Friday, November 30, 2007

Cartoon Christmas

From Cynopsis for Kids:

Boomerang month-long holiday celebration takes off this weekend Saturday, December 1, and every weekend through December 23, 4-5:30p, as the network features a host of favorite Christmas Classic animated specials. Additionally, on Christmas Eve Boomerang will offer holiday themed programming all day long 9a-6a, and Christmas day 6a-2:30p. What can kid (and kid-like folks) expect from the annual Boomerang Christmas Party Stunt? Glad you asked weekends will include - Yogi's First Christmas (12/1); A Flintstone Christmas Carol (12/2); A Jetsons Christmas Carol (12/8); Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper (12/9); Smurf's Christmas Special (12/15); Christmas Comes To Pac-land (12/16). Christmas Eve and Day will offer Justice League Comfort and Joy (12/24, 6:30p); and A Flintstone Family Christmas (12/25, 8a) among others.

Ah, the classics.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Apparently there was movement in strike talks today, with the producers making a proposal, and the WGA taking the weekend to think about it.

We shall see.

In the meantime, a striking writer gives advice on how strikers can protect their marriage.

I know how annoying a writer at home all day can be. Wait, that didn't sound right...

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday November 28

I have titled this entry of random thoughts by date, because I spent my morning thinking -- and telling people -- that today is Thursday.

It isn't.

The WGA and the Studios are back in talks, and there are rumors that the strike may be over soon. Which is a good thing, because I still have a rant or two in me, and would rather not dwell on ranting.

At work, Jason always posts a quote on his white board. My favorite in a long time:

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

-Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts

On Monday, I was called upon to give a devotional for my church drama group. I used my time instead to explain why A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best Holiday show ever. I will be blogging pieces of that talk in December; but if anyone is in La-la land on December 9th, I have been asked to repeat the chat with Beacon up at Bel Air Pres.

Overheard today on the lot: Someone made an incorrect bank withdrawal -- despite leaving home without her purse, running late, and a host of other irritants that should have prevented her from banking at all. Thinking that maybe someone was trying unsuccessfully to protect her from her error despite herself, she announced:

"Free will is a b**ch."

Amen, sister.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bad Theatre / Good Film

Every now and then I see a piece of theatre that I wish was a movie, solely because then I could own it on DVD.

Such is ATLANTA: THE MUSICAL, opening this weekend at the Geffen in Los Angeles.

Wait, I am afraid my opening may be misleading. You see, I often teach writing classes, and am on constant look out for examples to show my students.

And ATLANTA is a near perfect sample of not doing a single thing right when writing a musical. And negative examples are a priceless learning tool.

For those of you who are not writers, here is the most basic thing that any writer learns in Story 101: Every story needs to start with three basic ingredients:

1. A main character who

2. Has a want (which drives the story), and

3. An obstacle to that want (which gives the story “drama”)

Dorothy Gale wants to get home, but the witch is in the way.

John McClane wants to save his wife, but the robber posing as a terrorist is in his way. (My shout out for the Christmas season…)

Little Miss Muffet wants to eat her curds & whey, but that pesky spider keeps scaring her off her tuffet.

As I was leaving ATLANTA, an elderly woman was angrily announcing about the creators: “They didn’t even know who the story was about!”

To be fair, at the end of Act One it is revealed who the main character of the story is – and his major story arc takes up about ten minutes total of a two hour play.

And none of the characters have a want that drives the action. And of course, if you don’t want anything, there really is no obstacle. Hence no drama.

Which is too bad – because the idea is rife with dramatic possibilities.

The story is ostensibly about a Yankee soldier, who kills a Reb then hides from the Confederacy by stealing the Reb’s uniform. In the dead man’s pocket is a packet of love letters – and through the missives, the Yank falls in love with his enemy’s lover.

Sound good? Yeah, to me to.

But the creators of this show ignored that the guy in the southern uniform is a Yankee; ignored the conflict of loving the girl of someone you killed; ignored the conflict of false identity (SPOILER ALERT: the Yank and the Girl never meet, and she never finds out he has taken her lover’s identity); and on and on.

And the music – yikes! In the program notes the writer talks about what he learned from Stephen Soundheim – how every song is a play of its own, progressing through three acts.

If only the writer chose to use what he learned! I can think of only one song in the whole show that even remotely has a progression.

On the other hand, I also saw ENCHANTED this weekend, which showcases a song with the first line “How will she know you love her?” and ends with the line “That’s how she’ll know you love her!”


Yeah, a simple Disney fairy tale ends up running dramatic circles around a highly publicized Civil War drama.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed ENCHANTED. I had a few things going for me:

1. I knew nothing about it going in, other than Susan Sarandon was in the cast, and Amy Adams was rumored to be delightful in it.

Okay, I only had one thing going for me. But it was enough. I saw no commercials, read no articles, really had no interest in seeing the flick.

Yet giggled my way gleefully through the whole thing.

So, take my advice: go see it knowing as little as possible about the show.

Then write to me about it, and let’s discuss why Amy Adams deserves a best actress Oscar nom (and why she won’t get it).

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


With Thanksgiving comes traditions – like turkey and college ball and the Macy’s parade.

But what about non-traditional traditions?

New York insiders skip the parade; but they do gather the night before with a little wine and carryable foodstuffs to walk along the park where the balloons are inflated. The game is to guess what shape the mass of plastic on the ground will become once filled out.

I heard a fella on NPR (this is why I am not a journalist – my sources are “a fella”) that was bored with the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but found that deviating from the standard menu caused turmoil in his household.

So he did the menu with a twist – everything Polynesian style. From the more simple “volcano mashed with lava gravy” to a complex turkey meatloaf shaped like a tiki – everything was altered to fit the themed Turkey Tiki Thanksgiving.

It is traditional to gather with family – which has created another tradition which I’ve experienced since my college days: The Orphan Dinner. Friends who can’t make it home for the holiday gathering to celebrate with their family of peers.

My friend Kara Lee has evaluated the tradition of stuffing oneself, and realized that a new tradition was needed: Eat Dessert First.

On Eve before Thanksgiving, friends will gather for their favorite desserts – knowing full well that the next day they won’t enjoy them quite so much, being sick on giblets and gravy and all.

I especially like that one.

Have you got any non-traditional traditions to share?

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quotes For the Moment

"It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference."
- Tom Brokaw

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."
–Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Quitters Never Win

For a strike to work, you have to hit the company where it counts –in the bank account.

It’s a simple idea: the workers in an auto factory walk out, production stops, and the auto company has no more cars to sell.

So unions take very seriously the notion of scabbing – someone coming in and taking the job of an union worker, thus keeping production going.

The problem with the WGA strike is that the factory isn’t just making cars. Or in this case, television and movies.

They are also making entertainment in areas where the WGA has no jurisdiction, such as in animation and on-line content.

Which isn’t stopping the Guild from trying to shut down writing in those areas. They initially told all of their members – and all non-members – that they would be punished for doing any animation work.

They pulled this strike rule at the last second, because it really ticked off the union of animation writers – part of IATSE. And the WGA is slowly learning that it isn’t necessarily smart to purposefully poach work from other unions, then turn around and look hurt when they don’t get support from said unions.

But there is no union for people that write for the web, so the Guild is demanding that all writers – union and nonunion – stop writing for the web.

Union members who write for the web will be fined and expulsed; non-union members who write for the web will be banned for life from joining the union.

Even if the writer is contractually obligated to do so.

A WGA member who is refusing to work at WGA jobs is protected from being fired or retaliated against by the studios.

A writer who is breaking a non-union contract for no other reason than because the WGA is bullying him to do so has no protection – legal or otherwise. They are simply breaking a contractual promise, and can be fired or sued.

The WGA will not protect them. The WGA will not stand up for them. Because these are not WGA members or WGA jobs, and they are working in a non-WGA area.

Again, I am not talking about scabbing. This is not a case of someone taking the job of a union writer while they are on strike, this is the case of a non-union writer keeping a commitment made before a union in which they have no say decided to strike.

It is akin to our auto workers telling the janitors that if they don’t quit (it’s not going on strike, it is quitting), then they will hound them for it for the rest of their lives.

And the WGA has made it clear – “we will find you!”

It is one thing to ask for solidarity of others in the biz – many actors, writers, directors and the like have joined the WGA in their cause.

But it is another to force someone to do so without any say in the matter.

And the moral high ground sinks a little lower.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, November 15, 2007

United We Stand... Or Else!

When I became an administrator at Columbia U, I started work the week the union representing my position took a strike vote.

I and several other new employees – too new to have joined the union yet – went to an informational meeting sponsored by the union.

The first thing we were told when mentioning that we hadn’t joined yet was that we had to join the union – not an emotional imperative, but a legal one. If we didn’t join, we were told, then we would be fired.

That didn’t sound right to me, so I checked. No, we were not legally required to join the union, nor were we compelled to do so by our employers.

I called the union, who after much hemming and hawing, confirmed that there is no legal or contractual requirement to join.

So why were we told that? The guy on the phone made it clear: the union is not in any way responsible for the statements made by the people representing them at these meetings – as the speaker was volunteering, and not on the union’s payroll.

If they were pushy, or confrontational, or dishonest – well, this is a hard time, it was explained, and that sort of thing is simply going to happen. The larger goal – repairing the injustice put upon the worker by the powers that be – out weighed any use of intimidation or dishonesty.

In effect, the union while not condoning lying to increase its membership or power, was adverse to the positive effects such action may bring.

So at a young age I learned the simple truth: Unions are only powerful if they can control people – their workers and those around their workers.

And ethics are very pliable in face of the end result – maintaining union power.

I know it is true – but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Or believe that this is the way people who claim to be representing me should behave.

There is a part of me that looks on dishonesty on any side of an issue as an admission by the perpetrator – that underneath it all, they don’t fully believe they are right. And thus they have to sweeten their side a little bit.

A Vice President that truly believes in the evidence that a dictator is too dangerous to be left in charge shouldn’t feel the need to punish a dissenting voice by blowing the cover of a relative spy.
Or a President who truly believes that sexual congress between two consenting adults is nobody’s business but their own shouldn’t feel the need to lie about the affair and start a smear campaign against the other consenting adult.

In criminal court, an attempt to cover-up a crime is seen as proof that the perp knew what they were doing was wrong.

So, how does this apply to the WGA, who by all evidence should feel comfortable sitting on the moral high ground (but instead is spending a lot of energy digging a hole in the moral high ground)?

Tune in later…

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You Can't Make a Living...

...But you can make a killing.

As a counter-point to the studios' argument that they don't know if there is money to be made on the internet -- and therefore they can't pay the writers -- here is an argument from...

The CEO's of the companies that own the studios.

Maybe they didn't get the memo...

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tightwad at 20,000 Feet

On the lighter side of giving...

My church drama group's latest take on the annual fundraising appeal.



Panda Express

Why has it taken this long for this kung-fu idea?

The trailer alone made me laugh.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, November 12, 2007

Strike News Before the News Goes On Strike

More Writer’s Strike News and Notions:

In the “Really? You Picked This Week for This?” category: chose now to launch their NBC Direct program – offering free, ad-supported downloads of many of their television shows.

Exactly the type of new media that the writers are striking about.

The networks are claiming that ad-supported, computer watched material is “promotional” in nature – meant to drive viewers to the television show. And therefore they are not required to pay any of the people that work on those episodes from the money they make on selling advertising.

Hey, I never claimed that the networks were logical…

In the “But How Will We Know How The Strike Is Going?” category:

Unless you stay up past 11, your television viewing probably hasn’t been impacted yet by the strike. That may change for those that stay up past 6 – writers of news shows may go on strike soon as well.

News writers are covered under a different agreement than the one being argued about now. But the news writers apparently have been operating without a contract since 2005.

Of course, fewer programs trying to create entertaining news 24/7 might be better for us all.

In the “You’re Blaming Who?” category:

As part of a WGA rally on Friday, one tv showrunner blasted his network as “bullies” because they announced that they will be laying off the writer’s assistants.

The people whose only job is to assist the writers.

The writers who, by their own choice, aren’t working.

Hey, some of the networks are bullies – I won’t even attempt to argue that.

But not providing a never-ending paycheck for an assistant to a guy that won’t come to work – that doesn’t sound like bullying to me. Sounds more like the common sense outcome the showrunner knew would happen when he chose to stop working.

Don’t want to surprise anybody, but when one strikes in an attempt to shut down an industry, a lot of out of people will be out of work. That’s kind of the point.

Just my thoughts,


Walk the Line

So far I haven’t had any problems with the picketers at the studio where I work.

They have been polite, orderly (if not loud – which is the point so no biggee), and haven’t done anything to endanger anyone else – again, only speaking to those I have seen.

I fear that is changing.

At my studio (and I am only speaking about one of the studios – no idea about the others), all employees were given strict rules of conduct in dealing with protestors – rules that called for a respectful attitude.

Do not argue. Do not yell at or confront any picketers. Be especially careful and slow when driving around them. Respect their space and right to be there.

It was almost a reminder that these people are still part of the family – these are the guys that we worked alongside yesterday, and will work alongside again tomorrow.

I wonder what kind of memo the picketers got. Or if all of them got it.

One guy, writing in response to a blog about the producers, said that he has been nice on the picket line, but now he is so mad he is going to “make them hurt” any way he can. And since he doesn’t have access to the big boys, he plans on taking his anger out on the people going to work where he is picketing.

He acknowledges that these people are not the ones in control; but whatever happens to them at his hands, he claims, is not his fault.

The responsibility for his actions on the innocent lies squarely at the feet of the head negotiator for the producers.

In other words, he plans on sinning big time tomorrow, and has already absolved himself from blame for his actions.

This is mob mentality, folks. And there were plenty more like him in the blogosphere, venting and making claims to going brutal on the lot workers.

One guy already started – but I think his work was more out of boredom than righteousness. His picketing didn’t hold enough drama, so he created his own – and bragging about it on his blog.

He started out by claiming that two women that were crossing the street near him were doing so with a silent attitude that he found offensive, so he argued with them.

Please note that these women were not speaking to him – but he was interpreting their posture and the position of their eyelids as if they were. And he was vocally responding to their lack of gestures.

In other words, he was speaking (actually, he proudly says he was “yelling like an idiot”) at these people while they were standing waiting for a walk signal.

Apparently one of them eventually responded in something other than just his imagination, which gave him license to escalate his language. And then to his pride (and the pride of his guild, under his way of telling it) – a security guard came out and politely asked him to tone it down.

The politeness of the guard is his admission by the way – a politeness that he found offensive enough for him to joyfully spend the rest of his time screaming.

Oh, and his dialogue all along – obscenities. Although I don’t know exactly what they were, as he said that he wouldn’t repeat the language he was using because his mother reads his blog.

So in other words, this striking wordsmith was hurling obscenities at women who were ignoring him, and then a guard politely asked him to watch his language – which made him even prouder to get crasser.

And he brags about it as a moral victory for him and his cause.


A friend at another lot (with an office near the street) says that she grew tired of the lack of imagination by the writers marching in her earshot – as their chants were mostly sexual in nature.

And it’s not like either side of this issue has been acting anything like adults in their press time rhetoric. But it has been the big shots at the negotiating table, and not the folk at the street level that have been making it personal.

Which had to come to an end sooner or later, I guess.

Oh, and the parting shot of the cursing guy from above? A satellite photo of the lot, and a request that someone “make some more noise” using the bombing target he superimposed on the photo.

I wish I knew that he was kidding.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, November 09, 2007

To the Shores of Tripoly...

Apparently the Marine Corps turned 232 today.

Doesn't look a day over 220.

Happy Birthday, MC.

Just my thoughts,


Heroes and Stuff

Okay, a few quick things.

First, HEROES, a fav of mine from last season, but not so much this season. Haven't even watched the last two weeks (yet) -- but that is about to change:,,20158840,00.html

Love it when a creator has a chance to be honest, and isn't just about spin.

And on the strike: Before I comment, here's some word from the street.

Oh, and to get an idea of what the writers' are fighting for:

And later, when I'm a little less work-stressed, I will tell you how this all plays into my job, and my take on why both sides of the argument should be ashamed of themselves.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Second Acting

Acclaimed playwright Moss Hart learned writing from the end backward.

When a young man desperate for work, he signed on as the drama director for a summer camp that promised to put on full productions of the latest Broadway shows.

A few problems with that. Moss had never so much as been in a play, let alone knew how to direct and produce. (He exaggerated his resume a bit.)

And the camp was too cheap to pay for royalties or scripts.

So during the winter months, Moss and his friend would “second act” Broadway plays – sneak in after intermission with the smokers. Then they would race home, and write up everything they could remember about the second half of the play.

And then, through guessing and a little bit of logic, they would write the first acts to match the second acts. Voila! They had the Broadway scripts ready for camp!

Mr. Hart claimed that a few years of this practice gave him a great sense of story structure. (Makes sense – Arthur Miller suggests that playwrights should start by writing the last scene of their plays…)

Thought of this as I archived Moss’ script for the Judy Garland starrer – A STAR IS BORN.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Body Outline On the Sidewalk -- Must Be Good Candy

For any who doubt that Marines produce them tough, here is my niece toddling all alone through a crime scene, probably ducking bullets and taking on gangs, all for the hope of a roll of smarties.


Just my thoughts,


Friday, November 02, 2007

Alien Reversal

My first thought in seeing this pic was that an alien human was busting out of a reptilian belly.

Turn about is fair play, no?

My nephew would make Ripley proud.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Buckle Up

Bumper stickers my wife saw while driving around town today, the first is good advice; the second an insight to the deep thoughts keeping physicists busy these days:

“Buckle up. It makes it harder for the aliens to suck you out of your car.”

“Photons have mass? I didn’t even know they were Catholic.”