Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

What a strange couple of weeks this has been for me.  It’s true I suppose that things happen for a reason, but I didn’t expect all of it to happen at once.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an article in the local paper regarding the Veterans History Project, a project being done by the Library of Congress to catalog the oral history of veterans who served in past wars.  As it so happens, Oral History is a division within Anthropology, and it’s one that I have a little experience with since  I come from a performing arts background.  After reading that article, I immediately fired an email off to the project coordinator who works for the Historical Society of the county I live in.  She responded the very next day with excitement over getting an Anthropologist on staff to help with the project.  Later in the week, I spoke with her by phone and was happy to sign on to the project, both for purely selfish reasons (My resume will look better with a list of collections I have contributed to the Library of Congress myself) and because I think this is a truly valuable pursuit.  I met with her and a colleague yesterday to discuss the project and came home with a pile of information in folders, and even an audio tape of an interview conducted last year for me to transcribe and abstract for the LoC.

Something else has also happened that was unforeseen.  A few days ago, after a random facebook post regarding the Rocky Horror Picture Show I was watching on Netflix, a local community theater approached me and asked me to become President of the Corporation.  I was stunned to say the least.  I had been planning to start my own Theater group next year when I graduated from college, and the person who contacted me said that it would make more sense for me to just join them and help them climb out of the hole that they have found themselves in. Plus, they already have all the not for profit paperwork completed and are already incorporated, which would save me a lot of time and money.  I asked for a few days to mull over the idea of taking the helm on this group a full year earlier than I had planned and to sort out any inadequacy issues I had over being in such a public position of leadership.

I do not make decisions lightly.  Having been a member of community theater in this county for nearly 20 years, it has always been my dream to one day run a successful theater group that produces great, artistic shows that aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of community theater.  I decided to do my homework, take the temperature of the current Board of Directors (I spoke to three people total out of five) and even consulted the previous President of the group.  And after all that, I still see no reason why I shouldn’t do this, albeit a year earlier than I had planned.

Do not be mistaken:  this is not a fun jaunt into theater.  This will be serious long-term work.  There are many things that need to be examined and changed for this group to be functional and successful.  Certain theater groups in this county tend to forget that this is a business in addition to being about the Arts.  Previous groups have also had Board of Director issues, meaning that the Board members themselves are lazy and inclined to do nothing without being prodded by upper management.  Money is always an issue in the arts.  Funding from Grants is at an all time low.  Without a good fundraising plan, this may be doomed before it ever really gets rolling. (And the money kept rolling out…)

They say that good things come in threes.  During my visit to the historical society yesterday, I briefly mentioned my work with community theater, and that I had been approached about taking the helm on a group.  As it so happens, the Historical Society is currently planning a production to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Elvis movie “Follow that Dream” which was filmed both here at our local courthouse and at other sights throughout our county.  They are planning a live show in April that will celebrate this movie and its impact on our local history.  The Historical Society asked if I (and my group) would be interested in helping with this project and could they please give my number to the woman who was in charge to have her contact me?  I said yes.  What I didn’t expect was that this lovely lady would call me within minutes of stepping out of the old courthouse while I was heading home.

To say that she was excited is an understatement.  She is currently writing the show with a group of people, and she invited me to come today to a writers meeting she’s having at her home this afternoon.  We spoke on the phone as if we were already old friends.  She told me about the project and how it came about, and when she found out that I was also a writer in addition to the myriad other things I’m involved with, well, that sealed the deal.  She begged me to come be a part of this project, and how can I say no?  I went from being a no-one to a someone over night it seems.  I have never had so many people actively seek me out like this before.  I’ve lived in this county for probably 29 years and have only ever been involved with the theater groups here.  Nothing ever seemed to come of it.

In the space of a week, I suddenly find myself heading a theater group, working as an ethnographer for the Veterans History Project and taking part in a county celebration of history and Elvis.  To say that I felt overwhelmed after yesterday is probably not surprising, but under the light of a new day, I see a lot of good that can be done with these things.  This could finally be my chance to leave my mark here, and just maybe, bring some of the Golden Age of Theater back to our county.

I have my work cut out for me, but then, I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge.

An Excerpt

Posted: July 1, 2010 in writing

Lately, I’ve been working on the massive storyline to my trilogy of novels that I expect to write when I graduate.  So this isn’t a typical blog from me.  This is what I call a “writing” blog as opposed to my usual mess of anthropology, religion, sociology, folklore, psychology that I traditionally have written about.

The last few weeks as I work through my summer courses, my overall plot has been working itself out in my head.  The hardest thing about writing is where to start, and a few days ago, I found my starting place.  What you will find below are the first three pages of the Prologue to The Myth of Nature, entitled “Playing the Game”.  It’s by no means finished!  But, it’s a starting spot, and I feel like it is a much better place than the one I started at last year.  Hell, even my writing style has changed somewhat in a year’s time since I last started working on my first novel during the summer.  For the few of you who saw the prototype, this is nothing like it.  I chose a different direction to start my story.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with my novel concept, I work primarily in the Fantasy genre for creative writing.  If you aren’t much of a fantasy fan, feel free to skip.

Playing the Game, Prologue to Book I: The Myth of Nature

The man and woman sat in the middle of the large, well appointed room.  He leaned forward, staring at the playing board while she, in her way, lounged carelessly in her tall backed chair.  From time to time she glanced around the room at the stuffed heads of strange animals, the few paintings on the walls of watercolor flowers, and the floor to ceiling book shelves.  It was a very nice room, even if it were a bit cold, and the roaring fireplace was doing all it could to hold back the chill from where they sat several feet away.  Her eyes kept going back to a particularly ugly stuffed head:  purple skin and one large bulbous eye in the midst of the creature’s head, and row after row of jagged teeth set into a mouth with a permanent grin.  This head, set above the fireplace, was directly above the place where her game partner sat and it was hard not to make comparisons between the two, though he was decidedly more handsome.

They had not spoken in a few minutes; He had a way of being silent when playing the game, perhaps fearing that if he said too much she might divine his game plan and beat him for once.  The object of the game wasn’t to win though, since she never did, it was merely a tradition that they held every few weeks to get together and talk.  The game was a method of passing the time. Finally, she stopped looking about her and focused her attention on the game board in front of her, moving a piece forward a few steps and sitting back triumphantly.

“That isn’t going to win the game for you,” he said in his airy baritone.  He didn’t even look up, but instead moved a piece of his own forward to meet hers.

“I thought the object wasn’t to win,” she replied, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder and leveling him with a gaze.  He still had not looked up.  He bent over the board, carefully examining the pieces and open spots, pretending to be absorbed.  She had seen it before.  He was merely stalling for time.  He had something on his mind, but wasn’t yet sure how to approach it.  She would wait patiently.

“Sometimes, it is about winning, but this time, not so much.”  He moved a tall piece up and over four spaces, and knocked her just-moved piece off the alternating squares of color.  Finally he looked up at her, his dark brown eyes catching hers.  “How long have we been playing this game?” he asked.

“Too long,” she said.  “I never have cared much for it. It’s all so predictable.” She waved her hands dismissively, but knew he wasn’t buying it.  They had been playing this game for ages, practically every visit she could recall.  All important matters revolved around the game. This game was as much about lies and deceit as it was about strategy, and in her mind she was a fearless player. She settled into the ornately carved overstuffed chair in which she sat and crossed her legs, taking care to smooth the dark dress she wore over her long, shapely calves.  He seemed not to notice.  His expression seemed thoughtful, deep.

“What if I told you that I saw something…new,” he said. “Something we’ve never seen before.”

“A new species?” She asked. “Or is it a new place? I’ve always loved seeing new places.” She looked forward to the appearance of new things in the world, it was a sign she took to heart that all was well, a kind of reassurance.  The power of the Source continued to make new creatures, new places. It was like clockwork.  She simply couldn’t understand why he’d get excited over something new, when they had seen thousands of new things in their time. She moved a piece forward from the front lines, still pretending to be interested in the game, but waiting for his explanation all the same.

“Neither,” he said quickly.  He caught her eyes again, briefly, before moving another of his pieces forward as well. “A mistake, more like.”

“Mistake?  What kind of mistake?” She immediately forgot the pretense and leaned forward, drumming her fingertips upon the oak table.  Something new was one thing, but a mistake? A mistake was a serious issue. In all her time she had never seen a mistake. For a moment, she pondered the consequences attached to a mistake, the implications it could have.  This had always been his favorite past-time: looking for one flaw in the plan, one slip that could be exploited.  “Are you sure?” She pressed.

For the first time today, he faced her fully.  “I’m positive of it,” he said.  “I saw it entirely by chance, day before yesterday.  This could be what we have been waiting for.   I’ll know more soon enough, the events have already been set in motion.”  His ovular face with heavily hooded eyes always looked sleepy.  He leaned his head on his hand and watched her reaction.

She let out a long sigh.  “Events are in motion already?” she said.  “I had gotten quite used to this place.”  Again, she looked around the room, but this time more fondly. She was suddenly aware of the fleetingness of time.  All thoughts of the game and this new thing were swept from her mind at the mention of events beginning again. She would have to take back up her mantle and get back to work.

His wry smile lifted one corner of his mouth, almost in a sneer.  “You’ve become complacent,” he said.  “I thought this is what you lived for?”

“Maybe once,” she relented.  “It’s become repetitive with years. It’s the same story, over and over without variation.”

“That, I think, is about to change.”  He deftly moved his crown piece onto the game board knocking two of her lower pieces off.

“How can it change?” she demanded.  “You know the rules as well as I.  Things follow a set path, always.”

“No, my dear, not always.  There have been other variations, as you are aware.”  He pushed his chair back and stretched his legs beneath the massive table.  “This time, however, I think an end may be in sight.”

“What is this new thing you have found?  How can it change the rules?”

“It remains to be seen, but you of all people should know that rules can be bent, broken even, if enough pressure is applied to them.  Did you think he would rule forever?  Forever is a very long time for someone as careless as he has been.”

“Time is unimportant,” she added heatedly.  “All we’ve ever had is time.”

“Your move,” he said to her.  She raised her eyebrows in surprise, and then looked at the game board.  After all the years of playing this game with him, she had learned a few tricks.  The most important trick, she knew, was to wait for him to make a mistake.  He rarely, if ever, made mistakes playing the game. She surveyed the board and examined her options.  Her finger landed lightly on her own crown piece, but just as deftly flitted to a more minor piece that was expendable.  Seeing an opportunity, she moved three spaces forward and one to the left, knocking his Priest off the map.

“Check,” she said with a smile.  He frowned in concentration at her, and then at the fallen Priest.

“Nicely done, where did you learn that trick?” he inquired of her.  She made no response, but continued to smile at her own cleverness.  “Foolish, really.” He said, and moved his crown piece forward to dismount her Knight.

“Ah ah” she said, and tapped the board with her crimson fingernail.  He looked where she tapped and saw that he couldn’t move his piece, another of hers was blocking him.  He moved his Crown back to its original position and smiled at her.

“So distracted,” she said with a hint of amusement.  “Has this new thing really got your wits in a knot? It’s like you’ve found another play-thing and can’t be without it.”  He really was distracted if he hadn’t seen that simple ambush she put in for him on the board.  She knew that the only thing to do in this instance was to exploit his lack of attention.   He deserved it after all these years and all these games. You didn’t play for as long as they did and not learn something about how it was done.

The Clash of the Titans 2010 – Remake Review

2 out of 5 Stars – for terrible screenplay, incalculable changes to the storyline and choppy action sequences.

Crap of the TitansFor a certain generation, many of us grew up with Harry Hamlin, Sir Laurence Olivier and the original cast of this cult classic film released in 1981.  In 2010, a new remake has been made of the Greek Myth of Perseus, who rescues the fair Andromeda from the vengeance of the Gods (and the Kraken). This film should have been named “Some Greek Movie” instead of Clash of the Titans.

To say that I had high expectations of this film is not enough; I expected fantastic special effects, and in that regard it delivers.   I expected a technological update to the special effects of the original which, while groundbreaking in their day, are very dated in the modern era of digital technology.  I was severely disappointed that they chose to change the storyline in addition to the effects makeover.

If you were a fan of the original, here are several reasons why you will probably hate the remake:

  1. Instead of being a sweeping epic of greek mythology, the continuous action scenes turned this movie into a gaping plot hole.  The scenes seem to go from one action sequence to the next, with little storyline development in between.
  2. Thetis, Poseidon and other Gods do not even appear for more than 1 minute, as background extras in the Mt. Olympus scenes.  Originally, Athena, Thetis and Hera played a much larger role in the story.  They have been removed from the script, instead making Hades (who played NO part in the original film) the villain of this piece. While I enjoyed Ralph Fiennes as Hades, I was completely puzzled by his appearance in this movie.
  3. The role of Calibos was completely changed from the original. Instead of being the son of the Goddess Thetis who is cursed by Zeus, he is now Perseus’ father who doomed him to death at the beginning of the film and is empowered by Hades as a weapon to stop Perseus.  Gone are the storylines of Princess Andromeda’s Riddle for her suitors, thus making Calibos an unnecessary part entirely, and rewriting the scenes in which Perseus attains the Pegasus (who is now black in this version, instead of the usual white we are all familiar with).
  4. Io, who played no part in this myth, makes an appearance as Perseus’ guide, and eventually his love interest, as he turns from Andromeda, whom he rescued from the Kraken, for this character instead.
  5. Perseus (played by Sam Worthington of Avatar fame), who dislikes his demi-god status, refuses to accept the gifts of the gods (in this version, he only receives a sword, not the helmet nor mirrored shield) wanting instead to defeat the Kraken “as a man”.
  6. Athena’s mechanical Owl, a gift to Perseus, makes a 10 second appearance near the beginning of the movie, and then is never seen again.

There are many more reasons to dislike this film, save for one improvement: the Medusa scene, which I feel was better than the original. Much more action-packed, this was the only part in the movie I enjoyed. The 3D special effects added in post-production seemed at times gimmicky, but overall was still somewhat fun to watch.

With a run time of 1 hr, 50 min by the end I was bored and listless, ready for it to be over. With all the missing elements of the original, I found this remake to be bland, boring and generally unwatchable.   Even the inclusion of Liam Neeson as Zeus did little to salvage the terrible writing of the screenplay.  No amount of star power could have saved this film from its watery demise.  If only I myself were a god, I would “release the Kraken” on the screenwriter, and any other who dares to tamper with a story so many of us loved.  For all these reasons, I give this movie 2 stars at best, and that is only because of the special effects.  If you truly want to see it, wait for it on DVD and save yourself the cost of a 3D ticket (or, as one person suggested, wait for it to appear in the $5 dollar bin at Walmart).  As far as I’m concerned, you could even wait for it to appear on cable.  I still strongly recommend the original version, which can now be found on Netflix: Play Instantly, if you feel you want to experience the real Greek Myth of Perseus and Andromeda.

Before we begin: this is just a reminder that parts of this story have been fictionalized, names changed to protect innocents (and sometimes myself) from scandal, so on. Please enjoy it, but don’t take it too literally. I invoke artistic license on this story and on the people I met. In other words, this is largely a work of fiction based on some actual events.

Once upon a time, in a land not yet ravaged by nature, there was a city called New Orleans. It was a magical place in the American South, a vestige of a long gone era of succession, rebellion, and the French, who left behind their unique touch on the cuisine of the city, along with flair in architecture.   It was that magical year 1998, before the Bush Administration and the 2000 election problems. Y2K was still two years off, paranoia had not yet gripped otherwise sane people, and everyone was living their lives.

July of that year was particularly hot and muggy in the city.

Jackson Square, New Orleans

I remember because it was among my first impressions as I disembarked the bus with mymeager belongings.  My companion, who is unimportant in terms of what I’mdiscussing, arrived as well.  I had rented an apartment in the Middle Garden District with a friend I had met during a previous visit.  Her name was Tracy, and she was one of the ‘famous’ Jackson Square Psychics, who set up shop all along the square all the time.  Don’t ask me why I had befriended this woman (she was 31 then, eight years older than I was), it was probably a combination of sympathy for her life and the sense that I was doing something off-color: making friends with societal fringe.  I was still young and naïve.

I grabbed a cab from the very dirty Bus terminal downtown and soon arrived at my apartment on Prytannia Street. It was an old building, three stories in height.  Itwas my first time seeing it, I had gotten it through a man who owned the hotel I stayed at during my previous visits to the city.  At that time it was painted a shade of lavender and the gardens were blooming with honeysuckle and wild jasmine, something I remember fondly.  (I’ve collected some photos of New Orleans to illustrate the places I’m talking about.  These are not my photos, and they remain the property of their respective owners.)

2041 Prytannia Street

I got out of the cab and went to the front door, thinking it to be the main hall of the building. I was rather surprised when a large, oddly dressed black woman answered.  She wore a purple velvet dress, something you would see in an old Victorian movie, with a black leather corset over it.  She seemed rather put out over having to answer her own door, and I later found out that she rarely did it herself.  This was Madame.  She was the first “neighbor” I met, and what an interesting and strange relationship we would develop over the next few months.

She pointed me to the second floor, where I would find Room 17/18.  It turned out to be directly above her, and had its own balcony overlooking Prytannia Street.  It was rather large, considering the pittance I was paying for it.  It had 4 bedrooms and a loft, with 2 bathrooms, and a very tiny kitchen.  The ceilings were huge, 22 feet with windows that rose to the top, draped in old fashioned floral prints.  It had a certain charm, I had to admit.

So why was I in this magical, once-upon-a-time city?  That’s a good question, and probably one I don’t really have an answer to.  Having been raised the most of my life in Florida, I wanted a different view.  This happens from time to time with me.  I get tired of looking out the window every day and seeing the same things.  I wanted to look out and see something old, with history and culture all its own, for a change.  I probably also wanted to escape my own hum-drum life.  I certainly managed that for a while.

New Orleans was a city of fantasy.  This was highly evident by not only Mardi Gras, but the other festivals that took place throughout the year (like Southern Decadence, which occurs around my birthday every year). It encouraged you to be someone different, someone who wasn’t afraid to jump in and see what the city had to offer in all of its seedy bars and in the underworld show folk who graced the city as though it were their permanent stage.  It did not take long for me to indoctrinate myself into this sub-culture.  Only a few hours, in fact.

As it turned out, the woman downstairs who had seemed so very put out over answering her door was a rather prominent figure in one of this city’s sub-cultures.  She was Madame, a for-hire Dominatrix who ran her own family of “slaves” (people who had signed contracts of service to her) and even a few hanger-ons, the kind that develop in any situation where there is oddity and spectacle. I’m sure you’ve seen the type. She had a complete dungeon of tools used in her trade, housed in the room numbered 15.

We “officially” met the next morning.  I was sitting on the balcony that faced Prytannia Street when she and her cadre of followers (I believe there were 3 or 4 people with her) exited her apartment downstairs.  I happened to be standing literally at the balcony edge, drinking a cup of coffee made in the New Orleans fashion that had the sour, bitterness of chicory.  She turned and waved to me as her people loaded some bags into her truck that was parked at the edge of the road, directly in front of our building.

“Welcome to New Orleans,” she said.  “Have you been into the Quarter yet?”

“No,” I replied.  “Not since I’ve gotten here this trip.”

“We are going out tonight, to the Dungeon.  You are welcome to come.” Her people finished loading the bags into the truck, and without a word, climbed inside the vehicle themselves.  “Be downstairs at my door at 9,” she said with a superior air.  And without another word, she folder her large body behind the wheel of the truck, and drove off to some unknown destination.

I had never even heard of the Dungeon.  At this point, my roommate Tracy had arrived and was unpacking her stuff in an adjoining room, and I knew if anyone would know what this place was, she would.  I found her bending over a trunk in the small room she had claimed for herself, unpacking tarot cards and other accessories she used for reading down in Jackson Square.

“What is the Dungeon?” I asked her.

“A goth bar.” She said.  “They are an after-hours club down in the quarter, we go there sometimes after we finish reading for the night. It’s the only place in town that serves a certain brand of Port wine, and not to mention they have Chartreuse. “  She tossed her dyed-black hair over her shoulder, and her moonstone earrings jingled.  “Incidentally, if Dragon shows up, tell him I’m not here.”

Ah, Dragon.  Her older-than-dirt former boyfriend.  He fancied himself the leader of a family of his own.  This family, however, included only supposed psychics, miscreants and other ne’er-do-wells.  She had decided to leave him, and had moved in with me in order to do so.  This did not bode well, since Dragon was a possessive sort, and did not like that she had left him.  He spent a lot of time banging about, being hateful to people.  That’s where his nickname had come from.  He frequently smoked and had a trick where he let smoke trickle from his nostrils in tufts, and snorted at his own bad jokes.  He wasn’t really dangerous or difficult, he just seemed to think he was.

“Let’s not worry about him,” I said offhandedly.  “I’ll hear him coming up the stairs. You can hide if you want, we’ll have plenty of warning. What should I wear to this place?”

“Why are you going there?” she inquired, “Doesn’t seem your kind of place.”

“I suppose it isn’t, but I was invited by the lady downstairs.  I might as well get out and see some of the city, right?”

“What’s she like?” she asked, “I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Odd. Definitely odd.” I said.  So far, everything was odd. Tracy dealt in oddity the way some people deal in Antiques.  I suppose that’s what happens when you live in a fantasy realm where the real world rarely pokes its ugly head in.  Tracy loved this world.  I can understand why.

So that evening, I dressed in what I thought were “going out” clothes (Jeans, nice shirt) and went downstairs to knock on this Madame’s door.  I knocked a couple of times and was finally greeted by a young woman with a shaved head (think Sinead O’Conner). She was another first for me: I had never seen a girl with so many piercings in my entire life so far, or probably since! Her ears were filled with hoops, studs and dangles, her lips with tiny silver hoops, her nose had two and her cheek, labret and a Marilyn Monroe completed the set.

“Madame will be out in just a moment, “ she said quietly. She had a very pretty smile, despite the piercings.  Her accent was decidedly Cajun. “If you wouldn’t mind waiting on the porch?”

“Not at all,” I said.  The porch was larger than our above balcony, and Madame had placed a table and a few chairs to the right side. I settled into a chair to wait.  A few minutes later, a beautiful woman wearing a corset and tight black jeans approached the apartment. Her hair was both blonde and red, with huge streaks of the latter tumbling all the way down her back. It was a nice effect indeed. She smiled at me and knocked on the door, to be greeted by the same young woman I had talked to. She was asked to “wait if it pleases you, Madame will be down shortly” and the door closed again.

“Classy woman, this Madame, eh?” she said to me.  I nodded.

“I’m Mistress Rage, but you can call me Sam,” she said. Rage indeed. It was tattooed across her wrist in flowing script.  It was highly unlikely I would forget her name, nor would she.  She stuck out a hand, which I shook in return. I introduced myself to her, and told her I lived upstairs.  We were having a lively conversation for several minutes when the front door opened and Madame made her exit onto the porch.

She wore an elaborate velvet dress and corset, her hair and makeup flawless. It was easy to forget she was anything but some Fairy Tale Mistress. Incidentally, she was literally that.  Her look, her entourage, everythingabout her lifestyle, seemed to have been inspired by the author Anne Rice’s Claiming of Sleeping Beauty erotica novels. On several occasions, Madame told me later that she was the inspiration herself for those characters, that Mrs. Rice had based them on her life.  I do not know if that was true to this day, but anything is possible.  We did live in the same general neighborhood as she (First Street was only 3 blocks away).

Rage, it turned out, was a sort-of rival Dominatrix in the area, and Madame had invited her along to get a feel for her, to see if they could work together or whether or not she was a threat to her business. Madame was classy, and carried herself with dignity and composure. Rage, while at times seeming unsophisticated, was sharp as a tack and as business-oriented, but with a much coarser, more uncouth-sounding way about her.

“I apologize for the wait,” Madame said in her sultry persona voice, every inch the Queen of the Night she envisioned herself to be.  “Thank you for coming. I thought we might go to the Rubyfruit Jungle tonight first, since the Dungeon doesn’t  open until midnight.”  I glanced at my watch.  It was 9:23 pm. I had a sudden feeling that this was going to be a long night.  I was not accustomed at the time to going “clubbing”.  Typically I had been a home body, but when in Rome, as they say, you do as the Romans do.

Following Madame out onto the porch were some of her family. I don’t mean blood relatives. This was a different sort of family. The bald girl, her boyfriend (who had as many piercings as she did), and another young man dressed in a formal waiters outfit arranged themselves behind her in a half-moon shape four steps away and stood.

“Introduce yourselves,” she said to them without a look.  The bald girl was called Amelia. Her pierced boyfriend’s name was Curt. The waiter was named Carl. They seemed friendly enough, all were smiling.  Carl put his hand on Madame’s shoulder and said something in her ear.  He kissed her cheek and she squeezed his hand, and then he trotted down the steps and left, apparently going to work.  Amelia and Curt were to join us at the club, but were riding in the back of the truck. Rage and myself would sit up front with her. I gave the front seat to Rage, and sat behind her in the extended cab.

Madame was not a small woman. Yet she carried herself with such grace and composure that it seemed she was merely a sprig of a lass. The corset she wore gave her an amazing hourglass figure. She was very beautiful, but much of this was pretense.  This was an outing, a trip into the “public realm” where she had an image to maintain. At home, I would find, she was a different person.

Next Time: Name dropping at the Rubyfruit:  A New Orleans fairytale part 2.

Updates and endless work

Posted: January 30, 2010 in School Daze, writing

It never ends! All this writing and reading and writing. I feel like my brain is in some perpetual state of absorption.

I’m reminded of an episode of Married….with children: Kelly needs to learn something for some tv show, and Al & Bud teach her stuff, but for every one fact she learns that is new, she loses 3 old facts. I frequently say, “Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat”  which came right from that episode.  They teach her about a country and she forgets how to wash her hair.  I’m starting to feel like that.

I felt like a complete and utter Cro Magnon yesterday in my online class.  I really hate biology, and apparently I’m expected to know human evolution too. Sure, I know what human evolution is. However, I do not know all the scientific names for the various stages of human development. Put that on the list of shit to memorize.

French is going well.  Le Français va bien. Je t’aime Le Français. Thus completes the portion of my blog en Français.

Cultural Anthropology is fascinating, as I’ve always known it would be.  Archaeology is a bit more science-heavy than I realized, but I just need to shift gears to social scientist.

I’ve not really been writing much here lately, because I’m finally taking some time and turning my experiences in New Orleans into a type of ethnography. It’s very long so far. I’ll probably publish it here on the blog in pieces, since it will take time to finish it and it is rather lengthy. I would not want to punish my readers with what may turn out to be a 30 page thing.  I have a lot to say about what I saw in New Orleans, from the various sub-cultures I encountered, to what it was like to live in that city before Katrina destroyed it. Look for that soon, if I ever get caught up.

So far, this year is a crapshoot. If I had a reset button, I’d hit it. No saved games, just do over from the beginning.  The shit with my transcripts, the problems I’ve had with Financial Aid, all of it would start over and this time I’d just deal with the real problem, now that I know what it is.  What a pain in the ass this process has been.

The next few days are full of work.  It seems like as soon as I finish one thing, there are five more due. I’ve got to get myself into a schedule. Otherwise, I’m going to feel like I’m about to be steamrolled by a huge project for Archaeology. Yes, it’s due in 2 months or so. Plenty of time. As long as I don’t put it off.

I did write a pretty decent “blurb” for Cultural Anthro about the AAA’s statement of race. I think I’ll keep that for my portfolio.

Tonight’s activities include: More accursed reading, and as a reward, I’m going to watch Absolutely Fabulous: The Last Shout.  What’s not to like about two drunk, middle-aged women falling into open graves? What’s wrong with selling your daughter into white slavery in Morocco? Classic.

That’s it. C’est fini.

A quick Senryu

Posted: September 30, 2009 in writing
Tags: , ,

Government does suck,

Why the hell did I take this?

Essay is the easy part.

Wish me luck, I have an 11 chapter government exam at one o’clock. Yes, I realize the last line of my senryu is over by one syllable. Deal with it, it’s called artistic license.

Deathtrap Review

Posted: September 22, 2009 in writing
Tags: , , ,

Deathtrap at the Art Center Theatre, Citrus Hills, FL
3.5 of 5 stars

By Kevin Rookwood

I felt compelled to write a review of the following play for several reasons: first, Citrus County lacks any real critics in regards to community theater (aside from Ms. Ruth Levins who reviews), and secondly, constructive criticism goes a long way in regards to box office revenue.  Without a standard by which to measure these shows, the production quality and value has no basis from which to start, and what you get is a mixed up mess on the stage. I felt it necessary to pen this in order to point out what I considered as flaws, but also to exalt some of the things that needed to be mentioned. These are merely my opinions, and in no way should they be taken to heart. I’m only one man, and what really mattered was the overall audience reaction to the production, which in this case seemed favorable.  With that said, on to the review.

I recently attended a production of Deathtrap, written by Ira Levin, at the Art Center Theatre in Citrus Hills.  Ira Levin, as you may recall, is the author of such diabolical gems as Rosemary’s Baby (classic), Sliver and this play, which is a continuance of his love of Thriller/Suspense with a hint of comedy that Mr. Levin does so well. In fact, Deathtrap holds the record for longest running thriller/comedy on Broadway, and it earned Mr. Levin his second Edgar Award.

Before the show began, the Director, Mr. Peter Abrams, came out to give announcements and a speech. This was the first Saturday performance of Deathtrap at the Art Center Theater.  Mr. Abrams explained a bit about Deathtrap and set the stage for the production.  My first thought regarding this unnecessary speech was, “What’s wrong with this play that it needs to be explained?”  I’ve often heard that a good play needs no explanation. Ira Levin was a master crafter in the genre of thriller/comedy, his works speak for themselves.  As the curtain rose on the first scene, one of the play’s two main characters took the stage, Syndey Bruhl.  What followed was a complete surprise to me: Ira Levin’s diabolically clever work about the darkness of the human soul was imagined as a farcical comedy, not the thriller/comedy it is known for.

There were so many laughs.  I’ve seen previous productions of this work, I never remembered it as being that funny.  Mr. Levin was not a farcical comedy writer.  These weren’t well placed laughs, these were cheap laughs, made at the expense of the dialogue that included a great deal of slap-stick style comedy and mugging from the actors.  The first time I saw this play, I witnessed a cat-and-mouse game between the two male leads – Sydney and Clifford plot to kill Myra, Sydney’s wife.  They conspire to fake a murder, and give her a heart attack.  She dies, and the two move in together.  In the second act the tension builds between the two male leads, and leads to a dramatic, climactic ending where they are both dead.  What I saw this night was true comedy.  It reminded me of vaudeville.

The character of Myra, played by Pam Schreck, is in fact quite a dynamic character.  She is the long-suffering wife of a playwright who has gone to seed, as well as his benefactor when it comes to finance.  The first jump (and probably only genuinely ‘scary’ moment) came when Myra screamed suddenly, a loud piercing sound that rang through the auditorium and gave us all a start.  Cheap tricks, sir, cheap tricks indeed.  Real tension and terror doesn’t require gags like that.

Rounding out the cast was the delightful Fran Barg as Helga Ten Dorp, the famous psychic who lives next door to the Bruhls, and Edwin Martin as Parker, the attorney to the Bruhls.  Both gave fantastic performances.  My only complaint regarding either of these characters specifically involves Helga Ten Dorp, who provides comic relief from the suspense and fright.  With all the comedy in the previous and latter scenes, her comic relief became superfluous.  As a feature character, she should be the foremost comic relief in the entire play.  Edwin Martin was excellent in his role, as always.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with several of the aforementioned people, and it is always wonderful to see them on stage.

I must mention a specific scene in which I have to question the Director’s motives.  In Act II, there is a scene between Sydney (played by Howard Christ III), Clifford (John Govonni) and Parker (Edwin Martin).  Parker sees Clifford lock the play he is working on in his half of the desk and mentions it to Sydney.  After both leave, Sydney decides in desperation to find out what exactly Clifford has been working on, and tries to open the drawer.  What the Director chose to do in this scene was reminiscent of Benny Hill.  With mad-cap music playing in the background, Sydney scrambles about the stage like a lunatic (quite comically) in an attempt to open the desk drawer.  It was overdone.  Too much implicated hilarity in a scene where it should be obvious that the character is desperate to find out what his ‘partner’ is working on without the shtick of vaudeville.

Another area I feel compelled to mention is the two lead actor’s relationship with each other.  These characters are supposed to be lovers, but what I saw in them was fear.  They seemed afraid to touch each other, and even seemed to be embarrassed at having to do so.  At one point, Sydney says to Clifford, “But I love you” and unfortunately it was wholly unbelievable to me.  Their entire relationship seemed forced, and it didn’t make for good chemistry.

While one might think I’m nitpicking in regards to these small things, I assure you that I am not.  Having been an actor and a director in the past, I find myself scrutinizing things that directors are supposed to consider.  The choice of music before, and during intermission, did not seem an appropriate choice.  Whatever music you play works directly to set the mood of the audience before the show begins, and I did not feel Ode To Joy was appropriate at all. In fact, there were several upbeat, lively musical pieces that were played, and it gave the whole thing a smack of farce.  At one point in the evening I could have sworn Ira Levin rolled in his grave.

Was this a terrible play? Not at all. The audience seemed to enjoy the ‘hilarity’ caused by the actors.  I did not enjoy it, since I was not expecting so much comedy at all.   Theater is meant to entertain, in which this play certainly did I imagine, but not for the reasons presented.  Comedy is comedy, and suspense is suspense and never shall the twain meet, unless it is deliberately written in the script (as in the case of Helga Ten Dorp or some of Sydney’s rather scathing lines).

Overall, my thoughts are that the comedy antics should be toned down to more realistic levels.  There are a few gems in the dialogue that need no external antics to make them funny.  The actors did very well in their roles, aside from the few things I mentioned regarding chemistry and director’s choices. I would like to see more of the relationship hinted at in the dialogue between Sydney and Clifford, or at least, the actors themselves to be more comfortable playing their roles during those scenes. The lack of true suspense or thriller was disappointing, but again, the audience seemed to enjoy the production. I would also like to mention that the set was beautifully crafted, and did indeed fit the time period in which the play takes place, and it deserves a round of applause for all the work that went into it.

I give this 3.5 stars out of 5, for farcical gags, cheap scare tactics and unstable chemistry.

Deathtrap can be seen at the Art Center Theatre in Citrus Hills, Florida.  The show’s run dates are September 18 – October 4, 2009.  Tickets are 18 dollars for reserve seating and 12 dollars for students. For more information please visit: http://www.artcenter.cc/ or contact the box office at (352)746-7606 Monday through Friday 1pm to 4pm.