Friday, August 31, 2007

Flannery or Flames

So much to chose from today-

I could be serious and bounce from Jeff's blog to this nifty item chock full o' Flannery. (Cath's favorite quote, "In fiction, belief is not what you look at, but what you look through.")

Or I could contemplate the eternal question, "Would I prefer swaddling J, in a world before baby powder, or sweaty carpenter J in a world before deodorent?" (To make sense of the question, check out Jennifer's blog, item #3.)

Nothing to sneeze at. (Get it, cuz it would go out.)

I need some sleep. See ya.

Just my muddled thoughts,


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Loss Observed

Some of y’all that follow my blog know that I’ve written some musicals with/for my friend Jennifer and her son’s school in Georgia. I hadn’t heard from Jennifer in a bit, so I decided to check her blog and see what’s what.

And that’s how I learned of the tragedy that has hit her school this month, the death of one of their students.

It hits close to Jennifer, as you can see on her blog.

I met Colin; you can see him in this photo of one of the musicals I was a part of.

I have nothing to say about a life gone too young; or of those that it brings me in mind of; nor of those (too many) that know of the grief left behind.

I’m just taking a moment to stop.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Auditions and the J Man

The Bible is chock full of saints holding auditions, from Samuel picking through Jesse’s boys looking for the next Israeli Idol, to the apostles running interviews to figure out who should be in charge of widow and orphan care.

But I suppose the most un-Christ-like Biblical figure – going by the “nice” and “inoffensive at all costs” definition – has to be Jesus himself.

As has been mentioned in the responses to this blog, Jesus held auditions.

He had hundreds of followers trailing after him – all wanting to be part of the inner circle. But Jesus thought that number unwieldy. So he observed, interacted, then went off to the mountain to pray.

And when he came back down, he asked twelve to step forward, and told the rest, “Thank you very much for trying out.”

[And even within the twelve, there were a couple that he kept giving the best roles to. Notice that Bart and Thad didn’t get the mountain top transformation experience.]

Did this ruffle feathers? You bet.

Imagine if you were one of the goodly followers, and Jesus rejected you for one of those uppity son-of-thunder boys, or the over-loud (and smelly) fisherman, or that violent zealot, or the (perish the thought) tax man.

People quit following over it. Several second guessed Jesus over it. Many squabbled for years over it.

And Jesus?

He just said, “Get over it.”

He didn’t feel the need to justify his being choosy. He didn’t apologize, or promise the unchosen that they would get to be apostles the next time around. He didn’t expand the apostle ring to make smaller apostlette positions so everyone could get a turn.

He didn’t even blog endlessly about his reasons.

He just did his best to pick and train the group needed to create the church, even if that meant not being nice at all costs.

Like I said, not very Christ-like of him.

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Auditions Part Three

The thought seems to be: “Everybody should serve the church, so the church needs to let me serve however I want.”

I’ll get back to that. First, let me tell you about St. Paul while he was setting up the early Christian church.

One day Frank came up to Paul.

“Hey, Pauly buddy, I want to serve the church,” said Frank.

“That’s great!” said Paul.

“Being in charge of distributing food to the widows and orphans looks like a lot of fun,”
said Frank. “So I’ve decided that I am going to be in charge of food distribution!”

“Uh, well there’s a problem or two with that,” said Paul. “First, we already have someone doing that job. And second, you’re really not gifted in administration.”

“My giftedness is none of your business!” snapped Frank. “And if you love Jesus, you will let me be in charge of running the food program!”

Paul pointed at Frank’s chest.

“Look’s like you got a spot on your tunic.”

“What spot?” asked Frank, looking down.

“Made you look,” Paul said, as he flicked Frank in the head.

And then Paul went and wrote a letter to the Corinthians.

In the letter, he talked about how everybody’s been given different gifts, and of course they should be used for the benefit of all. But he goes on to say that the church functions like a body, with each person playing a part that helps with the whole.

It doesn’t do the body any good for a foot to want to be a hand, or a pancreas to want to be a medulla oblongata. Even if being a medulla oblongata sounds like more fun than being a pancreas. So we should all play our part for the better of the body. (I Corinthians 12)

And that should settle that, thought Paul.

Until Billy Bob came up to him.

“I want to serve,” said Billy Bob. “So I decided that I will be our new cantor.”

“Gee,” said Paul. “I didn’t even know you could sing. Do you mind humming a few bars for our choir director?”

“You don’t love Jesus,” Billy Bob screamed, and he ran away crying.

So Paul went and wrote a letter to the Romans, restating that no one should get full of themselves – we’ve all been uniquely gifted so we can uniquely serve. Don’t forget to judge those gifts soberly – hold auditions, for goodness sake, so you don’t end up in the wrong department! (Romans 12)

And then he went and wrote a letter to the Ephesians, repeating this info – some of us were called to one thing, some to another, all for one body. (Ephesians 4)

And then for good measure, he sewed that message on tags for the tents he was making, right under, “Dry Clean Only.”

Paul, shaking off the early signs of carpal tunnel, thought to himself, “Now the issue is settled.”

“Hey, Paul, guess what!” Dagwood shouted, running up to the Saint and patting him on the back. “I’ve decided that I’m an apostle!”

“Really? Why, did Jesus knock you off your horse in a burst of light?”

Dagwood became indignant.

“My Jesus would never do that. He’s too nice.”

Paul sighed and pointed to Dagwood’s shirt.

“I think you got a spot on your tunic,” he said.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Auditions Part 2

Yesterday I made the argument that auditions for a church drama group are pro-Christian because our offerings are to be from our best – and the arts are no exception.

Today, I am going to go one step further: We are required to give G-d our best ESPECIALLY in the arts.

If you don’t believe me, ask Moses.

Take a gander at Exodus 3:1-3. To set it up, Moses is at the mountain top getting his marching orders from G-d himself. This is where the Ten Commandments are given out and explained.

But also this is where G-d talks about art – specifically the art he wants to go with the Ark of the Covenant – the kind of art he wants in worship.

Please note that G-d talks more about art on the mountaintop than he does about the law. Odd considering that the Church talks more about the law than about art… but that is a blog for another day.

So here, the Lord is assigning the artists he would like to see working in his church (in other words, G-d held auditions, and these are the ones that are being selected).

Bezalel is chosen to be the lead artisan; and there should be no doubt as to why, since he has been “filled with the Spirit of G-d, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts…”

Artistic excellence, spiritual depth.

Note that the Lord doesn’t say, “And I haven’t appointed anyone for this task, because I am sure that there are a lot of people, Me bless them, who’s hearts are in the right place even if they don’t have my Spirit, or skill, or ability, or knowledge. Because, Me darn it, worship of Me is all about not hurting feelings, and letting people other than me be in the spotlight, and self-affirmation, and no standards, and …”

Glad I didn’t have to carry that tablet down a mountain.

And lest we think that it was just the lead guy that required a touch of talent, G-d makes it clear that all the workers have skill (verse 6).

We are to worship with our best, plain and simple.

“Sing to him a new song, play skillfully, and shout for joy.” (Psalm 33:3)

Another accusation that comes from being picky is that the Church is being exclusive. We leave people behind, such as the young lady who stopped attending because she was asked to audition.

After all, shouldn’t everyone be allowed to serve?

Yes, absolutely. Moreover, everyone is called to serve!


To be continued.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Picky, Picky, Picky

It’s that time of year again – auditions for my church’s drama group.

BADD – Bel Air Drama Department – is a covenant group of 30 or so members. We take our work as public ministers seriously, and search out members keeping in mind two major criteria: artistic excellence and spiritual depth (and a whole slew of minor criteria).

Thus, when I tried to get in, the audition process was the most grueling of any audition I have gone through in my professional career.

Which raises a few hackles from some churchgoers.

I took a call a few weeks back from an actress who wished to star in our short videos, and needed to know what time we met so she could show up and start being used. She was offended to her core when I told her that we held auditions – she believes strongly that to do so is anti-Christian.

The final straw for her was when I described the responsibilities of group membership, which included all members pitching in and helping out on our shoots – even actors have to pull cable.

That brought the accusation that we obviously were not a “loving” group of people. She slammed the phone down on me; and it was reported that she then called to complain to the church and withdrew her attendance – based on the notion of the drama group holding auditions and expecting their members to be servants.

I’m going to ignore the whole “I’m a star, not a production assistant” question. If you’re a star and not a p.a., good for you – but please for the sake of Christ’s Bride, stay away from the Church. Thank you.

So the next question: Is holding auditions anti-Christian?


As long as by “Christian” you are don’t mean anything dealing with “Christ,” but rather that watered down version where everything in life is “G” rated, sin doesn’t exist, the cross is pretty, and the defining virtue of Christianity is being “nice” at all costs – and I do mean at all costs.

But if you are talking about a Christianity defined as following Christ, then auditions are very much pro-Christian.

Here are some reasons that I believe this to be true (and, please, if anyone has a Biblical justification for why being selective in ministry is anti-Christian, let me know!)

We are called to give our first fruits to God. (Nehemiah 10:35-37)

When we give to the Lord, we are expected to give our best – not our leftovers. We are not called to eat, drink, party, go to the movies, have an ice cream cone, fill up the car with gas, play the slots, and then, if there is anything left over, tithe.

No, our tithes, our sacrifices and offerings are to be off the top – the best of what we have.

This seems to be commonly accepted. No one to my knowledge has suggested that we give less of our money to the Deacon’s fund, or that we intentionally give bad quality food to the soup kitchen, or that we look specifically for grumpy greeters and fiscally irresponsible accountants for the church staff.

In fact, I have never heard an argument made in ministry that we shouldn’t give God our first fruits

Except in the area of the arts.

And here I have heard repeatedly that God doesn’t care about our best when it comes to performance. We shouldn’t seek out the most qualified actors, directors, writers, etc.

God only cares about the heart, not quality; or so they say.

Which, by the way, is a lie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a “nice” lie, a feel good lie, a “gee it sounds good” lie. But it is indeed a lie – a taste of poison.

There is no Biblical exception for actors to the “give God our first fruits” ideal.

In fact, the opposite it true.

To be continued.

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, August 19, 2007


I’ve got ants in my freezer.

I don’t mean exotic, frozen chocolate covered treats. Ants have found their way into my freezer.

Hundreds of them, every day, find a way through all the seals into my freezer.

Where they die of the cold. And Cath or I clean them out, making room for the hundred or so more to follow, finding their way into our freezer to die.

As I understand it, ants don’t swarm until there is something to swarm about. One ant finds food, sends out word, and they orderly file up, get food, and file away.

They swarm our cat’s food. I get that.

They swarm the dishes that I forgot to clean last night. I get that.

But what is the advantage of mass freezercide?

Is it a cult thing? Is there a Jim Jones ant who can’t find Kool-aid?

Or is it a misguided quest for the mother lode – a Ponce de Leant leading followers toward a mythical fountain of food?

Cath thinks that we are now the owners of the Legendary Ant Graveyard, where all ants go to die. Doesn't look anywhere near as awe-inspiring as the elephant version.

The bigger question is – how does one stop suicidal ants? We have wiped down the edges with a mint spray, which doesn’t seem to take.

For obvious reasons, we are reluctant to Raid our fridge. (Pun unintended. But I like it. So let's pretend I intended the pun.)

Alas. Perhaps we should just take it as a blessing and learn to like frozen chocolate-covered ants.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, August 17, 2007

Where To Read Harry...

Here's the lake house we stayed in for the first weekend in Atlanta. Focus on the second floor balcony...

Now put a book the size of the Manhattan phone directory in this young lady's hands, and you have an idea of how the first few days of reading were spent.

Bonus picture: a cute couple on the lake.

Just my pix,


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Long Time No Write

So, it’s been two weeks.

Wish I had great excuses for no blogging in that time. I do have a few mediocre ones…

Started with a trip to Atlanta – I’m consulting with ArtWithin, who commissioned five screenplays over the past year. The writers are on draft 4ish; and with each draft, I give my feedback.

This time the feedback came with table reads (with a full complement of actors) and workshops – a full week of working on the five scripts.

When negotiating my pay for this gig, Cath suggested that one perk I should demand is that AW pay to send her with me on one of the trips; a perk that backfired as Cath had to spend a week in record breaking heat and humidity. That’ll teach her for wanting to spend time with me!

The work was productive; as was some of the down time. Both Cath and I finished a certain tome on a boy wizard; the title escapes me. Something about a deadly Halloween, or something. I’m sure you wouldn’t have heard of it.

Must say Cath had the best of the reading time – sitting on the porch of a lake house under a fan, facing the water while visiting a world of elves and dragons and people whose names shouldn’t be mentioned (no, really, don’t mention them this time).

I finished the final chapters between script meetings and writer’s exercises and Bible studies. Still worth it.

I moved on from there to Gogol’s DEAD SOULS – colorful, fantasy Hogwarts to colorful, satirical Russia. Not a bad leap.

And Cath grew more active in the screenplay development process, lending her acting chops to the readings. She soon became highly requested by the authors, lending her craftsmanship to driving the readings and providing much needed color.

Oh, and I managed to squeeze in a little re-writing on some shorts as well.

So that’s my excuse for the first week of silence…

More later.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, August 03, 2007

Young Marrieds

Yesterday on Fresh Air (NPR) during an interview with Pegi Young, they played part of an interview with her husband, singer/writer Neil Young.

My sister Michelle introduced me to Neil Young, and I think fondly of her whenever I hear him. Which has nothing to do with this blog.

In the clip, Neil talked about his marriage, pointing out how unusual it was for a guy in his profession to be with the same wife for twenty-five years. I really like some of the reasons he gave for why his marriage worked – especially as I see similar qualities in my own marriage.

Here are my paraphrases of his words:

1) They aren’t a conventional couple – not following stereotypical roles.

From this I gathered that instead of following standard or expected roles, they molded their partnership specifically to best meet their needs – the marriage is designed to be their marriage.

2) Pegi did not insist or expect him to “settle down” upon marriage.

I don’t think this meant that he was irresponsible; instead he seemed to be getting at the commonly held notion that once someone is married, they need to become someone else – a new person. Instead, Pegi and Neil allowed each other to be the person they courted.

3) They changed and adapted over time – together.

People change, and these two gave each other grace to do so. Instead of seeing change as a threat, or even a disappointment, strong couples see change as part of the mutual adventure.

Albert Einstein said: “Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed.”

4) His marriage made him more free as an artist.

Rather than restricting him, Pegi freed him creatively. This was evident in the interview with her, when she was asked about songs that Neil wrote about her. She confessed that there aren’t many songs that are just about her; many have her in it, but they are about other people as well.

And she was proud of that; clearly understanding that the art needs to be bigger than her – heck, bigger than Neil – if it was truly to be art. Many a spouse would be prouder if they were the center; the true partner propels their spouse beyond the “me.”

So that is my paraphrase, as well as my interpretation of what I thought Mr. Young was getting at. He is surely blessed with the partnership he has received and nurtured.

And so am I.

Today, Catherine and I celebrate eleven years of life collaboration.

Thank you, buddy, for making me better than I could possibly be alone.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Little Drac Music

As I mentioned earlier, this weekend was my THE DRACULA FILES: DERRICK'S VISIT shoot.

My first time directing on video (I've directed live before). A good time was had by all.

My two days of shooting both finished on time; and I got the shots I needed.

I also got the help I needed, with a load of volunteers -- from my church drama group, my writing group, my wife's acting class, a couple of interns from my friend Mike's company, and even a kid from a college in Canada (where I shared my Drac vision -- and was greatly encouraged to move forward).

Here's a few snaps of me in action. Oh, under the table? Don't ask, don't tell.