Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons 2009 Sucked

Even though Top Ten lists have been scientifically proven to be complete B.S., here is why this last year totally sucked.

10. I had to admit that Daughtry is really good.

9. Despite being thankful to still have a job, the bonuses that make up a considerable part of my compensation package have taken a significant decline.

8. The Wii is broken.

7. I've abandoned more writing projects than I've sold.

6. I haven't spoken to my Dad all year for no reason other than we're both apparently pretty darn lazy.

5. I'm on cholesterol medication number three and I can't tolerate the side effects of it either.

4. I couldn't quite think up enough tidbits from this year to even describe ten ways it sucked.

3. I had a chance to go to Thailand with the Marines but blew it because no one told me I needed a passport until I showed up to get my plane ticket.

2. See Number Four.

1. I lived to regret saying, "If an Obama presidency is the price we have to pay to put the final nail in the coffin of the Clinton Legacy, I can accept that."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

If You Love Star Wars AND Star Trek...

This is then equally funny and thrilling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two Good Things

First, my religious historical story has found a home with the new anthology by Residential Aliens creator Lyn Perry. "Such Great Faith" will appear next year in While the Morning Stars Sing. This news made me walk around the house for most of last evening with a mildly pleasant grin on my face. (That's a big deal.)

Second, Rage of the Behemoth got another great review by James Maxey over at IGMS that you should check out. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, shame on you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Writing Lessons From Miserability

While 'miserability' might not be a word, I've re-learned a writing lesson during the crafting of my current dragon story. The first encounter with the dragon went relatively well for the heroes and, after some ominous foreshadowing, they went about their business towards the middle of the story. After a couple of stabs at setting up the middle, I realized my problem was that everything was all sunshine and lollipops for them, with nothing really driving the action to the climax. Even though it meant I had to chuck a major idea that would have been part of the middle, I had to ramp up the tension by changing the end of the previous scene and making their situation a little (and by 'little' I mean 'lot') more difficult. With my characters suitably miserable, the middle is cracking along with some drive and drama. Sucks to be them. But after all, that's what they get paid for.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thespians Come In All Shapes and Sizes

First, Daughter Number One had her theatrical debut in a children's musical this morning. As one of King Herod's courtiers, she joined the rest of the chorus in singing about the wise men and their journey to witness the birth of our Lord and Savior. Great fun.

Second, Son Number Three has been watching all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for the last few days. Now he is convinced he is Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with pirate sword and pseudo British accent. (He's better with the accent than with the sword, and I've got the bruises to prove it.)

Third, Son Number Two has discovered that if he pretends to be asleep long enough, we'll stop badgering him to come and join us in whatever family outing we've planned and he's protested.

So you see, all the world is but a stage, and we are merely actors playing our parts.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Twelfth Night, or As You Will

Seattle Shakespeare Company has put together one of the best performances of the Bard’s inventory that I have ever seen. Twelfth Night, or As You Will is absolutely fantastic. In fact, it is likely only second to their own production of The Taming of the Shrew. (Set in a Texas trailer park, that play was so good it is unfair to use it as a yardstick for anything shy of Biblical revelation.)

The festivities began with the actors caroling, leading us in song, (cleverly, we were set up as a punch line for later in the performance) and a drama class warm up exercise that eased us all into a comfortable matinee. While Wikipedia assures me that this is a standard pre-play tactic used by Twelfth Night directors across the fruited plain, I had never seen it done before and even managed to enjoy it.

The improbable fiction then unfolded before us with Viola’s eerie entrance and we were off and running. Several items throughout the production need to be highlighted. Visually, the best moment was the very close of the first act. Curio and Valentine, played by Sean Patrick Taylor and Carter Rodriquez, have a ‘dueling banjos’ face off with the guitars that they had been plucking on throughout the afternoon. When they reached the crescendo of their duel, they both looked up at the stage lights and blew them out, with a little help from a perfectly timed fader in the tech booth.

The surprise of the day had to come from John Bogar’s completely over the top portrayal of Malvolio, whose stodgy and proper ways crumble to reveal the lunacy of true love. It is a joy to watch an actor so give himself over to a role that all shame and self consciousness disappear like the thin vapor of decorum that we each cling to, fearing one great gust of wind to reveal us for what we are. Not only that, but his operatic singing voice was staggeringly good. I mean breath takingly, room shakingly, Simon Cowell can kiss my buttingly good. Other notables included the Fool, played by Chris Ensweiler as a mish-mash of Jew and gypsy and Bohemian Port Townsend street peddler, who, as is always the case, was the wisest one on stage. His rendition of ‘heigh-ho, the wind and the rain’ began to delve into theatrical magic to end the show. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, played to comedic perfection by Ray Gonzalez and Darragh Kennan, were some of the best drunken sots I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve been 22 years in the Marine Corps. I’ve seen some drunken sots.)

The funniest part of the play came from the sword fight between Viola and Sir Andrew. Each character, convinced that the other is a master swordsman whereas they need simple direction like ‘Front Toward Enemy’ to even pick up a blade, face each other with a hesitancy that is drawn out to its full effect… and then one step beyond. Curio, who was lurking, just visible, behind the set would wait for them to raise steel and then dramatically strum on his guitar like the soundtrack to a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Each time he did it the characters would pause and crane their necks to figure out where the music was coming from. Comedy gold.

But the best thing about the performance, by far and away, without question or debate, was Susannah Millonzi. She played Viola with a deftness and subtlety that leave me searching for words I don’t often use, like ‘enchanted’ and ‘enraptured.’ (Like I said, I’ve been 22 years in the Marine Corps. I don’t get enchanted a whole lot.) Her believability came through in every quirk of the eyebrow, every twitch of the fingertip, and every slip of the smile that went from adoration to despair to resolution in the same fleeting instant. It was as if no filter existed between mind and body and she had absorbed Viola’s cause as her own. Whether it was comedy, as in the above crossing of swords, or passion, as she looked upon the unaware Duke Orsino, she was quite simply captivating, in every physical and spiritual aspect that word can be used in. As a matter of fact, she played this part so perfectly that she must forevermore stand like Alexander on the Asian seacoast, weeping for there are no more worlds to conquer.

This is the best Shakespeare you can see on the entire West Coast. (And I can say that because I’ve been to Ashland.) Seattle Shakespeare Company in general, and this production in particular, gets my highest possible rating, given only to those few, those happy few, who over the years have impressed me beyond my already high expectations: They know what the hell they’re doing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Daggers, Duplicity, and Dragons

Here's a quick update on my latest writing project which will probably be called something like 'Cold Valley' or 'The Valley Deep and Low'. I'm at 2000 words and counting. As always, I have no idea where it will end up. Set in the mid 7th century amongst the clashing cultures in the southwest corner of Anglo-Saxon Britain, it involves a travelling Welsh dragon slayer, some frightened villagers, Christian missionaries, Celtic sorcerers, dark and spooky settings, human sacrifice, some violence... and a dragon.