Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All the World




I fell in love with her watching her try to balance two boyfriends, all the while trying to convince her parents she was dating a third guy.

If you think that sounds like a plot to a zany rom com, you are half right. I fell in love with her watching her play a character that was trying to balance two guys…

There’s a lot of joy to be found in being married to an actress (the angst I’ll save for another blog). Not the least of which is getting to see them working hard at play.

Each character my wife takes on is an act of creation. She played a sculptress once; and that is an apt description of being an actress, using her own frame and psyche as her clay.

To her most empathetic characters, she always seems to take a part of herself – a better part of herself – and give it to the role. So I get to see the best of her – her humor, compassion, wit, vulnerability – played out in another character.

And I get to fall in love with her all over again.

I try to think of which role is my favorite – a lost cause really. I just get lost in memories of being made to laugh (Essie), or moved with the painful beauty of a moment (Bella), or forced to think deeper (Kathleen), or just plain transported in pleasure (June).

I had the privilege of seeing her in a short film recently.

Ah.

She was playing a woman older that her age – she actually auditioned for a different part, but was so compelling to the director that she was cast as the lead.

Playing older in Hollywood is a tricky thing for most actors. So many are sensitive to their age, they won’t play older – in fact, most actresses over thirty will resist playing their own age!

And those that do can often be seen to “act” – either pushing to appear so much older, as if to say to the audience “I’m young, but talented enough to play old!”

Or they try to play younger than both the character and themselves, hoping, I suppose, that casting directors view the film thinking, “Why did they miscast that sweet young thing as a fifty year old? She can’t be a day over fifteen!”

Catherine’s approach wasn’t about how old she appeared to be. She didn’t push older, or younger. She just-

Was.

As an actress she brought a comfort in her own skin that was shockingly inspiring. It allowed the discomfort that her character felt to bubble to the surface, and dribble out like tears.

The trait of Catherine’s that she gifted this creation: vulnerability.

There is a moment in the action, when the character – a mother staid in her ways, views and years – opens herself up to an intimate audience: her daughter. And there is a close-up of Catherine’s face in that moment –

Exposed.

Defenseless.

Fragile.

And heart breaking.

And I fell in love with her all over again.

Tomorrow, my wife who is already so beautiful, becomes one year more so. And seeing where she is with her craft right now, I can’t begin to describe how excited I am at getting to be by her side as the future unfolds.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Odyssey in Ulysses Part Six: Ithaca, At Last! So, Where’s the Mall

Done. Finished.

James Joyce’s epic monolith is now behind me.

It was a long hard journey, reading this book. Unsure of the whether the waters were safe, hitting chapters I would have sworn I would never get out of, losing so many companions along the way.

But now I’ve made it home. Things I learned along the way:

-Joyce was a genius. Sure I knew that already, having been told.

But the depth of political/social/religious commentary crammed into every page, all while mirroring classic texts, art styles, and scientific reasoning. Wow.

-A mind’s a terrible thing to waste. I mean, yeah it’s brilliant, but it’s unreadable!

This book is a gift, to be sure, but one that can be enjoyed or utilized by so few.

Imagine if he channeled all that power into writing comic books, or episodes of “Hannah Montana.” Then he really would have rocked the world.

-Golfers and fisherman are notorious liars, but they have nothing on the people that claim to have read this book.

If you meet anyone bragging they they read ULYSSES in high school, they are flat out lying.

If they say they read it for a college class, what they mean is that they read an excerpt, skimmed Cliff Notes, and listened to their professor talk about the book. By the way, the professor never read it either.

If they say they read it for a graduate class, and they sigh and look off in the distance as if to contemplate on all the good that could have been done with those wasted years, then you have a winner. They actually read the book.

-You can’t always count on your friends when you want to be miserable.

I would complain about how horrible a chapter is to Vicki (who was reading slightly behind me for a while). Like a good friend, she commiserated with me, dreading having to go through those same pages in the near future.

Then a day or so later, she would say, “Were you kidding? I loved that chapter – it was so funny! And deep – did you notice how he was parodying orthodox and liberal catechisms throughout this section? ”

And all the fun of griping would go away.

-No one else understands.

I wrangled with Andrea about it at the same time (I later discovered) that Vicki was arguing with Cory about it.

“If you hate reading it so much, why continue?”

The simple answer is: because.

Because I’ve read it this far already and don’t want to feel like a quitter.

Because it is brilliant, and good exposure.

Because if I quit now, I will never try it again.

Because, like the mountain, it is there, and so few before me have conquered it.

Because I am humbled by it, and yet still able to feed my pride.

And most importantly, because Jack led the way, tying himself to the mast when necessary, laying the course between Scylla and Charybdis.

We could never leave our captain behind.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hold the Church...

This past Sunday, our missions pastor was given a tricky task.

Our sermon series is entitled, “Give me Jesus… Hold the Church.” Enoch was assigned the sermon: “The church should back off.”

Which, he pointed out, if he were successful in preaching to us, we would no longer have use of a missions pastor and his job would be eliminated.

Of course his sermon was much more complex than a simple, “the church should back off.” (The sermon should be available here in a day or two.)

His major point was that the world needs and wants the love of Jesus, but they don’t see that love in the Church. We may start out looking like Jesus, but we paint our faces so we look “better.”

And we end up looking more like clowns than Jesus.

We need to approach our lives, our mission, our ministry, with selflessness, humility and obedience. Otherwise, we end up putting our emphasis on the wrong things; and I would say, start to look at “success” in a twisted way.

He retold the story of Thomas Aquinas and Pope Innocent (not likely a true story, by the by…)

The Pope was giving a tour of the Vatican to Thomas Aquinas. The pope showed Thomas the extravagant artwork, the vaults of treasures, all of the wealth of the church on display.

With a smile, the Pope said, “Thomas, no longer do we have to say to the world, ‘Silver and gold have I none”

“True,” Thomas sadly replied. “Also we can no longer say to the lame, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.’”

Ouch.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Odyssey in Ulysses Part Five: Penelope, Or: Hey, Lady, Take a Breath Already!

The good news: I am eight sentences away from finally finishing ULYSSES.

The bad news: the first sentence contains 2,500 words. And that's the short one.

Oh, and no punctuation within those sentences.

My teachers always rebuked me for run-on sentences.

I now imagine myself being confronted by Miss Peterson.

“That is a run on sentence,” she would accuse, stabbing a finger at my paper.

“Well, read this!” I would rejoin, stabbing a finger at episode eighteen.

Then the other kids and I would go out and play. We would return a day and half later, to find her just finishing the sentence.

“Well,” she would say, somewhat ruffled. “When you are as famous as James Joyce, I will give you a better grade!”

And I would take my paper back, secure in the knowledge that a day and a half on the playground was worth the B minus.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dalai Dalliance

Okay, I can never catch up on my friends’ blogs. It’s not just that they write way too much (they do), but they are also way too interesting.

I get sucked in, lose track of time, forget to release the pressure valve on the nuclear reactor, blow up Springfield, and, well, after that things start to get bad.

And thus went today, as I tried to catch up on Jeff Overstreet’s blog.

First off, I learned that Michael Moore and I agree on something – only it took Mikey longer to figure Hillary out than I did.

And real world Homer is freaky looking.

But the thing that really made me sit back and wonder, “What do I think about that?” was this post.

Go on, scoot over to Jeff’s blog and read it. I’ll wait.

I’m waiting…

Okay, so you only skimmed it. Let me fill you in: a public school made all the kids go to a talk by the Dalai Lama, and made them wear pro-Buddhism t-shirts.

A parent wrote a letter to the paper, pointing out that this action on the part of the schools seems a tad hypocritical, considering that if the leader in question were a Christian, this would never be allowed.

So here’s what I came up with after sitting back and pondering:

I gotta go with G. K. Chesterton on this one.

"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it."

I’d hate for my kid to miss a chance to hear a talk by the Dalai Lama.

And I would want my kid to get a chance to chat with the Pope if he were in town.

In fact, if I ran the world, I would make it a standard part of the school year to hear from different religious leaders. Hey, I would be a bit picky, but still open.

I agree with the letter writer’s frustration that only other people’s religion is appropriate for the public square; but I think I would have kept my mouth shut for fear of restricting religion even more by my complaint.

You can be sure that the ACLU will be suing (or someone looking for notoriety or money will) – and you can be sure that the next time a major world leader is in town, the schools will think twice before exposing their charges to an outsider.

And that makes me a little sad.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Monday, April 21, 2008

April Showers

Behind in some of my quests for the month of April. Here's a mid-month report card:

Posting mid-month report card: six days late.

Stepping Out - Work sponsored event to get us desk jockeys walking a healthy average of 10,000 steps a day. Current average: 6,300. That's fewer steps then when I started...

Script Frenzy - Nonprofit writer support, attempting to get writers to complete 100 pages of script in a month. My current count: 30 pages.

James Joyces' ULYSSES - Book club finished it in February; I started in November. Two chapters left to go -- out of 18 chapters total.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich -- this month's book club book. Finished it.

The Tummy Thing -- attempting to lose a bit of the spare tire before taking Cath to Catalina at the end of the month. So far: gained weight.

Cath's birthday -- hoping to get plans for the celebration done before the actual date. Doing well here -- figured out the party and the present. Of course, Cath had to plan both of those... but I helped!

BADD -- was assigned two sketches that fell due in April. Wrote two, just not the two assigned. Only half way there.

Act One applications -- read all application material before deadline. Got it done with hours to spare.

Act One Saturdays -- keep ahead of small group reading material. So far, so good. Of course, we are in the one page synopsis phase. But I'll take it...

Reading -- finish book of essays borrowed from neighbor; one essay to go. Finish reading Ulysses companion book borrowed from friend; see above. Start reading book on church philosophy borrowed from friend -- hah! Haven't started, so there.

Blog -- keep posting at least every weekday. Oops.

Twitter -- figure out how to use that web feature. Can't remember how to log in.

Drac project -- finish writing first twenty eps of an online series; finish post-production on prequel short film. Uh, no and not yet.

Lost and Such -- stay up on viewing my stories -- especially those that friends talk about around me. 3 episodes behind on Lost; 2 episodes behind on John Adams; finally caught up with Battlestar, unless -- oh fiddlesticks (I'm too old fashioned to say "frak"). Was there a new episode on Friday? Don't tell me what happens!

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Soul of Wit



Cath got me a Brevity day calendar for my work desk. I never heard of it before -- but now I am hooked on this strip by Guy and Rodd.


Just thougtht I would share.


-Sean

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Odyssey in Ulysses Part Four: Lotuscation, Lotuscation, Lotuscation

Our book club met to talk over the first half of James Joyce’s ULYSSES a bit back.

I think James would have approved of our evening, as the conversation met three Joycian characteristics:

1) There was alcohol involved.
2) It was random and wacky
3) No one understand a thing anyone else said.

You see, we decided to meet in a pub, really being the only way to discuss ULYSSES. What we hadn’t realized was that the pub added a live band to its intimate setting.

With our table right next to the band, or more to the point right next to the band’s very large speakers, it was nearly impossible to hear each other.

Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Bob: (shouting) Is anyone going to have a hard lemonade or a Guinness?

Jack: (shouting) Of course he was. He had to be with all those references to history and literature.

Me: (shouting) What?

Heather: (shouting) No thanks, I’m fine over here.

Bob: (shouting) So that’s one beer. Should I get a pitcher?

Jack: (shouting) My version didn’t have any. Just text.

Me: (shouting) What?

Heather: (shouting) I agree, even though the Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t that crude.

Bob: (shouting) Lets finish ordering the drinks first, then we can settle on food.

Me: I don’t think I was reading the same book as any of you guys.

Eventually we realized that the pub wouldn’t work, so we moved to a cafĂ©. The conversation seemed to go smoother.

Jack talked about the history of publication, then showed a map of Dublin marking Mr. Bloom’s journey through the book.

Heather talked about the parallels to Homer’s work, and the choice to directly mirror some characters while only superficially echoing others.

Bob dissected some of the authors and literary forms that Joyce was emulating and then deconstructing.

Vicki spoke about how each chapter not only represented a chapter from THE ODYSSEY, but also an art form, color and body organ.

And my contribution:

Me: (shouting) What?

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Friday, April 11, 2008

Heretical Footprints

Just the other day, I got a response to an old, old post, where I re-imagine myself in the “Footprints In the Sand” poem. You may want to re-visit the original post for context.

Anonymous says: "This post and these comments insinuate that we are to try as hard as we can and then Jesus picks up where we leave off. The Gospel is entirely about us brining nothing to the table and that we are in need of total rescue--Jesus does it all. Unfortunately, this idea of pulling ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps is an echo of the heresy pelagiansim. To be fair, it's semi-pelagianism."


I say:

Wow, I’m a heretic! Cool!

Hey, it’s not that I’m taking the admonition lightly; I just think Anonymous is making stuff up. As long as G-d doesn’t count me a heretic, I’m not worried.

First off, Anonymous isn’t really talking about Pelagianism at all.

Pelagius’ heresy (as I understand it) involved salvation, and my little exercise in imagination doesn’t even touch on salvation, merely how we live life. Eternal salvation is all Jesus, all grace. No question.

Pelagianism also says “without Jesus” – and my story is clear that Jesus is there all along (leaning, pulling). “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…”

So Anonymous’ complaint really is the issue of walking – that to say “though I walk through the valley” is in and of itself heresy, because it implies we walk. And, for a lot of La-Z-Boy Christians, Jesus does all the walking here.

The claim that the gospels are all about us bringing nothing to the table, that there is to be no effort in life on our part, that we aren’t to even try to act Christ-like (Jesus does it all for us!) – I’ve never seen any of that in the Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

Cheap grace is popular – very, very popular. But it just plain isn’t Biblical.

Jesus said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me can not be my disciple.” (Luke 14)

I don’t see anywhere in the gospels where He says, “Don’t sweat picking up your cross, and don’t even bother following me – we’re good!”

Other things that Jesus never said:

“Go, and sin some more if you feel like it – it’s all on me!”

“Whosoever did this to the least of my brothers, boy were they wasting their time! I don’t care about what you do or don’t do!”

“I tell you this, whosoever looks at his brother in anger… so what? Like it’s any of my business.”

“Who was this man’s neighbor? So go, and don’t bother doing likewise.”

“Go ye into all the world, and… Just kidding!”

I don’t even want to start on the things that Paul never said, like “don’t sweat perseverance. It’s overrated.”

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Talented Author Ripley

Just discovered this on the flap of a book I'm entering into archives, by Clements Ripley from 1942:

"As to my writing methods," says Mr. Ripley, "I sit down and look at a piece of paper and wonder who ever told me I was a writer. I never start a story without feeling that everything I wrote before was pure fluke. I write and revise and tear up and rewrite..."

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Vote Early, and Vote Twice!

For today, I'm going political and telling you which candidate I support.

Not in the presidential election, but a local one. Usually I don't care about local elections -- my votes for school board or local judge is usually decided by a coin toss. But not this one.

For any of you that reside in Gotham, vote Dent for District Attorney.


I was excited to hear that Harvey Dent was running -- he is tough on crime, and isn't willing to cow-tow to all the two-faced politicians that currently run the city.

I feel pretty confident that the city would be safer with Harvey running things.

It couldn't hurt, right?

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sweet Rayn


One thing that you should remember is that she chose me.

I’m not a cat person, really. Or much of a pet person in general.

Sure we always had cats or dogs or hamsters or even the occasional bunny around the house.

I have some pretty cool stories about Husky (the dog that got mistaken for a wolf), or Columbo (the dog that could see ghosts) or Tuffy (the dog that redirected traffic).

So I enjoyed pets all my life – but they were family pets or owned by one of the sibs.

I only had one pet before River and Rayn – a duck named Richard.

Richard (never Dick the duck – don’t even try it) was a result of a second grade class experiment with heat lamps and eggs. He didn’t make it through the fire that took our house near the end of that school year.

And so another thirty years before I took in another pet.

Technically River and Rayn are family pets, belonging (if cats can belong, which they can’t) to both Catherine and I. But it was pretty much unspoken agreement that I was a little more Rayn’s, because, well, she chose me.

When we were at the foster home checking out the rescued kitties, Rayn came and sat in my lap – something apparently she didn’t do to strangers. And River immediately went to Cath and started playing with her.

Leaving no question that these kitten siblings were coming home with us.

In the early days, Cath was a bit jealous, as Rayn would cuddle in my lap but not hers. Rayn was very particular, and had to be the chooser – Cath’s attempts to force a lap sitting were rebuffed.

But when the girl decided that my wife was okay – from then on they were fast friends.

In fact, Rayn rivaled me in some areas for Cath’s affection. My wife, ever ready to be a guest of James Lipton, always made clear that her favorite sound was my laugh.

I was informed one evening that her second favorite sound was Rayn’s purr – a deep rumbly purr that shook the mattress with the force of its contentment.

Rayn’s favorite position in the night was pushed up between my shoulder and my neck, where we could feel each other’s pulse, and match the rhythm of each other’s breathing.

With her body pressed to my ear, that purr of hers would make my skull vibrate. One would think such a racket would prevent sleep – but it was a soothing racket, a joyful noise as it were.

I was thinking about that purr today as I held her in my lap. It had been nearly two weeks since she stopped eating and drinking; her bones stuck up through her skin, her legs too wobbly to support her for more than a few steps at a time.

And that purr, that monster roar of satisfaction, had been greatly diminished – she simply didn’t have the strength for it. Cath could hear it only when putting her own ear to Rayn’s emaciated belly.

We sat together, Rayn in my lap, Cath leaning in, River making slow passes up and between us – giving up his normal rambunctiousness for a respect, somehow understanding the weight of the moment.

It was a vigil, that sitting, waiting for the time to arrive so we could deny it, then face it.

She let me carry her to the car – Rayn did not like to be carried; she went where she wished when she wished. But she hadn’t the strength to resist my arms, and I hadn’t the strength to allow any other means of transport.

The receptionist wanted to take a picture, she thought we were so cute sitting in the waiting area – me with the cat sprawled across my lap on into Catherine’s arms. That was another pleasure of Rayn’s – to find a way to be in physical contact with both of us at once.

The receptionist wanted to take a picture.

I wanted to run screaming.

I wanted to rail and cry.

I wanted to be back home lying in bed watching tv, with half the screen blocked and yet unwilling to shift that hot ball of fur scrunched up into my neck into a better position.

But today wasn’t a day for my wants.

I got to hold her at the end; Cath as well. A last chance to feel her pulse, to synch my breath with hers.

That last breath was a purr, not deep rumble, but a final sigh.

I’m not much of a cat person, but I will readily admit that I was and am a Rayn person.

There was something about that girl, who made me aware of my own pulse…

Who synched me with her breath of life…

Who helped me understand the rumble of contentment…

Who gave me the purr of just sitting still and knowing…

Who, it should be remembered, chose me.

Go well, sweet Rayn.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Fishy April 1st

Here’s a few tidbits from some fellas at work:

Jonathan shared this bit of history:

“At my son's school they celebrated "Poison d'Avril" by making paper fish and then sticking them on people's backs. The origins of April Fools Day is that in the olden days the French would stuff the pockets of unsuspecting passersby with smelly fish.”

I think I now understand some of those Monty Python French references now.

This is a quote that David saw fit to pass on:

“Imitation is the sincerest form of television.” -Fred Allen

Speaking of quotes, Jason – who has the job of coming up with a quote for our department, found this one:

“Now and then an innocent man is sent to the legislature.” -Kin Hubbard

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Great Scott, Walter!

Truly random thoughts:

I am holding in my hands a book (no, I’m not – I’m typing. I’m being figurative. I was holding, and continue to lift into my hands a book while my fingers are not otherwise engaged in telling you what I’m doing.)

The book is Sir Walter Scott’s LADY OF THE LAKE.

A few things caught my attention.

The book is Scott’s poem, as edited and interpreted by a guy named Black who dedicated it to a lady named Agnes, and includes illustrations from Newton. The book, according to the note in the cover, was a gift from Mr. Beach to Mr. Dunlap, was later (30 yrs) owned by a Meadows, and then a J.L, before becoming property of my studio.

And now I am using time (paid!) skimming merrily through the lines of Scott and the Versification notes of Black.

Makes me happy that this particular edition traveled through so many hands.

Beach, the giver of the book, has the first name of Adalbut. Dunlap was christened Elmer.

We still have Elmers, but I don’t know any Adalbuts. I’m guessing Adalbut got beat up in junior high more than Elmer.

Beach made it a gift on October 12 – my birthday.

In 1929 – a wee bit before my birth year.

The gift of literature would come, then, 12 days before the start of the great Wall Street crash.

“”T is merry, ‘t is merry, in Fairy-land,
When fairy birds are singing…”

“…And woe betide the fairy dream.
I only waked to sob and scream.”

Inside the cover is a studio stamp, and the handwritten request: “Return to Story Dept.”

Only the “S” looks more like a “G.”

I like to think I work for the Glory Department. In fact, I want new business cards.

Just my thoughts,

Sean