Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hey There, Handsome

Welcome to the world, Kyle Christopher Gaffney. (The one on the right is the infant.)

The claim is that this is my folks 39th grandchild. I'm not sure, as I never finished differential calculus, which is the only accurate method for ascertaining the number of nieces and nephews I have.

Break down on the name: Kyle (meaning "handsome") Christopher (meaning: Christ-bearer) Gaffney (meaning: stuck with funny looking, really weird relatives). 'Tis a noble name.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

How Chris Got His Hat

Authenticity disclaimer: I saw my brother Chris last Christmas, and this is how I remember him telling me the story. My fact-checking research consisted completely of me sitting back in my chair and asking myself, “What was it he said?” You have been warned.

It started in a bar. Now this wasn’t one of your prissy city bars, with fluorescent cocktails in fancy glasses and James Bond suits broguing pick up lines to slit-skirt hotties. No, this was a bar bar, a peanut shells strewn on the counter and sawdust “just in case” on the floor bar.

The kind of place where everyone knows everyone, so when the stranger came in, he stood out.

Now Chris, being of the philosophy that no one should drink alone – unless they were aiming to – and that no one should feel an alien in such a place, bought the stranger a beer. This act of kindness led to conversation.

They talked about horses, and some about farms and ranches, and some about trucks – the kind you have to kick-start on cold mornings – and some more about horses. They talked about a lot of things, a full beer’s worth in fact, maybe more. They didn’t talk about music, Chris figuring that he and the stranger agreed enough on the topic to make such conversation predictable and boring.

And then the stranger had to go. He thanked Chris; apparently it had been a real long time since anyone bought him a beer in a bar and talked to him like he was a regular guy. And he really enjoyed the conversation – especially the part about the horses.

And he really enjoyed the beer.

And as he got to the door, he thought he’d bring up the topic of music, and asked Chris if he’d like to go to a concert that night. Chris, being no fool, said “sure.”

So Toby Keith took Chris out to his waiting ride. (What? Oh, I didn’t mention before that this was Toby Keith? My bad.)

Chris took a fancy car to a concert, got a backstage pass, heard Toby and a passel of other stars sing, hung out backstage with the lot of them, and even joined them for the post concert parties. Quite a night.

I asked Chris what it was like to party with a star. He said he didn’t really know about stars, but it sure was fun hanging out with Toby.

And when I asked him what the best part of the night was, Chris just smiled and tipped his hat. The one that Toby wore on stage; the final thank you to a guy that bought him a beer in a bar and talked to him like he was a regular guy.

And that’s how Chris got his hat.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Personal Superhero

I've bragged before about my Superhero connection -- how influential I have been in the creation of X-Men III and Return of Superman. Well, not really influential, but I did... Well, I didn't do anything. But I have a friend that worked on the movies, in the background.

Karen Whipple Schnurr was a vocalist in the score of both those films, as well as a featured singer in Ice Age 2 (one of the ravenous buzzards singing "Food, glorious food!). Karen is not only a good friend, but a member of my church drama group -- a very gifted actress.

Well, here's another reason to brag on Karen: she is the featured vocalist of the month for ProSingers Access -- the insider site for professional singers. Go to the site and click on her picture, and you can listen to her sing! (You can also learn that she is an expert in "oohing" AND "aahing," and that she can be charming!)

You rock, Karen!

Just my thoughts,


Importance Flatlanded, Not Flatlining

My short film keeps plugging along out there.

The Importance of Blind Dating has now been accepted into the Flatland Film Festival in Texas.

It came with a note complimenting the writing. Ah, ego strokes.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, June 26, 2006

Wild About Wilder

Latest doc to watch: Billy Wilder Speaks. The film is a series of interviews with the famed writer/director (Sabrina, Some Like It Hot, Stalag 17, The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard, etc).

I’m taking it in small bites, as the piece is full of wit and wisdom, and worthy of slow digestion.

Some interesting tid-bits and advice:

While writing with Raymond Chandler, he had to convince the novelist to stop putting in so many camera directions, which got in the way of the story.

The writer/director, who lost a mother and step-father in Auschwitz, was asked by the studio to change the enemy of the war flick Stalag 17 from Germans to the Polish, so as to not offend the potential German audience. The request was so offensive, Mr. Wilder demanded an apology, which he didn’t get – and thus cut relations with the studio.

His advice: you can either tell a simple story ornately, or you can tell a complex story simply.

He was filming Sabrina while writing the script. On a Friday, he was behind on the pages; which he confessed to Audrey Hepburn. She intentionally flubbed lines to slow down the shoot, so they didn’t catch up to the unwritten scene – thus saving face for the director, and buying him more writing time.

When the writer (who became a director to protect his scripts) was asked if directors should learn to be writers, he responded that it would be better if directors learned how to read.

Hee hee.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Taking a Gamble for New Orleans

This program is chock full of folk from varying backgrounds and foregrounds, who may be apt to say things that many would find inappropriate for a family game of "Go Fish." But, thankfully, not as totally inappropriate as one would likely find in a casino poker game. Ask if someone has any jacks at your own risk. You've been warned.

Time again for one of my guilty pleasures, Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo. A fun and funny way to watch the game, even if you don't know how to play poker. Celebrities (even those that don't know how to play poker) play Texas Hold 'Em for their favorite charities.

Old games constantly run on Bravo, so you can catch up with the season in a flash (the season is six episodes long).

Three changes this year, two for the better:

1) Along with host Dave Foley (great humorist from News Radio) is a new poker expert, Phil Helmuth (hasn't found his rythym like the last guy. But he might just do, eventually).

2) The theme is New Orleans, where the game is taped -- and thus all charities have to be helping the victims of the past year of hurricanes in some way or another. So we won't have to scratch our heads over Penn coming in supporting a non-profit whose only function is to try and prove that all religion is bad; instead we get religious based (such as Habitat for Humanity, Mazon) and non-religious based (such as UNICEF and Direct Relief International) charities that are doing the odd thing of actually trying to help people.

3) They have added a listing of numbers after each charity is featured, so those of us at home can call in and support the charity as well as the celebrity and the show. You can also click on the players at the website to get a description of their charity, and get to a link to the charity itself.

So there are some charitible reasons to justify a guilty pleasure. My favorite kind.

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not Waving But Drowning

One of my favorite poems, by Stevie Smith:

Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The View from Here

I don’t know what to do with my hands.

When I’m standing alone, my hands go from my behind my back to crossed arms. Nothing feels comfortable.

When I’m standing next to someone, I’m even more lost. I want to hug everyone, but I want to give space. Maybe a hand on the shoulder, or the back, a “you’re not alone hand.” Nothing feels right.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been here a while. Some of us came early, to make sure that everything was okay, that we could look.

I’ve only left the room once. The muzak was playing Barbara Streisand; we all figured Chris would be getting irritated, so I left to ask the director if he had any country. He went off to look for some Toby Keith.

We were here just long enough to start to get used to being in the room, to keep from jumping each time our eyes catch the box, when the rest of the family arrives.

The air becomes thin, like in Colorado at the top of those hikes. I think about breathing. In, and out.

As the cluster enters, Mom and Dad are drawn against their will forward, unable to resist the draw, unable to move forward naturally. Everyone else scatters in singles or pairs, pushing out against the interior walls of the room, fragments pushing against the center of the bomb blast.

I don’t know what to do. There is nothing to do, really, but I need something to focus on.

I watch my Mom’s knees, ready to jump in if they buckle. They don’t buckle. She has born the weight of twelve childbirths. She will bear this weight.

She won’t bear it easily; she won’t bear it gently; she won’t bear it willingly. But she will bear it.

Dad has his own job; to be the weight-bearing rock. No, not the rock, the buoy. Drifting, barely able to keep above the waves due to his own burden – but afloat and holding a beacon.

Mom brushes the hair from her son’s brow; she strokes his hands. She moans; she wishes she found his childhood blanket; he is so cold.

Eventually they are able to step back (but not away, only a few steps back).

The opening is filled as one by one, or two by two, each of us moves forward, then back. We collectively, individually whisper what we have to say.

When Mary first came in, along with the advance group, she vocalized the same thought she had about Grandma. “That isn’t him.”

That thought is repeated by several of us. It isn’t him. He’s somewhere else.

Michelle slips a photograph between her brother’s arm and the cushion.

We all stand around in shock, or move to someone standing in shock. We check in; we make sure that anyone who needs someone has someone. Or at least we try to guess who needs what.

I am holding someone. Or someone is holding me. One of us is comforting the other, or we are both comforting, or we both are wishing there is comfort to be had.

I can’t breath. My throat hurts; all my tears struck in my trachea.

Ocassionally someone laughs. Not an inappropriate sound; there has been a lot of talk the past few days of Chris and Grandma and Saint Peter and pinochle. That may not be funny to your ears, but trust me, it is hilarious and fitting.

Somehow, we all know when it is time. We gather from our bomb-scattered radius, fragments drawn to the center. The parents, the original twelve – no, the remaining eleven - and the spouses, at least the ones that weren’t back watching the children.

And one baby; one sign of Spring.

We stand huddled. We look. We discuss Chris’ knife – he never goes anywhere without it. Until now.

Then Mom says, “Close it.”

We step back in unison. Greg or Matt goes to find the director. I can’t tell who, my eyes aren’t working as they should.

The director comes. He has a hand-crank, which he uses to lower Chris within the box.

He takes Michelle’s photo, and tucks it in Chris’ hands.

The new hat, the one that looks like the Toby Keith hat, gets moved from propped up in the corner. It now sits on his chest.

The draped fabric, the one chosen specifically because it matches exactly the color of my brother’s childhood blanket, the one my mother wanted to cover him with earlier, gets tucked into the box.

The cover is lowered. And locked.

And we can move to the next stage now. The shell that used to hold him has been properly placed within his final bed. In two days, we will put the shell that holds the shell into the ground.

Between now and then, we will look for the real him someplace other than in the shell.

And we will continue to say goodbye.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Off To New York

I am off to visit family.

Not much in the mood to celebrate anything, but I did make some recent memories that I do not want to be completely lost in the mourning of the days to follow. Here is a pictoral glance at the past month of my life.

Scott Nolte visits Lala Land.

With Scott and Chris and Helen (along with the gorgeous wife), enjoying the WB box at a Dodgers game.

Saddling up in Big Sky Country.

Mom and Dad before the darkness settled.

The mist and the storm.

Some of my thoughts,


From the Other Side of the Aisle

Friend Janet takes issue with my take on worship over in her blog.

She makes points and counterpoints worth checking out. (Although she does imply that I equate quality with bad worship leading -- not so. I strongly feel that quality is a must for all worship; I simply don't believe that quality is the only responsibility of worship leaders.)

Still and all, great stuff to wrestle with.

Just her thoughts,


Europe on 10 Cents a Look

Check out friend Barbara's blog for a free look at some of the most beautiful sights in Europe.

Pretend you visited yourself, all on her dime.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, June 12, 2006

The Carpenter

I didn’t always get along with my brother Chris.

Not to say there weren’t plenty of good times – has to be with a guy that one shared a room with. And there sure were a lot of memories created (remind me to tell you the one about the game of Tarzan on the bunk beds, and the broken light cord).

But in general, Chris and I were never close.

Two years in age and a whole world separated us. I was the bookworm and scholar, while Chris grew up in an era when dyslexia was diagnosed as “stupid.” He loved working with his hands, while I spent my time living out stories in my head. And, to be honest, he was a bit of a bully, especially to those of us younger than he was.

We fully reconciled as adults (thank you, G-d). By then, Chris had run away from home, gotten married, started on a brood of kids, and – ironically – moved one block away from my parent’s house, wanting to be close to family. He had apprenticed as a carpenter, and now worked as a handyman, doing plumbing or fixing a wall or replacing a heater or sump pump – anything that needed doing.

I was helping him one day, retrieving something from his garage. I noticed an imposing cabinet among the junk, with intricate tooling along the posts and reflectively smooth woodwork. Beautiful.

I asked if this was something that he found somewhere and was restoring – imagining the price he might get for this antique, clearly crafted in another era, one less about pre-fab and conformity.

He didn’t find it; he had built it from scratch. Just something he was messing with.

I learned something new that day, something that would never have occurred to me.

My brother was an artist.

He was an artist who replaced heaters and sump pumps because he had kids to feed; an artist who would never do more than mess around with his craft.

I like to think of my brother Chris as a carpenter. Carpentry is a good trade. In fact, I serve a carpenter.

Yeah, I like to think of Chris as a carpenter.

Chris Gaffney
September 3, 1963 - June 10, 2006

Just my thoughts,


Chick Lit and Comic Books

Sometimes the world goes a little strange. But there is always a balance.

For instance, my friend Kitty not only has read comic books, but has fallen in love with them. Go figure.

So how is the cosmos balanced out? Well, for starters, I read a chick-lit book.

Can’t say that I’ve fallen in love with the genre, but I did thoroughly enjoy this one. My friend Laura sent me an advanced copy of her book, Reconstructing Natalie. Laura is a cancer survivor, and wrote a fiction book about a woman going through the discovery and recovery process of breast cancer.

A funny, witty and moving book about cancer. This isn’t your traditional weepy, woe-is-me kind of book. It is painfully honest, and certainly has weepy moments (advice: don’t finish this book on a plane where your manhood might be in question for snotting up the sleeve of the woman sitting next to you). But it is more about life and humor.

I guess if Steve Martin had written C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, we’d have the style of Laura’s Reconstructing Natalie.

I recommend this to any woman that is dealing with (or fearful of) cancer; and for any guy that wants to understand the women in his life. If you find yourself reading one chick-lit book this year, this is the book for you.

Just my thoughts,


Of Mice and Men's Legs

Bob McKeel passed away last week.

I imagine most of you didn’t know Bob. Can’t say as I really knew Bob, other than he was the father of my best friend from elementary into high school.

And I did know that Bob was a plumber, and his wife would often tell us that one should never marry a plumber if one wanted the toilets to work properly in their own house.

And I know that Bob had a false leg, and that he was the kicker for his high school football team. Apparently the fake leg was a good mallet, and he would send the ball flying on kick off. Sometimes he would also send the leg flying on kickoff, following the trajectory of the ball. Which would scare the bajeebus out of the returning team.

At least that is the story that Bob told.

Oh, and I knew that he had a hole in his leg (I’d seen it for myself); I also knew that a mouse lived in that hole. At least that is what Bob said. As kids we were invited to put a finger into the hole, with the knowledge that the mouse sometimes bit. Any trembling finger that traversed the opening was met with a high pitched *squeak*, scary enough to prevent any of us reaching all the way to the mouse.

I often wondered if it was a good thing, having a pet traveling in one’s leg; or if it would be a nuisance. Not that I ever believed that tall tale. Although I kept wishing for the courage to pet the mouse. Hmmm.

Here’s to you Bob, and all other storytellers doing plumbing by day.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, June 09, 2006

A Brief Study of Modernism*

*Highly Inaccurate and Wildly Oversimplified

One day Isaac Newton was hit on the head by an apple. He said “ouch,” but somehow came out of the situation smarter than before the apple hit his head.

Someone watching Newton’s reaction said, “Hey, I bet that knowledge can save humanity.”

This notion caught on, due in part to a negative ad campaign targeting the “Ignorance can save us” camp. And the Age of Reason was ushered in.

The Church found several ways to over react to this new age.

Part of the Church, knowing that knowledge can’t save, went with an old standby, attacking any knowledge that was “new” or smacked of science, feeling that anything new to humanity must be new to G-d as well, and thus incompatible with faith.

(Sidenote: Did you know that the “Big Bang Theory” was developed by a Christian, and was instantly denounced by the scientific community because it proved Genesis 1:1? Didn’t take us long to reverse that stance.)

Another part of the Church also denounced all things new, but they really really wanted to believe that knowledge could save. You see, these were called Protestants, and they were educated laymen. So they had access to knowledge that their peasant forebears didn’t even dream of.

So they decided that knowledge does save, as long as it is the right kind of knowledge.

And to solidify their new-found power in knowledge, they set about abolishing anything within religion that could not be comprehended by the brain.

The kicked beauty out of the sanctuary, insisting on plainness, since beauty is not in the realm of reason. They eliminated sensual worship – touch and smell and taste and sight—as the senses were not in the realm of reason. (The one exception is music, which was kept because too many of the Protestant fathers were lyricists, and justified their craft as more about making statements than art).

All aspects of worship that were not reason based were labeled as perversions, or at least made highly suspect. Meditation, the sanctity of creation, finding G-d outside of the church walls, or “feeling” the presence of the divine – all were handed over as property of other religions.

And, to erase all doubt that the focus of the Church should be on reason, they moved the pulpit from the side of the sanctuary to the center – so that all attention throughout the service would be focused on the important thing. (Prior to this the cross or the communion table were the center of the service.)

And thus, to complement the Age of Reason, the Church of Reason was born. To be followed quickly by the cult worship of preachers, the degradation of the arts (even the Catholics allowed the secular world to take control of beauty), and the popularization of the “Church Split.”

Post-Modernism couldn’t have come too soon.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Review of Things Unseen

Has anyone caught Game Show Marathon on CBS? I am away from my Tivo, so behind. I have heard that it is a hoot -- especially Leslie Nielson.

Also, I have heard from a friend in animation, who caught a sneak peek of the movie CARS. He says that he thinks this is the best Pixar flick yet -- which is high praise indeed. I was a little worried seeing some of the early previews.

Any one else seeing anything we should know about?

Just my thoughts,


Having a Helena of a Good Time

I am still away from home; hence the spottiness of the blogging. (The spottiness of the blogging when I am home is for entirely different reasons.)

I am now hanging out in Montanta, where, as you all know, Ephraim Cochran will pilot the first rocket with a warp drive about sixty years from now.

I have efficiently used my time here to avoid writing. The writing avoidance techniques I have employed include:

-Attending my godson's graduation party (Isaac heads for the Air Force Academy in a few weeks). Isaac was the valedictorian of his home school class. Good thing he didn't have a twin.

-Watching my wife ride a horse with style and grace.

-Riding a horse myself, with style and grace. Dismount from said horse in mid lope, also with style and grace. Pick myself and my pride up from the dirt with style and grace. Style and grace laughed the whole time, which I thought was rather rude of them.

-Beating an eleven year old in ping pong (best 3 out of 5; it went to game 5).

-Being beat by an eleven year old in basketball.

-Being beat by an eleven year old in Labyrinth.

-Being beat by an eleven year old in air hockey.

-Being beat by an eleven year old in cards.

-Hiding from an eleven year old as he tries to find me for more game time.

-Taking a hike for several hours, staying the whole time either on my sister's property or her neighbors.

-Pretending I'm deaf as an eleven year old tell his mother that he likes having Uncle Sean around, because he never comes close to winning when playing his older siblings in games.

-Visiting the small village mom and pop stores of the area, like Wal-Mart and Safeway.

-Telling an eleven year old that I can't play Statego, I have to write.

-Finally doing some writing.

Montana is very beautiful.

Except for all the game playing.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, June 02, 2006

More On Leading

Anonymous said... (in response to "Worshipping Music" below)

That service was a little too show-off-y for me, actually, Sean. BB looked over at me when the worship leader came out and said, "Just 'cuz you have a rock and roll haircut, doesn't make you rock and roll." As a worship leader myself, there's always that tension between leading the people (risking calling attention to yourself), and just getting out of the way (which presumes that people automatically know to worship). It's a tension, and one I still haven't totally resolved myself.

Sean says:

I hear you. The trick, it seems to me, is to LEAD, which requires presence, without being the center of focus.

Where I think these folks may be going wrong is concentrating so much on what is happening on the stage -- if their focus is COMPLETELY on the performance (and it HAS to be at least somewhat on the performance), how can the audience be expected to not also be completely focused on the performance? And if so, where is the space for them to be focused on G-d?

And apologies to those that think it is rude to not be constantly thanking the musicians, but if I am asked to leave the presence of G-d after every song so I can shower accolades on the people that led me to the throne, well -- doesn't that actually negate the hard work of the musicians in transporting me away from the corporal world?

Just My Thoughts,


More Importance and Foreign News

Coming to you from the hinterlands -- you don't know how painful it is to blog in dial-up world. Golly, I am spoiled.

The Importance of Blind Dating has been selected for exhibition in the Flatland Film Festival, so now Texas can be exposed to my writing.

Last night, Catherine and I (along with LA friends Vicki and Cory and Seattle friends Candace, Sam, Mark and Karen) went to see The Foreigner at Taproot Theatre. The show absolutely rocked! Congrats to director Karen Lund, and special kudos to the great performances by Scott Nolte and the rest of the cast.

If in Seattle, go see it.

I was a tad worried -- I worked on the show at Taproot ten years ago (also directed by Karen), and carried very fond memories and high expectations. But things change in ten years -- and I recently saw a rather dreadful production of The Nerd, a play by the same author. I was starting to wonder if maybe my memory was faulty; and if maybe I would look at the revival with the eyes that I looked at The Nerd, cringing at some of the writing (although the cringe worthy Nerd probably had more to blame on the bland, disconnected directing).

Not to worry; whatever faults the script has in The Foriegner are whitewashed by brilliant comic timing, depth of characters (in a play that pretends to have no depth), and tight direction.

Rock on, Taproot! And thank you for keeping the memories alive...

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, June 01, 2006

For Us Mezzobrows

"Slang is language that takes off its coat, spits on its hands, and goes to work."
-Carl Sandburg

Here are some terms found in the Dictionary of American Slang, edited by Maurice H. Weseen, that I think should be brought back into common usage. Join me in my effort by using each term in conversation at least once a day.

Oh, and I should mention, the year of publication is 1934.

Mezzobrows (person of medium or average intelligence)
Monowongler (person who monopolizes the conversation)
Muggle Party (an informal gathering of girls)
Pepitis (enthusiasm for enthusiasm; the doctrine that noise wins victories)
Moronia (the world of morons)
Republicrat (person who is partly republican, partly democrat)

I'd give you some more, but I have to go tote my twilly to a toot.

Just my thoughts,