Thursday, September 28, 2006

Saint Snarky

Jesus was funny.

Saint Paul was down right sarcastic.

My small group was looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians a few weeks back; particularly chapter five. Here was my reading process.

First time through, I’m thinking, “yeah, I get that.”

On the second read, I got hung up on a verse thinking, “Wait, did he just say what I think he said?”

And on the third time through, it was confirmed. Despite the attempts of good church people over the centuries to convince us that the primary fruit of the spirit is “niceness,” Paul is thinking and speaking crass, sarcastic ideas.

For those unfamiliar with the chapter, Paul is confronting the legalistic notion that Christianity is about rules. The Galatians are being told that if they aren’t circumcised, they aren’t part of the kingdom. Paul is trying to say that the law is not supreme, and to stop fretting about this legalistic crap.

His argument becomes a rant. And then he gets worked up enough to say, “I wish those people that are so obsessed with circumcision would just keep going and castrate themselves!”


He’s also snippy a bit later. He mentions that if you follow the Spirit instead of the law, you get things like love, joy, peace, etc.

And finishes that up with a snarky, “Gee, legalists, I don’t think any of those things are against the law, are they?”

Like I said, the saint's sarcastic.

And I think I like him that way.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Forget Spinach - The Other Veggie Controversy

As you know from my earlier post, VeggieTales has made it to NBC -- but with some controversial editing.

VeggieTales' response, in part:

"When we were presented with the opportunity to reach a mass television audience, we knew that certain religious references would not be allowed on a children's block under current TV network guidelines. And we recognized that we were not going to change the rules of network television overnight.

"In light of this, "Can Big Idea continue to fulfill its mission of enhancing the spiritual and moral fabric of society through creative media?" became the question we had to answer. Can VeggieTales make a difference on Saturday morning? We think so.

"Recognizing that we are making a difference to Saturday morning TV by bringing programming that is "absent of bad and has a presence of good" to homes across America, would we still prefer to air the un-edited versions of VeggieTales on TV? Absolutely! It's there where we're able to share a Bible verse and encourage kids by telling them God made them special and He loves them very much. For now, we're hoping a new cross section of kids will fall in love with Bob & Larry, go deeper into VeggieTales and eventually fall in love with the God who made them. It's the same "big idea" we've worked on for over 13 years."

Fan responses to the issue can be seen at:

Just my thoughts,


Monday, September 25, 2006

As Long As We Are Talking About Books...

"Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape. It's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real."

-Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck, as quoted in "Out of Sight," Reader's Digest

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Banner Week for Banning

September 23rd to 30th is “Banned Books Week.”

Now before y’all going running out to your local library to start burning books, the week isn’t the time to ban books – it’s not like “secretary appreciation day.”

It’s more a celebration of those that have stood against book banning.

There are a few books that make the list of those that have been banned from libraries recently that should be read in honor of the week. Or at least their Wikipedia entry should be read. (Seriously, who actually reads books?)

Some of my favs:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird – because of racist language. I couldn’t think of two books that racists would more like to have banned. Score two for the bigots, and a big win for irony.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary – for offensive language. Hmmm, I wonder if “ignorant” is defined in that book.

Little Red Riding Hood – because a wine bottle is pictured in the basket. Come on, every good Baptist knows that it’s just grape juice!

Garfield: His Nine Lives – for offensive language. Actually, I have no complaints about this one. Garfield just isn’t funny enough to fight for. Maybe I just don't like lasagna enough.

Want more? Check out the Parade article or the American Library Association web site.

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, September 23, 2006

And the Ducky Goes Wide...

The VeggieTales episode based on my idea, "King George and the Ducky,"will air on NBC on Saturday, November 25th.

My friend Bryan did all the art and designs for the popsicle puppet segments, claiming that they are some of the most fun he has had in his career. (His work is featured in several eps in the coming weeks.)

Oh, and for those following the controversy:

-Yes, NBC did ask at the last minute that all references to G-d and religion be removed.

-No, the Big Idea people didn't know that was going to happen, and would have had serious doubts about making the network deal if they did know about the restrictions.

-Yes, it is ironic and hypocritical that a network would excise the line, "G-d made you special and loves you very much" as potentially religiously offensive, but would not think of cutting the line if it were "G-d doesn't exist, and religious minded people are stupid." But despite that:

-Yes, it is still a step in the right direction that these stories are being aired at all. Anyone interested in a boycott should check their motives and/or reasoning. To Hollywood's eye, lowered numbers due to a boycott confirms that there is no interest in this kind of programming and it wouldn't be worth it to try and do more. However, good viewing numbers would make the execs think they should do more of this sort of thing -- and give them more clout in the board room when arguing that keeping the G-d elements might even increase the numbers.

-No, Sean doesn't get any royalties because this is airing on network television. (Writers in animation work on a buy-out. Bummer.)

-And, finally: Yes. These are just my thoughts.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Quote for the Moment

"Over in Hollywood they almost made a great picture, but they caught it in time."

-Wilson Mizner

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Wonder Ful Idea

Head over to Jeffrey Overstreet's blog, and scroll down to see his inspired casting choice for Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman.

Click on the comments to see my opinion. (Oh, wait, I just called it "inspired." Guess you already know my opinion.)

Just my thoughts,


Laughing Outside the Box

Jesus was funny.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Earl Palmer’s The Humor of Jesus. He told jokes, made puns, got the crowd to giggle.

The September Reader’s Digest issue devoted to humor helps explain that. It appears that humor helps people remember things – students exposed to humor in the classroom retain lessons longer.

And people exposed to humor think outside of the box easier than those that aren’t.

One test they ran went thusly: A person is given a box of thumbtacks and a lit candle. The task is to attach the candle to a corkboard without spilling any wax.

Some of the subjects were exposed to humor just prior to the assignment; others were not. Those exposed figured out how to do it – the unexposed couldn’t complete the task, continuing to try and stick tacks into a candle clearly too big for tacks.

(Can any of you figure out how to do it?)

So it makes sense that Jesus would use humor, especially when trying to get people to start thinking outside the box.

Got an enemy? Love ‘em.

Want to be first? Go last.

Want to lead? Serve.

Want to be top guy in the kingdom? Be as humble as a child.

Want to be wealthy? Give everything away.

Don’t have any money? Tithe.

Worried about the world? Think on the kingdom.

Wanna live forever? Well, there’s this little thing called the cross…

Yeah, Jesus was funny.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Been busy of late, and haven't posted as much as I should.

My days for the next two weeks are spent at Warner Bros. I work there with the responsibility of making sure that their movie scripts are real good.

Oh, wait, missing word: making sure that their movie scripts are copied real good. I hang out in the story department on occassion, subbing for vacationers -- delivering scripts, copying scripts, logging in scripts.

I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement this week. I think they are afraid I might accidently give out trade secrets.

Like mention that in Ocean's Thirteen, both George and Brad XXXXX a lot. Or in the Batman sequel, Bruce XXXXXXXs the Joker with a XXXXX, but it's really XXXXXX.

I should mention that part of the agreement allows WB legal to access all my mail, phone calls and blogs to censor them as they wish. But they would never do that. Unless I XXXXXXX.

Like that's going to happen.

Just my thoughts,


More from Hannah

Ah, how I crave to serve with the "May I?" of love.

Yet, even with that love, I have the tendency to think I'm the wrong one for the task, that I am inadequate for serving.

Hannah addresses this too:

"What have we to do with thinking whether we are fit or not fit for service? The Master-workman surely has a right to use any tool He pleases for His own work, and it is plainly not the business of the tool to decide whether it is the right one to be used or not.”

Apparently, it's not up to me to decide who God will use for His purposes.

Reminds me of another quote...

"Every time God intervenes in human history He does two simple things: First he chooses the wrong person. Then He comes up with a seemingly dumb idea." (Donna Partow - Becoming a Vessel God Can Use)

Maybe He knows best. These are simple concepts that still confound me.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Woman's Wisdom from 1870

SIDE NOTE: First of all...thanks so much for all the encouragement on my last post. It can be intimidating writing when that's really Sean's forte. But I will admit, I was the one to start this blog and convinced Sean it would be a joint effort. Yeah, I've kinda fallen short on the "joint" part of that deal. So, I will try to correct that and begin posting more often. Get ready for a twisted journey through my world!

Last week I had the great privilege and responsibility of presenting a keynote talk on SERVANTHOOD to a Long Beach church's women's retreat group.

The experience was pretty incredible. What I realized is that God assigned me this project to teach ME something. (Actually a lot of somethings...)

I'd like to share a bit here. In my studies, I came across a writer by the name of Hannah Whitall Smith. She was a Quaker woman, lived from 1832 to 1911, and published a book in 1870 called "The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life". At first I thought this was a trite title and, really, what can a woman in 1870 understand about my life today. Read on:

"In all the ordinary forms of Christian life, service is apt to have more or less of a bondage in it; that is, it is done purely as a matter of duty, and often as a trial and a cross. Certain things, which at the first may have been a joy and a delight, become after a while weary tasks, performed faithfully, perhaps, but with much secret disinclination, and many confessed or unconfessed wishes that they need not be done at all, or at least that they need not be done so often. The soul finds itself saying, instead of the "May I?" of love, the "Must I?" of duty."

I was convicted!

This woman understands. I am now searching my own life for those places where the "May I?" tasks have turned into "Must I?" tasks. And how can I regain that first love?

Read the quote again. Really! It's that good.

I'll share more of Hannah's musings later.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Killer Reads

I’m a fan of the mystery – I’m talking about murder mysteries, although I am a fan of all kinds of mysteries – including the metaphysical kind.

But here I’m talking about books – diversions into whodunits and howdunits. For me, the book has to have compelling characters, wit, and an honest mystery. None of this, “Hey, it was done by a guy we never met in a manner that was proven impossible in chapter two” crappola.

I was recently introduced to a murder mystery series (I like books in series – if the characters win me over, I want to spend time with them) that has met my criteria.

While in Hawaii (no, I am not done bragging that I got to go to Hawaii), I needed a good beach read. The local Borders Express had one of Sheryl Anderson’s books, and as Sheryl is a friend of mine, I thought I would share a bit of Hawaii with her work.

The store was sold out of the first one in the series, as well as the newest one (Killer Deal), so I settled for number two, Killer Cocktail.

Witty, engaging characters, a true mystery, and enough action to keep the pages turning.

My only complaint (and it is very minor) is that the book was written for the female reader in mind (advertised as “sure to please Sex and the City fans”).

Not that I, sitting here in my home-fitted Hanes logo-embossed t-shirt and checkered TJ Max original pajama pants, finishing off my ensemble with matching Sears and Roebuck tube socks, would question a book written for the feminine mind, but, really now. Do I need to know where every piece of clothing worn by every woman in the book came from?

Maybe I’m getting testy because this is the second Chic-lit-esque book I’ve read this year, or maybe because I hear “Louis Vuitton” and can only think, “Didn’t he lose his head in the French Revolution?”

But to be fair, Sheryl has assured me that her heroine, Molly Forrester, is no longer so fashion focused, and the third book (as well as the fourth, now in progress) will not subject the reader to so much Cosmo talk – unless it’s the kind of Cosmopolitan that comes in a glass.

Check out the Molly Forrester series; you will be glad you did.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Going to Atlanta for the Hoedown

DanBuck said...

Gaff... you going to the Symposium?


Yes indeed I am.

For those of you who don’t know what the heck we are talking about, Art Within – a theatre company in Atlanta, hosts a by-invitation Symposium and Showcase every year.

They gather together Christians who are playwrights or screenwriters from around the country – along with the occasional director or producer. They we discuss and debate some of the issues that effect the arts and culture, as well as how our faith plays into our craft.

We also see readings of each others work.

Last year, they commissioned six writers to develop film scripts. At this year’s symposium, we will be hearing those scripts.

It is an exhausting yet fulfilling weekend. And I can’t wait.

Just my thoughts,


Road to Nower: Part 5 – Community Comedy

Joel has been a guest on a fair number of television shows (in fact, my Tivo just caught him doing a funny turn as a Water & Power employee on Dharma and Greg). In the process, he’s learned a thing or two about, well, the process.

As well as what processes he likes, and the ones he finds limiting. Those that make the top of his list are those where the actor is somehow involved in the story.

You see, Joel and I both come from the world of theatre, where new scripts are always workshopped with the actors. The writer would be in the rehearsals, watching what the actors do with the words, seeing how the director deals with the action.

And the smart writer is looking to the actors and director for input on changes: how to make a line flow better, a joke hit stronger, a character dig deeper.

Joel just won the LA Weekly Award for Best Musical of the Year for a show that was built from the ground up with the actors’ involvement.

Not surprisingly, the show also took Best Comedy Ensemble.

Yet too often in television the writers are divorced from the rehearsal process. They write the script, hear a table read, figure out what isn’t working, and go off to fix the issue. This leaves the actors to rehearse scenes that they know will be changed, which isn’t necessarily the most productive of work.

Joel tells some great stories about shows that aren’t like that – shows where the problems are worked out IN the rehearsal, with the writers on hand. Shows where the actors can make suggestions, offer ideas, and give of what they know about their character.

(Ask Joel some time to tell you about his scene with Jason Alexander in Seinfield, and how gracious the stars and the writers were to their “guest.” It goes a long way toward explaining the huge success of that show.)

This is the kind of show we want Nower to be; and we began designing the show with that in mind.

As the script was developed, we held three living room reads so we could hear the piece with actors. We scribbled notes in the margins of our scripts, cribbing lines as the actors ad-libbed. And we re-read and re-worked scenes that had problems.

And in the process, we believe we got what we were looking for:

An ensemble script, with characters that actors could sink their teeth into.

A community comedy.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Signs of the Times

So I’m scooting along in traffic on the 101 and I see a truck with an interesting slogan.

The truck belongs to a school uniform company and it has these words in bold print on its trailer:



“Faith Based.”

Now, my first question is “How can clothing be faith based?”

(Or is the company “faith based?” And if so, does that mean the company is affordable too? Maybe it’s for sale. Don’t know.)

But (probably because, as mentioned earlier, I was STUCK in traffic and had nothing else to occupy my mind) I went one step further.

Assuming they are talking about their product, and the clothing is “faith based” – then I think they need to follow that theme all the way through the rest of their advertising.

Therefore “durable” really should be “eternal”. Don’t ‘cha think?

And “affordable” is “bought with a price”.

I mean, really! If we’re going to use our belief system to help sell our product, let’s at least be true to the theology.

Just my twisted thoughts,


Seek Ye First Seekers

I think I have identified my second least favorite type of Christian church to attend: the Seeker Church.

For those of you out of the Christianese loop, Seeker Churches are those designed for the “seeker,” a term generally meaning someone who isn’t a confirmed, card-carrying Christian.

Such churches have services (the standard Sunday meeting) that focus on how to become a Christian. No, wait, let me clarify. In such churches, virtually ALL services are focused on how to become a Christian.

I have a few problems with this model.

First, such use of the term “seeker” implies that at some point one stops being a seeker. At some point, in the philosophy of such churches, one no longer looks first for the kingdom of G-d and his righteousness; that at some point, you have arrived and can stop working.

I remember when my friend Beth Amsbury first heard the term “seeker service.” She cocked her head in true confusion and asked, “Who wouldn’t that service be for?”

Second, by their very nature, Seeker Churches are working against themselves.

In order to attract a newbie to your community, you have to first have a community. And that community has to be an example of the type of community that you want the newbie to become part of.

So for a church to draw in newbies, one needs to already have a group of oldbies, those that are showing what it means to be in community with Christ.

But if your main focus is to talk only to newbies, what are the oldbies doing there? What are you saying about the faith, when your sermons don’t apply to people in the faith?

To be fair, the Seeker Church Catherine and I attended recently that prompted these thoughts does add a nugget for “veterans” at the end of the sermon. And they also add programming like small groups and affinity groups to help feed those in the congregation that have already said “yes!” to G-d.

But that is my point exactly: such groups have to ADD to who they are at their core in order to feed those that are their core.

I have been a member of a number of churches that draw a large number of folks that fall into this specialized “seeker” category – but none of them have been “Seeker Churches.” They’ve just been themselves, with an open door.

In fact, what I believe makes such churches so “seeker” friendly is the fact that they don’t separate the community into categories like “seeker” and “old-hand-in-the-clique.”

Instead, they act as if we all are seekers of the kingdom, that we all are sinners looking for salvation, that we all are part of the same community.

And, after all, isn’t that what the kingdom of heaven looks like?

Just my thoughts,


Up soon: Why Seeker Focused Groups Naturally Fail At Jesus’ Great Commission

Monday, September 11, 2006

Garrison and "The Bravest"

To hear Garrison Keillor singing "The Bravest" by Tom Paxton, go here, then scroll down to 1:13:15.


This essay was written in the fall of 2001 for publication in Transposition: The Journal of the Christian Performing Artist's Fellowship.

It was a several days after. We had spent two days glued to the television, unable to turn away from the visual barrage of the tragedy, perhaps as a reflection of the psychic barrage that we knew we couldn’t close our eyes to. We then spent time in that emotional blank wall, systems shutting down from overload. But our leaders said to get back to work. So we tried that.

And that’s when I found my wife, sitting on our bed crying. And I understood why she cried. How could we go back to work when our work seemed so irrelevant?

We are artists. Not firemen, policemen, paramedics, doctors or nurses. Not National Guardsman, Marines, Army engineers, construction workers or Red Cross Volunteers. We are artists. And not just any artists, but the silly kind. My wife is an actress, dreaming of being a cartoon voice someday. And I was in the middle of writing a video script about a vegetable who wants to be a superhero. We were entertainers. And what is the relevance of art, of entertainment, after September 11th?

The question isn’t a new one, just new to us. Out of the misery of captivity, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 137:

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

How can we perform in a tragedy laden land?

Of course some art made itself immediately relevant. The doleful music played under the montages of images from ground zero, putting to language what words could not. The overtaxed bagpipers, culling a universal mourning from specific funeral after funeral. The brilliant, lonely line of Taps, a singular call of remembrance for individuals forever united by one date.

And then there was the art giving solace to those involved in the rescue operation, and those facing the reality of their personal losses. We all heard of William Harvey from Juilliard, and how he went to the armory housing the relief workers. There he played what he could recall of Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Dvorak and many others. His story moves us, because he saw the unexpected yet undeniable value that the music gave to those whose souls needed such a gift.

And what of those who aren’t in New York or Washington, to lend comfort to those in those cities? And what again of those suffering who are not at ground zero? An entire nation and beyond was hit by that tragedy. An entire nation and beyond looked for healing.

And so art was given. We sang along with CNN as a national prayer service was held. We listened in on a concert, reaching out to our brothers and sisters by sharing their song. We substituted “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with “God Bless America” at the seventh inning stretch. And there was the art that immediately called the nation together. The patriotic murals, giving messages of unity and support along with shared loss. Ray Charles singing “America, the Beautiful,” allowing us to lift tearstained cheeks to the sky with pride.

Garrison Keillor led me in a good, yet much needed catharsis when he sang Tom Paxton’s homage to the New York rescuers, The Bravest. (“Now every time I try to sleep, I'm haunted by the sound, Of firemen pounding up the stairs, While we were coming down.”)

As an ex-New Yorker trapped three thousand miles from the city I love, I looked to David Lettermen on his return to the air. He broadcasts from New York; I knew he would understand. But his is a show of entertainment, and he started his show by echoing my own thoughts: How can entertainment be relevant? But Mr. Letterman returned to work as he was told, not understanding how or if his work had a place in the new world.

He started out speaking his own personal thoughts on the events, his own anger and grief. There was no band, no jokes, just a bare, exposed entertainer. He then comforted Dan Rather, a professional who was allowed for maybe the first time to cry over a story he lived twenty-four/seven. Next came an interview with fellow New Yorker Regis Philbin. And David did the unthinkable. He made fun of Regis. And Regis responded with an equal barb.

And the nation laughed.

Tentative, sure. But we laughed. And with that little, trivial laugh, we began to heal. It was okay to laugh; it was okay to cry. Incompatible, inconsistent, absurd: an entertainer let us transcend the moment by fully being in the moment.

Art has a way of doing that – speaking to us in ways that we neither understand, nor could describe. Especially in times when art seems most irrelevant. In The Liberated Imagination, Leland Ryken asserts, “When our humanity is in danger, the artistic spirit suddenly lives.” When the Titanic sank, the musicians onboard chose to spend their final moments playing – for themselves, and for their fellow passengers. The loss of death is often confronted with music, whether from the Irish tradition of keening or the more organized New Orleans dirge/celebration of the march to and from the graveyard.

This should not surprise us, I suppose. We’ve always known that art can be transcendent, a vehicle for speaking the language of the soul. In his essay “Art, Faith and Stewardship,” Gregory Wolfe reminds us, “Art, like religious faith in general and prayer in particular, has the power to help us transcend the fragmented society we inhabit.” In times of extraordinary emotion, we need an extraordinary language – the language of art, a language of meaning.

Madeleine L’Engle opens her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by reminding us of Leonard Bernstein’s idea that music is cosmos (harmony, order) out of chaos. Surely our world is one of chaos; a theory made all the more practical since September 11th. Yet just as surely, within the chaos is the cosmos of a mourning Father and an understanding Son. In her book, Madeleine L’Engle builds the argument that art affirms meaning, especially within tragedy. She decisively asserts, “Art is an affirmation of life, a rebuttal of death.”

And this is because art always says more than what it seems to say. Art is not just about the moment – the laughter of the second, or the sorrow/glory of an instant. But all true art reflects the salvation of the chaos, the cosmos coming to the earth. Raymond Chandler, in The Simple Art of Murder, states, “In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption.” Think of the song that has led more funeral marches in the past days than any other, Amazing Grace. The message is more than one of mourning, but one of rejoicing as well. “I once was lost, but now am found.” The universal message, only truly understood with the haunting melody that accompanies the words.

And that is the wonder of transporting art, whether the art of laughter or of tears. It is timeless. It is not just art for the moment, but it puts the moment into a past and a future. Why would a violinist’s rendition of Vivaldi have meaning to a weary rescue worker? Because it speaks to that worker’s weariness of the moment; because it reminds that worker of the life prior to the tragedy; because it shows the hope of the future when the tragedy is part of the past. Why did David Letterman’s show mean so much to a mourning nation? Because it lifted our mourning up – neither dismissing nor wallowing; because it reminded us of who we once were when we were whole; and because it brought the joy of knowing who we are yet to be.

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? Because that song gives language to our mourning. Because that song transcends our tears. Because that song lifts our cheeks up to the sky. Because that song reminds of the hope to come. Because even in our grieving, God tells us, “I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” (Jeremiah 31:4)

And so my wife and I once again sing.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Inside the Writer’s Studio

I have been asked to get people to watch Happy Hour tonight.

To be honest, I know nothing about the show, its content or quality. All I know is that my friend Sean is working on the show, he thinks its funny, and he wants to keep working.

Not just for the paycheck (and knowing the pay for his position, you may take the word “just” out of the preceding clause), but for the work place environment. In his words,

Because I love it here. It's hard to imagine a better work environment. Everybody is awesome, from the writers to the production staff to the other peons. And we have the offices once occupied by Seinfeld. They're located next to a fake suburban street with a fake park and a fake fountain. And it has balconies. On one of the balconies, I'm growing sunflowers. And all these awesome little kids are running around everywhere. And everybody's pregnant.

“I'm thinking about becoming pregnant myself, strictly out of peer pressure. And there are sweet blue bikes that we cruise around on and there's an inflatable basketball hoop and there's a monkey.”

How can any workplace with a monkey be bad?

So tune in tonight, and help Sean save his balcony sunflowers.

Just my thoughts,

The Other Sean

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Early Verdict: Prison Break

(Warning: Due to its dealing with violence and violent offenders, this show isn’t for everyone.)

One liner: Fox drama about a man framed for murder, and the brother that risks everything to save him from the chair.

Beyond the spin: The show enters its sophomore year with us all wondering – “Can a prison break show still work without the prison?”

Truth be told: Without a doubt.

These guys continue to amaze me. I thought for sure that they would break their promise and find a way to keep the guys behind bars for another season or two. But they did indeed break out at the end of last season; and, man, the tension has not stopped.

The skinny: This show gets its on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrills honestly; the story telling is simple (although the story is complex – Wilder would have loved this show). The conspiracy angle is mysterious, and yet not so overwrought as to lose one’s will to bother.

And the show has heart galore.

Name another show that has the audience rooting for the convicts to get away, all the while praying that they get caught?

A show that has you cheer as the hero succeed in getting what they want, but makes your soul ponder whether it was really worth the cost? (Dr. Sara – my heart aches for you.)

A show that has a scene where nothing happens but a man getting into a car and calling OnStar for directions – and yet still be chilling? (C.S. Lewis says “Whatever in a work of art is not used, is doing harm.” No harm being done by this show’s writers.)

If you’ve missed the first few shows, head over to Fox’s webpage – they let you watch them online for free.

Just my thoughts,


Early Verdicts: Vanished

One liner: Fox drama about a Senator’s wife gone missing.

Beyond the spin: Wants to be 24 combined to Without a Trace, throwing in the mystery and conspiracies of Lost and Alias.

Truth be told: Doesn’t have the drive of 24, or the human interest of Without a Trace, or the heart of Lost, or the costumes-you-can-kick-butt-in of Alias.

The skinny: Three episodes in, and it already feels like they are making up stuff just to create mystery. The conspiracy plot points seem contrived and counter-productive to the powers behind the curtain.

Remember in the first season of 24, when you found out that they only had the first 12 eps fully mapped out, so the actions of the villains didn’t make sense if you compared the last half of the season to the first? Now imaging 24 doing that in the second episode…

Why you really don’t want to watch: Despite some fun and a little bit of interest (Ming Na as a FBI agent – works for me), it tries too hard with too little. Plus, the lead hunk (Agent Kelton) has yet to find an ounce of charisma in the role, and the show has two of 24’s Kims – the senator’s children whose sole function is to do stupid things that get them in trouble to spike the intensity, without ever doing one thing that makes you care if they got their foot stuck in a wolf trap.

I’ve moved on.

How about you?

Just my thoughts,


ps For an idea of how exciting Fox thinks the show is, the above picture is the most action filled one on their website.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blind Dating In L.A.

My short film, The Importance of Blind Dating, is an Official Selection of the LA SHORTS FEST.


Now those that have only drooled over the news that is won the Audience Award at the Flatland Film Fest can do something about it!

You can come see it Saturday, September 9th. It is part of PROGRAM #48, at 12:45 pm, and the Arc Light Cinemas (Theatre 13).

For more info and to order your tickets, go to

Just my thoughts,


p.s. The pics are from the shoot.

Act One Opry Style

If you know of anyone in Nashville interested in writing for Hollywood, send them this away.

Act One: Writing for Hollywood is holding a weekend seminar September 15th and 16th. Act One is THE premiere writing program in L.A., and this a perfect way to get a taste of the talent training the next (and current) generation of film and television writers.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

September 3, 1963

For me, I think it’s birthdays.

For Charlie Brown, it was Christmas and Valentine’s that was hard to get through.

But with the group holidays, you can at least find someone else in the same boat, someone blue in the season of red and green, or alone in the season of togetherness, or stuck with a bag of rocks in the season of sugar-induced comas.

Birthdays are so focused, so zeroed in. You and you alone have to take the heat and focus of your special day. And that can be great or sour; and even when great, can be a bit too much.

And they are supposed to be milestones – which means either they succeed, which can be depressing (hence the black balloons when turning thirty) or are they fail to be special. Which is equally depressing, considering it is your special day.

It is my special day that prompts reminders that Hollywood is a town only for the young.

It was my birthday (what was it, thirteen?) when I was old enough to understand why I would have to wait for the end-of-the-month paycheck before getting a present.

Two years in a row, my college Christian group threw a surprise party, only to forget to invite me. One of those has an amusing ending – remind to tell you about it someday.

Ah, birthdays. Guaranteed joy.

Today is my brother Chris’ birthday.

Chris’ special day was always a tough one on all of us. It always coincided with Labor Day – the marker that school starts next week. Chris celebrates, then WHAM - we’re all back in the nine month prison system.

You have to understand that for kidlets, the year begins in September. Sorry, January First, but you are irrelevant to the younger generation. Nope, the true marker is the first day of school, the start of a harsh winter (there is little Harvest joy for fourth graders) that won’t end until robins sing.

So Chris’ b-day is the last hurrah, the last sign of freedom.

Of course, time changes everything. Now that the sibs are older, Labor Day is the sign that their kids are going to school, so I suppose it is a marker of impeding freedom – the kind of freedom that comes in daytime chunks.

No matter how it was seen in past years, it is different now.

Christmas and the group holidays won’t be so bad. Sure, he’ll be missed (I actually got to spend last Christmas with him, the first time in a long, long while). But there are other distractions along with his absence, other people that share Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter.

And here we are at the start of the harsh winter.

Why was there never a Charlie Brown Birthday special? Mr. Schultz, you left us equipped for every holiday but the solo one; you left us too soon. There is no Great Pumpkin or Easter Beagle to bring comfort. No popcorn and toast meal or little red-haired girl to distract us.

No tree to resurrect.

All I have is a nickel, and a sack of memories, present regrets and past delights. Perhaps the doctor is in.

Happy birthday, Chris. I hope your party is pure joy this year.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, September 01, 2006

My Brother's a Bast - I Better Not Finish This Title

My brother Luke is part of the 3-2 K company, affectionately known as the "Betio Bastards" -- a nickname earned during WWII.

Despite the appellation, not all of his work is swear worthy. Here is a link to some of his groups latest actions.

God bless, Luke.

Just my thoughts,


Ten Tips for Scripts

First, let's all revel in the notion that we are about to take advice from a guy who doesn't have an agent, and has yet to make a show hit network television, or a movie hit a theatre.

So, are we done revelling?

Alrighty then. Here are my tips to folks from out of town who are trying to get someone in the industry to read their scripts.

1. First understand that virtually everyone that hasn’t had a million dollar movie in the past two years has the same problem. No real sure-fire ways to get this done, but maybe some things that make it slightly easier.

2. Make sure that the screenplay is formatted correctly, and free of typos and grammar/spelling errors. A misformatted script tells the reader that you haven’t invested the time into the script – so why should they? For formatting questions, check out Christopher Riley’s The Hollywood Standard.

3. Make sure the first ten pages are really exciting and are page turners. Most of these guys do not have time to read all of every script, so the first ten help them decide whether they should keep going. A lot of successful movies have slow openings – but that doesn’t help them to get read.

4. Be able to pitch your screenplay in a compelling way in five minutes, two minutes, and one sentence. Practice the pitch. If you can get thirty seconds with a producer, and you can intrigue them with the pitch, they are more likely to read the screenplay. Many places will want you to send a written pitch before looking at a screenplay.

5. Get an agent. Yeah, yeah, not as easy as it sounds. But many production companies, and virtually every studio, will not look at an unsolicited manuscript unless coming from an agent that is a signatory with the Writer’s Guild.

6. Attend writing conferences, screenwriting conferences, and film festivals. Go to the panels, and try to get yourself introduced to people that work for the people that you want to read your script.

7. Get to know other writers. Sometimes a writer will pass on your screenplay to his/her agent or producer friends.

8. Be patient. Imagine trying to read, literally, several thousand screenplays a year. This is how Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson live their lives – it is impossible, and thus, to protect themselves and allow time to do things like act, direct and produce, it is hard (if not impossible) to get the script to them. But you might be able to get it to a guy that works with a guy that works with the company that works with Playtone or Icon.

9. Get a short film made, and get it on the web and in festivals. Capitalize on any awards or exposure it gets by sending postcards to the agents or producers that you want to read your full length script.

10. Pray – for wisdom, discernment, and especially that you don’t confuse secular success with G-d’s will.

Just my thoughts,