Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence

Last night, it was my honor to win the Best Feature Screenplay award at Chapman University's annual film awards. The "Cecil Award" went to my script Cooking Live, but I was lucky enough that my script Ponzi was also nominated in the same category.

Thanks to all who were supportive during the writing process and/or who said nice things about the scripts. My apologies for the quality of the photo above.

Find Death at eBay

The above image is one of the more disturbing products of automated Web advertising that I've run into. My simple search for the band "Death Cab for Cutie" turned into an existential experience. Essence may precede existence, but eBay supersedes all.

(click on the photo to get a better look at it)

A Deficit in Reason

It was an interesting week for those of us who like to see these people who moan that the world has gone morally bankrupt proven to be the fools that they are. If you blinked, you may have missed it.

Zell Miller, the barking Georgia (Democrat) last seen challenging Chris Matthews to a duel after the Republican National Convention, showed up on The Daily Show to promote his new book, A Deficit in Decency. Miller makes the usual complaints that we're a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, why can't things be like they were in the '50s, blah, blah, blah. Miller pointed to these damn, steroid-taking baseball players as yet another example that all that was good is now gone. It was also interesting that his examples of respectable old timers were all white (Mickey Mantle) and the modern players were all black.

An interesting thing happened the very next day. Former Major League pitcher Tom House told the SF Chronicle that he used steroids, growth hormone and anything else he can get his hands on in the '60s and '70s. He also said that his behavior was what you might call the norm.

So what do you know? It would appear that athletes today are exactly as indecent as they were 40 years ago. It may not seem so significant what ballplayers put into their bodies, but this is exactly the kind of thing that makes me want to slap the crazy out of Zell Miller. This manufactured outrage over how far our morals have slipped is never, never based on fact. Do you think there's just too darn much sex on TV these days? Well, about a hundred years ago that wasn't a problem, but there were 230 people lynched in America in a single year. I'll take a deficit in decency over a surpluss of lynchings any day.

Out with the Old and in with the ... Old

The fascinating journey of Family Guy came to a conclusion, or rather a beginning, last night when the show re-premiered on Fox. Fan non-fans or those who haven't been following along at home, the show was cancelled three years ago after struggling for viewers for most of its run. Cartoon Network picked it up, growing a new batch of fans, and the show's DVDs flew off the shelves.

So Fox brought the show back from the dead after three years, based almost solely on its ability to sell DVDs. In interviews, Fox execs have more or less admitted it doesn't matter what kind of ratings the show gets on the air. They expect to make their money back and more in what they call "ancillary markets."

This is probably the greatest victory for a group of TV fans, who now tend to mobilize after any show is cancelled. At least Out Here, where such things make the news, every week or so we see a group of a dozen people standing outside a studio gate, pleading for the life of some show that nobody is watching. I respect these folks commitment - I wish more people cared so strongly about art or entertainment or whatever TV is. But there is often a depressing futility to it, and I'm sure the Family Guy saga will only add fuel to the fire.

Watching the first new episode in three years, I was struck by how old fashioned Family Guy really is. The show is known for its shock value, which sometimes has a strained juvenile quality, and sometimes has an ingenious juvenile quality. But the structure of the show harkens back to early TV comedies and variety programs. Is there a story to a Family Guy episode? Yes, but it is only a loose structure that allows for maximum jokes and pop culture references. We watch Family Guy wondering "what is Peter going to say?" the same way we might wonder "what is Jackie Gleason going to say?" We don't expect to be drawn into a hilarious, insightful story (the way we might with The Simpsons). Instead, we're just watching for some good schtick.

Congrats to devoted fans on bringing back their favorite schtick.