Thursday, August 31, 2006

Making the Band

DanBuck said...

Old friend. Help me out. I've got a great idea for a show and want to begin writing it as a collaboration with a friend. He's enthusiastic but wants some assurances it might get considered by someone who could actually do something with it.

Neither of us is in L.A.

Am I living in a fantasy world? I don't mind being a long shot, but a little wisdom in this matter goes a long way.

Should we need to pitch first or write first?


Dear Dan,

You are living in a fantasy world.

But then again, living in a fantasy world is a requirement for writers, so that may not be a bad thing.

First off, if you want to make it in Hollywood, you should be in Hollywood. If you can’t get yourself motivated to move the wife and kidlets on a whim, then take the first step of applying to Act One: Writing for Hollywood, and plan on being here for just one month.

(Act One may well be the BEST writing program for film and television short of a full Master’s program; and it is designed specifically for Christians.)

As to needing assurance that your flick will be considered by someone who can do something, that is easy. There are two ways to do this:

One: Be commissioned to write it, with a paycheck in hand before you start writing. All that takes in Hollywood is being on the top of the food chain, which only takes twenty or so years of work and an incredible amount of talent and luck – on average. Right now, all ten of those spots are filled, but they don’t last, so one should be opening up soon. Good luck with that.

Oh, and being commissioned in no way guarantees your work will be produced. We know that from the playwriting world. I had an upfront check to write a Broadway sized musical, and even got it workshopped. Now it sits in a box next to my desk. Hey, if anyone out there wants a musical of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, give me a holler.

Two: Be related to a person who has the power to make projects happen, and be on their good side so much they can’t say no to you. It’s probably too late for you to be born in that situation. If your wife is really understanding, you can divorce her and take a shot at marrying a Bryce or a Sophia. (On the Christian understanding that you will re-marry your spouse after your movie gets made.)

Okay, now that I have tricked you into believing that breaking in is easy, I will follow up later today (or tomorrow) with my ten tips for how to get your script read.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Road to Nower: Part 4 – I, the Camera

So at this point Joel and I have an idea and a setting. We began to brainstorm, populating our world with characters, relationships and histories.

And soon we had to make an important decision – one that would effect the direction and marketability of our project: one camera or three.

A little background for those not in the biz: half-hour television comedies come in two flavors, single-camera and three-camera.

Single-camera shows are taped using – wait, let me do the math—right, one camera. They are shot like films, shooting from one angle, resetting the camera, and shooting the same scene from another angle.

These shows are not shot in front of an audience, and have more flexibility with locations, outdoor scenes, and quicker, shorter scenes. Examples are Scrubs and The Office.

Three-camera shows are taped using – wait, let me do the math – right, four cameras. Okay, math doesn’t work here, but I’ll explain that later.

This was a technique developed by Desi Arnez for the I Love Lucy shows. Desi, a brilliant man, realized that the constant stopping and resetting of cameras interrupted the flow of his talented wife, and made it harder to recapture the energy that made her so popular in their live shows.

Three cameras shooting different angles at the same time and a live audience solved that problem, and helped to make Lucille Ball the superstar of television. It also set the standard for sit-coms (situation comedies), which until recently were predominately three-camera shows (examples include Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends).

(Side note: the studios did not want Desi to play Lucy’s husband, figuring that the American public would not accept a mixed marriage on television. The couple toured a version of their show, selling out across the nation and proving the suits wrong – and thus earning Desi his place in front of the camera.)

Oh, about the fourth camera: you can thank Robin Williams for that. Seriously, thank him – he is responsible for supporting the careers of one fourth of the cameramen in television.

You see, when Mork and Mindy was airing, the manic Williams kept popping out of frame, so the producers put in a fourth camera to do nothing but follow him around. The idea caught on, and it became standard for three-camera sit-coms to have a fourth, floating camera.

Perhaps to easiest way to describe the difference between the two types of shows is in the feel. Single-camera shows feel more like watching film; three-camera shows feel more like watching live theatre.

The more we developed our show (tentatively called Hollywood Heartland at the time), the more it started to feel like a three-camera show. But these days, single-camera shows are all the rage, and there is a sentiment out there that triples were unfunny, too old-fashioned, and past their prime.

So, armed with that information, we made the only sensible choice.

We decided to make it a three-camera sit-com.

Next: Two More Decisions Guaranteeing the Demise of our Show

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Good Night

When my godson, Isaac, was little, his dad was an officer in the United States Navy.

One night, Isaac insisted on kissing daddy before going to sleep. This broke my sister’s heart, as there was no way to kiss daddy – he was far out to sea, and wouldn’t return for weeks. She tried to explain this to her young son.

But Isaac continued to insist, ignoring my sister’s logic about time and space. Isaac would not close his eyes until he went and kissed daddy.

Finally, hoping for divine intervention, Patty told her son that he could go look for daddy himself.

Isaac raced from his bed, went immediately to the chest where the photo of his father in his dress uniform sat, pulled down the frame and kissed it.

He replaced the picture, raced back to bed, and contentedly closed his eyes.

This became the nightly ritual, created by a boy whose love far away, but not too far. A boy that understood the illogic of love and time and space.

But that was a long time ago (the above picture was taken in 1990).

Life has moved forward, and everything is different now. Andy, Isaac’s daddy, is no longer in the military; Isaac is now a man himself, and studying at the Air Force Academy.

The picture below of Isaac’s cousin, Elena, was taken less than a month ago.

Elena’s daddy is an officer in the United States Marine Corps, and is currently serving his tour of duty in Iraq.

Elena would like to kiss her daddy good night, but the logic of time and space…

This is her ritual – pat daddy’s picture.

Life has moved forward, and everything is different now…

Just my thoughts,


Monday, August 28, 2006

"Hood"ies Across the Pond

For those of you following my friend Cory's movie, he is now in England doing Hoodwinked promos.

Be sure to check his site regularly for updates on his cross-cultural adventures.

In honor of the upcoming opening, I found a poster in the native language of Britain! (It was an exhaustive search -- but then again, I tire easy.)

Just my thoughts,


Middle of Nower: Part Three – Small Town Ideas

So Joel has an idea – a one-line idea that seems to have potential.

Joel and I work well together for a number of reasons. We are honest with each other – crucial for our craft to improve. We can take honesty from each other – crucial if we are to keep from crumbling into sobbing puddles during each session.

Also, we agree a lot on what moves us, tickles us, and what we respect in writing.

Another added benefit for this particular project – we both know small towns.

You see, that idea of Joel’s goes like this: After a failed project, a Hollywood producer is forced to live in a small town.

Pretty complex, huh?

So Joel and I started by reminiscing about our small town experiences. I grew up in a village (thank you, Union Springs, for being such a fertile ground for tiny town stories!); and Joel continued his town affiliations throughout adulthood in touring and summer stock.

So we talked about the controversy that tore a town apart – whether putting a stop light on main street was the same as giving in to decadent modern culture.

We talked about the guy that everyday would sit on the hood of his truck, watching downtown from nine to five, and then head home.

We talked about the town in the middle of nowhere that after the factory closed decided to save itself by becoming a tourist destination.

We talked about the lady at the bank that knows way too much about everybody’s everything.

And in these preliminary conversations, we came to a few conclusions.

One: Small towns are funny.

Two: Small towns are full of funny people.

Three: We like small towns.

Whatever world we were going to develop, no matter how much fun we were going to have, we would ultimately respect and honor these people.

Next: What's the Matter With Comedy These Days

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Funny Bunny

Ever feel resentment because someone got a reward that you deserved?

Yeah, me too.

Check out Jennifer's blog.

Then this picture will make sense.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Footprints Washed Away in the Sand

Do you think G-d thinks of us as whiny?

Catherine and I were walking on the beach in Hawaii (oh, did I mention that Catherine and I got to go to Hawaii?).

There was a couple walking ahead of us; she was closer to the water than he was. Every once in a while, a wave would come up and wash away her tracks. The tracks looked funny – as if one of the walkers disappeared every now and again.

That made us think of the old “footprints in the sand story.”

You know the one, where the guy dreams that he looks back on his life, and there are footprints in the sand – his and Jesus’. He realizes that one set of footprints disappears at times, and he accuses Jesus of abandoning him during his rough years.

The Lord responds by saying, “No, those were the times I carried you.”

Looking at our Hawaii beach prints, I imagined the story shifting slightly, with me in it.

Instead of accusing, I get all misty-eyed (having seen the story on a hundred plaques through his life), and say, “Ah, look where there is only one set of prints. You must have carried me then.”

And Jesus replies, “I don’t think so, Einstein. The waves just washed away one set of prints. I never carried you. I let you lean on me, and pulled through with you, and I never left your side as you weaved like a drunken sailor, but brother you walked the whole way.”

And I gripe, “But I thought you were the nice guy that would never make me struggle if I didn’t want to!”

And Jesus would reply, “Seriously, if you want someone to carry you, first you’re going to have to lay off the donuts. And second, find a god that doesn’t care so much about you. Remember that suffering produces perseverance, which develops character, which leads to hope? You want me to deny you hope just so you can piggy back when the sand starts feeling hot on your tender little toesies? Grow up.”

Okay, he probably wouldn’t be all that snotty to me.

But he might be tempted.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Road to Nower: Part Two – The Project

Now this will be hard for some of y’all to believe, but there are people working on projects in Hollywood that have absolutely nothing to do with me. Why anyone would want to work on a venture that I am not part of is a blog for another day.

One such person is Joel, my Death and Taxes co-author; and one such project of his (among many, many projects) was directing and co-writing the musical Fellowship! This hilarious spoof on the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movie is so entertaining that I actually paid to see it several times.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am willing to see friend’s work multiple times, as long as it doesn’t require any outlay on my part. It has to be good before I start shelling out the dough – I may be a friend, just not that good of a friend.

Fellowship! not only garnered the L.A. Weekly Best Musical of the Year award, it was a sold-out crowd pleaser every place it played.

And Grammnet is working with Joel in getting the little show to New York.

Not long after our pitch of Death and Taxes to them, Joel was hanging with the Grammies (hmmm, I wonder if they hate being called that) talking Fellowship! business. He was reminded of how much they enjoyed the pitch, and the sorrow at not being able to sell it.

Now the folks at Grammnet are whip-smart, and they know the biz called Show. (They are behind the hit Medium. Most shows follow a simple formula: let the actors be pretty and the story be cute. Medium allows the actors to be grounded characters and the stories to be smart. Risky in its simplicity.)

Joel, realizing that he has the ear of the whip and the smart, takes the opening and asks point blank for help in finding a show that the biz might not only find funny, but also sellable. Joel threw a handful of ideas out there, and the Gramma (hmmm, I bet they would hate being called that too) pointed out one that he thought would sell – the one sentence that would eventually evolve into Middle of Nower.

Now all Joel had to do was take his one sentence pitch, and create the story to go with it.

I would have to come up with another name for people that work at Grammnet. (Grammnetians? Ooh, rhymes with… Oh, never mind.)

Next: The Idea Becomes Fleshy

Just my thoughts,


PS Medium is a show about a, well, medium. If you don’t like shows about mediums, one need not read tea leaves to know that this show may not be your cup of tea.

Quote of the Moment

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Two Great Tastes...

Forget about chocolate and peanut butter, what happens when you put Star Trek and Monty Python together?

You get this.

Just my amusements,


The Road to Nower: Part One -- The Partner

It all began with a completely different project.

Thom Deason was interning at Grammnet, and knew they were looking for family comedies. He was the producer on a short film script of mine that never quite got made, but thought that maybe that short could be turned into a TV pilot.

That wasn’t a completely new thought. While we were still trying to get it made as a short, the directors involved (Drew Sachs and Karen Lund) had made a similar suggestion. But it wouldn’t be easy.

The short was about a guy that is trying to commit suicide; but a bumbling employee of death accidentally convinces him that life is really worth living. (Ironic, given my past year, no?)

What it became was a sit-com about an I.R.S. agent that prevents his own accidental death by agreeing to work with a bumbling agent in the Death Department of the bureaucracy known as The Heavens. Of course, we called it Death and Taxes (thank you, Lauri).

But there was a little problem. I had never written a sit-com before.

I had written plenty of comedic plays, musical comedies, hilarious children’s videos, and a number of one-hour dramas that had comedy in them. In fact, my Monk spec script was garnering awards, and readers of my West Wing thought I matched the wit of Aaron Sorkin (which was generous – I fooled people into thinking I matched the wit of Aaron, which was good enough for me).

I think of myself as a rather humorous writer.

But three jokes a page? Not the style I’m used to.

So I took the script to Joel McCrary.

Joel and I had worked together in our church’s drama team, so I knew his writing and his sense of comedy. Besides, I had written the role of the bumbling Death agent for Joel – he knew the script already.

So I asked him to read it with suggestions for upping the funny.

And his suggestions were so good – and so true to the story – that I took it further and asked him to co-write with me.

We rewrote the pilot together, developed and practiced the pitch, and took it to Grammnet. And they loved it!

Which means both diddly and squat in this town. As much as they liked it, they couldn’t figure out how they would sell the network on a sit-com about Death moving into the basement of an IRS agent’s home. And so our sit-com died at pitch stage.

Next: Life After Death (and Taxes).

Just my thoughts,


Monday, August 21, 2006

Vocal Fun

Thanks to Cory for this link.

What happens when the five most popular voices in America get together? Well, since you have no clue who this guys are -- but I guarantee know their voices -- it is a special treat.

Check out the video.

Just me chuckling,


ps If you haven't been in a while (or have been busy snorkeling), you should hope over to Cory's blog anyway, as he has an update on the three latest projects he is working on.

The Road to Nower: The Reading

"Well, I'm on the bias on this one, but I thought the reading went great! There were many, many, HUGE laughs. I myself remember having to hold or repeat lines because the audience was laughing over something that came before. Well written, my friend -- what's the scoop with the many producers that were there? And thanks for letting me be a part of such fun! -Clare”

As Clare says, the reading of our sit-com pilot, “Middle of Nower,” went quite well. We received a very positive response from the audience, even from the producer types that were there. Several scripts were taken; so we shall see this week if we get any calls on the piece.

The cast was marvelous; we couldn’t have asked for better. Thank you to all who participated – and for those that couldn’t be there, but sent their best wishes and prayers.

I realize that I have been remiss in relating to my blog community (all three of you) the journey to having such a reading. I’ve been getting the usual questions: "How did you team up with Joel?"

"How did you get folks like Nathan Fillion and Fred Willard in on the development reads?"

"How did you get Clare out of Folsom Prison long enough to perform?"

The answer to the last one is a file in a birthday cake and a bribe to the guard, but for the rest of them, I’ve decided to document the whole journey in the coming days.

So stay tuned!

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Read is Fun and Mental

Tomorrow (Friday) I'm going to try something different.

My friend Joel and I have written a sit-com pilot (Middle of Nower). Pilots are usually sold by getting the script to an agent, hoping they like it, and then they try to get an interview at a production company.

Then the writers go in and "pitch" the project, trying to convince the production company people that the sit-com is funny and will sell. The pc-ers, if they like it, go to the studios and pitch it to see if they can convince the studio people that it is funny and will sell.

If they all agree that it might be funny and it might sell, then they read the script.

Well, we aren't going to do it quite that way.

On Friday, we are having a cast of actors do a reading of the script (just like we do in the theatre world). We are inviting production companies to come, hear the script being done the way it was meant to be, and see how funny it really is. (We're taking the guess work out of the process).

Our cast includes Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, Fred Willard, Sally Struthers, Leigh Allyn Baker, Kevin Brief, Catherine Gaffney, Robert G. Lee, Toby Meuli, Clare Sera, Jodi Shilling, Peter Allen Vogt and Paul Willson. (All doing it for free.)

Karen Lund is coming down from Seattle to direct.

I'll blog next week on how we got to this point, and whether this experiment seemed to work or not.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Men Rule!

I've always been suspect of folk that refer to Genesis to point out that the male of the species was meant to domineer it over the female of the species.

They point gleefully to the verse stating the the woman will desire after her husband, and he will rule over her. The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.

What they don't point out is that this is a curse -- a result of the sin of the Fall. This was not how G-d designed things to be. (Life is so much easier if we don't mess with context.)

And ladies, can you think of a worse punishment than having us guys in charge?

Alice Bass gets it right in The Fairfax. Hop on over for her take on the curse.

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Speaking of bragging, my short film, The Importance of Blind Dating, just won theAUDIENCE AWARD at the Flatland Film Festival in Lubbock, Texas.

Director Jim Buglewicz and DP Jonathan Williams were on hand to receive the news.

Way to go, team!


Play Day

I relaxed today.

Slept in a bit.

Drove to a southern beach, only to decide that the waves were too unruly to deal with. Drove back.

Cath slept on the ride, while I listened to Unsung Broadway. Sat in the car after arrival to finish hearing "New Words" from One, Two, Three, Four, Five.

Lounged on the lanai and read while watching the ocean. Finally got a copy of Sheryl Anderson's Killer Cocktail. More on that later.

Catherine read The Kite Runner while I took a nap. And by read, I mean she started and finished it in one sitting. Which gives you an idea of how long I napped.

We did some laundry, and strolled up to Mickey D's for a hot fudge sundae while waiting for the clothes to spin.

Made dinner of grapes and chips and other random found items.

Watched the sun set. Over the ocean. From our lanai.

Nothing profound here; no wisdom twist to this post.

I'm merely bragging.

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, August 12, 2006


I saw a fish today.

Not just any fish -- although I saw a lot of fish, and some might be considered "just any fish."

No, I saw the state fish of Hawaii.

The name of the fish is: Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.

Which roughly translates to: "Why'd you let the guy with the stutter name our state fish?"

Just my thoughts,


Friday, August 11, 2006

Round and Round We Go

I walked a labyrinth today.

I had encountered labyrinths before, in New Harmony, Indiana. Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no false turns or misleading angles. There is only one path to the center; the same path leads back out.

The idea is pray or meditate: to wind one’s way inward and slowly return mentally/spiritually refreshed – or at least calmer. Getting lost wouldn’t help with the calming; thus there is no way to get lost.

I chose to go basic, and meditate on The Lord’s Prayer as I walked this particular labyrinth today.

As each turn opened up a new vista of lava rocks, or beach, or vast ocean, it was easy to understand why someone would take time to carve out a spiritual shrine in this cliff-side spot.

About half way in, a family stopped by. The father explained to the kidlets that this was a sort of maze – a game. The two young boys chose the pathway for a squealing round of tag.

Laugh, yell, giggle, screech, run, shout, laugh.

It is hard to be all pious and meditative when there are young children about.

Which, of course, says more about my spirituality than anything else.

Jesus, in his most rabbinical of moods, said that we really can’t understand heaven until we “get” the spiritual approach of kids.

Not that we need to laugh, yell, giggle, screech, run, shout and laugh in all of our spiritual moments – children don’t lygsrsl all the time either.

But it shouldn’t be so hard to have tag’s overwhelming joy sit side-by-side with a meditation on “Thy kingdom come.”

Should it?

Just my thoughts,


Take That, Cherry Blossoms

Here’s some poetry:
I was in Haiku today,
A lyrical town.

Just my thoughts,


ps Responses to this entry should be in proper format.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Road to Chapin

I went slow yesterday.

Not that I had much choice. The road to Hana is 45 miles of nothing but curves (over 600, according to the tour books) and peril. There is at least one bridge for every mile that can not take two cars, and twice as many sections of the road that require yielding to oncoming traffic.

The speed limit is at some points 10 mph; sometimes 15 mph; and when the authorities feel crazy, it goes all the way up to 20 mph.

Not that I needed an official limit. A couple of times around a tight curve, facing down on oncoming vehicle that is trying its darnedest to outrun the law, and squeaking by with inches or fractions thereof between our car and death, well, one strongly considers taking the trip at a relaxed pace.

Surprisingly, this ex-New Yorker became comfortable going slow. To the point that I did not mind pulling over to let my less turtle-minded fellow travelers pass by. Suckers, I thought.

You see, they were missing so much stuff. The road to Hana is beautiful – the folk here tell you to take the road if you want to see how G-d intended the earth to be.

Too many folk (as the guidebook Maui Revealed reveals) take the trip foolishly thinking that the purpose of the road is to get to Hana.

The purpose of the road is to be on the road.

To enjoy the ride. To be on the way to, not just focused on arriving at.

We listened to Harry Chapin on the return trip. “Mr. Tanner” struck a chord.

“Mr. Tanner” is about a dry cleaner in the mid-west. He is a pretty content fellow, with an extraordinary gift – he was blessed with a marvelous voice.

But even more than his talent, he was blessed with the joy of singing.

His friends convince him that he is wasting his gift by singing to himself, or just at local shows. Such a gift was meant for fame and recognition! Mr. Tanner puts them off, until finally they convince him.

So he spends his life’s savings to arrange a concert in New York City, figuring that a huge opening will draw attention to his gift, and start him down the road to glory. His debut doesn’t go over well, and he is savaged by the critics.

So he returns home, shakes off his friends with a smile…

And he never sings again.

There is a lot that can be pulled from this song/story. For me, Mr. Tanner’s mistake wasn’t in trying to turn his talent into a career. His mistake was in forgetting that G-d’s gifts aren’t about the destination – they are about the journey.

Mr. Tanner was given the joy of music; and he traded that joy for the hope of earthly success and glory.

And in the end, he got exactly what all of us who tunnel-vision our way toward success get: Emptiness. Loneliness.

And sorrow.

I so often fall into the same trap as I write. I scribble to get a project done, looking for the paycheck at the end of the labor.

Sure, I need to sell. But the gift isn’t in the joy of arriving at a sale, or a premiere, or recognition.

G-d’s gift is the joy of creating.

“Music was his life,
It was not his livelihood.
And it made him feel so happy,
It made him feel so good.

And he sang from his heart,
And he sang from his soul;
He did not know how well he sang
It just made him whole.”

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lookin' Down on Creation...

I went to the top of a volcano today.

The ride up was spectacular. (Note I said, “ride.” Last time I visited a volcano, I hiked to the top. Let this show all that I am capable of learning.)

Volcanoes are rather awe-inspiring. Inspiring enough to get people of another era to toss in the occasional chaste lady.

The ride up inspired us to toss in a cd of G-d focused music. Listening to Katie Freeze’s compositions on These Are the Days is easier on the conscience than that whole virgin thing.

Some of Katie’s lyrics fit the mood of the moon-lit drive perfectly, such as “surprising stillness…” However, I was more drawn to her “Domine,” a soaring requiem – pure, crystalline, haunting.

I think I needed Latin to express the inexpressible of the soul as we ascended above the clouds, each curve in the road opening up a new expanse of shadowed glory.

The moon turned red, dimming the natural light as we climbed out of the car. We bundled up against the cold – we had traveled 8,000 feet and descended over thirty degrees.

Catherine had to use a flashlight to help us navigate to the crater’s edge. We were surrounded by people, yet how many and who would have to wait until sky lightened some.

We found a space at the rail, enough for Catherine to squeeze in. I pushed in behind her, partly to secure my own view of the East, partly for warmth, partly to make sure I didn’t lose her in the darkness.

We arrived none too soon; the sky began to lighten. The crater and the island below us were covered in clouds; the light only showed us what there wasn’t to see. The white of the clouds acted as a balance to the shifting colors of the sky.

It was light enough now to see those around us. The couple from Maryland, celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary by freezing on the mountain top. The Indian father trying to corral his four giggling daughters (straight from Bride and Prejudice) into a picture frame around the lightening sky. The bored girl to our left, huddled under her dad’s arm, accepting embarrassment in exchange for warmth.

All of us looking out, waiting for it to happen.

The girls were giggling again. I glanced about, only to confirm that they weren’t being silly. This was funny. There were, what? A hundred or so of us, all uncomfortable, all tired from waking in the middle of the night to make the journey. All for what?

To see a ball rise above the clouds. As if, maybe, this one time the ball would surprise us and not make an appearance.

Pretty silly, pretty strange, pretty funny.

Someone said “Whoa.” Those that weren’t already staring turned.

A sliver of Sol had hit the horizon.

One of the girls let out a “it’s coming, it’s coming!” It wasn’t giggly. It wasn’t sarcastic or bored. It was pure awe – the ball was coming.

The sun broke the horizon. What would have been greeted with applause were it man-made fireworks was instead greeted by a corporate hush. The mere beauty of it – the majesty, the color, the simple splendor – took all of us by surprise, even though we knew it was coming, even though we knew it would be beautiful, even though we knew.

Rob Bell says, “Beauty can be crushing sometimes, can’t it?”

The natives broke out into song – one of welcome and blessing.

I appreciated their song, as my heart didn’t want to form its own words of welcome or blessing.

And still I did not want to borrow their words. So my heart borrowed Katie’s.

Domine, Jesu Criste.




Just my thoughts,


Monday, August 07, 2006

Silly Listening

It's the silly pleasures in life.

Riding the airplane, over five hours of flight. In one of those seats just under the monitor, making it too close to comfortably watch the movie, and the next screen too far to see clearly. Loud kid a few seats back, talkative guy one seat over, the usual.

So the decision is to sleep -- or at least zone out to make the time passage bearable.

Oh, earphones are free on this flight. Plug in to hear what's on the radio.

Find a station playing something called the "Macaroni and Cheese Song." Not a fan of the food (I call it "Smack Baloney and Sneeze," much to my wife's chagrin), but digging the song.

Next up is an ode to the glories of chocolate milk. I'm liking this station. Realize before long it is XM Kids. My decades past their demographic don't matter; this is the perfect noise to take my mind off the things of this earth.

But what really floated my boat was two songs that popped up later in the flight.

A rock band cover of "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything."

Yep, a cover.

By a rock band.

If you don't know "Pirates," well, you probably aren't in college or spend time near five year olds. It is a Veggie Tale song, wherein a cucumber, a potato, and a grape regale the listener with their tales of... well, not doing anything.

And then, shortly before landing, the station plays "Great Big World" from the Hoodwinked soundtrack.

Yep, my friend Cory's movie lives on, even though the soundtrack is not officially available anymore. You can't stop the signal.

But more importantly, it made me smile.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, August 04, 2006

Don't Fence Me In

Ever want to just get away from it all?

That is just what my wife and I did, as we took off to the hinterlands with Shon, Jodi, Cory and Vicki.

We packed up our camping gear, including our new tent (Coleman says it sleeps 3; a very, very, very friendly three…) and headed for Big Bear, a place I had never been.

Just after hitting 7,000 feet, Big Bear Lake appears. A lake. At the top of the mountain. I thought water ran down hill – shouldn’t the lake be at the bottom of the mountain? But never mind, we were getting away from it all.

And aside from the other campers on the road, and the occasional boat-dock marinas, “it all” was far away. The only sign of civilization we passed on the last leg of the journey was a shack doubling as a store, with a hand drawn sign out front proclaiming that here resides the three basic food groups of the backwoods: ICE, BEER, BAIT.”


We marveled, that first night. This is what our forebears had to bear – out in the woods, no resources but one’s own resourcefulness. Forget to pack it? Then forget about it for another two days. We are on the edge of nowhere, people!

Cory spent an hour the next morning, building a fire, boiling water, and trying for the right cocoa mixed with instant coffee crystals combination to feed his Double Tall Latte Mocha craving.


But that afternoon, my wife got a tad too much sun, and for the comfort of the next few days, we decided to trek back into the real world for the forgotten aloe vera. I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive down the mountain, back into the real world.

The camp guide suggested that instead of backtracking, we just continue down the road we were on. We did so.

Two and half minutes later, (two and a half! One hundred and fifty seconds!) we were standing in a parking lot, surrounded by a Von’s, a Rite Aid, a Blockbuster, and, wait for it…

A Starbuck’s.

We were so far from civilization, that as we slurped our frappichinos and caffe veronas, we were informed that this Starbucks was not equipped with Wi-Fi. How barbaric!

There is a new merit badge being offered by the Boy Scouts: how to read directions in the star… bucks. “See that cluster of Starbucks over there, Billy? The one that looks like a mermaid? Well, you follow the middle tine of her trident straight up, and that’s the North Star!”

Just my thoughts,


Dream On!

Scooch on over to Jennifer Shuchmann's blog for pics from our last musical endeavor together.

Our next endeavor is well underway. But now I feel obligated to find a part for a six year old Abraham Lincoln...

Just my thoughts,


August 3, 1996

10 years and the adventure continues. . .

I am blessed to be married to my best friend!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Robert J. Lee (not to be confused with Robert G. Lee -- seriously, don't confuse them, they aren't even in the same state, and both are pretty much as confused as anyone should be without you helping out) as Sam Shade and Betty as the bartender in a production of "The Maltese Cross" -- a piece I wrote eons ago that is still quite popular.

I think actor's like the piece because it gives them an excuse to carry a cigarette around in church.

Go figure.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blair Witch Camping Moments...

Outdoor Etiquette

I survived the great outdoors. I plan on providing a full account soon, but in the meantime I will share with you some of the “unwritten” rules of camping that I learned on my trip.

-While one of the pleasures in camping for a man is to pee in the great outdoors, apparently (according to the manager that yelled at me) the Walmart parking lot is not considered to be part of the great outdoors.

-Forcibly propelling one’s elbow into the gut of another in order to secure the last marshmallow is considered gauche, especially if you have wandered into a stranger’s campsite.

-It seems scaring one’s fellow campers with that creeping story of the guy with the hook is acceptable behavior; yet getting revenge on the guy that creeped you out with that story by putting a scorpion in his hiking boots is inexplicably considered inappropriate.

-Dragging the guy sunbathing in the Speedo towards the lake while yelling, “Help! He’s beached, and can’t breathe!” is a form of humor that will go largely unappreciated. And yet, somehow, receiving a bathing-suit-net wedgie from an angry Speedo wearer is guaranteed to illicit laughter from the entire beach.

Go figure.

Just my thoughts,