Category Archives: Entertainment


Note: this is an older post. Seeing Netflix and a few other sites adopt an idea I’ve had forever makes me smile – as I recommended exactly this course of action several years ago in this blog post.

I’m going to start a website called “YesOrNo.” It will cover websites, restaurants, vehicles, tourists spots, movies, music and anything under the sun. It will be a testament to minimalism and focus in a world of too many options. If you are neutral to the website, movie, or restaurant, you don’t vote. No fence-sitting is allowed.

Instead of being weighed down by too many details, there are only going to be 2 options: “yes” or “no.” No comments. No categories to obfuscate the response. No Yelp-like lawsuits alleging vote-fixing or reviews. Studies have shown that too many options reduces our happiness and satisfaction.

Users will need to learn to be discerning with their votes. There will be neutral option. Either you vote or you don’t – but you’re going to need to decide between “yes” or “no.”

There will be technical issues to address governing how to identify participants and/or lessen abuse of voting. That’s true of any website or business idea. Clever, motivated people combined with technology should eliminate all the major hurdles.

With a social element, users can choose to add “trusted voters” to their logins so that they can refine their trusted opinions over time. This will allow you to ask the website to recommend a new place or experience to you, based on input from you and others who are similarly minded. In my scenario, however, the data will be limited to tallying without superfluous detail.


Unlike Angie’s List, users won’t be expected to pay – as such services exclude much of the population. It does tend to cause an uptick in the “crazies” noticing your website, but again, technology can overcome most of the stupidity that will ensue.


It’s so strange to see Tinder doing well. I’ve joked about for a long time, especially after an old-school website called “checkthegrid” died. On my old blog I had this idea designed, with screenshots and graphs. Like most people, though, my enthusiasm usually sputters at the implementation of an idea.



At it’s heart, the website would be simple categories, with “green” indicating “yes,” and “red” equating to “no.”



The Gift of “Rectify”


“It’s the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly.” – Daniel

As a reader and lover of language, I sit in satisfied wonder after watching “Rectify.” It’s been said by many that it was the best show that no one was watching. Rarely do characters come so vivaciously to life, murmuring and whispering with such glib eloquence. Listening to the people in this show move through complicated lives in this show is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing visuals as if they were a novel. Several times in the past, I’ve read of the love and admiration of this show and renewed my self-promise to immerse myself. Not until the show was finishing its run, however, did I stop gazing at it on my to-do list and start down the intricate road it travels. I regret not having been a part of it since it first aired but I will make amends by recommending it to anyone with a discerning taste for depth.

If you have the opportunity, please visit Netflix and give this treasure of a show an open door in your life. You won’t regret it, even if the pace seems to be too languid for you at the beginning. Oddly, if you describe yourself as an avid reader, I’m convinced that this show will be an immediate friend to your life.

The intelligence of this show astounds me. The people inhabiting the world it paints for us trip and fall, even as they see the obstacles in front of them. Countless times I watched the inevitable pain surprise them, only to see a parallel to my own life. The mirror it smashes into my face catches all the sublime idiocy of the steps we all take, regardless of the severity of circumstance.

From the show’s beginning, Daniel emerges from prison and instead of railing against the injustice, he perplexes everyone with a deeply insightful commentary on the world. I’ve had trouble explaining to people exactly what about the show was so captivating. “It’s about a man who is released from prison after almost 2 decades.” If that’s the case, “Sling Blade” is just a movie about an eccentric older man being let out of psychiatric care in the South. The particulars aren’t what brings forth the revelations: it’s the humanity inherent in so many scenes of this show.

It’s difficult for me to pull back from my enthusiasm for this show; it’s likely I’ve over-sold it people. Something about it forcefully reminds me of the wild emotion I felt the first time I finished “The Prince of Tides” and heard the words, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein” reverberate in my mind.

If you need a gift for yourself, I recommend that you find a quiet moment to step away from your real life, sit down, and give “Rectify” the chance it deserves to unfold the way television should be revealed. It avoids the mega-dose of plot twists that doom so many potentially great tv shows or movies. Don’t let the initial premise of a condemned man’s unexpected release from prison trick you into thinking you understand what this show is about. The story is about us, individually and collectively, careening around the backdrop of what it means to be human.

The show itself is a crescendo of discovery as the seasons reveal themselves. By the end of season 4, you will find yourself under the gossamer veil of nostalgia, for a world you would love to live in. As the show ends, you will find yourself feeling restless for unknown highways and side roads, all hopefully leading to places where people like Daniel Holden might feel at home. (And allow us a moment to sit in their presence.)

If you are lucky, it will reveal glimpses of your own self that you’ve kept hidden slightly around the corner.

“Finding peace in the not knowing seems strangely more righteous than the peace that comes from knowing.” – Daniel



Ponder: The Lesson of Karl



I think we should adopt the word “Karl” as a code word to indicate that we love someone deeply, even as we live flawed lives. Whether we like to admit it or not, even when we are comfortable with people, ‘love’ is a catch in our throats, often reluctant to escape.

“Sling Blade” is an iconic movie. Each time I watch it, I see it from a different point of view, and not only because I am not quite the same person as the last time I watched it. As tragic as it is, it is evocative of a life of connections that I would cherish.

After Doyle kicks Karl out of the house, Linda drives up as Karl is shuffling away. “You light him up in his eyes, I’ve seen it. He wouldn’t know what to do without ye….” Karl tells Linda, referring to her son Frank. Linda calls out, “Karl?” as he leaves.

When Karl leaves Frank his books, the sum total of everything he holds to be valuable in life; inside is a bookmark with the words “You will be happy” written on it. As Karl walks away, Frank turns to the trees and shouts, “Karl?”

Karl knocks on Vaughan’s door and hands him all the money he has in the world when the door opens. He tells Vaughan that he would be a good daddy to Frank and that he won’t be judged for who he is. “That boy lives inside of his own heart. It’s an awful big place….” Karl says and ambles away. Vaughan calls out, “Karl?”

Of course, Doyle looks up off-screen at Karl as he raises the sharpened lawnmower blade to kill him: “Karl?” Doyle asks, after talking calmly with Karl about being killed by him.

The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: “Karl…?”

As broken as Karl’s life was, he managed to touch each of those people’s souls by his words and presence. In response, each one was powerless to respond at the same level with Karl.

I think we should agree to use “Karl?” as a code word in our daily lives. Using it would be a signal that conveys our deep understanding of who and what the person with whom we are speaking means to us.

Some words are like knives passing our lips, even when coated with the warmest regard and sincerity.

Honesty is a sharp weapon and truth is a hard master. Even in love.

“Karl,” I whisper to you all.

Lion (Saroo)

Sunny Pawar stars in LION
Photo: Mark Rogers

Although all my friends are of considerable taste and have undoubtedly already seen the movie “Lion,” I can only tell you that it will take a hammer to your heart if you watch this movie. It’s set in both India and Australia; India steals the show.

Because it’s based on a true story, it will dawn on you as you watch that the little boy in the movie’s beginning experienced the things as portrayed. All of us imagine that we have a good idea of what constitutes tenacity and heartache but Saroo teaches us that whatever image floats in our mind’s eye is woefully short of reality.

There are a couple of moments in the movie where the sheer size of the world zooms with dizzying speed. Each change in orientation reminds us of that billions of stories unfold here each day. Among them are stories so exotic that we can’t help but feel loss at not knowing these people.

The backstory to this movie being made is another story to itself. How Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel came to it is yet another surprise. Nicole got the chance to play a mother with two adopted children, exactly as is the case in real life. The young boy who portrays Saroo as a small child is about the most endearing kid you’d care to meet. As remarkable as the movie is, so many things swirling around it make it even more spectacular.

Because the story is true, there is a moment near the end of the film where your heart collapses in on itself. Even if I tell you the surprise, it won’t prepare you for the tragic loss. It will, however, make you appreciate the moment of triumph, decades in the making, as people reconnect.

You will be jealous of those impossible moments, the ones these people waited so long to share.

It’s “just” a movie, you might say. Using that logic, though, means that our lives are “just” moments in passing. There are a finite number of possibilities for our lives. Sometimes we can share a life like the one in “Lion” and rejoice in the loss and in the triumph. This movie is not your typical movie, based on an atypical life.

I would hope that anyone who hasn’t seen it will pause their lives for a bit and give it a try. I don’t normally recommend movies because of the wide spectrum of opinions we all have. “Lion” is a movie that will connect everyone.

The Hans Gruber Party Pooper Service – By X


Tired of the same old Yuletide parties that turn out to be more boring than eating uncooked pasta? Want a low-cost and entertaining means to end a party that simply has no Christmas Charisma? My new company “The X Hans Gruber Party Pooper Service” is taking calls for emergencies this Xmas weekend. Just give us a call and we’ll burst in to your party dressed as the infamous Hans Gruber crew from “Die Hard” and disperse your guests. For an additional fee, we will exterminate any reluctant-to-depart guests with extreme prejudice, as featured in the timeless Xmas movie starring Bruce Willis.

(I already have several clients. One of them asked me to bring the detonators to help disperse his guests and I foresee they are going to need a truckload of screen doors if it plays out anything like it did in the movie.)

A Dumb Idea for A Halloween TV Pilot…

ABC loved the screenplay I wrote as a pilot TV episode. In the opening scene, we find Dracula’s 7th cousin Jeb discovering he’s lost his sense of smell. In the next scene, there is an awkward exchange as Jeb pounces on a steaming bowl of tomato soup, mistaking it for a bowl of blood. From there, he breaks a fang on the neck of a mannequin at Macy’s. You’re welcome, America.


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and Miscellaneous



“His cup truly runs over and yet, unabashedly, he notes with dismay that his cup is one size smaller than he would wish it to be.” – Me



to pretend versus the lie

Perhaps this quote originated in the aftermath of throwing up a can of tomatoes through my nose? Could it be the projectile velocity of acidic vegetables to which we owe so much of our genius?



If only those fingers pointing toward the perceived wrongdoer would spontaneously emit a bright and searing flame, much to the horror of the owner and to the delight of the intended target.





Juan Gabriel Sings Goodbye

We’ve all seen “Shawshank Redemption.” Andy Defresne locks himself in the warden’s office with a lone record player and plays a song so intensely majestic than even a confined world like the prison he’s trapped in must stop and listen as homage. This is the same feeling I’ve sometime experienced when listening to Juan Gabriel singing one of his iterations of “Querida,” especially versions with Juanes or Raul di Blasio.

As a fan of music regardless of language, learning Spanish opened a new world to me. Several artists taught me that others languages could convey sublime reminders of life rather than just dull ways to say ‘chair.’ While not a huge fan of all the genres in Spanish, I’ve never failed to find artists or songs who strike me deeply. Juan Gabriel was one of those artists who would come from left field and sing over my shoulder. He sang in multiple genres successfully; even when I wasn’t thrilled with a particular song, I knew he would follow up soon enough with something spectacular.

He became the first living artist to have all 3 #1 Latin album spots on the charts simultaneously at the beginning of this year. His career was long and ended on a brilliant high note. Most English-speaking people probably are unfamiliar with Juan Gabriel, his musical legacy, or the immense sea of fans he left behind.

He died yesterday in Santa Monica.




(While I was writing this, I looked on CNN Español to discover that Gene Wilder, a comedy genius in his own right, has died. These kinds of coincidences always throw me a curve ball. It is surreal to be writing one eulogy and read in another language that another icon has left the stage.)

A Few Words About Clint Eastwood




Recently, one of our cultural icons Clint Eastwood once again said some strange things. He said it from his perspective of the world, as a wealthy, older white male. As a liberal, I just laughed, even as I winced. Clint as a bigot is a lightweight compared to the intrinsic, casual prejudice that was the touchstone of so much of my youth. He would not even draw attention were he to reappear in the places of my upbringing; he would be using training wheels in the geography I once called home. My dad, for example, idolized Clint; he omitted the lofty aspirations of Eastwood’s characters and focused on the indifferent violence. As many of us do with our own idols, my dad cherry picked his perceptions of Clint Eastwood and the characters he portrayed.

I wish Clint were of the same expansive ideology as me. I think that might be the case for most of us as we look out at the world and listen to people who express such an incredible spectrum of thought. We root for those things that make our soul shine and light up our minds with the ‘what if’ in our lives. Hopefully, we can ignore those things that irritate us. (My best examples are those of Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King.  These figures did or believed some truly crazy things, most of which are overlooked or rarely mentioned – and certainly not taught about in school. Don’t’ twist my words here: they dedicated themselves to achieve some lofty things – but they did so as imperfect human beings.)

Eastwood earned his place as an icon. His good looks and charisma carried him far. His ability to make, write, or direct movies encompassing the breadth of what we aspire to and share in common is uncanny. I find it hard to imagine a critic so harsh as to attempt to discount the contribution that Clint Eastwood has made to our society.

I have a large painting of Clint Eastwood in my living room. A great local artist painted it for me. It’s not there because I idolize him or appreciate his politics. I fundamentally disagree with the spirit of his recent comments. When I look at that painting, I can easily recall the best of the attributes of the characters he brought to life – without focusing on the things that would make him lesser. Clint connects me to an imaginary safe place in my past. He would be the equivalent to Superman or Captain America, had I been a fan of comic books. The painting doesn’t represent the ‘real’ Clint at all. It’s a reminder of the things we identify with.

If I were to eliminate all the people and places that carry a hint of bigotry, misogyny, or exclusion, the hallways of my memories would be only inhabited by a few solitary and forlorn ghosts. Take a moment and inventory your friends and family. I’m certain that several of them differ from you so drastically in thought that it is a miracle you co-exist at all, much less have strong relationships that you cherish.

Each of us has at least one person, I think, who makes us wonder what in the world was so wrong with the world that someone could come out of it so fundamentally misguided about race, justice, or privilege. Even as we love them, we wonder.

The surprise of our relationships is that we can overlook racism and prejudice in some cases. We can laugh, cry, and embrace people who represent the antithesis of what we ourselves find value in.

Clint Eastwood is an example of someone who has worked hard to express himself and share it with us. Unfortunately, some of it is ridiculous nonsense. Luckily for us, however, some of it is not. Even as we shake our heads in bewilderment that one of our icons can think like someone from the early 19th century, we must continue to figure out a means to separate what we find valuable from that which we find objectionable. Clint is the embodiment of many of our family, friends, and acquaintances.

Many believe as Clint does. I don’t. Clint is akin to one of my grandparents, someone who I hold close to my heart, all the while knowing that his ideas aren’t defensible or a part of my identity. I would never defend those ideas for which he is drawing the wrong kind of attention.

Perhaps nothing I’ve said here will resonate. Or worse, that I’ve once again communicated so badly that I’ve conveyed the opposite message from that which was intended.

It’s okay to laugh at Archie Bunker, if only because we know he embodies the thoughts of many with whom we share the world. It is okay to love some parts of Clint Eastwood’s films, even as he uses his intelligence to express ideas that are wrong to us. He’s our grandpa, sitting on our collective porch, yelling at those who pass by. His time will come and go, just like the rest of us. We can only learn from one another and choose the best parts to carry forward. Clint has given us some incredible memories, too. Let’s focus on those, if we can.