Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marines Save the Planet

For Earth day, the Marines at my brother's base created their own shopping bag.


Just my thoughts,


Commencement Advice

Our church group is playing with a sketch about the world's worst commencement address.

I am not the lead writer, but threw some ideas out there. They aren't likely to be used, but I liked some of them too much to waste.

So here are a few gems of advice that I would imagine could come from the world's worst commencement speaker:

-With the tough economy, and dim job prospects, I’ve been hearing a lot that it is always darkest before the dawn. Which is very different from the way it used to be. When I was a kid, it was always Tony Orlando before the dawn.

-You will hear some strange advice. People will tell you to “hitch your wagon to a star.” I wouldn’t do that. First, it takes really long cords. Second, stars are hot. If you have a wagon, I suggest hitching it to a really large dog, like maybe a Saint Bernard.

-People will tell you that now is the best time to go out and live your dreams. I’m not sure about that. My dream is that recurring nightmare where I’m back in school and I didn’t study for a test and can’t remember my locker combination. You would think that the best time to live that dream is when you are still in school. But maybe those people giving that advice know something I don’t.

-Shoot for the moon. It’s so far away, that no one can ever prove you missed. Just point to a crater and say, “See, that’s what I was aiming for.” They can’t argue with success.

-As you enter the world, remember, your only limit is your imagination! And the speed limit. You still have the speed limit. Oh, and the coupon for a dollar off a can of Campbell’s soup at Albertson’s still has a limit of three per customer. But I think those three, imagination, speed and soup are your only limits.

This is why no one has asked me to speak at a graduation ceremony since 1983.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Excuses to Buy Books

I bought some books.

Given that I gave away half of my collection before my last move, this is a big deal for me.

I blame this transition from lessening my materialism to increasing it on my friends.

Folks like Susan Isaacs, who wrote ANGRY CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD.

A friend of mine decides to take G-d to couple’s therapy, writes a book about it, and you expect me to not buy it? Think again!

And now that I finished the three-volume-set of graphic novels, JUSTICE (yes, Jim Krueger, I finally got around to reading your collaboration with Alex Ross), I have space to read CONVERSATIONS.

I often balance multiple books at one time, so my companion to Susan’s book is John Medina’s BRAIN RULES.

So on one side, I’m reading the whacky ways that Susan’s brain deals with her relationship to a metaphysical being, and on the other I read ways that Susan could be getting more out of her brain function. (Afternoon nap, Susan, afternoon nap!)

And I now own more books to put on my “written by friends” shelf.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, April 27, 2009

Who Made the Turtles

Favorite quote of the day: When my niece was asked,

"Who made the turtles?"

She answered,

"I made the turtles. God was nervous about making turtles so I helped Him."

I can see how making turtles would be tricky, so I'm glad He got some help.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, April 24, 2009

Point Me to the SE Corner

Friends of mine are making me think. Maybe they’ll make you think too.

Sonya is going through copy-editing, and facing the same writer challenges that I deal with. When to fix, when to let go (or abandon)?

And when is it broken, rather than just not resonating at the moment?

“It is what it is.” Good advice, Sonya. And good luck…

Cory put me onto a robot experiment in NYC – or I should say, a humanity experiment using a robot.

Next step would be to determine if the robot would receive the same level of assistance if it were a broken and dirty robot instead.

And would a pack of robots help Dakota Fanning find her way across the park?


John is talking about the brain and public speaking. If you’ve been wondering about the functional neural architecture proposed by Posner, well, ponder no more!

What caught me was John’s assertion: “I don’t believe in entertainment in teaching.”

John’s right on here (and I’m sure he is glad to be validated by someone who thought Posner was a name you called that white guy trying to rap). Tell a story that is irrelevant, you’ve lost your teaching.

Tell a story that is relevant, and the students will remember the point.

I heard tell of a guy that told relevant stories throughout his teaching. His class killed him, but we all still remember his stories.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Christmas Stories

Today is Shakespeare’s birthday; old enough, I think, to no longer be carded when picking up a six-pack at Albertsons. As it happens, my book club is honoring his 445 years by watching KING LEAR this Sunday.

Last month we finished CRIME & PUNISHMENT. What is interesting in that little story is that we don’t get to Punishment until the epilogue.

If you want to be literal, that is. The majority of the book speaks to the nature of private punishment, rather than state punishment.

What is the cost of our sins, regardless of whether we get “caught?

For companion pieces, I recommend two Christmas stories: the film FROZEN RIVER and the play THE SEAFARER. The movie explores crime; the play, Dostoevsky style punishment.

In FROZEN RIVER, single mother Ray is driven by circumstances beyond her control, and falls into an unlikely partnership smuggling people across the Canadian border.

Her fall into crime is understandable; but, as we learn, not excusable.

Unlike the murder in CRIME & PUNISHMENT, Ray’s crime is in no way prompted by superiority, nor does it seem as dastardly.

It is only a little sin.

But there are no little sins, are there?

Ray’s minor participation in wrong-doing is a growing menace within her own soul – and showcased with a decision where she tries to avert a major crime, and instead commits a far deeper personal travesty.

The beauty of the movie is in its humanity; it treats its characters with respect, while allowing warts to be warts.

THE SEAFARER is a play about a bunch of Irish guys getting drunk, playing cards and swearing a lot. I guess I could have stopped at “a bunch of Irish guys;” the rest seems kinda obvious.

The play is more than that, but it is hard to discuss without giving away too much. Let’s just say that the first act feels like it is about a whole lot of nothing; then there is a reveal shortly before the intermission curtain.

And that reveal shows that the whole lot of nothing was a whole lot of something.

For this conversation, the important thing is realizing that the lives of our central characters are as pathetic as they seem because they have been living out the unexamined consequences of past transgressions.

There were crimes committed that they were never punished for, and never faced; and this Christmas is the time of reckoning.

The press materials for the play call it a “play about redemption.”

It isn’t. There is no redemption – just a long night of getting to a point where there is finally a chance at redemption.

FROZEN RIVER and THE SEAFARERS carry these commonalities:

They both take place at Christmas.

They both hinge in character development on a decision to face their crimes.

They are both set in an uglier landscape of the human condition.

They both have plots where G-d intervenes in a significant way. (Although neither could be accused of being religious works.)

Oh, and I liked ‘em both.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shouldn't It Be "Created By"?

There’s something nice about folks who give credit to the Lord for their artistic endeavors.

You know, the fella that has a sweet dedication blurb in the front of his book, or the lady that invokes His name when accepting her Tony.

Of course it’s also a little creepy when that one guy is thanking G-d for his Grammy honoring his little ditty about beating his hoes to keep them in line.

I imagine such dedications are sometimes acts of humility (“I can do nothing without you”) and sometimes acts of hubris (“Yep, the Almighty works at my beck and call”).

As a writer, I understand the notion that some creations are beyond self – my best writing is writing that I don’t think I can take much credit for.

But when one gives credit to the Maker, and the work of art is a piece of crap, that’s hubris of the highest degree. And not just hubris, but pure chicken pellets.

(Hmmn, doesn’t quite read the same without the profanity. Let’s try it again: And not just hubris, but pure cowardice.)

Of the, “You can’t judge my work because it is G-d’s and you can’t say anything bad about G-d without blaspheming so I'm critic proof” kind.

Such as this movie (extended trailer here).

A “Christian” movie trailer so awful, it is being touted on the Richard Dawkins website. Who needs to argue about the idiocy of Christianity when the Christians are doing such a good job themselves?

The detail that tips the scales on this one from “maybe they were trying, give them a break” to “please stop playing in my sandbox” – the credits shown in the extended trailer:

“Executive producer: The Holy Spirit”

“Screenplay: Jesus Christ”

Yep, the second entity of the Trinity wrote this one without any human help.

Of course they didn’t let him direct it, so maybe the poor quality isn’t his fault.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

But the Tigers Come at Night

The audition process for reality talent shows thrive on the oddball -- the person clearly out of touch with reality hoping for a big break, unaware that they are the joke of the moment.

Sometimes that oddball makes one squeamish, they are so painful to watch.

Sometimes they are heartbreaking in their obvious solitude, and unfulfilled desire to connect.

Sometimes they are quite simply jerks who deserve their moment of shame.

But sometimes, they connect us with a moment of beauty, like this one on BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT.

Thanks for the heads up, Kara Lee.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, April 10, 2009

Today is Friday

Today is Friday, and I think of scaffolding.

At the Horace Mann Theater, we changed lights by climbing a rickety set of scaffolding on wheels. When done with our five-foot area, we would sit as someone would undo the wheel locks, move us, and relock us.

Pressing on each lock, the scaffolding would buck; rolling across the floor was a bumpy proposition. Scary for a lot of people; but for her, it was a sense memory.

“It feels like riding elephants,” she confided to me, as we both sat, clutching the bars. “The rhythm of the bucking and bumping. Just like riding an elephant.”

She used to ride elephants, back when she was a literal princess before the revolution and the fall of the Shah. She lived the fairy tale – a retinue to brush her hair and taste her food; commercial flights that would be delayed hours if her whim made her stop for shoes; and riding elephants.

And now she was a student working for a degree, covering her tuition with minimum wage work-study, and hanging lights for another student’s production in a dingy, forty-eight seat theater.

She takes being at the bottom with good will and cheer. There is no place she would rather be than atop a scaffold elephant, serving others, experiencing life at the common level.

It is Friday, and I think of her, and I wonder if He ever had an elephant moment, a moment where He would feel the breeze across the desert, or hear the bleating of a lost sheep, or touch the roughness of a block of wood, and think, “This is just like” some piece of the heavenlies.
Some piece of what He had when He was a prince, before He chose to be a servant.

Today is Friday, and next I think of Jack.

Jack who came out to me first, because we were so close, and had such a love for each other that he thought I should know his inner self.

But then he cut himself off. From me, from all of us who called him friend, to forge a new life with those he called alike.

And when he became ill, he cut himself off again, even from those that he called alike; shamed by his disease and by his dying.

I didn’t even hear that he was sick until he was gone. I wondered if he had anyone; I wondered what it must be like to die separated and in shame; I wondered if he knew that it would not have mattered to me, if he would have reached out.

It is Friday, and I think of Jack, and I wonder if He felt even more alone by the choice to separate. Knowing those that called His name chose to separate from Him; knowing His shame was not His own, but ours; knowing that He could reach out and be re-united with His Family; but choosing instead the suffering for the sake of those He now called alike.

Today is Friday, and I think of Rayn.

The cat who, despite my natural resistance, got me to love her. I think how small she was, so perfect. I remember her heartbeat, and her life, and her purr.

And I think of her last moments. I held her through to the end, as the drug was pushed into her system. My hands upon her, feeling the heartbeat, life and purr.

And in an instant, she simply wasn’t there.

It is Friday, and I think of Rayn, and I wonder if He was gone when He gave up his spirit. I wonder if Mary could still feel His heartbeat, life and warmth; or if when she cradled her son, she felt just the emptiness.

Did the body wait, knowing what Mary could not know?

Or was the body just a marker for the aloneness and shame; the suffering and pain; the humility and loss?

Today is Friday, and I think.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Julie Andrews Takes a Train

Sometimes I find things on the internet that are funny.

Every once in a while I find things that are joyous.

This is joyous.

Thanks, Jason.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, April 03, 2009

Lover Budgets

A friend sent an e-mail to me today about an independent film he is working on. In discussing some marketing needs, he pointed out that big budget films can do all kinds of things.

Then he said,

“Those of us with lover budgets don't have that luxury.”

I think he meant “lower” budgets.

But this slip may be more Freudian than typo.

For those of us who have worked in non-profits arts, or who scrounge to make our own movie, or have that minimum wage job so we are free to pursue our crafts…

For us, I think “lover budget” describes beautifully the situation. Certainly better than “dollar” budget could.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Greatest Trick of the Devil...

“It is never easy and it is never comfortable to have your core beliefs challenged, but it is always healthy.”

Check out the Nightline debate on the existence of Satan.

I’m still unsure as to how one can say there is no “good” or “bad”; yet insist that there is a “better” way to be.

Isn't "better" the comparative form of "good?"

What is the comparative form of "everything is one?"

I suppose that would be "everything is oner."

Just my thoughts,