Friday, August 31, 2012

Al Gore: Electoral College System Should Be Replaced By Popular Vote (VIDEO)

Al Gore: Electoral College System Should Be Replaced By Popular Vote (VIDEO):

Hmm.

Republican Convention Recap: As Experts Warn 'The Door Is Closing' On Climate, The GOP Mocks The Problem | ThinkProgress

Republican Convention Recap: As Experts Warn 'The Door Is Closing' On Climate, The GOP Mocks The Problem | ThinkProgress:

Frightening.

Why do I post what I post?

It's been a while since I've reminded readers that I don't agree with everthing to which I link here. I link to things I find interesting whether I agree or not. Sometimes I comment and sometimes not. So if you disagree with something linked from here, I may agree with you!

Romney Mocks Obama's Pledge To Address Global Warming -- As GOP Delegates Laugh At The Whole Notion | ThinkProgress

Romney Mocks Obama's Pledge To Address Global Warming -- As GOP Delegates Laugh At The Whole Notion | ThinkProgress:

Oh my.

Tweet of the convention


This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old
white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.

We Are Writing the Epilogue to the World We Knew | Common Dreams

We Are Writing the Epilogue to the World We Knew | Common Dreams:

"While politicians fiddle, the world burns.  While the press plays he-said, she-said, the ice melts, the seas rise."

Curtain line to The Stiff:
NECK: Well, Charles, let's give the people their body.
CHARLES: I hope they don't notice the difference.
NECK: Perhaps we should cover the face as well. Just to be on the safe side. The eyes should suffice. Easy now ...

(The doctor is put into the casket.)

MRS. JONES: Charles?
CHARLES: Yes, ma'am?

(They regard one another. A beat.)

CHARLES: Do you want me to come back?
MRS. JONES: No. We can come back later. First I must make my appearance. I must show my grief.
NECK: The people would expect grief, madam.
MRS. JONES: What the people expect, they deserve. What they deserve, they get. Always.

(All exit and BLACKOUT.)

Election 2012 and the Media: A Vast Rightwing Conspiracy of Stupid | Common Dreams

Election 2012 and the Media: A Vast Rightwing Conspiracy of Stupid | Common Dreams:

"The reason I write so little about the presidential election is that it's the ultimate expression of the CNN-ization of American politics: a tawdry, uber-contrived reality show that has less to do with political reality than the average rant one hears at any randomly chosen corner bar or family dinner. That does not mean the outcome is irrelevant, only that the process is suffocatingly dumb and deceitful, generating the desire to turn away and hope that it's over as quickly as possible."


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The new UCLA football team

Won 49 - 24, which sounds impressive. I wasn't impressed. Yes, they are better than in earlier years and have an explosive offense. All last season, they had one TD over 70 yds. Tonight, three. And another over 50. They can score.

But they are still shooting themselves in the foot big time. 3 blocked PATs! That's unheard of. 2 dropped TD passes. Another TD brought back because of a dumb arrogant personal foul. They have a long way to go. And a poor defense, especially pass defense.

So they will score points but they're not going to cause anyone to shake in their cleats.

And American football after watching all that world football during the Olympics? Man, American football is SLOW. Eighty percent dead time -- world football has almost no dead time. And so many commercials here! I'm not sure I'll be watching a lot of American football this season. More like catching scores, seeing how favorite teams are doing.


Cleantech Experts On Romney's Energy Plan: 'A Political Document Not Worth Serious Analysis' | ThinkProgress

Cleantech Experts On Romney's Energy Plan: 'A Political Document Not Worth Serious Analysis' | ThinkProgress:

"The central energy challenge we face as a nation and a planet is the transition away from fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change, to clean sources of energy. The most important debates in this area concern just how quickly this must be accomplished and how to do it in the cheapest way possible. Last week Mitt Romney’s campaign released its energy plan, which completely ignores all of this."


Michael Moore: Mitt Romney Will Win In November (VIDEO)

Michael Moore: Mitt Romney Will Win In November (VIDEO):


A beautiful Thursday

Breakfast at Fat City with H ... daytime baseball Ms leading in seventh ... four hrs until Bruin fball ... put Kindle hyperdrama book online ... not too shabby a day in this crashing civ of ours. Voltaire sd tend own garden and I am.

CNN Camerawoman "Not Surprised" by Peanut-Throwing | The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

CNN Camerawoman "Not Surprised" by Peanut-Throwing | The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education:

""I can't change these people's hearts and minds," Carroll added. "No, it doesn't feel good. But I know who I am. I'm a proud black woman. A lot of black people are upset. This should be a wake-up call to black people. . . . People were living in euphoria for a while. People think we're gone further than we have.""


Hyperdrama: my obsession with a new theater form: Charles Deemer: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

Hyperdrama: my obsession with a new theater form: Charles Deemer: Amazon.com: Kindle Store:

Just reread this 14 page Kindle "book" and find it, well, extraordinary in its revolutionary ideas about theater. The high tech theater I design for the form will work. Hyperdrama indeed can have a permanent home. What it takes now is a young visionary theater director to make it happen. I probably won't live to see this but I think odds are good that it will happen. It's just too exciting an idea, once you understand it.

I need to make an html version of this and put it online for more exposure. Somebody, I swear, is going to get as excited about this as I am. I'm not the only person on the planet who sees the possibilities here.


YOU CAN NOW READ THIS ONLINE!


Recent visitors


Crisis And Opportunity In The Environmental Century: Inspiring A Generation To Greatness In The Classroom | ThinkProgress

Crisis And Opportunity In The Environmental Century: Inspiring A Generation To Greatness In The Classroom | ThinkProgress:

"As an ecologist, I know that we have precious little time to prepare a generation to respond to the ecological crisis of our planet in peril. As the president of Unity College, I am alarmed by how little progress has been made in focusing higher learning on what is undoubtedly the most important challenge facing humankind. Given the overwhelming scientific evidence of imminent climate disruption, failure to make climate literacy a requisite part of any undergraduate curriculum is inexcusable."


Blue Moon Set For August 31, 2012, With Next One Occurring In 2015

Blue Moon Set For August 31, 2012, With Next One Occurring In 2015:

"In fact, "blue moon" refers not to color, but to rarity. Blue moons are defined as either the fourth full moon in a season, or, more recently, as the second full moon in a month. It's the second definition that covers August's blue moon; the month's first full moon was on Aug. 1."


Fox News' Sally Kohn: Paul Ryan's RNC Speech 'Was Attempt To Set World Record For Blatant Lies'

Fox News' Sally Kohn: Paul Ryan's RNC Speech 'Was Attempt To Set World Record For Blatant Lies':

"In a surprising move, Fox News joined CNN, The Huffington Post, the Washington Post's Wonkblog, and ThinkProgress in publishing a fact-check of the Republican vice presidential nominee's speech, finding that the speech was full of lies and misleading assertions."


Paul Ryan Bets on the Ignorance of America -- Daily Intel

Paul Ryan Bets on the Ignorance of America -- Daily Intel:

Alas, this may be a safe bet.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

24 hours

In about 24 hrs the UCLA game will start, and I must admit a certain curiosity about their team this year. And also how American football is going to look after my considerable interest in European football in the past six months.

Daily routine

video

A Conservative For Obama - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast

A Conservative For Obama - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast:


Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital | Politics News | Rolling Stone

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital | Politics News | Rolling Stone:

"How the GOP presidential candidate and his private equity firm staged an epic wealth grab, destroyed jobs – and stuck others with the bill"


A Critic's Manifesto: The Intersection of Expertise and Taste : The New Yorker

A Critic's Manifesto: The Intersection of Expertise and Taste : The New Yorker:

"The serious critic ultimately loves his subject more than he loves his reader—a consideration that brings you to the question of what ought to be reviewed in the first place. When you write criticism about literature or any other subject, you’re writing for literature or that subject, even more than you’re writing for your reader: you’re adding to the accumulated sum of things that have been said about your subject over the years. If the subject is an interesting one, that’s a worthy project. Because the serious literary critic (or dance critic, or music critic) loves his subject above anything else, he will review, either negatively or positively, those works of literature or dance or music—high and low, rarefied and popular, celebrated and neglected—that he finds worthy of examination, analysis, and interpretation. "


Not Every Great Movie Has to Be Awesome : The New Yorker

Not Every Great Movie Has to Be Awesome : The New Yorker:


Israeli court rejects US activist's family lawsuit | Local News | The Seattle Times

Israeli court rejects US activist's family lawsuit | Local News | The Seattle Times:

"An Israeli court on Tuesday cleared the military of wrongdoing in the death of a young American activist who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer during a protest in the Gaza Strip nearly a decade ago, rejecting claims by her parents that the driver acted recklessly."

I smell a rat.

Portland Loo, a public toilet that skips to the head of its class - latimes.com

Portland Loo, a public toilet that skips to the head of its class - latimes.com:

"The Oregon city has successfully tackled several urban issues with its solar-powered, not-that-private public toilets. Now other cities smell a winner."

Portland is famous for something!

"The Deemer Interview" by Terry Simons



Watch on YouTube

TS commentary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A conservative live blogs the convention

Andrew Sullivan, a rational conservative, live blogs. Some highlights:
9.34 pm. Santorum is saying that Obama has "waived the work requirement for welfare". This is a lie - spoken by the runner-up for the nomination. It is a lie. The waivers have been routine for state experimentation. Many were sought by Republican governors. They were designed to ensure more efficient ways to get work as part of the welfare requirement.
Santorum is a devout Catholic. So why is he lying out loud on national television? And why is he stirring up racial division by lying? If you ever thought the guy had some integrity, you now know he doesn't.
 9.38 pm. The fact-checking of Boehner's speech is brutal as well. This is a convention based on lies, it appears. Kessler:
House Speaker John Boehner’s speech starts out with just about every out-of-context quote used by Republicans to bash President Obama. Two of his examples were featured in our Gaffe-check videos: “The private sector is doing fine” and “If you’ve got a business, “you didn’t build that.”
Such gaffes are effective when they reinforce an existing stereotype—in this case, the notion that Obama is hostile to private enterprise. But as our videos show, both of these quotes were taken out of context.
This seems a natural next step for a fundamentalist party, inventing its own reality, insisting on its own truths, and simply refusing to acknowledge reality. There is a case to be made against Obama; but what we have been hearing so far is an attack on a president who exists entirely in the imagination of the GOP base.
etc etc etc

Top 10 Lists | America's Best Places To Live, Visit, Travel & Relocate | Livability

Top 10 Lists | America's Best Places To Live, Visit, Travel & Relocate | Livability:

Corvallis (Oregon State) is #6 and only town in the west on the list. I love Corvallis, falling in love with its recent changes a few years back when I was in town when a theater did a play of mine. Really charming town.

Martian Mountain's Features Resemble Grand Canyon's Layers | Wired Science | Wired.com

Martian Mountain's Features Resemble Grand Canyon's Layers | Wired Science | Wired.com:

Good photo at link.

How Romney scores points

Here's a scenario.

The storm floods New Orleans. Obama's team, aware of the images of Katrina, wants Obama to make a visit to the victims. However, Obama, always and overly cautious, fears he will be accused of upstaging the GOP convention. He stays put.

But on Thursday, Romney suddenly visits the victims in New Orleans in a much publicized human gesture. He leaves N.O. just in time to give his acceptance speech at the convention, a returning, caring hero.

This can happen. Obama constantly shows he is "too nice" to be an effective politician. All one has to do is revisit FDR's speeches to bankers, calling them crooks, to see the difference. FDR was a benevolent tyrant, which in crisis can be more effective than a well-meaning wimp.

I hope this scenario doesn't come to pass because I think Romney could score major points with it. I hope it never occurs to him. I hope Obama's team convinces the president to go to New Orleans, despite the accusations. The contrast to Katrina would be significant.

We'll see what happens.

Tomgram: Ernest Callenbach, Last Words to an America in Decline | TomDispatch

Tomgram: Ernest Callenbach, Last Words to an America in Decline | TomDispatch:

"Chick had left a final document on his computer, something he had been preparing in the months before he knew he would die, and asked if TomDispatch would run it.  Indeed, we would."

Posthumous essay by the author of Ecotopia.
In the next epoch, which we are still in and which may be our last as a great nation, capitalists who grew rich and powerful by making things gave way to a new breed: financiers who grasped that you could make even more money by manipulating money. (And by persuading Congress to subsidize them -- the system should have been called Subsidism, not Capitalism.) They had no concern for the productivity of the nation or the welfare of its people; with religious fervor, they believed in maximizing profit as the absolute economic goal. They recognized that, by capturing the government through the election finance system and removing government regulation, they could turn the financial system into a giant casino.
*
 Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them.
Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on preexisting or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go.
*
 Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth.
Everything I read lately strikes me as preaching to the choir. No wonder CJ (my most recent protagonist) drops out. No wonder near death pushes him into a laughing fit.

Ants and algorithms: Researchers discover "the anternet" - CBS News

Ants and algorithms: Researchers discover "the anternet" - CBS News:


Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Says Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children (VIDEO)

Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Says Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children (VIDEO):

""I say to the grownups, 'If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we've observed in the universe that's fine. But don't make your kids do it,'" said Nye, best known as host of the educational TV series "Bill Nye the Science Guy.""

Preaching to the choir, alas.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"The King" is king

Another 1-0 shut out victory for Felix Hernandez tonight. Man, he's on a roll and making a case for his 2nd Cy Young award. The Mariners even have a long shot to get into the playoffs if they keep playing the way they've played since the All Star break.




College football cranks up Thurs. Wash St, UCLA and Oregon all have games on TV. And talk about strange scheduling: Navy - Notre Dame is live at 6 a.m. Saturday here! I'll be watching.



I asked DL in Florida if he was surviving the storm ... and he said it was a non-event where he is.

2012 College Football TV Schedule

2012 College Football TV Schedule:


Add It Up: Taxes Avoided by the Rich Could Pay Off the Deficit | Common Dreams

Add It Up: Taxes Avoided by the Rich Could Pay Off the Deficit | Common Dreams:


Round Bend Press: Slugging it Out

Round Bend Press: Slugging it Out:

Progress report on a short film TS is doing about me.

2012 Presidential Debate Schedule « 2012 Election Central

2012 Presidential Debate Schedule « 2012 Election Central:


One Term More

One Term More:

Video, a political parody.

Afghanistan: Taliban Insurgents Behead 17 Afghans As Punishment For Attending Party, Dancing

Afghanistan: Taliban Insurgents Behead 17 Afghans As Punishment For Attending Party, Dancing:

Reality 101, or the world we live in. It's like having parallel universes.

Starwatch: The September night sky | Science | The Guardian

Starwatch: The September night sky | Science | The Guardian:

"Saturn and Mars hover just above our WSW horizon as the evening twilight fades,"


US Republican convention: an ocean of difference | | The Guardian

US Republican convention: an ocean of difference | Comment is free | The Guardian:

"A Republican win in November would be a domestic disaster for America and show that the gulf between America and the rest of the developed world is widening even more"


Neil Armstrong's legacy went to waste but a new space race is on the cards | Science | The Guardian

Neil Armstrong's legacy went to waste but a new space race is on the cards | Science | The Guardian:


Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists | Global development | The Guardian

Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists | Global development | The Guardian:

At least I make great spring rolls.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Chekhov Hyperdrama

title: certainly my most ambitious work, probably my most unread work, but still maybe the best thing I've ever done. (Click on "title" to open.)

I did get some strokes from the university for this. A dean wrote me a nice letter about it. However, he didn't actually say he'd read it, as opposed to being impressed by the work involved. Virtually all of my hyperdrama fans are in Europe, and I assume that's where the few readers of this are as well.

When I came up with a design for a hyperdrama theater, making production of this far easier, I wished I were younger, as I rarely do, so I might produce it myself. (This design is in the final "Nuts & Bolts" video in the Changing Key sequence. I continue to hope, perhaps against long odds, that a young playwright will discover hyperdrama and run with his enthusiasm, perhaps even producing this.)


Daily Kos: If It Walks Like a Duck and Talks Like a Duck: Racism and the Death of Responsible Conservatism

Daily Kos: If It Walks Like a Duck and Talks Like a Duck: Racism and the Death of Responsible Conservatism:

"I thought it might be helpful to gather together, in one place, all the evidence -- both explicit and implicit -- that the narrative of the modern conservative right (and especially the attack on President Obama) is overwhelmingly about race. "

Hear, hear!

Republican women for Obama

Right Livelihood Award: The 'Alternative Nobel Prize'

Right Livelihood Award: The 'Alternative Nobel Prize':

Thanks to DL for the link.

The Screenwriting Life

The classic book about the screenwriting life is William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade,  in which Goldman makes his oft-quoted pronouncement, Nobody knows anything. I hereby nominate a second book to join his, the short novel by Rafael Lima called Screenwriter, which nails it but which unfortunately is only available as a Kindle book, so I can't assign it to my students.

In Lima's novel, here is a crusty old screenwriter talking to an idealistic young playwright and screenwriter, who confesses a desire to write a novel. The old pro is answering the question, "But don't you think there is more to being a writer than--":
Than what. Than making a living? Then providing for your family? Than succeeding at what many would fucking consider to be a dream? 
The old writer gets up. He swings his coffee cup and coffee spills on the rug. "Who are you kidding? You want to be this writer.  This artist. Get a grip, son. You are here, look out the window. What is out there? Out there is nine to five employment in retail. Out there is some waitressing job for your wife and life as a union plumber for you. All those writers trying to get in here where you and I are, making six figures and riding around in fucking limousines. Who the fuck are you kidding? Get a Grip. The novel is dead. We are the new theatre and we are what replaces literature.
You have this idea that your writing is like this untouchable holy vision. Nothing is holy. There are no visions. There is commerce. Life is commerce. Everything in life Bobby, everything is negotiable. Everything is product. Your talent? Your writing? It's negotiable. You have this idea that you have to be the Joan of Arch. This long suffering artist. Bullshit. What you have to be is smart. What you have to be is a negotiator. You're a playwright. You're used to having your lines spoken word for word the way you wrote them. Like holy scripture. The director defers to you. I was in New York. I know in New York it's the playwright that gets the adulation. You get to be the artist. But you get paid shit for it. You own nothing and you can never own anything. You want a home for your wife? You want children? You want them to go to private schools? Have nice clothes? This is the movies. You work in the movies you can have those things. For your wife. For your kids. You know what America is? It isn't the home of the free and the land of the brave. It's the land of the consumer. It's the land of the deal and the land of the dollar. America is the land of the buyer. Bobby, you know what America wants in their movies? What the buyer wants in his movies? They want the strong silent type to get the girl. They want the girl to have cleavage and the boy to have a square jaw. They want the alien from outer space to drool and have claws and be killed in the biggest explosion that producers can afford. They want their romantic comedies funny and their sad stories to have happy endings. They want it all tied up neatly for them at the end and they want to feel good after paying their 7.50 at the door. Don't re-invent the wheel.

This, my friends, is brilliant. This nails it. This is reality. Past and present. In Hollywood. In America. Homo consumerus.

City of Asylum

City of Asylum

Amazing.

How Prohibition backfired and gave America an era of gangsters and speakeasies | Film | The Observer

How Prohibition backfired and gave America an era of gangsters and speakeasies | Film | The Observer:


Why self-publishing is no longer a vanity project | Books | The Observer

Why self-publishing is no longer a vanity project | Books | The Observer:

The biggest change in publishing in my lifetime. Interestingly enough, no one ever called a rock band making their own record or CD in a garage "a vanity project."

Lance Armstrong: the whistleblowers | Sport | The Observer

Lance Armstrong: the whistleblowers | Sport | The Observer:

""I wrote four books about the guy. All the evidence was out there since 2004 and people will still say there is no evidence. To me there was a wilful conspiracy on the part of sporting officials, journalists, broadcasters, everybody. Now we see the fruits of it: high-level cycling has been destroyed by corruption."


Comfort breakfast

Milk toast, scrapple, eggs.


(Excuse the plate, which I used to flour the scrapple before frying. I was expecting to eat this privately, not showcase it.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How we grow out of our creativity

How we grow out of our creativity

Sounds like the book my friend Mark is writing.

Power - CNN.com

Power - CNN.com

A digital art gallery.

RNC Official: NM Governor ‘Dishonored’ Gen. Custer By Meeting With American Indians | TPMMuckraker

RNC Official: NM Governor ‘Dishonored’ Gen. Custer By Meeting With American Indians | TPMMuckraker:

This should amaze me but, alas, I believe anything can happen in politics these days. What a season for moments like this.

Maybe this is a public service. Some Republicans, in their stupidity, remind us what a racist, sexist nation we still can be.

Exploring the Yakima Valley

What with H's international travels and my pacemaker, the summer hasn't allowed much time for a vacation together. We hope to get away for a few days before school starts and decided on Yakima and area. I used to go to Yakima when I had friends living there and love the area. There's much new activity going on, including a small town in the area that sounds very intriguing. With a population under 1000, the average age is under 30 and the town is being developed with enthusiasm and energy by young artisans. Definitely want to check it out. There's another small town in the area where the "tourist attraction" are its dozens and dozens of murals. So we won't be bored -- and the landscape is gorgeous. So I hope this little trip doesn't fall through.

Poets and Money by Charles Simic | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Poets and Money by Charles Simic | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books:

"Even Robert Frost, who was immensely popular and widely read during his lifetime, had to get a teaching job to support himself. As for the rest of our great poets, going back to Whitman and Dickinson, their combined income from poetry, if it were known, would make them even more incomprehensible in the eyes of many Americans than they already are."


Round Bend Press: Another View

Round Bend Press: Another View:

TS puts me in my place re college football.

Remembering Steve Van Buren, Hall of Famer for Eagles - NYTimes.com

Remembering Steve Van Buren, Hall of Famer for Eagles - NYTimes.com:

When we moved to Pasadena in 1948, Van Buren was in his prime, leading the Philadelphia Eagers, my dad's favorite team at the time, to several championships. So he was a big sports hero in my early memory. I treasured his bubblegum card. He passed away yesterday.

Early mornings

Usually my favorite times of the day are the first several hours after I awake. I'm regularly up at 5 -- if I'm not up on my own Sketch gets me up because he wants his breakfast then. I feed the dog and turn on Kindle, where the LA Times has already been downloaded. I read the paper. By the time I'm done, The Guardian has been downloaded (at 530). After I read The Guardian (by which I mean, look at the headlines and read stories of interest), I look at the several blogs to which I subscribe: 2 science blogs, a publishing industry blog, a Mariners baseball blog. By then it's 7 or 8 and I usually think about breakfast. H will rise around 9.

The mornings are so quiet. During the week, traffic sounds start around 7 but there's longer quiet on weekends.  The peace and quiet of early mornings, of course, become something else in time, and the day can go forward in many ways. But the early mornings are pretty consistently what they are: quiet, reflective, peaceful.

Julian Barnes: a tribute to Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford | Books | The Guardian

Julian Barnes: a tribute to Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford | Books | The Guardian:

"Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, adapted for the BBC by Tom Stoppard, is a masterpiece saturated with sex and features 'the most possessed evil character' in 20th-century fiction"


Why George Orwell is as relevant today as ever | Geoffrey Wheatcroft | | The Guardian

Why George Orwell is as relevant today as ever | Geoffrey Wheatcroft | Comment is free | The Guardian:


Howard Jacobson attacks the dearth of 'good readers' | Books | guardian.co.uk

Howard Jacobson attacks the dearth of 'good readers' | Books | guardian.co.uk:

"The novel is in danger, according to Howard Jacobson, the Man Booker prize-winning author of The Finkler Question. But, he said, the fault lies not with novelists, but with the lack of good readers."


Friday, August 24, 2012

Sun dog


Round Bend Press: A Fan's Notes

Round Bend Press: A Fan's Notes:

TS on his passion for college football. I used to share it. Big time. But over recent years, a number of things happened to cool my enthusiasm:

  • Nike hijacking the University of Oregon, creating a virtual Nike U. I don't like Nike, heightened by an interview I did with Phil Knight when I was writing for Oregon Business magazine. I'll leave it at that.
  • The general increase of corruption in the game.
  • The general increase of hype in the game, the players participating. Try to imagine Hugh McElhenny doing a dance in the end zone. Or Alan Ameche. Tank Younger.
  • The increasing tendency to prefer talented thugs over players with character.
  • The increasing joke at major schools of the concept of the "student athlete."
  • My increasing appreciation of "real" football, world football, what we call soccer, which I now find to be a more exciting game to watch and certainly a more demanding game to play.
So I am curious to see how I react to college football when the games start next weekend. I have some curiosity: will UCLA become competitive again? Will Washington State with Leach as coach surprise some folks? We'll soon find out.

Recent reading

Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times by Susan Quinn

A gift from H from her recent trip east, this is a gripping and important history of the Federal Theatre Project and its director Hallie Flanagan.. I read it with awe and sadness: awe at the work artists can do when they are in circumstances to devote their energies to it; sadness at how many in this country consider such activity frivolous and, yes, dangerous, so that in the end controversies gather the forces of ignorance to the attack, usually successful in the short term, on such "dangerous" activity.

Quinn makes an important point. At bottom, much of the hostility against the Federal Theatre Project was racist.
When opponents of the project got up to speak in the House and in the Senate, they might start off by talking about incompetence, or boondoggling, or communism, or immorality, but they wound up talking about race.
These opponents are the ancestors of the present Tea Party, who in turn have ancestors: racism goes back to our cultural origins and remains in play today far more than is admitted. A white Obama would not be as hated a target. So this is more than the history of a theater project. It's a cultural history at an important time in our history, a time suggestive of our own.
The great flood of 1937, one of the most devastating in the nation’s history, drove a million residents of the cities and towns along the Ohio and its tributaries out of their homes. One hundred and thirty people died. But the death toll would have been much higher had it not been for the speedy intervention of the federal government: By the second day of flooding, eighteen thousand WPA workers were on the job, rescuing thousands and ferrying them to safety in rowboats.
Compare to Katrina!
 “It is the very essence of art,” she told a group gathered in Washington around this time, “that it exceed bounds, often including those of tradition, decorum, and that mysterious thing called taste. It is the essence of art that it shatter accepted patterns, advance into unknown territory, challenge the existing order. Art is highly explosive. To be worth its salt it must have in that salt a fair sprinkling of gunpowder.” 
After it was all over, Hallie Flanagan wrote in the New York Times that the congressmen who went after the Federal Theatre were “afraid of the Project—but not for the reasons they mentioned on the floor of the Congress. They were afraid of the Federal Theatre because it was educating the people of its vast new audience to know more about government and politics and such vital issues of the day as housing, power, agriculture and labor. They were afraid, and rightly so, of thinking people.”
On a much smaller scale, we had our own example of subsidized theater here in Portland in Fall, 1978, when director Peter Fornara received a CETA grant for his theater company The Production Company and presented a remarkable season of four plays in daily rotation. I've written about this at length in my essay Risk in Rep:
The four plays listed on the cover begin to tell the story: Cabaret, Marat/Sade, Joe Egg, American Buffalo. These four plays – a dark musical set in Nazis Germany, an even darker music drama set in an insane asylum, a disturbing family drama and a tough-edged story of street thugs – would make for a remarkable season at any time because they lack the variety typical of commercial theater selections. All these plays are serious. All have dark visions of human experience. Today a theater company might add one of them, even two, to its season – but four “heavy” plays in a row? Never! Then we turn over the program and look at the schedule. These plays are being performed not in succession but in rotation! 
I feel blessed to have witnessed this season because such an offering is so rare in our culture. But again it showed what artists can accomplish when they can devote their energies to their crafts. Such theater artists can make audiences think even as they entertain them. And as this book suggests, herein is the rub. In America today, thinking is a dangerous occupation.

Shaking the electron has strengthened quantum mechanics

Shaking the electron has strengthened quantum mechanics:

""Such a good agreement between theoretical predictions and experimental findings in such a simple (almost textbook) system is the first direct proof that the sudden approximation computational method utilized to solve quantum mechanics problems for almost a century is indeed correct," points out Professor Patyk."


Researchers investigate early language acquisition in robots

Researchers investigate early language acquisition in robots:

"...a robot analogous to a child between 6 and 14 months old has the ability to develop rudimentary linguistic skills. "


Round Bend Press: Bigelow on Zinn

Round Bend Press: Bigelow on Zinn:


On being an optimist

CJ, the protagonist in my latest and probably last novel, Sodom, Gomorrah & Jones, plays out a variation of the Candide theme: surrounded by evidence of a decaying culture, he wonders why people behave as if everything was fine. His doctor sends him to a shrink for his depression.
You can't fix what was bothering me when Helen was still alive,” CJ told Dr. Peters. “It's larger than all of us. You couldn't fix it then and you can't fix it now. You can either ignore it, or fill your life with distractions from it, or accept the fact that we live in a culture based on lies and deceit and betrayal. But how do you deal with that? You know what I think? I think the smartest among us, the most sensitive among us, can't accept it at all and that's why they're locked up in the loony bins. Insanity may be the only true response to all this shit. We lock up our best people. We punish the truly sane people in the country, the ones who see through all the shit and can't stand it.”
CJ, a retired historian who believes JFK was assassinated by a conspiracy, has a parting shot in this one and only visit with the psychiatrist:
 Why the hell aren't you upset? Why the hell isn't everyone upset? They overthrew your government, for God's sake! How can you live your life as if nothing had happened?”
CJ's challenge is to find a way to live with integrity in a world collapsing all around him. I don't think he's alone.

This comes to mind because  last night I met an articulate optimist, which I haven't encountered in years. We were over to dinner at an artist friend of H's home. Her husband, an anthropologist, spoke of the future as if it were utopia. With two delightful daughters, both of whom appear to be addicted to reading books, I can see a reason for exuding good energy. What fascinated me, however, was his reasons for optimism: technology. In a few years, he said, there will be pre-fab houses that can go up in a matter of days. There were other examples in a spiel that reminded me of TV ads in the 50s about the wonders coming in the modern kitchen. What brave new world, to have such gadgets in it.

I was tempted to bring up global warming, the widening gulf between rich and poor, the rise of right wing extremists, the instability in the world at large. But I didn't. My only comment was to note that with Curiosity on Mars, maybe technology was paving the way for planetary exodus if his optimistic vision doesn't pan out.

So I open the L.A. Times on my Kindle this morning and the first story is about Mexico and how crimes against women are virtually ignored there. And the next story ... well, you get the picture. In my novel, I use news excerpts, ala Dos Passos, to establish the world CJ is living in. Interestingly enough, after I published the novel my first worry was that I hadn't painted grim enough a picture.

CJ learns to live in the world by dropping out. He's inspired by the end of a poem by Lew Welch:
You can't fix it. You can't make it go away. I don't know what you're going to do about it, But I know what I'm going to do about it. I'm just going to walk away from it. Maybe A small part of it will die if I'm not around feeding it anymore.
I often marvel at the challenge and difficulty of being a parent today, especially of young children. I suppose there are worse ways to go than being an optimist. Thornton Wilder believed that we always manage to get out of our human messes "by the skin of our teeth" but, as readers of this blog may remember, I parted ways from Wilder, and sadly so, a few years ago.

As I've said in many contexts recently, I'm just glad I'm not younger than I am.

How hip-hop fell out of love with Obama | Music | The Guardian

How hip-hop fell out of love with Obama | Music | The Guardian:

"Barack Obama was once hailed as America's first hip-hop president. Why have so many rappers now given up on 'B-rock'?"


Pussy Riot is the tip of the iceberg – 'there's a lot of intimidation going on' | World news | guardian.co.uk

Pussy Riot is the tip of the iceberg – 'there's a lot of intimidation going on' | World news | guardian.co.uk:

"Maria Baronova has had her flat raided, her laptops taken, and now faces two years in jail – all for being an anti-Putin activist"


The New Vanity Publishing: Traditional Publishing

The New Vanity Publishing: Traditional Publishing
A prominent literary agent recently told me that unless an author receives a hefty advance of $100,000 or more most publishers will do virtually no promotion, leaving it to authors to create and exploit their own platforms via social media and networking connections, workshops and webcasts. So when you go the traditional-publishing route, you may well find yourself self-publishing without the benefits of self-publishing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A daily ritual

With the weather dry, Sketch and I make it to the park on a daily basis. We go to the nearby school if we're lazy or in a hurry but drive to West Lynn to our favorite dog park if we have time to spare or just need a drive.

Interestingly enough, Sketch gets more exercise at the school, with no dogs around, than at the dog park. He used to get into chases with dogs when he was younger. Now he ignores them and they seem to cramp his style for running on his own.

video

Quotation of the day

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have too little." --FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address
How far away, those inspiring words ...

Shameless Self-Promotion vs. Shameful Self-Promotion

Shameless Self-Promotion vs. Shameful Self-Promotion

Frankly I find all self-promotion shameful. I grew up with a generation of writers, naive and misguided perhaps, who believed the work spoke for itself. A literary book was not a commodity in the marketplace and its audience was small (elite!) by definition. We wanted respect and admiration not fortune and fame.

But the literary world like the world at large has changed. In today's environment I'm not sure how I would fit in.  Certainly not as a writer, defined today almost exclusively as outside-in work. Maybe as ... ???

A Message To Weathermen: Where's The Climate Coverage? | ThinkProgress

A Message To Weathermen: Where's The Climate Coverage? | ThinkProgress:

"How many heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and megastorms must we have before weathercasters start to forecast the facts?"


Recent reading

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright
The future of everything we have accomplished since our intelligence evolved will depend on the wisdom of our actions over the next few years. Like all creatures, humans have made their way in the world so far by trial and error; unlike other creatures, we have a presence so colossal that error is a luxury we can no longer afford. The world has grown too small to forgive us any big mistakes. 
 The last tree. The last mammoth. The last dodo. And soon perhaps the last fish and the last gorilla. On the basis of what police call "form," we are serial killers beyond reason.
 "A culture," said W. H. Auden, "is no better than its woods." Civilizations have developed many techniques for making the earth produce more food - some sustainable, others not. The lesson I read in the past is this: that the health of land and water - and of woods, which are the keepers of water - can be the only lasting basis for any civilization's survival and success. 
 Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea.
 The great advantage we have, our best chance for avoiding the fate of past societies, is that we know about those past societies. We can see how and why they went wrong. Homo sapiens has the information to know itself for what it is: an Ice Age hunter only half-evolved towards intelligence; clever but seldom wise. 
 Now is our last chance to get the future right. 
 Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
What Huxley teaches is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.
 What I suggest here as a solution is what Aldous Huxley suggested, as well. And I can do no better than he. He believed with H. G. Wells that we are in a race between education and disaster, and he wrote continuously about the necessity of our understanding the politics and epistemology of media. For in the end, he was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

They're town criers in the age of Twitter - latimes.com

They're town criers in the age of Twitter - latimes.com:

"A growing group of L.A.-area residents share a passion for listening to police scanners and spreading that news online, in real time, via Twitter. 'It's like theater,' one says."

Fascinating story. Probably happening all around the country. Great premise for a novel (but not written by me).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to Die in Oregon

How to Die in Oregon:

This is an excellent documentary that needs wide viewing. However, it provides merely a small first step to the real discussion we should be having about "quality of death" issues.

As presently conceived, "death with dignity" laws are presented as a humane alternative to suffering. This is legitimate but not enough. "Death with dignity" also should be available to those who want to celebrate a long, good life.

Say a man or woman is "old" (70? 80? 90? average life expectancy + 3?) and has lived a full life and simply is ready to pass. Where's our humane concern to such an attitude, which is perfectly rational? We force this person to sneak off on his own and do the deed as best s/he can. Shame on us! This person should have available the same prescribed drugs given to the elderly person with a terminal disease.

Here's an idea (not original with me). Let's define life itself as a terminal disease, how about that? After so many years of "living," you qualify to end your life for whatever reason you have. If you lived 90 years, who is anyone to tell you you need to hang around because death is ... what? wrong? an irrational option?

Until we broaden our humane concerns and include "quality of death" definitions that embrace individual responsible decisions, we are not a humane culture. Why can't death with dignity be a celebration of life and not, as now, only an escape from suffering?

So we've barely begun this discussion. I doubt if we'll actually have it soon. Not in my lifetime (which I define, not my doctor or anyone else!).

The Wall Street Journal Does It Again: Another Whopper Of A Lie On Climate Science | ThinkProgress

The Wall Street Journal Does It Again: Another Whopper Of A Lie On Climate Science | ThinkProgress:

"Suffice it to say that CHL do not have a great deal of credibility on climate science issues, which is perhaps why they continue to publish their opinions in the conservative mainstream media rather than subjecting their arguments to the scientific peer-review process."


Arctic Ice Melting At Startlingly Rapid Rate | Common Dreams

Arctic Ice Melting At Startlingly Rapid Rate | Common Dreams:

"The Arctic ice cap is melting at a startlingly rapid rate and may shrink to its smallest-ever level within weeks -- and then keep on melting."


The Five Most Under-Reported Stories of the Summer | Common Dreams

The Five Most Under-Reported Stories of the Summer | Common Dreams:


Samuel Beckett the sportsman – from cricket to Krapp's Last Tape | Stage | The Guardian

Samuel Beckett the sportsman – from cricket to Krapp's Last Tape | Stage | The Guardian:

"Samuel Beckett was first a cricketer, and then a writer."


The west's hypocrisy over Pussy Riot is breathtaking | Simon Jenkins | | The Guardian

The west's hypocrisy over Pussy Riot is breathtaking | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian:


Glencore food chief says US drought is 'good for business' | Business | The Guardian

Glencore food chief says US drought is 'good for business' | Business | The Guardian:

And mass graves enrich the soil with nutrients.

China Miéville: Writers should welcome a future where readers remix our books | Books | The Guardian

China Miéville: Writers should welcome a future where readers remix our books | Books | The Guardian

Logical extension of the democratization, anti-elitism thinking so widespread today. Moving to the lowest common denominator.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In The American West, The Hottest Year On Record Forces Us To See Things As They Are | ThinkProgress

In The American West, The Hottest Year On Record Forces Us To See Things As They Are | ThinkProgress:

"I pointed out that the land was scarred, as if someone had taken a knife to a beautiful person’s face.
“They used to say that the vegetation would eventually re-claim the sites,” said Steve Bloch, the energy program director for the wilderness alliance, through the headphones. “But scientists no longer think so. Not enough water.”"


On losing a watch

DL sent this:
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) says we shouldn’t become upset about losing stuff.
Here’s why:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
          (from “One Art”)

Battery charge

Stopped by the university briefly to check mail, my office, visited with a few folks -- and got a battery charge for the fall term ahead. But first, the rest of summer!

Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer is pure protest poetry | Books | guardian.co.uk

Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer is pure protest poetry | Books | guardian.co.uk:

 "Punk Prayer, English version by Carol Rumens

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish him, we pray thee!

Congregations genuflect,

Black robes brag gilt epaulettes,

Freedom's phantom's gone to heaven,

Gay Pride's chained and in detention.

KGB's chief saint descends

To guide the punks to prison vans."

'via Blog this'

Ebooks Follow The Trail Blazed By Paperback

Ebooks Follow The Trail Blazed By Paperback

A great perspective.

Renewal

Yesterday's funk has vanished. In good spirits this morning. Need to clean house for The Return and I should go to the U to check my mail box. Actually last night I made brooding progress on Walden project ... more personal, the better. Not academic. Personal.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Writing / Having written

Dorothy Parker is famous for saying that she hated writing but loved having written. I am the opposite. I love writing, from the brooding, chaotic energy of conceptual birth through the stages of increased coherence, liking most of all the rewriting process when craft tries to make the work as clear and energetic and dramatic as possible. But I am not so fond of "having written."

This latter varies with context. As a playwright and filmmaker, "having written" can be revealing because the finished product is a collaboration and actors especially can show you marvelous things you didn't consciously know you were doing.

Not so with non-collaborative fiction, poetry, prose. I like people to tell me they like something, of course, but I'm not wild about being trapped into discussion of my work because, after all, the work is an attempt at verbal communication and what I have to say is best said in the work itself -- or I have failed.

But what upsets me more than anything is when someone who says s/he likes a piece of work later shows a belief that I don't actually mean what I say, as when "real life" duplicates a dramatic situation in the work and the person doesn't connect the dots that my attitude about the situation is already expressed -- and is certainly not the opposite of what is in the work! This has happened on several occasions with women I've been involved with. In one extreme case, when I tried to explain this connection, she said, Yes but you just made the story up and THIS is really happening! My word.

The trouble with semi-retirement, or whatever phase of my life I'm in now, is that there's too little writing and too much having written.

Stan Kenton

Been listening to the CD Mark made for me and a long sequence of Kenton numbers is bringing me back to life today. Music can do that. Thanks, Mark.

My best film

It's probably the short, Deconstructing Sally. Here is a fair review of it by Bob Hicks. Hicks has followed my work since the 1980s and, while he hasn't liked everything, he's always been fair and often been generous.

Other reviews by Hicks:

Bad to worse

I lost my pocket watch. How in hell can you lose a pocket watch that's in your pocket?

Mid-convalescent funk

Cool weather has returned, which never improves my disposition, and I realize I still have three weeks of restricted activity in my convalescence, which together put me in a morning funk. Making scrapple to keep busy. Later grab the dog and go somewhere.

A normal summer?

H returns Tuesday. Maybe we can find a pattern of normalcy in what has felt to me like a chaotic summer. I'd like to have a summer before fall term starts, even though it'll only be a few weeks.

The War in the Shadows | Common Dreams

The War in the Shadows | Common Dreams:

"We have created a state within a state. A staggering 40 percent of the defense budget is secret, as is the budget of every intelligence agency. I tasted enough of this subterranean world to fear it. When you empower these kinds of people you snuff out the rule of law. You empower criminals and assassins." Chris Hedges.


Harry Belafonte and politics by other means | TLS

Harry Belafonte and politics by other means | TLS:

"For Harry Belafonte, entertainment has been a continuation of politics by other means. “I wasn’t an artist who’d become an activist”, he writes in his autobiography, My Song. “I was an activist who’d become an artist.”"


Tony Scott: more rock'n'roll than Ridley | Film | guardian.co.uk

Tony Scott: more rock'n'roll than Ridley | Film | guardian.co.uk:

"We shall probably never know what prompted the 68-year-old film-maker – a Hollywood titan, rich as Croesus and respected by his peers – to take his own life. But having made the decision, Scott was not the sort to equivocate. In films and in life, the man went at things headlong. He left the doubt and the navel-gazing to the arthouse crowd. He jumped without hesitation."


Django Reinhardt: music, mischief and magic | Music | The Guardian

Django Reinhardt: music, mischief and magic | Music | The Guardian:


Stonehenge: a new dawn | Travel | The Guardian

Stonehenge: a new dawn | Travel | The Guardian:

"Last month, after nearly 30 years of dead-end schemes, English Heritage finally began work on an attempt to bring Stonehenge back to its proper setting, starting with the construction of a new visitor centre – a graceful low-rise building hidden a mile and a half to the west at Airman's Corner – which promises to tell the story of the people who built the historic site."


Trotsky's murder remembered by grandson, 72 years on | World news | guardian.co.uk

Trotsky's murder remembered by grandson, 72 years on | World news | guardian.co.uk:


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Little League World Series

Extraordinary game in the international bracket, two undefeated teams, Chinese Taipei v Japan, 0-0 after regulation six innings, great pitching and defense, extra innings ...finally, Japan wins with 2 run homer in 9th!
Man, the level of play was so high here, for both teams, I don't think an American team could beat either one.

Sketch finds a pillow


Round Bend Press: A Life

Round Bend Press: A Life:

Hopefully TS will do his editing magic and make me sound more intelligible than I probably was!

Inspiration: peanut butter spring rolls!

A great morning slowly turned into a hassle of an afternoon, culminating in a computer crash. To cheer myself up I cooked -- and thought, well, folks dip spring rolls into peanut sauce, how about a peanut butter spring roll? And it's great!

I still feel like shit ha ha.

A busy morning!

Hour and a half breakfast with Mark, always engaging and woven with laughter. He had a gift for me, "a CD 4 CD," some of his favorite jazz tunes, which I look forward to. Came home, grabbed the dog, off to the dog park. Now for a mellow afternoon. Watching League League series for starters.

Breakfast at Joe Brown's Cafe

Off to Vancouver soon to meet Mark for breakfast. Haven't done this for a while, always enjoy it. Mark is older than I am! Hasn't slowed down his mind, so it's always engaging talk.

I don't particularly like these new cool mornings.

Not sure what the rest of the day has in store. Little ambition.

H home Tuesday night. At last.