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Cupid’s Arrow

I am in love. With a person I’ve only seen once, from across a room, but there you have it: the strange nature of Cupid’s arrow sent sailing through the cosmos, cutting the thick air and landing firmly in the heart.

There is the strange sensation of knowing a person you have never met, like the rocking of a ship gives one vertigo . . . At a glance I am absolutely sure I know this man intimately without ever having spoken to him.

And the wound from the marksman’s shot leaves my heart exposed, even as my chest closes up and prevents me from being able to breathe. I am slowly bleeding to death, but no one notices.

I slap a bandage on the injury and continue on as if my world has not changed, though there is sure to be a scar.

The Ghost of Sundays Past

Tonight I am feeling nostalgic for the time when I was, oh, aged 9 to, say, 13? That was when Sunday nights were about Star Trek: The Next Generation and sitting outside with my dad, listening to music while he grilled for dinner. Sometimes, on nights when my mother wasn’t home, we’d turn up the stereo in the living room and dance around. We’d leave the windows open until after sundown; then the wind would pick up and cut through the house, actually making it a bit chilly, so we’d have to close everything up.

Sometimes friends of mine and I would sit out in front of the house, either on the grass or on the open tailgate of the pickup truck. (Yes, we were that Texas cliché, always having one truck and one Grand Am in the driveway.) We’d watch the stars and talk late into the night, real discussions of the kind that seem okay to have alone in the dark, although of course you’d never mention those things again afterward. But on those nights we were like spies, trading secrets.

I liked being an only child. I liked the unique relationship I had with my parents, and I liked the independence, and I liked the quiet. I liked having space to myself and a reasonable amount of autonomy. (Of course, the flip side of that is not liking being told what to do.) I think being an only child helped me learn to live alone, be myself. I don’t have the need that so many others seem to, to be constantly in contact and connected with others.

I’ve started reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking—only just started reading it, so I’m not very far along, but based on the true/false list provided in the book I guess I fall somewhere between being an introvert and an ambivert. I can take a certain amount of stimulation, have learned to drown out a lot, but I don’t like to have to do it, and I need a safe haven from it.

In those days, those 9-to-13 days, I would go up to my room and turn on the stereo and sit in a rocking chair and listen to music until the early morning (my parents not caring how late I stayed up so long as I didn’t complain about having to get up for school or church). I like to sing but was too shy to try joining the school chorus. I knew I was good at a number of things, but I also knew there was always someone better—maybe a lot of someones who were better—and that always made it seem useless to try. But my room was my safe haven, and I would roll up the blinds and watch the stars wheel and march and the moon slide across the sky. And in there, I was the best at everything.

My parents were not encouragers; they were too laid back for that. Instead, it was more, “Whatever you want to do . . .” And the problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, it was that I wanted to do so many things and never knew where to start. Which explains why I’m behind the curve a bit now.

But tonight, on a beautiful Sunday evening, I miss all the things that were and used to be. There was no hurry to get anywhere in life, only the mandate to enjoy who and what was there with me at the time. Life really was simpler then, and youth really is wasted on the young. Still, instead of wallowing in the past, I will strive to continue to make my life an oasis, a place of happiness for myself and others. And if I need to go hide once in a while, please bear with me. I will return, refreshed and reinvigorated, once I have recharged.

That Old Feeling

Whenever I read that an actor and director is planning to work together—again—I have to wonder: why do some actors and directors get so stuck on one another? And what does that really offer the viewers?

The world has more or less come to terms with the bizarre love triangle that is Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. And Woody Allen rotates through various fixations with actors or actresses that serve as his “muse du jour,” Scarlett Johansson being a recent example. Chris Nolan has his Christian Bale and has sprinkled cast members from Inception throughout the last of the Dark Knight trilogy. Which brings us to Leo DiCaprio, now set to make yet another Martin Scorsese movie.

This is probably a great setup for the actors and directors. They’ve worked together before and know what to expect from one another. It’s sort of a safe way to get things done, especially in a business where everything (particularly money) is on a huge scale.

But if you look at the kinds of movies these actors and directors make together, you’ll notice that for the audience, they’re all kind of the same. A Tim Burton movie is going to be quirky and a bit dark. A Chris Nolan film will also be dark, but less quirky and more moody. And a Woody Allen film is a Woody Allen film, no matter which muse he has at the moment.

I liken seeing one of these movies to going to a favorite fast food restaurant. I always know what I’m going to get, and I usually like it. But too much of it will give me indigestion.

And really, more often than not I want something different. So, you know, I think these actors and directors should consider expanding their menus. Give someone else a shot?

By the way, as a complete and total aside regarding my previous post, some of you have written to ask why I hate Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t. In fact, I love him. But my subconscious has cast him in a particular role, and like the directors named above, my subconscious also likes to use the same actors again and again.

The Regulars

There are, I can now count, four celebrities that appear in my dreams semi-regularly, and upon reflection I have begun to understand each one’s role and function.

I’ve written before about Bono. He is my philosopher, my Socrates. He turns up to have deep conversations or sometimes (when the god Hermes is with him) to bring me a message. Basketball is typically involved, and the colors black and green. Unfortunately, I can never remember what we talk about or what he tells me, so I often wake from these dreams feeling as if I’ve missed or forgotten something important.

The other musician who comes calling is singer Rob Thomas. If Bono is Truth in my dreams, Rob is Balm. Whenever I am anxious, or even if I am in some physical pain in my dream, Rob comes out to soothe me. Again, I never really remember what we talk about, but I always feel at peace when I wake from these dreams, which usually feature the colors white and turquoise quite prominently.

The one author I receive visits from is Neil Gaiman. Unsurprisingly, dreams with him in them always involve writing, and sometimes a side of something dark and nefarious. (In one dream we had conspired to kill someone.) I’d guess he represents Goals and/or Creativity. You might expect that black would be the key color, but I don’t associate any colors with these dreams because they actually vary quite a bit.

The most recent addition to this weird little pantheon is the actor Benedict Cumberbatch who, best I can tell, is some kind of personification of Melancholy. Dreams in which he is featured usually show him to be alone—even when interacting with others, which happens rarely in these dreams, he has a sort of insulation about him. And more commonly he is sitting somewhere, alone and waiting for someone or something. He looks sad, or is sometimes irritable, or both. Unlike with my other “spirit guides,” I never interact with Benedict. In fact, in many dreams I actively avoid him. These dreams tend to be beige and grey.

Aside from Bono, the others make perfect sense because these are artists whose work I enjoy. (It’s not that I don’t enjoy Bono, but I’m not a particularly huge U2 fan or anything.) I do think the roles my unconscious has chosen for them are interesting. But I’m glad to start understanding it a bit more. Maybe, if I can start making sense of these dreams, I can make some sense of my life.

Jane & Emily

(Conceived as a dialogue between Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, both of whom were born in December, though many miles and decades apart.)

JANE: Well, I suppose to have a birthday in December is to be considered a gift to one’s family. It is the season for gifts and giving.

EMILY: Or perhaps one should look at it the other way ’round. That the gift is from your family—your mother foremost—to you. Life is a gift, is it not?

JANE: Well, I’m sure I never asked for it, nor wished it before I was brought into it. Though, as with so many gifts, sometimes you never realize you wanted it until it’s been given to you. And then like a greedy child you hate to part with it.

EMILY: I won’t hate to part with this life.

JANE: Won’t you? I hate to think of all the fun I’ll miss once I’m gone, and all the interesting people I won’t meet, and who won’t have the . . . gift . . . of meeting me.

I’m free of you. And that makes me happy and it makes me sad all at once. Because I miss you, too. And sometimes I’m tempted to turn and look over my shoulder, like Lot’s wife, but that would only stick me here and keep me from moving forward.

Maybe this will happen in a big loop. Maybe we’ll come back around at some point, meeting like two planets sharing an orbit but moving in opposite directions. Right now we’re at the part where we put distance between us, but we’ll come face to face again someday. Collide on a city street somewhere, suddenly.

For now, this is like feeling my way through a dark space, relying on my other senses when I can’t see. It’s a little bit difficult to breathe in here, too, but I’m pressing on anyway. I’d reach back and grab you and drag you with me, but you’d only fight it. Right now I sense your heels dug into the floor—you need to get your bearings and I need to make a move, and that puts us in different places. At the moment, if not forever.

Karmic Balance

Found out this morning that a play I’d sent to Arundel for a festival had been short-listed . . . But ultimately rejected. Sigh.

But on the up side of the scales, an agency asked for my two sample scripts to review. So maybe something will come of that. They’re good scripts, solid, but as with all scripts and screenplays (and plays or novels or stories for that matter) it will take the right person to see the merit in them.

Today I will take a little time off to go enjoy some sun and fresh air. Maybe lift my spirits a bit.

“Warm Bodies” at Source Festival

My short play “Warm Bodies” has been selected for the Source Festival in Washington DC this summer. It’s being produced with six other 10-minute plays under the banner “Ethereal Encounters” and will be directed by Rick Hammerly. Out of over 600 entries, “Warm Bodies” was one of 18 short plays selected for the festival. Coming on the heels of several recent rejections, this definitely feels like a win.

Schedule of Showings:
Sunday, June 10th at 8pm
Friday, June 15th at 6pm
Tuesday, June 19th at 8pm
Saturday, June 23rd at 1pm
Saturday, June 30th at 4pm

Writing: Character Meme

Found this on a friend’s LJ. Answers below are about Peter Stoller of St. Peter in Chains.

Body and Appearance

1. Describe the character’s height and build. Is he heavyset, thin, short, rangy?
Peter is tall and thin. Not muscular, more quick than strong.

2. How old is he?

3. Describe his posture. Does he carry himself well or does he slouch?
He has good posture except when upset, at which times he folds in on himself.

4. How is his health? Is he fit or out of shape? Any illnesses or conditions? Any physical disabilities?
He’s healthy, intelligent. But doesn’t make any particular point of being healthy, i.e. he doesn’t eat health food or anything.

5. How does he move? Is he clumsy, graceful, tense, fluid?

6. How attractive is this character physically? How does he perceive himself in the mirror?
He is attractive and aware of it, even to being slightly vain.

7. Describe his complexion. Dark, light, clear, scarred?
Fair, clear.

8. Describe his hair: color, texture, style.
Dark blond to light brown, thick and even a bit coarse, though neatly styled.

9. What color are his eyes?
Slate blue.

10. Does the character have any other noteworthy features?
Long fingers.

11. What are his chief tension centers?
Physically? I’m not sure what this question is asking, but when Peter gets tense, it’s all in his arms and shoulders.

12. What is the character’s wardrobe like? Casual, dressy, utilitarian? Bright colors, pastels, neutrals? Is it varied, or does he have six of the same suit?
Peter likes to dress well but is unfortunately incapable of matching things up very nicely. (Might be a bit colorblind?) So he sticks mostly to neutral colors.

13. Do his clothes fit well? Does he seem comfortable in them?

14. Does he dress the same on the job as he does in his free time? If not, what are the differences?
He dresses well no matter what. Suits for work, but still prefers nice shirts and slacks even on “down” time.

15. You knew it was coming: Boxers, briefs or commando?


1. What does this character’s voice sound like? High-pitched, deep, hoarse?
Average, I guess.

2. How does he normally speak? Loud, soft, fast, evenly? Does he talk easily, or does he hesitate?
Quickly and smoothly, though he hesitates when he’s nervous.

3. Does the character have a distinct accent or dialect? Any individual quirks of pronunciation? Any, like, you know, verbal tics?
Educated, British, a tendency to let his words trail off when distracted.

4. What language/s does he speak, and with how much fluency?
Several, since his job requires it. English, French, German with fluidity; some Italian, Chinese and Japanese, though with more effort.

5. Does he switch languages or dialects in certain situations?
As needed.

6. Is he a good impromptu speaker, or does he have to think about his words?
He’s good at thinking (and speaking) on his feet.

7. Is he eloquent or inarticulate? Under what circumstances might this change?
Eloquent in working situations, and sometimes even in personal ones, though he can become inarticulate when having to deal with emotions.

Mental and Emotional

1. How intelligent is this character? Is he book-smart or street-smart?
He’s educated and capable of adapting to various situations. But his emotional IQ is somewhat lower.

2. Does he think on his feet, or does he need time to deliberate?
On his feet.

3. Describe the character’s thought process. Is he more logical, or more intuitive? Idealistic or practical?
Peter is logical, though he also trusts his gut. Not very idealistic, though.

4. What kind of education has the character had?
High end education.

5. What are his areas of expertise? What, if anything, is he interested in learning more about?
He’s good at his work: seeing patterns in things, sussing out the important bits in the face of a lot of information.

6. Is he an introvert or an extrovert?
An extrovert. Peter doesn’t like being alone with his own thoughts much. Prefers to distract himself in the company of others.

7. Describe the character’s temperament. Is he even-tempered or does he have mood swings? Cheerful or melancholy? Laid-back or driven?
He’s generally even tempered, focused on his work, known to be a solid guy, if not overwhelmingly cheerful. But deep down he has a streak of melancholy in him.

8. How does he respond to new people or situations? Is he suspicious, relaxed, timid, enthusiastic?
Curious. Interested.

9. Is he more likely to act, or to react?

10. Which is his default: fight or flight?

11. Describe the character’s sense of humor. Does he appreciate jokes? Puns? Gallows humor? Bathroom humor? Pranks?
Dry, sardonic. Nothing juvenile.

12. Does the character have any diagnosable mental disorders? If yes, how does he deal with them?
Nothing diagnosed.

13. What moments in this character’s life have defined him as a person?
Becoming an intelligence agent, certainly. His work and sense of purpose.

14. What does he fear?
Nothing at first. But then, when he finally has something (or someone) to lose . . .

15. What are his hopes or aspirations?
To climb the internal ladder of the agency. That is, until he finds there’s more to life than work.

16. What is something he doesn’t want anyone to find out about him?
His personal life. Peter keeps that private.


1. Describe this character’s relationship with his parents.
Nondescript. Peter went away to school, has always been a dutiful son, is probably closer to his mother than his father, but the nature of his work prevents him from being very close to anyone.

2. Does the character have any siblings? What is/was their relationship like?
An older brother and sister. Peter is the youngest. His older brother mostly ignores him (or needles him a bit), but his older sister is fiercely protective.

3. Are there other blood relatives to whom he is close? Are there ones he can’t stand?
Not really.

4. Are there other, unrelated people whom he considers part of his family? What are his relationships with them?
His boss Gordon is his mentor and a sort of father-like figure, and Gordon’s wife Elinor is a kind of mother to Peter.

5. Who is/was the character’s best friend? How did they meet?
Peter has many colleagues, acquaintances, but no close friends. He necessarily dropped all childhood and school friends when he began working for the government.

6. Does he have other close friends?

7. Does he make friends easily, or does he have trouble getting along with people?
His smooth way of interacting gives the appearance of Peter making friends easily, but he’s not open enough to really make friends.

8. Which does he consider more important: family or friends?
That’s the problem: Peter is caught between his loyalty to Gordon and his love for his boyfriend Charles.

9. Is the character single, married, divorced, widowed? Has he been married more than once?
Many relationships, nothing very serious until now.

10. Is he currently in a romantic relationship with someone other than a spouse?

11. Who was his first crush? Who is his latest?
Peter is used to being the subject of crushes, not crushing on others himself. Which is why his infatuation with Charles is so surprising.

12. What does he look for in a romantic partner?
Something and someone completely different from and unrelated to his work.

13. Does the character have children? Grandchildren? If yes, how does he relate to them? If no, does he want any?
Not really interested in children in any way. A sort of absent uncle to his siblings’ kids.

14. Does he have any rivals or enemies?
Gamby, another agent.

15. What is the character’s sexual orientation? Where does he fall on the Kinsey scale?
Gay, though he’s maintained heterosexual relationships for the sake of his work.

16. How does he feel about sex? How important is it to him?
Usually finds it a means to an end, enjoys it, doesn’t normally attach a lot of importance to it.

17. What are his turn-ons? Turn-offs? Weird bedroom habits?
Is surprisingly mild when in a safe relationship, though open to doing whatever.


1. Do you know your character’s astrological (zodiac of choice) sign? How well does he fit type?
Aries maybe. Or a Cancer/Leo cusp (mix of sensitive and dramatic).

2. Is this character religious, spiritual, both, or neither? How important are these elements in his life?
Doesn’t really figure in his life.

3. Does this character have a personal code of morals or ethics? If so, how did that begin? What would it take to compromise it?
It’s all about the work, whatever it takes to do the job, though his love for Charles may force Peter to compromise.

4. How does he regard beliefs that differ from his? Is he tolerant, intolerant, curious, indifferent?
Indifferent mostly. He only cares if it stops him from getting his work done.

5. What prejudices does he hold? Are they irrational or does he have a good reason for them?
He comes from the old school, and therefore may be a bit sexist.

Daily Life

1. What is the character’s financial situation? Is he rich, poor, comfortable, in debt?
Doesn’t make a lot of money but comes from money, so he has no worries on that score.

2. What is his social status? Has this changed over time, and if so, how has the change affected him?
He’s a snob, though he doesn’t really know or realize this. Being with Charles forces Peter to confront this, however.

3. Where does he live? House, apartment, trailer? Is his home his castle or just a place to crash? What condition is it in? Does he share it with others?
A flat. Beautiful and mostly empty because Peter spends his time at the office. Alone at first, until Charles moves in.

4. Besides the basic necessities, what does he spend his money on?
Clothes. His fancy watch, his car.

5. What does he do for a living? Is he good at it? Does he enjoy it, or would he rather be doing something else?
Intelligence agent. He’s very good at it, enjoys it, has bought into the whole rhetoric of Queen & Country.

6. What are his interests or hobbies? How does he spend his free time?
At first he doesn’t do anything but work, eat, sleep. But once he begins a relationship, that changes.

7. What are his eating habits? Does he skip meals, eat out, drink alcohol, avoid certain foods?
He likes gourmet food but can’t cook so eats out a lot. Drinks wine.


Which of the following do you associate with the character, or which is his favorite:

1. Color? Grey.
2. Smell? A spicy cologne.
3. Time of day? Night setting in.
4. Season? Late summer.
5. Book? Any spy thriller.
6. Music? Classical.
7. Place? London.
8. Substance? Red wine.
9. Plant? Something nondescript and green, no flowers.
10. Animal? Tiger.

The Trouble with Fans

This is something I’ve noticed with fans of television shows (and I’m sure it could go for other forms of media, but TV has been where I see it most): they aren’t terribly discerning.

What I mean is, once these people, or groups of people, decide they like something (a show), they like everything about it. It’s always wonderful and brilliant and so forth. It can do no wrong, never falls short. And they can’t stand to have anyone say otherwise. It’s as if these people, in becoming fans, have lost all critical filter.

I get so sick of reading one-note reviews of things saying they’re simply awesome, amazing, &c. So . . . You liked it? As a viewer and/or reviewer, you enjoyed it, okay, but what else? Did you stop to take a breath before writing down how great it was? Think it over a little, even just in the shower?

I like a lot of television shows, call myself a fan of a few, but that doesn’t prevent me from finding flaws in them. I am no blind devotee. In fact, I find blind devotion to be a sort of disservice to the hard work put into a television program, as if the show were not worthy of really, seriously considering. I like to think about the shows I enjoy, and I also like to think those who write and create those shows want me to think about them. And when I (personally, subjectively) find something falling short, mentioning it does not make me an evil person who must not be a “real” fan. It merely means I am thoughtful and capable of reason. Nothing is perfect, after all. Not me, and also not the show or the people who make it.

There are so many people who are absolutely rabid. They all but call you a heretic if you make even the slightest comment that something about a show might not be quite right, or suggest something might have been done better. It hardly makes a show feel welcoming when the gates are guarded by such ones. One is almost predisposed to avoid the shows with the big fan bases because, Jesus, is it worth the potential fight?

I, myself, prefer discussion. I’m willing to listen as well as speak, so long as I’m also listened to and there is no shouting involved. For me, the enjoyment of a show isn’t in its imagined perfection, but in the details that have been so lovingly placed by the show’s makers. Even when they’re flawed. Because beauty isn’t really in perfection, it’s in the interesting quality born of imperfections.