Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Sometimes it’s fun to look at other interpretations of a story.
And there are at least three fascinating views of Peter Pan.
I’m not suggesting that these are intended. Nor implied.
I don’t believe any of these notions are actually correct.
Just that a different lens can be used to look at it, which produces some freaky results.
(One of these I mentioned a long while back.)

In no actual ranked order of importance:

“Drug” Pan
This one is almost too easy. And hackneyed. But not to mention it wouldn’t seem right. Fly high with fairy dust. Go to a magical land of adventure but don’t get Hook-ed. See? Too easy.

Nosferatu Pan
He flies. He doesn’t age. He lives forever. He comes to your window at night. Sound familiar? It should. Peter’s got many of the makings of a vampire. (See the next category down, as well.) The story doesn’t follow all vampyric mythos, though. Such as having to be invited to come inside - Peter comes in anyway. And he also crosses running water of rivers and streams. As far as I know, he shows up in the mirror. But in general, he sounds quite like one of Dracula’s minions, no?

Dead Pan
In the play, Peter says that no one must ever touch him. No actual answer as to why is given except that he doesn’t know, but no one can do it.* (This aspect dropped out of the novel and he is in fact touched.) What can be made of the idea? Well, we can link it to the fact that when living in Kensington Gardens one of Peter’s jobs had been to take children who have died partway to heaven so they would not be frightened. (This bit of the story, mind you, remains in the novel and is attributed to the memory of Mrs. Mary Darling.) Could it be because he has already gone all the way and back again? Is the Neverland a purgatory? We all know Peter Pan doesn’t age. Could it be because he is dead? Thus, he can fly as a ghost. And ghosts cannot be touched. Hmmm.

How about you?
Can you think of another wild analysis?

Space Pan

*Side note: In the Peter Pan: Kensington Gardens production, they bring in this line . And yet… he is touched afterward. Sort of...! They add some lines. Wendy calls him on it and he replies, “Oh, I never said I couldn’t touch you. But you can’t touch me.” (Probably paraphrased.) I rather enjoyed this tweak.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Line Up, Children...

Know what I’ve been wondering all day?
(I mean besides when I’m going to be able to stop hearing “Sham-wow” over and over in my head.)

Who has more lines in the play (and/or novel) of Peter Pan (Peter and Wendy)?
Peter or Wendy?
Since Wendy’s around in the story before Peter, one might guess her.
Then again, Peter has more lines than her while fighting Hook.
And yet, Wendy does an awful lot of talking in the Underground House.
But Peter does his share of explaining about the Neverland and his adventures.
I’m just not sure. And I really don’t think I want to sit and count.
I looked it up on the world wide web… but nothing close to the answer came up due to how many things are out there stuck to the web.
Not that it matters, but who do you reckon is more of a chatterbox?
Pan or Darling?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hey, Dionysus! Here's One for the PANtheon...

Well, I’ve been hailing it as
THE Peter Pan event of our lifetime.
Regardless of how it turned out, good or bad, that statement holds true. In historic terms, I’d rank it above the P.J. Hogan 2003 film. Since Peter Pan began as a play, this production took the origins to a new level while returning the story to his “birthplace.”

So, did I like it? If you read a few posts back, you’ll know that on the whole, yes I did. I had a few issues with it. But not enough to outweigh the truly magical experience they created.

Before I go on in detail about the “Good Form” and “Bad Form” of the show, I want to address the “style” of the production. I tried to avoid reviews of it prior to leaving for London. I caught snippets, though. (Couldn’t help it.) Just enough to see that many people found themselves enchanted. Some, however, not so much. Barrie’s words (for the revival scene of Tinker Bell in the novel Peter and Wendy) apply: Many clapped. Some didn’t. A few beasts hissed. And just what did they “hiss” about? Some claim it lacked strong acting, missing the depth of the work. I disagree, but that’s a matter of opinion. Complaints did come, however, about the “technological” aspect of the show. Some felt that the glamour and glitter and hi-tech spectacle of it sucked the life out of it, saying that the show is not about high tech, it’s about using one’s imagination. No argument on the imagination part. But then, let’s examine what Barrie himself tried to do with the play.

Consider that if Barrie had his way, Tinker Bell would have been achieved via a reverse telescope effect, so that a real living person could appear as a tiny fairy on stage. It turned out not to be feasible, of course. But seriously, how much more hi-tech can one get for 1904? Consider also that Peter Pan revolutionized the concept of “flying” on stage. A whole new “techno” brought to the stage for this play. Also factor in the number of locations required: a nursery, a forest, underground, the ocean with a big rock and a freaking pirate ship. That’s a lot of scenery and set building. Add in that Barrie wanted it as convincing as possible… NOW try and tell me that the show isn’t about state-of-the-art!

Therefore, bringing the new-fangled dimension of CGI 360° projection is not only a good idea for this show, I’d like to think Barrie would have jumped on the wind’s back with it. Plus, animation (the way we know it today) had been in its infancy at the time of putting up Peter Pan. The first feature animated film did not appear until 1906. Perhaps Barrie would have chosen to incorporate moving drawings, too.

Even if that does not convince you that the hi-tech gadgetry belongs in this show, Peter Pan: Kensington Gardens utilized plenty of traditional or “old school” methods. It did not rely on one kind of staging or the other. All in all, a great pairing of old and new to bring about the most magic.

Okay, with that out of the way, on to the show itself.
Let me warn you, however, I am going to talk about specific events and moments in the show. If you do not wish to read “spoilers” then read no further, content in knowing that I did find myself transported for the evening.

Still reading? Okay, then, on to the “Good Form,” a la what I enjoyed. Well, that would be some of the changes they made. “Whoa there, Von Brown! You liked changes?!” you might be asking. Changes to, yes, contradictions to, never. I’ve mentioned before how Barrie tweaked it over and over and from medium to medium. Peter Pan: Kensington Gardens promised to be a new adaptation, deriving elements of the play as well as the book. They accomplished their goal. One of my favorite moments happened from this line in the book: [Peter] breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five to a second. He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible. He does exactly this in the show. Right at the same scene as the book. When the Darlings and Lost Boys announce they are going back to the mainland, Peter tromps arounds with his quick breaths and flaps crooked arms while doing it. [He is “part bird,” you know.] But the inclusion here is not where its use is most poignant. In this production, to my utter surprise and sheer delight, they do in fact have the “epilogue” bit, when Peter Pan returns for Wendy only to discover she has grown up and has a daughter of her own. They omit some lines, write in some others… but most shockingly, Peter begins his huffing rant, yelling “Ad-dult! Ad-dult!” as he does struts and puffs. He is trying to kill grown-up Wendy! What a fantastically unnerving addition. Two more unsettling moments are added to the epilogue. I just mentioned added dialogue. Most notably, Wendy tries to get Peter to understand that they’re all gone, John, Michael… and then she says “Nibs, Curly… they’ve all grown up and have boring jobs.” “No,” protests Pan, “they don’t. And who are they anyway?” This cut me to the quick. A true gasp. Okay, we knew that he’d forgotten the Lost Boys along with Captain Hook and Tinker Bell. But to actually point out, out loud, that he forgot them! So sad. But that’s not the only variation in this scene which stirred the soul. Wendy is supposed to leave for a bit, flustered with Peter’s inability to cope and come back only to find him talking with Jane. After some discussion, Jane is allowed to go with him. But the Kensington Gardens show, however, does it differently. In Wendy’s absence Peter’s crying wakes up Jane, as per the story. Boy, why are you crying? Peter Pan stands up, bows, and the lights go out. Oooo! Quite a chilling ending! Bravo.

Okay, there’s no masking the fact: the 360° CGI projection is just damn cool. From showing the lights going out in the Bloomsbury windows at the beginning to swirling both London and the Neverland by each other to show passage of time (just before the scene described above), it’s a masterpiece of imagination and engineering. And the piece d'resistance: Flying over London. The effect they wanted? It’s achieved. It’s absolutely stunning and enchanting. Yes, you really do feel as if you’re moving high above the city. When on board the Jolly Roger it actually rocks, its creaking is heard, the sea trickles, the flag waves and both fore and aft of the ship are shown, with the stage making up the middle. Another fabulous use of the techno-magic comes at the battle scene on the ship. At one point, as he should, Pan flies up to the rigging. As he rises, so moves the video of the ship along with him! Another wonderful motion effect. Hook mimes climbing up after him (see? “old school”) and a beam pops up from the stage and their swordplay resumes on the “mast.” I must say, I really did feel way high up with them. Bravo!

We liked all the actors’ performances. The children are all played by adults but one might never know. Abby Ford is a marvelous Wendy Darling, ever so convincing as a preteen girl. It didn’t feel like she pretended at all. So make-believe and true merged, just as for Peter Pan. And Peter? Ciaran Kellgren managed to capture a rambunctious boy beautifully. I will admit that it caused me to re-appreciate Jeremy Sumpter’s portrayal. But that is not a reflection of poor quality of any kind to Kellgren. After all, acting on stage is different in many ways than it is for the screen. And since here Peter Pan had to be conveyed “from a distance,” he could not have pulled it off better. Sweet and sour, as needs be. And what of the other main character - Hook? Jonathan Hyde, who can also be seen in Cameron’s Titanic, delivered a top notch, formidable Captain. And not a comedic one, thank heavens. Oh sure, he had his humorous moments…but then, Hook does. But Hyde gave us the true cut-throat pirate Hook is rather than a bumbling, sniveling fool so often seen. (And the hook on the correct hand!) As for the rest of the cast, they deserve praise, to be sure. Not a bad apple in the bunch. Bravi!

Another example of “old school” theatre might actually be a “newer” form. Here in Chicago we are blessed to have the Redmoon Theatre company. Their work with puppetry is astounding. No, not THAT kind of puppet. We’re talking complex, majorly articulated (and often massive) constructions that have a magical quality all their own. Peter Pan: Kensington Gardens took a page from Redmoon. Nana and the Crocodile and a few birds came to life via this form of make-believe. I’d been ever so curious how they would accomplish the animals at this staging. A triumph. (Although I cannot help but wonder if Barrie would have objected to seeing the man manipulating Nana and the people operating the enormous crocodile. He seemed to be a stickler for making it seem effortless and real.)

I rather enjoyed Peter’s costume, too. Very atypical, yet not out of place. A kind of tapestry draped over his shoulders, with a bit of feathers at the top. It hung down beyond his waist, bunched up, looking rather like a bird’s tail. If you’re not aware, Pan in the original stage production sported a little cape, too. (Which is partially why I included one in Peter Pan’s NeverWorld.) Bare chested. Brown pants, cut off at the knee.

The music, by Benjamin Wallfisch, proved sublime. Just as adventurous and whisking as a Peter Pan score should sound.

I’m sure I could tell you more about the glorious aspects of this production, but I’ll move on…

“Bad Form,” unfortunately, also crept in quite a bit. First and foremost, Tinker Bell. I knew going into this show that she would be played by a person. I’m sorry, I just don’t like this at all. For why, see this post. Again, that is not to say that Itxaso Moerno’s performance lacked. Far from it. Despite the “size” I enjoyed her Tink. (Which is quite an accomplishment, as I’m not altogether that fond of Miss Bell in general.) In this show she starts off as a light (and a rather cool one at that) but when she emerges from the drawer (although here it is a trunk) she’s magically bigger. (I say magically also in the sense of the “magic trick” of a person appearing in a box which had been empty.) From then on, she’s a feisty little lady in a tutu and something like combat boots. Really? Also, there seems to be no fairy dust in this version. Instead, Tink begrudgingly and exasperatedly stands in front of each Darling kid and hoists her right leg way up the air while thrusting a thumbs up sign above her head and yelling out “UP!” They can then fly. Admittedly it’s funny, but…um? Really? We couldn’t have a sprinkling of glitter here?

Speaking of flying, I found myself quite perturbed that Peter Pan does not actually fly through the window. The window’s there. It opens of its own accord. But…he does not come through it. Instead, he lowers from the ceiling. Okay, yes, this might be a limitation of being staged in a tent. But come on now, Peter Pan flies through the window…that’s the “whole thing,” you know? I felt cheated.

Remember me saying that Barrie did not so much want to the technicality to be seen? I kept thinking he would have hated this part. Which part? Very often in the show, it’s quite obvious that the characters are hooking themselves back up to the flying rigging. Nitpicking? Oh, sure, perhaps. But I’m “just saying” because Barrie specifically wrote in a whole scene so this very thing does not happen! He didn’t want the audience to be aware that the actress put the wiring back on…so we get Pan hiding behind the curtain to avoid being seen by Liza, responding to Nana’s warning barks. Here, however, it’s blatant. Every time. I don’t mean to suggest that they could have avoided it, especially as it’s theatre in the round… just mentioning that it made me think Barrie might wince.

This same scene is the subject of another curious alteration. We all know that Mr. & Mrs. Darling leave the house to go to a party, right? Well, not here. Instead, they are giving their own party downstairs. It adds a bit of drama, I suppose… that Pan is kidnapping their children right out from under (above?) them. But not so much that it warrants making the change. I believe they wanted to steer clear of the whole crazy business with Liza the maid and did not want to have to stage Nana running across town to fetch them. So, I understand it on one level and cock my head on another.

There are no Indians/Redskins/Native Americans, save Tiger Lily. They’re mentioned, they have (off stage) the battle over the Underground House with the pirates. But otherwise, they don’t exist. Just the Redskin Princess. This is probably due to production costs or some similar matter. It’s not egregious, but it did, again, make me cock my head and take me out of the action of the play for a spell.

They eliminated the Twins, as well. Maybe the smaller space of round stage would be too cluttered? And they are, in some ways, extraneous. But then, they replaced them with a strange bird character. (And someone to control it.)

The mermaids. Oh good grief. I do not wish to belittle in any way the marvelous and mesmerizing movements of the talented gymnast, Fiona Lait, who portrayed a mermaid. She’s to be commended on her gymnastics and feats of control alongside a rope high up in the air. Yes, you read that right. A rope to twist around, stretch out upon. etc. Honestly, the rope did not prove the real problem. The lack of a tail…or even fins of any kind seemed to be the issue. What could have been an otherwise spectacular scene turned lackluster in this instance. For the first time anywhere (that I know of) we are taken beneath the Mermaid Lagoon and Marooner’s Rock. Oh, how cool, right? Indeed so. A watery landscape, with schools of fish, sea turtles…fabulously fun. And then, a rope drops down from the tent and this “mermaid” emerges from the stage and does her (otherwise magnificent) bit. Really? I felt so bad for Bart, who is a huge fan of mermaids. Couldn’t they have at least given us a CGI mermaid along with the astonishing acrobatics? Or a tail? Fins? Oh well.

There might be other tidbits that rubbed me the wrong way, such as the Crocodile having one line (though I am fully aware it’s “for the kids”), but I can’t recall any glaring ones… and I suppose that’s a good sign.

So, there you have it. All in all, a most wonderful production.
Truly historic, in so many more ways than one.
Much to love, much to shake a head over. But over all, pure magic.
I like to believe that Barrie would have felt the same way.

Thank you, director Ben Harrison and designer William Dudley.
And to all the cast and crew, thank you.
Yours is a Peter Pan to remember!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The London WE Saw...

Bart and are not exactly typical tourists. (Really?) Oh sure, we wound up looking for the Clock Tower (which harbors the bell Big Ben) at Parliament and gaped at the sheer magnificence of Westminster Abby and had a drink or two in Soho… but then again, we didn’t fall just for the tourist “traps,” either. Such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. Nope. Didn’t see those.

We each had our own agenda driving our needs and wants during the visit. Bart, you see, relished in seeing the various locales of Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone from the TV series Absolutely Fabulous. And me? Some of my fascination spots arose from songs of the Pet Shop Boys. Hey, it made us happy, all right? :)

However, we both shared a desire to visit “Literary London.” Besides being amazed by “Poet’s Corner” in Westminster Abby (where many of the greats are either buried or honored) we also sought out such places as Baker Street, an actual street that is the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it’s no longer fiction, sort of… For anyone going to London, I cannot recommend The Sherlock Holmes Museum highly enough. It’s delightful. It’s literally like walking into Holmes’s residence. You’ll find items from his various cases, his equipment and desk, portraits… all manner of decoration to pass as a believable and entertaining home and display. Dr. Watson even greets you and will chat with you, in character.

Like many who travel to London, I'm sure, we wound up at Paddington Station from Heathrow Airport. I bet you know who had been (and can be) found there!

I delighted in haunting Pan’s favorite places… Kensington Gardens, of course. Seeing the many places from the book. I’m quite happy I found the “gravestones.” But we also walked around Bloomsbury, where the Darlings lived. (And Barrie's house, as I described last post.)

We tromped up and down stairs in Charles Dickens’s boyhood home with many vintage genuine articles (quite actually, in fact, such as his papers, the periodicals [that became the novels]) and furniture, portraits and the like. A tremendous thrill.

We stared out at the Thames, thinking of Lewis Carroll entertaining Alice and her sisters in a boat. (Even though this would have happened outside of London proper.)

And what's England without the Bard? We attended As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe.

We marveled at how easily Jack the Ripper (not fictional, mind you, but certainly legendary in many stories) could have stalked the streets. Such angles and small streets and corners… no one would know him coming.

We even found a Barber Shop on Fleet Street, where Sweeney Todd could have been. But we dared not hunt for Mrs. Lovett’s shop, lest we be tempted if we felt hungry. (Yes, I know it’s not really anywhere.)

So… there you have it. A good mix of places to see… at least for crazies like us.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Happened in London...

Besides all the glory that is London on its own, I shall tell you of our
“awfully big adventure.”

No, I do not mean the Peter Pan - Kensington Gardens production.
I’ll talk about that in another post. (If you’re chomping at the bit to know what I thought: For the most part it delighted me.)

I suppose I should have been aware of the location of Sir James Matthew Barrie’s home in London, but the truth is it’s not highly publicized on the internet and guide books. And my memory, I’m afraid, is akin to Pan’s sometimes, especially since it has been at least fifteen years since I held the facts of the place in my head. I did, of course, know that he lived near Kensington Gardens. Naturally, I chose a hotel with but a few minutes’ walk to the famous grounds.

Imagine my surprise to learn that Bart and I stayed at a hotel just down the road from the house where Barrie lived! Quite a thrill just on that notion alone. I would touch the doorknob each time we left for another day in London and again when returning to the hotel at the end of the day’s excursion. The very idea of placing my hand on something which Barrie had as well!

On the final full day of our trip, I decided to be a little bold. (Pan would have!)
It took all week to summon the courage. After all, someone quite obviously lived there. I’d be bothering them just to satisfy my own curiosity. But the desire to see his home on the inside proved too great so… I rang the doorbell!

Bart and I waited: nervously, anticipatorily, excitedly, wonderingly. When it seemed like no one would respond, we gave each other a glance, wordlessly deciding we should move on with that day’s plan… off to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Then, the door moved.
A woman with disheveled hair, in a bathrobe. “May I help you?”
“Sorry to bother you, ma’am. My name is Peter Von Brown. I’m a scholar of Sir JM Barrie and I wanted to know if I could…”
She stopped me. She explained that she did not live at the residence. Instead, she had been visiting. In fact, she had just been packing to leave. She asked if we had any idea who lived in the building. No, we explained, just curious admirers of Barrie. The reply came: Lord and Lady ____. (I am omitting the surname so as to allow privacy.) Imagine that! A real Lord and Lady!

I had supposed the visit to be over. But she then said she would see if her Ladyship would receive us. She returned quite promptly with the amazing response that we may step into the garden (a lovely area just in front of the house, obscured by a tall wall.) The Lady would meet with us!

Very shortly afterward, as Bart and I stood (once again) nervously, anticipatorily, excitedly, wonderingly, the Lady arrived at the door. A senior woman, though quite spry with her cane and looking as elegant as can be despite her informal wear. (For it could not have yet been ten in the morning.) “Yes?”

I thanked her for taking the time to receive us and proceeded to (briefly) explain who I am, my college Honors Project Peter Pan’s NeverWorld and my desire to behold the home of Barrie. She said she had heard something about the sequel. I quickly explained that mine is completely separate from that one, which upsets me greatly as it contradicts Barrie’s original stories. “My work is not only faithful to Barrie, but it’s based on his idea for more adventure.” I like to think she looked impressed. “I would like to present you with a copy of my novel,” I said, and I signed it then and there. She took it and had a gander. I then fumbled a bit for words (though not at all tripping) to humbly request just to be able to walk inside. “I certainly understand it would not be as Barrie kept it, but just to be able…”

“Come inside,” said her Ladyship.

I swelled with joy, reverently (both for Barrie and her Ladyship) walking up the steps and into the historical home.

Her Ladyship not only graciously allowed us into her home (a true honour, let me tell you) but took the time to point out what differences have been made to the house since Barrie’s occupation. “A wall would have been here… that area is an extension…” and such. She answered our questions as they arose, all with a pleasant and serene flair. And not just about Barrie. About her own home and possessions. What a splendid home! In-wall bookshelves filled with tomes of all sorts, marvelous paintings, vases, a vintage piano… all absolutely grand! She spent a good twenty minutes to a half hour with us.

We are still reeling over having met her (My word! A real Lady! [One of import, too!]), her immense kindness and, of course, of having trod in the same place as one of the men I most admire. To be in the very residence where he wrote the stories of Peter Pan!

Thank you, your Ladyship, we are most grateful.

As we left, she said (without provocation) that she would indeed read my novel. (Believe me, it’s a thrill when anyone says they’d like to read your book… but a true Lady of England? Wow.) Bart had asked if many fans of Barrie (or even just Peter Pan) come to her door. She replied that a few do, but she does not encourage it. What had hitherto seemed an insurmountable honour doubled at that moment. As did my gratitude and appreciation of her allowing us to visit.

Bart asked if he may take pictures of her garden. She said the garden, yes, the home, no. Perfectly understandable, and again, we were most grateful. We each gave her a gentle bow and she returned inside. Bart snapped his photos and we exited, still basking in the experience of lifetime.

A word to the wise: Should you have your own holiday in London and wish to see Barrie’s home, please do so as I did for the rest of my visit. By which I mean, admire it from the outside. I sincerely doubt that if I had not been the Barrie scholar that I am and had written and presented her with my book, I would not have been allowed the generous offer. I don’t mean that in the conceited way of Peter Pan but as a statement of fact, as well as a desire to leave a kindly, elderly member of the aristocracy in peace. As she stated herself, it is not encouraged.

And your Ladyship, should you be reading this entry, again, my most sincere thank you and appreciation of your magnanimous gesture. And please note that the picture of the blue plaque denoting Barrie’s residence had been taken prior to our meeting. We can both honestly say it had been the highlight of our first trip to London.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Returned to Chicago!

I'm back.
Had a grand time!
Quite an exciting adventure took place...
and I'm not talking about
Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens.
It is Pan related.

Give me some time to recuperate,
collect my thoughts
and I'll tell you all about it.
(Okay, not ALL... just the important bits! :] )

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Into the Land of Pan...

As a kid, when the phone rang and my mother didn't particularly wish to speak with anyone, she'd tell me: Tell them I went to Europe.

Well, Mom, and everyone else, I, um, went to Europe.

Bart and I will be in London to experience Kensington Gardens first hand and to see the historical Peter Pan event of our lifetime. Oh, and all the rest of London, too. :)

I'll return in a week or so!

My Book Idea That Will Never Be...

Back in this post, I spoke about an abandoned project of mine. I discarded it for a few reasons. As I said in the other post: Not only did it seem insurmountable to obtain the right to do it, but I also knew how much work it would be. And if it couldn’t go beyond my desk and the few people who I’d torture with it, why bother?

But I also half-promised to show you what I did produce to ponder while I am in London.
I want to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that this piece is worth any salt. It's merely the first draft of whimsical idea. I wanted to answer all the inherent questions which arise about the Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat. It would incorporate all manifestations of the Cat (books/sketches and cartoons) as written/"sanctioned" by Seuss to support its claims. As the piece states, it's meant simply in fun.

Thus, I present the never-more-to-be-written

The Definitive Cat in the Hat


It is a well known fact that children of all ages and from many countries of the world love to visit the wonderfully wacky and whimsical world of Theodore Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. It is also just as common knowledge that Dr. Seuss's works incorporate more than silly characters who find themselves in equally silly if not abusrd situations and antics. By this I mean it is evident Seuss's world comes with its own set of life lessons, meaning and morals applicable to our own. Even more astonishing is his ability to present not just one but usually three, if not more, such messages in any one given tale. And let us not forget the good doctor does so entirely in rhyme. In my opinion, his uncanny talents are best exemplified in the story of the Sneetches on the beaches. I won't go so far as to delineate the details of the narrative or even cite specific examples within the text. I leave these tasks to the reader. After all, the following "hidden messages" are not so arcane that even the supposed audience of children cannot uncover them. Instead I will point out these obvious observations. The Star-Bellied Sneetches story speaks out against racism, the pitfalls of fashions and trends and also displays the principles if not the foibles of Capitalism. Thus, it is well established that Dr. Seuss is a multi-talented artist whose words and illustrations can be explored on many levels, able to entertain a child as well as enlighten an adult. Who knows to what end deep mysteries can be extracted? A Who? Who indeed?

But who is more wrought with secret logic than Seuss's best loved creation The Cat in the Hat? The familiar feline brings nothing but semi-informational teasers of his being. Who is this large cat with a candy stripe stove pipe hat? What is the secret to his magical mayhem? Why does he barge in uninvited? How can he be so wise and yet so seemingly immature? When did he become skilled in his fields of expertise? Where did he receive his training? I feel that the answers to all of these questions and as they say, a whole lot more can be ascertained by careful inspection of the clues the good doctor provides. In order to obtain the most accurate impressions, all manifestations of his favored feline must be incorporated. By this I mean we must examine in depth every book and animated feature sanctioned by Seuss in which the infamous cat appears. It stands to reason that a well developed history and doctrine of The Cat in the Hat can be both inferred and implied by the cryptic clue-ridden rhymes of the master. Finally we will have the answers to the secrects of the fabled moss-covered, three-handled family gredunza!

I wish to clearly state that I am in no way suggesting that Theodore Geisel or even Dr. Seuss intended these interpretations. I do not claim the insights contained here within to be correct, inclusive of or even in accordance with his perceptions. Instead I offer a hypothetical and creative alternative to some of the most haunting and nagging queries of the Cat's true nature, philosophy and past. Yet, at the same time, a sincere effort has been made to remain true to and preserve what Seuss presented.

I. Cat as an Archetypal Figure
II. Cat's Family & Upbringing
III. Cat's Schooling/Education
IV. Cat's Philosophy of Life
V. Cat's Extent/Range of Magical Powers
VI. Cat's "Wardrobe" and Place of Dwelling
VII. Cat in Relation to Other Seussians
VIII. Cat in Relation to Psychedelics
IX. Cat's Inherent Mysteries (i.e. The White Belly?)
X. The Enigma of "Little Cats" and "Young Cat"
XI. Cat's Vehicles
XII. Cat's Possessions
XIII. Cat's Teachings

For those of you wondering, yes, Dr. Seuss does in fact show us such things as where the Cat lives. In fact, we see most of his house (and he opens his closet) in the animated The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat.

The Cat's ideas/doctrines are also not just invented by me. For instance, although quirky and seemingly obvious, the practice of "Calculatus Eliminatus" actually does work... I've tested it on many occasions. Its simplicity is deceiving...

Even if the concept might have been a blunder,
I hope I've instilled in you a new sense of wonder...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When Characters DO Come to Life...

Welcome (again) to the 21st Century, folks.

If you are not aware of Microsoft's "Project Natal," make sure that you are.

Science fiction just dropped the "fiction."
You can read more about the video here, the link that led me to this phenomenal new interactive world.

Regarding the posted video:
Aside from my child-like wonder at the amazing "technology," my first thought had been interacting with my characters. WOW. Yes, I thought of my own first. But quickly behind came the idea of being able to have that raft ride with Huck Finn...

It's going to be a very different world very, very soon...

Riddle Me These...

Two of my favorite riddles:

The man who made it has no use for it.
The man who bought it doesn't want it.
The man who received it doesn't know it.
What is it?

There are 3 men in a boat. They have 4 cigarettes.
But they have no way to make fire.
Yet they are all smoking. How?

The second one had been one of the (better) riddles from the Riddler on the old Batman TV series. Considering that some actual riddles were "What's yellow and writes? Of course, Batman! A Ball Point Banana!" and "What kind of people are always in hurry? The Russians." this one is pretty darn good.

My best friend Laughter's brother loved Frank Gorshin (The Riddler) and met him before Gorshin passed. Laughter's brother asked him this riddle to see if he still remembered it, and yes, yes he did!

Try and guess them before you just go ahead and highlight the answers.

A coffin.
They throw one cigarette overboard and make the boat a cigarette lighter!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

An English is Worth 1,000,000 Words

My friend Cassidy sent me a link, informing me that the English language has officially banked its one-millionth word, this very day. Wowsers!

And to think, I've only used a handful of them!

Also to think, I've invented a few words ... if you're willing to accept them, we're well over the milestone mark. ;)

Don't forget, there is one very common word that I never use in my writing.
The Forbidden Word.

Here's the CNN link she sent me. Thanks, Cassidy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Inspiration Can Take a While...

"Where do you get your ideas?"

A very common question.
I answered it in the CJ Redwine interview:
'Obviously I am inspired by other works. Perhaps music? Out of the blue. Anywhere. I ask a lot of questions and then play “What If?” with the answers.'

But I recently realized the specific inspiration for Midnight Chaser.
I'm not sure what prompted me to remember it. But I'm glad I did.

Before I tell you the actual spark, first let me say that I'd written the basic premise of the story in my "bank" of ideas. But it only existed as a snippet. Didn't have the whole story by a long shot. Just a "what if" to play with... which sat around for at least two years if not three or more. One day I referred to my notes of stuff to play around with and then received flashes (presumably from Andy) to make it a full-fledged tale. But what prompted the original tidbit?

A Michelob commercial from yesteryear! I've hunted for it on the web and found quite a few retro ads but not the one in question. It must have been in the late 70's or early 80's. As I recall it, the camera pulled away from the people partying all the way back to show the globe and the night moving across the earth...singing: "A Michelob night never really ends, goes 'round the world, starts over again..."

And that, dear readers, is where Midnight Chaser had been born. I'm not even a beer drinker!

How wonderful that the commercial subliminally stuck with me all these years.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

No Amity Here

Today I'd been sucked in by a stupid movie. I turned on the TV and saw it, chuckled, pressed the TiVo arrow to make it rewind and lo and behold, the start of the film! (It just happened to be the half hour in recorded TiVo memory.) What movie? Amityville II: The Possession. Hadn't seen this one before. You know what amazed me? It's a better movie than the remake which came out not so long ago. (Dragonfly and I sometimes go to bad horror movies on purpose and have Thai food.) And seriously, this sequel to the original film turned out superior. Oh don't worry, I'm not even going to try and tell you it's a good movie. It's not. It's filled with plotholes, there's not a genuine scare in it and it's utterly laughable. But that's my point. Still, it's a better film. [In all honesty, some terrific make-up and transmogrification F/X, though.]

All the aforementioned aside, what bothered me is that it had nothing to do with Amityville. Oh sure, the famous house with it's allegedly Jack-O-Lantern shaped eyes featured prominently. But here's the thing: It didn't have to. It could have been any haunted house story. No real connection (other than someone going crazy and killing the family) could be made to the original. No one even mentioned the history of the house. And someone going crazy and killing the family could happen to anyone. Wait...ok, you know what I mean. Next, it suddenly transferred to a poorly executed The Exorcist. (Should have known from the title, I suppose.) Two movies going on in the same film and neither one done any justice. And STILL, better than the latest incarnation of The Amityville Horror.

But what really set me off toward the keyboard is the use of religious iconography as a bane to the dark forces haunting houses and people. Of course, it's not just this particular movie. It's not the first time I thought of this issue. The problem I have applys to any film with such elements. But it struck me again watching this movie. And my problem? Why is it that Christian symobls and words are what offends and gets rid of the evil? There are plenty of other religious icons out there. What if the evil is of a different faith? I'm sorry, it's presumptuous and rude.

Okay, that's my two cents.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bring on the New Legend!

Well, Zelda fans, here's the new poster for the first Zelda game specifically designed for play on the Wii, with its fabulous motion control.

The big factor here: No sword!

In fact, creator Shigeru Miyamoto remarked on it specifically with a knowing grin. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is no Master Sword involved with this new story. That would be heinous. Think about it... motion control (better still: Wii Motion Plus) and no sword to swing? Yeah, right.

Speculation on various sites has pointed out that this mysterious elfin figure with Link has suggested that she(?) is the sword, perhaps transforming back and forth. Compare the charatcer design with the Master Sword on the right. I think they might be on to something! Time will tell.

I couldn't be more excited. Ok, yes, I can. The excitement will build and build and eventually, the disc will bring forth the adventure. (Of course, the Big N will make us wait for far too long...)

I spoke of my enthusiasm for The Legend of Zelda before, here where I first heard of the new tale/game and here, where I share some thoughts about the modern storytelling that is video games.

Eagerly, I await...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You're Doing This...Rye?

In recent news, J.D. Salinger has launched legal action against an author named J. D. California. It seems California is publishing 60 Years Later: Coming through the rye, an (obviously) unauthorized sequel.

As someone who has extended a classic myself, you can bet I have feelings on this event.

First and foremost, I do not understand how it has even come to pass. Salinger is still alive. So how on earth would it have ever progressed to this level? What I mean is, besides the utter disrespect, the copyright would not have been expired even if he had passed on merely a year ago. Who isn’t doing their job here?

Now, as far as my thoughts on the new book. I haven’t read it but my initial reaction is I’ve never been curious what else happens to Holden. California says he has, and this is what he envisioned: "Mr. C" runs away again...from his nursing home and visits all the the same spots. Why would I want to read something disheartening? Not that I think Holden’s life turned out peachy or that his new adventure should be sugar coated. That’s just the point. We don’t know what else happened…and I’m guessing we shouldn’t.

Okay, you’re probably thinking: Then where do YOU get off writing a sequel to a classic, Mr. Von Brown? Perhaps I don’t. But allow me to tell you how I view the situation. Perhaps I do…

First and foremost, as I have made clear, my novel arose out of an Independent Study (for college credit) on Sir J.M. Barrie and discovered his notes for a sequel. Besides this scrap of thought, Barrie never stopped tinkering with Pan. The script for the play had revisions right up to opening night curtain. He added new scenes over the years. He created an epilogue (When Wendy Grew Up) performed just once. Of course, Peter first appeared in The Little White Bird and so really, the play is an extension of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. He then wrote the story into novel form, making even more changes and additions. He tried his hand a screenplay, again with tweaking. But it didn’t stop there. He scribbled out musings on his own work long after as well. Thus, the question of whether or not Peter Pan would have another adventure, I believe, is not a question at all. No doubt Barrie conceived continuation. Not only that, but as per Barrie's own novel of Peter Pan, we are told that Pan's adventures go on. And even if he didn't, "the eternal boy" says it all.

Fan Fiction? Yes, I can see why one might regard my work as fan fiction. The difference as I see it, is intention. FanFic is a way to generate more adventure for beloved characters, put into situations as per the fancy of the writer. Often (though not always, certainly) it seems to be done as a lark, something to pass the time amusingly. Oh yes, there are serious ventures. But just as many or more exist which “pair” certain characters together in a lewd manner. Hardly a serious venture. And for those FanFics writers who do "take it seriously," all the best to you. In my case, I made sure to include the various elements and ideas which Barrie left behind. Sure, some of my own ideas filled in the gaps. But on the whole I maneuvered around Barrie, his (and our) history as well as contemporary concerns.

Also, publication did not originally cross my mind. I couldn’t have not written the work if I tried. A sincere compulsion to complete the work of a treasured favorite. Why, then, have I brought my novel out? I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate the the Centennial of Peter Pan. So some years before it, I opened the window. Quite a lot happened in that pursuit. And now, so as to present a Pan adventure that’s in accordance with Barrie - which no one else has done.

My efforts, in a nutshell, are a scholarly endeavor, based on what the original author might have done. Although John David California says he also writes out of respect and love for Salinger, somehow I have trouble believing it. Though Coming through the rye is dedicated to Salinger, he calls him “the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life.” Yes, it’s cute in the Twain sense. But add the fact that Salinger is somehow also a character in the book? One article said it's essentially the first book over again. Where's the pleasure in that? [And why must the title be in lower case?]

I’ve one word left: Phony.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let Us Dote on What He Wrote!

This looks like a book I need. Something which I ought to read. Yes, by golly, yes indeed!

I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by The Cat in the Hat.
To know more about him is quite tempting.

In fact, I even tried something along this line once myself.
Well, not really. Not a straight-up scholarly annotation such as this book by Philip Nel.
Rather I had planned on a writing The Definitive Cat in the Hat to answer all the inherent questions which arise about the character. It would have incorporated all Seuss "sanctioned" manifestations of the Cat (books/sketches and cartoons) to support its claims. Such as his family history, his education (Cat Tech, you know!) and an outlining of his philosophies.

I’ve long since abandoned the project. Not only did it seem insurmountable to obtain the right to do it, but I also knew how much work it would be. And if it couldn’t go beyond my desk and the few people who I’d torture with it, why bother? [And yes, it included a disclaimer of it being a creative pursuit rather than absolute information.]

I did begin the project though, with a list of chapters/topics to be covered. And a foreword/explanation. I’ll find these “notes” and type them in a little while later.
Perhaps to leave you something to ponder when I journey to London.