Monday, March 31, 2008


It’s HERE! Well, for me.

Yes…the first proof of Peter Pan’s NeverWorld arrived today! HOSAH!

It’s looking very sharp. It needs a few minor tweaks but with the next proof it should be ready to roll.
I’m told I shook as I opened it…it’s damn exciting!
Hold tight…it will be available soon!

A Lovely Weekend

I’ve spent all but one of the past few nights at the theatre. I’ve been up 14-foot ladders painting the trim of the palace columns and doing various other tasks. It’s good to be a stage hand again. I haven’t done it for quite some time, since the last Vitalist Theatre production I would guess. I’d help out quite a bit in college. I’ve acted, too. But I regard theatre as a vacation spot. It’s nice to be there for a while, but eventually I’ve had my fill. I certainly stayed long on this round. Let’s just say I could see light when I left. But I’m up late usually anyway.

Saturday night we had a dinner guest, the lovely *Le Trix. Bart presented us with another culinary triumph. A “luscious bone-in roast loin of pork, glazed with a mélange of navel & blood orange juices, apricot jam, Dijon mustard and a kiss of red wine.” Since the fun lasted rather long, I would have gotten to the theatre quite late so I took a break and got some extra sleep.

In the morning Bart and I had another delicious meal at m. henry, one of our favorite haunts for brunch. We met *Dragonfly as per usual and he delighted us with his special brand of silliness, also as per usual. After a day of store hopping in Andersonville and then a nice sushi dinner with Bart’s sister *Lage, I returned for another late night of work at the theatre.

It looked stunning to begin with but now we may as well be in India.

All in all, a fabulous weekend.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Serendipity Anyone?

Last night Great Spirit doled out some of Its magic.

I attended a dinner date that almost didn’t happen due to scheduling. While waiting for our friends to arrive, who should walk in but my best friend. I barely (we’ll just go ahead and say never) get to see him anymore. For one thing, he lives too many miles away. He’s a professor at Knox College of which we’re both of alums. For another, when he’s not teaching or in the field, he’s a husband to a charming lady (a professor and performer of dance) and father of two lovely girls. The poor guy hardly has time to himself. Anyway, the restaurant happened to be one of three that he could have gone to at the suggestion of the guy with him. On the way to take him home, they picked up some take-out, a dinner break. My buddy had come to town to work on Vitalist Theatre’s latest production: the American Midwest Premiere of E. M. Forster’s saga A Passage to India, adapted by Martin Sherman. I’m also friends with the founders and director of Vitalist Theatre, too. They happen to be professors at Knox as well.

Needless to say after dinner I swung by the theatre and started painting. As if I would miss an opportunity to be with my best friend and help out my college mentor and his wife, the director! They’ve been especially generous with their time, resources and advice throughout the various stages of getting my novel Peter Pan’s NeverWorld off the ground. I just don’t see how there could be any place else I should have been last night. Hopefully I will get to help paint and do other various tasks for this show again tonight. I’ve helped them out every chance I could. This is their 10th Anniversary Season.

My buddy is the set designer and I’ve seen some impressive and unbelievable transformations of theatre space. I must say… he has outdone himself. It’s exceptional. And given the caliber of past Vitalist performances, I am quite looking forward to seeing this one unfold on this work of grandeur.

What are the chances of a dinner taking weeks to make happen being the same night, time and choice of take-out, etc.? I love it when serendipity conspires in your favor. It makes me feel like I’m in a novel.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Princely Parody

I finally watched Enchanted. I meant to see it in the theater. Dare I say it? Enchanting. It’s always nice to see a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously while treating its source material reverently. Sometimes the folks at the House of Mouse hit the mark and this time they did it by striking the arrow into their own heart. They gleefully poke fun at their formula. Nearly if not all of the animated fairy tale features are represented in allusions and nods, presented in style. Wonderful tunes are sung with ridiculous lyrics…but well crafted ridiculous lyrics. The performances do a fairy tale proud. At one point I commented that I had never heard the line “I wish you every happiness” spoken with such sincerity. The F/X team and creative visionaries shined. Granted it may not be cinema ready for the annals. But it is artful. Don’t dodge it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance to Hear From Characters...

Don't you hate it when you've just nestled yourself into bed and you start "hearing" from characters? You know you won't remember in the morning so you have to reach for your phone and jot it electronically on its Notepad.
Hmm. Maybe it's just me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Video Game Tales: The Sequel

One of my favorite examples of video games spawning a complex story is Mortal Kombat. Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Isn’t that the one where two characters just beat the crap out of each other? A complex story? Yeah RIGHT.”
Actually, it is that game. But it’s so much more. Considering that it began as a curious desire to ‘digitize’ real people into Capcom’s Street Fighter II, it’s quite impressive. To be honest, I’m only half-heartedly a fan of the game. It can be fun, but it quickly becomes tiresome for me. The real treasure of Mortal Kombat is the storyline. Don’t worry…I’m not going to relate the whole thing it to you. But I will explain what I mean.

Mortal Kombat could be called an expanding story…one in which a creator discovers more of her or his own world as time goes on. [Not unlike C. S. Lewis writing Narnia.] At its root, it’s a tale about a place called Outworld and its ruler, Shao Khan, who wants control of Earth. To claim it, ten consecutive tournaments of Mortal Kombat must be won. The first game is about the Tenth Tournament, and naturally, hero Liu Kang saves the day for us. Each character has a backstory. These stories are also woven together. With each new game, new elements were brought in…but in a way refreshingly adherent to what had already been established. For example, it isn't until the second game that we discovered Outworld, learning that sorcerer Shang Tsung worked for Emperor Shao Khan. Later in the series we hear of the Elder Gods, who set up Mortal Kombat and the rules. Later still comes the answer as to why. And all the while we are introduced to new locations and characters, many related to others in various ways such as race, blood, etc. Each has a backstory riddled with fun details. The MK storyline includes: a banished Elder God, conspiracies against the throne, ancestral lines, spiritual and emotional themes, secret amulets, clan feuds, free-roaming sorcerers (unlike Shang Tsung) and an ancient Dragon King. All the makings of a fantasy adventure. Not bad for a game where it’s just two figures beating the crap out of each other. Think about it. They certainly did not have to put that much creative energy into it to make the games. But thank goodness they did. It's one hell of a tale. Oh. My favorite character is Raiden, God of Thunder and Lightning and Protector of the Realm of Earth.

If you want to know more, or to see just how intricate it can be, Wikipedia does a good job.

Thank you, Boon and Tobias. Bravo.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Video Game Tales

I’ve been playing video games so long that my family had the first system made by Coleco. Not the “Colecovision” but the odd triangular shaped one. We had Atari 2600, naturally. I followed video games on through their rise in the arcades (Mappy & Ms. Pac-Man were my favorites) and their home console death and then rebirth via the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m a Nintendo guy. Before the enormous popularity of the Wii, people asked me why I stick with Nintendo. I answered with one word: Zelda. Needless to say The Legend of Zelda series is well, a legend.

But what I really want to bring to light is how intensive and in-depth games have become. And not just Zelda. I mean the industry in general. I know many people still roll their eyes at video game playing. Whether they deem it a waste of time or disapprove in some other capacity, I have this to say: It is no more a waste of time than watching a movie. For that, in fact, is exactly what they essentially are: Interactive movies. If you’re not aware, “today’s” video games have long passages of “cinemas” that can be just as impressive as a CGI animated feature. And those are what...two hours at most? Okay. Now consider that in order to complete a video game it can take as much as 80 hours of play/watch time. 80 as opposed to 2. That’s quite a bit of story going on there! Lots of time for development of plot, characters, settings and situations. Plus the added bonus of being the one who makes the story come alive. And often it takes quite a skilled and seasoned player to be able to get to the end. Consider also the voice acting talent put into them. Or the soundtracks. They are wondrous orchestral scores comparable to a feature film. These, too, require longer compositions. That’s why video game movie adaptations do not always work so well. Try squeezing 60-80 hours into two and half.

Video games have come a long way from a yellow pie eating little dots.
They’re a modern means for storytelling.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sticking to Chopsticks

I eat everything with chopsticks. Everything. Okay, well, if you want to nitpick, soups and sandwiches do not count. I’d say a bowl of cereal would count as a soup and a slice of pizza would count as a sandwich. And yes, I do pick up tiny snack foods like peanuts, chips or M&Ms by hand. But for some of the larger snack foods I do use chopsticks. In fact, that’s how I started using them for everything.

I didn’t want my fingers to get orange powder all over them when I munched on cheese curls/puffs. So I had an idea. I would use a toothpick. It sounds more practical than it is. Turns out it requires concentration to pierce them, distracting from another activity. They tend to slide around a bit too much. [I had them in a bowl for it's not easy to poke for them in the bag.] Unless you suffer from a violent streak, the necessary force needed to stab them is just not worth the effort. Try it if you don’t believe me. I then realized I didn’t need a cheese puff harpoon, I just needed faux fingers. So I grabbed some chopsticks.

I’ve been using them ever since, for about 15 years. The foods people tend to marvel at are a baked potato and ice cream. Yes, eventually the ice cream will be a puddle and therefore, then, counts as soup. But I find that I create more or less the same size puddle via spoon. Like I said, everything.

I prefer not to have the clinking of silverware at my fingertips. I prefer the faint trace of wood in my mouth rather than cold metal. For me, chopsticks are a superior eating utensil.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Day for News – Both Good & Bad

Well, today I learned that the great Arthur C. Clarke has passed on. A visionary. His contributions to the craft of storytelling will continue to entertain, instruct and inspire. A sincere farewell, bow and thank you, sir.

On my way home today, my iPod (which more often than not randomizes from my entire music collection) decided to play “Mr. Roboto.” After chuckling about Austin Powers' recent revival of it, I settled onto the line “my brain IBM” long before actually sung. I stopped and thought how cool of Clarke to name the infamous computer, HAL, by dropping one letter in the alphabet each time. A wonderful disguise and device, it works beautifully. I arrived home to discover the news.

Oddly enough, this coincides with the good news.
Clarke's quote "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" helped inspire the book that went into production today.

Yes, that’s right, today a bit of magic happened through technology. My novel Peter Pan’s NeverWorld will soon be available! [Insert joyous expression of your choice here.] By estimation, “soon” means within four months. Naturally, I’m susceptible to Murphy’s Law like everyone else but…I’ll for sure keep you posted.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

from The Onion

A Chronicle of a Regret

A literary regret of mine is not having read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia as a child. I remember picking it up. I started with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the school library. Maybe because I knew it did not come first in the series, perhaps the language proved too thick for me at the time or I just didn’t click with it. I’m not sure. But it’s moot anyway, as I have read them many times since. I’m not going to gush about how much I enjoy them. But I will say that part of my regret is not having come across the philosophy of life, if you will, contained within The Last Battle. One that can only be fully grokked by experiencing the whole series. If I had been presented with these ideas as a child, I think I would be much better adjusted than I am now. I’m not suggesting that I’m maladjusted. I just know that its wisdom struck a chord with me and it would have been nice to have been hearing that music all this time. Before anyone attaches the Christian influence associated with the books let me say yes, allusions to spiritual icons and themes exist in the chronicles. Notice I did not specify. The philosophies I speak of are actually much more influenced by Eastern faiths. No matter what, the fact is it’s a grand adventure with much to say.

I must say that I am put off by the reordering of the books into a straight timeline. I prefer the published order. Here’s why: It’s my understanding that when Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he did not realize more stories would arise. He discovered as he wrote. My feeling is that reading them “in order” decreases the enjoyment of that discovery process. For me it’s more fun to let stories unfold the way they did for the author. But, you probably could have guessed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ides of March

Well, it seems that the Ides of March have thwarted me. A great plan to be executed on this day must instead be delayed. For as I got further along I realized I am unable to produce the necessary components myself. I thought it would be interesting to use this infamous date to launch, so to speak, but it seems I, too, should beware this day. Well, at least I'm not having as bad a day as Caesar!

"No, I get who Caesar is. But what's the Ideas of March? I mean, how can a month have an idea?"
-- Brad, Hairspray: The Movie Musical

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

Nearly six months before the release of this movie, a friend sent me a link to the trailer. She knew it would be more than to my liking, since she (and many others) have heard me express the mildly insane belief that I merely take dictation from characters. If you are a writer and have not seen this movie, shame on you! Take that with a grain of salt, but do see the movie. So charmed by the trailer, I attended opening day. Needless to say, I loved the film. It’s a delightful spin on the strange process of writing.

Upon second viewing, I had a moment of dismay. There seemed to be a plot hole. I’ll keep this as spoiler free as possible for those who have not seen it. But those who have should know exactly the moment I mean. When 'character' Harold Crick rushes to make his all-important phone call, it does not make sense within author Karen Eiffel’s Death and Taxes. Who is Harold rushing to call in that novel as she’s writing it? Fortunately, I had a good laugh as I realized the answer. Rather than being a flaw in the design of the film, this incident strengthens the entire premise. To me it represents a phenomenon that many (hopefully all) authors experience – when a character temporarily takes the reigns of the story and there is no choice but to see how it plays out. Often I find “character input” is better than what I had originally planned.

Call the collaboration between character and author Insanity or call it Inspiration. Either way, this is a wonderfully wacky, inspired film.

Bravo to writer Zach Helm!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Photos of the Imaginary

I have photographs of fictional people.

I’ll explain.
Let me start by saying that I find it helpful to draw my protagonists. Occasionally I will depict other characters as well. They are in the same style as my self caricature. Later I discovered how valuable PhotoShop could be to enhance the cartoon personalities. Not only for coloring but for such augmentation as the denim texture and shading. As my graphic manipulation skills improved, I realized even more could be done.

I now piece together realistic “photo” versions of my characters. I use various bits from different pictures (one person’s eyes, another’s nose, etc.) and tweak them further on the virtual art board into the characters in my mind’s eye. One boy in particular is created from seven others. It’s easy to dress them, too, since I can simply change the color of the perfect flannel pattern, for example.

Just another way to bring my characters to life – a modern day Frankenstein in two dimensions.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Here you will find my nonfiction.
That's just my way of saying this is the place for me to share my thoughts with you, keep you posted on upcoming events and allow me to interact. I still marvel at the 21st Century. It's quite a world we live in -- one might even say it's downright fictional. Thanks for stopping by...