Friday, November 30, 2007

We interrupt our regular programming....

Due to circumstances beyond our control, today splattworks presents the following musical interlude from the late Warren Zevon in lieu of our regular post.


Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking of mine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in Time
I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
Who maketh my spirit to shine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Debut of Iraqi "Special Forces"

I think the following article and clip sum up pretty much everything one can say about our Glorious Crusade in Mesopotamia:

Where's Bill Murray when you need him?

Seriously, you owe yourself an opportunity to watch the clip. Obviously, our troops will be able to stand down as soon as the Iraqi's are able to stand up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Found In Drawers

A flat, round eraser on a wheel, with at one end a brush. I found this when cleaning out my mother's house before selling it. In the desk drawer where it had been all my life.

I knew what it was: a typewriter eraser, thin so it could remove a single character, the brush to sweep away eraser dust. Worked best on erasable bond or onionskin paper. I use the past tense because no one uses these things anymore, much less typewriters. But my parents did. My parents, more or less, were professional typists, and paid for house, heat, and food with circular erasers. They corrected memos, news stories, letters to relatives and friends long gone, in half-sized, folded envelopes that may still be locked away in trunks somewhere. Letters I'll never see.

But I kept the typewriter eraser. Tossed it into a box with other things of absolutely no use that I couldn't let go of. And now, thinking of that eraser, I can see my father's hands carefully erasing, and that sort of bemused concentration he had while working. He'd catch you watching and flash a smile--not a full smile with teeth, and definitely not a smirk. Just a twitch of the mouth to acknowledge you.

My father was a handsome man, with a passing resemblance to Sean Connery, and he'd take me to James Bond films. I have a romantic notion of him looking like Connery and drinking in North Beach tiki bars when he worked as rewrite for Associated Press in San Francisco during the 1950s. He had no idea the kid looking at him would ever become a writer and would ever be writing this, but years later, when I'd become a newscaster, I learned that he tuned in every afternoon to hear my broadcasts. I wonder what his face looked like then.

How many times did I see that smile? When he was working hard, he'd set his mouth, and his lips would nearly disappear. When he was sawing or drilling wood. I don't remember seeing him do that when typing. Maybe because you couldn't take off a finger with a typewriter. You could certainly wound yourself. Wound yourself and others. In the right hands, a typewriter could be a weapon of mass destruction. But my father didn't have those kinds of hands.

Sometimes I wonder about my own.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Irregular Dick, Part II

First, let me note that posting a picture of Scarlett Johansson to your blog drives up traffic. No idea why that is.

Second, this whole issue of Cheney's irregular (alleged) heartbeat is actually kind of interesting. The first time Cheney dropped over clutching his chest, he was only 36 years old. He's 66 now, had quadruple bypass, pacemaker, probably has an implanted alien heart saved on ice from Roswell. Anyway, there are a number of heart experts weighing in that, for a patient with a cardiac problems like Cheney, an irregular heartbeat can be a sign of a worsening heart condition. Further raising eyebrows is that he went in for a cough said to be related to a cold, but a persistent cough can also be a sign of congestive heart failure. Plus the post-procedure blood thinners they're giving him can result in blood clots breaking loose, traveling to the brain, and causing strokes.

Now he may just chew through this the way he usually does, with a martini, snarl, and shotgun blast, but it could actually mean that Cheney could conceivably step down for health reasons, probably sometime next year.

Which brings up some pretty interesting political ju-jitsu in that Bush would probably appoint a VP (as Nixon did when Agnew stepped down). Else, following the line of succession, I believe it would go to the Speaker of the House (if I'm remembering my history right), and there's no way they'd let Nancy Pelosi be VP. The natural instinct would be appoint one of the Republican candidates, most likely Rudy "Let me tell you about 911" Guiliani. But would a candidate want to be associated with a president who, yes, actually has lower approval numbers than Nixon when that Dick resigned?

Magic bullet: Condi Rice. Screw you, Hillary and Barack.

I never thought I'd say this, but: Live, Dick! Live!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Irregular Dick

This just in...Vice President Dick Cheney has been hospitalized with something they're calling an irregular heart condition. Which makes about as much sense as Scarlett Johansson being hospitalized for testicular torsion. Obviously, the Darth blew a capacitor or something. I'm sure they'll have him up and shooting friends in the face in no time.

The Thousand-Yard Stare

This weekend, I saw "I'm Not There," Todd Haynes' film about Bob Dylan. Portland has a couple notable filmmakers. Haynes is one of them. He's made a beautiful film, the kind you walk out of thinking: I wish I'd made that. If you're out there, Mr. Haynes, thank you.

Growing up, I never paid much attention to Dylan. Knew who he was. Knew "Like a Rolling Stone," of course. Everybody knew that, along with a handful of the protest songs, maybe "Mr. Tambourine Man." He just never quite clicked. The Stones fit so much better with all the testosterone I was dealing with.

It was when I got to college and ran into "Subterranean Homesick Blues" for an intro to poetry class that I went: hmm. This is interesting. A friend's girlfriend (who I was secretly in love with) loaned me "Bringing It All Back Home," and, wham! I had to hear everything he'd done. Right now.

And I pretty much have. Dylan's work is hard to like. You have to be flexible. Work on faith. I don't think he even delights in confounding us--he just keeps moving, following his instincts, and we come along or not. I think he's had to, so many people trying to fit him in a frame, hang him on a wall. "Poet" is a pretty hard brand to market. Almost as tough as selling poetry.

Other musicians, I like their sound or lyrics or the mood or time they take me to. I like some songs from almost every genre. A few bands--the Stones, the Airplane, the Doors, the Clash, REM, Nirvana, U2--are inextricably woven into places and events of my life. But I think only Dylan's work has gone as deep, reached down and become one with my personal history.

"Blind Willie McTell" says pretty much everything I feel about America: bountiful, damned, mysterious. Haunted.

A lone tree in an empty field erupts in flame. Burns. Silently falls to the group. Smoke rises through dusk. Then all is dark, save a red moon rising.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Glory that is Denial

We're having a pre-production meeting for "Dead of Winter" today, which is great--it'll be wonderful to get the ship up and running, and all the pieces are coming together nicely. It also means that'll no longer be able to pretend that I'm not going to be a producer again.

Don't get me wrong: I love producing. It's like hammering together a ship out of balsa wood and seeing if you can get it through the rapids. When it works, it's immensely satisfying. When it doesn't...well, it doesn't. This is more a feeling of inevitability, like knowing you're really going to see the surgeon or walking into the final exam room. Because the switch flips, and, suddenly, it's not your life anymore. You belong to the play. When I think of holding down a job, all the plays I have in progress and to market, and just the obligations of paying bills and going to the grocery store, I hear this tremendous sucking sound at the back of my brain, and my eyes pull back in their sockets, and all my energy ebbs from a hole at the bottom of my spine.

Or something like that.

On the other hand, I can look forward to the stuff that makes it worthwhile. One would think those are opening nights, getting good reviews, and counting the final box office, but, really, the small moments remain with you. The ones hanging around outside with the smoking brigade and telling theatre war stories. They're finding these unexpected moments during rehearsal when everyone rocks back at once and goes "yes!" And they're even that nth hour during tech week when you're so goddamned tired that you're beyond tired (and there's no fatigue like theatre fatigue, baby, unless maybe it's having a loved one in the hospital), and, man, you just can't hack it, and suddenly something funny--or maybe just borderline funny--hits you, and you completely go to pieces with hysterical laughter. The kind where you can't breathe and you're begging it to stop and your cast and crew are looking at you like, uh, he's the guy in charge...we are so screwed.

And then there's the bar. The post-show bar is a strange and beautiful thing, where people tell each other the damndest, personal, stuff. When I think back on a dozen of my favorite productions, I see my comrades in that vaguely sallow bar light, with cigarettes burning and empty beer glasses flecked with foam. Their arms are around each other. They're laughing or bitching or some combination of the two. And that's when I think, Patterson, you're a very lucky guy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Warren Zevon, rocker beloved of writers (Hunter Thompson, Paul Muldoon, many others), had that writer's eye and ear for telling details. So you listen to a Zevon song, and you're in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel,* drinking up all the salty margaritas in Los Angeles and listening to the air conditioner hum while you think about the girl you met at the Rainbow Bar; she took you back to the Hyatt House and...well, you don't really want to talk about it.

Don't look for the Pioneer Chicken Stand down on Alvarado Street, it's apparently gone, and the man with the goods has certainly moved on to another locale, but, if you happen to be walking through SoHo (London version) in the rain, apparently you can drop by Le Ho Fooks, get a big dish of beef chow mein, then wash it down with a pina colada at Trader Vic's. An intrepid blogger has logged the evidence:

And they were doin' the Werewolves of London....

Now if I could just figure out where the Double-E runs...poor poor pitiful me.


*Sad to say, the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel has apparently been converted into the Princess Grace Apartments. No, I'm not making that up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Status Report

Here we are, coming down to the end of the year, and where the hell am I?

Well...busy. Upcoming production of "Dead of Winter" in Portland, come February. "Waiting on Sean Flynn" goes up in Detroit in March, and a short piece is scheduled to be part of a "Seven Deadly Sins" show in L.A. in May (my sin is greed, which I know practically nothing about). Reading 10-minute plays based on/insprired by Pere Ubu, an amazing stack of stuff with more coming in every day, for a reading and possible production next year. Plus a TBA production for June. Working on some other super secret for your eyes only projects that, ahem, of course I can't reveal at the moment.

After a long bout of writer's block--very uncharacteristic for me, been writing like a bastard. Since summer, first drafts of a surreal one hour, one-act called "Farmhouse"; a shorter one-act about politics tentatively called "Night Flight from Houston"; a serious two-act called "Next of Kin"; and a rather unhinged two-act called (wait for it)..."Rimbaud's Daughter in Louisiana (or the Drunken Pirogue." Christ. What the hell's wrong with me?

A bunch of stuff out with theatres that I'm waiting to hear on (a feeling akin to being stuck on the tarmac sans AC in August), but it's time to get back on the marketing bandwagon, so I figure I'll take some of the Christmas holidays to get some queries stuffed in envelopes. When I look at the backlog, I must have at least four or five full-lengths that have been done and that I'm comfortable shopping around, and it's time to hunt premieres for "Lost Wavelengths" and "Turquoise and Obsidian." Of course, still searching for that elusive New York production. And, when I take a deep breath, I sometimes think about the joys of pursuing an agent, but then this kind of gray and purple, Jackson Pollock mist slithers into my brain and my eyes glaze over and my head lists slightly to the side and drool begins to drip from my open mouth....

Jesus, Patterson, we don't have the slightest idea what the hell you're talking about! You writers are so goddamned self-involved! Get back to...dissing politicians or something.

Okay. Scott McClellan, Bush's former press secretary, is coming out with a new book in which he says, yeah, yeah, we all knew who outed Valerie Plame and it was the president and vice-president, and I stood in front of everybody and lied my ass off, but it was my job, all right, and, by the way, the president is a filthy liar. Liar, liar, liar.

But then, you already knew that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Brain Hurts

Okay. So here's one that separates the true political junkies from the dabblers. Robert Novak (aka "The Prince of Darkness") drops a teasing little line in his column that the Clinton campaign has sordid dirt on Obama but won't use it. Obama comes out swinging, saying he won't be "swift boated" and the Clinton campaign says it's a load of bullshit, they have no such info, and what a sap Obama is for falling for a Republican dirty trick. Who wins? You have 30 seconds.

Evil Bastard

Bob Novak, of course, who will say and do anything and has no professional scruples whatsoever and outed Valerie Plame but never went to goddamn jail for it. He kind of waves the trinket, ooh, bright and shiny, and the next thing you know, the kittens are fighting over it. How does this help Republicans (which is really Novak's game)? It makes voters so disgusted with politics that they stay home.

As Louis Armstrong sang, "It's a wonderful world."

The flip side of this is former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean has endorsed John McCain, which is pretty damn funny because Kean sat on the 911 commission, was the governor of the state adjacent to New York, yet doesn't endorse Rudy "911" Guiliani. Which is just about as big a kick in the nads as you can get in Republican politics, especially since Rudy stepped off the 911 commission so he could make a buncha bucks giving speeches about how brave and selfless he was during 911. (Inside dope: Rudy was peeing his pants.)

Why anybody in the right mind pays any attention to Novak is beyond me, much less why anyone would continue to hire/publish this steaming turd molded into semi-human shape, but I think it's fair to say that he'll be thrashing around like a cornered animal for the next twelve months, trying to set as many fires are he can, because, come December 2008, the game'll be up and it'll be time for Mr. Novak to move into assisted living. I don't think he'll retire to "spend more time with his family" because, seriously, who'd want to hang with Mr. Lizard?

Friday, November 16, 2007

When you're down and out...

...feeling like choosing theatre was the stupidest thing you could have ever done:

"We're one of the last handmade art forms. There's no fast way to make plays. It takes just as long and is just as hard as it was a thousand years ago."
--Steven Dietz

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where DO you get your ideas?

First, in February I’m producing “Dead of Winter: Three Ghost Stories for the Stage”—we have auditions for the men’s roles this weekend—and I’m currently rereading “Oregon Ghosts” (seems we have a lot of them), so ghosts have been much on my mind of late.

Second, I love dreams. Here you put in a tough day doing…whatever it is you do, lay down your head, welcome oblivion…and suddenly it’s psychedelic cabaret, the nightly David Lynch film. (Because, let’s be honest, David Lynch films are movies about dreams being movies.)

Third, last night I’m dreaming that my house has a little ghost problem. I’m talking about it to a sympathetic friend, and, while we’re talking, doors and cupboards are opening and closing by themselves. Only they’re doing so in just a way that, well, it could be the wind. My friend is trying to get me to take this seriously, while I’m like, well, the wind thing. Denial lives strong in dreams. The door to the room eases shut in that subtle wind way, and my friend points. The antique glass doorknob is slowly turning back and forth. I open the door. No one there.

Meanwhile, much else is going on in the dream: we just got two puppies…and a horse. And all my friends are saying, man, that spider on your porch. Have you seen that thing? You should use that in one of your plays. (My real friends seldom say things like that.) But have you see that spider on the—?

All right! I go out on the porch to check out this spider, and instead there are two little old ladies out there. Sitting side by side. Each has a tiny puppy on their lap, and they’re petting them in synchronous motion. Maltese puppies. And these two ladies have these Maltesesque bowl haircuts of silver and small, round, gnomelike faces. They’re smiling at me, and the puppies are staring at me, cocking their heads, and the two ladies seem to be enwrapped in a gold, summery light, utterly gorgeous until I notice that the ladies are also faintly criss-crossed with spider webs. And I slowly look up to see, above them, a common gold and black garden spider, your typical two-inch Argiope …but this one’s about the size of a dinner plate.

And then, gentle reader, the alarm clock wakes me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Things We Do

I did a strange thing this weekend.

As a preface, back around 2000, I wrote a play called "Altered States of America," which was both a comic and serious look at America's love/hate relationship with drugs, and, I suppose, with my own inclination for getting out this crowded, cluttered head once in awhile (a passion in my younger years that caused me a little trouble and provided a ton of pleassure).

I dedicated the play to Hunter S. Thompson, Warren Zevon, and Ken Kesey, and, within two years of its 2003 production, they were all dead. I sent a copy to Warren when he was literally on his deathbed. I sent copies to Thompson and to Kesey's widow. I never expected replies, never sought them. I just did what I thought was right, to pay a debt for inspiration and for bad advice that often turned out well. It was a damned good show, great cast, some moments of beauty, others of (I think) sharp satire--at least some laughs. The production got decent reviews, but it was scheduled at the wrong time of year, the ticket prices were too high, and audiences were low. I'd go home each night after every show, sit on the back porch, and play "Wild Horses" over and over until I could go to sleep.

There's been a lot of talk about Hunter lately. A couple books have come out, and factions are lining up between them, literary battles breaking out. In other words: he's still riling people up. But I had these unsettled, deeply personal, and unresolved feelings regarding the guy; so, as I think a kind of exorcism, I made a movie.

It's very simple, just some photos of Hunter off the net that warp and change in time to Pearl Jam's "Man of the Hour." It ends with "In Memoriam" then fades to black. It's clunky and crudely done. I can't do anything with it: I don't own any of the rights to the photographs or the music. I wouldn't want to do anything with it. It's something for me. I made it, and I watched it, and I let loose a little bit of what had been floating in my head.

It was, in short, a personal endeavor, and this is as public as it will ever be.


Brick, Mortar, Memory

It must be winter: I’m listening to Leonard Cohen again.

Who was it who wrote something like: “…we are all boats beating forward, ceaselessly borne into the past?” James Joyce? No, Fitzgerald, from "Gatsby." I can’t remember the quote exactly, but I can see that flotilla of rowboats on a flat green river, and I can feel my own boat wobble in the current.

Our entire economy is built upon buying things. In some way, that’s what provides and fills the larder, yet when the current finally carries you away, those things become inert boxes and odd objects, stripped of memory and resonance, in drawers someone will one day have to empty.

The common bromide says live for the moment, even though we can live nowhere else. But memory (or nostalgia) and hope (or worry) distance us from the present.

Perhaps architects are happy. They do their work, and their imaginations become part of our mindscape. Doctors, for all the good they do, ultimately lose. Lawyers, soldiers, and police we frankly need only when things go awry. Teachers transmit ideas, which do last, then release them, like caged birds, to go where they will. And the clergy, whose whole business is predicated on the eternal, operate solely on faith, which is all any of us really have.

Sometimes I think the restaurateurs, distillers, and tobacconists give the most to our present, even as their wares draw it away.

And the artists? We have the promise of the architects, but the odds are long. In that way, we’re closer to the clergy. Our job is just to shape and color what we ought to already know. Amusing (I think) to remember the many times people have said to me, in one form or another: how I wish I could do what you do.

It is winter.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Inner Demons, Generous Angels

In addition to being a playwright and theatrical producer, I'm also a photographer. Reasonably serious--had a couple shows and some stuff published. Have my own darkroom and just recently made the shift to digital. (After a certain point, resistance really is futile.) Going digital has been very convenient as a theatre occasionally asks me to shoot PR photos for them or someone wants a portrait, and it's a lot easier and cheaper to do a little sharpening and color correction, burn a CD, and be done with it.

Awhile back, I ran across an L.A. gallery's call for submissions on the theme "Angels or Demons?" I didn't have anything suitable for submission, but I thought: hell, what a fascinating theme. And a project took shape.

I'd been working on a lighting set up for portraits and thought I'd found the right combination to give me the look I wanted. What would happen if, knowing many actors, actresses, and other photophilic people, if I invited them to collaborate on the theme, shooting the pictures with a consistent lighting and backdrop scheme, with the variable being the look--costume, make-up, and attitude--the subjects brought to the project?

So far, I've shot five sessions, and the results have been simply wonderful. The images have all been remarkably individualistic, unique, and reflective of the subjects' creativity. And the lighting is gorgeous. I have more shoots in the works, but we're working on the ever-challenging matter of scheduling. With the holidays coming up and "Dead of Winter" going into production/rehearsals for next February, I figure I'll be shooting well into next year. The ultimate goal will be a show, I suppose, ideally in a gallery, but right now it's just fascinating to see what one can do with a simple backdrop, a couple of hot lights, and some creatively crazy collaborators.

Before sessions, I often sit on the porch and look through photographs to sort of "tune up" my eyes, the photographic equivalent of stretching before playing sports, but I find my attention wandering to: good Lord, what will my next subject bring to me and can I make a good photograph of it?

Happily, so far, the answers have been, respectively, "nothing I can predict" and "yes." Making art dosn't get much better than that.

(Note: if you live in Portland, have some Monday or Wednesday evenings free, and feel like getting in touch with your inner angel or demon, drop me a note. It addition to participating in a project that subjects seem to enjoy, sitters will receive a couple e-mail sized images, plus a CD and a couple finished prints.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Revolution in Turnaround

As a committed (re: otherwise unemployable) theatre artist, I can say with confidence the money's in TV and film. People ask me why I don't work in those mediums, and my standard line is that, yeah, you make the money, but you spend it all on shrink bills. Actually, in theatre, you have more control of your words, working live is fun and vibrant, there's more latitude for weirdness, and your colleagues treat you with respect (sometimes embarrassingly so) rather than as the janitor.

Mostly though, Hollywood scares the shit out of me.

So I'm neither a member of the Writers Guild of America nor on strike. I'm a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, which is kind of like being a Democrat--not being a member of an organized group.*

I have friends in the film industry, and I'm worried about them: this strike looks to be a tough, protracted one. And I know shows like "Law and Order," "CSI," and "Gray's Anatomy" keep a lot of playwrights afloat.

But I can't help wondering what the strike means for theatre, particularly if it lasts into next year. People will certainly spend the winter catching up on DVDs they've meant to watch, but, at a certain point, could their hungry minds be turned to...the stage?

It won't affect the programming of full-season theatres, which plan a year or two ahead, but it might affect rough-and-tumble indie theatres, whose ticket prices are closer to first-run movies. Could this be a golden opportunity for new, adventurous theatre companies doing new, adventurous plays, building a whole new audience from dedicated moviegoers who never realized theatre could be so dynamic and well done? Could it, in short, mark the beginning of a bold new age, a theatrical renaissance for new works and writers? A time we will all look back upon with gleaming eyes and churning hearts? Could it? Just maybe?


*A cheap and easy joke, stolen from Will Rogers; I’m actually very fond of the Guild; they’ve been very good to me and do wonderful things. Still applies to the Democrats, however.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Memory or Memory of Dreams?

Early eyelid movies. A red canna, glowing against green foilage. Blue skies with contrails. Red speckled apples rotting amid red leaves. Brown and gold carpet. Painting of Jesus in a gilded frame. Funeral procession on black & white TV, over and over and over. And over. Like the whole world has died. Held by the hand, down to see dad at the Spokane Chronicle ("the Chron"), running the crazy linotype machine nonstop, edition after edition, and the smell of hot lead, indescribable but unforgettable. Out the windows, flashing lights of movie houses.

Then the Beatles, Ed Sullivan looking perplexed. Parents looking perplexed. "Downtown" playing everywhere, and everywhere city lights, Christmas lights, tiki lounge with torches burning out front. Rainy Olympia, Washington, in a rented VW bug, the windows continually fogging. Steady procession of foggy neon bar signs. Staying in mildewed motel rooms with black dial telephones, tracer bulbs outside the windows, light show on the curtains and darkened walls. Good-bye Ru-by Tues-day. And the rain, the rain. My uncle, big, red-faced and laughing, hole in his shoe, water squishing in his sock as he crossed the room to open another beer. Who could hang a name on you?

A duplex on the Olympic Peninsula, could see the snowy Olympic peaks from the back porch, peeking over a fence, and in the field beyond, ringneck pheasants strutting, suddenly flushed, a bird explosion. One night a violent thunderstorm, violet skies ripped, and tall, bearded man, a neighbor, trembling in our living room; he'd been struck by lightning and had the thumb-thick scar down his chest to prove it. Rough workman's hands shaking. Then in Port Angeles, stairs, an endless flight of stairs up a hillside, until, out of breath, you reach the top, and below the dark roofs, the wharf with commercial fishing boats, the Stait of Juan de Fuca beyond, dull blue, white ferries leaving wakes on their way to Canada, and the wind blows, hair blowing around, the wind blows, and on the wind you can hear "...and everyone knows it's windy."


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Eagles Attack America: Film at 11:00

Falling into the category beyond prima facie absurd, right-wingers have drawn themselves all the way up on two legs and have pronounced the new Eagles album "Long Road Out of Eden" as an attack on America:

Which should have anyone who loves rock'n'roll flat on their backs, laughing hysterically--no, no, let me catch my breath--going, "Well, yeah, they're The Eagles!" They hate you so much they put out a double-album! And from most reviews, they still sound like The Eagles, which means they'll likely be carpet-bombing an FM "classic rock" station near you very shortly.

But no, these folks are objecting to The Eagles writing melodic, moody, country-tinged tunes about global warming as some kind of a Clockwork Orange rape of American sensibilities. So much for peaceful, easy feelings. Don Henley doesn't dig you, America. He hates your SUVs, your way of life. He's against freedom, and he thinks all the troops are baby-killing psychopaths. He wants you, take a deep breath, to feel guilty.

Yeah, dude. Uh-huh. When all indications are that The Eagles are still idling on the corner of Winslow, Arizona, watching the tequila sunrise, and trying to finally check the hell out of the Hotel California. Ah of these nights. I knew Glenn Frey has a little bit of that weird jihad flame in his eyes....

But...Joe Walsh? Plays a mean slide, but, as we all know, he can't find the door and they took away his license so now he can't drive and he spends his day bowling and picking up dog doo (hope that it's hard, woof-woof).

Joe Walsh can't buckle his pants, much less affix a suicide bomber's belt.

So--and really, I never thought I would ever, ever say this--but, fellow desperados, go buy the new Eagles album. You don't have to play it. Just buy the bastard. Besides, the cover art's pretty. Make it a movement. And while you're at it, let's bring back Quaaludes, Panama Red, and decent blow that hasn't been stepped on with baby laxative. Talking about loving our true way of life.

But please. No flare pants.

My God. What if the Bay City Rollers have become Muslim extremists? Now I know I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sympathy for the rare Picasso Shark

So the reading of "Turquoise and Obsidian" went well last night. The turnout was pretty good for a Sunday when all the clocks had been scrambled, and the audience was very responsive. Cast was superb, and I'll send them a thank-you when I can pull together a conscious thought.

Where the play stands at this point? Pretty well, I think. I expect I'll get some decent notes, probably have to tweak a few things, but, when it comes to be big global changes, well, I doubt it. There's a certain point where you have to go: that's as good as it's going to get. Move the hell on!

Writers are kind of like sharks: if we don't keep moving, we die. Or at least we do a decent impression of a dead person who still drinks and smokes and burns holes in ratty recliners.

Though he was kind of reprehensible in the way he treated others, especially women, I've always admired Picasso in that he was never afraid to try to new things. So many artists achieve a certain success and freeze, terrified to slip outside of their hits. But, firmly established post-World War II, Picasso, arguably the most famous painter in the world, pulled up his roots and moved his whole family to the south of France so he could study pottery with noted artisans in this one town. So he did pottery, and it was brilliant and still distinctively Picasso. When he got old, he amused himself by repainting famous paintings by other, older masters, seeing them through his style and poking fun at both the canon and himself.

I don't know if he died with a brush in hand, but there are worse ways to cash out.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Herradura Blanco, por favor....

You know you've had enough tequila when, during the Day of the Dead, whilst staggering down a narrow, cobbled Cuernavaca lane at night, you stop to look at an ofrenda in a shop window, and head of a skeletal mannequin turns to stare back at you.

The next thing, you're back in bed at the Hotel Bajo el Volcan, once the apartment complex where Malcolm Lowry wrote "Under the Volcano," and the bed begins turning like a rudderless skiff. No point in sleeping, standing being much less vertiginous; so you go out on the balcony and light a pipe, reflecting that Malcolm Lowry smoked a pipe and probably stood smoking away the spins on this very balcony that overlooks the barranca, the canyon that surrounds Cuernavaca and into which the Consul, the protagonist of "Under the Volcano," falls at the novel's climax. And it strikes you that as much as you love "Under the Volcano" and admire Lowry's writing, you vowed never to be like him. Yet here you are, smoking a pipe, struggling for balance, and leaning over the barranca.

That was me about nine years ago today, and on Sunday, my play "Turquoise and Obsidian"--the project that put me on that balcony--will have a free reading at Miracle Theatre/Milagro Teatro in Portland.

I'm very much looking forward to it, very much anticipating the play's arrival in a form where I can begin shopping it around to theatres. And yet....

It's cold in Portland today, really feels like the beginning of winter. But in my heart, it's 82 degrees. Among the broad trees shading Cuernavaca's zocalo, black butterflies with a five-inch wingspan silently drift, their wings splashed with irridescent green. I can't get over the butterflies. I used to collect them as a kid, and occasionally, I'd send off for foreign species from a mail-order catalog. They're dead, of course, and you have to treat them so their wings lie flat. I had one of these black and green ones in the collection, probably even knew the Latin name for it once (some kind of swallowtail, I think). Here it is now, nameless and alive. Drifting through warm, clear air, with a volcano in the distance.

And the tequila is very memorable as well, also clear, with the liquor's characteristic smoke and burn, but also wtih a silkiness akin to cognac. The Mexicans keep the good stuff for themselves.

No matter what happens with "Turquoise and Obsidian," whether or not it goes on to full production, and despite all the years I've worked on it, it's already given me more than I can ever give it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thinking About "Bombardment"

In 1991, at the start of the first Gulf war and in a terrible fury, I sat down and began work on "Bombardment." I wanted to write something that would examine the divide-and-conquer "cultural war" politics going on at the time, where the powerful and wealthy played upon the predjudices of the poor to frighten them into acting against their own interests, as well as the real war in the Middle East, which I could barely beleive was truly happening. At the same time, I also wanted to capture the feeling of history rolling irresistably over all of us, no matter what our status was.

On the other hand, I didn't want to write some beat-them-over-the-head message play; I was much more interested in how these things made me feel and, in turn, made the characters feel. So I ended up placing these half-archetypical/half-realistic, wounded, suffering people in this sort of dreamscape, where a battle ensued between masters and servants, played out both in terms of power through status and sexual domination.

In terms of action, the play goes like this....

Corno, a sort of wounded king/strongman, has been cast from his home by Arethea, his queen/wife, because he has been caught being sexually indiscreet with Arethea's maidservant, Carmelita. As Corno plots to recover his position, Althea seduces Placid, Corno's hit man/fixer, to plan to murder Corno. By the end of the first act, one learns that Carmelita and Placid have planned a double-cross all along and murder Corno and Althea, assuming their power.

In the second Act, Carmelita's personality begins to disintigrate as power begins to paralyze her, and when she tries to break Placid from the cycle of power, betrayal, and fall, Placid's paranoia takes over, and in fear, he implores the ghosts of Corno and Althea to return to resume their power and protect him. The play ends with Corno, Arethea, Carmelita, and Placid physically entangled in a web in which none of them can break free.

As The Clash wrote: anger can be power. Bombardment went on to be nominated as a Finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

So why does the play haunt me now? Are we back to where we were? Do we have to set the Middle East aflame every time a Bush gets in office? Santayana famously said those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, but it seems all of us, in thrall to those who cannot remember the past or refuse to heed its lessons, are doomed to see these savage kabuki dramas endlessly repeated.

At the time, I wondered if the ending of Bombardment was too pessimistic. Now I'm afraid I got it exactly right.

Paul Tibbets died today. He was 92. He was the commander of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was reported he had no regrets and slept well at night.