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,


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,


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.”


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,


Bonus thought: For those interested in swimming among the variety of leaners, Linds recommends 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,


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!


Just my thoughts,


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,


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

HTKWAP/PDBWTAS: #3 Volume Control

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

Guideline #3: If one believes that the best/only hope for defending their stance is to prevent the other side from being heard, chances are one doesn’t believe what one is saying.


Pundit #1: I think the real core of the health care issue is-


As you can see, Pundit #2 has a pretty persuasive argument.

There is a place, so I am told, where individuals with differing points of view discuss their opinions.

They listen to each other.

They ponder their opponent’s words, weighing them against their own.

Then they decide, allowing the best argument – the one that makes the most sense, is the most reasonable, and is the most beneficial to all – to win the day.

That place is somewhere between Santa’s workshop and Never Never Land.

Here in the real world, we resolve issues the American way – whoever shouts loudest wins.

And so I offer (for free) a tactic for the Republican Party to win back the White House back in ’12.

They should groom Mary Murphy from “So You Think You Can Dance” to be their candidate.

Just imagine the debates. Mary starts with,

“We’re on the Republican hot tamale train to Washington! WHOOOOOOOOOOOO….”

She holds her trademark scream out for fifty-nine minutes until the cameras turn off – ain’t no soaring rhetoric going to get around that girl.

Of course she isn’t perfect.

She currently listens with respect to her colleagues before giving her own loud opinions.

But I am sure we can cure her of that deficiency before the primaries.

Just my thoughts,


Bonus tip: If the show you watch that claims to give you both sides of the issue spends most of its hour with people shouting over each other, you aren’t getting either side of the issue.

Time to find a new channel.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Janet Says the Darndest Things

I just finished laughing my way through CRAZY JANET: ONE WOMAN’S OFF-THE-CUFF AT-WORK REMARKS by friend, Bob Borwick.

I worked with Bob Borwick up in Seattle; even roomed with him for a spell (he introduced me to Jackie Chan pre-“Rush Hour”). I knew he was a gifted actor and fight choreographer, but I guess his real talent is in listening.

CRAZY JANET is a collection of the wit and wisdom from the mouth of Janet, Bob's co-worker in the records department of a pediatrics clinic.

Janet would say strange, funny things.

Bob would listen.

Bob would write them down.

Bob would have the wisdom to publish them.

A light sampling:

“I’m always learning something. But you know what? It doesn’t really take.”

“You know what’s awful? Having chocolate in your mouth. And then sneezing.”

(whispering) “She doesn’t know how to do stuff. Is she just pretty?”

“You shouldn’t say, ‘I’ll get someone to take care of that.’ You say, ‘I’ll take care of that.” And then you find someone to take care of it.”

Thank you, Janet, for being so naturally funny.

And Bob? Thanks for listening.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, September 11, 2009

HTKWAP/PDBWTAS: #2 Yo Mama's So Fat...

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

Guideline #2: If one can not defend their position without resorting to name calling, chances are one doesn’t believe what one is saying.

For example: Two construction workers guiding a beam into place on a high-rise.

Construction Worker #1: Hey, did you know that hot dogs are the most popular fast food in America?

Construction Worker #2: Really? I would have thought it was pizza.

Construction Worker #1: Yeah, well, those pants make your butt look fat.

In that example, chances are the first worker isn’t confident that his position is true; hence he makes a fast food popularity debate into a personal issue.

And once it is a personal issue, it is no longer about facts; rather it is about emotions.

The great thing about name calling is that it redefines “win.”

Prior to the name calling, these two hard hats could go on the internet and check the facts; the “winner” would be the one that got the truth right.

But now that it is about emotions and not facts, the “winner” is whoever can hurt the other individual the severest by hurling the most hateful insults.

A practical experiment: Take a transcript of your favorite political talk show.

Erase every sentence that includes a personal insult.

If you have five minutes of programming left, you’re pretty lucky.

Sad to say, our media’s political discourse is mostly done through “yo momma” slap downs.

The politicians themselves have done the same – witness any campaign season. Or, dare I say, recent sessions in House.

So how do we solve this?

Some might suggest a call to a return of civil discourse.

Hee hee hee. Those "some" are so naïve.

No, the real solution is to elect more hip-hop artists to public office. They have mad put down skillz, yo.

Just my thoughts,


BONUS SHORTCUT TIP: If in a political discussion, someone compares their opponent to Hitler and they are not talking about a situation involving genocide, that person does not believe what they are saying.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doing Time

I have three definitive sources of time.

My work phone, which keeps me in synch company wide.

My computer, which keeps me in synch with all computer users.

And my cell phone, which keeps me in synch with all cell users.

At this moment:

Work phone: 8:34

Computer: 8:36

Cell: 8:38


Guess I'll go with the double A battery run clock on the wall, with the big hand on the seven and the little hand on the 8.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

HTKWAP/PDBWTAS: #1 Swaying Opinions

This entry started with the post “Back to School Politics.”

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

Guideline #1: If one’s opinion depends on knowing the party involved, one doesn’t believe their own opinion.

Corollary: If one’s opinion changes based on knowing the party involved, one doesn’t believe their opinion.

Example: “Presidents should never be allowed to address students! Wait, you’re talking about Obama and not Bush? I mean Presidents should always be allowed to address students!”

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about being suspicious based on those involved.

For example, if my sister Mary says, “Hey, Sean, have some chocolate chip cookies. I made them just for you!” Naturally, I dive into the cookies.

But if my brother Mark says, “Hey, Sean, have some chocolate chip cookies. I made them just for you!” Of course I should approach with due caution.

Emphasis on my being suspect of any cookie that Mark made “just for me.”

However, if I am eating a cookie, and you ask, “Hey, Sean, how’s the cookie taste?” And I say, “I don’t know – is this one of Mary’s cookies or one of Mark’s cookies?” Then this rule applies.

You might tell me, “Mark made the cookie,” and as a result I might say, “It tastes awful.”

But I don’t believe it.

The cookie might indeed taste awful, but I am not saying that the cookie tastes awful. I am saying that I don’t trust cookies that Mark makes just for me.

And if you say, “Oops, I meant Mary made the cookie,” I will of course tell you, “This cookie tastes great!”

Because, again, the taste of the cookie is irrelevant. My comment may sound like I am referring to the taste of the cookie, but I am only referring to my faith in the source of the cookie.

My playwright professor Howard Stein drilled this into me in a seminar on play criticism.

I had to read a script (actually, five at a time) and discuss it with him. He would always include one script without any cover: so no author listed.

Might be written by Arthur Miller. Might be written by a student who flunked out of a playwriting class.

Point was, I had to evaluate the play based on the content, not on my pre-conceived notions about the author.

Because, as I soon learned, Arthur Miller is capable of writing a bad play now and then.

And every once in a while, one can be surprised by a good coming from an unexpected source.

Oh, by the way – Mark is capable of making some really yummy cookies.

Who knew?

Just my thoughts,


Follow up Real world example:

A certain entertainment cable network said at one point, (I paraphrase) “Tea Party demonstrations are by definition Anti-American. It’s just an excuse for a bunch of whiners who can’t handle losing an election to attack their legitimate government; they should shut up and get over it, or move out of the U.S.!”

The same exact people also said, “Tea Party demonstrations are by definition Pro-American. They are a time honored way for groups of patriots to bravely voice their opposition to oppression just as our founding fathers did; they should be publicly praised as national heroes.”

The difference between these two seemingly contradictory opinions?

Four years and one change of power in Washington.

Truth is, they were never talking about the patriotism of Tea Parties. They just wanted to make you think they were.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Where Have All the Centrists Gone?

Thanks to Linds for putting me on to this report.

Best stuff comes at the end of the report: "There is no place for truth."

Just my thoughts,


More on the Issue

This blog is linked to my facebook; here is a worthy comment from an respected dissenter.

Earlier he had repeated the misinformation that the “I Pledge” video that was made by Demi Moore to honor the inauguration was made by the DOE in order to be shown with President Obama’s talk with students on Tuesday.

The video was in fact shown in a school in Utah for an unrelated event.

From Grant:

“Sean - thanks for correcting me on that one, but I still feel that the way this is being handled and packaged crosses the line. What better way to convince children that the President (and by extension, his policies) is cool than to have celebrities endorse his message? The fact that even one school showed the "I Pledge" video shows poor judgement... Read More from left-leaning educators, regardless of whether or not the White House endorsed it. Of course, I could just be jealous that Democrats always have the cool celebrities and Republicans are stuck with country music singers.
I'm sorry to be hi-jacking your post like this, but there's one last thing I wanted to say. There's also another sentiment here that at least 48% of the population is feeling and it's this - we don't agree with Obama and that's why we're being vocal about this. You're right to say that the pundits and the politicians don't mean what they say, but we do.
Alright, I'm off to write my own blog now...”

Grant -- No apology necessary. However, you are proving my point exactly.

The argument being presented out there boils down to this:

"The left has proven its extreme power by getting one educator at one school out of 100,000 schools in the nation (total population of said school: under 400 students) to show a four minute long video that includes five seconds of endorsement of the current sitting president.

“This show of power is so overwhelming, that we must respond with a carpet bombing force (and forget that the principal - who didn't watch the vid before hand - had already apologized for the clear error before it even made it to the press) by linking it to an unrelated, pro-education event and calling for a nation wide boycott of said event, and use the unrelated event to demonize the President for wanting to put out a pro-education message by calling such a message the literal equivalent of the master race policies of Adolf Hitler.

“Because we truly believe that the extermination of millions is the moral equivalent to Ashton Kutcher voicing a political opinion.”

My argument is thus:

“This is an extreme, irrational, over-reaction.”

You say that 48 of Americans disagree with the President on this issue, and that “you are right to say that the pundits and the politicians don’t mean what they say, but we do.”

My point exactly.

A large percentage of Americans disagree vehemently with the President on this issue.

They disagree that kids should stay in school and that education is important.

A message they did not disagree with before the pundits and politicians started lying about what the message was;

before those folk got folks like you to believe that the “I Pledge” video and a boatload of other materials were part of the message;

before it became a message linked to a President that is not an American citizen, is a practicing Muslim extremist, pals around with terrorists and (apparently like the other 52% of the country) has only one wish in life: the complete and utter destruction of the United States of America.

I will repeat: virtually none of the politicians or pundits that spread that crap believes any part of it.

But they sure hope you do.

And that’s why it is so dangerous to not know when they are lying.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, September 04, 2009

Back To School Politics

President Obama is planning on giving a “welcome back to school” speech directed to students on Tuesday. The text of his speech will be confined to the importance of education, and encouraging students to stay in school and study hard.

That is such a universal message, no one could be opposed to it being reinforced by the number one representative of our nation, right?

Hee hee hee. Okay, I was just kidding.

Of course politicians and pundits are furiously attacking the idea, claiming it is downright anti-American to allow the President of the United States to speak to our younger citizens.

Boycotts are being called for – let’s keep our kids out of school, lest they hear that school can be a good thing!

Now, before you start going off on one side or the other, I should point out that it isn’t just one side that feels that way – both political parties agree with each other on this issue.

Just not at the same time.

Back when the first President Bush directly addressed students in favor of studying hard, the Dems attacked it as unfair abuse of the office; while prominent Repubs made the claim that only self-absorbed idiots would oppose such an obvious good.

(They were right, by the way.)

So the Right states boldly that the President should and never should be allowed to address students on the topic of education; and the Left avers that the President should and should not be allowed to address students on the topic of education.

Some of y’all might find this contradictory – that someone would claim opposite sides of the same principle without at least an ironic wink to the camera as they do it.

But that is because you have forgotten the first rule of American politics: When a pundit or a politician speaks, chances are


Oh, sure, sometimes through coincidence, a Fox News pundit might say something he also happens to believe, or an MSNBC mouthpiece might take a position on an issue that in his or her non-actor persona they happen to agree with.

But the mistake is to think that the reason they said the thing to begin with is because they find it to be true.

For example, not one of the politicians or pundits mouthing off about this presidential back to school speech actually believe it is a bad idea for the President to encourage education.

What they do oppose is allowing this particular president be associated with a positive thing, because their primary job function is to prevent the other side from gaining any political points.

Just as their counterparts did not want that particular president in 1991 to be associated with a positive thing.

Of course they can’t say that, so instead they shout out whatever they think is most going to help their number one mission. No interest in truth; no interest in whether they believe it or not.

And they are cool with it, because they all know that the other guy doesn’t believe what they are saying either, so they don’t take it personally.

Are you among those that had trouble understanding how President Obama could be willing to partner with his sworn enemy, Senator Clinton, after she devoted so much time trying to convince the world that it would be dangerous to elect that man?

That’s because you forgot that Obama knew that Clinton did not mean anything she said. She wasn’t trying to inform the American public, or protect the people from a menace; she was just doing what they all do to get what she wanted.

So it would be silly to hold her to the things she said during the race when they were on opposing sides.

The problem is that while the pundits and politicians know that they don’t believe a thing they say, the people who hear them don’t always realize that.

They think they are hearing truth; and often believe it themselves, get riled up, and act out on the assumption that they are following voices of truth.

Which is why, starting next week, I am going to offer a public service with a series of blog entries entitled:

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

See you then.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Three referrals today.

1) You can read the first few chapters of Donald Miller's book on line. Kinda ticked -- I've already been planning on writing a book on life lessons learned through the process of scriptwriting. Looks like that is what Don is doing. And he's such and interesting writer. Rassum frassum.

2) My friend Mark Atteberry put me on to this: THE BUTTERFLY CIRCUS, a short film that can be viewed at The Doorpost Film Project. A beautiful little film; a teeny tad of treacle, but handles the topic without going overboard, thinks I.

3) THE SENSATION OF SIGHT, Aaron Wiederspahn's gorgeous film starring David Strathairn, has a fan music video. Watching this reminded me of how wonderfully moving that movie is.


Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wrestling with Cats, Wrestling with G-d, Wrestling with a Segue, Wresting with Career

Some random things out there around the net that caught me.

1. This guy is insane, but he makes me happy:

2. Speaking of wrestling, Stuff Christians Like had a post I like -- I focused in on the part about wrestling, the paragraph marked with the "2."

3. And speaking of speaking of things, (yeah, I'm so bad at transitioning from one topic to another, that if you asked me "what's a segue" I would probably guess about four pounds), my pastor had some cool insights on my favorite Bernstein quote.

And before any second fiddlers complain, let me make a correction -- take the word "almost" out of the "almost as good as the first violin" -- it's like Ginger Rogers; she had to do everything Astaire did, only backwards and in heels.

4. Finally, for those that want an insight into the mind of a screenwriter (don't go there, it is a very dark place and the food is awful), you can see a really well done, full length doc profiling three wanna be writers called DREAMS ON SPEC at SnagFilms. Free viewing, with commercials popping up throughout.

(If you are lucky, it will be the Blackberry commercials, rather than having to watch those bears do their business in the woods over and over again. Yeah, I thought the Verizon commercial was irritating until Charmin took over.)

Just my thoughts,