The SAG Awards

I’m a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), so every year at this time I get to vote for my favorite performances. The SAG Awards program airs on national television tomorrow night. Here are my picks to win:

Of course, I could be wrong. Seriously, though, I’ll be posting my lists of Best Movies of 2019 and Some Screen Gems You May Have Missed soon. What were your favorite screen performances this past year?

Posted in Humor, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

If We Could Talk to the Animals…

The latest movie version of Dr. Doolittle just came out, and by all reports it’s–well, let’s just say it’s no Iron Man. Still, wouldn’t it be cool if we could talk to the animals? What would they tell us?

P.S. Don’t miss the quotes after the images.

(Click on any image to enlarge it, or to start slide show)

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” ~A.A. Milne

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~Anatole France

“Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.” ~Groucho Marx

“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.” ~Marilyn Monroe

“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.” ~Hippolyte A. Taine

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” ~James Herriot

“To see ten thousand animals untamed and not branded with the symbols of human commerce is like scaling an unconquered mountain for the first time. You know then what you had always been told – that the world once lived and grew…without the tyranny of clocks.” ~Beryl Markham

“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, O LORD, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike. All find shelter in the shadow of your wings. ~Psalm 36:6-7

Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

I Am a Novelist!

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When I was a kid I wanted to be everything. I practiced tight rope walking on the chain-link fence behind my buddy Jeff’s house in preparation to join the circus; explored the city sewers, preparing to become a world-class archeologist; drew up plans for a theater in my backyard and cast Debbie Reynolds in the lead role of my first production… All of this fueled by the books I’d read and the imagination that fed on them.

But when I was older and wiser (age 12), I realized there wouldn’t be enough time to become everything I wanted to be. I grieved. Deeply. But then one day I discovered a magical device that would allow me to become anything and everything!

It was called Writing.

By the time I reached 8th Grade I’d decided to become a world-famous novelist (is there any other kind?). I even had a pen name: “Jules Paris Casino.” Soon, however, other passions like acting and music pushed poor Jules into the attic.

I did become a writer. My work in theatre and music led to writing comedy sketches, songs, plays and screenplays. But Jules the novelist was still there brooding in the attic

Finally, when Disney TV asked me to write a novelization of my in-the-works animated series The Wishing Map, Jules came down from that moldy garret. Disney eventually dropped the project, but I finished the novel anyway. Why? Because I discovered I loved long-form, loved returning to the same world again each day! (The Wishing Map was offered a deal by a religious publishing house, but I let it go because their fiction sales, apart from romances about pretty Amish girls running away from farms, were weak.)

Meanwhile, opportunities arose to write and direct feature films, so it looked like The Wishing Map would remain my sole novel. Then the producer of my movie Over-the-Rhine announced plans for its long-delayed release, and I jumped at the excuse to write a novelization!

Yet the moment I began writing it, I felt like a charlatan: “What am I thinking? I’ve written one young adult fantasy. This is serious fiction. I’m not a novelist.”

Do you want to be? my soul asked.

“Oui!” Jules shouted, “Weeth all my heart!”

Well, then get to it!

This week I started the third draft of the novel Over-the-Rhine. My alpha readers have been wonderfully encouraging. But regardless of what happens next, I’ve finally realized…

I am a novelist!

Oh, and one quick announcement: Jules Paris Casino has decided to publish under the pen name…

“Mitch Teemley.”

Posted in Humor, Memoir, Story Power, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 48 Comments

Mental Health: Acceptance (Part I)

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My Featured Blogger this week is Dr. K.E. Garland (Kathy) of the same-named blog site. Kathy’s explorations of relationships and family are honest, transparent, courageous even. But more than that, they are insightful. Discover more about the human family with Dr. Garland and, along the way…

Discover more about yourself.

K E Garland

Around 2005, I found my biological mother’s side of the family, and with that came a narrative about my family’s mental health. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent me a thick packet of information sealed in a manila envelope.

My mother had been diagnosed as having acute schizophrenia, undifferentiated type. According to the report she would oftentimes “walk around with an empty stroller” and could be found “lying on the couch, laughing hysterically.” Although she was an avid swimmer, in 1978, she drowned in Lake Michigan.

These images are not only vivid, but also profound. I immediately related to my mother’s psychosis. Finally, I understood part of myself.

I’d felt slightly off growing up. For example, in elementary school, it was difficult for me to walk in front of a class or across the cafeteria. Oftentimes, I thought everyone stared and talked about me. I had little…

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Posted in Culture, Quips and Quotes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Writing Checks in the New Year

I still send physical checks to pay some of my bills (you too?). And sure enough, at the start of each year I end up writing the wrong date on them. For example, today I mailed a very large payment “accidentally” dated “2023.”

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P.S. When I’m not writing checks I’m writing stuff I actually like to write. I jumped into the 3rd draft of my novel Over-the-Rhine this week. Prayers appreciated! (And while you’re at it, pray that check doesn’t get cashed until massive royalties from my New York Times bestselling novel have poured in.)

Posted in Humor, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Prayer is Air!

deep_sea_diver__by_tolyanmy-d6bbj0v“Deep Sea Diver” by TolyanMy

Connecting With God

While I was working my way through college, my buddy Dean was hitchhiking his way up Pacific Coast Highway. A few years later, I had a shiny new bachelor’s degree and was selling encyclopedias for minimum wage. And Dean was making massive amounts of money. Wait–what?

How?

Deep sea diving! I pictured him battling giant squids. The reality was slightly less exotic, but still pretty cool: he was salvaging lost cargo. “Why so much money?” I asked.

“Because it’s dangerous. You can’t wear scuba gear ‘cause it’s too deep and you’re down there too long. And if anything cuts off your air…”

Gasp!

“Exactly. That’s why you can’t do it alone. One guy goes down while the other one stays up top monitoring the air flow. You gotta have enough pressure or the ocean will crush you. And all the time you’re down there, you gotta keep checking your hose, making sure there’s no kinks–the guy up top can’t do it for you. You gotta have new air constantly. You can’t keep breathing the same air. You’re in an environment you weren’t made for.”

Dean eventually moved on. And so did I. I knocked around for a few years trying to find myself. Then one day I realized it wasn’t me I was looking for; it was the one who made me. God was out there somewhere, I decided. But he seemed so far away, so alien.

Then I remembered Dean’s words, “You’re in an environment you weren’t made for,” and I realized God wasn’t the alien, I was. We humans have become disconnected from our Source, our “air.” We’ve turned our world into an alien, hostile einvironment, and there’s only one thing that can revive us: Prayer.

Prayer is air!

First of all, “You can’t do it alone.” Just as deep sea divers can’t survive without someone “up top,” spiritual beings can’t survive without a connection to their Creator. Prayer isn’t some self-contained motivational technique, it’s a connection. There’s no such thing as a self-contained “scuba prayer.” Without the countering pressure of God’s Spirit,* the ocean, “the cares of this world” (Mark 4:19), will crush us.

Second, “You gotta keep checking your hose, making sure there’s no kinks.” There are so many things that can affect the flow of God’s word and presence in our lives. We must continually remind ourselves that nothing is as important as that life-giving flow.

Third, “You gotta have new air constantly. You can’t keep breathing the same air.” Like any other form of communication, prayer is only as healthy as it is fresh. If you’re going on old prayers, your oxygen is running out!

Finally, “You’re in an environment you weren’t made for.” We’re “aliens and strangers in this world” (1 Peter 2:11). Prayer is not the norm, the worship of everything but God is, especially self. “You shall be as God,” says the serpent in Genesis 3:5, and that has been the world’s dominant belief system ever since. The hose-kinking, life-sucking result of which is spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1).

Prayer is air. Yes, it’s hard to pray in an environment that is hostile to prayer, that views it as naïve and even dangerous. But pray anyway. Pray as if your life depended upon it.

Because it does.

*Interestingly, Pneuma, the Greek word for Spirit, also means “breath” and is the source of the word pneumatics—pressurized air!

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 51 Comments

Beginning Again

Resolution (with apologies to the Beatles):

“You say you made a resolution, well, you know,
We all want to change our ways,
But to really be a resolution, well, you know,
It’s got to last more than ten days.”

Pray. And begin again. If matters–really matters–God will strengthen you. If not, let it go.

begin-again

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” ~James 1:12

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments