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Letter to Rob

Dear Rob,

Okay, I feel awful because I saw you play back on 30 December and am only now getting around to writing you a letter. Usually I’m much more timely. But with New Year’s and all, and then I was sick, you see, so . . .

Also, not a lot to say about the concert. You did great. How’s that? You know how I tend to pick things apart, criticize your clothing, &c. But it was all lovely. I mean, I had to endure “Ever the Same” again, but I’ve come to consider that the price of admission so to speak. And no, we’re not having that discussion again, even though your intro to the song attempted to justify my past rails against it. Let’s just agree to disagree.

What I especially enjoyed about the show was that it was different from a typical concert. Back in the day, people went to concerts to see a band live and have a sort of experience, something that differed from simply listening to the music on the radio or LP or whatever. But nowadays so many bands and artists play the songs more or less exactly like the recorded versions. It’s kind of this weird negotiation; musicians know the fans love the songs and want to be able to sing along (oh God, the guy on my right, but that’s another story), but at the same time, it’s got to be mind numbing to have to sing the same things over and over in just the right way.

Anyway, I enjoy hearing the songs changed up a bit. Though, yes, I thought there’d be drums. But it was nice, a real treat, to hear the songs differently. And I never would have thought I’d hear “Dear Joan” live. Ever. It is, as you said, a pretty song but very dark, and I used to love it until I sort of, I don’t know, outgrew it somehow. But it’s still lovely in a “Scarborough Fair” kind of way. I wish you’d played “Dizzy,” though.

Not every song benefitted from reduction; “Streetcorner Symphony” is better when uptempo. But still, interesting to hear the piano version.

Oh, and I love “Save the Last Dance,” and you were so endearingly human and earnest in forgetting how to, well, sing it. If I hadn’t been sitting quite so far back, I’d have gone up and done it for you.

What was truly marvelous, too, was how you made a large arena full of people feel like an intimate group. That takes talent.

You’re a good guy, Rob, a genuinely good person, and there are so few of those in the world. Never stop rockin’, Sweetie. Keep putting your shine out there; the dark places will absorb it, and the light places will reflect it back and out and around the world like a halo. It’s the most any of us can hope to achieve in this lifetime.

Sincerely,
~M

P.S. So looking forward to the matchbox twenty album later this year!

_______________
Rob Thomas played a solo show at Mohegan Sun Arena on 30 December 2011

Playwriting Opportunity

The Well is ACTIVELY seeking submissions of new and sparsely produced plays by writers of all backgrounds and stripes. No requirements, no criteria, no rules. There are no fees, and there will be modest compensation for work that we end up producing. Please send plays – even if they’re not fully finished – by April 15th via email to wellsubmissions@gmail.com, or via snail mail to:

The Well Theater
c/o Literary Manager
206 East 6th Street
#14
New York, NY 10003

Visit the site for more about THE WELL theater group.

Steven Moffat Is a Sexist Jerk

Or something like that. I was going to go for a subtler title, but that really about sums it up. At least based on a few articles making the rounds. There’s this one and this one, for example. So I can’t claim credit for the idea.

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to project Moffat as antifeminist or sexist or however you like to phrase it. Apparently his idea of a “strong” woman character is someone bossy and irritating (Amy Pond). And YES, I love Doctor Who, and I watch it and enjoy it, even like Amy at times. But Moffat does better writing men than women, no question.

So then we look at his take on Irene Adler in last week’s Sherlock. [Spoilers, Sweeties!] Up to a point she was brilliant. If Moffat had stopped at the moment on the airplane in which she’d pushed Sherlock aside, she’d have been just about perfect, all the sex stuff notwithstanding. But it was all ruined by sentiment—which, not coincidentally, was also her downfall in the plot. Irene had to go and fall in love with Sherlock. And in the last minutes of the episode had to be saved by him besides.

In the original story, Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Irene Adler is described as having steel at her core and the resolute mind of a man. She’s also a bit loose in her morals (for the era), having had a liaison with the King of Bohemia. Although, her being an opera singer, this isn’t entirely outside the realm of the expected.

Doyle’s Adler is a woman transformed by love; her plan to blackmail the King of Bohemia is scrapped when she meets and marries another man. But she’s no fool, nor does her love blunt her brain; although she falls for Holmes’ trick in revealing the location of her incriminating photograph, she realizes it almost immediately and is clever enough to don a disguise of her own and follow Holmes to be sure he is who she thinks. She then swaps the photo for one of her alone, packs her new husband, and disappears.

It is Holmes, then, who suffers from a sentimental streak in the original tale; besides calling her “the daintiest thing under a bonnet,” he chooses Adler’s photograph in lieu of payment for his services and takes to referring to her only as “The Woman.” It’s no affair of the heart, mind—Watson is clear about that—Holmes simply admires the one person, female no less, to outwit him.

The comparison between Doyle’s and Moffat’s versions of Irene Adler is the stuff of media studies papers. It’s almost a shame I’m not still in school to take advantage of it. Moffat’s reduction of Adler’s traits and abilities are glaring; while he makes her smart, she still admits to having needed Moriarty to give her some direction. And her love for Sherlock becomes the key to her undoing. Literally. A marked contrast from Doyle’s take on love being a form of salvation.

Okay, so maybe Steven Moffat is a cynic AND a sexist jerk.

Those Twitter Phonies

Ah, well, the fun was short-lived. @mrcumberbatch and @mrmartinfreeman have changed their Twitter names to @missvsorry and @againimsorry respectively. I take it they won’t be tweeting under the pretense of their alter egos any longer. I do wonder if someone threatened legal action?

Oh! But there is/was this dark horse candidate going by @BTCumberbatch. Seems outside of likely to me that he’s legit either, though, because the Benedict I know would hardly join a social networking site just to prove a point. He’d simply have his lawyer(s) draft a C&D and be done with it. Points, perhaps, for playing good Samaritain and attempting to polish what was being tarnished by fools? ::shrug:: At least his few tweets have been articulate, and spelled and punctuated correctly. Or maybe I’m wrong and it really is him, but whatever. The entertainment lasted while I was ill, which was all I needed. And it’s finished up just in time for me to start feeling on the mend. Now off I go to get some real work done, no more distractions.

Opportunity: Scriptwriting Course (UK)

After a successful ten week course, Bridgend College are delighted to offer an extended 20 week course exploring the professional world of scriptwriting.

There is no pre-requisite to this next course except for the passion to write. The course is open to all providing individual tutorials/mentorship to help assist each writers goal and level. The course will begin on January the 17th at 5 pm – 8 pm. There is no cost for unemployed students.

The past course saw all students showing ten page plays with professional actors reading. Feedback was given by industry professionals. It is hoped to do the same again with an invited audience to showcase your work.

This course will be about you developing a 30 min/full piece with mentorship and guidance. Some sessions will allow for writing time and personal tutorials allowing space for not all sessions to be attended (if this helps with external commitments). If you can’t make all sessions, tutorials can be given at an agreed time and correspondence via email with notes attached. We had students undertake this mode of study within the last course very successfully. The course allowed many writers to utilise a deadline and create a body of work within a given time frame. Contact with other students and the lecturer/mentor also offered support in what can be an isolated environment.

If you would like to secure a place please reply to this email (as spaces are limited) or attend on Tuesday the 17th of January at Bridgend College, Main Campus, The Little Theatre, 5 pm.

The course will be taught by Carmen Medway-Stephens Playwright, 1.618 Theatre Company, who has taught scriptwriting for 13 years, attended many lead industry courses in London, a Masters in Scriptwriting for Theatre, Film, TV and Radio and has received a recent mentorship from Sherman Cymru Literary Dept.

If you have further questions please reply to Carmen at rodstephens@btinternet.com

Fakes on Twitter

I’m sort of having to laugh because it’s like watching—or reading, rather—a soap opera. You see, there are these two people on Twitter masquerading as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I’m following them both because I find it highly entertaining. But I keep getting DMs from random people letting me know they’re fake. Yes, I do know this. But it’s like a train wreck, and I can’t look away.

I realize I shouldn’t encourage them, by following them or responding to them. But it’s a kind of a game. And I want to see how it all ends.

Anyway, the one pretending to be Benedict has followed me, and we all know the rule of Twitter: that you don’t unfollow someone who follows you unless you want them to unfollow you, too. This probably shouldn’t matter to me, and before long I’ll be too busy (really, I’m too busy now) to keep up with all the back and forth. But I’ve been getting over a nasty cold, and this is keeping my spirits up. Though “Mr Cumberbatch” has ceased to respond to me, I think because he’s beginning to be aware that I know enough to know better when he does reply. (Never mind his use of “use” for, from what I can gather, “yous”? As in “yous guys”? Boggling.) We’ll see what happens when they don’t get verified by Twitter, and/or are otherwise unable to “prove” themselves, &c.

I’m no lawyer; I don’t know if there are legal ramifications for pretending to be someone you aren’t on a social media site. It’s rather like role playing, I suppose, but when you use real people and real names . . . It seems to me there could be defamation issues or something.

Does make one wonder why someone would pretend to be a celebrity. I mean, besides the attention and adulation, I suppose. Is your own life really that bland that you need to soak up someone else’s? And impose yourself on the unsuspecting fan base at large?

Maybe they’re delusional. Maybe they’re fans who’ve gone a bit too far. No idea. But it’s weirdly riveting.

_________________
For the curious, the fakers’ Twitter handles are @mrcumberbatch and @mrmartinfreeman.

Sherlock: “A Scandal in Belgravia” revisited

Here is what I wrote a day after having seen the premiere of “Scandal” at the BFI. And here is a follow-up I wrote a week later.

I’m pleased to note that “Scandal” played better the second time around. Less distraction, maybe, which allowed me to concentrate a bit more. Though the imitation violin playing was still just about the worst I’ve ever seen. And I think Moriarty blowing a raspberry is just dumb. AND—just to continue being nitpicky—airline tickets actually put your surname first. Even if it were a fake ticket, that doesn’t seem like the kind of detail Mycroft and his people would overlook.

I do still feel slightly unsatisfied by the episode as a whole. Part of the problem might stem from John’s character being unfulfilled. After all, John is supposed to be the sympathetic character, but we get less of him in this episode, and what we do get, aside from a couple strong scenes, is somewhat hazy. This makes sense in a way, since John is clearly having difficulty processing what’s going on with Sherlock. And it’s interesting in the moments when John seems to think he does know what Sherlock feels, but it’s made clear he’s somewhat off the mark. His stating that Sherlock despised Irene at the end? Shows what he knows. (And he’ll know she’s not dead soon enough unless Sherlock changes the text tone.)

I’ve come to the conclusion, after having seen the episode again, that Sherlock must be a bit smitten, though he chalks it up to chemical reaction. I don’t entirely follow what’s going on with Irene, though, since she professes at one point to be gay. Her occupation requires her to be, er, flexible, of course, but . . . One could assume she was lying to John.

As for Sherlock, chemistry aside, he seems to like that someone likes him. And that she’s his equal in many way as well. Because of course John likes him (in his own way), but John is not nearly as interesting, not as clever. And for his part, John finds Sherlock very interesting and a lot of fun and would probably not welcome Irene taking that away. It becomes a triangle of sorts. Or maybe John is just the third wheel on a bicycle built for two.

Certainly they’ve left it open for Irene to return. It’s nice for her that she can rely on Sherlock for a modicum of protection, especially now that her phone is defunct. Well, it’s just as likely she’s acquired a new one. After all, what’s to stop her?

Goals & an Excerpt

I want to keep my writing goals for 2012 relatively modest to prevent myself being disappointed later. So here they are:

  • Finish “St. Peter in Chains” (an excerpt is below)
  • Finish “The K-Pro”
  • Finish the spec script
  • Get at least one more play accepted for production somewhere

That doesn’t seem too ambitious, does it? Seems doable, I think.

“St. Peter in Chains” is a story I’m currently working on. I’m trying to decide whether to turn it into a play after; I think it could work either way. The prose has a lot of description that can’t be used in a play, of course, but a good actor and director can make these things felt and understood outside of written words. Here, then, is a bit of description that I rather like, even though it would be binned in a stage rewrite:

There came, for Peter, that strange feeling of one’s life and world being carefully balanced on the edge of a knife. Anything he said or did would tip it—it had to tip, it couldn’t just stay teetering on the brink—but in what direction? That depended solely on what he said or did next. It was a familiar enough feeling given his line of work, but utterly alien when applied to relationships. The fear he might feel when it was a life-or-death moment paled in comparison to the sudden terror that opened in him now.

I’ll finish the story then make the decision whether to do a stage version.

FAQs

I thought for the last day of the year I’d maybe address some of the questions people e-mail me via the contact link.

Q: What does the “M” stand for?

A: This is the question I most get asked. The truth is, the “M” stands for a lot of things, chief among them:

  1. Methos. A nickname I acquired in college. It refers to a character from the television series Highlander. I’m not entirely sure how I became christened with the name, but the quote, “Now we have Methos, and now we’ll have a plan” had something to do with it, I think. Methos is the oldest Immortal, if not the wisest, but I’m not the oldest of my friends, so . . . Has more to do with his/my cunning as I understand it.
  2. Morningstar. As in “Lucifer Morningstar,” which I think was taken from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics? Basically because I’m the one who gets called in when everything’s gone to hell. As a general rule, you don’t want to ever get to that point, and you don’t want to have to deal with me in Morningstar capacity.
  3. Manda. This is, in fact, my actual name. But very few people use it.

Q: Is Sherlock a Voodoo doll?

A: I’m not sure why I get asked this question so often. I suppose he does look a bit like a Voodoo doll, and the fact that I’m French Creole might lend itself to the idea that I’m doing something nefarious. But no.

For one thing, Sherlock isn’t an actual person, he’s a character. For another, I have no especial reason to want to torment either him (though, if you read his blog you must realize he would probably disagree) or the actor who portrays him. And finally, even if I did want to torment, well, the actor (since it’s impossible to torment the character outside of fiction), there would be much easier ways to go about it.

Q: When are you going to finish “The Hanged Man”?

A: I don’t know. That’s a crap answer. Sorry. Um . . . I have a lot of legitimate work piled on me at the moment, so that has to take priority. If and when I dig myself out, I do plan to finish it.

Q: Which shows/movies have you worked on?

A: I’m not terribly comfortable talking about these things (a) because of the touchy nature of some of the individuals involved, and (b) I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of any of the shows. The industry is kind of a funny place, and it doesn’t take much to upset things, so I stay out of it as much as I can and just try to do my job. That means in large part not talking out of turn. And writers at my level don’t get a turn.

Which is why on this site I focus only on my personal projects.

Q: Is M Pepper Langlinais your real name?

A: If you mean, “Is it your legal name?” then the answer is no. It’s one of a few professional names that I use. I live and travel and so forth under a different name. I sometimes write and work under other names. Though the M is right and true enough.

Q: Have you ever dated anyone famous?

A: I’ve gone out with famous people, a few of them more than once, but I wouldn’t have called any of them “relationships.”

Q: What astrological sign are you?

A: Really? Do people still ask this? I’m a Sagittarius (you can probably tell by my recent birthday posts), but my rising sign is Aquarius. Lunar Gemini, Venus in Scorpio . . . A lot of other stuff I can’t remember . . .

That covers the majority of the questions I receive, I think. If I didn’t answer something you want to know about, you can click the “Contact” button and send me a note.

Dreams

I dream vividly and often. But there are two distinct types of dreams that I have. Most are so much fluff, the strange mixture of memory and other subconscious elements swirled together as my body powers down. Sort of a broth, thin and not terribly filling, even if tasty. But now and again I have a dream that feels heavy, and dreams like that always mean something. Either they’re prophetic (like the one I had on 11 September 2001) or, I don’t know, connected in some way to something larger. Has something to do with my lineage, I think, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I’ve been having a lot of heavy dreams lately. But while I can usually work them out, these ones are a bit beyond me. In one, I was at some kind of school. Benedict Cumberbatch was there, and I stole his keys so I could get into a locked wing. I was trying to get to his office—I don’t know why he had one at a school—and I was even careful to lock the door again behind me to slow him down a bit when he realized what was happening. It was strange, though, because on the other side of the door everything was grey and empty except for a tram like the kind you find in some airports. I got on, and the tram stopped at this kind of atrium, also grey and empty. There was a skylight, and either the glass was very dirty or it was cloudy out because the light was weak. But there was one bit of color: a red sign with yellow letters that read “Popcorn.” I was even considering getting off the tram to get some of this popcorn, but I didn’t want to lose any time, either. I actually don’t know whether I did or not because I woke up after that.

Popcorn in a dream usually means some kind of truth is being presented to you, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what this one was about.

Another “heavy” dream I had was about the moon. I don’t remember much more than that. There were students of some kind, I think—high school or maybe college freshmen. Maybe it’s the school angle I should be looking at in these dreams, though in neither case did that element feel especially important. I just know I was with these students, was some kind of counselor maybe, and we were sitting on a hillside at night and looking at the moon. Shooting stars, too, and the sense that something big was about to happen. Maybe even dangerous. But at a distance, sort of like a faraway city being bombed. It’s bad news, yes, and may even affect you indirectly, but at least you weren’t there when it happened. Anyway, the moon seemed to be the important thing in this dream. A crescent moon. Maybe even some kind of lunar eclipse.

And then there was a dream about a city. Seemed to be some combination of Boston, New York and London. I was wandering around it, but there was something about the cars . . . They were parked in the middle of the roadways. Blue and white cars. (Colors are often important in dreams.) And they were all a little bit old and a little beat up-looking too. Chipped paint. With the headlights that lift out of the hoods and such. The cars were the important figure in this dream, along with the signs all around, sort of like Times Square. I didn’t or couldn’t read any of them, though. I was just aware of all the lights.

Finally, a dream about a house on a hill. A Queen Anne, I think. A bed-and-breakfast, but the house needed a bit of work. I only saw it from the outside, and from lower down on the hill, so I don’t know if the inside also needed some TLC, but the paint on the outside was faded, the porch sagging. Houses in dreams usually represent a person, but I don’t think this house was me; I don’t know who it was supposed to be. But the correlation of the chipped paint on the cars and that of the house is not lost on me. Though cars usually represent one’s life journey or something. There was another part of this dream about oysters and crackers and me playing checkers with a young girl. The checkers seemed important. It wasn’t a normal game, but a very convoluted one. Even the board didn’t look like a normal checkerboard, and the rules were more like chess.

As I’ve said, the meanings to these kinds of things are usually quite obvious to me, or else looking up a few keywords can often help me piece together what the cosmos is trying to say. But I can’t make heads or tails of any of these. I have some ideas about bits and pieces of them, but nothing cohesive about any of them. I’m sure they’re not meant to go together. I think whatever or whoever is trying to communicate something to me is trying a lot of different ways to say the same thing. Empty places, places and things that are showing signs of wear . . . Games in which the rules seem arbitrary or don’t make sense . . . And bright signs. And popcorn.

Well, I do like popcorn.