Saturday, August 28, 2010

A different summer of freedom

Way too much will be written and said about today's rally in DC. I won't add to that.

I still consider myself a conservative but I don't know where I fit. Glenn Beck doesn't speak for me anymore than Rush L. did (is he still around?)

I like Sarah Palin but not to be an elected official unless she wants to go back to being the Guv of Alaska. I DO think she might be a great chair for the Republican Party.

G.O.P. stands (or at least used to) for the Grand Old Party. I'm not sure what the party stands for or represents today. Mostly it seems to be about bashing the current administration (for which I am no cheerleader either) but I'm not sure where all this Tea Party stuff is going to lead.

OK can't resist one comment about Mr. Beck. First I heard that he had no idea today was the same day MLK gave his famous speech in DC. (Doesn't he have a staff to look things up?) Then I heard him say he was going to "reclaim the Civil Rights movement."

I'm reading a book called "Freedom Summer" about 1964 in Mississippi. Hundreds if not more white young people ventured into a very segregated south to help with voter registration and other issues. Some lost their lives for their troubles. Those "white folks" might have some claim on the Civil Rights movement.

In a final "for what it's worth" remember that Lincoln, on whose memorial much of today's hoopla took place, was the 1st Republican President.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rubaiyat update

someone posted anonymously to a previous post on the Rubaiyat - first, Thanks - always fun to hear stories about the place. 2ndly the poster said they had a "mint" condition copy of Russ Kirkpatrick's album. If you know anywhere one is available - please post again. If not, here's a dumb request - I'd really like to get the words to Timothy Tucker. Used to play it often in the 70s but have forgotten most of the words - can still recall the chords and tune. I don't know if that album had liner notes or not. Also would like to be able to hear 6 O'clock in Aspen or whatever the song is called.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Writing a Screenplay

As my family knows (and a few others) I’ve been working on a screenplay for several years now. It’s coming along and I was trying to explain to my wife how hard it is. Here’s a glimpse at my writing adventure.

I think I have a pretty good story (who doesn’t think that about their own work!)

In the beginning I just tried to write it out, mostly in linear fashion, kind of let it happen in front of me and see where it led. This might work for some novels but not for me.

I started listing scenes I thought I’d need to move my story along. Then I put these scenes on 3X5 cards.

The whole thing was still too overwhelming.

I decided to work on one scene at a time. For the time being stop worrying so much about the scene before or after – just get the one I was working on right. Writing one scene at a time helped me not to get bogged down and move along in the “don’t get it right, get it written” method.

With this I was able to write about 15 scenes – maybe 5 of them are good. Still working on the others.

But in this scene-by-scene construction something else started to pop up: continuity.
If a character says something in a scene then I have to make sure it is supported earlier or later by other statements or actions.

Chronology. My story is linear. I don’t plan on flashbacks or telling things out of sequence. Still I need to make sure things happen in the right order.

I started working on a timeline. I literally began with the year my lead character was born and worked toward today. This helped with lots of things such as how old each character is at certain points in time. And this helped me get the whole Act I, Act II and 3rd Act thing sorted out. It also pointed out a 10 year hole!

My story doesn’t really have a 10 year hole as I mention above. But as I developed a backstory I realize I needed to account for a missing 10 years of my lead character’s life – even though 90% of it will never actually be in the story.

And of course I have to have more than one backstory. When and where and why did certain people cross paths? I need to know all that so when they meet up in my story (if it is not for the first time) it can determine how they act or re-act and what they say.

Here’s a small example of those issues: My lead has an old car. What type of old car? That depends on when he bought it. If he bought in in 1975 or 1985, why? So I need to step back into that time in his life and understand why he owns this car. For the reader/viewer, it may be nothing more than he owns a 1985 whatever. But if I have to go any deeper than that, there has to be a deeper to go to.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe for some writers this is intuitive. They just know everything about every character. But I’m stalled and I needed a way to get unstalled so a timeline and fleshing out a few backstories has helped move me along.

I’ve spent chunks of time over the last four years working on this. I read something this weekend about a screenwriter who worked for eight years before finishing one up. I hope it doesn’t take me another four!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The White Ribbon

I’ve heard about this movie for more than a year. I finally got the DVD from my library and was able to watch it. I was intrigued by what I had heard about this being one of the best films of the year.

It’s in German with subtitles and in black and white.

I guess I’m too old to get art films or whatever this might be called.

I felt the same way about Munyurangabo – the much hyped film from Africa last year. I didn’t think it was all that great either.

I DO like b&w films (nothing better than To Kill A Mockingbird). But this one was soooo dark. Many scenes were so dark I couldn’t tell what was happening. Just movement in the shadows. I read that this was shot in color (they couldn’t find enough b&w film stock) so maybe this leaching out of the color washed out a lot of detail. There are plenty of pretty outdoor scenes of harvest fields etc. but on the whole the movie is dark – in tone and in theme.

The director holds shots for a very long time. I think he went to the M Night Shyamalan school of film directing. I don’t believe you have to see everything – sometimes what you don’t see makes it better. But there was a lot of framing where you couldn’t always see what was happening. Mostly static camera with little movement.

I don’t understand German and was reading the subtitles. A goodly portion of explanation comes from an off screen narrator. Much of the exposition and background were his telling us what had happened and keeping up with a timeline of events.
But in spite of this excess narration. I felt like I missed a lot.

There is obviously a bad person or two wreaking havoc on a German village just prior to WWI. But I was never quite clear exactly who the real bad guys were. Was it the children? Was it the doctor? Was it the pious and rather cold Reverend? Quite possibly all of them (or none of them – the film has no real conclusion) Maybe I missed the obvious clues but this was not tied up for me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Faith

This is about can or will.

I firmly believe that God CAN do anything he wants to. The big theological word for this is omnipotent. He is all powerful.

I’ve been thinking about this as I keep hearing regularly about friends and others dealing with tragedies in their lives, illness etc.

The headlines last week related to the school bus crash might cause one to wonder “Where was God when …”

I don’t know where He was exactly.

I’ve been praying for a lot of things for a very long time. So far, the big things are still on my list.

But I struggle. Every time I pray I wonder. I think of the excerpt from the verse “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

This takes me back to my premise – can or will.

I have no issues with the “can” part. It’s the “will” that troubles me.
Why won’t He? Why doesn’t He?

I throw in this quote from Rabbi Harold Kushner (I think it is attributable to him – he of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”):

“If I had to face the fact that God was either all-powerful but not kind, or thoroughly kind and loving, but not totally powerful, I would rather compromise God's power and affirm his love. The theological conclusion I came to is that God could have been all-powerful at the beginning, but he chose to designate two areas of life off-limits to his power. He would not arbitrarily interfere with laws of nature. And secondly, God would not take away our freedom to choose between good and evil."

I’m not pasting this in to say I agree with him but it is food for thought. I’m sure many folks wondered where was God when Katrina hit the coast several years ago. I’m sure there are parents wondering where was God when the busses and trucks collided last week. I don’t know. Was He watching and crying?

I think my main disagreement with Rabbi Kushner would be this: God is either all powerful (that omnipotent word again) or He isn’t. I don’t think He might be almost all powerful. It reminds me of a statement about being pregnant. You either are or you aren’t; there is no in-between.

There’s a section in the book of Daniel with a scene where the angel Michael arrives in answer to a prayer. He says something to the effect that, “I was sent in answer to your prayer but it was tough getting here so it took some time, but now I’m here.”

So back to the “can” part. Could God have held back the waters in southern Louisiana? Certainly. He did that at least once before (though not in Louisiana). Why didn’t He this time? I don’t know. Were I one of those who lost my home on the Gulf Coast, I might be shaking my fist at God and asking “why?” But maybe that’s why so many chose instead to shake their collective fists at the Govt. and FEMA and George Bush. They might not be able to do much either but they are tangible, real people that can be yelled at. And maybe, just maybe, something might happen to help them.

After Brooks and Dunn had their smash hit “I Believe” they followed up with another “spiritual” song about God being busy. At first hearing I wondered, what did they mean? God was too busy to take care of something? He had other more important things to do?

Then I figured out (think this may be what the songwriter meant) that since God gave us free will (a way more complex discussion than I can handle or explain), we’ve made such a royal mess of things that He is busy cleaning up after us. It might be a stretch but perhaps in letting us do what we want (see Kushner above) we get out of sorts with His plan but He lets us anyway then steps in (sometimes apparently) and sorts it all out. He doesn’t always play mommy and make it all better.

Here’s a verse in case you are unfamiliar with Kix and Ronnie’s song:

“And I know in the big picture
I'm just a speck of sand
and God's got better things to do
than look out for one man.
I know he's heard my prayers
cause he hears everything,
he just ain't answered back
or he'd bring you back to me.
God must be busy.”

I guess I’ll keep struggling with “can” and “will.” If I figure it out I’ll let you know. Please do the same for me.

Concessionaire, extraordinaire!

At the ripe old age of 57 I have finally worked a concession stand at the Fair. So now I’ve been a livestock exhibitor and worked a concession stand. All that’s left now is to be a Carny – uh, no.

My daughter’s senior class did it as a fundraiser (the concession people use free student/parent labor and in turn give 10% of their gross to the group/school etc.)
We made/sold Tornado Taters and Pork Loin Sandwiches.

The “taters” are an entire potato that is sliced and then fried in a sort of string of potato chips. (almost a potato slinky*!) These were by far the most popular item and my main role was to take the hot (extremely hot!) greasy, drippy potato slinkies and place them in a “boat”, a small cardboard tray.

You had to pile them just right and as the lady in charge kept telling me, not to squash them. I guess the taller the pile, the better they look!

A few times I got to actually make them but I kept slicing the potatos too thin which doesn’t make for a good “tornado tater!”

Occasionally I made sandwiches but that was mostly taking this humongous piece of fried pork and putting it on a bun with tomatoes, lettuce and mayo and then slicing it.

Things were pretty slow on the last day of the fair and with temps still in the mid 90s, I guess hot greasy food was not first on everyone’s list.

I played a small role in helping raise funds for our itty-bitty little rural school and at the same time helped raise everyone’s cholesterol a few points.

*By the way, if anybody uses that name I came up with it first!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

For Anne Rice

Much has been said and written already about Ms. Rice’s announcement last week that she is giving up on Christianity and religion. She says she still loves God and is committed to him.

I have to take that at face value.

I think we all get fed up with “organized religion” at one time or another. People switch churches like they change toothpastes – some people are likely more loyal to their toothpaste brand than a church.

I struggle with my own church but not in the same way Ms. Rice apparently is with hers (in her case it sounds like the BIG C Catholic church and not a specific local congregation or location.)

Our church has been through a transition in the last couple of years. Our long-time Senior Pastor retired (and now seems busier than ever. Go figure!) and another man took his place.

Prior to that switch – it seems lots of people left the church. I really don’t know why. I’ve never been particularly plugged in to our church’s grapevine (hmm? Grapevine? Interesting potential analogy for a church don’t you think? Maybe more on this at another time.)

Some associate pastors came and went. Lots of congregants did the same. But there seemed to be an influx of new people so the movement and shifting wasn’t as noticeable.
But of late, there have been others that have also left for different local churches. I have no idea why. I wish I knew. Am I missing something?

I’m not even thinking about switching churches so anybody reading this; don’t worry.
But my kids have been going to an evening VBS at a tiny little Baptist church not far from our house. I have no desire to go there. But one thing I notice every time I am there, a certain comraderie or something. It feels “homey.”

Maybe the fact that we live 30 minutes away from our church, my wife and I both work; so we are not there every time the doors open and for every event. Maybe if we lived closer or were willing to drive more, I might feel the same warm fuzzies.

In the bigger picture of religion and Christianity, I get frustrated too. I hate being lumped in with extremists of any stripe. I consider myself Republican (most of the time but it gets harder and harder …) and I think I’m pretty conservative.

I don’t listen to Rush or Glen Beck or Hannity. I spend more time listening to Imus than any other radio or TV pundit. I don’t watch Christian TV. I don’t march in lock-step with any of the so-called Religious Right. I’m not a member of the Tea Party. (Although since the original version happened on my birthday back in the 17th century I feel some odd connection to it. And I do think we need a 3rd party and another name but that too is for a future post.)

I don’t agree with everything my church believes. I don’t like everybody in my church (and I’m sure not everybody likes me).

But I’ll stick it out – with God and Jesus and my local church.

I thought of a way to explain why.

Some years ago our church began a recovery ministry. People who have some sort of addiction. They have classes 4 or 5 nights a week. They meet for Sunday School. They sit as a group (mostly) front and center during our main worship service.

Here’s what I know: as a group they get into it. Our church might get loud. They get loud. Some in our church raise their hands; they raise their hands. When it comes time to pray; they pray. When we have a Baptismal service – there is always someone from the Recovery group getting baptized.

Some (maybe most) of these folks have been through the addiction ringer. Some have lost families, lost jobs; even been to jail. I don’t know the details and don’t need to. What I do know though is that they keep coming back.

This may be why some folks left the church. There are lots of tattoos. Many smoke. Our church had to start a smoking policy and move the butt-catchers away from the front doors. Not many churches even have butt-catchers (unless you are Episcopalian maybe.)
But they keep coming back.

Right now (I think, hope) I don’t need what they are getting. But I’d like to think if I ever did, it would be there for me too.

That’s my church. A place where broken people can come and get on the road to being mended. I didn’t say fixed. I wouldn’t presume to know where all these folks are in their private lives. But they are on a good road to somewhere.

Maybe my role is to keep coming, keep supporting my church (and through that this ministry) so others can come and be a part of that.

So maybe here’s my point for Anne Rice. She used to write about vampires and the like. Lately she’s been writing about Biblical characters and themes.

Maybe she should visit my church. These folks are not hung up on abortion or gay rights or any of the other things that Ms. Rice feels drove her out of the church. They’ve got much bigger fish to fry right now getting their lives put back together one piece at a time.

Who knows? Maybe they could help her with hers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An old letter to my daughter and son-in-law

Caleb and Sarah

(I started writing this in the week after you were married but somehow never sent it to you so here goes, two years and some later. I hope some of the thoughts are still valid.)

Wish I had some great words of wisdom for both of you, but I don’t.

I guess I know you both will have some hard times ahead and wish I could spare you from them. All I can do is share my thoughts and hope that you will weather those hard things easily enough so they don’t get in the way of all the good things you have ahead of you.

I really appreciated what Pastor Ken said (at your wedding) about communicating because I think that may be the single most important thing you can do for the rest of your lives.

You’ll have to learn to talk about stuff – the important stuff. Not hold it in. Don’t ever assume the other knows what you are thinking. Don’t ever assume you know what the other is thinking. You have to talk about things – little and big. Especially the little. If you don’t talk about the little things; well, that’s how you practice for the big stuff.

Don’t try to change the other person. You are both going to change anyway. Years from now you’ll look back and realize you are both different people. But the way you get different is of course by growing up even more than you have. Experiencing things together that you never experienced before. The important part of this is that you not force change on the other. Each of you will change for the other person but you won’t resent the change if you do it because you want to change for each other.

Toilet seats and where you squeeze the toothpaste are only important if you let them get that way. If it really bugs you – you need to say so and why. Realize that some things just won’t change- no matter what. Old habits die hard.

Be able to separate things that matter from stuff that doesn’t so you can spend your time on the big stuff that matters most.

At work we often have a problem with spending all our time on the urgent things and the important projects don’t get done. Be able to decide what is important. Fires need to be put out but you have to work on the important things all the time.

You have lots of very big decisions to make in the next few years. Notice I said years. You don’t have to work out everything right now. Get to know each other better. Spend lots of time doing things together. Talking. Even working together is OK.

Then as decisions come up, you’ll already have a better sense of what the other desires, wants, etc. and can focus your decision making around those things.

I just finished (quite some time ago really) a book on Love Languages. I guess it is a good thing that I know what your mom’s is and she knows mine. This is not something we’ve worked on but I hope it means we are paying attention to each other as we go along. That even without taking some sort of test, we know each other pretty well. Don’t expect to know each other very well yet. But be patient with each other while you are getting to know each other. Many young couples have spent months together before they actually have to live together. You don’t have that advantage so you’re going to experience things and quite possibly be surprised at how the other one responds (or doesn’t).

Blessings to and on you both!

Love

dad

(June 2008)

PG-13

This past weekend Sarah Palin uttered an unmentionable word on TV – cojones; in reference to how she felt about our President and the Gov. of AZ.

Some in the media are taking her to task over this apparent linguistic faux pas.

Not too many years ago Bush 43 was ridiculed when he used the word poop or doo-doo or something like that. The media said ‘if that is what he meant, why not say the real s*** word.’

So what do they want? Darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

Looks like the FCC is going to relax standards on what they call unintentional profanity. I guess before too long certain words will enter the mainstream lexicon and we’ll have even more ‘splaining to do to our kids.

But come on – cojones? I knew what they were and what it meant when I was maybe 13 years old.

We already have “frickin’” or “freakin.’ which I won't let my kids use.” Crap has been around since I was barely verbal. What are the origins of darn? I couldn't say that when I was a kid.

I’m not in favor of anything goes. I think we’ll see a pendulum swing and a few celebs and TV-writers are going to try to slip a few more words in.

I’m not sure where to draw the line but maybe a lesson in what profanity really is versus crude language – they are different.

When I was a kid, people who would occasionally utter a word or two and they’d quickly say “pardon my French,” and keep on going. Today all those French words are pretty much part of our everyday language and wouldn’t even cause a PG movie to be rated PG-13.

Wonder what we’ll look back and think in 10 years or so?