it? Not much ha ha. It is what it is.

Rain, rain. I will not let it get me down. And with a good writing morning, my spirits are high.

How the writing goes, is how everything goes. This is the curse of the writer.


The first week of my summer was productive enough but I spent too much time letting gray weather get me down. If one focuses on the interior life, exterior weather becomes irrelevant, so I can improve and make more progress on the novella over the rest of the summer. This is the goal.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Night, Sweet Friday Night Lights

Good Night, Sweet Friday Night Lights

I liked this show.

Kerouac's Scroll

Just finished what is probably my best novel, which I hadn't looked at for a while. I'm proud of it. Moreover, it has a few fans who are as enthusiastic as any I've had. But my agent at the time didn't like it and I'm sure many readers wouldn't. There's no accounting for taste. The bottom line is, this is a very special work in the archive of my career, and I'm delighted a few readers have responded accordingly. You can't please everyone. I pleased myself very much here.


Bob Hicks writes an eloquent piece on the death of his father.

Reminds me of the mysterious circumstances of my own father's death.


My rhythm is all out of whack. I blame it on the gray weather. My battery charges best in heat.

Today I'll try to record more poems. And also write those 3 vignettes that have been in my head for days now.

The recent days aren't exactly a waste but neither are they as productive, particularly with regard to the novella, as I had hoped and planned.

One foot after the other.

The new "Let them eat cake!" | Slide Show -

The new "Let them eat cake!" | Slide Show -

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recording adventure

For the recording at the college, I went into a sound booth, feeling like a contestant in the old Million Dollar Question show. Went quickly, all first takes, and I managed to get a bus without a long wait, now killing time in Hillsdale, waiting for H to finish her things. A fun day, out and about, actually. Don't do this often.

Rainbow toad

Rediscovered after 87 years.

Public transportation adventure

Getting from L&C College to town via bus looks like an adventure since one bus runs every hour and my transfer every half hour, so I'll be sure to take Kindle to pass the time.

Speaking of which: I am mesmerized, struck in awe, full of admiration for the first novel in the Dos Passos trilogy U.S.A., the 42nd Parallel, reinforcing my long contention that this is the "great American novel" everyone has been looking for. It's been here since the 1930s. I'll have more to say after I finish all three books but returning after so long, man, it's just an extraordinary achievement and as complete an engaging, sweeping, insightful telling of the American story at the beginning of the 20th century, from which so much follows, as one could hope for. I'm overwhelmed. Pop lit looks so silly in comparison. Of course, escape lit has its uses. But if you want to read something that really matters, go to the USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos. Extraordinary work.

USA - Japan

This is a terrific final because no matter who wins, it's a great feel good story. I'm rooting for USA, of course, but I'd rather have Japan win, with its own storybook ending, than Sweden. So I can enjoy this final knowing there really are no losers.

To bed early, and here I am. Can't stay up until sunrise, will be back in bed in an hour or so, I guess. I can always listen to the radio with my earphones.

Read and record at Lewis and Clark late this morning.

Man, the gray weather hangs on. What a shitty July. I wonder if we'll get any semi-permanent summer weather at all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

30 years of Shuttle watching

Link to story.

Flavorwire » Weird Writing Habits of Famous Authors

Flavorwire » Weird Writing Habits of Famous Authors

Destiny moves on

Outplayed most of the game but playing great defense, the USA women came to life in the last ten minutes and beat France 3-1.

Halftime worry

Even though USA leads 1-0 at half, I think France outplayed them -- so I'm worried. USA has to do much better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Still pissed at refs

I watched a retelecast of the USA-Brazil soccer game tonight from the second half on -- and my anger and disbelief at the officiating were almost as heated as during the original viewing. Moreover, I think the Brazil team lacks character. They have great skill but little character. Poetic justice that they lost -- and poetic justice is very rare in this world.

I hope the USA can keep it together. I've been reading things about the coach that worry me. Not long now, less than 12 hours, and we'll begin to find out.

I'm glad I got some recording done today. A wasted day otherwise. All unexpected chores.

All star games

My favorite all star game was always the college football all stars against the NFL champion, which was an annual event until 1976. I loved those games as a kid -- always rooting for the college all stars.

Wikipedia entry

2012 PNBA book award nominees

We're on the list.

Crazy day

Been having TiVo problems and I ended up much of the morning on the phone with service folks, etc, which means doing no writing despite the restless pre-writing through the long night. Well, at the end of that unpleasant task, I didn't have the energy to do anything "new" so I decided to do something old and started recording the poems in the book. I'm going to read and record the entire book for my archive, poem by poem. Got a good start before my voice started to give out.

Also it's gray, chilly, raining off and on. Great summer we're having.

Restless night

But some of the restlessness was pre-writing the novella, so hopefully I can make use of it now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"In the mail"

Just mailed off a dozen books at the self-service machine, shaking the bushes. I think that's about it as far as marketing on my end. The publisher still has things up his sleeve. See what happens.

For the record

34 books by Charles Deemer


On October 4, 1957, the news of Sputnik was shocking. I was just starting school at Cal Tech, a freshman math major, and the Russians' beating us into space was definitely a challenge that all of us, professors and students alike, heard and accepted. Space was a big deal. We had to beat the Russians to the moon.

I'm not sure when this kind of energy and vision came to an end. The recent last launch seemed a whimpering end, not a bang. Maybe we will regroup and start a new program with great energy, getting to Mars. Or maybe not. I think the space program brought out the best in us -- but also the worst in bureaucracy.

American hasn't felt like a visionary country, a true leader of great ideals and goals, for some time. I don't see us recovering that position in the world.

Shaking the bushes

I decided to try and drum up some readings in the fall. The poems are so much fun to read! Oct we have the Blackbird First Wednesday spot but I'm hoping to get  more. To this end, I entered two competitions because of publicity and reading opportunities if you're a finalist.

In fact, I have very mixed feelings about competitions, especially since reaching the age where I've judged a few myself. The best awards, of course, are those that you do not apply for or enter. I've been lucky to have a few of these in my career. But most, of course, are competitions with entry fees, which keep going higher and higher. In the screenwriting universe, this has become absurd with 100s of contests, damn few of which actually can help a screenwriting career. But all these affairs, I learned, and more about judges than about writers. They are about individual taste. It's absurd to call the winners "the best" of anything but the best of an individual's or committee's taste. And I've told several horror stories here before about how that can work out.

The book of poems, nonetheless, is being sent to:

  • Oregon Book Award. Being a finalist means you can tour the state.
  • Pacific NW Booksellers Assoc award. A biggie because it is regional and sponsored by book stores.
  • Wordstock, the fall festival, where I hope to read (though I'm a tad late on the preferred deadline).

So these are three major opportunities in these parts -- and we'll just see what happens.

I am struggling big time with the novella. However, I completely believe in it and I'm just showing up to continue the process. I know it will come together. I'm trying something more complicated than in previous stories.

We signed up to take a six week course at the opera about how operas are developed. We already know but thought it would be fun to be in a small class exploring this at the opera itself. Starts in a couple weeks.

I'm in a great mood for a gray day!


Megan Rapinoe
What is remarkable about the miraculous late score by the USA women is the pass, even more than the actual goal. As a sports reporter said on the radio this morning, John Elway couldn't have put the ball where it needed to be any better. The scorer gets all the press but the pass made it. The players themselves know this.

Video highlights

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Women's World Cup -- Grading the U.S.'s performance against Brazil -- Jeff Carlisle - ESPN

Women's World Cup -- Grading the U.S.'s performance against Brazil -- Jeff Carlisle - ESPN:

"Once again, American courage and self-belief triumphed over Brazilian skill, and now the U.S. is moving on to the semifinals of the FIFA Women's World Cup.

In one of the most epic games in the tournament's history, the U.S. came back from the dead to defeat the Samba Queens 5-3 on penalties, after extra time had finished 2-2. And it took as gutsy a performance as you will ever see. The Americans had been reduced to 10 players in the 66th minute due to Rachel Buehler's controversial red card. And when Marta scored her second goal of the match in the second minute of extra time, the Americans' prospects looked bleak indeed."

Wambach, Solo key dramatic US win over Brazil - Yahoo! News

Wambach, Solo key dramatic US win over Brazil - Yahoo! News:

"DRESDEN, Germany (AP) — The Americans are moving on to the semifinals after one of the most riveting games in the history of the Women's World Cup — beating Brazil 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.
Abby Wambach tied it with a magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute, and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians again.
'We believe we can win this tournament,' Wambach said. 'I don't know if you can write a better script.'"

Most amazing soccer game I've ever seen! Ref screwed them 3 times, they won anyway.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

World Cup

Great games today (women's)! France noses England in penalty kicks and heavy underdog Japan just now has taken Germany to extra time, no score.

Big game tomorrow, U.S. and Brazil, I'll be watching.

Got some yard work done. Got some writing done. Expect to do more writing before the day is over.

Great titles

Watching the great world cup match, England-France, which went to penalty kicks with England taking a lead and then blowing their last two tries to give France the victory, moving to semifinals, I'm reminded of one of my favorite titles in all literature, Peter Handke's The Goalie's Anxiety At The Penalty Kick.
Peter Handke

A little writing, world cup, chores

A warm day, with cooler days to follow. That seems to be the summer rhythm so far. I want continuous heat.

Friday, July 08, 2011

True stories in works of fiction

I've been rereading my novel Kerouac's Scroll, which is something I do when my spirits need lifting. It's a deeply personal story and one to which its fans, few but energetic, are true believers. No work of mine has received more enthusiastic praise, even though by and large the book is ignored. But it works deeply for males of a certain age and background, it seems.

At any rate, in this work of fiction, based on my relationship with my  late soul brother, are a number of true stories, things that actually happened. My favorite is this one.

The story went this way. Helen and I were still
together, and I was going to UCLA. Hooker had just gotten
out of the Army and moved to Idaho with plans to return to
college. One Saturday night we came home from a party
after midnight to find the phone ringing. It was Hooker. He
was drunk and calling to tell me he was leaving Jennifer.
He’d had enough. When? I asked. Right now. No, I
insisted, don’t do this until you talk to me. Where can we
meet? We decided on Reno, which was halfway between
southern California and northern Idaho.
Helen, of course, couldn’t believe that I actually was
going to leave for Reno on the spot. I was half-drunk and
my body was ready to crash. To hell with it. My soul
brother was in distress, and I left with Helen yelling at me.
Soon enough I got a lucky break. I picked up a
hitchhiker, who drove while I caught a nap in the back seat.
It was late morning by the time I made Reno. We had
agreed to meet in the bar at the Reno Hotel. But Hooker
wasn’t there. Maybe I beat him. I called Helen to let her
know I was still alive.
Hooker had called, He’d had car trouble and was
stranded in Winnemucca. He’d meet me at the downtown
motel there.
I didn’t trust myself to drive for another hour without
more rest. I crawled into my car, and when I woke up, the
sun was going down. I hit the road.
It was a tortuous trip. I kept hallucinating that car
lights were heading my way. I was hungover and still a
little drunk, exhausted mentally and physically, in no
shape to be on the road. But there I was.
In Winnemucca the desk clerk gave me our room
number. Though it was early, Hooker already was snoring.
I took the other bed and in no time was asleep.
When I awoke, morning sunshine was streaming into
the room. Hooker’s bed was empty. I found him downstairs
in the restaurant, reading the paper. I slipped into the
booth across from him.
“Sports?” he asked.
A waitress came and took our order. We read the
paper and ate. No one spoke. We didn’t speak a single word
to the other as we ate.
Hooker picked up the tab. Outside the restaurant, I
said, “Which way you heading?”
“Back to Jenn?”
“Have a safe trip.”
“You, too.”
We embraced. We climbed into our separate cars. At
the highway, Hooker turned north, and I turned south,
each beeping a farewell.
A man always grinned after hearing this story. A
woman always shook her head.

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The different modes of writing

I've written professionally in just about every form there is: scripts for the stage, screen, radio; short fiction, novels; non-fiction including newspaper and magazine journalism, memoir; libretti, poetry, songwriting. Having pretty much covered the bases over my career, I come away with preferences and opinions.

  • For me, the most "fun" writing is screenwriting. I think this is because one can tell such large stories with such minimal language -- it's a storyteller's form more than a writer's form. At the same time, no form of writing is more frustrating or depressing after the work is done, that is, in the marketing arena.
  • The most difficult writing I do is the novel or novella. Or even short fiction. Fiction is so difficult because it is more about language than about story, at least in the forms of fiction I write (literary, as opposed to pop fiction). I am still struggling for the tone of the new novella, for example, and the pains of discovery here are greater than in other forms of writing.
  • The most magical writing, when it is working, is writing for the stage, that is, for actors so talented that they bring their own artistry to the material and show you things you didn't know you had written. This is a marvelous experience.
  • Poetry, for me, is the most mysterious writing. The poems just show up in my head. I have no sense of "writing them" the way I write everything else.
  • Writing a libretto to an opera is also a great experience if the music is great, and I've been lucky, working with a composer I admire, John Nugent.

For my time left, I suspect most of my work will be in writing the short novel, even if it is the most difficult. It also is the most personal and true to the solitary vision and experience of the writer. In old age, this counts for everything.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Basement office

I used to spend hours a day in my basement office but ever since purchasing a netbook a year or so ago I've worked mainly upstairs, closer to the bathroom, the refrigerator, the dog. I hardly get down here at all.

So it almost feels like an adventure to be here this afternoon. The monthly housekeeper is doing her thing upstairs. Often I go to my university office on these days but I have things I can do down here so here I am.

I'd forgotten how cool my office is.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Wonders: Australian night sky

A model day

I'll take as many days like this that I can get this summer. Slow moving, mellow, great weather, and slowly, surely, I got a lot of work done in various areas, not the avalanche of work I do when I'm writing obsessively, but a comfortable pace, moving forward, like a summer stroll. Been nice -- and there's lots more day still left. Onward.

Sodom, Gomorrah, and Jones

Did some work on the novella today! Not sure this secures my pre-holiday rhythm but it's a necessary start. We'll see how the rest of the week goes.

The NERDIEST Colleges

The NERDIEST Colleges:

Cal Tech: "Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' is played at 7 a.m. each morning during finals week, but playing the piece at any other time is forbidden."

When I heard this as a freshman in 1957, I didn't know what the hell was going on. I had an 8 a.m. final and was on campus early (I commuted from home, probably one of the reasons I left in the middle of my soph year with a B average). And this stunt is just the tip of the iceberg. I met true geniuses here -- and found out that, despite what my high school teachers told me, I was not among them.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


By the gods, I figured it out. What's wrong with me and other dinosaurs. Pop Culture Stress Disorder.

Back into rhythm

Sketch and I are both glad the holiday weekend is over. Sketch spent the night under the bed, finally coming out a few hours before sunrise.

I have writing chores to do, thank the gods, so today can be productive even though it will take me a few days to get back into the writing rhythm that was interrupted by the holidays. I hate holidays when I'm into my rhythm because I lose it and then it takes up to a week to find it again.

But like I say, I have enough grunt work today to keep me busy if not creative.

July sale

25% off on Writing the Spec Screenplay ebook. Use checkout code at link.

Monday, July 04, 2011


Sketch, our rat terrier, dislikes noises in general and two kinds in particular. He hates sirens, which set him to howling as if at the moon. He may go on for 15 minutes after the sirens pass. And he hates fireworks (backfires, gun shots), which chase him into hiding under a bed or other safe place, where he may stay for an hour or more after the noises pass.

So tonight will be a hard night for him. I feel for him. I don't like fireworks either, not since 1993 when spending the 4th in a VA hospital changed my attitude completely (as I've written about here many times).

Tomorrow, at last, the holiday weekend is over and a normal rhythm can return. The good weather is supposed to hold all week.

Today I got some lawn work done, working up a sweat, which doesn't take much any more. Then I made an iced coffee and sat on the deck, watching the birds at our feeders, great numbers of them, yellow and red and brown and black & white, I never tire of watching them.

And here are birds in different weather:

::愛國언론:: 더타임즈

::愛國언론:: 더타임즈

This article in a Korean paper about the exhibit Harriet was in features one of her paintings. Pretty cool.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


good work for a gray day ... sun tomorrow they say ... novella is highest priority ... off to bed.

Midnight in Paris

Saw this today and liked it. Not a profound film but an entertaining one.

Blue Bloods

In 1948 my dad retired from the Navy but instead of taking his family home to New Jersey, he bought a house in Pasadena. Over the next few years he talked up Southern California so much that all his siblings and their families moved to Pasadena. For the next year, there was a big Deemer family in town, and we often gathered for Sunday dinners and other celebrations of family. This became my most intense experience of living in a large family, which didn't last long. As soon as So Cal experienced its first earthquake, in this case a large one in the desert that actually knocked me off the top of my bunk bed, all the relatives beelined it back to New Jersey. So much for big family Sunday dinners.

Sunday dinner in Blue Bloods
My favorite escapist TV these days is the cop drama Blue Bloods, and a major attraction is the large Sunday family dinner in the show with four generations of cops and their families. You see so little of that in so many places today that I feel lucky to have experienced it at all. Watching the show brings back all these memories.

Disputed run gives San Diego 1-0 win over Seattle - Yahoo! News

Disputed run gives San Diego 1-0 win over Seattle - Yahoo! News:

"SEATTLE (AP) — Cameron Maybin looked up, saw a full count on the scoreboard and figured like everyone else in the ballpark that he should be headed to first base.
Problem was, Maybin was trotting down to first after just three balls from Doug Fister, and no one picked up on the mistake."

Ah, the Mariners can figure out how to lose in the strangest ways. Time to get the earlier energy back.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

US gains WCup quarters with 3-0 rout of Colombia - Yahoo! News

US gains WCup quarters with 3-0 rout of Colombia - Yahoo! News:

"The U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup with a 3-0 rout of Colombia on Saturday, delighting a sellout crowd made up almost entirely of American fans. The team lined up for a military salute after Heather O'Reilly's opening goal, and Megan Rapinoe grabbed a TV mic and sang 'Born in the USA' after she scored."

Oregon Football: Why Chip Kelly Should Be Scared by Will Lyles' Remarks | Bleacher Report

Oregon Football: Why Chip Kelly Should Be Scared by Will Lyles' Remarks | Bleacher Report

Audio project

Next Thursday I go to Lewis and Clark College to read and record four poems for their archive, Oregon Poetic Voices. So I wonder: maybe I should read the entire damn book and archive it at my site. Why not? They are fun to read, more fun than just about anything I've written. And it wouldn't be a huge project at all, easily done over the summer. I suspect I'll go ahead and do this.

I haven't found a comfortable rhythm with the novella yet. Part of it is space. I need to start working in the basement office again, fewer interruptions. Upstairs, with H here, it's like writing in a mall or something. Lots of activity. The phone rings off the hook when H is home. I get 3 phone calls a year. However, the last time I took the netbook downstairs, it slid off the table and broke, so clearly I need a safer setup than I was using. I have 2 computers and a keyboard down there, pretty crowded. I think I need a portable table and area just for the netbook. The point is, I don't think working on the novella upstairs is going to work.

The other possibility is write it on the PC downstairs, not on the netbook. Use a flash drive to transfer files as I need to. But I'm a little frustrated today that I've made so little progress these last few days, having already "dreamed" the vignettes that I write next. I need to get them down.

Picked the brain of a younger poet in town who was very kind to share info on the local reading scene and so on. He also does book publicity, specializing in poetry, and his rates are pretty reasonable. Maybe I'll hire him to set up readings for me in the fall. I never have chased the reading scene before but I so much enjoy reading from the poems, I seem to be doing this very thing. A first. So far, just the Oct 7 at Blackbird set up. I'm going to try and get in at Wordstock but am a tad late applying -- hoping the July publication of the book will help. If not, I can try again next year if the energy is still there.

S.P., a fine playwright in town, had a Facebook entry about his version of the good old days, which were about ten years ago, so I couldn't resist a comment about my version, 30 years ago. It's all relative. But I got a kick out of seeing that the cycle continues, there always are "good old days" no matter what your point of reference.

But facts also are facts, and 1978 was a theater season at The Production Company like none before or after, which is the subject of my essay on Peter Fornara.