You Do More Posted by The Loose Hinges (Kris McCarthy, Ron Gomez, Eliot Houser) December 8, 2014

You Do More
The Loose Hinges
Live in the Living Room
November 15, 2014


Pacino Posted by Loren Kantor December 22, 2012

Pacino, woodcut and text by Loren Kantor

When Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount Pictures set out to cast the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, they had a disagreement. The studio wanted Robert Redford, Warren Beatty or Ryan O'Neal. Coppola wanted an unknown Italian American actor. At the time, Al Pacino had just one starring film role to his credit, playing a heroine addict in The Panic In Needle Park. Coppola brought Pacino in for multiple auditions but Pacino kept blowing his lines. Producer Robert Evans referred to Pacino as “that little dwarf” and he told Coppola “a runt will not play Michael.” Evans was concerned that Pacino's short stature would be a problem since Sonny Corleone was originally to be played by six foot four actor Carmine Caridi.

Coppola continued to audition actors for Michael including Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, David Carradine and Martin Sheen. The studios began pushing James Caan for Michael but he wasn't Sicilian enough for Coppola (Caan is Jewish). Coppola threatened to quit if Pacino didn't get the role; Evans agreed as long as Caan was cast as Sonny.

A few weeks into production, Coppola began having second thoughts. He was concerned that Pacino was playing the role as too meek and mild. “You're not cutting it for me kid,” Coppola told Pacino. True to his Actors Studio training, Pacino was allowing himself time to discover who Michael was as a character. Marlon Brando understood Pacino's method acting approach. He intervened on Pacino's behalf and urged Coppola to keep him.

The scene that saved Pacino's job was the restaurant scene where Michael retrieves a gun from the bathroom and kills Sollozzo and the corrupt cop McCluskey. The scene is a tour de force of brilliant acting. Michael and Sollozzo converse in Italian with no subtitles. Since the audience doesn't know what the actors are saying, they are forced to focus full attention on Pacino's eyes, his sagging shoulders, the way he subtly moves his head to conceal his inner turmoil. The scene depicts the moment that Michael transforms from a naive young man to a vicious mob boss. It's also the moment that Al Pacino transforms from unknown actor to movie star.

Pacino was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather. He has since been nominated for eight Acting Oscars, winning once for Scent Of A Woman. Pacino's salary for The Godfather was just $35,000. Two years later, his salary for Godfather II increased to $500K + 10% of the gross after break-even. (4" x 6" black ink print)

“Pacino” was originally published on Loren Kantor's blog,, on November 19, 2012.


One Fifth At A Time Posted by The Loose Hinges (Kris McCarthy & Eliot Houser) November 10, 2012

One Fifth at a Time
The Loose Hinges
Session in the Field
November 3, 2012


The Writer Posted by Loren Kantor October 2, 2012

The Writer, woodcut and text by Loren Kantor

Aram Saroyan is a renowned poet, novelist, playwright and biographer. His father was legendary author William Saroyan and his stepfather was actor Walter Matthau.

Aram came of age in the 60's and his early writings were heavily influenced by the Beat Generation. He met the beat triumvirate of Kerouac, Ginsberg & Burroughs and Aram's book Genesis Angels chronicles the life of beat poet Lew Welch. Saroyan's philosophy of writing owes much to Allen Ginsberg's exhortations of &ldquo:First Thought Best Thought” and “Candor Ends Paranoia.”

In 1967, Aram and his friend the poet Ted Berrigan traveled to Lowell, Massachusetts to interview Jack Kerouac at his home. It was a few months before the summer of love and people were always showing up at the house to see the author of On The Road. Kerouac's wife Stella was the gatekeeper and she tried to shoo Saroyan & Berrigan away. After they insisted they'd come to interview Kerouac for The Paris Review, she finally let the men into the house.

By this time, Kerouac was a “bull-like ruin.” Sitting in the darkened living room, Berrigan gave Kerouac a handful of Orbitrols (Kerouac called them “forked clarinets”). The two poets watched as Kerouac reminisced about his days with Neal Cassady riding around the country “free as a bee . . . We had more fun than five thousand Socony Gasoline Station Attendants.&rdauo;

Kerouac expressed his admiration for Aram's father, William Saroyan. “I loved him as a teenager, he really got me out of the nineteenth-century rut I was trying to study, not only with his funny tone but with his Armenian poetic.”

Kerouac played piano for the poets then composed a spontaneous haiku:

with big leaf on its back

Kerouac riffed on the origins of Buddhism and the impact of Zen on his writing. “When a man spit at the Buddha, the Buddha replied, ‘Since I can't have your abuse you may have it back.’” Aram asked Jack the difference between Buddha and Jesus. Kerouac said, “That's a very good question. There is none.”

As their meeting came to a close, Kerouac recited his poem Mexico City Blues. He asked Aram to repeat the words after him, line by line:

Delicate conceptions of kneecaps.

Like kissing my kitten in the belly.

The quivering meat of the elephants of kindness.

When the poem was complete, Kerouac rewarded Aram by saying, “You'll do, Saroyan.” To Aram, this was the equivalent of a literary knighting.

Currently, Aram teaches creative writing at USC. Aram's 2007 collection, Complete Minimal Poems, received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His latest book is Door to the River: Essays and Reviews from the 1960s into the Digital Age. (5" x 7", black ink print)

“The Writer” was originally published on Loren Kantor's blog,, on May 1, 2012.


On reading excerpts from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria printed in the Fifth Edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, quoting directly at the beginning of what may be one of the hottest weeks of the year Posted by Robert Kotchen July 17, 2011

Who has not a thousand times seen snow fall on water? Who has not watched it with a new feeling from the time that he has read Burns' comparison of sensual pleasure

To snow that falls upon a river
A moment white—then gone forever!


On writing...and editing Posted by Sarah Marrs April 11, 2011

I’ve heard that all editors are writers but I’ve always wondered if that goes both ways. Are all writers editors? If they’re not, they should be. Editing for the Labletter has been one of the best experiences I’ve had as a writer. It’s certainly made me a better writer—I can never get upset at my own editor because I know her edits aren’t personal and that the most important thing a writer can do is not get too attached to her own work because odds are, some jerk editor is going to want to change it.

The process of choosing stories to publish in the Labletter is easy—pick the best stories submitted. The action of choosing those stories is rather a bit tougher. For the 2011 edition, it was even harder because of the sheer number of submissions. Not only did we receive over three hundred submissions, but many of the writers were MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipients, O. Henry Award winners, Pushcart Prize finalists, published novelists, and writers previously featured in publications like The New Yorker, Zoetrope and McSweeney’s. How do you begin to process all that?

It starts with me staying up very late, reading stories. It continues with me reading more stories. Eventually our managing editor, Robert Kotchen, will ask me how it’s going and if I need help. The answer is always “terribly” and “YES PLEASE” but I tell him that it’s fine and that I have everything under control. The truth is, while I respect Robert very much and he probably has better taste than me, I don’t want anyone else messing in my sandbox. Fiction is my section—if I have to read five hundred stories I’ll do it because it’s ultimately my decision and I want the fiction section to reflect my taste and my taste alone.

And that’s the key to editing for a journal like the Labletter. It’s all about individual taste. Each section reflects that particular editor’s taste and interests. It can be really intimidating to read stories from writers whose accomplishments outrank mine, who are likely older, wiser and better educated than I’ll ever be. I just have to remind myself of the thing that I think every editor says to herself: “I’m responsible for this. Whatever it ends up being, I’m responsible for it and I have to think that it is the best thing ever.”

The first story I landed on for this edition was Rolli’s “Chimpanions”. I was halfway through the story when I put it aside and shot off an email to Rolli telling him we’d be publishing it. I allow for simultaneous submissions, so I didn’t want to risk getting a message from Rolli, in the few minutes it would take me to finish his story, that another publication picked it up. Once I had “Chimpanions” in the bag, the task became about finding a story that would partner well with it. I came across Daniel Pearlman’s “Canine Virtues” with about a hundred stories left to go and set it aside. I loved the story but it was a bit long, a little daunting given that word count is important with the Labletter. But after reading all the stories I didn’t like any of them as much as “Canine Virtues” and so I just made it work.

Because that’s what editors do—make it work. I didn’t initially start out to pick two stories that had animalian themes but that’s what I ended up with. That’s what the two best stories submitted ended up being. They worked well together, they appealed to my literary and humorous sensibilities. The quality of the writing was excellent. So of course, as a jerk editor, I wanted to change it. Most of the edits were limited to syntactical changes made to smooth out the flow of the stories. With Rolli there was some word-choice wrangling—he’s Canadian and he used a couple words that aren’t familiar to American readers. The upside of having so many, and such quality, submissions is that I have the luxury of pulling out stories that are so good they require little interference. I’m hard on my authors—I think their stories are the best thing ever and I will push and argue and demand until we make those stories as good as they can possibly be.

You can read an excerpt from “Chimpanions” here, but to read both stories in their entireties, please visit the Labletter store to purchase a copy. Also, you can like us on Facebook—being liked is nice. I’m very proud to present both “Chimpanions” and “Canine Virtues” in the 2011 Labletter. I believe these are the best stories we’ve published so far, and I hope you enjoy them.


Welcome to Spivey's Corner Posted by Julian Goldberger March 5, 2011


A Voice Posted by William Sidney Parker February 27, 2011

One of my sisters sent me a link to the below video and it made me think of the power of having a true voice. She sent it for political reasons, I believe. We are Southern liberals. (Yes. There were, and are, such creatures. In Hollywood we are usually revised into the eccentric friend—think Shirley MacLain—which may be a tender mercy: we can be exasperatingly earnest and make Atticus Finch seem like a rake.)

I think my sister sent me this link because of current political events, but after I forced myself through its six-and-a-half minutes, I realized I’d seen a man awed by a voice—a funny and plodding voice.

Craftsmen and artists concern themselves a great deal with the search for voice—so much so that many will term their entire practice as such. It’s funny, because to those who have never confronted a craft or practice, this metaphor of The Voice (and yes, it often sounds capitalized) sounds esoteric (that’s being kind—it sounds pretentious) when it isn’t.

It’s why we put off a phone call, or why we put off a phone call when we feel in person more appropriate; why some things are not said in a voicemail; why some things written in an e-mail or posted on-line go disastrously awry; why even today we want to put some things in a letter—and dread how to do it. If you’ve ever said, “That’s not what I meant,” you have, in some way, struggled with finding your voice: you explain the recorded message, the e-mail. You quickly give its context and your intention, and your demeanor, you hope, supports the sincerity of your explanation. If you take on the responsibility for the miscommunication (if it is miscommunication and this is not a post-factum cover up) and the damage hasn’t festered into its own conflict, the situation is quickly resolved. You, in person, with your voice, communicate quickly and easily what your message, e-mail, post or letter disastrously did not.

That’s part of what craftsmen and artists mean when they speak of the struggle to find their voice: they can’t follow their work around, explaining what they meant; they have to synchronize what they say with the medium through which they say it. What may be easy, and quick (and fleeting), to say in person, can be fiendishly difficult to write, to paint, to sing.

Those craftsmen and artists who find their voice usually say similar things about the experience: it took a lot of work (and usually a lot of time); it made their previous understanding of their work seem childish or nonsensical, irrelevant or misguided; the voice itself has a disembodied reification to it—like a chalice they’d suddenly stumbled upon; it has tremendous power (which they characterize as not their own or as not owned by them); and the craftsmen and artists are humbled by it.

I think in this video you see the power of such a voice. Mr. Rogers’ voice is, in fact, comical. To this day, my first reaction is: is this guy for real? It’s as though he took baby talk, flattened the range and lowered its timbre and pitch back to a semblance of adult speech (like a reverse chipmunks effect), but the lively mouth with elongated vowels and gentle consonants remain. A reverse chipmunks effect—too much actually, because while the pitch and timbre are now normal, someone forgot to adjust the rate, forgot to de-metronome it: it is too slow, too regular. My God, Mr. Rogers doesn’t just speak slowly, he makes you know, instantly, he will never, ever, speak faster. At first blush, you may think, as I do, he’s condescending, but you quickly realize his voice is something about clarity and sincerity, and it ain’t going nowhere.

In this video, Mr. Rogers is testifying before the Senate against a proposal to halve the budget for PBS. He starts off with a move that, since it’s Mr. Rogers, you don’t realize for a few beats is stunning and audacious: he compares the Senator to a child and explains he will trust the Senator to read his prepared statement, because it is important to teach trust by trusting, and instead use his live testimony time to speak to other matters.

It takes the Senator a few beats to feel the blow as well. He belatedly interjects a response, but listen closely to it: it’s manly, almost condescending, and practically admits he hadn’t planned on reading it, begs to be absolved of the trust (and work) to do so.

Mr. Rogers carefully, and politely, leaves the responsibility with the Senator.

Now you can just watch. It’s not easy. I loved his show, but Mr. Rogers’ Senate Testimony sounds like a late-night comedy sketch idea (a bad one), but that voice, plodding and funny, is powerful. And watching this testimony is a rare opportunity to see what craftsmen and artists mean when they speak of finding their voice: it can awe.

Anna Marie (revisited) Posted by Eliot Houser February 15, 2011

Attached is a later version of Anna Marie. The last file I uploaded was a barebones guitar/vocal arrangement. This next rough draft features an upright bass (played by Mark Miller) and drums (played by Dave Harrison). Both cats played beautifully and very naturally to the original accoustic guitar that I recorded to a click. The interplay between the instruments feels organic and not forced. Sometimes, when the rhythm section is recorded after the fact, the outcome doesn't groove or doesn't sound organic. That is not the case here. I especially love the Ringo-esque entrance on the toms halfway through the first verse and the way the bass does double time on the last verse.

Also featured is an out-of-tune electric guitar that I played without much thought and some surprisingly-in-tune chimes that the wind played with even less thought. These wind chimes hang outside the backdoor of my studio and on the night that we were recording the bass and drums the wind was really blowing. When you listen to the middle section you can hear the howling and gusting. It seems lonely and beautiful and I love the effect it has on the song. You can hear the wind chimes all by themselves at the end of the song.

At this point, all I really need to do is re-sing the vocal and mix it. Maybe I'll replace that out-of-tune guitar too, but these days I feel less concerned about making sure everything is in perfect tune. Getting the vibe and personality are more important. I'll keep you posted.

Over and out from Nashville,


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On reading an article in The New York Times, an adjective Posted by Robert Kotchen January 8, 2011

In an article in today's paper by John Branch about the unusual situation of the Seattle Seahawks making the playoffs with a losing record—"the only thing worse than their defense (ranked 27th among the league's 32 teams) is their offense (28th)"—and the emerging groundswell of support for the team—"among fans, the most endearing transformation has been the contagious notion of hope"—Branch quotes a Seattle resident who works in the "hilltop Queen Anne neighborhood."

Normally the adjective "hilltop" used in that context would mean very little to me, but I remember walking up that hill a couple times...


2nd Rocker Posted by Eliot Houser December 15, 2010

This tune is another rocker Rick and I came up with last week. Again, no lyrics but at least a solid working arrangement. An inkling of this song was first visited back in October when Rick was banging away on an accoustic and me on a Wurlitzer. As I am wont to do, I was recording the idea onto my iPhone, which has become indispensable to me for capturing ideas in the moment. I literally have hundreds of such ideas on my phone, most of which I have yet to listen back to.

So, last week, I knew we had some things that we had captured on my phone, so I went sifting through all the stuff that I recorded back in October and found something we wanted to flesh out. So I picked up the electric again and started playing the parts. Next I came up with a new part because I thought the arrangement needed more interest and somewhere else to go. This is the part that begins and ends the song and might very well be the chorus. Again, I recorded the electric to a click track and then Rick immediately laid down the drums afterwards. The reason we don't record our parts together during these sessions is that it is faster to do them separately, especially when the arrangement is still in flux. However, once a song has an established arrangement and lyrics, I much prefer to record together as a band.

The next post will hopefully feature a working draft of lyrics which will do the moniker 'Dumb Rock' proud...

Over and out from Nashville...


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Can You Feel It Posted by Eliot Houser December 11, 2010

This is a song that I wrote last Friday, December 3rd, with a little help from my friend, Rick Schell, during one of our speed writing sessions. Speed writing is a song development process that requires you to make decisions quickly (because they are usually right) and to move on to something else if you get bogged down or run into a wall. There are no lyrics yet but I have an idea for a chorus that uses the rather cliche refrain 'Can You Feel It?' Hey, if it's worked before, no need to reinvent the wheel--damn, there I go again.

In this very raw form, Rick is playing drums and I am playing guitar and bass. The process for writing this song involved me plugging into a loud amplifier and coming up with 3 or 4 complementary parts or riffs. It's a process that I use quite often. Once I've found something I like, I usually take the most compelling riff and then declare that one to be the chorus. All the while, I'm usually searching out melodies and lyrics that may or may not stick. A strong melody is important, but on a chorus it's essential. Then comes the arranging, which is taking the other parts and building them around the chorus in an interesting way. Sometimes it's cool to start a song on the chorus, as is happening in this arrangement. However, most of the time it doesn't work, and it makes a stronger statement to make the listener wait for the chorus.

So after coming up with an arrangement, I started to cut the electric guitar to a click (metronome) set at about 130 beats per minute. However, Rick suggested we speed it up, so I amped up the speed to 146 bpm. He was right--the faster tempo gave the song more urgency. After I recorded the guitar to the click, Rick recorded the drum track, and then we drank some more beer and started working on a new tune. Instead of losing momentum writing lyrics (which did not seem to be immediately forthcoming), we thought it would be more fun and productive to move onto composing another tune. So that's what we did...and the next post will include this other song and describe our process

Concerning 'Can You Feel It?', been working on the words and the next audio update will have at least a working draft of lyrics.


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Reflections on our first three public editions, part 1: a bridge between the Lab and the Labletter Posted by Robert Kotchen December 11, 2010

Our 2009 edition—our first public edition—holds a certain charm, more for me than it will for others. For ten years, the Labletter had been a magazine printed and bound at a copy shop like OfficeMax or Kinkos. Those covers are all solid colors—a different color for each year—and until the magazines are opened, the fronts can't be distinguished from the backs, the tops from the bottoms. Now we had a magazine professionally printed, with a cover designed by Guy Hundere, a thin volume that would prove a hybrid between the eclectic nature of the work that had been presented in the first ten editions and the quality of work that would emerge in the next couple of editions. One of the highlights of that edition is the CD that accompanies the magazine of songs recorded at the Oregon Lab, and in particular, a song called "The Tide".

Most of the songs on the CD were recorded in the sharing ceremony, during a time when the Lab was at its most vibrant. The Lab would meet once a year for a week, and on the last night of the week we would all gather after dinner in a common room—often a group of eight to twelve people—and everybody would take turns presenting work—reading an excerpt from a manuscript in a process or a journal, presenting a short play or monologue, sharing or talking about photographs or paintings, playing music and singing songs. The sharing ceremonies of 1996 and 1997 were exciting. In both those years, everybody who participated in the Lab found something during the course of the week, had an experience of tapping into the work, the work getting better, and being moved in the process.

Eliot Houser has a gift conducive to that environment. Part of his gift is music and laughter that bring people together. And part of his gift is the ability to work with other people, to create the spark that allows them to find something they otherwise wouldn't have found and to allow what other people have to offer to move what he is doing. At the beginning of the week, he would let people know—people who are not musicians by trade—that if they wanted to write a song and had a clear idea of what the song would be about, he would work on the song with them. The results: a beautiful song with lyrics by Dan Robb

I have done my share of ramblin' round
Following my heart from town to town
I think I've made my peace with this old land
And I think I've learned something about being a man
And I believe I'll recommend, I believe I shall attend
That I stay right here with what I know's all right
And I'll keep on standing up for that light
–from "Standing Up For That Light"

a raucous song with lyrics and vocals by Brian Weir

We're parked side by side in our double-parked garage
My Volkswagen Bug's making your Beamer look large
The neighbors are worried, they're all in a tizz
Cause they've never seen license plates that read his and his
–from "Moving In"

a relatively (think Einstein) imaginative song with lyrics and vocals by Michael Heelan

In America
You can buy crackers
Shaped like fish
That taste like cheese
–from "Blackie Wants A Cheese Fish"

and a song that Eliot had written on (as he puts it) one of those Nashville winter days when it's drizzly and it's been overcast for two weeks and it makes you want to write something forlorn and heartbreaking. He worked on it after writing it, and it wasn't happening—so he thought it wasn't very good and he put it away. At the Lab he brought it out again and played it for Trace (Trace Turville), and he credited her with turning it into something beautiful and giving him confidence in his work. There was something about where we all were, individually and collectively, something a recording could never capture, in our response—deep and shared—to the first time Trace and Eliot performed "The Tide" in 1996.

Trace and Eliot performed "The Tide" again in 1997. The performance was less emotional and more even, and the recording quality is better.

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Anna Marie Posted by Eliot Houser December 11, 2010

I thought I might send some work in progress that will demonstrate how I go about composing and producing. This could be posted on the website and as I bring the songs to completion, I could send audio updates with an accompanying aesthetic rationale for my decisions.

This first song, Anna Marie, is a song I wrote about 5 years ago, but forgot about. I have reworked the arrangement a little bit and just recorded it this past week. Right now it is just accoustic guitar and vocals, but the way I hear it in my head, I could either make a grand statement by adding piano, upright bass, and strings, or I could make it a little more eclectic and intimate by adding bass, accordion, and percussion. The next update should reveal which way I go.

This song is the most romantic song I've ever written. It incorporates the idea of earthly love in a spiritual context that makes the tangible ethereal. So, from a production standpoint, it needs a light and unobtrusive touch.

More heavy-handed songs to follow.


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On walking outside my apartment this morning, an observation Posted by Robert Kotchen December 4, 2010



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