Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Other Art

Though it's been a big writing year, I kept active as a photographer as well. Here's some stuff I liked from 2008.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Around the Sun

A week of 2008 remains, and, if this year has taught us anything, surprises are possible. Still, the media's trotting out theri Top 10 lists; so I'm giving it my shot. In many ways, it's been an incredibly tough year for me. Though I've studiously avoided writing about it here, I spent much of the year adjusting to being an orphan after my mother's death on December 18, 2007. I had a small but heartfelt production fall through. I put my production company to bed. And I wrapped up the year with my back going out spectactularly (and my doctor clapping me on the shoulder and helpfully saying, "We're getting old, buddy").

It's also been a year of amazing, sometimes poignant highs. Here are some of them in ascending order.

10. Dead of Winter
After a long hiatus, Pavement Productions geared up to do a production we'd wanted to do for a long time: Dead of Winter, a trio of ghost stories I'd written. We had the good fortune to team up with Portland's The Bluestockings, pulled together an excellent cast and crew, but the production spiraled into a truly eerie space as death seemed to stalk everyone involved, with nearly all of us suffering a personal loss and one cast member having to drop out. We finally got the damned thing launched, had hit and miss and reviews, and though we stuggled on weeknights and toughed it through some lousy weather and nearly every production company in town putting up a show at the same time, we had solid weekends and sold out all our Saturdays. Plus the show was fun as hell, and audiences were hugely appreciative. Then, midway through the run, Lisa L. Abbott, the director I've collaborated with since 1995 (and who has been the primary interpreter of my work) won a tenured teaching position in Savannah, which was wonderful for her, but meant she and her husband, Sean DeVine (Pavement's technical director) would be leaving Portland. Shortly afterwards, Buffy Rogers, The Bluestockings' artistic director, moved back to New Orleans. A bittersweet ride and, ultimately, Pavement's last full production. Group highlight: the cast and crew spending an unnerving evening in Portland's haunted White Eagle Tavern.

9. Angels+Demons
I continued my Angels+Demons photo project through '08, with some terrific results as Janet Price signed on as the project's makeup artist, my finding a sort of "sweet spot" in the lighting design, and the models bringing wonderful ideas and looks to the project. I'm not done yet--more A+D in '09, and eventually, I hope, a show.

8. Burning Time
As a JAW alumnus, I was invited back to Portland Center Stage for the 10th anniversary of JAW to participate in Commission!Commission!, an absolutely mad gig where patrons bid for a playwright's services, give them an idea to write about, and then the writers have a half hour to write and the director and cast have a half hour to pull a show together. Edge City, and, this year for the first time, open to the public. Ah. More ways to fail. But my patron fed me a marvelous idea about a father who takes his kids to Burning Man while their mother falls apart at home. It practically wrote itself, and Sharonlee MacLean took the mother's role and burned the house down. Good times. (I'm exhausted just thinking about it.)

7. Next of Kin
A tough, gritty drama (though laced with gallows humor) I wrote about a trio of siblings coming together as the family patriarch's death approaches. Written as I knew my mom was coming to end of her run. I loved the play, but reactions from some of my most trusted collaborators were cool at best, and I suffered a crisis in self-confidence. Then Andrew Golla and the fine folks at Portland Theatre Works chose it for a reading. The show was well attended, and the audience was absolutely wonderful and engaged with piece. In short: it worked. An emotional trial--a personal triumph. The play needs revisons, but I came away reassured.

6. Spies
Bond came back with Casino Royale, but Quantum of Solace was hugely entertaining and fed into a new play idea I'd been wrestling with for almost a year. Then my sister-in-law sent me John LeCarre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which proved to be the first piece of fiction I'd been able to get into in years (I mostly read non-fiction as research), and suddenly the threads began to pull together. More research to do, but, as Pete Townsend wrote: you can get up off the floor tonight/you have something to write

5. Liberation goes to press/Flynn returns
My two big war plays came back with a vengance: Liberation was published by Original Works Publishing and Waiting on Sean Flynn was produced by Neanderthal Acting Company in Detroit, where it played to 500 people in a weekend. Two of my favorite plays, back again, with renewed interest elsewhere.

4. End of the Pavement
Where to begin? Lisa and I had contracted with the Back Door Theatre for a June slot to stage a revival of a rewritten version of my 1991 Oregon Book Finalist Bombardment, and then Lisa got the Savannah gig, and the writing was on the wall for Pavement. We decided a full production was out of the question; so we decided to go out the way Pavement began, presenting readings of new plays, and we ended up producing a four-week mini new play festival, with readings of new plays by Nick Zagone, Matt Zrebski, and myself, and wrapping up with a classic Pavement "anthology" show of short plays inspired by Ubu Roi. It was a hell of a ride, and we so completely sold out the final night that we had to turn people away. When it was all over, Deb and I sat alone in the theatre where Waiting on Sean Flynn and Delusion of Darkness had premiered and felt one era end and another begin as the Stones sang Mixed Emotions, a song Lisa and I had picked out to wrap it up: Let's grab the world/By the scruff of the neck/And drink it down deeply/Let's love it to death/So button your lip, baby/And button your coat/Let's go out dancing/Let's rock n roll

3. Blue Nights/Red Days
My theatre gone, I was feeling both a little lost and liberated, and then idea a play idea came from where all the best ideas come--out of nowhere, and the next thing I knew, I was working on Bluer Than Midnight, a really strange little play about Blues music, the Civil Rights Movement, and...the afterlife. I'm hoping for a private reading of it this year, and I'll see what happens next, but no matter where the play goes, it's given me a terrific gift in that, for research, I bought a battered old red Fender Stratocaster and learned to play the Blues (badly). After years of music in my life as a listener, I again have it in my hands.

2. Oregon Book Awards
What can I say except Lost Wavelengths won the Oregon Book Award? It was an incredible high, made even better by being nominated among such distinguished company. Sometimes things really do happen at just the right time.

1. Obama
Among all the theatre and personal strum and drang, there was the election of elections. I love politics, though, for all my opinions, most of what I know about it comes from my time as a journalist and from reading Hunter S. Thompson, who, for all his quirks, was one of the sharpest political observers out there. Somehow, I locked in on Obama before Iowa, just a feeling, at a time when Hillary Clinton seemed unbeatable. Then Iowa came and it was a race. Somehow my gut told me this was the guy, though I faltered at times, worried, rode the roller coaster. But nothing prepared me for the speech at Chicago's Hyde Park, where in '68 police beat Vietnam War protesters senseless in a televised civil war that shattered the Democratic Party and the nation. I wept, unashamedly. Hope was, indeed, more than a slogan.

So I find myself wrapping up the year with an R.E.M. song that I clung to going into 2008, only to find the meaning has changed. We have hard times ahead, but the game isn't over.

Here's hoping you all have a rich, productive, and fulfilling New Year.



I want the sun to shine on me
I want the truth to set me free
I wish the followers would lead
with a voice so strong it could knock me to my knees

Hold on world 'cause you don't know what's coming
Hold on world 'cause I'm not jumping off
Hold onto this boy a little longer
Take another trip around the sun

If I jumped into the ocean to believe
If I climbed a mountain would I have to reach?
Do I even dare to speak?--to dream?--believe?
Give me a voice so strong
I can question what I have seen

Hold on world 'cause you don't know what's coming
Hold on world 'cause I'm not jumping off
Hold onto this boy a little longer
Take another trip around the sun

Around the sun
Around the sun
Around the sun
Let my dreams set me free.
Believe. believe.
Now now now now now now

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Smoking CAN be Hazardous to Your Health

So I have the day off, and I'm starting it the way most normal Americans do, brewing up a triple espresso of Celebes Kalossi and sitting on the covered back porch, sighing at my snow-buried garden while smoking a briar packed with Rich's Cigar's Midnight Express...while listening to Jimi Hendrix play "Machine Gun" (a live cut off the Band of Gypsies album). Foot gently tapping. Watching huge, fluffy snowflakes fall in psychedleic swirls. Another morning at the fun factory, just like at your house.

When I get this...impulse. A nagging instinct. "Look up," it says. Look up? Hendrix is wailing out, doing call and response machine gun blasts between his guitar and the drummer. But the feeling's growing and impossible to ignore. So I look up.

And directly--directly--over my skull hangs an inch-thick, three-foot icicle with a wicked sharp point, that has dripped down through a small bend in the patio rool metal.

So, uh...casually, I put the pipe down, turn off the music, rise, and grab the nearest metal implement at hand--in this case a sprinkler head--and give the icicle a gentle tap. Instantly, it drops, shattering. Right where I was sitting.

This gives one pause, surely: mostly, given that we're into our sixth or seventh day of snow and ice, how long had it been hanging there? But I sweep away the shards, sit down again, relight the pipe, and find a weird smile smile crawling up my face.

No one interrupts the Jimi.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reading the NEA Tea Leaves

Since Obama's moving so fast in putting his team together that they're down to announcing Michelle Obama's press secretary, I've been searching a bit to try and find out who might end up at NEA (the chairmanship opens next month). Caroline Kennedy has been one name knocked about, but for the moment she's out of the running since she's expressed interest in Hillary Clinton's senate seat. About the only other name I've run across is Michael Dorf, who used to work with the late Congressman Sidney Yates--a good sign--and who owns part interests in wineries--which, for some weird reason, seems like a good sign too. But who knows?

I'm kind of hoping that Obama will work something like FDR's WPA for the arts into his economic recovery plan, but that might be the sort of thing some shithead like Sen. Tom Coburn might filibuster as the empire crashes and burns. (There goes my grant, eh?) Right now, paying for symphonies probably isn't at the head of the list while the State of California is digging under the sofa cushions for pennies.

Other things I found whilst reading the tea leaves were a couple articles saying theatre is again dead. Or at least, the "straight play" (nonmusical) is. (Note to theatres: "Lost Wavelengths" has music in it and is a drama...I'm just sayin'.) This is apparently because blah blah blah subscriber base aging blah blah blah young people not coming blah blah blah small theatres popping up blah blah blah big theatres flailing blah blah blah....

If you been around awhile, you could probably write the rest of the article yourself. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and, drawing on my producing experience, offer a couple modest proposals:

1. Don't do safe plays. If it doesn't scare you, then what's the fucking point, really?

2. Get your audience drunk. Or assume they're drunk. Or high. Imagine seeing the play for the first time high. In brief: if it blows your mind, it'll blow theirs...and they'll come back or recommend it to others.

3. Keep your ticket prices reasonable or at least offer some deals. If you have to jack them up to cover the real estate, maybe you're the wrong theatre for that real estate. (And I know this goes against everything right and true and American, but, you know: you don't have to get bigger. Sometimes, small means freedom.)

4. If you're a theatre that celebrates having an edge, please don't do the same play everyone else is doing.

5. Do world premieres...you're going to lose your shirt anyway, so have some fun.

[Note: upon reflection, I decided that the version of this I wrote earlier today was too harsh and judgmental, so I edited it a bit.]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Paging Mr. Donner and Party....

Well...we got creamed.

About eight inches of snow here topped with a lovely crust of ice, with more freezing rain on the the way. What the week will look like is anyone's guess. But for the moment, we're enjoying being inside. I'm cleaning up my office (an unnatural disaster), taking breaks to play some slow, aching blues on Red, the Strat. Deb's making Christmas cookies, only some of which will escape the house alive. R.E.M. is cranked through our massive, old speakers, the bass shaking the house(there is great joy in huge cones that can remind you of where all your fillings are), and the parrot is singing along. The dog is hiding.

In less than a month, Bush will be history. Which is where he belongs.

Out the windows, finches, juncos, chickadees, and bushtits are covering the feeders.

I think I'm gonna survive 2008 after all. As long as the food holds out.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brief flash into the future....

It was snowing lightly as I ran an errand today. The wind had eased, and it was pleasant walking as long you had a hat and were bundled up. These two guys were walking towards me, both of them pulling rolling suitcases and one of them carrying an acoustic guitar case, and, though they might have been visiting, I just wondered if ten or fifteen years from now, one of them would be saying to the other: "You remember when we moved to Portland and it was snowing?"


Monday, December 15, 2008

June will come again....

So it's 23 degrees F in Portland. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 15. Which is pretty cold for anywhere, but especially for here. And I'm saying to myself, well, it'll give the tulips and the peonies that cold snap they want, but, inside, I'm thinking: man, it's not even officially winter yet.

So to counter living in the dark, here are a few shots of my garden in all it's hammy June glory, the month when everything just...shines.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

They Never Taught this in J-School

When I was taking journalism in college, the following behavior would likely have been frowned upon as "too editorial."
BAGHDAD – On an Iraq trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the war that defines his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" shouted the protester in Arabic, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.

Bush ducked both shoes as they whizzed past his head and landed with a thud against the wall behind him.

"It was a size 10," Bush joked later.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Public Service Announcement: Trust a Pro

More Danger: Egoflog

The folks at Followspot, Portland's theatre blog, did an interview with yours truly, in which I blather on about the art of motorcycle riding and how a Stratocaster whipped my ass, among other things:

followspot meets splatterson

If you get bored with my considered opinions, there's a link to a groovy Hendrix video to liven up the interview.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Danger is My Business (or Always Check the Prop Table)

Actor slits his own throat as knife switch turns fiction into reality

An actor slit his throat on stage when the prop knife for his suicide scene turned out to be a real one.

Daniel Hoevels, 30, slumped over with blood pouring from his neck while the audience broke into applause at the "special effect". Police are investigating whether the knife was a mistake or a murder plot. They are questioning the rest of the cast, and backstage hands with access to props; they will also carry out DNA tests.

Things went wrong at Vienna's Burgtheater as Hoevels' character went to "kill himself" in the final scene of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart, about Mary Queen of Scots, on Saturday night

It was only when he did not get up to take a bow that anyone realised something had gone wrong.

Though bleeding profusely, Hoevels survived because the knife missed the carotid artery as it sliced into his neck. Wolfgang Lenz, a doctor who treated him, said: "Just a little bit deeper and he would have been drowning in his own blood."

One officer told Austrian TV news: "The rumours are wild, with some claiming that he was the victim of jealous rival.

"We don't know anything for sure yet; we have to work through everyone."

The knife was reportedly bought at a local shop; one possibility is that the props staff forgot to blunt its blade. "The knife even still had the price tag on it," an investigator said.

After emergency treatment at a hospital, Hoevels declared that the show must go on, and returned to the stage on Sunday night with a bandage tied around his neck, ready to once again meet his mock demise.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's In It For Me Dept.

Amid the lightning and thunder of the Wall Street and Big Three bailouts, there hasn't been much talk about Obama's possible impact on the arts. I have heard Caroline Kennedy's name bandied about as a possible NEA chairmain, but, by God, she's getting some kind of job since just about everybody wants her for something.

Anyway, I ran across this bit on a piece about Obama's economic sitmulus package that I thought was interesting:

Among the worst vestiges of the Clinton years was the linking of education spending to the nation’s technological advancement, downplaying the life-affirming, intrinsic value of culture. Since the Reagan Administration bulldozed federal arts and humanities funding, the nation’s entire cultural apparatus has become increasingly privatized.

Why shouldn’t the stimulus package fund arts groups and schools to hire at least 100,000 cultural workers? These workers can paint murals, teach art, dance, music, and theater, and provide the level of art support that existed in the United States from the New Deal through the Carter Administration.

The Obama transition team has already endorsed an ArtistCorp, though this appears separate from the stimulus package. But a Musicians National Service Initiative already exists, and could hire people with stimulus funds through its recently created MusicianCorp.

Hiring cultural workers would not only boost consumer purchasing power, but in doing so the Obama Administration would send a powerful message about the nation’s values. The United States should not be only about high-tech, infrastructure, and finance, and our cultural infrastructure deserves more than having its leaders honored annually at a Kennedy Center gala.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Big Rains

Good lord. I wrote a song. I knew buying a guitar was a dangerous idea.

Wind in the leaves
A few left on the trees
Dmaj Amaj Emaj
Waiting on the Big Rains

New stars past the clouds
The Hunter and Hound
Dmaj Amaj Emaj
Watching for the Big Rains

Coming home in the dark
And it's just five o'clock
Dmaj Amaj Emaj
No escaping the Big Rains

Emin Gmaj
Goodbye to morn
Emin Gmaj
Goodbye to noon
Emin Amin
Goodbye to eve
See you in June

Still there's part of my soul
Gray, quiet, and cold
Dmaj Amaj Emaj
At home in the Big Rains

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sketch: Coming Down

Sun coming up, clear and cold, illuminating the breath. Not waking; haven't been to bed. House full of snoring friends. Sipping Cuervo from an almost empty bottle. Light down through the ridges, shaped into sawteeth by the treeline, shines through the fog rising from the orchard, the trees just barely green with new leaves. Cars parked haphazardly along the dirt road. A pickup on the front lawn, tire gouges in the wet turf. No other houses in sight, but a few columns of chimney smoke. Crows in the trees, still, one now and then hopping from an upper to lower branch.

Kelso must have really been wasted; he left his acoustic propped against a table covered with empties. It's an effort to move, but pick it up by the neck. Heavy, it's a substantial guitar. Try to remember a chord; all you can think of are A, D, and E--not very satisfying at this hour. Then you see chord boxes in your mind's eye for A and E minor, strumming quietly, alternating between the two. Dylan's "Senor" coming and going.

Sunday? Sunday. They will wake slowly, stumble into the kitchen, where the coffee's brewing. A few will probably have to be roused. Then breakfast for those who can eat. Leave taking in the afternoon: hugs, smiles, a few tears. Then the last taillights bumping down the road and out of sight past the bend.

Finally, it's just you and her, and the dirty dishes and pets wanting fed. Break out the vinyl, familiar cracks and hisses, and put on something you've heard so many times that you know the bass parts. Arms up to elbows in soapy water, your reflection in the window: a little less hair, a few more lines. In the background, the door to the office: stories, plays, poems impatiently waiting to be written.

Well. That's hours away. Now, it's just you and the sleepers, and the guitar, and the mistletoe in the oaks, and the spider webs lit with dew, and a squirrel running, stopping, then running furiously to disappear in tall grass.

Look up, and the red tail glides past a big cedar and vanishes into fog.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gray Flannel Suits

So I'm doing research for a new play, and I thought I'd throw out a request for connections: that is, I'm looking to chat with someone who worked for Associated Press, UPI, or Reuters in the 1950s or early 60s, prefereably in San Francisco, or even someone who just lived in San Francisco during that time (particularly in North Beach). Just want to ask some general questions, and phone or e-mail works for me. So if you know a retiree, man or woman, who might be willing to share a few stories, please let me know, either here or via e-mail at: splatterson@mindspring.com



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

...a word from the wiseguy. And pass the stuffing.

[Video courtesy of Gus Van Sant via The Wonkette]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008


One more note about the Oregon Book Awards, and then I'll shut up and try to move on.

The night of the awards, my wife Deborah and I were sitting in the second row, a little to the right of the presenter, and next to Deborah sat a very charming older lady who was graciously excited about the evening, and who seemed to be pleased to know I'd been nominated. In front of me sat two of the other finalists--both good friends who I was very happy for--along with some other writer friends I hadn't seen in some time--Jan Baross and Sharon Whitney. It all felt cozy and festive...and I was nervous as hell and completely convinced there was no way I was ever going to win.

So then Keith came out with a guitar, started doing my lines, and I became totally calm. I looked over at Deb and saw the comprehension wash over her. And what I thought was going to be terribly difficult--going up and speaking--wasn't bad at all. (They had good monitors, and I felt my old radio voice coming back to me, which was kind of amusing since the play's main character was a DJ and some of the background drew on my radio days. And I don't know if it was the hall or they'd thrown a little reverb on the mike, but I got just enough slapback from where I was standing that I could hear a vague echo of what I was saying. Felt like I should have started singing "Mystery Train.")

Afterwards, the older lady reached across Deb, took my hand, squeezed it, and gave me a megawatt smile. It was one of the nicest moments of a beautiful evening.

Later at the reception, I learned she was Dorothy Stafford, wife of the late poet William Stafford, whose work I dearly love and who took time to chat with me a reading in Northwest Portland years ago, when I'd first moved back to the Pacific Northwest after living in New York and New Orleans. It moves me now just to think of it. Mr. Stafford was Oregon class: real, sensitive, giving, and a writer who could crush and salve you with just a few lines. I remember coming away from that evening, some 18 years ago, and thinking: you know, it is kind of nice to be back--maybe this will work out.

Thanks for reminding me, Dorothy, of an Oregon we should never take for granted.



It's Friday, it's been a long, goddamned week; so why not check in with...David Lynch? He has a camera that comes down from the ceiling from which he gives weather reports on the Internet, he's building a sphere around an old clock, he says watching "2001" on a laptop is stupid, and he digs Norman Rockwell.

What's not to like?

His Davidness

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Liberation? Really?

So...do you ever feel like it's Paris, 1944, and you're listening to the Allied advance on the secret wireless radio behind the wall in the wine cellar of the Ritz Hotel? And all you (and the economy) have to do is stay alive...until January 20th?

And they thought there'd be dancing in the streets of Baghdad. Just wait.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Wavelength

All writers have special moments in their plays or books. Often they're the same as that of the audience--the big turnaround, the climax, the descriptive passage that nails a moment. But sometimes, they're just something that resonates with us and which comes to us with no warning, simply out of the dark.

Lost Wavelengths, as you've probably heard me say, won the Oregon Book Award a week or so ago, an event which still kind of feels unreal. The OBA people asked me to send a sample that a presenter could read, in case I was lucky enough to be chosen, an I sent them kind of a funny passage of two characters starting to get to know each other. Then it turned out that only one person was reading--the marvelous Keith Scales--and he and the OBA people found probably the only monologue in the entire play.

It was grand, and people seemed to enjoy it (Keith did an outstanding performance), but it wasn't my favorite moment in the piece. My favorite moment comes after two of the characters--Murray, a public radio DJ who travels around the country taping "outsider" musicians (musicians without any formal training or even musical knowledge but who are drawn to create...the musical equivalent of Grandma Moses or the Rev. Howard Finster), and Claudia, a radio reporter who's doing a story on Murray--have spent an evening getting to know each other better than most subject/reporter relationships. They're having a couple drinks, hanging out in a motel in Kansas, and the following, odd little exchange happens. I don't know why I like it, but it was one of those moments when I was both inside the character, and the character went and surprised me. And, somehow, it seems to take on a ever slightly bigger meaning to me after the election.

Well, if they think of me at all back at the station, they’re not thinking this.

Not cutting an erotic swath through the Midwest?

Dorothy smoking a cigarette? (With post-coital languor) “Oh, Toto, Toto. It really is Kansas.”

It is.

Kansas is underrated.

It’s pretty much like everywhere else now. McJob, McHouse, McFamily. I ought to know: I’m from Nebraska. You either get absorbed or go crazy.

There! That’s why!

People flee, screaming, to New York?

No, no. That sameness. That Wal-mart, strip mall world. A bottomless cornucopia of market-researched tapioca. And still there’s people driven to make something new. Because they’re gifted or clueless or…possessed by Satan. Still there’s this voice under the surface, smothered but struggling. Gives me hope.

Of what?

They can’t own everything.


So, being dutifully brought up on Sean Connery's Bond (along with trout fishing and science fiction, something I shared early with my journalist father), it's been gratifying to see Daniel Craig bring the cool back to the James Bond films, which it lost when Mr. Connery hung up his dinner jacket and toupee. Craig's Bond is more Steve McQueen than Connery, but, what the hell, if you like Connery, you're bound to like McQueen because, well, he was if anything, cooler than Bond. (Some could make the case that Steve McQueen was as cool as one can possibly get, without being John Coltrane, but arguing about such things is rather, uh, less than cool.)

To cut to the chase scene: Quantum of Solace has many of them, and they're extraordinarily good, and Craig is great, his Bond is the smartest guy in the room, and the quips are spare and droll, a welcome antidote to the jokey Bond films of the 70s. The story's not quite as rich as Casino Royale, but the film's still among the best in the series. Which is saying something out of 22 films, six of which were made by actor who owned the role like a king.

In short, it's a great ride, you completely forget whatever's bothering you for a few hours, and, afterwards, there's a little snap in your stride, and your eyes feel ever-so-slightly hooded as you fire up the car.

But don't peel out. You don't need to. Consequently, it would be uncool. Wouldn't it?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

But then again....

The media's working through all the election post-mortems...Obama ran a brilliant campaign...McCain never broke free of the conservative wing of his party...no Republican could have won with George W. Bush in office...blah blah blah....

What if, well, it just turns out John McCain wasn't a very good pilot?I'm just sayin'....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How Bizarre

At 3:00 AM this morning, they found Mitch Mitchell, drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, dead in Portland's Benson Hotel. That's about a block away from where I work. Apparently natural causes. Sixty-one.

Jimi Hendrix's drummer, Mitch Mitchell, found dead at Portland hotel

Strange. I guess when you go, you go...but who would have thought Mitch Mitchell would cash his check in Portland? (And Jimi being from Seattle.)

Well...rest in peace, sir.

Monday, November 10, 2008


...the rumors are true: last night I won Oregon Book Award for my play "Lost Wavelengths":

Oregon Book Awards

I think it's going to take a bit of coffee to get off the blocks this morning. Understandably, I was up for awhile last night.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

And by their pets ye shall know them....

Barney bit a reporter today. Kind of sums it up.

Your Lengthy Guide To The Insane McCain-Palin Cold War

Who is this guy?

I like Barack. I've liked him all year and have been crossing my fingers for him. Naturally, I'm beyond delighted. But I've been sort of going: who is this guy? Beyond the obvious, oh, he's a Democrat and liberal and an African-American and an Harvard law professor and a dude who smoked dope in Hawaii (because...you live in Hawaii, for God's sake...why wouldn't you)....

No. I mean: who he is. And I think I have it. I mean, W. was a rock--not in sense of strength and stability but like the guy who stakes his position and just holds it no matter what, convinced he'll ride it out and be vindicated, which is why he has no plan when shit blows up around him. Clinton was a surfer; he'd catch one wave after another--the whole idea was stay on the board. The elder Bush was a little like his son, except smarter and more flexible--he was more tree than rock but still of the ride-it-out old money school (and with that Bush mean streak...never forget he was CIA director once). Reagan was all stagecraft--they built the set around wherever he went. And so on...I'm not going to work all the way to George Washington.

Obama? He's the chess player six moves ahead of you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crunch Time...

...it's up to you.

Four years of this?

Or four years of this?

Whichever you choose, please vote tomorrow if you haven't already.

P.S.: My heartfelt condolences to Senator Obama and his family for the loss of his grandmother.

Friday, October 31, 2008


As I've noted on my blog, I recently bought a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and I'm learning--slowly--to play. Over the years, I've tried a number of kinds of art: writing (obviously), photography, painting, drawing, playing piano and organ, garden design, making prints, stage directing, and even a half-assed attempt at sculpting. Though I've enjoyed all of these, writing and photography were the only two that I thought I showed any aptitude for. And, though I love photography and think I've grown in the field, selling a print now and then, and even having a couple of shows, I am and always have been a writer. (One day, when I was six, I sat down and wrote a short story. Something about living under the sea. Wish I still had it, but it's vanished over the years. To me, the funny part was that I took it to my mom and demanded she type it up. I think she was a little taken aback, but she did type it for me. Unlike many artists, I had parents who always supported my efforts. I hit a fallow period between six and eight, and then I distinctly remember thinking, writing that was kind of fun: let's try it again. So I wrote another short story, and another, and, pretty much, never stopped.)

When I bought the guitar--which I call "Red" because it is a shockingly pure candyapple red--the store provided a free lesson. The instructor was showing me how each fret represented a half-step, which clicked for me as it corresponded to a piano's keys (and I can read music). I noted the similarity to the instructor, and he said, "Yeah. It's like having six pianos." (Which is really not true, because it takes two hands to make a chord on the guitar and one for a keyboard. You also can't individually bend or vibrate a piano's strings, but I digress.)

What has struck me are the seemingly infinite options for making sound the electric guitar offers, which I'm just starting to grasp as I've learned how chords are formed, how scales apply to solos, the many ways strings can be thumped, rubbed, stretched, and mauled, and the many voicings that emerge from which pickup you've selected (three on the Strat with two settings combining pickups), the pickup tone controls, the amp settings, and, in my outfit, with a nifty little foot-operated box called a Digitech RP50, the mind-blowing array of available voicings--from clear, ringing notes with a touch of reverb to create the feeling of playing in a large hall to absolutely demented, psychedelic overdrive, flangers, phase-shifters, noise gates, delays, and various amplifier modulators. You can make it sing, cry, scream, and simulate jet aircraft. It's absolutely marvelous. I'll be deaf in no time.

One evening, after playing some teeth-rattling distortion, I just kind of reeled, overwhelmed by athe choices the guitar offered, and I suddenly thought of a favorite quote from Miles Davis, which has actually informed my writing as much as my understanding of music: it's not just the notes you play, Miles said, it's also the notes you don't play.

Which seems obvious, but it lies at the heart of making art, for we're offered so many techniques, colors, effects, traditions, schools of thought, theories, pacings, and structures, that, once you get past the puppy love period where you want to do everything right now, you understand how holding back is just as important as holding forth. It's not just a matter of making the right choices: it's a matter of knowing when to stop, when to step back. Of knowing when, essentially, it's right.

And, if you're dedicated enough to be honest with yourself, doing an art--any art--really well is so terribly, terribly difficult that you'd lock up if you thought about it directly. Someone once asked Walter Cronkite if he ever thought about the millions watching his newscasts, and he said no, he thought of it as speaking one-to-one with a single person because, if he really thought about all the people out there, he'd be too terrified to do his job.

I don't know how much aptitude I have with the guitar. I feel like I'm learning, and once in awhile, I make sounds that please me, and that's all I'm really in it for. That and developing sufficient skills to play a song or two with friends. It's refreshing to do an art that's not a profession. But playing the guitar is devilishly hard to get right, and the more I seem to grasp, the more complicated it becomes. The relationship between difficulty and reward reminds me of an evening at a fiction writing workshop nearly 30 years ago when I'd presented a short story, which, frankly, was terrible--an utter cliche from beginning to end (and not even an interesting cliche). Out came the knives, and, when it was over, my self-esteem had been thoroughly diced. The woman running the workshop said, hey, how about we take a break, and everyone trooped off into the kitchen while I sat immobile, staring at the carpet. A minute or so later, the workshop leader came back and handed me a glass of wine.

"Christ," I said. "Does it ever get any easier?"

She gently patted me on the shoulder and said, "You better hope not."

Why? Because They Can

Poll: A Dead Heat In McCain's Home State Of Arizona

Another poll shows that John McCain could be in serious danger of losing his home state of Arizona -- and remember, the Obama campaign just announced that they'll be advertising there for the first time in the general election.

The new numbers from Research 2000: McCain 48%, Obama 47%, with a ±4% margin of error. The key number from the internals is that Obama is winning the early vote by a 54%-42% margin, and this group is expected to make up 17% of the total likely voters.

Another important number, showing McCain's latent vulnerability: In a test run for his 2010 re-election against Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, McCain is trailing 53%-45%.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

O dear readers from across the world....

I'm hoping to get off my ass and do some serious marketing of my plays this fall/winter. Looking for leads--theatres (and their contacts), possible directors or lead actors who might run with a piece, etc.--who might be interested in:

--A couple of tough, gritty full-length dramas about reporters covering war.

--A one-hour surreal mindbender about a guy who literally can't figure out whether he's dreaming, on drugs, or dead. Probably an appropriate late night piece. (Available as a world premiere.)

--A two-act bittersweet comedy-drama about an oddball DJ searching the country for "outsider" musicians. (Available as a world premiere.)

--A trio of ghost stories written for the stage.

--A pitch black comedy inspired by William S. Burroughs.

Any help you can offer would be hugely appreciated. If you don't want your name mentioned in reference to this, consider it confidential; and, if you do, I'll make sure who gets the credit (or blame, as the case may be). And if you're not a theatre person but know of a theatre company in your town who might just be into one of the plays, that'd be equally as welcome.

If you don't want to post here, please e-mail me at: splatterson@mindspring.com

Many thanks,


For a moment....

I'm pretty damned cynical. It comes partly from being a former reporter and partly from just following American politics for so long, but I thought I'd take a moment to share this picture of Obama on the campaign trail meeting with a woman who had just lost her son in Iraq. Despite all the silly bullshit that surrounds the campaigns, they are, at their core, serious business, and it doesn't hurt to remember that once in awhile.