Monday, December 28, 2009

Becca By The Book


Having friends who are authors expands my reading horizons, as I take an interest in books that might not have otherwise caught my eye – whether that be a book of wacky quotes (CRAZY JANET) or chick-lit murder mysteries (KILLER COCKTAIL).


And thus it was a friendly author that got me to read BECCA BY THE BOOK, a “Getaway Girl” novel from a Christian publishing imprint.


I trusted author Laura Jensen Walker when she asked me to read the book, because I knew her witty writing from her cancer-survivor novel (RECONSTRUCTING NATALIE), and because she knew me – mostly that I had little interest in chick-lit (unless someone is murdered, thank you Sheryl), romance (unless in comedy, preferably starring Sandra Bullock) or contemporary Christian fiction that has prominent shelf space at Christian book stores.


Laura knows me, and she said don’t worry. And I needn’t have.


Chick-lit? Not so bad, as Becca, the heroine/narrator of BECCA BY THE BOOK is not girly (like her roommate Kailyn).


Mushy romance? Again, nope, as Becca is not defined by her search for a mate.


Christian fiction? Here’s where Laura did me proud: Becca is decidedly not a Christian. The novel does take her into that world, but as an outsider looking in, with plenty of comedic ammunition to prevent this from becoming a “this is for the choir” type book.


It is Laura’s comedic pov that makes this book a delightful read. The Getaway Girl books are about a women’s book club; each book is from the point of view of a different member, this one being Becca’s turn.


Snarky, non-conformist, and “says what I’m thinking” honest, she finds herself in trouble when she makes a bet with her club to prove she can commit: the next guy to ask her out gets three months before being shown the door.


Except the next guy to ask her out is churchy (Becca isn’t), and insists that most of their dates be to church functions. And that’s where the fun flies, as Becca gets to play “guess the famous woman of faith” at the high tea (who the heck is Esther and how come she doesn’t have a last name – is she like Madonna or Cher or something?), spend a long ride in the van with Bible thumper Donald (who just loves to hide Bible tracks in her pockets), and walk through the kitsch sales aisle at the Church Convention (“Blood of the Savior Red” nail polish, anyone? If only such things were confined to fiction…)


As Becca searches for her own sense of meaning, it helps to have a sense of humor along for the ride. And this is an enjoyable ride.


Along the way, Becca makes a list of Christian phrases that she doesn’t understand, so her churchy friends can help translate. The “Getaway Girls Guide to Christianese” is included in the back of the book, and worth the read all of its own.


My favorite: “Be in the world and not of: Kind of like Lucky Charms cereal; there are lots of pretty marshmallows in with the cereal, but they’re not the same. So live with the cereal, but remember: you’re a pretty marshmallow.”


Here’s hoping some smart publisher gets Laura to expand the Guide to book length.


Just my thoughts,


Sean

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Games Are Afoot

Tripoly. Miles Bourne. Quelf. Taboo. Phase Ten. Apples to Apples. Ping Pong tournament (Team Motrichell rules!).

Even with a day of the icks, still a great Oregon vacation.

Merry pre-Christmas to me!

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tonight You Will Be Visited By The Ghost Of Virus Past...

The thing is, part of the joy of spending the holidays with Mary is the chance to get the extra layer of winter fat as Mary is a great cook/baker. However after spending the majority of my first night of vacay negotiating with the grand porcelain attorney in hopes of getting out of a deal with a stomach bug I somehow contracted, I fear my stay will be dominated by Gatorade and dry white toast as others will have to cover my share of the goodies. 'Tis the season...

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Documentary Style Acting Class - For Realsies

I'm really finding Betty & DD's School of Acting Arts to be eye-openers -- where were they when I was studying back in the day?

This class is on documentary acting (after their success earlier with hidden camera acting, which was supposed to be documentary style but hit a snag or two).

I still think the first girl is cute -- but man does she have troubles!

Enjoy!

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Can't Dance, Can't Sing, Can Act - A Little

Here's your chance (I can tell you were waiting for one) to see me act.

Our church drama group did a series of shorts, each in a different style, retelling the parables. Here's the last part of the Prodigal Son story, done as a Shakespearean Drama.

Enjoy.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas When He Already Owns a Comb?

Been that kind of day -- where it's either shots of stuff from that bottle under Jason's desk that's so old the label has fallen off and no one remembers what kind of liquor it used to be, or repeated viewings of cute (see here) in the hopes of a contact giggle high.

But it could be worse.

I could have been the one responsible for "Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album."

Warning: I-Mockery is a bit salty in his review, so some of you might want to just find the link to click that allows you to listen to C3PO sing to R2-D2's harmonies and skip the rest.

The music is especially useful if you've never heard of bells and wonder what they might signify.

Or if you thought that the Star Wars Holiday Special was as low as the long, long time ago property could sink. (I await the Jar-Jar Easter Extravaganza.)

Enjoy, and think as I do, "Wow, it really could be worse..."

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Thanksgiving Blog Post...

...Is to not natter away at you.

Instead, I direct you to Stephan Pastis, cartoonist creator of Pearls Before Swine, as he ties thankfulness and his recent USO trip to Iraq.

Peace.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Friday, November 20, 2009

Southern Churchpatality - Part 2

For Part One go here.

Now that the issue of my sister-in-law’s health (Say-rah, bless her heart) had been settled, Catherine and I thought we were done.

But this being the South, and politeness being key, we needed a chance to feel included.

“WOULD Y’ALL LIKE TO JOIN US AND SING IN THE CHOIR THIS MORNING?”

I made the mistake of laughing, as I assumed she was joking.

You see, choirs wear robes, and rehearse – typically on Thursday nights. (The Thursday night rehearsal is a time-honored tradition, started ages ago by pastors trying to get their congregants to stop watching FRIENDS.)

As I didn’t have a robe, and didn’t rehearse, well, she must have been joking, right?

ARE Y’ALL SURE? THERE’S PLENTY OF ROOM UP THERE.”

She nodded to the choir loft, off to the right of the pulpit.

We knew it was the choir “loft” even though it didn’t “loft” – it was a flat area. But it had chairs facing sideways, and was partially obscured by on old non-pipe organ; hence it qualified as “loft.”

Knowing full well that they couldn’t possibly use the number of seats in the loft as their only audition requirement, we declined a second time.

That’s when I caught sight of my brother, behind the altar doing whatever it is that pastor interns do before Southern protestant services (my guess, changing the wine back into grape juice through a holy process called “trans-sub-standardization”).

He was smiling a “just you wait and see smile.”

Which we understood after the service got underway.

There were less than twenty congregants total, scattered throughout the church.

No one, however, was in the choir loft.

No one, that is, until the pastor made the announcement,

“And now, our choir will gift us with a few hymns.”

At which point every person in the church, aside from my wife and me, stood up, walked to the choir loft and took a seat.

Every. Single. Person.

Once they all settled into their seats, the choir director turned and addressed the audience (both of us) with an “Our first hymn will be number 23.”

The choir flipped through their hymn books, giving away their lack of rehearsal with exclamations like:

“Oh, an oldie but goodie.”

And

“I don’t think I know this one.”

Okay. So this is a group with their Thursday nights free.

Cath and I did a pretty good job at keeping a straight face at the oddity of the situation.

Luke, up in the choir loft, didn’t even try; he laughed and praised, especially after the choir director invited the congregation to sing along with the choir on the second chorus of #76, "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms."

Both of us obliged.

When they finished struggling and sight-reading their way through four hymns – including the special music selection of #276 "Oh Happy Day" in honor of the pianist’s birthday – they all got up and found their way back to their scattered seats, no longer the choir, just congregants.

Like all the rest of us.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conflict of Ideas and Desires

From Go Into the Story, this quote:

"Very often my films are about the conflict between our ideas and our desires, and that's where the drama is for me. We know how we're supposed to act, but we're constantly in rebellion against the things we've been taught, and our hearts and bodies are telling us other things. That's true from Body Heat right through to Wyatt Earp--you have an idea of how you should live your life, but it's very difficult to live up to that. That's the material that interests me."

-- Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat, The Bodyguard)

Reminiscent of St. Paul, eh? "I do what I don't want to do..."

Wonder if he wrote movies instead of letters all the time, what interesting conflicts he might have come up with.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Southern Churchpatality

Over at Stuff Christians Like, Jon is talking about choirs.

Which puts me in mind of a choir Cath and I encountered in Georgia.

We were visiting my brother, Luke (pre-USMC days). He was interning with the Pastor of three (or was it four) rural churches.

Sarah (Say-ruh, as the congregants would say) stayed home that Sunday, feeling under the weather. But Cath and I showed up to support baby bro.

Now, I find visiting churches to always be awkward affairs.

There’s always the fear that of making the faux pas – singing the verse designated by tradition as “women only,” or kneeling when everyone else stands, or going for the hug during the passing of the peace when by “peace” they mean “manly handshake.”

So the game plan for my lovely wife and I was to hang out in the back, mix in with the crowd, and be invisible.

That was the plan. Blend in. Be invisible.

Right.

When we first stepped into the sanctuary (“sanctuary” – isn’t that supposed to mean “safe refuge?”), our invisibility cloaks failed as we were called out by the eighty-year old greeter.

Not so odd, as most churches have greeters, and they are usually older. Where do you think they train for Wal-Mart?

But usually the greeter is at the door.

Here the greeter was at the front of the church. We were at the door in the back.

And the conversation reverberated in between, bouncing off the two or three other people that were there.

WELL, HOWDY Y’ALL!”

“Uh, hello.”

“Y’ALL MUST BE LUKE’S FAMILY. WELCOME!”

“Uh, thanks.”

“WHERE’S SAY-RUH?”

“Oh, she’s not feeling well.”

“BLESS HER HEART, POOR THING.”

Fortunately we were interrupted by another congregant entering behind us.

Did I say fortunately? I need to get me a dictionary.

This lady had about ten years on the greeter, which manifested itself in greater hearing loss.

“Well, hello, and who do we have here?”

“THAT’S LUKE’S FAMILY.”

The greeter apparently felt it part of her duties to introduce us.

She didn’t feel it part of her duties to move any closer to us or the door.

I think maybe she was guarding her favorite pew spot.

“WHO?”

“LUKE! LUKE! LAAA-UUUUKE!”

“THIS ISN’T LUKE!”

“Hi, I’m Luke’s brother.”

WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO?”

I didn’t answer, as the question wasn’t addressed to me.

“I DID. TURN UP YOUR HEARING AID!”

“WHERE’S SAY-RUH?”

Again, not addressed to me.

“SHE’S NOT FEELING WELL.”

“NOT FEELING WELL? BLESS HER HEART. IS SHE HURLING?

“I DON’T KNOW. IS SHE HURLING?”

That was addressed to me. What’s the protocol for discussing the internal going’s on of one’s sister-in-law-intern-patstor’s-wife?

“Uh…

“MAYBE IT’S COMING OUT THE OTHER SIDE. ASK IF IT’S THE OTHER SIDE.”

Mind you, the woman asking the greeter if it’s “the other side” is standing next to me.

And that the greeter who is about to ask me if it’s “the other side” is standing on the farther end of the sanctuary.

And that sanctuary does not in any way connote “safe refuge.”

“BLESS HER HEART. IS IT THE OTHER SIDE?”

The only positive I could think of that kept me from feeling total humiliation was that only a dozen people were in the church at the time; so at least this conversation wasn’t broadcast to the entire congregation.

That was before I learned that the entire congregation totaled – you guessed it – a dozen people.

To be continued…

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Monday, November 16, 2009

When Ads Go Bad ... Or The Truth in Pictures

Saw this ad in a Fitness Magazine:
Pretty simple ... take said product and lose weight.

But, wait, before you try to lose weight, you should notice the fine print.

Sorry ... it may be too fine for you to see. I'll transcribe:

*Dramatization. Results not typical. Cartoons lose weight easily. Real people require regular exercise and a reduced-calorie diet to lose weight." ...

YES! Seriously! It says CARTOONS LOSE WEIGHT EASILY!!

Really???

Just my weighty thoughts,
cath

Quote of the Day


The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling.

-Paula Poundstone



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's A Little Bit Country, It's A Little Bit of the Force...

I was always a big fan of the Donny & Marie Show.

And I really like Star Wars.

So, according to Hollywood logic, I should love this:



But no, it burns! It burns!

Thanks David, for helping destroy two childhood joys. (And y'all thought the Star Wars Christmas Special had a unique level of horrificitude!)

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Monday, November 09, 2009

Movie Charts

A comic teetering between brilliance and madness.

Click on the picture for large scale, then lose yourself in the character twists of the Lord of the Rings.

Brilliant.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hugo on Design


“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”


-Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Driving Innovation

If you're like me, you've had this kind of problem:

While typing a new scene in my script, I can't think of a good name for a new character. So I reach for my Bartleby's Book of Quotations (a much more interesting place to look for monikers than The Big Book of Baby Names); but grabbing Bartleby's isn't that easy, as it is tucked up on the dash on the passenger side of the car.

So while reaching for the book, I accidentally swerve into the oncoming traffic lane, and in my panic, my laptop -- which I was holding wedged between my gut and the steering wheel -- slips, and my gut (which I find increasingly more in the way these days) pushes the wrong buttons, and I lose my screenplay.

I can't tell you the number of times this sort of thing happens.

But that is because I hadn't heard of the Steering Wheel Laptop Desk. What a great idea! Now I have a safe place to use my computer and my resource books while driving!


Although motorcycle drivers should pay attention to some of the complaints about using the desk while driving your Harley.

Oh well, nothing's perfect.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Space Cowboy On Castle

I'm a fan of CASTLE.

I'm a fan of FIREFLY.

So I didn't know what I was really missing when my TIVO did not record the first half of the CASTLE Halloween episode.

Fortunately, I have friends who care, and I got to see this:



a. There are no cows in space...

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Speakin' at Beacon

I am, once again, speaking at Beacon. This coming Sunday, 12:30ish at Bel Air Pres.

The topic is: “Following G-d’s Dream: How to Find Contentment in Hollywood.”

I’ll be breaking down the Old Testament story of Joseph (you know, of the amazing Technicolor dreamcoat) for clues on how to survive and thrive in Tinseltown.

Kind of talk I need to hear myself repeatedly. I know, hard to believe when I live in a town that is so warm and embracing, and not at all prone to rejection.

So I guess that just shows how insecure I am.

So if you’re free on Sunday afternoon, come hear me be insecure.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

ps. Someday, I want to speak on Meditationes Sacrae, where the phrase "knowledge is power" originates. I have no interest in Meditationes; I just want to advertise that I'm "Speakin' at Beacon on Bacon." And if I can convince them to serve breakfast instead of lunch that day...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Taproot Stories


For those tracking the Taproot fire, below is an e-mail we got a few days after the fire from actor/friend Bob Gallaher. I share it with you for the hope and sense of community it offers.

Photo above is of the Taproot upper lobby (just to the right of the fireman is a photo of the original Taproot company). Photo below is a view of the restaurants next door as seen from a hole punched in the balcony. The theater needs a remodel -- complete new dry wall, flooring and carpeting, as well as other damage repair.

The building next door (which housed the coffee shop and three restaurants) will need to be completely gutted and rebuilt.

Taproot is looking for another space for their Christmas show; and are hoping to be back in their own space in time for the new season.

jmt,

Sean


Dear Friends and family:

It is a story of disaster and hope.

On Wed I worked as a “celebrity” wine pourer for a posh fund-raising event for Taproot Theatre. We served Washington grown Italian grapes locally bottled and donated by the case at the request of their friend, Brian Canlis (third-generation proprietor of the restaurant). Appetizers by “Upper Crust” caterers were served by Taproot staff, and it was held in the banquet room above the old Venetti’s. I poured a fantastic Sangovese (sp?). A call for support was answered with checkbooks and pledges. A good time was had by all.

Yesterday, I too awoke to the news of the fire. I contacted my friends and learned that the building was out of commission and I went over to see for myself and help load out the show. They had it done by the time I got there, and I took a heart-wrenching tour. Water and foam everywhere from the basement to the balcony. Holes chopped in walls, ceilings chopped or collapsed from water.

The fire began in the “Eleanor Roosevelt Building” adjacent to the East wall of the theatre between there and the beauty school building. Taproot owns the ERB and it housed three restaurants and a coffee house that all paid rent. The fire appears to have started in the coffee shop and the cause is unknown pending further investigation. Fortunately the fire wall prevented any extensive burning to the theatre, and the fire crews worked tirelessly to keep the fire from spreading.

Sue and I had comps to the matinee today. Seattle Children’s Theatre had stepped up and offered their fortuitously vacant venue for two shows today, along with a crew of technicians to help them set it up.

I got the whole run-down from Mark, the sleep-deprived sound/set/designer/builder/actor/genius/magician/director’s husband/and father of two who got the call at 4 AM Friday and who directed and executed the entire the-show-must-go-on response. His wife Karen, the show’s director, got the actors together to completely re-block for a much larger proscenium stage, while Mark patched in their sound equipment and set all the sound cues and effects and had the lights set and patched in to the board by the 2 PM curtain on Saturday. Unbelievable!

The show, a sell-out hit, was a triumph even in such adversity. The theme of the play has to do with seeking and finding beauty and joy and love even when those things seem inaccessible.

Although the short term response was a success, the mid-term outlook is going to be pretty overwhelming when they wake up tomorrow. There will undoubtedly be opportunities for volunteer mucker-outers and mopper-uppers, and I’ll do whatever I can. Nobody knows at this point what all must be done, but it will likely be months in the undertaking.

One interesting side note is that, originally, the plan was to redevelop the burned property into a second stage and rehearsal/class space. That proved to be too ambitious and was shelved indefinitely. They will get an insurance check to rebuild the theatre, as well as a check for the total loss of the Roosevelt Building and the cost of clearing it. Depending on what they owe on it, it could be a financial start to the expansion dream.

Just looking for the silver lining in what is a real disaster.

Bob

Friday, October 30, 2009

Costumes for the Holiday

Every year, I am surprised by how our nation, while normally not so publicly religious, really gets into tomorrow’s holiday – with costumes, decorations and rituals.

I of course am referring to Reformation Day, the day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the cathedral door.

So many cute Reformation Day traditions.

Like kids knocking on doors (reminiscent of the knocking made by Luther’s hammer), requesting mock indulgences (candy) for good behavior (not “tricking”).

Or pumpkin carving – an expression of the need to “clean out” the old ways while maintaining the structure of the religion.

Even our Starbucks, which doesn’t seem to do much for Easter, is all dressed up for the church this time of year.

I have to admit, I don’t always understand what some of the costumes I see have to do with Luther.

Some are obvious. Like vampires, mimicking the nature of eternal life through the Blood.

Or ghosts, clearly meant to reflect the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

Or the pro-Catholic costumes, such as a Frankenstein I saw (I assume to show the monstrous consequence if all of the reforms were incorporated into the body willy-nilly); and a Jekyll/Hyde costume (commenting on the fractious nature of the church with all the splitting going on).

Clever.

But I still don’t get what the sexy pirate costume has to do with reformation.

A little help here?

(Hold on, I’m being informed that there is another holiday on the same day… Oh, Halloween. Right. That makes a lot more sense.)

Never mind.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Documentary Style Acting Class

Every once in a while, an acting instruction technique rises up that revolutionizes the theatrical world.

Stanislavsky.

Adler.

Meisner.

Grotowski.

And now Betty and D.D.'s School of Acting Arts.

I think what caught my eye is their first tbd class to hit on-line: documentary style acting. I can't recall ever seeing any other teacher try to tackle that art form.

Here's the class -- I found it captivating. Well, maybe it's 'cuz I think the woman sitting center front in the class is hot. (Don't tell my wife.)



For more, check out the website for School of the Acting Arts.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm Gonna Let It Shine

I'm in a good mood right now.

I just had lunch with a guy I went to college with. I've seen him once in the past twenty five years before today.

He was a senior when I was a freshman -- and he was my idol. Unbeknownst to him, his influence on me played a large part in the choices I made then that have led to the life I have now.

And we got to hang out, to catch up, to rejoice in each others lives. And I got to confess to him how much our brief interaction oh so many years ago has resonated through to today.

Add to that -- I just archived an Errol Flynn script from 1936; and now have an early draft of PRINCESS BRIDE at my side. And I get paid to look at stuff like this!

So I'm in a good mood.

The dust of old scripts has flared my allergies -- I don't care. I'm in a good mood.

Just skimmed the headlines of the day -- don't care. I'm in a good mood.

Found out a passel of my friends are sick (tis the season) -- and I do care. Really, I do.

But I'm still in a good mood.

So I share with you a little happy video. Ignore that it is a commercial. Just enjoy the light.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

PS Oh, yeah, what started the good mood was this post by friend Jeff. Yeah, that will start a good mood going.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fire Next Door

I used to be the Managing Director of Taproot Theatre in Seattle. Cath and I lived on the same block as the theater (our bedroom was literally closer to the theater than the staff parking was).

Part of my job included being the first person the alarm company called when an alarm went off -- which made sense, as I could respond in my pjs and lose less sleep than other staff members.

Once we got called because a spider crawled in front of the motion detector.

A couple of times for no discernible reason (theory is that someone may have tried to get in the front doors, gave up but shook them enough to trigger an alarm).

Most exciting time was for a false fire alarm, but the fire department responded, and I raced through the building unlocking doors before the fire fighters would get to them so they wouldn't have to break them down.

Never got a call as exciting as the one Mark Lund got for Taproot this morning around 3:30 am.

That was for this:


(photo, as those below, taken from phinneywood.com, who have great on-going coverage on this story)

Taproot owns the building next to its theater, which comprises (oops, comprised) of three restaurants and a coffee shop. The flames are coming from one of the restaurants.

That building is completely gutted now.

Taproot was not touched by the fire (the firewall between the theater and the restaurants worked). However, the efforts to save the theater have left it in shambles. Ceiling tiles were seen cascading down their main stairs; holes were punched through the ceiling and walls to insure the fire did not spread; the basement is being pumped as I write this. Who knows how much the smoke damaged the building.

The quick and thorough response of the fire department saved the theater as well as the building on the other side (the one that I use to call home). Residents were all safely evacuated, and even the kitties in the adoption center on the block were brought to safety.

Taproot has secured space at the Seattle's Children's theater to finish their sold out run of ENCHANTED APRIL. They will lose just tonight's performance -- a miracle in itself that another venue could be secured so quickly.

Wish I was up there now; feeling helpless this far south. Just yesterday, Cath booked a December trip that would include a Seattle stay-over; the first one in years.

Feel like I should say something else right here; but it hasn't come yet. Know what I mean?

Prayers to the Noltes & Lunds & other Taproot staff. For the restaurant owners who no longer have a means for their trade. For the coffee shop -- an outreach to the community and social ministry, serving the homeless among other things.

Friend and fellow artist Jeff Berryman gives his account of the events.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

From the back: The tall barn like structure to the right is Taproot; to the left of the flames is the part of the neighboring building that housed the pet adoption center; the stairs to the left are the ones that would have led to Cath & my apartment.

Again, picture from phinneywood.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wild too Wild?

A nice article by Richard Clark that asks the question: is Disney too nice?

Well, really it is about stories told to children, and the nature of truth.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Goods for One Smile

I am a tad stretched for time these days. I'm in post on two shorts I directed (one for BADD, one a doc for Cloud & Fire), I'm two scripts behind in script consulting, I'm overdue on writing two shorts I've promised people, and my own full-length screenplay rewrites are off -- on two scripts, a comedy and a sci-fi actioner.

What is it about the number two these days?

And I'm behind in my blog posts -- including the essay I intended on how the reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize signals the end of patriotism in America. Alas, it looks like I won't be getting to that for a while. And I really wanted to tell y'all how great I thought "Zombieland" was.

Another two I'm missing.

Add to that the depression over the church book burnings and the reminder of what's wrong with pundit driven news, and I really needed something good to focus on.

Maybe two somethings.

And I got 'em:

The Amazing Race combined with a Potteresque missed-the-train-got-to-get-to-Hogwarts adventure from Janet -- made my day.

And a little bit of art, as artists take their hand at re-imagining movie posters. My favorites: Spiderman and Ratatouille.

Take a load off, read, let a visual wash over you, and smile.

In fact, I recommend trying it twice.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Friday, October 09, 2009

Dorian's Picture

Book club met last night to discuss THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

Can anyone tell me the significance in titling it "The Picture..." instead of "The Portrait..."?

Anyhoo, a few of my favorite witticisms from the book:

A conversational exchange regarding an American woman engaged to an English acquaintance:

“Is she pretty?”

“She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.”

“Why can’t these American women stay in their own country? They are always telling us that it is the Paradise for women.”

“It is. That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it.”

In complaining when reasonableness is brought up in a disagreement (a bit representative of the "discussions" of today, eh?):

“How dreadful! I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.”

After bargaining for a purchase:

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Outraged when accused of being a sceptic:

“Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.”

Next month, Raymond Chandler. An English Gothic thriller followed by an American noir thriller. Should be fun.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Laughing With

Thanks to Tamara for putting me on to this intriguing video by Regina Spektor.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Ode to Joy


Cath and I spent a goodly portion of our Saturday night listening to a radio broadcast of a classical concert.

Just down the street, the Hollywood Bowl overflowed with 18,000 guests -- holders of free tickets from all ages and sectors of our society. Many had never been to the Bowl, or to an LA Phil concert.

This was the launch of Gustavo Dudamel's tenure as the music director of the L.A. Philharmonic -- he insisted that his debut not be the gala opening that takes place this Thursday, but rather a free event that would include anyone who wished to show up.

The crowd was not typical for the Phil -- this crowd thought they were at a rock concert.

Patrons rushed the stage to be closer to the music; each movement was received with raucous applause and shouts -- the audience unaware and uncaring of the breach of protocol.

Mark Swed sums it up better in his article, but for me it was all pure joy -- the intent of choosing Beethoven's ninth, it seems.

Mark quotes "Leonard Bernstein once said that we can never express too much joy when it comes to Beethoven, and Dudamel took him at his word."

It seems LA is in for a new era of classical music -- seasons grounded thoroughly in the music (not just gimmicked out) -- but with the added element Dudamel brings: community.

This is music for the people, Dudamel seems to say with every action.

He started out the night by leading a youth orchestra -- a bunch of kids who have instruments to play only through the generosity of a non-profit organization. They are the future, and the future starts today, Dudamel reminded us.

He is mentoring a rash of young conductors throughout the season; he has committed to performing an inordinate amount of new works.

He conducts without a score -- the music is imprinted on the heart and mind.

And when he takes his bows, he does not do so from the elevation of the conductor's podium, nor standing in front of the orchestra. Rather he breaks protocol by stepping into the orchestra, bowing from the midst of the players, reminding us that he is but one element of a communal effort.

Such actions take two admirable traits to be treasured if ever found in an artist: humility and security.

Is he the greatest conductor of all time?

How the heck should I know? I'm no classical expert.

But I'll tell you right now: after only one concert, I'm proud to say he's my conductor.

The moment he was back stage, rather than rushing to the privacy of his dressing room, he took up a glass of beer (yes, beer!) with the rest of his players to celebrate a great night of music.

Here's to you, Gustavo, and welcome to Los Angeles.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Favorite lines from Swed's review, in discussing the last movement: "In the opening, crazy made a sudden turn to grace..." and "Here, Dudamel tested limits. He took the final measures faster than reasonable but just short of impossible. A full moon rose over the Bowl’s hedges, as if elevated by the energy on stage."

Friday, October 02, 2009

We Have a Name

My video directing debut for BADD (I've directed live pieces before, but as y'all know, film is a whole other kettle of fish to bob for apples in. Ugh, not only a mixed metaphor, but a rather unpleasant image...)

Just my art,

Sean

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wildely Artistic

I need a break from politics.

Today’s big story is that one side of Washington believes that they are the only ones who should be allowed to claim the other side wants people to die as part of their health care system and liken it to Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile the other side is all hot and bothered because they claim they called dibs on those tactics, and are threatening to sue for copyright infringement unless they get an apology.

So I leave them behind, and think instead on Wilde.

This month is October, which means Halloween, which means book club is reading something creepy.

In this case, Oscar Wilde’s THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

A man trades his soul for youth – a nice companion to prior years DOCTOR FAUSTUS (soul for knowledge) and DRACULA (soul for eternal life).

I’m just getting into the book, but wanted to share a bit of Oscar’s preface (written as a target to critics who might over think his message).

The preface is a series of short statements about art. Here are just a few that caught my attention:

“To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.”

“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.”

“No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.”

“All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.”

“It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”

So – if anyone wants to clue me in to what he means by “Even things that are true can be proved” I would appreciate it. I have my own theories, but will bow to wiser minds.

I’ll be stealing the “To reveal art…” line in my teaching. I’ve always been a big believer that the best story telling is when the writer gets out of the way.

I also admire Wilde’s wit (who doesn’t, really?) – with the notion that the real sin isn’t corruption, but being corrupt without even bothering to be charming. Hee hee hee…

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HTKWAP/PDBWTAS: #4 Where the Wind Blows

“How to Know When a Pundit/Politician Doesn’t Believe What They Are Saying.”

Guideline #4: If one doesn’t know what one’s opinion is without consulting the polls/ratings first, one likely doesn’t believe in what one is saying.

There used to be a game show for kids that divided the stage into three numbered sections.

They asked the contestants – about a hundred kids if memory serves (and my memory rarely serves – it rather asks to be waited upon) – a multiple choice question with three possible answers.

The kids would race pell-mell, with a clock ticking, to one of the three locations. They were to stand in the area that represented their answer.

But here’s the twist – they could look around and see where all the other kids where standing, and during a second time period could race to a different answer.

After that, the kids standing on the wrong answers were eliminated from the game.

It was always fun seeing which kids would automatically change to whichever answer had the most number of people on it.

And which ones would hold to the answer they thought was right, even if unpopular.

And, of course, the sneaky smart kids that would intentionally run to a wrong answer, then switch as the crowd lemminged their way toward their doom.

I kinda picture Washington as a stage divided into sections, with a slew of elected contestants who don’t even bother to listen to the question, but only watch to see where the rest of the kids run.

If only there was an elimination element for those that got it wrong…

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today's Reads - Swine, Wine and Whining

I’m coming off a crazy weekend (most of Saturday logging footage for a short doc I’m writing/directing; most of Sunday directing a short film I’m writing/direc… wait, you know I’m directing if I spent all day directing it. Duh. Good thing I caught myself, or I would have wasted a lot of space and time retelling you that I direc… wait. There I go again.)

I’m very behind in my reading, but as I catch up, I figure you can too.

Stephen Pastis writes one of my current favorite comic strips, “Pearls Before Swine.” Here is his take on whether loving your neighbor includes those next to you in your pew.

More wisdom from Pastis, as he explains what the items on display at the check-out stand have to say about us as a democratic nation.

Stuff Christians Like takes a look at the footprints poem on shot glasses. Can you say “bar ministry?”

(You might remember my own take on the Footprints and how it might be different if I was the walker in the poem.)

Recently, a screenwriter infuriated/inspired the web by telling you why he won’t read your eff-ing screenplay. Screenwriter/mentor Terry Rossio does up his own version by telling you at great length why you aren’t good enough to make it in Hollywood. Somewhat apropos to the last post and David's response.

If you aren’t a writer and have no interest in the business – skip it. If you aren’t a writer but are interested in the business, jump down to where he starts numbering things. (The first list is pretty dead-on.)

If you are a writer (or want to be) – take the time to read the whole, incredible long, infuriating, thorough thing.

By the by, for those worried about me as screenwriter after reading Terry’s thoughts, I want to point out that I play poker on Wednesday nights, not Friday. So I think I’ll be okay.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Today's Thought

"Any criticism at all which depresses you to the extent that you feel you cannot ever write anything worth anything is from the Devil and to subject yourself to it is for you an occasion of sin."

- Flannery O'Connor

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Don't Have To Listen. Really.

I’ve suggested that we should not continue to support television programs that we know are intentionally lying to us and reduce “debate” to screaming matches and name calling.

I have been told that my strategy is a poor one – that in fact we need to fully support the extremists – even though we know they are purposefully lying.

The argument seems to be “there is so much bias out there, we must support the extremists in order to provide balance.”

Hogwash.

I fully agree (as Linds points out) that everyone has a bias.

And I concede that in order to get a balanced picture, one should look at sources that lean right as well as sources that lean left. (see bonus thought below)

But we aren’t talking about supporting leaners, we are talking about supporting liars.

A leaner, while reporting on health care, might say:

“The health care bill will cost a measly $800 billion dollars.”

Or, leaning the other way, they might say:

“The health care bill will cost an overly extravagant $800 billion dollars.”

Then there is lying. The liar says:

“Not only won’t the health care bill cost a cent, but every American who signs on will get a free pony!”

Balance is not achieved by seeking out liars who lie in the opposite way as someone else lies.

That’s not balance; that’s psychosis.

Is there any other area where we would suggest such tactics?

Like in English class. Sure, some high school English teachers lean heavier on grammar while dismissing literature. And some may think that spelling is not an important skill and push a larger does of vocabulary.

But suppose your child had an English teacher so strict they strangle the language?

No e e cummings allowed (bad punctuation) – in fact, all poetry is out the window for being too indirect. Twain is tossed for using “ain’t.” Any student caught reading Shakespeare is immediately expelled due to his irregular use of contractions.

Who would argue that we must support that teacher by adding another instructor who intentionally teaches poor grammar?

My point is this:

No one is being served by screaming heads that are not capable of listening. That’s poison.

Please, fill your diet with meat and veggies, with lean and fat, with salad and dessert.

But don’t convince yourself that you must take poison for balance.

Our acceptance of Jerry-Springer-melee-chair-flinging style of political debate is damaging to us all.

In a world that accepts that as “balance,” Kanye West’s award show antics fit right in. The proper response would be fully supporting Kanye, and providing balance by hiring someone to interrupt Beyonce’s speech.

Thankfully Beyonce isn’t on board with that kind of balance; I think her solution was much healthier.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Bonus thought: For those interested in swimming among the variety of leaners, Linds recommends realclearpolitics.com as a wide source of news content.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pixar Leak

I'm working on an interesting post about politics and media -- really, I am. But things keep getting in the way.

For example, my day job expects me to do some work-related stuff during work hours. (I know! Can you believe it?)

And I'm writing and directing a short that shoots in a week and a few days.

And my wife asked me to do the dishes. (I didn't do them, but it took time wrangling my way out of that one.)

Add to that keeping up on the World Series of Poker (okay, didn't the dad with cancer just break your heart?), as well as end of world apocalypse movies (Children of Men, Doomsday and Babylon A.D.), that marathon of '80's Fantastic Four cartoons, and (clearly) watching for web videos to pass on to y'all, hows a guy to get anything done?

So instead, I give you some real Hollywood news -- a leak of the next Pixar project. I think this one will blow Finding Nemo out of the water.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

For Who I Am

This vid put a smile on my face. My friend Jim wrote the music; my friend Karen produced. As I understand it, their kids were involved in directing and acting -- so a family affair!

Enjoy.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clowns Can Be Intimidating If You See a Lot of Them In One Place

Would you pass the marshmallow test? No, but if I was in there with my brother, I would split one immediately, and use the second one to get a third. One and a half marshmallows, and no waiting period.



Friend David reminded me of this video – what it is like for a writer to get notes. I, myself, will often preface suggestions to writers with a “not this, but something like this.”

I’d like to believe I’m not as bad as this typical exec…


If you are afraid of clowns, this next vid is not for you. If you are looking for a ministry idea, and a combination of clowns and advice from the ‘70’s appeals to you, here ya go: (thanks to Mark for bringing this to my attention)


Sounds like good advice to me, especially the “don’t travel in groups.” Jennifer, care to weigh in?

Just my thoughts,

Sean