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.


Just my thoughts,


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.


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?


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.”


“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,


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,


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.


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.


“Uh, hello.”


“Uh, thanks.”


“Oh, she’s not feeling well.”


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?”


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.




“Hi, I’m Luke’s brother.”


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



Again, not addressed to me.




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?



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.”


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,


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." ...



Just my weighty thoughts,

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,


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.


Just my thoughts,


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,


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,


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,


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.



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.