Childhood Heroes

I have a soft spot for the fictional heroes of my childhood. The first has to be Robin Hood. I loved the old TV show with Richard Greene. I can still sing the theme song Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen. Robin Hood Robin Hood with his band of men. Feared by the bad, loved by the good. Robin Hood. Robin Hood, Robin Hood. Or at least that’s my memory of the lyrics. The characters in the show had such great names, too—Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Will Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marian. Such descriptive, enticing names. It made me fall in love with noble characters, history, right vs power, helping people, and outsmarting the bad guy. I was sad when I got older and found out Robin Hood probably never lived. I thought Sherlock Holmes was a real character, too, for a long time. When a character is that dimensional, they take on a life force and it’s hard to believe they never actually existed outside of the imagination. The second in my list of heroes is Zorro. He’s the California version of Robin Hood. I was born and lived in California until I was 12. The state has a rich history with the building of the missions, the fight for independence from Spain, the gold rush (yes, I know there was a lot horror involved in the treatment of the Native Americans, etc., but I was a kid. I only saw the romantic side of history.) California is also an incredibly beautiful state—the mountains, the desert, the redwoods, and above...

Falling in Love with a Character

I ordered this book through the library some time ago. I was pretty far back on the waiting list and by the time my name came up I had forgotten why I wanted to read it. I’m pretty sure I decided to read it based on a review, but I have been disappointed in the past when a book has had a good write-up. Consequently, I was a bit skeptical when I started it. Don Tillman is not your typical rom-com main character. He has issues. In particular he is obviously someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, though he doesn’t realize it, and is cringe-worthy in social situations. I read the first few pages with an Oh, my God! expression on my face. What a horror, I thought. How could someone with his issues find someone to love him? He began to win me over on page 10. He was in the middle of giving a lecture on Asperger’s syndrome (I think his friend set him up with the lecture in hopes he would recognize himself) and became horrified when someone explained to the kids in the audience that Asperger’s was something you were born with. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Don exclaims, “Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant.”  He goes on to explain that it’s potentially a major advantage. He gives an example in which emotional behavior would lead to a disastrous outcome—Imagine you are hiding in the basement with your friends. The enemy is searching for you and you have to keep totally silent, but your baby is crying. You have a gun. The parents in the audience...

Dialogue—Lines That Stay With You

My father used to spout reams of poetry. I was constantly amazed at the amount of literature he had memorized that he could pull out whenever he wanted to. I don’t have a good memory for words. I have a hard time remembering people’s names. I hated reading nonfiction as a child because there were no pictures. I remember images. I remember faces. I learn better when I can see it demonstrated. So when some dialogue or a descriptive phrase sticks in my head then it has to be pretty amazing for me to be able to remember it years later. One of my all time favorite lines is in Con Air. In case you’ve never seen it, a bunch of convicts take control of the plane transferring them to a new supermax prison. Nicholas Cage plays a convict who has been paroled and is only on board until he reaches the prison where he will be officially released. (We won’t go into why he couldn’t be released directly from the prison where he had been serving his sentence.) The movie sounds a bit cheesy but it’s actually pretty good. There’s the standard amount of blood and guts—it is an action movie, after all—but it also has some great dialogue. My favorite line happens after the convicts take over the plane and they are dancing to Sweet Home Alabama. Steve Buscemi plays a serial killer (think Hannibal Lecter) and he says to Cage, “Define irony. A bunch of idiots on a plane dancing to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.” It’s the...

Using Experiences in Writing

I had a disturbing experience last Sunday. I heard a bunch of coyotes howling behind my house. (The picture I’m showing is one I took several winters ago) It was still daylight and I went outside to listen to them. I had been expecting the coyotes to show up soon. We’re having a bunny explosion in the neighborhood and we’re on the coyotes’ regular circuit. They come and take care of the bunnies and mice then they move on to their next feeding stop. I usually see them every three months or so. I enjoy the sight of wildlife—there’s a lot of it in my area. And I try to be practical about it. Yes, the bunnies are cute, but unchecked, there would quickly be hundreds of them. I’m very respectful of the coyotes, and give them their space. I also never let my dog out alone in the dog run. He’s just small enough that they might go for him. Enough back story. Last Sunday, while I was listening to the coyotes howl, and enjoying their songfest, the howls suddenly changed and I heard a dog’s bark mixed in. Next followed a vicious fight that ended with the dog being killed. It’ll be a long time before I get those sounds and cries of pain out of my head. It was so fast, there was nothing I could do. I didn’t know exactly where they were. I could just hear the sounds. I felt such horror and frustration that I couldn’t stop it. I wanted to yell at the coyotes to focus on the bunnies and leave the...

Much Ado is Mucho Amazing

I saw Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” over the weekend. It’s one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare so I was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. I’m a big fan of Kenneth Branagh’s version that came out in 1993 and Joss Whedon’s movie is just as good. I love the choices Whedon made. In fact, he blew my mind when he cast Conrade as a female role. The conversation between Don John and Conrade is done as foreplay and I couldn’t believe how sexual the language was in that situation. It was perfect, yet it never occurred to me how sexual it was when the scene was between two men. My mind exploded and it made me look at everything with a fresh eye. My favorite scenes where when Benedict and Beatrice overheard the staged conversations where their friends spoke of how they were dying of love for one another. Beatrice, in particular, had me almost on the floor. Her perfect comedic timing and antics were a delight to watch. Benendict, too, did so much with his body language that he didn’t need to say anything. The other change that makes this version rise a tad above Branagh’s for me was a tweak to Claudio’s character. It has always bothered me that Claudio could dismiss Hero’s death so easily because he thought her sullied. Then, when he finds out he was wrong, his sudden repentance never seemed sincere to me. Yes, I know I’m bringing a modern view of virginity and applying it to a 16th century culture, however, if you love someone one...