Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Power of Hush

During our drama group retreat last month, we underwent a meditation exercise that required a half an hour of focused silence. Most of us hadn’t done anything like that in a long, long time – if ever.

It was amazing how many people had a spiritual break through from that exercise.

I guess it makes sense – we tend to spend a lot of time in prayer, asking G-d questions from “Why did this happen” to “Can I get me some of that?” But it seems many of us forget that prayer is conversation, and one can’t hear an answer if one doesn’t shut up long enough to let the other guy talk.

And even in our occasional moments of silence, the noise that fills our heads prevents true silence, true listening.

Unless we take on the discipline of focused hearing. (“He who has ears to hear…”)

Which brings me to an interesting television trend: introducing characters that do not speak for the first half of a season, and then when they do talk turn out to be spokesmen for G-d. (Okay, only two instances, but I still see a trend in it.)

First we had Mr. Eko on Lost; and now Haitian on Heroes. (I haven’t seen this weeks Heroes ep yet, so if anything in it counters what I am about to say, I’m sending the Haitian to make you forget this week’s ep…)

Both big, both black, both scary powerful dudes – made all the scarier by their ability to keep their silence. And when Haitian finally spoke, it took only one episode before he started talking about G-d giving abilities.

At first I thought it was an easy out – make the quiet guy be the one that believes in G-d, because it is easier to not say something controversial if one hardly says anything. But I quickly realized that the silent approach is pure wisdom from Kring (and Lieber & Lindelof).

Who better to speak of G-d then the few in this crazy world quiet enough to hear him? Who else has the authority, the right, the authenticity?

Seriously, spend some time channel surfing, from religious cable to news to made-for-tv movie, and ask yourself if we wouldn’t all be better off having the quiet ones discussing the deity, rather than the spewers.

That applies to those for and those against the Creator.

As St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words (only) if necessary.”

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Friend Bill Farmer was featured at the SAG awards this evening.

Bill has been the long-time voice of Disney's Goofy, among many other recognizable voices. He also serves with me and Catherine on our church drama team.

It's humbling to have Goofy as a peer.

Congrats Bill!

Just my thoughts,


Friday, January 26, 2007

Longing for More Bingo

Jeff (from my writing group) has been working on a screenplay based in the era of the Negro Leagues. I’ve loved this project of his, not only because it is well written, but because that period of American history has so much depth that has yet to be mined.

And, well, it just plain fascinates me.

There was that wonderful X-Files episode from that era, and of course Bingo Long and His Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings of oh so long ago (Billy Dee and James Earl playing nice before that fateful meeting on Cloud City…).

And who can forget all the other movies on the Negro leagues, like, uh, uhmmm… Let’s see, I’m sure that there have been more… Does seeing a poster for Broadway’s Fences count?

Surely there is a way to find out more about this fascinating era? Surely we won’t be left thinking that the best hitters were all aliens (thanks, Chris Carter)? Surely there’s a point to Sean writing this blog, other than to call you Shirley three times?

Jeff’s partner, Byron Motley has co-written a book with his dad called Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants & Stars (now available for purchase). You see, Byron’s dad is a living legend – the last remaining umpire for the Negro leagues.

But the book isn’t just baseball (is anything “just baseball”?), as the elder Motley recounts growing up in the KKK infested south, and his travails as one of America’s first black Marines.

(Appropriate shout out to the Marines, and 2nd Lieutenant Gaffney now serving abroad. Semper fi!)

So take a stroll through history – one that, despite our shortcomings, is made proud by the likes of Bob Motley.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Your Mark

Taproot Theatre up in Seattle is showcasing a regional premiere of a playwright that I am particularly fond of: Mark St. Germain.

THE GOD COMMITTEE sounds fascinating; the setup: Four patients, one heart -- and a hospital that decides who lives and who dies.

Mark is not stranger to tough issues, having written plays such as FORGIVING TYPHOID MARY that wrestles not only with medical ethics, but the nature of forgiveness and redemption. Heady stuff.

Mark collaborated on two of my favorite musicals with composer Randy Courts -- ones that you may not know about because the topics aren't big sellers. JOHNNY PYE chronicles the Benet legend of a kid that spends his life literally trying to outwit Death.

And my favorite take on the nativity story of all time: JOSEPH AND MARY. Told as a love story with a subplot of the angel Gabriel -- convinced that G-d is wasting his time on humanity.

When I get my billion dollars (see below), you will see the national tour of this incredible musical.

In the meantime, fly up to Seattle and check out THE GOD COMMITTEE.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Awe Ha!

One of my students last week, in attempting to describe an “aha!” moment in a book, misspelled the word as “awe ha!”

Awe ha. Revelation by awe. I like it.

Maybe we should add that term to our arsenal.

When you stumble on a good twist in a novel, and the light bulb goes on, you have an “aha!” moment.

When you stumble into the cold winter night, thinking only of getting to your cabin before freezing, and catch a glimpse of the night sky – the myriad of stars dancing in patterns of divine choreography – you stand riveted in awe ha!

Just my thoughts,


Monday, January 22, 2007

Chekov On the Prairie

I was enjoying Garrison Keillor on the radio yesterday, and of course it made me think of Chekov. (No, the playwright, not the pilot of the Enterprise.)

When I was a stage management intern at Juilliard, I worked on production of a Chekov play. The rehearsal process was amazing – we dug deep into that play, excavating profound character dimension from every nuance, boldly chasing rabbit trails of relationships far deeper than even Anton dared to go.

Every rehearsal concluded in exhaustion – but a joyful one. Finding the shadings of such a classic was its own reward.

Which was reinforced when we performed the play: the audience was mostly indifferent to it. We had dug so far away from the surface, only one who sat through rehearsals with us had any idea where we were.

We ended up with a performance for us; not for the audience.

I felt the same thing watching the movie PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. I am a huge fan of the radio show, and love the easy-going energy that accompanies Garrison Keillor’s spinning of that magical world of a lake lost in the staples in the Minnesota map.

Robert Altman, in putting together the movie, mistook easy-going for “going nowhere.” The film is a lackluster collection of performances that border on interesting, but never have a chance to settle.

The story consists of a series of setups, all the way until the final credits roll. There are no payoffs, just set ups.

The viewing experience was disappointing because I am such a fan of the radio show – and mostly because the radio writing is so tight. There is little waste in the weekly show, and all things –no matter how bizarre – connect to build a unified whole.

In the radio version, the affinity connecting the characters and actors is so palpable, one feels like a part of a community. In the film, the poor actors strain to try and force connections where the script forgets to give them one.

With lesser actors, this would have simply been a badly written show, but with the likes of Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline – actors that connect even without a script – this movie becomes a snub. The performances are so far removed from the audience, we are pointedly left out of community.

When I first heard the critic’s trash the movie, I ignored them. I thought that they just didn’t get the radio show, and maybe this was a movie for the fans. Alas, fans of the radio show should stick to the radio; this flick is only for those that worked on it.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, January 19, 2007

Call Waiting

A blurb in a recent Reader’s Digest pointed out that I live in the most polite part of the country – only 35% of us West Coasters would answer and converse on our cell phone during a movie at a theater.

I’m dubious about the positive spin here – we are the most polite? Is it really worth bragging rights that every third seat at our local cinema holds a customer ready and willing to ruin the entertainment experience of their neighbors?

I suppose I am old-fashioned in carrying the notion that we should base our ethical development on seeking to be better people – as opposed to seeking out those that are worse behaved and resting in the achievement of moral superiority.

Of course I don’t have time to think about that now: the movie is about to start and my cell phone is ringing.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Today in History

In 1778, Captain James Cook came upon the Hawaiian Islands.

In 1836, Jim Bowie arrived at the Alamo.

Imagine how differently history would be if in 1778 Cook went to the Alamo, and in 1836 Bowie showed up in Maui.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Billion Dollar Baby

The ride up to Arrow Lake for our retreat included a list of questions for the carpoolers to answer in prep for the weekend.

Some questions were scarier than others. For example, as we zoomed around icy corners overlooking sheer cliff drops, we answered the one starting with, “if you were on a trip, and you knew it would be the last trip of your life…”

Others allowed for more introspection, such as, “If you had a billion dollars, how would you spend it.”

That question immediately split the group between Mike Myers/Dr. Evil impersonators (“one billion dollars, bwaa-haa-haa!”) and Bare Naked Ladies wannabes (“If I had a billion dollars, I’d buy you a fur coat, but not a real one that’d be cruel…”)

We quickly decided that a billion was too much for the question. After all, if you had a billion dollars, what wouldn’t you do with it? So we settled for a couple-a-three mill, and each plunked our cash down for some worthy or selfish cause.

I think a more interesting question might have been, would you want a billion dollars?

My Literature and Film class at Biola just read MILLIONS by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Damian, the kid in the book who finds a bag of money, at one point makes this comment:

“And that’s the thing. We thought the money was going to take care of everything but we ended up taking care of the money. We were always worried about it, tucking it in at night, checking up on it. It was like a big baby.”

Just my thoughts,


PS I still wouldn’t turn a billion down…

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shivering and Shiva

Cath and I just returned from a retreat with our church’s drama department. We pelted each other with snowballs (in Christian love, of course), tubed down a hill in religious formations, and played violent games of “Catch Phrase” – meditating on the spiritual metaphors of such phrases as “a stitch in time” and “Joan Rivers.”

We also spent some time in silent contemplation, meditation, and seeking after G-d.

Silence is an amazing and surprising thing – if one is actually able to attain and maintain silence for long. It is remarkable what one can hear in silence – both within and without our physical world.

Ellen Davis in her book GETTING INVOLVED WITH G-D: REDISCOVERING THE OLD TESTAMENT says this about the only act of Job’s friends that is repeated today, sitting shiva – silently sitting by Job’s side for seven days.

Ms. Davis has this to say about communal shiva:

“Silence kept with others has a special quality. It is like a fine veil, preserving separateness, yet strangely heightening mutual awareness. Silence requires us to be present to the unexpressed needs of others, needs of which they may themselves not yet know.”

May I learn how better to sit alongside in encouraging silence.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Isn't It Romantic?

It is.

My short film THE IMPORTANCE OF BLIND DATING continues, being featured in a Valentine's Day event in rural England. (Check it out: Carnforth Station)

This railroad station was the location for the flick BRIEF ENCOUNTER, and remains a site for romance.

Oh, for those not in the film industry, on the website it says film by Jim Buglewicz because he is the director. And they were afraid mentioning my name would cause a flood of traffic, overrunning their little hamlet and scandalizing the neighborhood.

Or not.

Just my thoughts,


Son of Grace

A little birdy suggested it is time to welcome to our planet to Elliot MacCrae Edwards.

Elliot means "uplifted" and"Jehovah is God;" MacCrae means "son of grace"; Edwards means "I got me some wacky yet amazing parents."

See where a little etymology can get ya?

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Battle of New Orleans

There are many things about my family that are difficult to explain.

For example, all the boys in my family think they can dance the Irish jig. None of us took lessons, or studied other dancers.

No, we were born with the name Gaffney, and with that birthright is the natural ability to move our feet in astoundingly beautiful patterns any time a tune with a fiddle is played.

All of us believe in our heart of hearts that we are able to perform the Irish jig.

Not a one of us can. We can’t even come close (there is video evidence of Chris and Mike proving my point to a hilariously embarrassing degree).

Of course the fact that we can’t dance the jig changes nothing; we still hear the music and our minds picture our feet doing amazing things.

Us boys also have an unusual attraction to the song “The Battle of New Orleans” (fought on this day in 1814). It is a great song, created by a school teacher as a history lesson. This ditty actually won a Grammy for Johnny Horton. It goes, in part, a little like this:

Well, in eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.

Well, we fired our cannon til the barrel melted down,
so we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round.
We filled his head with cannon balls and powdered his behind,
and when they tetched the powder off, the gator lost his mind.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin,
But there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

And lest you think this song was an odd segue, all the Gaffney boys are convinced that they have exquisite taste when it comes to the arts…

Just my thoughts,


Friday, January 05, 2007

Who's Mercy?

I’m getting around to watching last season of DOCTOR WHO. The episode “Idiot’s Lantern” had an interesting ending.

The Doctor and Rose just saved the world with the help of a kid named Tommy. Tommy’s dad, an insufferable bully who nearly prevented the world from being saved (and presented, I might add, without one redeeming quality), has just received his comeuppance – his wife kicking him out of the home.

Tommy, the object of much of his father’s bullying, looks on from a distance with the Doctor and Rose as his dad walks away with a suitcase in hand. Here’s the exchange:

Tommy: Good riddance.

Doctor: Is that it then, Tommy? New monarch, new age, new world. No room for a man like Eddie Connelly?

Tommy: That’s right. He deserves it.

The Doctor and Rose exchange a look. Rose nudges Tommy.

Rose: Tommy, go after him.

Tommy: What for?

Rose: He’s your dad.

Tommy: He’s an idiot.

Rose: Of course he is. Like I said, he’s your dad. But you’re clever. Clever enough to save the world, so don’t stop there. Go on.

Tommy catches up with his dad. The Doctor and Rose look on, as Tommy exchanges a few words with his father, then takes the suitcase and continues walking with him. Rose and the Doctor raise a glass of punch in celebration.

Wowza. Justice and mercy. The wronged making the hard choice of reconciliation. The redeemed not settling for cheap vengeance.

Must be fiction.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Now Don't Think I'm a Nut...

I got me a “World Almanac Daily Calendar.” Not quite the Farmer’s Almanac, but folksy enough for me to think I can get away with starting my sentence with “I got me a …”

What that means for you is that sometimes the daily tidbits are going to translate into rambling, train-of-thought blogs. Like todays.

This day in 1924, Howard Carter discovered the sarcophagus of King Tut. And we all know what led to.

That’s right, it led directly to Steve Martin receiving the 2005 Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Cath and I watched the encore of the ceremony this past New Year’s Eve (apparently Neil Simon wasn’t funny enough for the ’06 event to be rebroadcast).

Oddly enough, Mr. Martin did not thank Howard Carter. Ingrate.

The prize always puts me in mind of Earl Palmer. Earl did an eye-opening series of sermons (now available as a book!) on The Humor of Jesus. Earl would often remark that Mark Twain was his favorite humorist – or at least makes the top twelve funniest writers pastor Palmer has read.

So in light of being light-hearted, here are some of my favorite quotes pertaining to humor:

“Humor is like a frog; if you dissect it, it dies.”

-Mark Twain

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger, comedy is when you fall into a hole and die.”

-Mel Brooks

“Comedy is tragedy plus time.”

-Howard Stein

“Humor is the prelude to faith and Laughter the beginning of prayer.”

-Reinhold Niebuhr, Discerning the Signs of the Times

And from Earl Palmer’s book (contrasting destructive humor to healthy humor):

“But there is good laughter and it has an altogether different result. The laughter that nourishes has the opposite result because at its motivational center the humorist has recognized a connectedness toward those who surround his or her story so that the goal is to connect us and not to disengage us from that human linkage. Nourishing humor intends to build up and not to tear apart the sense of well-being of the object of the humorous story.”

Let’s go out there and have a good laugh.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, January 02, 2007


You ever chug-a-lug, chug-lug?

Ever wish you had someone’s happiness, and they had a do-wacka-do-wacka-do-wacka-do?

Do you know the level of difficulty of rollerskating in a buffalo herd? (Or changing film with a kid on your back?)

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you don’t know the music of Roger Miller as well as you should.

Miller was a country song writer, most famous for “King of the Road.” He also played the voice of Alan-a-Dale in the Disney ROBIN HOOD, and sang all those songs.

This truly American poet could be sentimental (“One dyin’ and a buryin’, one dyin’ and a buryin’, some cryin’ and six carryin’ me- I want to be free”), silly (“My uncle used to love me but she died, a chicken ain’t a chicken ‘til he’s lickin’ good fried…”), or sentimentally silly (“Atta boy, girl, atta way to break my heart…”)

When it came time to turn Twain’s all-American HUCKLEBERRY FINN into a Broadway musical, the producers knew they couldn’t just get any songwriter; they wanted the definitive voice of pure America to match Twain’s voice.

So they turned to Miller for BIG RIVER, one of my favorite musicals of all time.

Today marks Roger’s birthday, a man taken from us with too much music left in him.

So in his honor, listen to some Miller today.

Just my thoughts,


Selection from “Where Have All the Average People Gone?”

Some pious people point and call me sinner,
Because to them I've never seen the lights.
Other folks think of me as a preacher.
I'm just doing what I think is right.

The wealthy people think that I am a hobo,
Lean and hungry, writing mournful songs.
And the poor, poor people think I am a rich man,
But really, I'm just trying to get along.

It's funny I don't fit.
Tell me where have all the average people gone?

2006: A Blog Back, Part Two

Here are a few blog highlights from the second half of the year, or 2006 B.


I see a couple of movies that should have been great and weren’t.


The Pirate Dude

And I take time to explain what I want to see at the movies.


I notice a resemblance among cousins with military dads.

And I hit stardom, as my blog flares up to several thousand hits over my take on a classic story.

Cath and I survive camping, as well as a Hawaiian trip, including a volcano and some seriously slow driving.


Cath discovers the power of “may I?”

I post my thoughts post 9/11.

And Cath gets to thinking while in traffic.


I go to Hotlanta and watch movies.


My dad sang I song, and I wrote about it. Part One and Part Two

And I showed a rare side by getting off the couch and jogging.


I got cranky about Christmas.

And I shared some pictures of the next generation.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, January 01, 2007

2006: A Blog Back, Part One

Starting the new year with a look back at the old. I’ve flipped through this blog, which Cath and I started just about a year ago.

Here are a few of the highlights I found, part one, 2006 A.


Friend Cory’s movie, HOODWINKED comes out – and hits #1! (Until the numbers are confirmed, then we discover it was only #2.)

Network TV tries (and fails) to portray Jesus on prime time.


I’m glad it’s off the air, just not glad about who is taking credit -- and why. So I make a call to boycott boycotting! Part One Part Two Part Three

Elena arrives on the planet.

I explain who put the dash in the gdashd.


I’m attacked for thinking CRASH deserved to win best picture, and not BROKEBACK.

I tried on my wedding tux.


Tristan stops by the planet earth.

Pranks with children help me figure out why I’m a moderate.


Tips on how to handle rejection.

We get our kittens, and immediately start acting like crazy cat people. (“Aren’t we precious? Yes we are, yes we are.”)


My family is dealt a major blow, and I blog for therapy.

The Carpenter

The Viewing.

And the Hat.

And just in time, Kyle Christopher joins the throngs of humanity.

Just my thoughts,