Purple, directed by Michael Kamel

In October, Michael Kamel, a young filmmaker, asked if he could use the script of my short play, “Purple,” for a short film.

I said sure, go for it. Michael is a freshman at George Mason University.

I get a fair number of requests such as this. They ALL warm my heart — and I mostly never hear about the project again.

Michael emailed me today, saying he’s been busy with “school, school, and more school.”

Yet, lo and behold, he actually made the film.

Today, sent me a link.

I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed. A lot of people make a lot of videos. And a lot of people talk about making films. Michael made a film. And he took care to do it well. He got more out of that script than I would have imagined.

The script…well, it’s fun and strange to look back and think what weird things were going on inside my head in 2007, when I wrote this.

The film… great work, Michael! I love it. You really know how to work with your actors. Thanks also to Jacob and Bri. I don’t know them, but I love them for breathing life into these characters. 🙂

purplepic

The Lego Movie

I missed a lot of good movies this year.

Last Saturday night, having had the opportunity to see a movie for the first time in a while, I scanned the web, looking for something good.

I wanted to see 12 Years a Slave — and I will see it — but I had spent a lot of time in my car last week and didn’t feel like driving an hour each way — which is what that would have required.

None of the movies here in Salisbury interested me.

Except… I noticed… The Lego Movie was getting great reviews.

The last time I convinced Alicia to see a movie she didn’t think she would like — with me promising it was supposed to be so good she  would, she didn’t.

It took some talking to get her to go to The Lego Movie. It took something for me to go. I’ve never seen Toy Story, or any animated greats in the past several decades. But we had not been out for a while and she was willing to be a sport about it.

The Lego Movie is a great movie. It’s a lot of fun with lots of quick wit, and we both enjoyed it completely.

Even thought somebody thinks Everything is Awesome is a fascist song, I’m absolutely sure it’s not. And it’s catchy enough, and repeated enough, to ensure you will be singing it on the way out.

A letter to the editor, Steve Mensing

Dear Steve,

Thanks for the plug for our show, Laugh Tracks, at Spoken Space Theatre. FYI, it’s entirely inaccurate. The sketches we have planned are not the ones you list. I won’t be linking to it, but you know what you wrote (using the name Diane Goldstein).

While we do appreciate the publicity, I’m sorry to report that we won’t be reciprocating. We don’t have any bits scheduled about your blog.

We do plan to make fun of the county commissioners, Jim Sides in particular. However, this is not personal. I’ve known Mr. Sides most of my life. I like him and respect him and consider him to be a friend. I simply have different opinions about public policy and would like to see the county government shift its priorities.

Your blog gets personal. It seems to focus primarily on city vs. county politics, saying that the people in the county are good and the people in the city are bad.

While politics is a part of the Laugh Tracks show, it’s only a part. It’s something we’re interested in, but we’re interested in a lot of other things that provide material for comedy also. Our primary focus is to create fun and laughter.

You and I have different points of view, and I consider you to be my friend.

One thing I know about people. They don’t look the same, walk the same, talk the same — or think the same.

Here’s a bit about my view, and how it got shaped by my experiences. I grew up in Salisbury, taught school for 24 years (in the county), raised my children here, own a business here, pay taxes here, own property here. So I care deeply about this geographical area and its future.

Your experiences are completely different, and you have a completely different point of view.

That said, I don’t see that it benefits anybody for the county government and city government to oppose each other. And I don’t understand why anybody would want to take sides. The city is part of the county, only divided by an artificial line on a map. People live, work, shop, eat, and die all over, without regard to the government entities presiding over that piece of street or sidewalk or structure. The political arguments are fun, but they are really a whole lot of hoopla about a division that doesn’t really exist. It’s all just a place where people live — a tiny speck on a map.

I know, firsthand, that you are a good person. And you’re a good writer.

salisburyYour website, however, leaves people with the distorted impression that Salisbury is a town full of crime, corruption, and decay. Websites are accessible. Potential residents, businesses, and industry may see your website. Parents with children, considering moving here, have probably seen your website. Much of the material is distorted, and it does a lot of harm to the people who live in this area.

I don’t know why you do this. I know you are not from here, originally, and that you may have been treated badly by people in Salisbury.

There is a certain amount of snobbery in this town, as there is in every other town. My mother used to tell me how hard it was when she moved here, as a teenager, in the 1930’s. Her parents were immigrants who spoke with a foreign accent. My wife experienced this. My father experienced this. As a minority, I’ve experienced this separateness.

And I’ve participated in the hometown snobbery myself. It’s a “hey, I was born here” mentality. My family doesn’t go back generations, but it goes back further than people who moved here in recent years, like you. It’s like everybody picks on the new kid in class, and it goes on and on and on.

It’s silly.

So I want to be responsible for whatever I did to you that has you be this bitter. And I’d like to apologize. You live here, and you have the right to be welcomed as a part of the community without having to get attention by lashing out against it.

You’ve done a great job with your website. It gets a lot of traffic. I’ve read it with much interest myself. You’ve worked hard on it. Yet, it clings to a rigid, nasty, anti-city agenda. It’s an old, silly feud that started long before you and I made our lives here. You didn’t invent it. Why not give up embracing it and consider a more productive pursuit? Why not deal with the real city, rather than the evil one you’ve imagined? It’s just a place where people live, just like any other place. They build homes and buildings and streets. That’s it. And you live in it! Why not make your website something great that contributes to these people? You’re one of them. You could devote your considerable talents to that and be known for that!

Sam

Laugh Tracks — I’m really proud of this show (and having fun, too)

My latest venture — and some links that go with it.

In terms of theatre, this is not exactly ‘Streetcar Named Desire,’  — but it’s been a blast, a chance to really explore the creation of comedy, and see people develop.

Comedy group finds inspiration in Rowan life … and isn’t afraid to push the envelope

Debbie Hubbard to host weekend Laugh Tracks shows

Laugh Tracks shows will blend a variety of comedy styles

New Spoken Space Theatre will feature comedy, original plays

 

an amazing bladder

Stories about other people’s dogs are usually not that interesting.

That said, stories about my own dog are endlessly intriguing. To me. And this is one of those stories.

Alicia and I do not leave town often. So Jackie-Mudpie (our dog), has only been boarded a few times in her ten year life.

This past weekend, we were in Atlanta — and we left her in the care of our vet, with their brand new facility, for three days.

Now — Jackie is a modest girl. We often take her on day trips to the mountains. When we stop, at rest stops, or even in the vast woods beside Warren Wilson College, she’s usually thirsty enough to drink plenty of water — but she never, ever, uses the facilities. She simply waits until she gets home. She holds it all day. All day. And into the night.

That’s her history.

So, this past weekend, we dropped her at the vet at 1pm on Friday and went to Atlanta. We arranged for them to give her a bath on Monday, and for us to pick her up Monday afternoon.

About mid-day, Monday, I got a call from the vet’s office.

“Your dog has eaten very little and not gone to the bathroom since she got here,” said the nice lady from Dr. Lowe’s office. “Would you like the vet to have a look at her?”

I thought for a minute and concluded that, if she had held it for three days, she would go as soon as she got home. If she’s sick, we’ll know that immediately and take her back to the vet. I’d rather not spend the money on an unnecessary doctor bill.

jackie

“Nope,” I said. “We’ll bring her home first and see how she does.”

Alicia went and got her shortly after 3pm. When she drove up, in our driveway, and opened the door, Jackie bounded out and made a dash for her usual spot in the bushes.

Then she ran inside an ate.

Then she took a nap. Content and happy to be at home. A homebody, she is. And modest.

Alicia reminded me that our children were the same way when they were younger and spent nights away at friends’ sleepovers. They had fun, but they crashed on the couch and slept when they got home.

Donald Hughes’ photos of J.F.K.’s Funeral Procession

My good friend, Donald Hughes, sent me this link tonight:

A Spectator’s View of J.F.K.’s Funeral Procession

Donald did the photography for my film, Coffee Therapy. This is a side of Donald I did not know. I knew he was incredibly great to work with, completely competent and talented and hard working — but I had no idea that photography was this deep in his bones all his life. These are powerful photos.

I’m proud to know Donald and deeply honored that he shared this with me today.

he said she said

He: I’m not sure what you said.

She: You didn’t listen.

He: I know.

She: So now you don’t know.

He: I will if you tell me.

She: Repeat it?

He: Yes.

She: Double trouble for me and reward you for not listening?

He: If you want me to know what you’re saying.

She: Okay. I got hammered last night.

He: Really?

She: Yeah.

He: I didn’t notice.

She: You weren’t paying attention to me. You see this?

He: Ouch.

She: Yeah. Last night. on the porch stairs. And this.

He: Oh God. Shouldn’t you…

She: What?

He: See somebody.

She: That’s what I said.

Breaking Bad, Enough Said

I just looked up Breaking Bad on Wikipedia.

I heard about it, for the first time, a couple of weeks ago. Somebody asked me if I had seen it and I thought it was a movie, possibly an HBO series.

Since then I’ve seen it on Facebook constantly and on all the news sites.

I know… the series finale was tonight.

I was shocked to see, on Wikipedia, that it started in 2008!

That’s a long time to be completely out of it. Has it been this popular all this time?

Breaking Bad must be *@*&ing good.

I guess that’s what Netflix is for.

I just recently started watching 30 Rock and am making my way through the series on Netflix. Enjoying it very much. I never saw a single episode on regular TV.

I guess this is just to say that I don’t watch much TV anymore. I get hooked during elections and wars — but for me, TV has become a place to get bits of current news. Something to turn on when I take a break for 15 minutes and grab a snack.

For dramatic entertainment, I go online — or to the movies (still my favorite).

Last night, we saw “Enough Said.” It’s odd. Good. Not as good as the reviews say it is. But good. It’s a fun but unsettling film. I enjoyed seeing Julia Louis Dreyfus. Like most people, I was a huge Seinfeld fan. Unlike most people, I haven’t seen her in anything since then.

All the characters in “Enough Said” (except one, the daughter) suffer a certain syndrome that has them making big complaints little things done by people they most love. That may be A LOT LIKE REAL LIFE, but it’s not that dramatic.

In fact, I found the movie a little upsetting. Not because the world doesn’t come back together in the end — but because the bomb that blows it up in the middle needs a slightly better aim and a bit more explosion.

I love this short film

I love this video (from code.org). It reminds me of the good ol’ days, when I was a tech facilitator at the “old” West Rowan Middle School. We had a computer lab with 14 Apple IIe computers. The best thing about the IIe is that, unlike my Apple II Plus at home, it had a shift key and upper and lower case!

We had a limited amount of software. A word processor. Oregon Trail, and a couple of other games.

And we had Logo, an awesome computer language that involved a turtle that could do anything you wanted it to do. I learned it along with the kids. It was a rare moment in my teaching career in which I learned more from them — about the actual content — than they learned from me. It was a lot of fun and we did some amazing stuff.

I remember working with the kids, building a program in which the turtle created a city full of sky scrapers and then, well (this is not politically correct) blew it up.

In those days, we had no curriculum for computers, so it was wide open. Those were the best moments, when we didn’t know anything and were learning together. So often, the teacher is expected to know more than the students, which limits what the students can learn (only what the teacher knows).

A few years later, everything shifted to teaching with computers, using software — in some cases making the computer into a fancy set of flash cards.

As the curriculum became more sophisticated, it seemed programming was left out. Or maybe it shifted to high school. I spent my first two years teaching high school English and 22 as a tech facilitator in middle and elementary — and kids didn’t get much programming there. By the time I left, it was all about making the computer simulate a standardized test — a different kind of education than the kind suggested by the people in this short film.

See “The Butler”

After seeing previews, and then a snippet of interview on Charlie Rose, I really wanted to see “The Butler,” and I did.

This was without reading any reviews first, something I almost always do.

I can’t remember being this moved during a movie since Seasbiscuit (another movie I dearly loved, if that tells you anything).

I love low budget, artsy, indie films, and I’ve seen quite a few recently. I love Woody Allen films.

This is not that.

I generally catch the movies that get the Oscar nominations, and I’ll be curious to see if this film, having had a summer release, will be around then.

I rarely see action or sci fi or animation.

It’s full of movie stars, exquisitely made, with awesome acting and a powerful story. After the show, I read some reviews and was a little surprised. [Salon, Ebert, Rotten Tomatoes]

Critics are not pronouncing to be the masterpiece I thought I had witnessed. They say it’s good, but uneven in style, spotty with history, and formulaic.

My review is simple. The opening sequence caused a surge of sympathy for Cecil Gaines (Forrest Whitaker), that increased throughout. I got choked up every five minutes for the entire two hours. The story was compelling and well-told (familiar history from a new, fresh perspective). I completely left my life, went blank, forgot Oprah was Oprah, and forgot who I was and where I was.

When I get that caught up in a story, and my experience of it, I call that great movie.