Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Special Edition

I wrote this short story with George Lucus' "Star Wars Special Editions" were released in the theaters. Because, Han shot first.


Elisha stared at Bogart’s lips. He was waiting for the words - “Play it again, Sam”.
That was Elisha’s cue. After Rick said it, Elisha shouted, “He used to say, ‘Play it’. They changed it. That’s not what he used to say!”
People shushed him. One woman yelled, “Shut up” quite shrilly. Someone threw popcorn.
That was okay. He was used to it. There was the time in San Francisco was arrested for smoking in the theater. He still remembered every time Rick and Ilsa lit up, so he brought a pack of Nico-frees to a Saturday night screening. He smoked when they used to. (Now they held and sucked on Frooty-Joosey Pops.) The cops pulled him out of his seat just as Louie closed down Rick’s CafĂ© American.
In Chicago, his life had been threatened, so he usually felt he was getting off easily with anything less.
He first saw the film on videocassette. When he talked about “videos”, kids scratched their heads and called him a crazy old man. Sixty wasn’t old in his book, but they called him that no matter what he talked about. Maybe it had something to do with the trench coat and fedora.
The audiences always shouted him down, hit him, kicked him and spat on him. Well, not always. There was that once.
In New Orleans, when Rick’s countered the Nazis’ singing with “God Bless America”, Elisha led the audience with a boisterous, not quite-on-key version of the “Marseilles”. And it seemed every single person in that packed house on Bourbon Street sang along.
Perhaps it was that one glorious moment that kept him traveling from city to city as Casablanca celebrated it hundredth anniversary with a special edition (“with improved picture and content”) released to theaters.
Something kept him going, in spite of the abuse from audiences. Nothing any audience member, usher, manager or cop ever did hurt him as much as the pain he felt when he saw Bogart board the plane with Bergman.

Monday, September 22, 2008

If You're Looking for Dated Political Satire....

I wrote this four years ago and never did anything with it. Still works overall for this year, just put in McCain for Bush and Obama for Kerry and Viola! Cutting edge humor...


By Dean Anderson

This being an election year, I believe we can all agree it is our patriotic duty to vote, since MTV’s “Rock the Vote” campaign tells us so. Voting is an important civil duty, arguably more important than putting your shopping cart in the parking lot return slot, but not up in the cleaning up after your dog’s business strata. Some would say it is important before one votes to research the issues, ponder the pros and cons of the candidates and consider their positions on everything from social security to home ownership of ferrets. Of course, this would involve listening to many dull speeches and the reading of many newspapers, and nothing I have seen on MTV, let alone Spike TV or the Weather Channel has convinced me that these are necessary duties as an American.
I mean, I’m all for voting, especially since federal law stipulates you may take a full morning or afternoon off work to do so (or at least litigation phobic employers may be convinced it is so). But is it worth the effort to diligently research prior to the election in order to judge the candidates and issues on their merits? I’m not convinced. I’m not saying you should throw away your vote, far from it. But there are other ways to decide your vote that may lead to more fun and profit.
For instance, it is important to consider how your vote impacts your love life, a perspective gravely under-reported by CNN.
Since the sixties, when the first “Make Love, Not War” signs were finger-painted, we have been aware that taking a political stand could lead to getting some action. This phenomenon was first observed during England’s parliamentary elections of the late 1800’s (insert your own Disraeli or Gladstone joke here).
It is still true your vote can have a romantic impact. First you will need to discern the political leanings of that opposite sex voter. Try throwing out a tactful question, such as “Say, how about that terrorism?” and note the response.
Once you perceive the political persuasion of your partisan pretty, try one of the following lines. For that special Democrat, “The Republicans only care about corporations, not the little, yet attractive and sexually liberated people like you and me.” Or for that desirable Republican, “The Democrats just care about the Special Interests, not the little, attractive and quite heterosexual people like you and me.” Remember, as a general rule, if thinking commitment, go conservative; if thinking fling, go liberal.
Along these lines, if you live on one of the coasts, consider the possibilities for Party parties and the celebrities that might be met therein. At a Democrat fund-raiser you might have Catherine Zeta-Jones Douglas or George Clooney. At a Republican fund-raiser you might have a chance to meet Dennis Miller, or Larry Miller or an assortment of other fine Millers. I recommend caution in throwing in too quickly with the Beautiful People, they might include Michael Moore. In fly-over country you might not find celebrities but rather a quality assortment of casseroles at fund-raisers of either party.
Another consideration is how the choice of administration will impact your television viewing. Fortunately, we no longer live in an age where the President can command all media to cover his words. Even in times of war, the Disney Channel is unlikely to interrupt Raven. But there still is the danger that your favorite show could be pre-empted if the candidate is not sympathetic to your programming choices. So vote for Bush if you are concerned about a Presidential message interfering with the NFL, Nascar or the Dove Awards. On the other hand, your vote must go for Kerry if you want to be sure that PBS Peter, Paul and Mary concert is only interrupted by the pledge drive.
(On the subject of television, I do wish to offer this side note. Though I am in no way advocating real research before the election, I would urge you not to miss the upcoming Vice-Presidential Debate. I’ve got money riding on whether the FCC will fine the networks if Cheney uses any choice profanity in front of minor. And don’t try to tell me John Edwards is not a minor. If kids lie about their age to get into the military, you can’t tell me someone wouldn’t lie to get a cushy job like VP.)
How your vote could impact your travel plans might be another important consideration. All savvy travelers know not to slap that Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on the luggage on a trip to gay Paree, but there is more to it than that. You need to be ready to answer that pivotal question, “Who did you (will you) vote for?” If in Old Europe or most of the Middle East, you’ll want to be able to answer Democratic. If in Kuwait or New Europe (defined as few inside toilets), you’ll want to answer Republican. You may choose on the other hand to play it safe and learn the names of Canada’s candidates for prime minister. On your ballot, your write-in candidate will be Pierre Trudeau (remember, I’m not using this strategy, I don’t have to research it). Then when asked you can respond truthfully, “Eh, hoser, I voted Labor, so take off.”
Perhaps you’ll choose to vote vocationally. Your boss or union rep may have some voting suggestions and would be pleased if you would ask his or her opinion. And if you don’t get around to actually voting for his or her favorite candidate, remember, it is the thought that counts (especially if his or her thought is that you were more than adequately kissing his or her appropriate anatomical location.)
Now there are many other low-effort methods for deciding how to vote, such as celebrity endorsements. I myself plan to vote for General Westley Clarke based solely on his support from Madonna. Sure, he’s dropped out of the race, but my respect for the Material Girl’s work on the “Immaculate Collection” album and the film “Dick Tracey” does not allow me to consider Al Gore‘s recommendation of Howard Dean or even Britney Spears’ support of W.
It would be irresponsible for me to close this discussion without discussing the option of selling your vote. This is no longer just an option for the fine citizens of Chicago. Judicious use of E-Bay might allow you to sell not only your vote, along with your late Uncle Morrie’s vote and your dog’s vote in a package.
And, of course, if you live in Florida it really doesn’t matter how you vote because the vote will probably go to Pat Buchanan anyway.
So do not neglect your patriotic duty: vote. Your negligence in the past led to Clay Aiken and La Toya London getting jobbed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jacob: Con Man…and Movie Star?

Next month, at my church, we'll be studying the life of one of Scripture’s greatest con men (topped only by perhaps Lucifer himself), Jacob the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham. When you read this guy’s story, he’s running one scam after another. We see Jacob in Genesis 27 disguise himself as his brother to get his father’s blessing. We see Jacob in Genesis 30 pull a con to get Laban’s sheep and goats (perhaps with God’s assistance). Jacob keeps it up even after Laban pulls a scam on Jacob (the old bride switch). It is not until God literally picks a fight with Jacob (Genesis 32) that he finally turns his life around.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there’s something appealing about a clever con executed well. We’re amused by the scams of Jacob, so it’s not surprising that so many films have been made about con men (and women) and their games.
The most honored film of the Con Genre would probably be The Sting, winner of 7 Academy Awards including 1973’s Best Picture Oscar. The film is great fun. If you haven’t seen it, avoid hearing anything about the plot’s twists and turns before you do. The film deservedly won Oscars for art design, costumes and music for masterfully creating a prettified Depression wherein con men are the heroes. The film is worth watching to see Robert Redford and Paul Newman, perhaps the most charming duo in film history. (Newman, at the time of this writing, is not expected to live much longer; all the more reason to seek out the work of this wonderful actor.)
But the con truly is a game. Deception is one of the tools of the game, and the expert practice of it is not considered a moral flaw but rather a cherished skill. Many other films, including The Music Man and Ocean’s 11 (old and new),
portray con men as smart, charming and deep down good guys.
Some other films take the lies and deception of the con more seriously. Writer/director David Mamet’s House of Games takes us into the world of con men as we follow a psychiatrist (Lindsay Crouse) who enters the world of confidence men to aid one of her patients. The men of this world are not good guys. They prey not only on the greed and hubris of their victims, but also on their generosity and fears. These are not good men. But we are still fascinated by how they pull off their crimes. (Other films that take on the dark side of the confidence game would include The Spanish Prisoner and The Grifters. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a comedy, but you never would mistake the con men in the film for good guys.)
Perhaps the film con man who is most like Jacob is found in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. The film is a fictionalized autobiography of Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leo DiCaprio), a young man who passed himself off as a doctor, a lawyer and an airline pilot before he got out of his teens. With a variety of scams, including the passing of bad checks, he made millions of dollars before he was apprehended and sent to prison.
There is another interesting similarity between Abagnale as portrayed in the film and Jacob in Scripture. They both have life-changing father issues. Jacob had to fool his father into giving him the blessing, because Isaac clearly prefered Esau, his more macho son. After leaving home, Jacob seeks out a father figure in his uncle Laban. But Laban betrays him and becomes an enemy.
In the film (and in real life), Frank Jr.’s father, Frank Sr. (played by Christopher Walken) is caught committing fraud by the IRS, causing the family to move out of their grand country house to a small apartment in the city. When Frank Sr. divorces his wife, a distraught Frank Jr. leaves home and begins his life of fraud. He also seems to be searching for a father figure. And quite amazingly, he finds one in the FBI agent who pursues him, Agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).
After Frank Jr. was arrested and served time in prison, Hanratty offered Frank an opportunity to work for the FBI in a special unit combatting fraud. Ever since that time, Abagnale, the real Abagnale, has worked dilligently to help individuals and businesses protect themselves from the kind of fraud he had perpetrated so ably.
Jacob also did not change until he finally confronted and was brought to account for his deeds by a father figure: his true Father in Heaven.
Many of us spend our lives looking for self worth and esteem that we didn’t get from our parents. We are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get money, sex and respect that we think will make us feel worthwhile. All of us need to discover that our real value can be found in our Heavenly Father, as Jacob finally discovered.

(The Sting [1973]– rated PG for language, violence and sexual situations
The Music Man [1962] - not rated
Ocean’s 11 [1960] – not rated
Ocean’s 11 [2001] – PG-13 for language and violence
House of Games [1987] – rated R for language, violence and sexual situations
The Spanish Prisoner [1997] – rated PG for language and violence
The Grifters [1990] – rated R for language, violence, sexual situations and nudity
Dirty, Rotten Scondrels [1988] – rated PG for language and sexual situations
Catch Me If You Can [2002] - rated PG-13 for language and sexual situations)