still image from "In the Heat of the Night"In celebration of the Oscars this weekend, an approximate “Top Ten list” of my favorite movie moments; it should be noted, we’re not talking favorite films necessarily – although some on my Top Ten list are represented here – rather those singular moments. In some cases the moments are scenes, in others just a single shot.
[Note: when I originally wrote this post, I had links to almost every item listed here; apparently most of these have been taken down (damn copyright laws); I’ve tried to find suitable replacements, but I presume many of these will eventually be taken down; your mileage (and bandwidth) may vary…]


1) In the Heat of the Night
Sidney Pontier, Larry Gates, Rod Steiger  – the slap; powerful for its time, and probably one of the first instances of an person of color showing strength, resolve, and dignity that I can recall seeing in popular culture. Directed by Norman Jewison.


2) Big Night
Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Marc Anthony – the final kitchen scene, all one take; I wish more American films would embrace the power of simply rolling camera and pointing it at a group of actors so immersed in their characters that we will sit spellbound watching them eat breakfast (understanding that there is subtext – a reconciliation happening just below the surface). Directed by Campbell Scott.

[this cuts out before the real end, where Tucci puts his arm around Shaloub, but it was the best version I’ve found]


3) The Verdict

Paul Newman, the summation (“today you are the law”); written by David Mamet. Directed by Sidney Lumet.  (not great quality)


4) Network
William Holden and Faye Dunaway – when Diana breaks up with Max (“why is it that a woman always thinks that the most savage thing she can say to a man is to impugn his cocksmanship?”); written by Paddy Chayefsky; Directed by Sidney Lumet.


5) tie: 2001 A Space Odyssey
ape to space transition and blue danube sequence:

& Bowman re-entering the Discovery sequence; Directed by Stanley Kubrick [apparently shot hand-held on someone’s TV showing the film… but, heck it was the only one I could find…]


6) Local Hero
Peter Riegert walking over the hill carrying his shoes, then cut to his watch being over-taken by the waves on the rock where he left it with the alarm going off… [taken offline]


7) 13 Conversations About One Thing
Alan Arkin and Matthew McConaughey in the bar, “show me a happy man” (ok, basically Alan Arkin’s whole performance); Directed by Jill Sprecher


8) Raiders of the Lost Ark
the opening sequence (and yes the whole film still stands as my favorite action-adventure film of all time); directed by Steven Spielberg [taken offline?]


9) 25th Hour
Ed Norton, the “FU” monologue; directed by Spike Lee


10) RAN
the final shot, where a blind Kyoami walks along the cliff, near to the edge, and his stick drops off, allowing him to catch his balance just before doom and then he turns around and continues on his way (this image captures the whole movie we’ve just watched into a single moment: the human race comes close to its own destruction, but somehow manages to recover and avoid complete annihilation); Directed by Akira Kurosawa

[can’t for the life of me find this online…]




So, it has happened again. And once again America will celebrate its macabre parade: the repeated images of grieving families and shocked onlookers; the headlines and special report segments across newspapers, TV, and cable; the questioning of “why?”, “how could this happen?”, and the brazen attempts by news media – as well as legislators and politicians (is there a difference?) – to convey grief but steer clear of taking a substantive stance on the presence of guns in our communities.

First, yes, again it was a male. And again those of us in the violence prevention movement decry for this culture to take serious stock of how we raise boys to be men. How we continue to keep boys boxed-in at a place where they think violence and aggression are the only acceptable means of emotional expression. That anything else makes them like women – and we all know how bad THAT is; to take stock of misogyny and homophobia and the lengths we go to keep the gender divide in place by playing to men’s fears of women, gay men and women, transgender and gender non-conforming people.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, layered on top of it all is a culture immersed in an epidemic of gun violence. Some of the press coverage, and many of the comments on Facebook and Twitter, have brought mental illness into the picture – and while I, too, believe that this individual’s lack of ability to deal with his pain in any constructive way eventually led to his actions and the senseless deaths of he and 26 other human beings, I must admit I get weary of bringing the conversation to the level of mental illness. As if this, and all other incidents, are isolated actions played out by madmen. As if all those struggling with mental illness are mad, out of control, or resort to violence.

Owning guns is a mental illness; it is the collective mental illness that we, as a nation, are in the grip of…

There is no reason – no reason – to own a gun, except to contend with the “boogie man” that resides in your own mind. Gun ownership is the tangible manifestation of a philosophy of life where conflict is resolved by asserting power over others, and where one’s own perspective and experience of reality is the only one. The owner of a gun asserts that because of something – one’s race or national identity, or economic class, or the balance of wrongs that one has endured in life add-up to a sense of entitlement – they are imbued with the right to be judge, and if circumstances warrant, jury and executioner.

How did it get to this point? How does the right to bear arms, written at a time when we were in a struggle with the British crown over sovereignty and control of our destiny, get turned into a manifesto for the rights of individual citizens to have access to weapons of mass destruction (and really, what do you call something with a 16 round clip)? We won that fight. We have a democracy where we get a say in what happens. We have avenues and pathways to address disparity, unfairness, oppression, and violations of the common law that we all swear allegiance to. We no longer need guns, really.

Except, of course, there are those that profit from their manufacture and sale, and therefore profit from the proliferation of a culture of fear and the concept that any problem you have can be kept at bay or wiped out. At the end of the barrel of a gun.


Today is election day.

We have struggled through months of robo-calls, commercials, numbers, polls.

That ends today. This morning, we wake to a world still embroiled in war, recovering from natural catastrophes, and with the culture still entrenched in misogyny, racism, homophobia, and able-ism.

But today is election day. And we awaken, as Americans, to the privilege and the power of joining our voices together in a collective expression of our intent to have a say in our destiny.

Certain people like to espouse that we don’t need “interference” from the federal government. Today we remind them that we ARE the Federal Government.

Today we let our voice be heard.

If you have not already, vote.

Today is election day.

“Black” Friday…

How like an addict we all appear, promoting “Black Friday” like some sick joke; it is transparent, a desperate plea, a junkie strung out on the thing he thinks will take the pain away. It is sold to us as inevitable.

It is not.

Do not let them fool you. You were born naked and perfect. You do not need stuff. And stuff does not speak love for you to those you hold dear. This consumption is our common affliction, and the larger issues — the wars, the sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, poverty, and oppression — will not go away until we grapple with this disease, this mythology that selling stuff to one another, that using profit and capitol as the gatekeeper of justice somehow makes this a great nation.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It is a dark time; a bad economy dominated by power mongering elite; federal and state legislatures held hostage by ideologues who want to wrap us in their fear and roll us back to the 1950’s (or earlier); a planetary eco system reeling from millennia of exploitation and neglect.

But give thanks. Give thanks for living, and breathing, and loved ones around you (and those that are no longer with us). Give thanks for the here and the now – they are all we truly have, and they are transitory.

And then, on Friday, remember that it is international Buy Nothing Day.

You will not help the economy by spending vociferously. You will not help yourself. You will not be “missing out” on anything special if you fail to show up. You will not be failing to show your loved ones you care because you do not buy them the best that money can buy at bargain prices.

This is the frenzy that big corporations want, not only because it keeps them “in the black” financially, but because it reifies their world view; it institutionalizes greed and justifies their actions (“we’re just giving people what they want”).

So instead, take the day to breathe. Keep the wallet in your back pocket, or purse. Take a walk outside. Call or write a friend. Contemplate your time on the planet and what impact (positive? negative?) you want to have on it and those that will come after you.

Let’s make this the year that common folk will find their way into the black. Financially. Spiritually.

“It’s a floor wax!” “No, it’s a dessert topping!”

Why I use Scrivener for Project Management and You Should Too!

If you’re a writer who has geek-like tendencies, it’s highly likely you’ve already encountered Scrivener; if for some reason you have not, get thee to Literature & Latte and give it a whirl. It is single-handedly the best writing tool a computer user can have – a statement that holds even more water now that the developer is on the verge of releasing a Windows version (currently still in beta)[UPDATE – the Windows version is now officially released…].

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, for goodness sakes give Scrivener a whirl. “But I don’t write novels”, you say? Neither do I – at least not yet. And while I have used Scrivener to sketch out a screenplay or two (as yet unpublished…but, fingers crossed), I have logged more words typed using Scrivener for project management.

You heard me right; Scrivener is actually a stealth project management and GTD (Getting Things Done) powerhouse.

First, for the uninitiated, a quick overview of the Scrivener environment:

screenshot - scrivener work environment

the Scrivener work environment – with bells & whistles

Fair warning: I’m a “bells and whistles” sort of guy, so you’re seeing Scrivener with all the major parts visible – the Binder on the left, the Inspector on the right, and the main writing pain in the middle with Format Bar and Ruler visible (that’s just how I roll). It need not be this way, and one of the strengths of Scrivener is that you can bend it to your will in terms of how you want your desktop (or laptop) work environment to be set up; you’re also very much in charge of how deep into its functionality you choose to delve.

If you are a word smithing purist, take heart; note that Scrivener (along with a growing number of modern writing app’s) sports a full-screen writing mode where everything else on your screen disappears behind a veneer of black – or a color of your choosing; the text you’re working on takes center stage.

The hierarchy of a Scrivener project is simple: text items are created and can be placed into folders; folders can themselves contain text; any item can be converted from a folder to text or the other way around. So, let’s say you start out creating a text item for “that topic you want to write something about” – let’s say Topic A; then, you subsequently realize that said topic actually is part of a larger group of sub-topics; you can turn the Topic A text item into a folder and then create more text files inside for Subtopics B, C, and E.

In addition to generating text, you can Import documents – either via the File menu, or (my preferred modus operandi) simply drag a Word file from the Finder and drop it into the Binder.

As if that didn’t give you enough flexibility, the contents of a folder can be viewed as index cards on a cork-board (and yes, you can customize the background); here you can play free-form with the structure of your document, re-ordering cards, etc.; you can also view folders and their contents as an outline, where you can track Label and Status (more on this below). Furthermore, you can view the contents of any folder as “scrivenings” – a view where all the individual text files in a folder can be viewed, scrolled through, and edited as if they were one document (which, they really are).

In short, you can see that Scrivener is set up to give you the ability to play around with words, content, order, structure and the manner in which you shape the logic of whatever argument or cause your writing seeks to illuminate or advocate.

So, then, what’s this project management business? What sort of projects?

How about a web site? I cut my modest webmaster chops in the days when Dreamweaver was coming into its own. And given my druthers, I’d still be using Dreamweaver to manage the site for the non-profit where I currently am the resident geek and communications guy. However, before I arrived on the scene, said agency began the move to a CMS (Content Management System), all the more to help the non-geeks on staff to contribute directly to web page content. But a CMS can be a bit clunky – yes you can have “drafts” of non-live content by creating “copies” of pages, but then navigating through the page listings gets incredibly tiresome. And the interface, built to be user friendly for the Microsoft Office crowd, isn’t exactly the most inviting writing environment.

My solution was to make a “shadow site” in Scrivener. In place of Dreamweaver’s site management window, I have the Binder; the advantage of drafting page content in Scrivener is that not only can I get a quick overview of the site content and organization, pilot test things by moving/creating/deleting pages and page content without interfering with the live site, but also, using Label and Status along with built-in meta-data tools, I can flag pages for revision, denote drafts versus live content, and more.

Even better, as I build page content, if it includes links, Scrivener lets me embed those links into text, and these links carry over perfectly when I copy and paste the finished text into a page on the live site. If you happen to be managing a website where you have FTP access, you can, of course, export Scrivener documents directly into HTML.

screenshot - Scrivener in outline mode

the Scrivener work environment – Outline view

Another aspect of the web project is the e-newsletter. The screenshot shows a use of the Outline view; with the colored Labels I can easily identify the variety of content (news items vs. event info vs. other sorts of post), and with Status I can track items that have been posted (meaning they’ve already been put into the HTML newsletter template on the CMS, vs. stuff that is still in draft form and still needs more editing or information). In addition, Scrivener has a robust implementation of meta-data, allowing you to tag files with any number of keywords. These keywords, the labels, and the status are all searchable, and any search can be saved in what Scrivener calls Collections.

screenshot - the binder window with collections

the Scrivener work environment with Binder Collections

Web sites aren’t your bag? How about grants? Putting a grant proposal together can be a monstrous chore – there are often multiple contributors and varied sections. In my experience, this usually led to one point person receiving two dozen Word doc’s and having to magically graft them into one, monstrous document for output.

With Scrivener, all of those Word docs can be dragged from the Finder or Win Explorer and dropped into the Drafts folder. Re-order, edit as needed; when you’re ready for output, review the finished product as one document in scrivenings view and Compile – setting your layout, pagination, and other options to get the resulting product in line with grant submission guidelines.

As an added bonus, pair your Scrivener experience with a Dropbox account, and you can keep your Scrivener file (and zip compressed Back-ups) safely stowed there. If you’re adventurous, you can also synchronize entire projects or individual folders/documents with Dropbox as text-only files and access them via a variety of iPad or iPhone based apps for editing remotely.

If you’ve read this far, allow me to go just slightly out farther on a ledge. With Scrivener storing text info in its database, allowing you to view, edit, remix, and export said content back out for sharing, there are times when I think I don’t need the OS X Finder at all – at least not from a documents/text files perspective; Scrivener represents the way I wish the Finder allowed me to manage document related data.

So, here’s hoping you’ll take some time to check out Scrivener, and that you’ll find it as helpful to your writing and project management needs as I have these last couple of years. Oh, and one more thing: for the uninitiated (ie: anyone born after the 1970’s), or anyone asking “what’s up with the title”, an explanatory video clip…


Via Tumblr – Lapham’s Quarterly to be more specific – I got wind of Mike Rowe’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Mr. Rowe is the host of Dirty Jobs on The Discovery Channel – a show I rarely get to see since it’s on cable, which I don’t have; nevertheless, it caught my eye and I spent some time reading it because it eerily coincides with a book I’m currently (finally) reading – Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford.

Both Mr. Crawford and Mr. Rowe are calling for a re-examination of the place that manual labor holds in our society – the manner in which our physical connection to things we use has been severed by a replace (vs. repair and maintain) culture and mindset. Both make astute observations about what’s being lost in the process – Mr. Crawford’s are very in-depth (I’m still in the first few chapters of the book, but other readers have already hailed it as an insightful study), but Mr. Rowe’s thoughts cut to the quick of the immediate impact given the current economic climate:

“Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.”

It’s that last sentence that I find quite chilling. In all the talkregarding the downturned economy, from people on both sides of the political divide, I don’t hear a lot of talk about connecting a vast percent of the vast number of unemployed people to current tradesmen as mentors to pass on the skill and craft of these folks before they retire, giving valuable job skills to those who need them and re-elevating manual labor from it’s current “menial,” perceived lower status.

Both are worth a read.


Well, where were we?…

I know. I’ve been neglectful. Or, the modern equivalent – busier than I care to describe; I’m sorry I’ve let the blog slip; it won’t happen again; all those other web sites meant nothing to me, etc. etc…

As a way of mending bridges, getting back on track, etc. – allow me to share something I stumbled upon that I think epitomizes the power of the web – if not computers in general.

First, go over to Forbes (yes, Forbes) and read Jason Oberholtzer’s piece Revise and Evolve, relating to the manner in which Charles Darwin’s watershed book “On The Origin of The Species” was produced – ie: with lots of hard work, evolving over time, not sprung from his head fully formed.

Oberholtzer’s post is well-written and insightful in and of itself, but it links to the real piéce de resistance, Ben Fry’s chart on the work of Darwin. (page loads text and an embedded interactive piece requiring Java)

Fry has taken all six editions of Darwin’s text, arranged them in an interactive, time-based chart which shows how each of the chapters was edited – including allowing the viewer to hover over sections of the chart and read word-for-word the text, with edits color-coded by version.

This, to me, is mind-blowing.

I mean, having access to text was an early promise of the web which for many people was accomplished with the advent of Yahoo! and Google. But here, thanks to modern computers and a robust network that can move a lot of data, we have the ability to have access to the complete evolution – all six versions of one of the seminal texts of our modern age. What Fry has crafted is not just a static scholarly resource (which arguably would still be impressive and valuable), but a sort of organic, interactive, story experience of the information as well.

That, to me, epitomizes the power of what the web can really mean to the future of information sharing, search, research, and new discovery. Hardcore.

the ‘Pad

Yep, I did it. I bit the bullet. I became an early adopter. I got an iPad.

Early this morning (well, early for a Saturday), I got up, went out to East Towne, walked in to Best Buy and – after cradling one in my hands for the better part of twenty minutes – I plunked down my hard earned do-re-mi (along with a BB gift card left over from Xmas which I had yet to use).

I was very good. I managed to put off the un-boxing for most of the day, opting first to do the adult thing and take care of other errands and food shopping (true, I did leave my MacBook Pro to the task of downloading a necessary iTunes upgrade, but still you have to admire my restraint…).

Thanks to previous experience with the iPod Touch, syncing the ‘Pad was a cinch. My app’s, music, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and other goodies made the transition to the new device without a hitch. True, I had to do some tweaking of settings in individual apps (such as the WordPress app that I’m currently writing this post in), but otherwise it’s off to the races… or blog post writing, or picture viewing, or video watching, or blasting some tanks away in Battlezone, or anything else I please.

Of course, I don’t really NEED an iPad right now. Even though it’s fun to have a brand new entertainment device around the living room, the real reason for plunking down the dough is the hope that it will prove to be a true productivity device (which it is so far proving to be). Purchase of some other app’s – including iWork, and Omnigraffle, which I hope is right around the corner (or soon as the next paycheck comes) will be the next step. Then the real testing begins…

The fun? That began a couple of hours ago…


[Warning: this will not be a fun post. Sorry.]

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years.

Today, I will make my annual pilgrimage down county highway M to lay flowers on the very spot where we lost Sam, age eighteen, in a senseless car accident, on March 15, 2005.

When I was there last year, pieces of the automobile could still be seen lying in the grass.

Sam was the only son of my supervisor, coworker, and good friend. She was singlehandedly raising him – never an easy thing to do. When we first started working together, in 1997, her ex-husband had just filed for divorce and Sam was ten. The ex seemed to never get into the spirit of being a father; my coworker turned often to me, asking for advice on how to help her guide this pre-adolescent, then adolescent, son into adulthood.

To say that I was his surrogate dad, or he was like my son, would be over-stating things, a bit. Yet there are aspects of both of those statements that hold true; by coaching and advising his Mom, I had a hand in helping to shape his growth; Sam loved the theatre, was a budding actor, and we went to see each other’s shows; I became a de-facto member of the family, sharing Thanksgiving dinners with Sam and his Mom year after year.

As with any child who comes from a divorced home, High School was difficult for Sam (and, one should add that in addition to the divorce, Sam had to cope with his Dad taking his own life). Nevertheless, he persevered, and was on track to graduate that June. He turned eighteen in January; late in February, he was accepted to Beloit College in their Art program. I started saving up money to buy him an iPod as a graduation present – something that I thought was the sort of gift a Dad would give a son. But then, of course, all of that never came to pass…

After a few moments of reflection at the crash site, it will be on to Forrest Hill Cemetery, where I will lay some more flowers where Sam’s remains are buried.

I recall, last year, as I drove there, a particular Suzanne Vega song – Widow’s Walk – came on the old iPod playing through the car stereo; one part of the lyric seemed to repeat itself over and over again in my head:

“Though I saw it splinter, I keep looking out to sea.
Like a dog with little sense, I keep returning,
To the very area where I did see the thing go down,
As if there’s something at the site I should be learning.”

What is it, I wonder, that I’m supposed to be learning from this tragedy that I haven’t already learned? That life is precious, fragile, and all too short? I was sure I’d learned that lesson long ago. But perhaps some part of it still evades me.

Or, perhaps, there is no lesson to be learned. Maybe this is just the duty that we take on when we love and care about people; when they leave us, we have an obligation to keep the memory of them alive, and to mark their passing. There are, of course, many ways to do this; but for some reason I choose this one. I wonder some times if I will always mark the day this way; will there come a time when my mourning transforms and takes a different shape? I suppose it’s possible.

Until then, I have this; and so tomorrow I will take my annual pilgrimage. I will trace the route, I will stand watch at the graveside, and I will feel the pain of him no longer being in the world and having been taken all too soon.

Dial it up…

O.k., so it’s happened. Scott Brown handily defeated Martha Coakley and will soon be sworn in as the next Senator from Massachusetts. Let the pundit games begin (and they have).

But let us also remain a bit sober about this; I’m reminded of an episode in the 2nd season of The West Wing (those who know me well know that my affection for The West Wing, seasons 1-4, knows no bounds) – “The War at Home”. In it, two of my favorite characters – pollster Joey Lucas (played by Marlee Matlin) and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (played by Bradley Whitford) have a little exchange about poll numbers; see, Josh is trying to measure response to President Bartlett’s 3rd State of the Union speech in which he laid out a gun control strategy that included a five-day waiting period. Josh wants the numbers from five key districts because he sees the gun issue as a measure of how those states will vote in the upcoming presidential election — in other words, it’s a litmus test (much like the Coakley defeat is already being used to write obits for the Obama Presidency).

Josh insists that the high numbers against mean that he needs to advise the President to dial down the rhetoric on gun control if he wants to win re-election. Joey insists the opposite is true; he says “Numbers don’t lie.”, to which she replies “Numbers lie all the time…  You say that these numbers mean dial it down; I say they mean dial it up. You haven’t gotten through. There are people you haven’t persuaded yet.”

Dial it up, people. The work is hard, but the prize – social justice, fairer government, and a better healthcare system – is too important to let it slip by. There are people we haven’t reached yet. Dial it up.