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. You could line up all the pols in the U.S. in a straight row and examine them head to toe and not find a single man or woman capable of admitting, never mind ending, the corruption of their vocation--Buddy Dooley

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jack Spicer/Bob Thomas

The poet Jack Spicer as drawn by Bob Thomas, a friend from my Ashland and Southern Oregon College days, 1969-1970.

I rented a room from Bob in 1977 in Lebanon, Oregon as I transitioned from San Franciscan to Portlander.  I think Bob made the drawing that summer and let me snap a photo of it.

I found the photo in my papers recently as I looked for material for my video project.

I'll have to write Bob a nice letter and ask him if I can use it in the project.

Bob might tell me to fuck off.  I hope he doesn't, but he might.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Few Beers Later/Charles Lucas

I have a point to make, dammit!  Let me speak or I'll throttle you!


Hawthorne Bridge/Charles Lucas

I may use this image by Charles Lucas in my film.


On MFA Poetry/Nin Andrews

If you do nothing else today, read this epic poem by Nin Andrews posted at Tom Clark's Beyond the Pale.

The MFA poem (or the anti-MFA poem) doesn't get any better than this.

Here is the writer's blog.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Because You Want to Know

Editing, if you are searching as I am for answers, can be a slow, arduous process.  I worked all morning on "The Project," and I think some things are starting to come together.

I don't have nearly enough video yet, which means big gaps fill the timeline at this point, but I'm working up sequences that make sense and have potential.

Not bad in my estimation, which as you know may not count for shit with all the critics out there.

Later in the day, I caught a little NBA action.  The conference finals are in full swing now.  I was a little disgusted earlier this year when the owners locked out the league, and I lost a tick more of my old enthusiasm for the pro game.

Never quite recovered from that and likely never will.

I think the American consciousnesses has moved on.  We're pretty good at that, but we're usually just as wrong in the next phase anyway.

The big wheel keeps on turning, in other words.

It's like, can you find anybody who voted twice for George W. Bush for POTUS?  Even if you have friends who did such a ridiculous thing they likely wouldn't admit to it.

By the same token, how many people do you know who are still hardcore professional basketball fans?

I sneaked a peek today.  LeBron James is certainly still a good player. But the point is why should I give a damn at this late date?

Though I'll never be an intellectual heavy like some people I know, I certainly understand why they disdain sports these day.

On the other hand, I'm looking forward to the college football season.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Worth Seeing Again

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) is a brilliantly effective feature film in the manner in which it intercuts location footage, newsreel and re-enactments of the Bosnian War.

Filming began shortly after the Siege of Sarajevo ended in 1996, creating a brutal realism in the location shots.  A sense of documentation permeates the film, which is based on Michael Nicholson's Natasha's Story. Michael Winterbottom directed from a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

It's an uneven movie to be sure, with several underdeveloped characters, most notably the star reporter Jimmy Flynn played by Woody Harrelson, who comes across as cartoonish and somewhat extraneous to the story.

Stephen Dillane's character, Henderson, and his relationship to a 9 year-old Bosniak girl named Emira, is the focus of the movie. The riveting scenes in which he works with an aid worker (Marisa Tomei) to evacuate a group of orphans from Sarajevo via a long bus ride to the Adriatic are heart-wrenching.

The UN and NATO classified the Bosnian War as the fourteenth most important concurrent humanitarian disaster in the world at the time of the war, a bureaucratic absurdity that the characters recognize throughout the movie.

The first movie made about the Bosnian War, Welcome to Sarajevo is definitely worth a second look.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Diane and Harlan

An important shot for the docupersonal. Diane and Harlan in Boston, 1975.

Diane was affiliated with the Lewiston, Maine Tenants' Union, while Harlan Baker was the union organizer who introduced me to Michael Harrington when the brilliant and prolific socialist writer and activist appeared in Portland, Maine for a speaking engagement in 1976.

The memoir's New England, San Francisco and European chapters will be the most difficult to cover from an original imaging standpoint.

But, we shall do what we can.


The Original Buddy

This is the original Buddy, circa 1974.

I liked the name "Buddy" from the get go, so I would eventually appropriate it for various causes.

The original Buddy wouldn't have minded, but his last name wasn't Dooley.

Buddy was a fellow community organizer in Portland, Maine when I worked there, 1974-1976.

A no nonsense guy and social activist, his work was golden. So was his word.

You did not give Buddy crap, just as today you do not give Buddy Dooley crap.

And you thought I was merely being flippant...


Training Wheels

(By 19 months I was already in the driver's seat.)

A neighbor who has read my memoir wants to be in the movie!

I have a perfect role for her.  In three or four scenes I have loosely sketched out thus far, she'll stand in as my mother.

This is fantastic for a couple of reasons.  One, I've been concerned about finding "extras" for the project from the outset.  Two, this woman looks like my mother looked at fifty-five!

That of course isn't really a prerequisite for the few scenes in which she'll appear, but the resemblance is remarkable and kind of inspiring.

A nice turn of events.  I expect more in the future as this thing heats up, along with the weather, throughout the summer.



Thursday, May 24, 2012


(My brothers Leo, Dan and Lyle, in 1954.  Lyle, the oldest, died in 1982.  Leo and Dan died last year.  I was 3 years-old when this photo was taken.)

Today I made my best edits yet on "The Project," the docupersonal of my early years.

It is a short sequence, but it finally achieved the look and voice I want the video to reflect.

I need more of these sequences, a string of them for however many minutes it takes to tell this story.  Yesterday I duplicated a series of stills for the project,  pics of family I've kept for years while never imagining that I'd one day be making a film about my life.

Before I found these images I thought I'd given most of my heirlooms to my daughter.  She informed me I was mistaken.  I uncovered over 100 photos that were in storage and now have a trove of images that magically fit the concept.

There is much to do, but a day like this one makes me feel like I'm on the right track.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Almost Naked

This is a gathering day.  I have over 100 black and white photos of various family members.  I'm sorting through them and shooting images for "The Project."

Ken Burns must pay somebody a chunk of change to dupe all the stills he uses in his documentaries.  It's not the kind of work that brings glory, that's for sure.  It's sort of tedious.

Aside from a few pans and zooms, I'm grabbing images that have length enough to cover a few lines if need be, and plenty of room for dissolves in and out.

There is only so much you can do with the types of images I'm working with.  The quality is not high to say the least.  I don't think there were any natural photogs in my entire clan.  Some images are better than others, of course.

Going for content, necessity and quality makes the decision-making process that much harder.

Too bad Mathew Brady wasn't hanging around my family in the old days.  My mom's maiden name was Brady.  

She must not have caught the artistic bug from her luminous cousin, Matt.

I say cousin, but I don't know whether it's true.  Doesn't matter.  In this business you can lie all you want.  What are people going to do if they catch you in a literary lie?  Pan you?

Ha!  I laugh.

That said, the grunt work could be worse.  I could be working out in Oregon's schizo weather.

No thanks to that.

Taking a break.  I'll be back at it tonight, panning and zooming and doing the best I can with these important elements of "The Project."

Kid in the photo is a handsome devil, isn't he?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The End of May

Awaaak this weather!

I am regressing now.  Last week and the week before I walked and walked.  I had never been happier.

My body felt good, the exercise framing my mood, my work.  It was glorious, though I nearly died in front of a train.

Even that could not destroy my energy.  I'd had a close call, but I felt alive, perhaps more than usual.  I'd survived that one fated moment to live for the days that remain.

Now this.  I am home-bound, the work is leveling off, my spirit waning.

I can't walk in this rain.

I feel nothing more than a desire to nap.

I'm trying once more to read lines from "The Project."  All I want is tone sense, something to latch onto.

Everything is garbled.  I can't speak under these conditions.  I can't think.

The rain has made me very tired.

Come to me, July!  I need you!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Wordy Weekend

I spent the weekend working on the script and a few edits for the project.

The film I'm making based on my book shall henceforth be known as "the project."

A common problem among writers who tackle film and video work:  Too wordy!  Too wordy!

The goal is to let the pictures tell most of the story, but like a lot of folks I tend to write it all down.  I just can't allow that to happen, or the beast will be six hours long and sound like a drone machine.

I'm not the most economical writer to start with.  Reading my own posts on occasion makes me cringe, for example.

Why that word?  There?  Then?

Writing is a life-long learning process.  I don't think it's something one ever masters.

I wonder if Dostoevsky could have written movie scripts?

I've read that Faulkner had a little trouble in the field and loathed the work.

Well, all I can do is plow ahead, right?


Saturday, May 19, 2012


The Northwest Film Center once paid homage to this scene from Wenders's Wings of Desire for a Portland International Film Festival advertisement.

Characters riding on a MAX train (or was it a bus?) with voice-overs of their thoughts.  It was quite effective, actually, shot in high resolution black and white through a wide-angled lens.

Great ad, but I can't remember who directed.  A committee, perhaps?


New Lucas Art

Could this photo possibly be included in a new Round Bend Press book by Portland artist Charles Lucas?

We published his Ubiquitous Serpentine last year.

He is studying and photo-shopping  Portland's Steel Bridge in a new cycle of work titled "Rust."

He sent this and several other images to me yesterday.

I want them, but time and the market will tell whether Lucas consents to work with RBP again or moves on to richer, greener pastures.

We wish him luck with this outstanding work, whatever his decision.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Night Dish

This is my usual laundry night, but for now I've forsaken the ideal.  I have enough clean underwear to not offend for the next 24 hours at least.

I'm having dinner now, a sticky-rice dish with carrots and seasoning bolstered by a pair of mild sausages, a dish I'd describe as a "half and halfer."

Half good for you and half deadly.

Man, when you come as close to dying as I did the other day (see below) you really begin to reflect on things--on mortality, I guess.

Well, you do up to a point.  I am after all eating the mild Italian sausage for the second time this week.

Wow, is it tasty!  I must be savoring its fattening juices.

Mentioning food reminds me of a wish I have for the coming months. Tacoma writer, chef and teacher Mike Huffman has written a wonderful slim volume of essays about food and drink (and its other-worldly effects on the soul) that I'd give my right arm to publish.

(Not really of course; who wants to lose a limb?  Not even an amputee, I say. Had that train hit me I'd have lost more than one I venture.)

Think of the best food essayists you've ever read.  What they do is write about food as a complement to the important stuff in life. Good travel writers do something similar, and Huffman includes a bit of interesting travel in his work as well.

Huffman's essays are only peripherally concerned with food in the telling of stories.  They're really about his pursuit of food and the instances wherein that pursuit creates complexity, revelation, and a well-reasoned perspective on life's inevitable chaos.

Life becomes the focus of a tale as he scarfs down an excellent meal of his own making and binges on drink.

Hungry late, he craves Taco Bell.  Some of his friends scorn his fast food habit.  He is up late for a reason, and that is the story in itself. Beyond that, he loves Taco Bell, and this is his story.

Hungry in South America, his eyes roam to the table of a beautiful woman.  Hunger has a complexity of meaning here, becoming a metaphor for something else.

He celebrates a birthday with friends in a day-long, mad-dash, cross-town pursuit of the best cured meats in his community.  The pursuit begins, pauses, and ends in a string of bars where good whiskey flows.

Eating and drinking are celebrated with counterpoints of pathos and longing, of mistakes revealed and out-and-out personal disasters averted, remembered and lamented.

Food is merely the conduit in such stylish writing, the jumping-off point.

From the platter-setting in front of the hungry reader, life happens and Huffman's stories unfold with a sure-handed telling.

I'd give both arms to publish Huffman.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie Night

My treat to myself tonight--Woodstock.

"Three days of peace and music, the director's cut."

I found this 40th anniversary edition at the library.  Not sure whether I've seen the director's cut or not.  I'll give it a try.

I first watched this with friends in Salem in 1970, the summer after our first year in college in Ashland, Oregon.

We'd smoked enough weed to knock down a horse before walking into the downtown Salem movie house.

Truth be told, I didn't like some of the music in this movie at the time it was produced.

Canned Heat was an awful band and I thought they sucked in the movie.  I was never a big Sly Stone fan, either.  Sha Na Na was a novelty act in an era when I hated novelty acts.

I still hate novelty acts.

Now that I've reminded myself of all this I wonder why I checked it out of the library?

Oh yes, wait!  It has Joe Cocker at his finest.  Country Joe McDonald. Hendrix.  The Who.

More importantly, it features Stephen Stills introducing CS&N by confessing, "we're scared shitless."

Best act for my money?  Richie Havens.

And then there is the search for Alan Fay, and warnings about the bad acid circulating amid the crowd.

Great fun.  This all happened yesterday, didn't it?


International Icon

In the past 24 hours people from these locales around the world have visited Round Bend Press:

Trinidad and Tobago
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

Welcome, people!  Stick around next time, and buy a few books!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't Let Art Kill You

Something extremely unsettling happened yesterday afternoon.

I almost died.

I came within a half-step of walking in front of a Max train on Morrison St., in Southwest Portland.

The circumstances of this near catastrophe are worth relating.

I was walking to the Dollar Store on W. Burnside to shop for a few cheap items when I approached Morrison St. and noticed a group of high-school students, likely from nearby Lincoln High, exiting the bright-red Artist Repertory Theatre building ahead of me.

They were coming out of the building en mass, a large group obviously elated by what they had experienced in the theater. I guessed they'd just watched a special performance of a current production by ART, a wonderful educational opportunity.

A joyous noise, happy voices and excited talk filtered along the street, and I began to think about my own cultural/educational experiences as a schoolboy in the small Oregon town where I grew up.

The subject is on my mind these days, for it is an aspect of the film I'm currently writing.  Naturally, I began to ruminate about how different the lives of students are--or were in my youth--in the urban versus rural context of American life.

My first theatrical experience was playing Inspector Trotter in the 1969 Sweet Home High production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, a memory I don't bother cherishing.

I hadn't seen a play before taking that odd leap of faith at the behest of the school's extremely gay drama coach, who also happened to be my English teacher.

I had the "look," the drama coach said.

Really?  I thought, without uncovering the subtext of  his meaning, which didn't occur to me until years later.

OK, so I was sexy, at least from his, er, feel-good perspective.

I played the part with a grotesquely swollen face, the result of a botched surgery on a tooth that had been knocked out by Albany High's Dave Grieg during a varsity basketball game just prior to the opening.

The asshole swung his elbow on purpose, too.  I'm reminded of Metta World Peace taking brisk shots at opponents' heads in the NBA.  It was exactly like that.

In a state of agony, I gave an agonizing performance in the student production.  It was an entirely forgettable and unfortunate occurrence, so I forgot about theater for a number of years, until I took an acting class at Oregon and indulged in a little Stoppard.

These memories adjoined with the pleasant sight and sound of kids having fun and the bright, sunny day, took me away from reality.

I walked along  the Max train's westbound track closer to the edge of the elevated sidewalk than I first realized.  I took a half-step to cross the narrow street where the track lies.

For some reason at the last instant, even as my body turned to cross, I sensed something amiss.  It was the faintest sensation, like something gnawing in my subgoatish skull, a flash; out of the corner of my eye I saw the hulking machine a mere five feet away.

I'd heard nothing through rock 'n' roll damaged eardrums, except the sounds of laughter and pitch.

Had I taken that second step I'd have been crushed.

Yesterday, I nearly killed myself for Art.


Another Rough Cut

An extremely rough test run of some video I shot May 14 in Portland's South Park Blocks for "A Marvelous Paranoia." A couple of these images are usable, but not in this context.

This isn't a final scene at all, but rather an experiment in editing, tone and style. As a matter of fact, these images were shot sans tripod just a block from my present southwest apartment. The Northwest Portland video I need for this segment of the narrative hasn't been shot yet.

Listening to this I'm well aware of my limitations as a reader, which is perhaps why I'd rather an actor read the narration for the final.

Music: Ben Webster, for the purpose of this edit and display only.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Rothko v. Dooley

(Rothko, Untitled, 1948)

(Dooley, Side Door, 2010)

Be reasonable.  Dooley is funnier and more accomplished than Rothko.


Hughes on Rothko, Etc.

I took in the Rothko retrospective at the Portland Art Museum this weekend.

It is tough to say this about an artist as esteemed as Rothko, as beloved and valued as he is among modern art critics, but the Latvian kid who grew up in Portland blew it.

His dark vision did indeed not only lead to his suicide, but it also ruined his work.  The canvasses from his late period evoke a deadened spirit and embittered truth simultaneously.

Of course, that is enough for some Art Romantics.  For others it is entirely the point and thus predictable.

I get that, but so what?  In the above video Hughes argued that Rothko's sense of color was "exquisite."   I disagree.  His sense of color resounds with limitations and subterfuge, a wanton desire to sap color out of everything associated with painting.

My feeling is Rothko had run his course.  He had nothing left to offer in the end.  Like a chess player who knew he was beaten, he knocked his King over.

The work says nothing as much as "I am bored and resigned to defeat."

Of course, this comes from a man who happens to think that the graphic artist Buddy Dooley is a genius.  So, you see how subjective and learned my grand pronouncements really are.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Take One

I put hours in yesterday toying with the the video memoir's possibilities.

A friend wrote a few weeks ago that the kind of project I've bitten off this time, an adaptation of  A Marvelous Paranoia, would overwhelm him were he to attempt something similar.

I'll grant him this: a life doesn't at first glance appear reducible to a 60 min. telling. Similarly, it's important to keep in mind that the book itself wasn't comprehensive.  Though I haven't been overwhelmed yet, a project such as this is definitely unwieldy and has the potential to blow up at every turn.

A reductive script is key.  I must pick and choose elements of the book that make sense when merged into a shortened narrative. In that regard the film is an adaptation loosely constructed from the book, of course.

A book and a film are simply different creatures.

Admittedly, it does feel overwhelming at times.  I've just gotten started with a pile of footage Terence Connery and I gathered in my home town two weeks ago.  What I'm working on now amounts to five minutes in the story's timeline.

A difficult project indeed, but manageable.

My current approach leaves room for malleability in the script.  In fact, this work is very different than writing a teleplay or industrial script.  I come from that background, particularly the industrial part, and this project feels entirely new to me.

My writing for this video has surprised me in a number of ways.

Another friend reminded me some time ago that the film isn't solely about me, but also about its making.  It's both history and an interpretive present view.  I think that is a fundamental notion and solid way to approach things.

So I soldier on in this experimental phase.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

L.A./ 1940s

Fantastic footage.


Bertolt Brecht


The Last Days

"There I am sitting in my wheelchair..."


Worth It

Twenty-three minutes with Noam Chomsky; Francine Stock talked to the great man in 2002.

He is introduced by another great man, Harold Pinter.

This is worth your time, even if you've heard it before.

If you haven't, it might cure what's ailing you.

Or it might piss you off.

I take pleasure in offering you the opportunity to either get well or get pissed off.

Ah, the essence of democracy!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Great News

Here is some exciting news.

Polanski is one of my favorite directors.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Four-Homer Game

Last season this guy threw a baseball into the stands and a man fell to his death from an upper stadium tier trying to catch it.

In the off season, Josh Hamilton fell--off the wagon--and broke his promise to his boss not to drink.

Tonight, he hit four two-run home runs.

Did you scoop that?  Four!  A feat statistically comparable to throwing a perfect game, it's only been done 16 times in the history of Major League Baseball.

Let's see, if a guy could hit four a game every game over a 162 game season he'd finish the year with 648 home runs...

That would put him in the all-time home run race.  I say go for it.

Josh Hamilton has, as they say, stick.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Eating Ice-Cream and Walking with The Joker

It's odd when you get off of something for awhile and then go back to it.

Something happens and it is as if you're attempting to return to an old love, but once you get there you realize things have changed too much and you are no longer able to appreciate what you once found glorious.

I'm having a comparable experience now.  This time it isn't a paramour who has me down.

It's a former favorite ice-cream.

The brand shall go unnamed, but either the recipe or my tastes have changed, drastically, since I last tried this product.

There were occasions last summer when I'd buy a half-gallon of this particular ice-cream and eat damn near all of it in one evening.  A beautiful gluttony.

The shock of sugar never fazed me then as it has tonight.  I should have bought a box of sugar cubes and eaten them like a horse; I'd be more satisfied, and not quite as ill as I feel right now after just one bowl of my ex-favorite ice-cream.

What if one didn't have to fall in love with anything, including ice-cream and women, to begin with?  The attempted recovery of something profound and sweet wouldn't be necessary, and life would be that much less complicated and disappointing in the end.

Well, that's all I have to say on ice-cream and women for now.

If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, you missed out today. I took a long walk this afternoon.  I should walk more every day, but in the winter I'd rather not.  I don't like the blustery cold of winters around here.  I tend to keep my trips short and to the point then.

There is no joy in wet weather any more.  I'm beginning to understand why old folks move to warmer, dryer climes to live out the string.

I'd like to do that too, I think, but today I settled for a rare gorgeous spring day here, and I walked.  I walked and walked and brooded about things.

I have several important projects confronting me over the next months.  It'll be a challenge to see if I can bring them to completion in the manner I envision. 

The cool part about working with other artists as an editor is you know what they're bringing to the table, and you have a good idea of what your own contribution amounts to within the context of those relationships.

It works inversely when you're doing it for yourself, no matter the medium.  You're on your own.  Painting is like that, obviously.  The painter is naked with his muse.

Editing is a collaborative endeavor.  It has more in common with film making and theater than anything else.

I admire painters.

I even like Buddy Dooley a little, because, well, he just does it--damn the torpedoes, and there is nobody in the world more solitary and seemingly happy about it than Dooley.

That's enough of an off-key tune about art for now as well.

There is just one other thing on my mind tonight that seems even remotely worth talking about.  I watched The Dark Knight last night.

That's right, the Batman flick.

I'm not much of an action or super hero guy, so I deliberately ignored this when it came out.  I recalled that a lot of young people I worked with back in 2008 really admired Heath Ledger, but being somewhat out of the loop on such matters it wasn't clear to me why this particular actor touched so many.

Ledger's unfortunate accidental death from an overdose of painkillers saddened a lot of the young people I knew then.

I watched the movie last night.

I get it now.  Heath Ledger as The Joker.  The guy was brilliant.


Friday, May 4, 2012

The Laundry Quandary

I share a five-washer laundry facility with approximately 90 other souls in a large apartment complex in Portland.

In the months I've lived here I've tried various methods in an effort to maintain a cleanly appearance and do the right thing, that is wear clean clothing as often as possible.

I've done it all in an unending quest to find the best time to wash my clothing.  I've set my alarm for 5 a.m. and gone to the basement only to find three others with the same idea waiting ahead of me.

I've tried the midnight madness of laundry facilitation and become an unwilling participant in a convention of disgruntled, bleary-eyed would-be clothes launderers.

I've given up and waited a day, two, three, not the best way to impress the ladies.

Life can be miserable in the context of laundry.  Think about it.  Unless you have your own washer and dryer conveniently located just off the pantry in your ultra-modern, sensible home, life is wretched.

Tonight I may have hit on something by varying my routine.  I spurned my usual night at the Five-Star Restaurant, where I typically spend my Friday evenings before my driver drops me off at the symphony.

I decided to stay in.

Bored in these highly unusual circumstances, I gave it a try.

I may have found the solution to my laundry quandary.  Friday nights around here are dead.

Now I'll put on some classical music, heat up a T.V. dinner and count myself lucky.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Coming in June

(Buddy Dooley, a long, long time ago)

Anyone who follows this blog knows I have an obnoxious friend named Buddy Dooley.

We once had this conversation, among others.

Dooley is a graphic artist and unsympathetic friend given to challenging my every utterance.  He is not alone in that regard, but I've known the man for many years, and I have to put up with him.

Here is one of Dooley's "art pieces."

For months now, Dooley has harangued me, pleading that I publish his book of incomprehensible scribbling, his "personal essays."

Frankly, I've grown tired of the battle.  I have caved.

Dooley is not a great writer by any stretch of the imagination.  But because he is like family to me, a degenerate and holier-than-thou nemesis, I've agreed to publish his book of essays.

Dooley's book, "People, Polemics & Pooh-Pah:  Notes from Under the Bar," will appear in June.

God have mercy on our souls.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

RIP Junior Seau

Junior Seau killed himself Wednesday morning.

According to reports, he shot himself in the chest with a handgun at his home in Oceanside, CA.

He is the eighth member of the 1994 San Diego Chargers' Super Bowl team to pass away at a very early age.  The previous deaths were attributable to accidents, heart attacks, even a lightning strike.

None of those deaths, however, so stunned the tight-knit community of professional football as Seau's death.  Suicide is a different matter, after all.

Seau was one of the most popular players to ever play the game, and a pure joy to watch for the hard-core football fan.  Few players have demonstrated as much passion for the game as Seau, who played professionally for 20 years after graduating from USC in 1989.

That is an extraordinary number of years for a footballer to play the game.  Few players last that long, for football torments and breaks the human body.

The average career of a professional running back is 3.5 years.

Football is an extremely violent game, and there is ample evidence that concussions are a factor in the depressive state many ex-football players find themselves in after their careers end.

Dave Duerson, the ex-Chicago Bear, killed himself last year, also using a bullet to the chest from a handgun.  He'd arranged for his brain to be studied by scientists upon his death, knowing football had damaged him.

Killing oneself for science?  What level of torment leads to something so bizarre?

Only recently have the owners of  National Football League franchises faced the reality that their game is taking an unmanageable toll on the lives of former players.  As a result, better pensions and access to medical care have been integrated into the players' post-career lives.

Today's equipment and training surpass anything I experienced when I played the game in high school and college.  It is hard to imagine what more could be done to make the game safer in that regard, though clearly further research is needed.

The truth is that kids have always wanted to and will continue to want to play the game, often dreaming of the riches the game provides the lucky few, but also simply because it is a fun game to play.

One can be hurt, even die playing the game, but kids learn that at a very young age.

The case of Junior Seau is sad, but unfortunately it won't be the last time something like this happens.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Aram Saroyan Woodcut

Loren Kantor, an L.A. woodcut artist and writer, has sent me a link to his blog.

He has produced a very nice woodcut of Aram Saroyan.

Check it out here.


As Traditional as Stupidity

It's May Day, which means every protester in town is in the streets now.  Labor rights, economic rights, the very Rights of Man are being celebrated and organized by the mob. 

Thousands are making their voices heard in a great American tradition.

But you can't hear them from where I sit.

Though I am often simpatico with the protesters, for they have every right to make their voices heard, I never hear them.

When they come out en mass, the police follow them.  Then the helicopters appear in the sky, searching for that one clip of news that tells the story the electronic media needs more than any other.

The television media wants violence, and the helicopters will remain in the sky above my apartment all day and into the evening until they get it, or go home with a different, less saleable story.

I called the city to complain, a lark obviously.

"We can't do anything about the helicopters," a woman reminded me.

The protesters are managed like herds of sheep by the police.

While those actually disturbing the peace, the news stations with their whirlybirds, ruin my day.

This too has become an American, or at least a Portland, tradition.