Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God
Writer & Artist, Dee Rimbaud reflects upon politics, religion, art, poetry, the meaning of life,
the nature of God and why toast always lands butter side down on carpets.
Heart and Mind, Fully Engage ... a poet's website.
(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)
Sunday, October 29, 2006 Check out the new home for this blog I've started posting at the new home for this blog, which I'm calling The Writing Life II. All posts go there starting November 1. These last few days, I'll be posting at both locations. The new interface is more user-friendly and presumably will be more stable as well. I believe all the Blogger stuff goes to the new interface eventually, so I might as well begin now. Onward.
10/29/2006 08:35:00 PM |
The New Interface I've been playing with the new publishing interface in beta development since Google purchased Blogger. I like it. I think I'm switching to it soon.
10/29/2006 06:34:00 PM |
Growing pains Since Google purchased Blogger, changes have been introduced and my current problem publishing may be a consequence of this. A new "beta" blog format is in the works, and I might have to switch to it. Because I added some "plus" features, this isn't automatically done -- seems like we're penalized for using the top elements of the old format! At any rate, the present situation is driving me nuts. This morning it's been taking me dozens of tries to publish.
10/29/2006 01:22:00 PM |
Is it fixed? I ask the question with trepidation ... somehow, on about the 40th try, I was able to publish. A hassle if I have to do this each time.
10/29/2006 12:18:00 PM |
What a mess Suddenly my posts at Blogger won't publish ... get them saved but not published to be seen. Not sure what to do and support is slow. Ah, me.
10/29/2006 11:49:00 AM |
Prodigy It's mind-boggling to me that a teenager could have written the poem below. My brother, Bill Deemer, also was something of a poet-prodigy. He was a teenager when he published in the prestigious Poetry Magazine. He was a teenager when Andrew Hoyem published his first book at San Francisco's (then) Auerhahn Press. One of the poems in this first collection also blew me away. Beginning (not sure of line breaks), "secretes the edge by which is known the insides insides insides exterior and line of flesh between them both," the poem goes on to conclude about an act of sexual intercourse, "the edge is solid solid solid neuter material." Well, I surely wasn't having such insights when I was a teenager ha ha! My teenage passion was mathematics, especially number theory, and I did publish in a math journal as a teenager. Definitely not as sexy as being a poet.
10/29/2006 10:01:00 AM |
Published today in 1933 (Dylan Thomas was 19) The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees Is my destroyer. And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams Turns mine to wax. And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
The hand that whirls the water in the pool Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind Hauls my shroud sail. And I am dumb to tell the hanging man How my clay is made the hangman's lime.
The lips of time leech to the fountain head; Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood Shall calm her sores. And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
New cycle Turning back the clock, as we did last night, always suggests the beginning of winter to me, even though we're not there yet. When I come out of class, it's very dark. A new cycle begins.
10/29/2006 06:34:00 AM |
New libretto Dug out my notes on a new libretto last night and went over them. This will be a challenging project, to say the least, given the sprawling magnitude of the source material. This was adapted to "a dramatic review" in the 1950s but only last night have I been able to locate a copy, this is a London bookstore. I ordered it, might suggest a story strategy I've missed. I have my own take on the material, of course. The first decision, a process started last night, is which of the dozen or so major characters to use. I want to cut the number by half at least. Other important aspects of the source material I have no idea how to put on stage but I assume I'll figure it out -- or maybe adapt a technique from the stage review if they solved a problem that stumps me. The first issue for me is casting, to make this as easy to produce as possible. My strength, first, will be to construct the story and then writing the libretto itself. But there were experimental literary elements in the source that I definitely want to duplicate on stage somehow. I'm glad to be excited about this project again. It's going to take some time to do, and time isn't exactly a given with me, so it's definitely time to start this in earnest.
Saturday, October 28, 2006 60s-70s music No doubt I've already mentioned this but if you have occasion to listen to music when you're at the computer, check out Music of the Vietnam Era, long playlists of just about everything you can think of. Not sure if it's legal but there it is. Highly used by yours truly.
10/28/2006 10:01:00 PM |
Beavers & nutria, or why Corvallis is having a party tonight Walking the dog late this afternoon in one of the area's many sprawling parks, we encountered a nutria along the lake. Not that we knew what it was -- but a knowledgeable local informed us. To us it looked like a cross between a beaver and a possum.
Which seemed appropriate because I'd just watched the Beavers refuse to play possum against the USC Trojans, hanging on to win 33-31 in a huge upset (after giving up a 33-10 lead with a tad over a quarter to go). A major college football upset! In fact, the last time Oregon State defeated USC I was a graduate student in nearby Eugene. In 1967, in the infamous Mud Bowl, O.J. Simpson's Trojans lost 3-0. Dee "the Great Pumpkin" Andros was the Beaver coach. A grand victory that even rival Ducks could celebrate. As well as the victory today.
It would be fun to be in Corvallis tonight. It's a great small college town, much more so than Eugene is after all its recent growth. Corvallis today has the feel that Eugene had in the sixties. I never knew squat about Corvallis until a few years ago when their community theater did a play of mine, and I spent some time there. I'd go to Corvallis any time. I love the town.
10/28/2006 06:05:00 PM |
Shuffling the deck Doing a little mental housekeeping, I realize I have over-extended myself, which is a bad habit of mine. Too many projects going on at once and in the wrong priority. Now that Sally is back in gear, it is front burner but right behind it I'm now leapfrogging the new libretto. This one will be a ton of work, and I'm not close to being ready to write since there's so much research still to do. I best get started on it if I expect to do this, and I'm thinking of it as a major work -- if I can actually pull it off. So much to figure out yet. But it's not going to figure itself out so I have to jump right in and start the dirty work.
Two impossible upsets I'd love to see in college football today: Navy over Notre Dame and Portland State over Oregon. Boy was the world series boring and a comedy of errors.
10/28/2006 06:42:00 AM |
Friday, October 27, 2006 Chasing the writer's tail Seems like I spent the entire afternoon on various writerly chores, errands and grunt work. Trips to the supply store, the post office. Stuffing envelopes, licking stamps. Keeping the books for tax purposes later. Glad the weekend is ahead and expecting to get some writing done.
10/27/2006 08:24:00 PM |
Many birthdays ago Of all affection known to man or beast; of all the ways we relate each to each, to talk, embrace and cry, and try to teach the other who we are: the very feast of love, without which at the very least would life be insecure and at such risk that death might well win out; the soft kiss of love the mother gives her child, her breast the suckled nourishment of all s/he knows - this is love that cannot be more pure. Male lovers in their quest of love bestow romance as often illness as its cure. Love is not the sting of Cupid's darts; Love is the most womanly of arts.
In 'production' language, last night was" Faust's" 'run-through'. It's a pivotal event in a production's journey from concept to stage. The moment, after weeks and weeks of rehearsals, rehearsals in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon, and rehearsals in the evening, after all those weeks, the moment to run it completely through without a stop. It's the first real look at what we've got. And, if last night's run-through was any indication, we've got something very special for you with this "Faust".
There's a powerful raw quality about a run-through. A rehearsal hall is not a particularly spectacular place, at least compared to an actual performance. There's no special lighting. No full costumes. No orchestra. No sets. Instead, a mighty pianist, a few props, set pieces that fit in the room, a shawl to hint at the costumes. The director and production team sit at a table, taking notes. People cluster around the door. A few others are seated in the corner. The General Director has squeezed in behind the production table. Perched high above it all, the conductor.
And the cast.
When Maureen O'Flynn mounted the platform in the final scene-as Marguerite she's bereft, broken, and about to be hung-and joined Bulent Bezduz (Faust) and Mark Doss (Mephistopheles) in one of the most powerful trios in all of opera, the rehearsal world stopped. Pens at the production table froze. No one moved. People outside in the hall gathered at the door to listen. And when the 50-strong chorus builds, their voices gathering steadily into the most majestic of all choruses, Marguerite (and each of every one of us) was transported instantly to heaven.
When the invisible curtain dropped, in that moment in which you'd expect an explosion of applause, there was instead awestruck silence. And, if you looked closely around the room, a tear or two as well. And only then, seemingly minutes later, riotous applause for the cast and chorus from a very special audience-their colleagues.
Slowly, the "real" world returned. Notebooks, laptops, coffee cups all gathered up and people dispersed into the night.
We move now into the Keller Auditorium, where we'll put the remaining pieces together, the final polish. The sets, costumes, props. Tech the lighting. And have everything ready for you when we open the season on November 4. But you'll have to bring the hankies.
After the dance What a delightful birthday yesterday! Better than I recall in years. I usually have pretty low-key birthdays -- and this one was as well, no big party or anything, but I had an unusual number of surprises.
The day ended with a good scene workshop in class. We workshopped about six or seven scenes, and the writers and students learned much. They could see and hear the improvements after we took out the chain saw and made the scenes more efficient and dramatic.
Then to dinner. I was able to enjoy myself without overdoing it, so I didn't feel bloated afterwards. Oysters on the half shell, baked mussels, seafood salad, spicy octopus, bbq chicken, all variety of sushi, a fantastic caesar salad, all variety of small desserts including pecan pie and green tea soft ice cream ... a birthday feast. And I learned I don't have to wait for birthdays for a free meal at Todai! They now offer free lunches to seniors every Wednesday if accompanied by a paying customer. I wonder how many seniors stand outside and try to hitchhike in with someone? Or say, I'll give you five bucks if I can be your lunch guest?
I crashed early, which is what has me up early. I'll grab a couple more zzz's, of course, before the day begins in earnest. I often sleep in two three- or four-hour shifts.
I'm very excited about writing on Sally yesterday. I think I'll start the next chapter, perhaps even finish it (they are all short), before my piano lessons today. I also have some marketing chores I want to do this afternoon. No class work to bring home with me, so my weekend is free for my own stuff.
It was great hearing Lynne sing happy birthday to me. She jazzed it up. If I were her manager, which I'm not, I'd have her sing more simply and not show off her voice so much. She belongs to the histrionics school of jazz while I belong to the simplicity school. Just like my tastes in writing -- I usually abhor overwriting (there are important exceptions for bona fide stylists, like James Agee and Faulkner). I seem to like my art stark and essential for the most part. But it's the thought that counts, and I loved hearing from her. She's coming to Mahagonny with us. (It's a good wife who lets you bring an ex-girlfriend along ha ha.)
Birthday dinner Our birthday dinner tradition is to go to Todai, a Japanese buffet that offers a freebie on your birthday. It's a huge place with huge selections, and it's hard not to pig out. Fortunately we never go there except on one of our birthdays (our regular buffet pigout place is Chinese at about 1/3 the cost).
Office hours celebration I wrote a new chapter on Sally in my office today! It's been a while. Maybe I can get back on track now. I know what's coming in the next chapter. One foot after the other and all that. This middle section may be the trickiest because it all takes place at a small college on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1968 when the marriage falls apart. Pacing this right is critical. Well, I've taken the first step at last. Onward. (A new chapter is my birthday present to myself.)
10/26/2006 03:45:00 PM |
About dying I believe in quality of life over quantity of life. In practical terms, if I get the big C or some other disease, I may not do treatment if I think the cure is worse than the disease, which is exactly what it was in every single case I've seen a dear friend suffer through. Moreover, I think I've lived long enough and considerably longer than I expected to or anyone would have predicted during my wild youth. I've been living what Raymond Carver called "gravy" for some time now.
I'm not suicidal but I also rather embrace the saying (from Bob Dylan?), "Life's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." I think the world has gotten worse, not better, in my lifetime, and I have no particular desire to see things get worse still. So when it's time, it's time, and I feel no urgency in trying to squeeze in an extra year or two. I do have a number of projects I want to finish. I want to die with my boots on.
Now whatever happens is luck of the draw, and what frightens me most is that I've been having a string of good luck regarding health, which I hope doesn't foreshadow bad luck to come (in this zero-sum universe of ours). I'm not against taking matters into my own hands, so to speak, if context demands it. Naturally I hope it doesn't come to this.
My wife thinks all this is morbid pessimism. I don't. I regard it as existential optimism. Existential optimism, the belief that I control my own destiny as long as I'm alert to my own deterioration when it happens. I'd like to outlive my dad, who made it to 74 (the oldest in our clan). (When my mom was my age, she'd been dead for five years.)
I'm a content fellow. I love my routine, my days, my situation. I love my age. I miss a lot but I have a lot left.
I see certain literary advantages to dying, not enough to hasten the prospect but enough to think it's not totally a bad thing. Directors love dead playwrights. They get to mess with the work any way they want.
About aging A key to graceful aging, I think, is being lucky with regard to health. The worst thing that's happened to my body lately is my bridge falling out, which was no biggie. Sure, I have aches and pains but they're no biggie either. Knock on my wooden head.
Another is to be happy with your generation, happy with when you were born, and I am totally ecstatic with mine! How could I not be? I was not raised on television! I was an early teenager during the birth of rock and roll! I did my military service between two wars! I can remember when "literary novel" was not a pejorative term!
In other words, I am happy being 67 and don't need to be younger. I only feel old occasionally in context. For example, Dick's #2 son called me yesterday to wish me happy birthday (he can remember because our birthdays are close ha ha). He's been struggling with booze all his life but is three months sober. I think of him as still going on 19. He is 46! When you regard "a kid" and he's 46, well, that makes you feel old.
As I was writing this, my dear friend Lynne (the singer songwriter) in L.A. called to sing me Happy Birthday. 2nd of the morning, my wife being the first. Also surprise electronic birthday cards and messages awaiting me from several people. We're off to a good start!
I was going to treat myself to a birthday breakfast but remembered our birthday dinner, so I'd better eat lightly until then ha ha.
Tortured artists The list is long. One of them is Richard Brautigan, the subject of Today In Literature. On this day in 1984 his body was found, a suicide. I remember learning this in a bar and toasting him. Not ten years later a doctor would corner me and ask how much I wanted to live. A lot, it turns out. I cleaned up my act -- or at least the most bodily destructive part of it. I don't toast suicidal writers in bars any more. I do it in coffee shops.
10/25/2006 10:15:00 AM |
Unexpected stroke No sooner do I mention them, then I get one. A professor at the Univ. of Mary Washington in Virginia is using my play Sad Laughter (or online here) in her course "Cold Case: Mystery and History in the Theatre". Well, it surely is a mystery whether or not Moliere married his own daughter! How nice she selected my play as one of her texts. It's also a favorite of mine, which doubles the stroke. This makes my day and will make reading midterms much less of a chore since I'll be grinning.
Thursday will be fun in class: workshopping scenes. I cast them, we give staged readings, then we constructively tear them apart and put them back together. High participation.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006 Park-n-ride It's always an adventure at the Barbur Transit Center where I catch a bus to the university. I seem to get the last parking space! Maybe once a term I won't find the last parking space but usually I do. Makes the afternoon interesting.
10/24/2006 02:37:00 PM |
A morning surprise A few weeks ago I rec'd an email from a high school girl, a senior. For a senior requirement, she needed a mentor in a chosen profession, and she'd chosen playwriting. I volunteered to give her feedback on her senior project.
This morning I rec'd a one-act play from her. I was blown away. Although wrongly formatted and filled with other technical errors, this girl has a real gift for writing for the stage. Fully realized characters, great dialogue, lots of contrasts and conflict in a family story ... it was better than much of the university writing I see. What a delightful surprise.
10/24/2006 12:22:00 PM |
The Love of Long Ago After we finished our first opera together, Dark Mission, John Nugent and I decided to do a chamber opera, which would be easier to produce. I selected a short story by Guy de Maupassant and wrote the libretto The Love of Long Ago. This was quite a while ago.
Imagine my surprise then to read John's blog this morning and learn that the chamber opera is alive! He has been musically stuck and now is un-stuck. He has a very interesting discussion of the breakthrough.
This inspires me to return to a new libretto, another adaptation, which I've barely begun. He still has Varmints to finish, too. Maybe I'll have something for him by the time he's done.
I really enjoy working with John. I love his music. However, it's frustrating that he has to work for a living instead of composing for a living because it makes progress slow on our projects. As I have said so many times, work is the curse of the artistic class.
Teaching day. A few papers to read this morning but I should have time to do a few other things before class. Want to get back to Sally.
Monday, October 23, 2006 Birthday, Xmas, etc. I let my wife off the hook. She doesn't have to give me a birthday present this week, nor a Christmas present for that matter. Our trip to LA for the opera is so spendy, we can call it all of these things. Who needs presents when you get to see Mahagonny?
But we are doing our traditional birthday dinner after my class Thursday. We usually do this twice a year, on each of our birthdays, but H's last was her 70th so we did something bigger. At any rate, a wonderful Japanese buffet downtown offers 2-fers if one party has a birthday. I look forward to it!
One of those days when I piddle away time. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. Am I still a writer ha ha? Well, an editor anyway, I did do some grunt editing work this morning. And I practiced the piano. Jingle Bells! Imagine playing this at my age! Our first song with two hands so it isn't all that easy. Been practicing some left hand boogie woogie riffs, too, which isn't part of the class ha ha.
10/23/2006 02:20:00 PM |
The Almanac Singers
Strokes We all need strokes and probably most of us don't get as many as we need. There are two kinds of strokes: the expected and the surprise. When we do a good job and know it, we expect a certain amount of positive commentary. Sometimes, of course, we get the opposite, as in a bad theater review. We expect strokes from friends and family who support us.
But the best strokes, I think, come unexpectedly. I don't get fan mail often but when I do, I love it. Somebody reads something that really moves him and lets me know.
A while back I was at a gathering at Mt. Hood Community College and ran into one of the members of General Strike, a folk group that does union songs. I'd engaged them to perform with me a Labor Day tribute to the Wobblies at the Unitarian Church a few years back. During our conversation, I mentioned how much I liked working with them on that gig -- and she surprised me by saying that the highlight of the performance for her was my rendition of The Miner's Lifeguard. What a nice unexpected stroke!
This happens to be my favorite union song, which I learned on the classic album of union songs by The Almanac Singers. I suppose I'll remember the lyrics till the day I die. Five years ago, in LA for a friend's 70th birthday party, we picked up guitars at night and played together as we used to in the 60s. One of his showcase songs was the hymn from which the tune to the union song was taken, so after he did his lyrics, I began the union lyrics. It was a great moment, all of us singing together like in the old days. Through the 60s we got together most weekends for singing potlucks and partying.
Another stroke moment I'll never forget happened at blackout of my early play Country Northwestern. "This play has balls!" somebody spontaneously shouted. How can you not love a compliment like that?
I get fewer strokes than I used to but I don't think I need them as much. Not that they aren't nice when I get them. But my writing is really in the margins compared to where it used to be. I appreciate any kind word that drifts my way.
I also like to return the favor. I'm big on letting young talented writers know how talented they are: Julie Mae Madsen and Dan Trujillo most recently. Writers need to know folks care about what they are doing. This is what is wrong with "development" in Hollywood and in theater now: the vision of the artist plays second fiddle to other demands. I was so damn fortunate in the 1980s to be playwright-in-residence at two different companies that let me do whatever the hell I wanted to do -- and then produced it. That's what it should be about. You don't see that open-ended support of artists as much as you used to. Part of the emergence of Homo Consumerus dancing to the Corporate Music. I'm glad I'm an old fart and not a young artist starting out. I used to think the Internet would level the playing field but I see the corporations are taking it over. Homo Consumerus marches on.
Give an artist a stroke today. S/he will appreciate it.
Old publishers never die JB, publisher of the Oregon Fever anthology I edited, wants to meet about "a new project." He has a very hard sell. The former was a project close to my heart, which is the only reason I did it. Certainly not for the little money I've made from it. So I doubt if he has a project of interest to me but I'm willing to visit and listen to what he has to say.
10/23/2006 08:08:00 AM |