Friday, December 10, 2010

Weirdness: Butter for the Writer's Bread

Research leads in many wry and byway paths. To wit, a bit of reading about Lord Byron (famously: mad, bad, and dangerous to know) led me, by hook and crook, to an anecdote about Mary Shelley, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, heroic romantic poet, who, like all good heroic romantic poets, died heroically and stupidly...but most of all mysteriously. His boat sank and he washed up on shore, and per the quarantine rules of the time, they cremated him on the beach. Sorry, chap.

However, many years later, after Mary died of an apparent brain tumor (not as good as drowning, but exploding heads have their allure), the Shelley's opened a box in Mary's desk and found a silk parcel, which was wrapped in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Adonaïs" and contained locks of her dead childrens' hair along with a fragment of Percy's heart. Yeah, his actual phsycial heart, apparently swiped from the pyre. These Romantics knew how to do it right.

Flash forward to to 1969, and the Stones play a free concert in Swinging London's Hyde Park, as a tribute to the recently expired Brian Jones (who heroically and stupidly drowned in his swimming pool...under mysterious circumstances), during which Mick Jagger reads an excerpt from "Adonaïs" while butterflies are released. Jagger wears a little girl's dress. Nice touch. And then Mick Taylor, Jones' replacement on guitar, comes out and burns the place down.

A pretty bunch, all of them.

Here's the excerpt; Shelley and Byron would have been proud:

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep
He hath awakened from the dream of life
'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! — Rome's azure sky,
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crossing Points

You search and search for a way in, for what are commonly termed “ideas,” but what are really doorways into the word room. And then, when they come, you resist because you know, if they really take off, you belong to the words, and there’s nothing you can do but see where they take you. If you find a title, forget it. Especially if it’s a good one. You might as well snap on the handcuffs because it’s gone from “writing” to “being a piece.” And you just have to hang on for the ride.

I have a title. Or it has me.

Of course, you can short-circuit this at any time, just by telling someone what the title is. It automatically dissipates the magic, your attention flags, and you’re free to get on with normal life. For example, I could just tell you the title is....

But...then I wouldn’t have anything to write, and I’d have to start searching again.

This is a weird business I'm in.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

That Last Waltz

Thirty-four years ago, tomorrow, four Canadians and a wiry guy from Arkansas played their final concert as The Band at Winterland. Martin Scorcese made a magnificent concert film of the proceeding—perhaps the best rock’n’roll film ever. The Band played their own funny, heartbreaking songs ("It Makes No Difference"; "The Shape I'm In" (pouring out of Richard Manuel); "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (maybe Levon Helm's finest moment); and a transcendent "The Weight" along with The Staple Singers, who inspired The Band's multipart vocals), then blithely served as some of the world’s greatest sidemen to a parade of defining voices of the era: Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Paul Butterfield, and others, including a guy named Dylan, who gave The Band a break when they were billed as The Hawks, having split as Ronnie Hawkins’ backup band.

Not too long ago, a four-CD set from the concert was released, and it’s filled with wonderful pieces never included in the film or the original, three-LP concert album. Listening to it now, with distance and time, the choice of material is striking: nearly every song can be viewed as a reflection on time’s passing. The Sixties were done, consciousness expansion gone in a blur of Quaaludes, coke, and smack. The world had certainly changed, but the revolution failed, done in by Nixon, Vietnam, oil shocks, recession, and its own, inherent contradictions.

Even the music, once so high and wild, had degenerated into shadows of itself; the same year The Last Waltz celebrated what had been, The Ramones were busy burying it three chords at a time.

What you do hear in The Last Waltz is the blues. Blues and R&B underlies most of the cuts and The Band’s sound. Muddy Waters' time onstage is all too brief. The Sixties may have been a bright flare that had burned itself out, but the blues are forever, relevant, and timeless. And the blues still have the power to cut through rock industry bullshit and coked up egos.

Still, just a look at the song titles, played in addition to The Band’s songs (which gloriously reflected the past as in a funhouse mirror), carry the sense of an era’s closing: “Such a Night”; “Down South in New Orleans” (one of the simplest, best songs ever written: ‘my ship’s at anchor/my suitcase packed/got a one-way ticket/ain’t comin’ back’); “All Our Past Times”; “Further on Up the Road”; “Helpless”; “Furry Sings the Blues”; "Tura Lura Lura"; and “Forever Young.”

And the closer. Everybody came out to sing it. Ringo sat in on drums, Ronnie Wood on lead guitar—respectively representing the Beatles and the Stones. You don’t get much more iconic than that, unless you could drag out Lennon and Jagger (not bloody likely). It was a song from The Basement Tapes, when Dylan had dropped off the circuit and holed up in Woodstock, New York. Informally, he would get together with his neighbors, The Band, and they would have a few drinks, roll the tape, and see what happened. It’s amusing to wonder what Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson thought one apocryphal evening when Bob Dylan unfolded a piece of paper and said something like: “Uh…I got this thing called ‘I Shall Be Released.’ Wanna’ try it?”

It was, as they say, a long time ago. A lot of those folks—Muddy, Butterfield, Bill Graham, Bobby Charles, Danko, and…oh man…Richard Manuel—are no longer with us. Everything had gone to hell and was fucked up. Everybody was fucked up. Everything’s still fucked up. But, if you angle your head just right and look down into yourself, you can still see your reflection somewhere so high above that wall.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In which your hero wins one for the home team...

Looks like I up and won CoHo Productions New by Northwest play contest with "Immaterial Matters" somewhat gentle, period piece about death, photography, and, uh...death.

Smile for the camera.

CoHo Productions Presents Steve Patterson's IMMATERIAL MATTERS, 1/23-24

Monday, November 1, 2010

Utter Horror and Other Forms of Entertainment

There’s an election tomorrow. You might have heard that. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are going to get whacked. And they likely will, but there’s something in me that’s not quite buying the polls. Maybe I’m in denial. Still, the one thing that seems to be distinguishing the polls—other than they’re terrifying Democrats—is that they’re all over the place. One week they show Republican momentum, another week they show a Democratic momentum…and now the Republicans are back.

As usual, it’ll come down to local politics and who’s got the best ground game. Rather than get into a whole big analysis, which seems a little pointless when the numbers are all over, I’ll just trot out my predictions, and we’ll see how it rolls tomorrow.

Republicans take back the House. Why? It’s the one thing polls seem to hold together, it’s an anti-incumbent year, largely because unemployment is so high. Since Democrats have more seats, they’re likely to take the biggest share of the blame. (Never mind that the Republicans have no idea how to get out of the economic mess other than “cut taxes”…which won’t work.)

The Senate’s going to be close. Boxer will probably hold onto her seat. Harry Reid will likely lose his, even though his opponent is arguably insane. I think the Dems will probably lose Kentucky and Pennsylvania too. God only knows what’ll happen in Alaska, though I’d hedge my bets on Murkowski—she’s a known quantity and Miller seems less and less stable. But who knows? Miller may be a protest vote. I think it’s arguable that a lot of Republicans will pick up seats as protests. Looks like Feingold’s over in Wisconsin; and it’s worth saying that the last couple of years, Feingold has been something of an arrogant son-of-a-bitch, and that may be partly why his opponent leads.

Brown probably wins the governorship in California. That’s cool. I like the Jerry. He’s a much less conventional politician than he seems, and California could use his experience. The real question marks are here in the Pacific Northwest. Patty Murray’s running a bare fisted fight with Dino Rossi, and this might finally be the year than Rossi wins one, for the aforementioned reasons. But Murray’s really pretty well liked, and Rossi’s a perennial loser, albeit by close margins. This one probably won’t be settled until the next day or later. It’ll likely come down to how the vote breaks in Puget Sound.

Close to home, we have a nail biter between Kitzhaber and Dudley for governor of Oregon. Dudley actually has a shot, as a moderate Republican in the mold of Atiyeh, and economic times are very similar to those when Atiyeh was elected. Kitzhaber’s a good, smart guy, but he burned a few bridges when he was governor, and folks may feel he’s had his shot. It’ll basically come down to Democratic turnout in Portland and Eugene…as it usually does in Oregon.

And California’s Proposition 19, legalizing marijuana? It’s been a fascinating ride on this one, but marijuana measures tend to run strong, then fade, which is what the polls indicate here. On the other hand, a lot of people who might turn out to vote on Prop 19 might be off the pollsters’ radar, so it’s not over. My general feeling is: I’ll believe it when I see it, but, after you’ve watched a president resign, guys walk on the moon, the Berlin Wall come down, and an African-American win the presidency, you hedge your bets. So Prop 19, maybe…but probably not.

Finally, if the Republicans actually win this thing like some pollsters are saying, then they’re going to have to govern. Which they suck at. And that’s where it gets entertaining, because voters don’t seem to be so much for Republicans as they are against Democrats. Entertaining, that is, unless they don’t usher in a second Great Depression with total gridlock and general insanity. Good times…not so much.

From the Stewart Rally

Note: this is the first time in the history of this blog that "sanity" has been a keyword.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Flood

nights walking Eugene, Oregon, steam from the streets
New York crisp in autumn, posters peeling from the buildings
strolling a cigar through New Orleans dusk with the lights coming up
birds sing all night in the trees round Jackson Square
the Portland downpour soaking the soul
Rome glittering with scooters
California slides into chablis

Monday, September 27, 2010

Now he tells me!

So here I just had a birthday, and it never occurred to me that a splatterson should own a Splattercaster. Man. It's not too late, loyal readers....*

*Not to be taken seriously.

Friday, September 17, 2010


It’s just a place. Like any other. You’re there, and then you’re elsewhere. After awhile, you end up with a lot of elsewheres. A lifetime of elsewheres. Some places put a hook in you because of their beauty or strangeness or because they resonate with something inside. Some places are just home.

Home is difficult, partly because you take it for granted when you’re there. it’s only after you’ve left that you feel its absence. it’s really only when you can never go back. Homes give out on us or we on them. Before we feel too sorry for ourselves, there are whole peoples who can’t go home, who have been forced to leave, who carry the deepest of wounds because their home has been taken from them.

But homes are taken from all of us. Sometimes very quickly. One day, you turn around…and that’s it. There’s no going back. Then where are you?

Where you are now, I suppose. The home waiting to be lost. The place that will someday belong only to memory. With time, the memories belong to a smaller and smaller pool of people. Eventually, they’re gone, and those homes are forever erased.

Some deal, huh? It’s weirdly beautiful, though. Perfect in its imperfect way. Time is not our friend, but it does grant us a store of experience, which becomes all that much more precious as it gathers attendant loss. Eventually, we pay for it. Forever moving forward. But the past follows, and as painful as it can be, bearing its weight, we should be grateful for the things we’re allowed carry. Because they belong only to us, until we must relinquish them, and they cease, altogether, to exist.

That's when they take us with them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Uh Oh

I was strolling to work this morning when I idly thought, hey, a great name for a band would be "Difficult Listening Hour"...then you could get away with playing any kind of crazy shit.

And then the chill went down my spine.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dear Readers...

...I've been buried, of late, with a play opening in July, then two more in August. But I'm digging out. Slowly. Here's hoping to do some fresh blog scribbling in September.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Good Way to Start a Morning

So I sit down with my coffee, and the paper's already been opened to the Performance section of the Portland Oregonian's Arts & Entertainment section, and there's "Next of Kin" with a #1 pick on the Performance "High Five" list for shows to pick out.

Now that's a way to start the day.

Given that they gave Chris's show "Fishing for My Father" a pick last week, my batting average has been running pretty good.

Another show tonight and tomorrow night. I'm digging this.

Monday, August 9, 2010

So Many Theatre Openings, So Little Time

So the other show I'm involved in and is opening August 19th is Fishing For My Father; because Next of Kin and Fishing open the same night, I'm going to have to wait a week to see Fishing...which is a pleasurable sort of dilemma.

Fishing for My Father really isn't my show. It's actor/producer/playwright/wunderkind Chris Harder's (with whom I co-wrote The Centering a couple years ago). I just contributed to some monologues that served as a jumping off point for Chris's extravagantly versatile imagination. I can't wait to see what he's come up with, in company with some of Portland's most talented theatre makers (except yours truly, who's kind of the Rain Man of the bunch). Details follow below.

Break a leg, Mr. Theatre Wizard....


Fishing For My Father
Playing at the CoHo Theatre
August 19, 2010 through August 29, 2010

A family fishing trip turns adventure as an outdoorsman struggles to discover the meaning of fatherhood.

This inventive solo show is packed with traditional monologues, impressionistic dance and surreal clown antics, along with original music and recorded interviews from the community. A fast-paced, funny and heartwarming world premier you won't want to miss!

Devised with some of Portland's top theatre makers, Chris Harder collaborates with Jonathan Walters (Hand2Mouth Theatre), Philip Cuomo (Third Rail Rep), Steve Patterson (Oregon Book Award), Christine Calfas (Dance/Movement), Gretchen Corbett (Third Rail Rep), Rebecca Martinez (Sojourn Theatre), Tim Stapleton (Set), Jim Davis and Jonathan Kreitler (Music).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Upcoming New Play: "Next of Kin"

Last year, Portland Theatre Works won a RACC grant to workshop my two-act drama "Next of Kin." Currently, we're hard at work on that project, and there will be three nights of public, staged readings on August 19, 20, and 21. The process is going well, the director and cast are excellent, and the play is beginning to feel very, very good; so I wanted to take a moment to put it on your radar. Below is some information on the play and production.

"Next of Kin"--typically for me--is dark, intense, and for mature audiences (due to language and subject matter), but I'm hoping it has its share of humor too. We're having a kick working on it, and here's hoping you can share the results with us.




Portland Theatre Works

Summer LabWorks Explores Duty and Family

Portland Theatre Works is excited to present Steve Patterson's play Next of Kin for three workshop performances August 19-21 at Theater!Theatre! in SE Portland. Next of Kin was read in Portland Theatre Works' FreshWorks series in October of 2008 and selected for our more intensive LabWorks program for further development.

Mike is a Marine Casualty Assistance Officer who informs parents and spouses their loved one has been killed. Mike's brother Rich is a Marine recruiter trying to fill his quotas. Their sister Angie was left at home to care for their father, a Vietnam Vet and former Marine, who now lies in a coma having attempted to kill himself. Reuniting over their father's deathbed, they are forced to face the complex relationships they have with each other as they pick up the pieces their father left behind.

Portland Theatre Works has an on-going relationship with Steve and his work. In one of our very early FreshWorks reading in May 2006 we presented Lost Wavelengths, which was subsequently selected for that summer's JAW Festival at Portland Center Stage, and later won the 2008 Oregon Book Award's Angus L. Bowmer Award for Drama. We're very happy to be able to revisit Next of Kin and to give further support to the development of this play.

The cast includes Tony Cull, Lindsay Matteson, and Casey McFeron. The director is Andrew Golla.

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His full-length works include Waiting on Sean Flynn, Malaria, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Turquoise and Obsidian, Bombardment, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his play Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival. The Centering, a one-man play he co-wrote with Portland actor Chris Harder, has been featured at the Edmonton Fringe Festival and the Boulder Fringe Festival, and, in 2007, Mr. Harder won a Drammy Award for Best Actor for his work in the play. Mr. Patterson’s play Liberation was published by Original Works Publishing in 2008. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and former member of Portland Center Stage's PlayGroup playwriting workshop. His play Lost Wavelengths won the 2008 Oregon Book Award, and, in 2009, and, in 1997, he was the inaugural recipient of the Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship. In 2009, he became the Dramatists Guild's co-representative for Oregon. He is a founding member of a new Portland theatre company, Playwrights West.

Portland Theatre Works is dedicated to developing new work for the theatre by energetically supporting those who create that work. The FreshWorks series offers monthly staged readings of developing scripts followed by a mediated audience talk-back. LabWorks offers rehearsed workshops that bring the playwright into a sustained collaboration with directors, dramaturges, actors, and audience--with everyone helping the script develop toward a full production. The actors will give a fully staged, script-in-hand, performance with minimal costumes, props, and set pieces.

Next of Kin by Steve Patterson
7:30 p.m., Thu.-Sat., August 19th, 20th, and 21st
Profile Theater space at Theater!Theatre! (3430 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR)
Tickets: $10 General Admission, $5 Students/Seniors
Tickets available at the door.

This workshop of Next of Kin is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council and Work for Art.

This project is also funded by contributions to Portland Theatre Works. All Portland Theatre Works programs, including FreshWorks and LabWorks, are substantially supported by our contributing members. Without these contributions we would cease to exist. Please consider becoming a contributing member!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Goodbye to the Real Deal

Once upon a time, in a weird country called the United States, there lived a devious, a paranoid president named Richard Nixon, who nobody really liked and who really never liked anybody, and who was so criminally insane that kept a secret list of “enemies”—those he felt were out to get him and his administration.

And, once upon a time, being a journalist on such a list was considered a badge of honor because it meant that you had the fortitude and integrity to stand up to a man who would practically stop at nothing to control the flow or shape of information, and did things like threaten to jail journalists and sent burglars to ransack a psychiatrist’s office to defame an “enemy” or the rooms of his political opponents at Washington D.C.’s Watergate Hotel and whose National Guard troops blew away students at Kent State with M-16s.

One of those guys sufficiently fearless and fierce to land themselves on Nixon’s enemies list was Daniel Schorr, who never let up, and pretty much always called them as he saw them. Today, he filed his last dispatch at age 93. That’s a pretty good run for anybody, but especially for a tough old guy in a witheringly tough business.

We’ll miss him.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Whistling Through the Graveyard of Forgotten Vinyl

In downtown Grants Pass, Oregon, not far from Dirty Bird Sporting Goods (notable for the cartoon vulture in its logo and advertising), where you could purchase most firearms known to man, was the Trading Post, but a few long blocks’ walk in the rain. A narrow, slightly stooped building with weathered siding that gave it the look of an old west outpost (very popular in the new west of a certain period), mostly it was a junk shop. They’d also sell you a firearm or two, of mostly untraceable origin, but I was a regular for the used records. Rows and rows of plastic mike crates full of orphan vinyl.

Long before there was an alternative anything, the Trading Post offered up a parallel history of popular American music: the formerly known, also rans, third-tier, never heard from agains. Radio-only pressings never broadcast. Small-label bankrupters. Vanity projects with cover art done by a relative. Just out of the law of averages, a gem or two could be had for a dollar or less, which was pretty much my budget.

Maybe it was just one or two songs—the ones that probably clinched the contract—but someone had poured their aspirations into those recordings, and you could find wonderfully weird music you’d never hear on the radio. That is, unless you’d tuned into some alien AM signal reflecting back broadcasts sent a couple decades earlier.

I particularly fell for the swinging bachelor pad music, the best know purveyor of such being Esquivel (one name long before Cher or Sting), but the real magic came from those trying to make their mark by ripping off Esquivel. I suppose it made sense at the time, at least for 15 or 20 minutes. The covers always looked like a Jetsons outtake, wrapped around a come-hither catalog model with a mid-thigh skirt, hair a half-undone beehive, and a martini in each hand. (One for me…and one for you.) If you searched through the Trading Post’s clothing and accessories sections, you could probably find the quilted smoking jacket, cigarette holder, and chrome-plated ashtray to go with the record. The ladies would no doubt follow, though, when I attempted to sway young women friends with Esquivel’s pre-synth swoops and whooshes, the humor didn’t make the translation, and they’d ask if I owned any Pablo Cruise. I did not. If we couldn’t bridge the distance with The Doors, the evening was pretty much over.

After awhile, the scratches and pops became part of the sound—you memorized the songs with surface noise intact—and you would wonder who had so well played such obscure records. Cowboy songs, swingin’ hep jazz, generically handsome crooners, and doo-wop groups no one had ever heard of, but someone still managed to gouge a skip or grunge up the vinyl with unknown substances that had to be carefully scraped off with a fingernail. Drop the needle, and suddenly it was all orange western skies and ten-gallon hats and neon cocktail signs (the martini glass flashing back and forth) and backyard barbeques with fireworks and folding nylon-webbed chaise lounges and huge convertibles with fins running red lights and empty longnecks flying out and shattering on yield signs and satin sheets and TV dinners and rabbit ears and Brownie cameras and yellowed family pictures with serrated edges, and a country of the upwardly mobile losing altitude—the blood barely dried on their uncles and cousins who never came home from Guadalcanal or Inchon.

The Dirty Bird’s gone now, replaced with a furniture store or something equally forgettable. So’s the Trading Post, refinished with appropriately vinyl siding and turned into some business no one needs. But it once served as an assisted living facility for lost American dreams, and I prefer to remember it with an ill-fitting wig and a martini in each hand. Come up, sometime, and listen to my hi-fi, baby.

All in brand-new, glorious stereo.

Monday, June 7, 2010

art = photography + music

A couple images from my recent artistic passion (all shots taken with a Canon G10)...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It may be ceremonial...

...but it's weirdly moving. It will also make some of us feel awfully old.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Goodnight to a Legend

I'll admit it: I had such a crush on her when I was a kid. It wasn't until I became older that I came to admire and appreciate her and the barriers she broke, the burdens she carried. There was, and will only be, one Lena Horne.

Today, the world is just a little less glamourous.
Lena Horne, Singer and Actress, Dies at 92

Monday, May 3, 2010

So long...

...Georgie Girl.

Lynn Redgrave Dead: Actress Dies At 67

No Words...

...currently can adequately express my heart's turmoil over the Gulf oil spill. So, for now, I offer this.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reasons to be a Playwright, #457

We all get bad reviews. Sometimes we get good reviews (you get to keep those forever). But once in awhile, you get stupid, shitbird reviews from stupid, shitbird reviewers who, basically, couldn't find their own balls in the dark without a flashlight. It's weirdly heartening to know playgods such as Sam Shepard aren't immune. I include the review of Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class" in total, just for the peek-through-the-fingers at the car crash value.

Dear Daily Californian, please fire this lame fucker.



'Starving Class' Suffers From Lackluster Material
By Nick Moore

Few word pairings carry potential for horror like "community theater." They can connote offensively bad productions, fiascos on an epic scale. Take "Revolutionary Road," in which Richard Yates uses a failed community theater production to frame over 300 pages of violent marital unhappiness.

But typically, we associate community theater with modest mess-ups and comical delights derived from watching others attempt to produce something appealing despite the disadvantages of low budgets and inexperience.

"Curse of the Starving Class," the new Actors Ensemble of Berkeley production, did have some of those features. As the audience took its seats, an unidentified man clambered awkwardly onto the stage, delivering a disjointed monologue and brandishing a t-shirt like a bullfighter's muleta. For a moment it seemed like the play was beginning, but a few seconds clarified that he was actually only trying to sell Live Oak Theater t-shirts.

The irony here was that the production's biggest flaw laid not in a cheap set or amateurish acting (this production had neither), but in Sam Shepard's truly terrible script. Set somewhere in relatively rural California in the 1970s, it tells the story of a family that, justifiably it seems, believes it is cursed. Not in the paranormal sense, but in the impoverished, dysfunctional, father-is-a-drunk-who-can't-hold-down-a-job sense.

The father, Weston (Andy Shapiro), doesn't appear until the end of the first act, when he stumbles in through the gaping hole left by the missing front door, which he had previously destroyed in a drunken rage. He proceeds to tell his son Wesley (Thomas Arndt) about his plans to sell their shabby house and large lot, unaware that his wife is attempting to pull off the same scheme.

The father-son relationship is strained. Wesley's unconsciously expressive face is more telling then anything he says or does, and recalls the angsty protagonist from "Dazed and Confused." The father, who behaves more like a schizophrenic than a drunk, casts a fearful shadow even when he's offstage.

Though the pair is solid, some poorly written sequences simply can't be resuscitated. In one scene, the father gravely but loudly laments the poison that infects him, and warns his son that someday this poison will affect him too. The poison metaphor is really just embarrassing, especially considering the straight-faced delivery. If Shepard was aiming for satire, he's too obvious.

One of Shepard's more redeeming characters is the daughter (Sionne Tollefsrud), a witty counterpoint to her stubborn brother. Tollefsrud, whose age is frustratingly ambiguous, masters the posture of a perpetually exasperated tween.

The script's freely flying barbs necessitate the constant preservation of these aggressive poses. During the confrontation between the father and his equally conniving wife, each uses shouting and gestures as tools of intimidation, though neither succeeds. The scene devolves into an animated argument over property rights, which is amusing but also bemusing, because neither side seems to have even a basic knowledge of the relevant laws. It's evocative of a Coen brothers movie, with everyone vehemently invested in his or her plan without actually having any idea what they're doing.

Despite the tension, an inexplicable force keeps this dysfunctional family together. Trying to pinpoint it is difficult, but one of the play's better aspects is this mystery. The actors themselves seem uncertain, as though discovering the characters for themselves. Without slick production, the genuine effort of trying to act-especially with dialogue as overly exaggerated as Shepard's-really comes across. Enjoying the show takes effort, specifically the lowering of standards, but this collaborative effort seems implied in the word community.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sean Flynn and Dana Stone Still Missing in Action

Well, the forensics have been run, and it looks like the bones recently discovered in Cambodia were of "non-caucasian" origin. In other words, they were probably those of some of the one million people killed by the Khmer Rouge when Nixon and Kissinger had their Excellent Adventure in Cambodia.

Here's reality:

War reporters pay tribute to Cambodia lost

To Stone and Flynn--gents, goodnight and travel well.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I'm conflicted about this in so many ways that I can't count them. (Is it good? Is it bad? Is it cool? Is it lame? Good for theatre? A sign of the apocalypse?) So I just offer it up for your inspection. Good luck.

Co-presented by Tom Hulce. Somehow that part seems perfect.

Stomping Onto Broadway With a Punk Temper Tantrum

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Darkness, Visible

"In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience- one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devistation would by lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words." -- William Styron --

Sign of the Times

James Bond, downsized....

Next James Bond Film Suspended Indefinitely

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rules, but of course, Meant to be Broken

When I first started fooling around with guitar, I found myself disappointed with tone. I mean, I loved (and still love) my beat-up little Squier Strat, in all its Fiesta Red Korean funkiness, but I was playing it through the only amp I had, a very good Roland, but, still, a keyboard amp. At least I couldn't complain about it not being clean.

So I talked to the folks at Portland Music, and they steered me to a Digitech RP50, which was an awful lot of bang for the buck (thank you, Doug). It was only much later, when I'd invested in some more specialized pedals, that I began to realize both the RP50's versatility and limitations. It basically rolls a whole pedalboard into a compact unit and includes a drum machine.

My mistake was buying a used Boss DD-6 delay, and I suddenly fell in love with the wonders that are effects pedals. Though I could do some cool delays with the RP50, it was nothing like the wide range offered by the Boss, plus its wonderful clarity.

With time, I ended up buying probably more pedals than I needed, but, what the hell, they're relatively inexpensive used, and they're fun. But it kind of left the RP50 the odd man out. I still wanted to keep it in the chain as the drum machine come in handy, but where, exactly, should it go? I ended up putting it after the delay and before the reverb, so the delay wouldn't double or triple the drumbeats, but, as far as using it for guitar effects, it just added mud. I programmed one patch as neutral as possible, and pretty much left it there. (You can bypass it completely, but you can't use the drums in bypass.)

But...a month or so ago, we had a prematurely springy evening, so I sat out back with the guitar and the RP50, as you can run headphones through it, and it serves as kind of a mini-amp, and I was startled by how cool some of the settings sounded. Really sweet and clear. So I started moving it around in the chain, trying it here, there. Nothing worked, and I was still up against the delay screwing up the drums. And then, on a whim, I put it at the very end of the chain, right before the amp and in front of everything...and it sounded great. This makes no sense at all: common wisdom is that modulation effects, such as flangers and phasers, go before delays and reverbs...but...there it was. And, for some weird reason, it seems to actually enhance the clarity of the more specialized (and expensive) effects before it.

I have no explanation. Whatsoever. I'm just pleased. Maybe, being my first guitar add-on, the RP50 just needed some TLC and wanted to be back in the game. Whatever. It's where it's not supposed to be, and it sounds great. And, suddenly, it's like I just added ten new pedals to the chain.

The inner sound geek is happy. And the RP is home again.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


A couple days ago, the news broke big that a couple investigators may have found Sean Flynn’s remains in Cambodia. As quickly as the story arose, doubts began. Tim Page, Flynn’s close friend, expressed his doubts, backpedaling began, and conflicting reports arose. The bones are headed for a forensic laboratory. Perhaps we’ll have an answer. Perhaps not. Here’s a link to one of the better stories on the discovery (by the very talented journalist Tim King, who’s put in his own time in war zones):

Sean Flynn's Remains Possibly Found in Cambodia

It’s fitting somehow, this blurring, part of a story with so many reflections, fading memories, wishful thinking. What we do know is that in 1970, Sean Flynn, Errol Flynn’s son, was working as a photojournalist covering war in Cambodia along with fellow photojournalist Dana Stone. They sped down a road on red motorcycles, and they never came back. The rest is hearsay.

I learned about Flynn and Stone from Michael Herr’s brilliant book “Dispatches.” Years later, I had a sudden idea for a play juxtaposing Flynn’s story with the fall of Saigon. The result was a two-act drama, “Waiting on Sean Flynn” which went on to be produced in Chicago, Portland, Tampa, and Detroit. Though not readily apparent, the title was a play on “Waiting for Godot”; like Godot, Sean never returns.

Flynn’s sudden reappearance in the news has left me conflicted. I never knew the man—he disappeared when I was 10 years old—though I’ve spoken or corresponded with many who have known him. (And thanks again, to all of you, for sharing your time and stories.) But, in writing a play, you immerse yourself, creating a world in your head that feels, tastes, smells real, and it does you a strange kind of damage. You come out the other side changed. Some plays more than others.

“Waiting on Sean Flynn” was one of those plays. The world it created became so real to me that sometimes I pine for it. I find myself missing Flynn, which makes no sense at all, but the sense of loss and grief is real, a credit to the power of the imagination. Whatever I wrote is but a wisp of smoke compared to the accounts written by those who were there, such as Page, Herr, and Perry Deane Young, who wrote the very good “Two of the Missing.” Their Flynn breaks my heart, but it’s my Flynn that twists inside my chest when I see those familiar pictures of the handsome young guy in the boonie hat. That’s the trade-off you get for the gift of, for a moment, opening the doorway.

I hope the remains turn out to be Flynn’s or Stone’s, for the sake of their friends and family. But my Flynn will never be found. He’s forever riding that motorcycle down that road. He always disappears in a barrage of explosions and smoke.

And then the lights fade.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Reason I Miss Being a Journalist

Can't really blame the guy too'd want to have a few drinks before attempting this. Those chest compressions aren't pretty.

Police: Drunk Pa. man tried to revive dead opossum
March 26, 2010 - 7:48pm

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) - Police say they charged a Pennsylvania man with public drunkenness after he was seen trying to resuscitate a long-dead opossum along a highway.

State police Trooper Jamie Levier says several witnesses saw 55-year-old Donald Wolfe, of Brookville, near the animal Thursday along Route 36 in Oliver Township, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The trooper says one person saw Wolfe kneeling before the animal and gesturing as though he were conducting a seance. He says another saw Wolfe attempting to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Levier says the animal already had been dead a while.

The Associated Press could not locate a home telephone number for Wolfe.

Attention Playwrights

The nice folks at the Bloomington Playwrights Project asked me to post a notice announcing their call for scripts--you'd think they'd have better stuff to do than read gibberish like splattworks--but they were kind and charming and help here's the info (plus, kudos, there's no fee, and, if you win, you might get a chance to hang out with Craig Wright and pester him with Six Feet Under questions):

National Playwriting Contest

The Bloomington Playwrights Project is now accepting ten-minute play submissions pertaining to its AwareFest theme, “A Green World.” The BPP literary committee will narrow down the submissions to a list of 5 finalists. From those finalists the Producing Artistic Director will select the top 3 who will be acknowledged in the local newspaper and receive two complimentary tickets to the production (transportation is not provided). The 1st place winner will have their play produced in the festival alongside many prominent playwrights and receive a $100 prize. Currently negotiations are underway for the likely possibility that the winner’s
play will be professionally published as well. The winning playwright will also be invited to participate in the audience talkback which will take place after the first Saturday evening production.

The winning play will be produced alongside such nationally renowned playwrights as:
Craig Wright - Emmy nominee for Six Feet Under, Lost, Dirty Sexy Money, Brothers & Sisters, The Pavilion (ATCA Best New Play nominee)
Jon Marans - Pulitzer-Prize finalist for Old Wicked Songs, The Temperamentals (currently off-Broadway)
Wendy MacLeod - The House of Yes (starring Parker Posey), playwright in residence at Kenyon College
Israel Horovitz – Line (longest running off-off-Broadway play of all time), most produced American playwright in French theatre history, two-time OBIE winner
Michael Healey - Governor General’s Award for The Drawer Boy, Chalmers Award, multiple Dora Awards

Requirements: The play must be no longer than ten pages and have an environmental issue as a central theme. No more than 6 actors may be used. Although dealing with an important and weighty issue, the plays should aim to be entertaining and void of feeling like an educational video. Preference will be given to scripts that bring up valuable questions but do not preach solutions. Please feel free to pick any environmental issue you feel is pertinent. Some suggestions for topics are: Sustainable Living, Alternative/Renewable Energy Sources, Water Conservation, Carbon Footprints, Air Pollution, Recycling, Organizations, Kyoto Protocol, Green Vehicles, Wildlife Risks, Intensive Farming, Environmental Degradation, Nuclear Power, Resource Depletion.

The due date for submissions is May 14, 2010 by 5pm. The winning playwright must be
willing to make revisions and work on a second draft over the summer. Plays must be submitted via e-mail to Josie Gingrich, Literary Manager, at by May 14. Please include a brief bio and full contact
information with your submission and mark clearly at the top of the script which environmental issue your play is about. No fee for submission. Maximum of 2 submissions per playwright.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


...because we still can't live without snark: God bless Joe Biden. Just...just... just because. Take a listen to his eternally fresh command of the English language:

GO JOE! Heh heh. Wanker.

The Deed is Done

For the many who have fought for health care reform so many years, especially for the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and, personally, for my mom, Jean Patterson, who fought all her life for patients' rights, particularly those of our veterans, and would have been so proud if she could have been here to see this: savor this day.

And for those who oppose the bill, there's much work to be done for our future. Please step forward for the country where we agree and express yourself openly and with dignity where we do not, but let us work together.

Seeing history made is a moving and humbling experience.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nuns to Bishop's Four, Check

Here's an interesting one. In the midst of the poltical strum und drang over health care reform, a group representing Catholic nuns (and, yes, there are other kinds) stepped forward to endorse Obama's legislation in defiance of the nation's Catholic bishops, who oppose the legislation saying it would open the door to taxpayers funding abortions. Sayeth the Sisters:

"Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments — $250 million — in support of pregnant women," wrote the nuns, in a letter released by Network, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. "This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."

Health Bill Gains Ground with Weekend Vote Likely

The endorsement reflected a division within the church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the Senate-passed legislation, contending it would, in fact, permit the use of federal funds for elective abortions.

Ow. Could be a tense dinner at the rectory this evening. "Could you please ask Mother Superior to pass the boiled carrots?" "Mother Superior, Father James would like you to--" "Shut up, pinhead. I heard the old goat."

Hilarity ensues.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chasing Tone

Last night was "let's experiment." Rearranged some furniture so I could set the amp atop a table--read where it greatly improves the Vox's tone--and it did seem much more resonant. Also made it easier to get to the controls. Fooled around with a few settings I'd seen Voxheads post on the Net; a couple of them were worth writing down in my guitar notebook, which is filled with arcane notes about gain, level, and tone.

Found just a beautiful combination of reverb, chorus, slight overdrive, light delay, and the "Blackface" amp (emulates a Fender Twin Reverb). Perfect for the Epiphone and the blues, a haunting, shimmering American roadhouse sound that reminds me of Ry Cooder's "Paris, Texas" soundtrack. Just makes you want to slowly play chords unitl you drift away. You can almost hear the oil pumps clanking in the distance.

Got a little writing done too. Not a bad day in the Art Ghetto.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hip Birds

Sounds remarkably like Jandek.

Brain Dump

I guess it's spring. I've been on one of those "sorting, throwing out, wondering what this thing is and why I have it" fire sales. Partly it's because I want to get back on the play submission routine, which usually consists of setting unrealistic expectations, then getting depressed when I can't live up to them and/or the rejections roll in. (And, yes, beginning writers: I've been at this for years and still get bounced all the time. There's no escape.)

Things have been on this sort of mad tilt-o-whirl ever since the beginning of the year, so this is just one of those, sweep it up and get it over with posts. "Everything's a dollar/In this box."

Fertile Ground...Portland's big new works theatre festival...came in like some kind of overwhelming force, flattening everything in front of it. At the same time, I was helping Playwrights West get up and rolling, which meant not only having a play read, but sending out press on the event, hurriedly getting a Web site up and rolling, producing programs, posters, photographs, etc. Concurrently, "The Rewrite Man" had a reading at Pulp Diction, so I found myself with two plays/events going up in the same week. It sounds exciting--and I guess it was--but it was also thoroughly exhausting. The Playwrights West gig went extremely well: we sold out, raised our profile nicely in the Portland theatre community, and had a solid, professional production that people seemed to enjoy. Now the heavy lifting begins: fundraising, business matters, and other such challenging fare. Stay tuned.

"The Rewrite Man"...well, it was pretty decently attended, given that it was 10:30 on a Tuesday night. The Pulp Diction people were terrific, and the cast and crew did a spirited production of the play. As to the work itself, ironically enough, it needs a rewrite, and I found myself getting kind of unwound by it. Nothing to do with the production: it's just that a lot of work went into plotting and figuring out angles--the play is almost entirely a series of bank shots that attempt to top each other. Somewhere in there, I kind of feel like I lost the heart: I began to feel like I was watching some kind of game instead of a play. Plus there was a bunch of stuff that needs to be cut, simply places where I repeated myself and where the gambits didn't live up to what I was shooting for. I love bending the audience's collective mind, but I think my talent for that lies more in surrealism. Anyway, vaguely unsatisfied by the whole thing, and I think "The Rewrite Man" goes into a drawer for awhile. Thinking about it reminds me of a still lake under overcast skies.

Rushed to finished a rewrite of "Farmhouse," which is another mindbender that I've found altogether more satisfying. Right now is kind of one of those waiting periods, where you know there's stuff out there being considered, and you know theatres are soon announcing their seasons, and that means you will, mostly likely, be disappointed. It's the way the game goes. Sometimes you're surprised, which is more or less why we keep at this stuff.

Everybody I know is hellishly busy, and it's hard to get together with friends. The whole politics/economy/employment/staying alive/keeping projects in the air scene seems to be draining folks. I've found myself missing friends of late and trying not to take their silence personal. (And, if it is personal, honestly, there's not much I can do about it.) The zeitgeist seems to be churning, a little chaotic, with flashes of hope mixed in with the change blenderizer. I think we're all ready for winter to end.

The Day Job: busy. Very.

The guitar continues to be huge fun, partly because it doesn't mean anything. When you've been a professional artist for most of your adult life, it's really, really nice to have an art that you can just plain suck at and have a kick with. Last night, I spent the evening cranking the distortion and volume to insane levels and absurdly working over the Strat's tremelo arm and wah-wah pedal into psychdelic blather. Awful, awful, awful. And just fun as hell. Attempting to resist the pulls of effects pedals: at this point, I can pretty much make any guitar sound I can imagine, and a lot I don't want to imagine, but they still have this...weird...hypnotic...power. What would happen if I bought this and plugged it into...this?

And, if I do decide to write about guitar, I don't feel like it'll take away from the forget-the-world freedom it brings: playing guitar has become a fine kind of meditation.

I have to finish some monologues I promised for a friend, and then I have to get the ball rolling for a workshop production of a play and the rewrite that'll require. Other than that and researching the book, I'm kind of blissfully free from writing at the moment. Having written three full-length plays in two years, I feel like I'm due a breather. And then some other stupid idea will come along, and off we go.

So that's what I've been doing. Well. That's wasn't too bad. Time to be domestic, throw the laundry in, and maybe go futz around in the garden, because the plants are waiting for me. The fruit trees are blooming. The daphne is in full flower and spreading its incredible scent across the patio, and new leaves are unfurling among the oriental poppies, sedums, and so many more. I attempted to sit down with a gardening magazine the other day, but it's still too early. But, soon enough, Portland Nursery will be calling my name, and I'll find the car driving itself there. And there won't a thing I can do to stop it.

And just because I can, a shout out to my friends: I love you crazy bastards. Here's to better days.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Midnight Lightning

In doing research for my super secret special guitar writing project, which I may or may not get around to talking about at some point (depending how it goes), I’ve been reading Crosstown Traffic, Charles Shaar Murray’s rather good book on Jimi Hendrix. Writing about guitar without spending time with Jimi makes as much sense as writing about the blues without listening to Robert Johnson.

And, of course, it’s impossible to even think about Hendrix without a certain overhanging grief, tortured by what-might-have-beens. It’s like imagining what would have happened if Dylan really had died in his post-Blonde on Blonde motorcycle accident (to some people, he did). Sure, we’d have been spared Down in the Groove or Empire Burlesque, but we’d also never have had Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes, his fantastic resurgence since Time Out of Mind, or, for that matter, John Wesley Hardin and, consequently, Jimi, All Along the Watchtower.

On the other hand, we were spared watching hard living wreck Hendrix or seeing him end up playing Purple Haze at state fairs, but, assuming he’d kept it together, one can’t wonder where Hendrix would have taken us with today’s technology. Jimi Hendrix recording with a Parker Dragonfly, a Mesa Boogie Mark V, Pro Tools, and a still inquisitive mind.

Look far enough west, and you come up 'round the east again.

“Maybe creativity will become fashionable again.”
--Adrian Belew--

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blog Status

Too much work, not enough time. I'll shoot for next week.

Thanks for your patience readers,


Friday, January 29, 2010

Now THIS...

...this is a political attack ad. Mind, it's Louisiana politics--particularly New Orleans--and the rest of the country's still toddling around in diapers compared to these folks.

behold...and tremble.

And Then There's Crazy

Play readings are very seldom reviewed--they usually only happen once, so there's no "consumer reporting" to be had ("go," "don't go," "I don't care if you go 'cause I had a few drinks before I saw this and I can't remember what happens"). Which is good because you're generally presenting a reading to test what works and what doesn't. But "The Rewrite Man"-- presented by Pulp Diction on Tuesday as part of the Portland Fertile Ground New Works Festival--actually snagged a mini-review by the Willamette Week. They dubbed it "occasionally mystifying"--which, given that it's meant to be occasionally mystifying, I'll keep...whether they meant it the way I intended or not.

And if I haven't said it already, many thanks to Matt Haynes, Brian Allard, the splendid cast, and all the crew at the Pulp Diction. You guys did a great job.

Pulp Diction Presents: The Rewrite Man
Everyone has something to hide in this occasionally mystifying reading of a new spy thriller, written by Oregon Book Award winner Steve Patterson and delivered with a splash of neo-noir. “There’s cloak and dagger, and then there’s crazy,” announces WWII vet Frank Anderson (Brian Allard, director) to the intelligence officer tailing him (played by Andrew Bray), accurately summarizing the essence of this piece, in which Anderson attempts to grapple with his loss of wartime memory and wariness of all fellow characters. The trusty bartender Leo (Beau Brousseau) suddenly seems not so trustworthy, therapist Dr. Miles (Megan Murphy Ruckman) appears to have some shady advice, and mystery woman Wanda (Erin Shannon) couldn’t possibly be up to any good in a drama that ends with a flustered Frank accusing each character of ulterior motives in a doubt-filled, gun-pointing frenzy. Before and after the reading, alluring drag queen Phaedra Knight graced the stage, delivering witty quips and lip-synching Ani Difranco’s “Overlap”. This was one of a handful of unique particulars, the intimate nature of the Brody Theater (and the fact that it has a bar) being another, that serve as additional incentive to return for the subsequent showings of this week’s Pulp Diction late night series. Matt Haynes’ “The Night I Died,” an adventurous piece directed by Paul Angelo, will be showing Wednesday. “The Go-Girls,” written by Anna Sahlstrom and directed by Micki Selvitella, will be performed in anticipated hilarity on Thursday. The Brody Theater, 16 NW Broadway., 224-2227. 10:30 pm Wednesday-Thursday, Jan. 27-28. $15.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

'Night, Don

You probably didn't know him. But you should have. And I did. He was my boss back in New York days, maybe the best I've ever had. He was a gentleman of fine Scotch and cigars, and better stories than anybody. He loved writers and the difficult business of writing. He was an original's original. And I let him down, to my everlasting regret.

Travel well, sir. And thank you.

Don Congdon, Longtime Literary Agent for Ray Bradbury, Dies at 91

December 4, 2009

Don Congdon, a literary agent who spotted the talent of Ray Bradbury early in both their careers and whose long list of celebrated authors also included William Styron, Jack Finney, Evan S. Connell, William L. Shirer and David Sedaris, died on Monday at his home in Brooklyn Heights. He was 91. The death was confirmed by his son, Michael.

Mr. Congdon, who started out as a messenger at a small New York agency, developed an enviable reputation as a skilled editor, tough negotiator and shrewd judge of talent. While still a young editor at Simon & Schuster, he tuned in to the early stories of Ray Bradbury, who became one of his first clients after he set up as a full-time literary agent in 1947.

In 1966 he caused a stir in the publishing world, and precipitated a celebrated lawsuit by Jacqueline Kennedy, when, after spirited bargaining, he sold Look magazine the serial rights to “The Death of a President,” William Manchester’s study of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, for more than $600,000.

The sum, staggering for the time, added to Mrs. Kennedy’s fears that the book would bring unwanted publicity to her family and delve too deeply into personal matters. She filed suit against Mr. Manchester, Look and Harper & Row, the book’s publisher, for breach of contract and sought an injunction to halt publication. After negotiating with Look and Harper & Row for changes in the magazine excerpts and the book, Mrs. Kennedy dropped her suit.

Donald Keith Congdon was born on Jan. 7, 1918, in Crawford, Pa. His father was a railroad worker and his mother ran the family’s boardinghouse, which the bank seized during the Depression.

With $8 in his pocket, Mr. Congdon moved to New York in 1935, when he was just out of high school, and found work with the Lurton Blassingame Literary Agency, where he delivered manuscripts to publishers in Midtown, picking up the rejects on return trips. By 1940 he was secretary to Mr. Blassingame, and had begun building his own list of authors.

In 1944 an editor at Collier’s, impressed by the editing Mr. Congdon had done on several stories the magazine had bought, hired him as an associate fiction editor. A year and a half later he was hired by Simon & Schuster as an editor for its Venture Press, recently established to introduce new writers and published writers whose work had been neglected.

In 1947 Mr. Congdon joined the Harold Matson agency, where he got off to a flying start by signing Mr. Bradbury. He went on to represent Mr. Bradbury for more than a half-century.

“I married Don Congdon the same month I married my wife,” Mr. Bradbury said in a speech to the National Book Foundation in 2000. “So I had 53 years of being spoiled by my wife and by Don Congdon. We’ve never had a fight or an argument during that time because he’s always been out on the road ahead of me clearing away the dragons and the monsters and the fakes.” Mr. Bradbury dedicated his novel “Fahrenheit 451” to Mr. Congdon.

In 1983 Mr. Congdon started his own agency, Don Congdon Associates, which is now run by his son, Michael.

In addition to Michael, who lives in Brooklyn, he is survived by a sister, Dorothy Glenn of Erie, Pa.; a daughter, Wendy Stanton of Greenwich, Conn.; and six grandchildren.

Besides representing his clients, Mr. Congdon edited many serious paperback anthologies of mystery and horror stories, tales of romance and war reporting. These included “The Wild Sweet Wine: Superb Stories of Sensual Love” (1958), “Stories for the Dead of Night” (1957) and “Combat: Pacific Theater, World War II” (1959).

Paging Franny and Zooey...please meet your party at the gate....

J. D. Salinger, Enigmatic Author, Dies at 91

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Rewrite Man

written by Steve Patterson
directed by Brian Allard

Frank Anderson is a rewrite editor for a wire service in 1953 San Francisco. A former WWII vet who worked as an armorer, he has nearly a two-year gap in his memory that haunts him. A trail of intrigue, spying, and the difficulty of discerning the real from the imagined, all churned together in 1950s paranoia, is set in motion when a femme fatale enlists Frank's help finding her cousin, and an "army buddy" of Frank's shows up---of whom Frank has no recollection. Is anyone, including Frank's bartender or his shrink, who they say they are? Is Frank who he thinks he is? When people start get tailed and guns start showing up, who can Frank trust? Ian Fleming meets Phillip K. Dick in this thriller that is sure to leave you checking over your shoulder on the way home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Flashback: 2007

So what does it feel like to sell the place you grew up?

Where you woke up morning after morning, wondering what the day held? Where you fell asleep to Christmas lights flashing outside your window? Where you sat in the red pickup truck, rain spattering the windshield, until "Witchita Lineman" faded from the radio? Where you wandered beneath a summer Milky Way so close you could reach and touch it? Where your father shouted "Come right here! Watch this!" and you rushed in to watch helicopters fall from the decks of U.S. aircraft carriers off of Saigon? Where you and your mother laughed about politics on early mornings as the coffee kicked in? Where you whacked tennis balls for your favorite dog to chase? Where he and your other pets are buried? Where you sat outside on a cold night, alone and in total silence, smoking a cigar and feeling the ghosts whisper past?

A place that now only exists in photographs?

Something like this. Times ten. On acid.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Giving to Haiti

There are a number of avenues available to donate aid to Haiti; the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are two of the best. But you can also go to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a bipartisan effort brokered by President Obama and administered by former presidents Clinton and Bush. Here's info on the fund:

The earthquake that rocked the coast of Haiti killed or injured a devastating number of people. Even more were left in need of aid, making this is one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. In the aftermath of the disaster, President Barack Obama asked President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush to raise funds for immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts to help those who are most in need of food, water, shelter, medical care, and support. In response, the two Presidents established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) to identify and fulfill unmet needs in the region, foster economic opportunity, improve the quality of life of those affected over the long term, and assist the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and country. Presidents Clinton and Bush oversee the CBHF through their respective nonprofit organizations, the William J. Clinton Foundation and Communities Foundation of Texas. One hundred percent of the donations made to the Clinton Foundation go directly to relief efforts. Ninety-nine percent of the donations made to the Communities Foundation of Texas go directly to relief efforts.

And you can go to their page here:

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund


Thursday, January 14, 2010

At the risk of whining...

...these are the kinds of attitudes playwrights are up against:

'Outrageous Fortune': Playwright book full of whine and din

Please say this with me, in your best Neil Young impression: "All we want is to be paid enough to able to write at least part-time. We don't even care about health insurance or retirement."

I know. It's disgusting of us to say such things. I hereby apologize for all playwrights everywhere and for all time.

P.S.: No insult intended to Mr. Young, whose work I very much enjoy.

P.P.S: No insult intended, either, to all critics, some of whose work I very much enjoy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slings, Arrows, etc.

Ah. Aflutter goes the theatre universe, especially its playwrights, now that "Outrageous Fortune: the Life and Times of the New American Play" has finally been published. This is an in-depth study on the state of American playwrights, theatres, and the issues between the two, and it's pretty much required reading for playwrights, artistic directors, literary managers, and other theatre artists interested in new work who want to get a feel for what it's really like out there these days (spoiler: it blows).

Some preliminary findings were presented at the TGC conference last summer, but the whole study is now available from the Theatre Development Fund. However, if you haven't snagged a copy or can't afford it, a number of theatre bloggers are dissecting the thing, particularly a dedicated group over at Parabasis.

If you know a playwright, talk her or him off the ledge and give this book as a belated holiday present. Then nail shut the window.


Bill O'Reilly Interviews Sarah Palin

Courtesy of the lovely Wonkette....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moments of Surrender

Last night, I arrived home late and tired from a Playwrights West meeting; so I had a difficult awakening. Running late and taking a later bus. Predictably, it filled up. I took one of the benches toward the rear. Across from me, an older man with white hair and eyebrows, huge glasses, umbrella with a flashlight in the handle. Beside him, a sleeping man maybe ten years younger than his bus companion, leather jacket over dress slacks. Next to me, a woman in her thirties, impeccably groomed, reading magical realism by a Latino writer, and, standing in front of me, a very young woman with wet hair and wearing a puffy white and brown blouson jacket, stumbling as she attempted to text. (Who was receiving at this early hour?)

And me, listening to U2's "No Line on the Horizon"--sliding in and out of consciousness as though on a morphine drip. As the song "Moment of Surrender" neared its climax, we crossed the Ross Island Bridge, and the lights of the city spread into view, their lights reflecting on a blue-black Willamette River as Bono sang:

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pain would stop
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

And so we crossed our river, arriving at our individual days: the man with a flashlight in his umbrella, the businessman not entirely comfortable in his uniform, the woman carrying Latino magical images beneath her professionalism, the girl furiously texting to someone waiting to receive. And me, here now, bearing a memory of reflected lights.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's the real deal, folks....

Playwrights West...a new Portland theatre company....
Eight professional Portland playwrights, recognized for the high quality of their writing, have formed Playwrights West, a new professional theatre company focused on presenting top-level productions of its members' work and supporting development of original work in Portland.

Member playwrights include: William S. Gregory, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Eugenia Woods, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone, and Matthew B. Zrebski.

In additional to Playwrights West's inaugural reading in January, the collective's first year will be dedicated to introducing members' work to Portland audiences, establishing professional business operations, and developing selected work through workshops and public readings to full production. Eventually, Playwrights West may include workshops for non-member playwrights, playwriting seminars, internships for beginning playwrights, or other forms of outreach to foster play development

Friday, January 1, 2010

Starting off right...

Brother Ray blasting out the stereo: a big heart wrapped in blues but still beating. Definitely a good way to kick off the New Year/Decade....

...just an old sweet song....