writing

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 7.8

Character Names / Title: Three Garridebs

Reference: the eponymous short canon story is about a crafty American who targets a man named Garrideb, getting him to leave his house to look for the third Garrideb, so the false Garrideb can fetch a valuable criminal tool hidden in the real Garrideb’s basement.

In this episode of Elementary, the Three Garridebs is what gamers call a Side Quest, but it does sound like the mystery Joan and Sherlock solve during the episode’s commercial breaks is pretty similar, at the very least.

Fun fact: the Three Garridebs also show up in BBC series Sherlock but the less said about the rococo and ridiculous fourth season of that show, the better. Ahem.

Advertisements

Cherophobia

I had a good friend in the dregs and just out of my college days, name of Christina. She was six foot one in bare feet, ectomorphic & slender, with a glorious shoulder length of densely curly, dark orange ginger hair. She had alabaster skin and a loudly raucous laugh. She never hesitated to ask questions or to demand you clarify if she didn’t understand something—an unabashedly curious woman, always. A few of my friends (including my then-fiancé and an old eccentric I knew from high school) were all roommates with her, all of us bunked in a lovely suburban bungalow with a finished garage which is where she lived. One of our several roommates, a fellow aerial dancer in the same company as me, had a pet python (or was it a boa constrictor?)—a big yards-long female serpent named Lucy (short for Lucifer). Christina would quite often, post-shower, in tank top and pj bottoms, pace the sidewalk just outside our house, chatting on the phone, Lucy draped over her shoulders and entwined in her arms, while her bright red hair dried. I’m convinced our neighbors must’ve thought she was Eve incarnate, or some kind of goddess. They weren’t completely wrong.

It was Christina and I, in our several jaunts to the Trident coffeeshop & bookstore, who coined the phrase “literati” to denote a social date that was focused on study (and intellectual and cultural criticism in conversation). Famously, it was us whose conclusion to Kant’s manifesto was, “shut up and paint” (she was an art history major, a couple years my junior, and so was concluding her studies even as I graduated, sword-fighted, trapezed, and wrote and read still). She was my co-producer for the wee theatre company I named Five Funny Faces after a beloved theatre prof’s regular class closing game, the first time we did the Dr. Seuss show, and it was she who taught me how to eat sushi as we counted the house takings post-show each night.

What’s my point in describing the amazing Christina, when the title of this post is a particular, not obviously related, vocabulary word? Well, this imposing, snake wrangling, ginger goddess, one who worked theatrical rigging as her job when I knew her, and who went on to be a rigger for Cirque du Soleil after she graduated, had one potent aversion; a distaste strong as her. A phobia, if you will.

She hates cherubs.

Now recall: she has an art history degree. So she knows her shit around sculpture and painting of all kinds that depict the many angelic denizens of the heavenly (Christian mostly) realm. She has no beef with angels, or warriorlike cherubim with their flaming swords…all that is fine. It’s the “fat winged babies” as she puts it, that she cannot stand.

It was such a stigma (not stigmata) to her that we would give her birthday cards with cute fat baby cherubs in them just to watch her squirm and retch. Good times.

I know that’s not what this vocab word actually means, but that’s what it made me think of, and though the real meaning of the word is a deep part of my regular life, I choose instead to celebrate the beautiful and extraordinary Christina, who has a major cherub phobia.

CODA: she is now married to a Canadian whom she met during her Cirque adventures, and lives in Canada with him on a houseboat.

I need to email her.

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 7.5&6

Name: Odin Reichenbach

Reference: Of course, as anyone who’s read more than two original Sherlock Holmes stories knows, it’s at the Reichenbach Falls where the brilliant detective meets his demise. Or, at least, he did, until Arthur Conan Doyle was pressured enough to bring his creation back to life a decade later. Spoilers…

Naming an antagonist Reichenbach, especially when we know that Season 7 is Elementary’s last, is troubling to say the least. Will Reichenbach cause Sherlock’s fall at the end of the season, with or without a brief glimpse for the audience a la the end of BBC Sherlock season 2, or Batman: Dark Knight Rises? Or will the showrunners do this to us at the season’s halfway mark, and then give us an Empty House and maybe a Last Bow before the end of the end? We can only wait and see. I like to think it’ll be the latter–after all, typical seasons of Elementary are around 22 eps long, and we’re only on #6, with Odin Reichenbach having just been established as one of the most powerful villains this series has yet seen. So we’ll see.

(And why his first name is Odin–the All-Father, king of Norse mythology, one can only speculate. Me, I think it’s because god Odin sends his two ravens, Hugin and Muninn, out into the world to collect information, recounting it all back to him every evening when they return. Odin Reichenbach is the head of an all-pervasive social media platform, and is gathering information about the world all the time, just like his godlike namesake. I would be chuffed if he ended up losing an eye or hanging himself for more god-Odin parallels, but again one must wait and see.)

O, the Many Glorious Things I am Up To Right Now

Whew! Goodness, lovely lurkers, what’s been happening? Yet again I realize I have been neglecting you whilst writing personal essays and memoir type stuff (read: whining a lot) under my pen name. That writing, plus the robust article needs of YourBoulder, all are keeping my wee swordfighting mitts away from here. Owa Tana Siam. (Say it aloud. It’s one of the many sillinesses I remember uttered by the Great Yendor, mathematician and magician, the wizard that was Everything Good And Pure About The Renaissance Festival, back when I used to sling steel there.)

So let’s see, what mischief have I been managing lately? Here’s a list:

Work! I’m still reaching out all my feelers in the process of this career change. Peddling Your Body Tells Your Story to everybody that needs it. Which is, of course, everybody. In the meantime, I continue to tread water with my academic work: this summer it’s an online section of Staging Cultures, which you’ve heard me discuss before. An online Children’s Lit is coming up soonish for the grad students at DU, so that one should be fun–let me know if you’d like to be an audience for my read-aloud vids; I plan on making a bunch of new ones. Haven’t heard from Regis in a while, which makes me wonder if I’ve been canceled like a Whedon franchise there. But I’ve also applied to teach comp at CCD, so that might fill in some gaps come fall if they decide to have me on.

Play! er, I mean, Plays! I’m the fight director for an all-female production of Richard III at Lost & Found Theatre, which should be a gas. I taught my basic movement seminar to the cast the other day, and will go coordinate the fighty bits next week. My kingdom for a horse… After that, my next gig of that nature that I know of will be fight directing for FRCC’s production of MacBeth, in September. Is this a dagger I see before me?

Boobies! Burlesque, that is. Blue Dime Cabaret is going strong; still the crazy be-tasseled geniuses we are, we had two shows up at Charlie’s Bar in Central City for Lou Bunch Day, which looks quite likely to turn into a yearly commitment.

Charlie’s Bar never knew what hit em…

Which is cool. For those, I channeled the late great Madeline Kahn and did my quirky Zuko version of “I’m Tired” from Blazing Saddles. Then the very next week we were back in Boulder for our June Is Busting Out All Over show, for which I sang two numbers and also emceed. Our next show will be Back To School themed, which makes me realize I’m going to need to get myself a schoolgirl skirt. I’ll keep you posted on the date for that–it’ll be in August.

All that plus all the writing, plus divorce proceedings? I’m lucky I get to see my partner at all. Or, he is, I guess. Ahem. 😉

That’s all for now, folks. I’ll try to get back here for some Sherlockian nerdiness very soon. Ciao.

The 2019 Denver PCC, Starring ME!

If you were wondering whether to go to Denver Comic Con (now called Denver Pop Culture Con) this year, wonder no more! Why? Because I will be presenting four (4!) different times throughout the weekend (plus one small intellectual lightning round)–all different fascinating topics, all of which you do NOT want to miss. Here are the deets:

Friday, May 31:

Noon pm, room 603: Problematic Badass Female Tropes

I’ll be running down all 7 of my Problematic Badass Female Tropes that you’ve read on Writers’ HQ and have listened to me and Friend Jason blab about on the Outrider Podcast. Come listen and ask me questions afterwards. And buy me a DPCC beer and rail with me against the patriarchy.

Saturday, June 1:

Noon pm: Light Speed Academia (Room TBA)

I’ll have 5 minutes to expostulate and lecture in depth on a topic of my choice. Not sure what I’m picking yet–come see and be surprised and intellectually stimulated by me and my fellow nerdy academics.

3:30 pm: Three Rules For Protagonists (Room 504)

I did this very talk last summer, to a surprisingly packed audience. This talk goes over the Monomyth and the Three Rules (or questions) For Actors, and discuss not only how the two systems are intimately related, but also how they’re an easy and foolproof formula for powerful storytelling.

–I’m going to Goth Prom with the SO that night, so I will not likely be available for socializing after, but will be hightailing it to go get gussied up.–

Sunday, June 2:

3pm: Pop Culture Portrayals Of Trauma, Care, and Survival (Room 507)

I will be chairing this panel, as well as presenting my own section called “Sex and/or Violence,” in which I will talk about my work in Stage Combat and intimacy coordination for stage.

4:30 pm: The Fight is the Story (Room 601)

This is a presentation I’ve done almost every single year since this event has existed. In it, I discuss the necessity for fight scenes to be an essential part of the story they appear in. I discuss the Three Rules For Actors, and I also dissect, Ebert-like, a few different good and not so good examples of fight scenes.

Put these down on your schedule for that weekend, and I hope to see you all there! Now I gotta go edit some slides….

Ode to a Grecian Urn

One of the coolest things I saw at The Met whilst on vacation was also one of the first, in the first room I entered. It’s a vase (like an amphora? An urn? I don’t recall the term for the particular type) depicting Perseus’ decapitation of Medusa, and Pegasus emerging from the wound.

I mean, this is one of the most well known stories of all time. It’s been told and retold countless times; and even though you may not know the actual story of Perseus and Medusa, or the weird way Pegasus was born, you definitely know what a Pegasus is. You most likely also know very well that Medusa has snakes for hair and that her gaze’ll turn you to stone. There’s even a strong likelihood that you know (even if you didn’t remember the hero’s name) Perseus cut her head off by using his mirrored shield so he wouldn’t have to look directly at her, and that after her defeat he wielded her severed head as quite the effective weapon.

Like I was mentioning before about the window/mirror concept of stories, this is an example of how astonishing it is to look down a time tunnel so long: this vessel has that story depicted on it, clear as clay. And it’s, like, two thousand years old. And yet I can look at it and go, Oh yeah: that story. I know that story.

I have been a scholar of what I call by the collective noun Old Story for a very very long time. Most of my remembered life, in fact. In my teen years I discovered Joseph Campbell’s studies that came before mine, and his powerful works of synthesis (revolutionary for his time) excited me very much. Still does, actually, especially because I myself in my own works and studies thereon have expanded it beyond heterosexual masculinity in a way that honors Campbell’s work, doesn’t butcher it like so many feminists do whose scholarship isn’t as rigorous. But that’s a rant for another time. Don’t “at” me, c’mon: I’m a feminist myself. But just take two seconds to look up the actual etymology of the word “history” to understand why the current term “herstory” irks me so.

There are many reasons why I’m excited about the monomyth, and why it makes plenty of people uncomfortable. But it comes back to the way I always describe it, particularly to my writing students: we’re all skeletons underneath. Strip me of my clothes and flesh and do the same to the most different looking person to me, and stand our skeletons next to each other. Odds are you won’t see much of a difference, if any. Maybe one of us is a little taller, or if you know how to look at bones, you’ll notice our assigned sex might be different. But the differences are minuscule, really. Put our flesh and our skin and our hair and our clothing back on over them, and that’s where we’ll begin to show our differences. The base, though, the skeleton? Pretty much the same.

That’s what makes those old stories so potent, and (I would aver) is why we keep telling them, over and over. They’re our base and inner structure, our skeleton; they’re what keep us standing upright.

Did you know that there’s a version of Cinderella in every single culture on earth? Every one. No exception. Fun fact. And we haven’t stopped telling it.

Perseus and Medusa aren’t as pervasive, you say? So tell me: which of the My Little Ponies has wings? What was the main conflict in the second Harry Potter book? And isn’t there another YA series with Percy and a bunch of Greek gods?

The Greek gods are like the ultimate reality show, or soap opera whose drama never ends. And why should it? It’s what keeps us going. What keeps us standing.

Reflections of New York

I don’t know where to start, exactly, except that I have very recently returned from my first ever trip to New York. I’m gobsmacked by my experience and really don’t know what to say. It’ll be a little word-vomit-y, for that reason, since when I wrote this I was foggy and tired from travel, and time changes, and the redeye flight, and such.

I had always thought I’d like New York, though when I graduated with my acting degree and everyone was like, so are you moving to LA or NYC? I was like, no. But I did feel amazingly comfortable there in that urban environment, and loved the sights I saw.

I realized that I would have to be quite a bit more monied if I were to live there (or even indeed to travel there again). The SO was our gleeful sponsor for the whole 3-day trip, and knew where to take me and what to show me. But that’s kind of a life theme, not specifically a New York one. I mean after all, I could say the same thing about Boulder.

No, the theme for New York, for all the things we did (beyond the bare basic fact that it was a *vacation;* a trip purely for pleasure, something neither of us do very often at all) is the image of a window and a mirror. I’ll explain:

When I teach children’s lit, we go through all the major genres of fiction in detail. Realistic fiction is described in that way: designed as either a window into another real person’s life, or a mirror which reflects your own back at you. That’s what this trip did (to both of us, I believe): it showed us this other kind of urban life, making us appreciate it, and by doing so we came to appreciate our own life choices much more than when we’re face down in the shuffle, work blinders on, and etc. Just to relax and look around was a much needed pause, and it didn’t stop our home stress momentum as much as change the points and divert it into a new direction.

(Now that I’ve used a train metaphor, I needs must relate that we actually saw a big rat in the subway. So. I mean, yanno? Other than the Statue, how much more of a New York sight could you ask for?)

Self reflection without disparaging self judgment is unusual in my world, and two things did it for me, beyond the active reflective conversations at the super cool Irish pub. One was seeing the World Trade Center memorial—as all memorials do, it makes you think. Makes you reflect on not only the lives lost, but life itself too. As they’re built to.

The other event that smacked me silly into self reflection was meeting one Emily Flake. She’s successfully doing all these things I want to be doing, and I guess am to a much smaller degree. But she’s a contributor to the New Yorker—how cool is that? And her little daughter is completely in love with

The KGB Room, and Nightmares Show. Immensely entertaining.

Paul, too, which was delightful to witness. It was great getting to know Emily, first simply because she’s an interesting person. But seeing the show she co-hosts and specifically talking about art and being an artist with her afterwards was pretty life changing. It’s like: this amazing person doing famous and amazing things is just like me. And Paul. Doing cool entertaining things with copious amounts of both talent and self-deprecation. And as much as my ego always enjoys the stroking of a person exclaiming, “Whoa!! You are fascinating!” it was more than that when Emily said it. It was deep, meeting her and her family. I haven’t made a fan, I’ve made a friend. Which is big, for me. The island of brilliant misfit toys is a lot bigger than I realized. (And it’s got some really cool suspension bridges leading to it).

Walking around The Met on our third and final day there, the SO and I were both struck by especially the Roman statuary—the busts of people we’d heard of like philosophers and emperors and semi-deity warriors. But there were also a lot of unnamed men, women, and children portrayed too. And two Byzantine portraits in paint that hit us for the same reasons.To look through that window, to have a clear look at a regular person, from that far back in time, is extraordinary. It’s awesome, in the most literal sense of that word. To look into the eyes (and it often really felt that way) of a human being that lived thousands of years ago. We’re really no different. And there are such a lot of us.

It’s rather paradoxical that I feel much bigger and more powerful in my life today, by being made to feel so small. Not really small, just. One of many. To feel my uniqueness by seeing the larger population I belong to. Paul too. The tribe of talented weirdos. It’s like family. Chosen family, though. That’s something else. Something more than the obligation of the biological kind.

I feel like I’m rambling and I also feel like I’m not equipped with the language to describe what I’m attempting to. So I’ll conclude my reflective ramblings with a description:

Post-museum, Paul & I found this French bistro with a window seat. We relaxed there with a bottle of excellent rioja and people-watched, reflecting on the art we’d just soaked in. There was a moment when an older couple, each of them strange like a pair of mismatched socks, ambled right up to the window and pressed their noses to the glass to look in. They were close enough almost to kiss us through the glass, but I don’t know if they saw us. Made us catch each other’s eye and snicker.

That’ll have to do, to conclude. And I did see Lady Liberty and was actually unironically moved. Which I can’t begin to understand, so I’ll just leave it at that.