What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I was engaged in a very necessary and daily routine earlier...let's just say this is a sitting activity that usually I try to accompany myself with some reading material of some sort.... You get it. Anyway, I found myself without any reading material. Not a problem there's always my trusty BlackBerry with it's handy Twitter and Facebook applications...but, oh, my phone's battery is dead. So, now here I was with nothing to occupy my brain for these next several minutes and I realized that this was going to be a difficult task for me. The very idea that I was nervous about spending some alone time with just my thoughts did not settle well with me (at least no better than the Mexican food I'd had for lunch. Hey-oh!). Could I really not stand the thought of not occupying my mind with twitter or Facebook or something to keep my mind elsewhere.

So, I decided that I would think of a problem that I had to deal with and figure it out over the course of the next few minutes. And, that's just what I did.

The problem: The play that I'm directing for the UIL One Act Play this year is a play called August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. The play is in three acts and there is an unwritten rule in the UIL OAP that you shouldn't have blackouts in your play. The play is only 40 minutes long and you don't want to have to stop the flow of your story with a blackout. It's not always a bad idea, but there are some judges that think it's a no-no. So, I try to avoid blackouts at all costs. Well, many of the scenes in this play would normally call for a blackout to change scenery. One of the main problems I've been having is how to effectively change scenes without a blackout. While sitting in my my throne I began thinking. The play is set in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is on the plains and know for it's America Indian culture. Part of the play actually deals with Native American culture. Perhaps there could be Native American music over lighting effects that try to elicit a feeling of sweeping plains? Well, one of the characters, the housekeeper, is a Native American. Maybe, we can show her throughout the house during the changes. That's it! Johnna, the Native American housekeeper, will be seen working in the house, fixing something, or organizing or moving or doing some type of proactive task during the scene changes to signify both that she is constantly moving in the house, that she is slowly repairing the home and tying the idea back to location of the play.

Then I was done. It is probably the best idea I've had for a play in a very long time and I wouldn't have had it had I been looking at my BlackBerry.

I'm starting to think that these bits of technology that we think are making our lives better aren't actually preventing us from being and creating and thinking. I'm actually pretty sure that this can happen. And does happen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can Jon Stewart Change America?

You can fall in love with your own idea of common sense. Maybe the nice thing about being a comedian is never having a full belief in yourself to know the answer. So you can say all this stuff, but underneath, you’re going, ‘But of course, I’m fucking idiotic.’ It’s why we don’t lead a lot of marches.

Jon Stewart

You know how someone will say something so profound and yet, obvious at the same time? I've always been a big fan of the Daily Show and of Stewart and this is a prime example of why. He gets people and the tendencies of people and recognizes most of it to be bullshit. Because it is.

I've been thinking a lot lately about belief and why people believe what they believe. Also, what is believing? Politics, religion, education and just about any other topic under the sun (except for Math, I guess) is subject to interpretation and "belief." But, what is belief in something other than the way you see and interpret the world? If I believe in Jesus that is not to say that I saw him with my own two eyes resurrect from the grave. Just like I cannot claim to have tested the Polar Ice Caps to determine through factual study that global warming is real.

But we look at the world and we make a decision. Am I going to believe in global warming based on what I do know to be true? Am I going to believe that Jesus was God and therefore the true Messiah that the Bible says that he is? My decision to believe these things or not is based on my experiences and my attitudes as well as the facts that I can see and touch.

As Jon Stewart has wisely stated, though, problems arrise when we forget how we arrived at these decisions. They were perhaps logical, but perhaps emotional choices, primarily and not quantitative conclusions that were arrived at through mathematic reasoning, such as "1+1=2." We fall in love with our own ideas of what is logical and what is "common sense," as he puts it and we start to regard anyone who thinks or concludes differently as idiots or evil.

Stewart attributes the ability to laugh and doubt one's own common sense as being an idiot. But, the ability to step back and see the possibility of fault, even if we cannot see the fault itself, is wisdom, not idiocy. And, it's not an attribute reserved for clowns and comedians. We all have the capability to recognize the possibility of wrong thinking.

As I stated in an earlier post, however, people (particularly those who are "in love with their own idea of common sense") will view my admission of doubt in my believes as a weakness or evidence of flakiness. So, sure, I guess we want to be careful who go around revealing our inner-most doubts to. I wouldn't bring it up in a job interview, for example. But, we are currently living in an America that has people burning Qurans, going to war on false pretense, bombing buildings, bombing themselves, protesting the freedoms that we hold dear as Americans to worship where and how we like. We are living the most intolerant times of my lifetime from the perspective of respect for other views, on a very large scale. And the worst part is that our political sphere seems to be locked in a pendulum swing of inneffectiveness. How can we fix our problems if we're not willing to work together? Legislators need to legislate. Reporters need to report. Journalists should keep politicians honest and accountable. I think this is Stewart's primary objective when he targets the media and politicians. And, if Stewart's masterful execution of the pointed satire is of no effect, I'm not sure what else will do. Hopefully, it can act as a spark that ignites a flame that lights a larger target and can possibly set in motion a chain of events that leads to cooperation, understanding, and maybe we'll finally move forward and be a nation that leads again.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Talking About Myself

Last May I began working on my Master's Degree through on an online program. Online is certainly NOT the best way for someone like to me to get an education. There are deadlines and readings to do, and no one to be accountable to, except yourself. When I was in undergrad at ACU, if I stepped into my acting professor's class without having read that night's chapter of whatever acting book we were using, he would make sure that I was shamed and left to feel like a failure. It sounds very cruel, but it worked for me. To his credit, I don't think he was doing it on purpose, I just think he was genuinely annoyed and disappointed when one of his students--a student who was chosen to join the university's theatre program over other's who had auditioned and been denied a spot--neglected the opportunity to take full advantage of the knowledge and instruction for which s/he was granted. I didn't think of it that way at the time, but as an educator, now, I get it. I've made enough high school students cry to know that I can have this same affect on my own students when they disappoint me. But, if there is one thing that have learned during my seven, going on eight years in the classroom, it's that to he who expects and demands greatness, greatness is given. That's not an easy credo for someone like me to adhere to. Most of the time I take a very "to each his own" sort of mentality. If you don't want to do something, who am I to try and force you. Who am I to try to make you feel guilty for choices that are yours to make. But, you can't produce plays with a mentality like that. There must be commitment and accountability and people should know when they are not living up to their end of the bargain, either in word, or simply by dismissal.

But, like I said, this goes against my DNA. I like to think of myself as a pretty forgiving person. People have told me that I have given too many chances to some kids, who continue to disappoint, and take advantage of my leniency. I think I've learned to deal with students like this in my own way, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but despite how far I have still to come, I feel I'm a lot harsher than I was as a brand new teacher.

But, I digress. As I said, I understand and appreciate the necessity to keep people accountable to outside entities. However, the online educational environment does not keep you accountable. The only time they ask you for anything directly is when you have to pay your bill. The reading is completely on you, as is the weekly assignments and online discussion boards. So, the only thing that keeps me moving along, at times is the desire to not waste the money I spent on the course. That and the knowledge that the program that I'm in is not a start and stop kind of deal. It's an intensive 18 monther and if I drop a course or sit one out, I would have to start over.

But, every time I sit down at my computer to work on my course I feel a great deal of anxiety. I'm not sure why. I am always able to push through that anxiety and my current GPA (highest of my lifetime) attests that I am capable of the workload. When I am finished with the work at the end of each week I feel such relief and contentment, you'd think that I would want to work because I would want to feel that feeling again. But, I don't.

As I have learned from my first class in the course (I'm now in my third) everyone has a different style of dealing with life. Some people are very future oriented and some live in the here and now. I would have to be a "here and now" kind of person. I plan because I have to and convince myself of eventual outcomes, being very careful to work toward future goals, but if I give into my natural tendencies, I would only take on projects on whims and deal with everything as it comes. Sometimes this mindset works for me and I certainly think that it has it's benefits, but often it can be troublesome. This is especially true when you are in charge of something like a high school theatre program, in finances, or when going to the beach. Spontaneity may be the spice of life, but planning has got to be the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes and the rice and beans. It's what fills you up; sustains you. That was a hard sentence to type. Because a) I know it's true and b) that's not me.

So, why did I begin a Master's Degree program knowing full well that it was the program that would give me the greatest chance of success?

First, I've always been willing and ready to talk about myself to the world and to let them into who I am and what's going on in my head. Not because I think that I'm so great, but because I truly believe that the more we know about each other, the more we can know about ourselves. So, when I talk about myself, I'm not being narcisistic, I'm just helping you get to know yourself. It's probably why I began blogging in first place. Lately, however, I've realised that people tend to take things you say about yourself and use those things to judge you or treat you according to how they interpret your words. For instance, if I say to someone that I am not a future thinker, but live in the "here and now," someone will take that to mean that I'm never going to plan and that they have to stay on me about things. What I perhaps didn't mention is that I've been dealing with this aspect of myself for a really long time and I've managed to get a grip on it, and make pains to plan and get things done, despite my natural tendency to resist planning. In other words, I know my faults and I do what it takes to correct them. It's perhaps this realization that has caused me to blog a lot less in recent years.

The second and more obvious reason that I decided to take an online degree program is that it is the most practical way for me to get my master's degree as a working dad of a 9 month old. I don't think that I would have reasonably been able to leave my wife and kid at home after being at school until 5-6 o'clock at night to attend classes until 10, wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and still be a decent teacher/director/father/husband. So, it made practical sense.

So, what was this? Just an excuse to bitch about how busy and stressed out I am? Maybe a little. More than one person has told me that I'm complaining a lot lately and not being myself. So, I figure that I it's better I unleash that onto the interwebs than onto my collegues and friends. And, hopefully...maybe...I helped you, the reader learn a little bit more about yourself.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


There is a lot going on in my life. This has been a very interesting and productive year to say the least. Here's a rundown of a few things that I've not really been into here at the blog, but has become a major point in my life over the past year.

First, and most obviously, Amanda and I had a daughter, Olivia. She is now 7 months old and is a beautiful, happy and energetic little thing. She's, of course, loved beyond measure and everyone who meets her is charmed and smitten. This might sound like typical parental doting, and I'd be lying if there wasn't partly some of that going on, but look at this picture. She's beautiful. If she wasn't I'd probably say she was anyway, but luckily, I'm pretty confident that this isn't simply daddy-goggles. She's gorgeous and I love being with her. If you are wondering if this happy picture of Olivia is a rare gem of a photo op, where the camera, lighting and her mood all synced at the perfect time in an aligning of planets, you would be wrong. She's pretty happy most of the time. She gets cranky around 9pm, but other than that she stays fairly content. Amanda and I are extremely lucky and blessed and Olivia brings us more and more joy everyday. I could get very long winded and sappy if I continue on this course, so I'll move on.

With the addition of our little darling came an understandably interesting year at school for both Amanda and I. In an attempt to dedicate more time to the family I delegated the job of directing the yearly musical to my new assistant at school, which meant that for the first time in three years I was not directing a show while school was in session. It was pretty nice, however I still dealt with the responsibilities of the budget, and part of the technical stuff. So I was busy, but not nearly as busy. So, that made my school year different. Amanda had about 10 weeks of maternity leave so she also had a very different school year, missing that time smack in the middle of the year.

This summer I have a summer job. This isn't the first summer job I've had during my time as a teacher, but it is certainly the first to actually work out. I'm working with an Audio and Visual company in Houston, helping set up and run Trade Shows, conventions, concerts and things like that in the Houston and Galveston area. It's a lot of fun and gives me an opportunity to learn a little about the newer technical stuff going on in the lighting and sound world. Plus, I'm making a little money which is nice, too.

Finally, I've started my master's degree. I'm working on my Masters of Education Administration at Lamar University. It's an online program which means that it requires a lot of reading, writing and self-paced work. The online discussion certainly doesn't replace the classroom setting adequately, in my opinion, but it's a program that will allow me to finish fairly quickly. Navigating the online program is a little confusing and stressful at times, but I just finished my first class with an A, so I guess I'm off to a decent start. I'm not sure what I will do once I'm finished with the Masters. If nothing else it will give me options of things I can do in the future. I definitely want to stick around in my current position, for now, but I also want to be able to move into another position if the opportunity arises. I could see myself as a district Fine Arts Director, someday, so maybe that's a possibility.

Anyway, I suppose that about it. I'm having a good summer and just taking life as it comes. If only the Astros were not completely depressing, life would be just about perfect. Oh, Astros...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Wait! I Can Type More Than 140 Characters?

Hello blog. It's been awhile. You and I used to be so close, and yet its been so long since we've seen each other. I guess I was lured away by newer, sleaker, faster networking sites that took less maintenance on my part. You were just so needy. I actually had to learn html code for you! I know, I know. You're much more user friendly than you used to be. I haven't even explored your newest features. I'm just sorry that you have become so neglected. Links are broken, code is out of date and messy to the point that some of your content is indecipherable. You are the internet equivailent of an unattended garden. For that, I appologize. (I especially appologize for the time I wasted on that whore, MySpace. Have you seen that thing lately? Its just sad.)

But, I haven't forgotten about you. That is the truth. Everytime I open Firefox I'm reminded of the hours I spent writing about a movie I'd seen, or the comments and discussion created from a particularly biting rant on the government (Ah, the Bush administration. Good times...)

I can't promise that I will ever be as faithfully prolific a blogger as I once was. I have new responsibilities and priorities that take up much of the time I once spent writing. But, I will say that I've missed you. I've missed the degree to which I could really unleash on a subject. I miss the clarity of thought can only come through hundreds of words as opposed to 140 characters. It will not be once or twice a week perhaps as it was between 2005 and 2007, but I am going to make an asserted effort to not wait another year before I write in you.