To the Point

There comes a time in every epoch when pragmatism simply evolves into extreme acquiescence and surrender to the forces of apathy and do-nothingness, a guarantor of the status quo in all of its easy, democratic criminality--its fortress of greed.--TL Simons

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Politics of Literature

Round Bend author Charles Deemer relates this discouraging lit news at his blog, Writing Life II.

I'm not a fan of contests and politics in literature. Too much is made of scenes like Wordstock, a gathering of backslapping writers with a modicum of fame who migrate to Portland each year to engage the muse of consumerism.

An industry lovefest, it's about networking more than anything else.

Well, Charles gave it a shot. Fortunately his rejection doesn't reflect on the real-world quality of his work.

The high mucky-mucks are missing the boat on this one.

That ain't sour grapes. It's the truth.


Monday, August 29, 2011

A Visit With Dooley

Buddy Dooley dropped by my pad over the weekend. A mercurial character, you never know what will happen with Buddy when his dander is raised. He reminds me of one of those stuffed toys with a tiny motor in it that your sister had when you were growing up. Wind it up, set it on the floor, and watch it run in circles like a cat chasing its own tail.

Dooley brought along a few micro brews, his rustic old tape player, and we talked.

BD: Testing…testing 1,2,3…

TS: You should invest in a new player. Go digital, high tech. What kind of beer did you bring?

BD: Never mind the beer. If I decide you should have a beer you may have a beer. If I decide you are not deserving of a beer you will not have a beer.

TS: You’re a tough character, Dooley.

BD: That is correct. How are things in the imperium, Simons? The holy world of publishing? It’s good to see you are not dead or incapacitated in any noticeable way. We haven’t talked in weeks. What’s new, pussycat?

TS: Jesus…

BD: Speaking of which. What do you think of Gov. Rick Perry? Makin’ a run? He gonna win it?

TS: I think he and Bachmann will start an affair on the campaign trail. In a huge October surprise the media will reveal Michele and Rick share an affinity for bondage and kinky sex. The story will break on TMZ. Romney will slide in. Obama will rout him in the G.E.

BD: Do you like Obama?

TS: No. Next question.

BD: Is he worse than Dubya?

TS: Same horse. Different color.

BD: Quite.

TS: I do think many racists in the US hate Obama for all the wrong reasons. They hate him because he’s half black. He was born in Kenya, right? They’re torn, though. The hate is sometimes eclipsed by their love because he assassinated bin Laden. And Americans, particularly the right, love assassination. But the far right is nervous. The black revolution is playing out in their feverish dreams. It’s odd, but remember, these people are revisionist crazies. For many, everything progressive that has happened since Ozzie and Harriet were on TV has been just plain wrong. Civil rights. The war on poverty. Feminism. Sexual equality. Gay marriage. You name it. Not to over generalize or anything.

BD: Who is a bigger threat to liberty—Bachmann or Perry?

TS: They’re both dangerous. But let’s not talk about this. This is depressing. Thing is the world was never the way these people imagine it in the first place. This really isn’t worth discussing in my opinion.

BD: Sexier? Bachmann or Palin?

TS: Dooley… Are you going there?

BD: Don’t tell me you wouldn’t.

TS: Give me a beer, you idiot.

(I was surprised here. Buddy shared his beer without protest.)

TS: (smacking my lips) Aaaaaah. Curve Ball Blonde Ale. Good stuff.

BD: Moving on to the press, TS…

TS: A good year, Buddy. A real good year. Had some good help, excellent advice, made deals with three highly accomplished writers who jumped on board. The press has legitimacy now, driven by quality work that people who give a damn about books will notice. I’m convinced of that. Over time, this work will stick out. We’ll be discovered. The press, I mean. The writers are already known. I’m proud and pleased they came aboard. It’s a nice fit. The world will catch up one day.

BD: And they are…

TS: The Deemer brothers, Bill and Charles, and K.C. Bacon. All three brought it, delivered the goods. Better than I imagined it could be.

BD: How’s your novel going?

TS: Not quite as well, BD. I gave it to a good reader, a solid critic. He tore it apart. I’ll take his word for it. Writing a novel is the hardest goddamn thing to do. Even a passable one. Mine needs a lot of work. Eventually, I’ll get going on it again, from scratch quite possibly. A complete re-write. That’s what it needs. But I’m not overly worried about it. If it comes, fine. If not I won’t shoot myself like Hem or Hunter. That would be a waste and a grand delusion. Those guys were great writers. I don’t match up with their prose, and I don't own a shotgun.

BD: Anything else cookin’?

TS: I’m planning a book with Charles Lucas, the ceramic artist, photographer and painter. He is working hard, getting his images just right for an art book. We’ll see. I don’t have a deadline or anything. Not at this time, though that may happen down the road. I think Bacon has something up his sleeve as well. Another art book, because K.C. is also an artist. It’s important that we get his work out there, in print. It’s Round Bend, Buddy, a work-in-progress and the establishment of a legacy. This is for friends, family, and the historians. The work can’t stop. If the public picks up on it, hooray!

BD: Well, you do indeed make it sound important. I understand you are a football fan.

TS: I am. I’ll admit it.

BD: Are you going to get naked now and charge me out of the three-point stance like that drunk kid at Oregon State who charged the police?

TS: That kid transferred to one of the Montana schools. State, I believe.

BD: Fit in there I guess. Have you ever drove a car at 118 MPH in a speed trap between Albany and Eugene and gotten away with it?

TS: Ninety-nine, until the wheels went wobbly and I figured I’d better back off. Didn’t see a cop. One didn’t evidently see me, either. Another time, I raced from San Jose to Eugene with some friends. We picked cars up at an auction in San Jose and drove hard through the night back to Eugene. Nearly died in the Siskiyou Mountains. Had a little drift, fishtailed somewhat. Car was gutless. By the time I moved to New England in 1974 I had that stuff out of my system.

BD: Is Chipper Kelly on the up and up?

TS: Is college football corrupt?

BD: Hmmmm… You’re a bit much at times, TS. Do you admire Phil Knight?

TS: Buddy, I can feel you egging me on. Are you looking for a fight?

BD: Before you get all pissy, tell me something…

TS: Sure, Dooley.

BD: Do you expect me to give you another beer?



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can Oregon Do It Again (80 Touchdowns)?

The greatest offensive machine in the country last year.

Can Oregon repeat as Pac-12 champs and return to the BCS Championship game?

Yes, if they can find a receiver as accomplished as the graduated and current member of the Houston Texans, Jeff Maehl.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great Scenes from the Movies #9

No matter what kind of project Joel and Ethan Coen embrace they go balls out. The brothers have made some of the greatest films in American moviemaking history--so many that all you need do is pick one to find your bliss.

I believe the quality of their body of work is unsurpassed, at least among the modernists. And of course, I am not alone.

This is a scene from my favorite of the Coens' work, their 2001 homage to mid-century noir, "The Man Who Wasn't There."

Here is a somewhat dated yet interesting review/analysis of the Coens from one of the best online movie sites, Senses of Cinema.


World Gone Buggy

"Despite the increase in the number stopped at the border, the Khapra beetle has not made it into the American grain supply."

While on the subject of bugs, let us not foolishly ignore the dreaded Khapra beetle.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lesson for a Despot

In a revolution it alway comes down to control of the media (or in the case of this young Libyan, a flat screen TV).


Saturday, August 20, 2011

What A Week It Was

I'll confess, this great weather we're having in the Pacific Northwest makes it hard to buckle down and get something productive done.

I had a situation all week wherein I couldn't get B. Deemer's book Variations posted properly at Amazon. I sent in two--count 'em two--wrong trim sizes for the book, creating a communication hassle with the poor Amazon printing department, which must have taken to cursing me like filthy sailors.

Probably deserved it, too.

Well, I finally got it done and the book should appear on Amazon in a week or so. You can buy it now at Lulu (Just click on any of the books at the sidebar of this site to get your RBP fix).

Then came the bug problem, or it finally materialized with such vigor that I finally had to call in the bug police to take over. I had tried with limited success to kill the little monsters. Can only hope the pros did a better job than I.

With the banning of certain pesticides, bugs have seemingly taken over the world. We have a bug crisis in America, in case you're interested. I live in a huge apartment building. The bugs move around like stealth fighters, annoying the hell out of the human beings who only want to find happiness in their modest homes.

Bugs bringing humanity to its knees.

A person could move to the country. But then field mice and many other creatures would make that situation just as rough no doubt. I'd hate to come face-to-face with a cougar, like those poor sheep in Sweet Home, my home town. Eaten alive they were.

Slaughtered in life's little pecking order.

Anyway, RBP is in a bit of a lull now. I'm contemplating a couple of projects. The painter and ceramic artist Charles Lucas is supposed to be photoshopping some of his work for a planned book. But I don't know how hard he's working, either.

Maybe the weather has forced him into a long bike ride and an avoidance of what he needs to do to finish up the art and deliver it to me. I know he had considerable passion for the project a month ago.

Lucas, get off your ass and do something!

In Sept. or October I'll begin compiling e-prints for yet another art book, but that is in the loose planning stages.

Well, the pot is simmering right now. The past six months were good, more like a steady and constant heat of creativity. RBP put out three fine poetry collections by Northwest writers, and I expect all three to gather considerable notice in the future.

Society and the cultural critics are a little slow when it comes to discovering the riches around them. I'll give them all a little more time to figure things out before I cut off my ear.

While we wait, try these:


Because we did not know
A parrot’s sex

We named you Sophie
And caged you

By an inside tree whose leaves
Had died

After being watered
By last night’s gin.

You screamed at us
All the time

Day and night – why?
Hadn’t we filled your bowl

With suet seeds and beer?

We had hoped you would help us

The sorority nuns who attended
Our Friday night rites,

But you frightened them into
Feeling wrong

Like that professor of poignant
Dying English,

Whose shriek was a sort of lost
Romantic song.

I remember the intricate urge
In your voice,

The vanishing passion,

As you hung it in our ears,

The stunned hate and fear
Of our rebellious age,

Of how you’d been caged by fools
Who might win something

Only if they could rise out
Of the spray

Of others who had already won

You were the Stokely Carmichael
Of birds, Sophie,

With your Caribbean

And high-sounding parrot

Let’s face it
You bitch (or bastard,

Or whatever you were):
You chased all the girls away!

And there we were with our ale
And our books

And our seductionless

Even so, when we discovered you’d
Flown the coop

That August day – I spoke up
For you:

For whoever you were, Sophie,
Fair or no,

Bird bright or dull,
Or simply relieved

To have lived once
At all,

With your posture earned
In your egg

Cracked open by whatever
Psychic imagoes

Only parrots parrot
And bring,

And everything else a bird is,

The cramped urgency
To survive.

To scream one song
Beyond yourself

Into the faces of those who’d
Confined it.

The only song
We should ever know of you –

“You named me Sophie,
But I am free.”

K.C. Bacon from Morandi's Bottles

Advice to an Artist on Choosing a Wife

May the gods bless you
with a wife who understands you

If you are not so fortunate
may she accept you for who you are

and if not this
at least put up with you

If she cannot put up with you
may she not kick you out

or if she does
not also call the police
or the Mental Health Institute

but even if she does
may she not inflict bodily harm
or drive you to cut off an ear

though should this happen
may the blade be clean
and not cause infection

Yet if serious harm comes to you
may she at least spare your work
and not destroy it

and if she must
let her forget the work
hoarded by your friends

If she knocks on their doors
may they not be home
or refuse to answer
or escape out the back door

and if she catches up with them at last
May God have mercy on their souls

Charles Deemer from In My Old Age


I been on this farm
all my life & gone nowheres,
no more than twenty miles off
any direction. Shit.

So I got me a van
and fixed her up real nice---
a bed in back & cupboards,
even a stereo radio!
But think I can get away?

I sit in her sometimes
and listen to the radio
in the garage. Shit.

Bill Deemer from Variations

There you have a sampling. Buy now so you may one day say I knew them well.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Time to Kill

I'll be out of the office most of the day as a work crew deals with this:


They don’t bite
you when you’re drunk
to the bone.
They crawl into
your sores and wait
for a sober moment,
gnash their tiny teeth
and save their strength.
They dream of eggs
and extended family,
cousins on skid row,
brothers slaughtered in
air-Raid attacks,
wives who have dropped
from sight or else joined
bug cults and turned to religion.
They thirst for blood
and wait for the perfect
moment to avenge
the loss of their history.

from Cello Music & Other Poems

Which reminds me of a brilliant, hilarious book by the late, great William S. Burroughs.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Next Poet Laureate

"The Library of Congress will announce on Wednesday that Philip Levine, best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit, is to be the next poet laureate, succeeding W. S. Merwin."

The working class, or what is left of it, is represented.

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

Philip Levine


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Publishing Resource

Portland has a wonderful web resource dedicated to new, independently produced books.

I put a blurb up announcing the publication of C. Deemer's In My Old Age yesterday.

The images of the books are contracted somewhat, but that's no biggie. You'll get the idea as you browse through the site.

Lots of good stuff going on in Portland's publishing realm.

Check it out. I'll put other Round Bend publications up as I find time in the coming days. B. Deemer and K.C. Bacon are next.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Life Begins Today

It's that time of year when I get all banged up and sore and break a sweat just by anticipating the excitement, the pageantry, the beautiful, controlled violence of the game of college football.

I am the world's greatest college football fan.

Oregon takes to the practice field today at 1 p.m. to begin preparing for its tough opening game against LSU on Sept. 3 in Dallas, Texas.

Texas is Willie Lyles territory, as all my football-loving friends know. If you haven't heard about Lyles and his relationship with Oregon's coach Chip Kelly, go back to reading your recent Round Bend Press acquisition and ignore this post.

Oregon players LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, Lache Seastrunk, Josh Huff, Blake Cantu and Anthony Wallace are all from Texas. A tight group, all snatched away from the many second-rate academic institutions that dot that godforsaken state's bleak landscape, enticed by the opportunity to get a solid education and win a shitload of college football games.

Heroes who came West to play in the game's greatest conference, the PAC-12.


I'm a big Duck fan, of course. I went to school in Eugene and have had a long love affair with the team. When I attended classes there in the early 70s Oregon had some very fine football players, but not nearly as many as now.

I sat next to Dan Fouts in poli-sci classes all the time, passed him notes with diagrammed plays I wanted him to try in the next big game.

He said to me one time, smiling at my poorly drawn guaranteed TD, "Simons, you are an idiot to think this will work against USC!"


Well, I can't get down to Eugene to watch my number 1 team practice, so yesterday I went the second best route available to me. I hiked the four blocks to Portland State's campus and watched my second favorite college team's first practice.

The Mighty PSU Vikings, who unfortunately won only two games last season.

You see, I'm also a proud graduate of PSU, and I have more school spirit than a high school cheerleader.

PSU opens on Sept. 3, too, a game the smart people over at the university decided to reschedule for 1 p.m. to avoid conflict with the televised Duck game at 5 p.m.

Smart move. I'll go to Jeld-Wen to watch my Vikings before I head over to the bar to watch my Ducks.

I have my life figured out for Sept. 3, at least.

And I have some good news for you if you've read this far and give a fuck. PSU will have a much improved team this year. Much, much improved. The Jerry Glanville era, a mistake two years removed, is officially and finally over.

Second year coach Nigel Burton, a (here I clear my throat and grimace) Washington grad, has recruited some massive, mobile linemen from the JC ranks, sprinkled in a few transfers from major programs, and brought aboard some outstanding freshmen to, as the sports jocks on the radio say, "git 'er done."

The Vikings open against Southern Oregon. I played football at Southern Oregon--one year, back in 1970. Strictly small time football. PSU will kill them.

Nigel Burton can recruit, just like Chip Kelly, but with perhaps fewer, er, disposable dollars in hand.


Sunday, August 7, 2011


Here is a statement too important to be ignored.

Obama wasn't the man. Too bad, but I don't like Hillary either. I don't like any of them. They are all on the take.

What a sad state of affairs. What a waste.


Great Scenes from the Movies #8

From funny to tragic in two minutes. The fear and heartbreak on the face of the Dreyfuss character's eldest son is compelling stuff.

Masterful! The scene has been satirized by everyone from Groening to that unknown family in upstate New York whose witty father couldn't resist.


One for Two

I ventured into the shopping world yesterday--something I rarely do--and found an item I've wanted for weeks now--a radio.

Passing the Goodwill store on W. Burnside, I decided to drop in and examine the electronics. Thought I might find a speaker for my laptop, but no luck.

Then I spotted the old Magnavox miniature boom box. You know the one--single cassette player, AM FM radio. The basic unit.

Five bucks.

Its cassette deck doesn't work, but the radio is fine. Excellent sound. Can listen to local radio now and save the computer for special times and distant stations, such as the Red Sox network from Boston.

Taking a cue from Gov. Rick Perry, I prayed that God might give me a radio along with the enlightenment I obviously need.

At least I got the radio.


Friday, August 5, 2011

A Gift in the Mail

A copy of Bill Deemer's new book, Variations, came in the mail yesterday.

Bill drew the cover and designed the interior. Very nice. He went with a 6 x 8 format, which complements the book's short poems and economy of style to great effect.

Knowing what you want is half the battle, and the Eugene poet delivered the goods.

Here's a poem from the book:


Looking out of windows,
that’s what I do with my life.

This morning I watch
the old rooster
hop straight up
seven or eight inches
to pluck an elderberry
while overhead
a cedar waxwing
dines upside down.

Looking out of windows,
I think it must be a calling.

from Variations

Here's a link to the November 1965 archive issue of Poetry, where three of Bill's early poems found recognition.


Deconstructing Simons

Because he has a restless and inquiring mind and can leave no good deed undone, Deemer has taken a "chain saw" to my movie at his
archive website.

His reinterpretation of the material is bold as he finds what he refers to as "the spine of the story." From my point of view, and I should have one--right?--the title I gave the movie makes it the poet's story rather than the novelist's. I found the poet more interesting in other words and went with that.

Charles flips that on its ear to interesting effect. The story moves with blistering speed in his version. He shortened and deleted sequences that even I have doubts about.

Alas, in the end, I think it moves too fast, but who wants to quibble?

Aside from his interpretation of the material (the most interesting aspect of his work) we're really talking about differences in pacing between the two edits.

Thanks to Deemer I now have another image of what I want to do with the project, something that might be termed a middle path.

The work continues...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Visitor is Online

After an hour of tense WTFs this morning, CD was able to capture my Movie Maker video file and prepare it for its online destination at the University of North Carolina, where his archive is stored.

Deemer has a short part in this video, which is how we determined it would fit into his archive.

Thanks Deemer!

Here is the blurb I wrote for the site:

On Making a Small Movie

Back in the late-eighties I read a short story that blew me away. Man, I thought, this would make an interesting movie. Too bad I don't have the money to make a movie.

The short story was "Artist at Home," one of my favorites by William Faulkner.

A few years later I was sitting with a group of neighborhood friends in a Northwest Portland watering hole and we started to fantasize.

I'd already written a full-length screenplay adaptation of the story, I informed the group. We could likely pull it off if I shortened it up and minimized everything, including the sets. Make it real simple, just tell the story without all the pop and heat and money a real film requires. Might look like a stage play more than anything. Worth a try.

I asked for volunteers for my no-budget project, cajoled, and promised the moon.

My friends stepped up, I borrowed some inexpensive video gear, and we shot the thing on VHS over two weekends. We had fun and a lot of laughs and even a few of the artistic differences that seem to creep into any kind of project, large or small.

Pizza and beer smoothed the situation over and I had a bunch of raw footage to edit.

I did it, tussling with a host of tech problems that threatened to overwhelm me. I passed out copies to the performers, thanked them, attended a viewing party (actually I fled, because I didn't like the video) and thought, well, I learned something through all of this. It's not as easy as it looks!

Seventeen years later, the project fell into my lap again thanks to the attentiveness of one of the actors in the production. He sent me a DVD of the video, which I looked at with wariness (I'd lost my VHS copy years ago).

There is a little goodness here and there in this thing, I realized. I sensed I could make the original better, given the new tools available to home moviemakers these days.

In mid-July I dug into the video and came up with a new edit a week later, a vast improvement over the original.

I'd like to offer special thanks to K.C. and Charles for pushing for this finale. It makes sense that it has come full circle.

Please enjoy "The Visitor," a story about love, friendship and creativity, a few ideas Faulkner knew a great deal about.

Certainly all three of those things went into making it.

Watch The Visitor here.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Great Scenes from the Movies #7

I'm not really much of a poker player, but I always liked this scene from The Cincinnati Kid (1965). Steve McQueen really came into his own as an actor around this time

McQueen is one of those guys who progressed from awful to artistic through the course of his career. (Don't believe me? Go watch his TV series, Wanted Dead or Alive.)

It works the other way around for many--remember young Bobby De Niro--who start out as high-spirited method actors before lapsing into mere movie functionaries.

Of course, McQueen died at 50, so perhaps he never had a chance to grow lazy.


Bleak Future

For years, the unspoken policy of many major U.S. companies has been to deny unemployed workers a chance to pull themselves out of poverty. Companies do not like unemployed people.

As more and more people fall into poverty, often through no fault of their own, and as the American middle-class dwindles and joblessness rises, the future is writ plain.

These days companies don't even bother to conceal the fact they are not interested in hiring the unemployed. They announce it in the local newspaper.

"If you are unemployed at this time, do not bother applying."

As the U.S. economy worsens before it eventually falls over a cliff, we have this to look forward to.

Read all of it and think about it in light of the Right's agenda for America. The future is indeed bleak.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Something Might Happen

(This side-loading VHS camera is similar to the one I used to shoot my 1994 teleplay. Maybe you had one like it.)

I may have a host site for The Visitor, my revived teleplay from 17 years-past. Should know by the end of the week.

I won't jinx it by naming the host just yet. Want to see if it is technically sound enough to transfer to the site. That simply means that if it goes up, great. If not, I'll think of something else eventually.

I downloaded a DVD of the original movie to my computer. Using Movie Maker, Microsoft's editing program, I was able to trim 20 unnecessary minutes out the the thing, add title and credit sequences (that were mysteriously missing from the DVD; a longer story for another day), and generally work it into something more competent.

What an improvement!

It still has many of the problems of a no-budget project, but it has a new charm that I find sort of fresh and unexpected after so many years.

The actors, friends from my old neighborhood, ran with the story and did excellent work. That is their performances seem to be standing up over time. Or perhaps I am merely sentimental.

Let's just say it has some very fine moments of lucidity and humor and some not-so-fine technical issues that grade it down.

But seriously, it pays to never give up on a seeming disaster or a project you might think is moribund.

If you're a writer, keep your work. Put it in a drawer, let it sit there. Many years later you might find something worthwhile, something you never suspected you had.

Nothing is ever as bad as it seems (that may not be true, but let us play).

With the exception of a certain group of politicians bent on destruction, everything has value. But we won't discuss that today.