Religulous Thinking

February 17th, 2009-  I’m walking through the DVDs at Wal-Mart looking for something worth watching.  It’s a task similar to finding a needle in a haystack.  My eyebrows knit a bit as I scan one poor offering after another.  I guess it isn’t right for me to scorn those who produce our entertainment for offering us this slop when the masses are buying it.  The problem is…I’m not the masses.

My eyes latch onto a strange cover.  It’s a gentleman named Bill Mahr standing between parted waters a’la the Red Sea.  His shoulders and palms are raised in the, “I don’t know” or “I don’t get it either look.”

“Religulous?  Oh, no.”

I pull a copy away from the rack and peek at the back.  I’m going to paraphrase what the back said, “Comedian and TB host (Oops, I mean TV host, sorry.) Bill Mahr travels the globe questioning religion by asking the critical questions all else are afraid to ask.  Such as ‘Why is faith good?’ and ‘If there is an all powerful God, why doesn’t he just speak to us directly?”

Note: I have not seen the documentary so I’m going on a little assumption.  What I have pictured is a smug Bill Mahr ambushing the faithful with difficult questions then standing with the “I don’t get it either look” when the devotee is unable to answer.

There’s a lot to say here…I’ll just break it down by points.

Point #1- There’s nothing wrong with questions like these.  If God is real, then they all have answers.  They must.  After all, if Jesus was asked these questions he would have an answer wouldn’t he? 

I just hate the idea of shooting these questions at someone who might not know enough to answer them.  It’s a little like throwing trigonometry questions at a fifth grader then denying the existence of mathematics if they can’t answer.

Point #2- Even I had to think about how I would answer the question, “What’s so great about faith?”

My answer would run a little like this… “Well Bill, that’s a little like asking, ‘What’s so great about oxygen?’ or ‘Why is water so special?’  Faith is the nourishment that feeds the relationship with our Creator.  Our bodies were designed to use water and oxygen otherwise we would die.  The same goes for the soul.  In this case, we’ll use the Biblical definition for death…separation from God.

You need faith in order to have any relationship with the Almighty.  I

Point #3- The question, “If there is an all powerful God, why doesn’t he just speak to us directly?” has been around for a while.  Even believers ask God this question.

My answer?  “Ok Bill, this question has a lot to do with us being created with a will.  Ages ago, the angels were offered a choice and some rebelled against God.  This fallen world (Adam and Eve’s stupid choice) offers us this same choice.  Reject God or accept him. 

He’s already offered us all the evidence we need to come to the correct decision:  Christ’s empty tomb plus the testimony of saints and Scripture…the amazing intricacy of Nature and our bodies, which are IMPOSSIBLE without some design…and the structure of our souls, the ideas of charity, liberty, creativity, will, and a sense of right are constructs of a creative soul not chemical reactions.

And trust me Bill, one day he will make it plain and it will be plain for all eternity.  As they say in the broadcast business…this is only a test.”

Maybe we will never completly understand God’s reasoning here; afterall it DOES mean some will be lost.  Is it God’s choice to save who He will?  He chose Isreal over the hundreds of different tribes of the ancient world.  Have you noticed they’re still around?       

Point #4- I have no doubt Mr. Mahr found plenty of things to criticize that cannot be defended.  With all the flaws humans have and the houses of straw they build around the Bible’s strong bulwark, there are many man made practices that aren’t worth anything more than scorn.  Throw in a few false teachers and the wackiness of the miss-informed and I’m sure Bill Mahr had a “hey” day. 

Thankfully I’m not ultimately in charge.


The Last Dance — Step Two

If you haven’t read The Last Dance – Step One, you need to.  Scroll down.

“Matt, would you like to dance?”

Now that Leah had been taken by another partner there was no reason not to accept Holly’s offer.  I nodded and a bright grin dominated her expression.  She had broken through the possible rejection.  Each class thereafter, while I was working up the nerve to approach Leah, Holly would come for me like a heat seeking missile.  (A little Titly, I mean Teply, and she couldn’t help herself.) 

By the time the last class of the six weeks arrived, I had danced with Leah approximately ZERO times!  I was distraught!  I couldn’t reject Holly but I sure as heck didn’t want to dance with her anymore!  But the last class was going to be different…

“Alright!  Let’s have our lines again!”  The PE teacher called everyone his or her places. 

By now, everyone lined up basically the same way.  That meant me looking directly into Holly’s bright, gleaming smile.  Wow, was she happy.  If only Leah understood the kind of happiness that I was capable of inducing!

“This time we are doing something called a broom dance!  We’ve got a girl absent today so this works out perfectly.  The extra guy will dance with the broom for a minute or two, when he gets tired of holding it he’ll drop it.  When I hear the smack the music will stop and you’ll have fifteen seconds to find a new partner!  The odd guy out has to pick up the broom.  Any questions?  (Someone raises their hand)  I’m just doing that to be polite now grab a partner!”

The music began in earnest and POW there was Holly directly in front of me.  She smiled and I bowed my head in resignation.  I had the chance to dance with a few of the other non-descript girls…which was fun…I guess.  But the clock was my enemy and it was winning.  Once that bell rang and dismissed the final class, I’d have to wait until senior prom before gathering enough gumption to approach Leah.

The broom landed again and I turned away from (who else) Holly and there Leah stood!  She had broken away from her partner at the exact same time and place as I did!  She was looking at me and my eyes connected with hers!  I couldn’t stop thinking with exclamation marks!!!!!  

“Would you like to dance?”

“Does a monkey scratch its butt?”  (Just kidding.  I wish I’d said that.  In reality, I just nodded.)

The music started up.

Leah asked.  “Ok, what dance do you want to do?”

“I don’t care what do you want to do?”

Our conversation went on like this for almost thirty seconds before we stepped toward each other.  (What dance was it?  Who cares!  I was about to touch Leah Shoemaker!)  Then the spaz who had the broom dropped it prematurely and the music quit again. 

Leah and I looked at each other for another precious moment before she turned away and left my life forever.

Addendum:  Here’s how Leah and I’s story really ends…   After high school, I returned to Dickinson, North Dakota for my first year of college.  On my very first day, I “waltzed” into Freshman Composition and sitting in the very back of the room was none other than Leah Shoemaker!  That is not made up!  She was sitting there with the same girl she hung out with during our grade school years. 

You might think that we could pick up our fledgling romance right there…that the stars had dictated the collision of our constellations…and you’d be wrong.  She looked as soft as a new pillow, wore more make-up than a rodeo clown, and the hair that I loved so much as a youngster had become the same hairstyle both of my grandmothers wear so well. 

I took my seat near the front and never looked back…figuratively and literally.


The Last Dance – Step One

How to describe my early feelings for Leah Shumaker…I may ask you, how long do you have?

My crush (not the right word, try worship) on Leah Shumaker lasted from the first day of fourth grade until I moved away during the middle of my eighth grade year.  Just to make eye contact…to hold her beautiful gaze for only a few moments would make my week.  I envied her parents, her home, her car, and anything else that got to share her rarified air. She was almost perfect with her button nose, delicious smile, and thick curls of dark silk.    
I was always too shy (not the right words, try rejection petrified) to actually speak to her, which is why I was counting on the dance class the PE classes were planning.  I never spoke to God much as a young man but when I approached the bulletin board that day I was in full prayer mode.

“Dear God, pleeeeeeeese put Leah in my PE class.  You know as well as I that I’m going to need your help if there’s any chance of Leah and I to ever ‘go out.’  Anyway, I’m begging you.”

I scanned the list.  There was S-H-U-M-A-K-E-R, Leah and almost directly below it…on the same page…please…T-I-T-L-Y, Matthew  (That was me.  The school never spelled it correctly.  It was murder if I was ever called over the school PA system.)

Stepping back from the bulletin board, my head did nothing but spin.  I could feel the blood as it sped through my body faster, and faster.  Leah Shumaker was in my slow dance class!  The class lasted for an entire six weeks.  The law of averages said that I would get to dance with her at least once, maybe twice.  My life was about to change!

The first day of class the boys crowded together near the bleachers with the girls clumped by the stage.  Each group repelled the other like similar ends of a magnet.  Each group wanted to approach the other but the stakes were too high.  Kennedy faced less pressure during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Finally, the PE teacher lined us up with one long row of boys facing the girls.  I knew where Leah was so I did my best to line up directly in front of her.  Others must have had the same idea because the line clumped a bit across from her.  The PE instructor had to come and iron us out a bit.  I got the far outside.

“Ok, when the music begins you must choose a partner!  Practice the box step or a simple waltz!  Do you understand?”

Other than the teacher, no one’s heart rate was below five hundred.  Mine was pounding so fast and so hard I couldn’t’ count the beats.

When the slow music began, the lines slowly converged and disintegrated like a kindergarten game of red rover.  This was it!  If I didn’t wet myself, there was a chance for me to snag Leah.  Not just a passing glance or a “You left your book on my desk, moron,” but a dance!    

I didn’t make it to the prize.  Some fiend who was completely unaware of my feelings for Leah asked her first.  It was a bitter taste but nothing compared to the blindside I had waiting for me when I turned around.  There was Holly Katchmar with her long, paisley dress and three-foot long ponytails.  She looked like an illustration torn from the Little House on the Prairie series.


The New Tree

There is a small apple orchard in Washington State on the framed by the beautiful peaks of the Cascades.  The vibrant greens of the orchard only vary in shade depending on the weather.  With dark skies filled with rain, the trees and grass take on a deep, quiet teal like that of thick mosses.  On days where sunlight glides earthward on brilliant beams, the orchard becomes an lighter, more active, vibrant green.

Through this place runs a mountain stream fed with the pure snow of the mountains.  It ebbs through the wild pines of an evergreen forest before quenching the orchard’s thirst.  And from the home of the orchard’s owner a dirt road stretches directly to the lazy town of Fruitcake, Washington.

In the middle of the trees, an old wooden house crowned a small rise in the grassy earth.  The farmer, his wife, and their two sons live there as caretakers of the apple trees.  When harvest time arrives every year, they separate the tasty apples, which are to be sold, from the few spoiled rotten ones.  It is tradition for the boys to play catch with the bad apples then throw them into the forest for the wild animals to eat.

Of course, the wild animals also have a yearning for the good apples.  To keep them in the forest, the family has employed a fearsome animal that resembles a dog but in temperament is more like a bear.  It was a Labrador retriever with long legs and a strong jaw they called Crank.

Crank slept during the day and patrolled the trees by moonlight.  For years, the dog protected the trees especially the fruit produced by a special tree called Grande.  Grande’s apples were the biggest, the reddest, and juiciest of the entire orchard.

On the very top of Grande’s branches lived two apples.  One was huge, red, and beautiful, catching the eye of every man and raccoon that lived near the orchard.  But the small one beside it lacked whatever the large apple had in excess.  The small apple was tiny, and ugly maroon color, and dented on one side.  Once the small one fell, it was sure to be tossed between the boys then cast into the forest for the raccoons.

The large apple thought little of the small apple, and usually teased the small apple about its size.  Other apples would join in the fun making the small apple feel worthless.  This constant teasing usually just made the small apple cover up with the biggest leaf it could find.

One day, a raccoon came upon the edge of the orchard and saw old Grande.  More important to him, however, was the treasure at the top.   His eyes grew wide and is mouth watered.  He imagined the scent and the tart sensations playing along his tongue.  That night he made an attempt to reach Grande but was chased back into the forest by Crank.  But the raccoon was smarter than the others of his kind.  He would come during the day.  When the sun lured other raccoons to sleep, he would try for the big apple.

Dawn came to the valley and with it weight came upon Crank’s eyes.  He trotted back to his house and fell asleep.

The boys and their father hadn’t made it out of the house yet and hence there was no one watching Grande.  It worked perfectly in the raccoon’s favor.  He quickly reached the tree and began skillfully climbing.  

By the time the raccoon was halfway to the tree, the apples noticed his presence.  The large apple yelled louder than any other apple because he knew he was the apple the raccoon would devour first.  The small apple was wake and filled with alarm as well but he knew that there was little danger of the raccoon taking it.

Being an expert climber, the hungry raccoon reached the top of Grande with surprising speed.

Seeing that the raccoon was inches away from seizing the large apple, the small apple made a choice that would cost him his only chance at being one the fine apples that would be shipped to Fruitcake.  As the expectant claws of the raccoon easily stretched for the big apple, the little one plucked itself from the tree.  It fell the raccoon’s nose with surprising force.  The raccoon lost its balance and was unable to recover.  He landed with a thump at the base of Grande.

This is the end of the story for the hungry raccoon, for within moments Crank had him in his jaws.

The story for both apples, however, had just begun.  The large apple eventually developed a terrible case of worms, and at harvest the old man’s boys could think of nothing better to do with it than to play catch.  The end for the tiny apple was quite different.

When it hit the ground, it rolled away from Grande and into an abandoned rabbit hole.  As the seasons went on, a new tree stood in the orchard.  The seed from the small apple had now grown into a tall, strong, and healthy tree, giving some of the best apples in the orchard, and providing the boys shade from the hot summer son to play catch.

The Dynamics of Weakness

February 13th, 2009-  I work a second job as a lifeguard with the Parks and Recreation Department here in Middle Tennessee.  Guarding is without a doubt the best second job you could hope to secure.  Who could argue with flexible hours, free gym access (both pools are housed with fitness centers), plenty of down time, and the endless people watching?

Most patrons come and go without showing enough significance to leave an inscription my memory.  The faces of the regulars I remember.  (Especially the “Walrus Crew” other wise known as Shallow Aerobics.)

Last Friday a child approached the stand complaining about another boy hitting him.  I hadn’t seen anything so I told him I’d keep a look out.  A second later, the mother approaches me and says, “Yea, that boy over there in the black shorts just pushed junior again.”

Juvenile conflict resolution isn’t listed on my official duties but I decided to go ahead and call the offending child over.  I blew the whistle and he ignored me.  I blew again and he only glanced my direction.

“One more and if I don’t get the proper response bozo here is gone.”

After the third whistle, the boy (possibly eight or nine) stomped up.  The expression on his face was a mask of hostility.  Before I could get a word out, he began pleading his case by shouting.

I interrupted him. “Go take a chair.  You’ve got ten.”  (The dirty secret?  That’s about all a lifeguard has at his or her disposal…time out.  That’s dropping the hammer.  After that we “ask” them to go.)

AngryPants (That’s what I’m going to call him ok?  Good.) kicks the water a bit then sits directly in front of me.  His feet are still in the water.

“Son, that’s a chair over there!”

This time AngryPants gets up and marches over to a chair.  On the way, he begins BITING HIMSELF on the arm!  Uh-oh.  We’ve got a broken kid on our hands and I still don’t know where mom is hiding.

I didn’t have to wait long before AngryPants let me know where his mom was.  He leaped out of his chair and showed off a bit more stomping as he moved to the tables only six feet behind my stand.  I needed to know where he was headed so I turned around.  There was AngryPants screaming in the face of this haggard looking woman at the top of his lungs.  The pool has a water fort that makes a ton of noise so I couldn’t make out what he was saying but it was something akin to, “I’M BEING PERSECTUED AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!”

I can’t stress this enough.  The kid was yelling at his mother like a drill sergeant immediately after a recruit urinates on his boots.  It was brutal, jaw open, full-throated shouting. 

Soon enough, mom approaches me, “What happened?”

“Ma’am, some of the other patrons were complaining about your child hitting the other children and when I called him over he ignored me.  He’s obviously a little too angry and needs to cool it for a few minutes.  (There was ZERO chance of me letting his kid back in the water until I had exacted some form of vengeance.  If his mom wasn’t going to work him over then I would do what I could get away with.)   

“Oh, he’s done swimming.  I just wanted to know what he did and how to punish him.”

I nodded but on the inside I mumbled, “Yea, right.”

I knew that within two minutes of me getting off the stand that kid would be back in the water.  If I had a million dollars to put on it, I wouldn’t have thought twice.

Ten minutes passed and I switched out you can guess what happened…From my perch in the office I saw the child swim another hour with his mother’s beak buried again the book.

I see lesser examples of children ignoring parents all the time this was just the most extreme example.  The question is…Why are adults scared of disciplining children when it’s so obvious they’re testing you?

Got an answer?

Devil’s Lake Act Duce

Lights come up on Greg and Matt as they slowly stroll across the stage.  They look haggard with their clothes bunched and wrinkled.  They are covered in swollen, red mosquito bites.  The background is a wide canvas painted with a typical camp scene.

Matt (sound of flies from offstage):  “Woe is the nose that is greeted by the visible odors you’re giving off my faithful friend.”

Greg (in response):  “Matt, you contribute as well to the miasma that has taken residence in cabin thirteen.”

Matt:  “Ha!  Although the skunk pauses before crossing my path, the true fault does not lie with me.  What you smell is the bitter conclusion to the concession pizza Jon bought the first night we took residence here.  It continues its decay in the corner even now.”

Matt (clasps his hand around Greg’s arm, he crouches a bit and points off stage):  Hark!  There, exiting from the back of the girl’s bathroom, it appears to be a person of our own persuasion!  Could it be that one side of the structure is for men and the other for women?”

Greg (squinting):  “Be that person male or female I cannot decipher and now they are removed from sight.”

Matt (excited):  “Let us not tarry another moment!  Quick, fetch your unused towels and soap!”

Greg (begin pulled my Matt): “But wait!!”

Lights go down then the spotlight comes up on the narrator.

Narrator: “When thirteen year old boys truly argue of the extent of the foul smell you can rest assured that it is pungent.  Matt is earnest in his thinking.  He truly believes that he saw a male exit the back of the new and inviting girl’s bathrooms.  On their way back to Number Thirteen, Greg continues his wary protests but Matt ignores him stressing the fact that he has a simple test.  We rejoin our heroes alongside the back of the girl’s restroom.”   

Lights come up on Matt and Greg.  The background is a wide canvas painted mustard orange with slightly darkened outlines of cinderblock joints.  There is a white door painted directly before them.  Both actors stand facing each other with towels and other hygienic tools in their arms.

Matt:  “Behold!  It is just like I was saying.  This side of the building is completely unmarked!  Girls come to and fro on the other side but there is precious little activity on this side.”

Greg:  “The other side faces the girl’s cabins.”

Matt (speaking as if flustered):  “The test is a simple one!  We will creep inside.  If there is a urinal equipped inside then it must be a men’s restroom.  What possible cause is there for a male device in a female domain!?”

Greg (grudgingly convinced) “You speak truly.  But if we see that there is nothing but stalls then we must flee like frightened hens.”

The canvas rolls up quickly to reveal a different back ground.  The half near stage right is painted with a long row of stalls with a single urinal at the end.  Stage left is painted to resemble showers with real curtains set in front of the canvas and held by aluminum rods.  Both sections are separated by a plywood partition.

Matt (excited):  “A thousand nays are overturned by a single yea!  Look Greg, there is a urinal at the end.  I ask again.  How can this be considered a women’s facility?”

Greg (stuck as if his feet were stuck in mud):  “I understand your merriment.  I only wish the evidence was a bit more conclusive.”

Matt leaves Greg and marches to the other side of the stage.  He immediately jumps behind on of the curtains.

Matt (yelling over the sound of running water):  “You will receive no further invitation Greg.  Shower now or allow your smell to send those around you into fiendish, wrenching fits.”

Greg shrugs then walks stage left.

Greg (pointing off stage):  “That is surly the most grand mirror I’ve ever seen!  It takes up nearly the entire wall.”

Matt replies by belting out a familiar show tune.  He is obviously busy washing.  Greg dallies a moment longer before going behind another curtain.  For a few minutes, both actors sing lusty songs and at times seem to be competing with each other in machismo and volume.  Finally, Matt exits the curtain with only a towel in front of him.  The rest of the actor is covered with a flesh colored body stocking.  There’s the sound of a door closing and a female enters from stage right.  She faces the front of the stage and acts as if she is tying her shoes.

Matt:  “Greg! (Greg stops singing.)  Did you hear that?  It sounded as if someone has come in.”

Matt drapes the towel in front of him to the neglect of his backside and peeks around the partition.  The girl notices him immediately and both scream.  She runs and Matt spins towards Greg.

Matt (loudly):  “Fire and brimstone Greg!  The urinal was a decoy!  And worst of all…I fear the mirror along the opposite wall showed her my full moon!”

Greg punches the shower curtain wildly before stumbling onto the stage half dressed.  Matt already has his pants and shirt partially on.

Matt and Greg scamper off to stage right.

Matt and Greg (together):  “Flee like the fresh wind that now proceeds us!  That we may again escape the many snares of Devil’s lake.”

Stage goes dark then a spotlight comes up on the narrator.

Narrator:  “Matt and Greg escape this time and now wear the story like a badge of honor.  They will spend their lives pitting this ridiculous event against tales of bungee jumping and bull riding.  After all, how many can claim a shower in the bathroom of the opposite gender.  Thank you for coming and good night.”

Devil’s Lake Act Uno

The Narrator stands in front of a blackened screen.  Slowly he raises his hand and the room gradually tumbles into sheer silence.  “Thank you for coming to tonight’s performance of, ‘Devil’s Lake.’  We are confident that you will enjoy tonight’s presentation or your popcorn purchase will be completely and totally refreshed with the leftovers at the close or our performance.”

He steps behind a podium and opens a dramatically heavy book as the curtains part.  The scene reflects his scripted words.  “There’s a lake in the beltway of North Dakota where on a clear sunset you may catch the innumerable hordes of mosquitoes darkening a portion of the crimson sun as they carry enchanted forest creatures away.  A typical scene for the area they call Devil’s Lake.”

A plywood front is wheeled onto the stage.  The plywood is shaped and painted in the traditional form of a school bus.  Actors and actresses talk in excited tones mumbling about swimming, crafts, and stories.  Three actors shuffle in front of the other actors their voices coming to the fore.

Greg: (fine brown hair with glasses, leans a bit nerdish) “Well, we’re here.  It’s a shame our parents decided to drop one of life’s milestone on our toes instead of letting us just do what we wanted to this summer.  We could be playing our Retardo right now.”

Matt:  (broadly built even as a youngster, dark brown hair and eyes, carrying melancholy like one of his bags) “This is just like little league only there’s no chance of rescue. I told my mom I didn’t want to go but she decided to abandon her eldest anyway.”

Jon: (Auburn hair with a bowl cut, freckles and a baby face, the energy of a loosed animal)  “Are you kidding?!  This is great!  My mom and dad aren’t here to pin me down with their constant supervision.  I’m telling you guys, I’m not leaving here without a kiss.”

Greg holds up a folded sheet of paper:  “It kind of looks like our cabin is over here.”

They begin walking in place as the bus is darkened and rolled away.  Extras also file out.  A stage front with three white doors is wheeled onto stage.  The paint is chipped and gone in several places.  The boys don’t seem impressed.

Matt: “Uh, which suite did you say was ours?”

Jon: (interrupting) “You boys know you’ll have to clear out if I manage to smuggle a girl back here, right?”

Greg: (to Matt) “It looks like we’re in number thirteen.  That’s not a good sign and look (he opens a palm toward the door with a disgusted look on his face) we’re the only ones without a screen door or even a screen on the window!”

Matt: (head hanging a bit)  “But it’s been averaging almost a hundred degrees during the day with only a spoonful of relief at night!  We’ll just have to leave the window completely open then.”

Greg (incredulously):  Are you insane?  The mosquitoes will eat us alive!  (slaps his face)  See what I mean?

Jon:  “What about the bathrooms?”

The boys walk back toward stage left.  Darkening lights help mask the retreat of the white door fronts.  Lights rise upon a sad looking stage.  A canvas wall is drawn with the parallel and perpendicular mortar seams of a cinderblock wall.  A prop toilet stands by itself with a dingy gloss.   Pallets line the floor catching the plummeting drops from pipes poking through the canvas.  Matt looks aghast and Greg little better.

Matt:  “We can’t shower here!  Look…right there…is that a spider web along the ceiling!  Webs mean spiders and when I rinse I’ll have to close my eyes!  The vermin will strike me then!”

Greg (jumps back and points)  Right there!  Did you see it?  It was right there!  I saw a cricket!  Larger than a dime and just as bloodthirsty!  Oh, weep my friends for a man is never so defenseless as when he is nude and beginning puberty…as we all possibly are.”

Matt and Jon nod in agreement.

Jon:  (sniffs his armpits)  “You know what?  I think I’ll fare as well as nature will allow.  Yea, twelve-year-old maidens are none too picky.  I’ll just tell them that it’s musk.”

Greg:  “The girls are on the other side of the campground!  You can’t go over there, all right!  In fact, I don’t think we’re even allowed in the cafeteria at the same time!”

Matt:  (voice low)  “We came with virgin lips and we will depart with the same.”

The stage completely darkens and a sharpened light comes up on the narrator.

Narrator:  “Sizzling temperatures, swarms of blood sucking vermin, facilities without lavender hand soap, and safeguards protecting the young maidens!  Our heroes have seemingly impossible odds stacked against them.  Will they keep a bold heart or pine for the comfortable feel of their Retardo Entertainment System? “

Feeding Love

People are quick to complain and often slow to praise.  Why?  Because many of us feel that when something goes right…THEY (IT) WERE SUPPOSED TO DO IT THAT WAY!  There’s no point in thanking them if that’s how we expected it to be done in the first place.

It’s a shame but we’re four times as bothered by things that go wrong than we are pleased by things that go right.  Just ask a football fan.

My wife does so many of the little things right that I often take them for granted.  After all, that’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to work.  But eventually I become surprised by her traits.

Case in point…With the birth of our second child, it became my responsibly to do the grocery shopping for a while.  Shopping for groceries is normally a team effort.  I keep Saul corralled and load the cart while Melissa scrolls down the list and pushes the cart.  Now it was up to me to keep the cart rolling, the list in front of my eyes, and Saul’s perpetual motion in check.  I must have looked like a one-man band reaching for a jar of salsa, Saul, the list, and the cart all at the same time.

(Dear reader:  You can rest assured that when my wife finally reads this she’ll read the hectic description above and mumble, “amateur.” under her breath.)

Here’s where my wife’s abilities impressed me…I never had to turn around.  The list was in exact order.  I walked through the grocery store reading an item off the list then reaching out and snatching it.  I didn’t need to turn around and I was never lost looking for an item.  You could have drawn a simple dotted line going down the isle and each corresponded with the perfectly!

You other guys can just eat your heart out.

A Night At The Movies is the blog that isn’t.  I write so that each post carries the same easy reading, comedic value even six months after it is first written.  It’s a timeless approach that adds value to the website each time I post.  The stock grows without having to rotate.

To accomplish this, I’ve never really written directly to politics, religion, or current events.  This newest category is something of an exception.  Dated topics such as what the latest Congress is doing wrong won’t be covered.  Instead it’s a collection of snippets taken from life as it is now.

February 4th 2009- I’m sitting in the faculty lunchroom at school when one of the teachers from another mini-school comes in to run a few copies.  While they print, she wanders over an relates this story…

“I was at the movies last Saturday night.  Sitting in front was an entire crowd of black folks shouting at the movie, using more profanity than normal language, and laughing loudly at even the serious scenes.  You would have to be there to believe it.

Anyway, when someone from the theater finally came in to ask them to stop they cussed her out too, told them they’d bought a @#$%! ticket and that she was being racist.  So she leaves and gets security to start moving them out.  The entire time they continued to yell and scream everything in the book.

Finally as they are being ushered out, they all began yelling, ‘Obama is gonna fix all this!  Obama is gonna fix all this!  You wait!”

I rewrote about six different concluding statements to this story each covering a different aspect of why some folks out there are completely delusional and none really seemed to do the situation justice.  Needless to say, the expectations for our new president are a bit unrealistic.

February 6th, 2000- I’ll be honest.  I’ve completely lost my respect for Hollywood as a creative Mecca.  California’s gravity has been pulling it away from good writing to special effects for a long time now.  It’s a disease that has movies devolving into visual extravaganzas with storylines no thicker than a page out of an old comic book.

Hollywood’s never ending quest for the next blockbuster has funneled them into one effects laden fiasco after another.  I would guess these are focused on the money demographics.  Like following a recipe, producers find the brooding hero, intriguing love interest, over the top villain, forced comic relief, sacrificing side kick, and an avalanche of SPECIAL EFFECTS.  Mix this in with empty storylines and sequels.  It’s a mess and I don’t know if I’ll ever come back.

Case in point, I was online a few days ago and I traipsed across four banner ads for movies.  In no particular order, the new Star Trek (The name sounds familiar, where have I heard it before?), a Friday the 13th (For this script, Freddie mercilessly cuts up the previous movie plots then tapes them back together.), G.I. Joe (Here’s the trailer…BOOM, slow motion jumping through flames, CRASH, “We never fail,” stern looking hero, KAPLOWEE!  Been done?), Transformers 2 (An episode of Sesame Street is better written than the first movie.  I can’t wait to find out what the sequel transforms into.)

Need an example of good writing triumphing despite bad special effects?  Look no further than the Princess Bride.  It’s a movie I would rather watch a hundred times than subjugate my eyes to one of these blockbusters more than once.

Crafting Your Own Comedy (Part II)

Hello! We now continue with our dissection of the programming known commonly as the Sitcom. Before reading this information please take a moment to review our introduction, “Crafting Your Own Comedy.”

Like vitamins to the human body, there are several important “motivators” that help keep any sitcom alive and ratings healthy. Let’s take an in-depth look at several of the common ones.

The cast must be a collection that involves a mix of the following personality types. You may pick and choose; however, like a bowl of jellybeans, you will attract more people the greater your variety. We’ve personified each type to augment your understanding.

Ted the Moron– He gets stupid ideas and states them with confidence. He doesn’t seem to notice when the other characters look at each other and do a “What the…” double take right in front of him. He misunderstands common expressions and puns. Unlike stupid people in real life, he’s always loveable and his debilitating stupidity only endears him to the others.

Frank the Frustrated Hero– This guy is usually the main character. His good nature is infectious but he is a bit naïve. Any big plans he has that would change the dynamic show MUST fall through at the last moment. If it doesn’t, you must promote the show as “A Very Special Episode.”

Jim the Ladies Man – Romance is equal part tragedy and comedy. The comedy is mined from the fact that people do INSANE things when they think they are in love. Your characters should embarrass themselves with stunts that have every good psychiatrist shaking their heads.

Also remember (and this is important), SEX on TV is as causal as buying groceries. I know it seems deviant to convey this ridiculous idea but that’s the way we work in Hollywood.

Janet the Compulsive – This could also be Janet the Eccentric or Janet the Arrogant. This character has one extreme aspect of her personality that is constantly being yanked at by the show’s circumstances or other characters. Put her in a tizzy and keep her there.

The rest of your sitcom is simply setting and a congealed, misshapen mound of bad puns, put-downs, misunderstandings, and a bit of slapstick. Yes, that’s it!! We remind you again that being a TV executive requires precious little creative or innovative thinking. You can do it then hire your imbecile cousin as a junior executive.

Here’s a quick primer on common sitcom settings…


The Workplace Sitcom

– Everyone has a break and fills the break room at the SAME time.

– A practical joke must be in play at all times.

– The boss is cranky and out of touch. Why? HE JUST IS! NOW GET BACK TO READING!

– No one is ever out sick or has to wear uniforms.

– All customers are very quiet so we can hear the workers.


The Family Sitcom

– Most good family sitcoms are designated in a pleasant suburban home. Don’t mess with this. It gives everyone a nice feeling.

– The clueless dolt MUST be the father. DO NOT anger your audience by allowing the wife (female) to do anything habitually stupid. They are to be the “behind the scenes” masters of every situation allowing the male to only think he’s in charge.

– All families must have friends of another race. We don’t care just pick one. (Chubby Asian kids are usually comedy gold.)

– Sitcom families wear robes in the morning just like a full 2% of the American public.

– Don’t do something silly like having friends and family knock before coming in.

– The house must stay mysteriously clean with no housecleaning.


In summary, to create a Sitcom (Sit for Commercials) you will need one industrial strength laugh track, a cast of lop-sided characters, a plethora of put-downs and a whitewashed setting. A prime time slot is only a pitch away!