Monday, July 27, 2015

The Rainy Day Murders Reincarnation


I think about this Robert Frost poem every time I'm asked if The Rainy Day Murders will be finished soon. "The Armful" sums up where I'm at in the writing process.

The Armful 
For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns --
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.


After seeking advice from several editors, I've decided to restructure the story to strengthen the narrative and sharpen the focus. I'm considering a change of title also. 

The only realistic answer to the question--"When will your manuscript be finished?"--is when I master the material rather than it mastering me. The sooner, the better--but not until it is ready.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bald Barbie Doll


My wife Susan wrote Mattel Consumer Services last January suggesting that their company produce a bald Barbie doll for young cancer patients. We were quite moved by Mattel's response and want to share this rare look into Mattel's corporate heart.
 
From: Mattel Consumer Services [mailto:MattelConsumerService@Mattel.com] Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2015 12:08 PM To: [address omitted] Subject: In Reference to Case Number: 23107550 
  
Hi Susan,

We are honored that you believe that Barbie could be the face of such an important cause. Mattel appreciates and respects the passion that has been
built up for the request for a bald Barbie doll.  

Play is vital for children, especially during difficult times.We are pleased to say that in 2013 we produced a fashion doll, Ella friend of Barbie,and she included wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience.For those girls
who choose, the wigs and head coverings can be interchanged or completely removed.

We will work with our longstanding partner, the Children's Hospital Association,to donate and distribute the dolls exclusively to children's
hospitals directly reaching girls who are most affected by hair loss. A limited number of dolls and monetary donations will also be made to CureSearch for Children's Cancer and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Through a thoughtful approach, we made the decision not to sell these dolls at retail stores, but rather get the dolls directly into the hands of children who can most benefit from the unique play experience, demonstrating Mattel's ongoing commitment to encourage play as respite for children in the hospital and to bring joy to children who need it most.
We appreciate the conversation around this issue, and thank you for contacting us to provide
your feedback!

Thanks,

Sally
Consumer Services Associate



Links to:
The Children's Hospital Association - https://www.childrenshospitals.org/
Curesearch for Children's Cancer - http://curesearch.org/
National Alopecia Areata Foundation - https://www.naaf.org/

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Old Globe Theatre Celebrating Eighty Years in San Diego

Conrad Prebys Theater Centre

San Diego's Old Globe Theater was originally built in 1935 as part of the California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. The building was saved from the wrecking ball in 1937 by a local community theater group for $10,000. The restoration of the theater was a labor of love for the volunteers who worked and performed there until the outbreak of World War II.

During the war years--and for several years afterward--the Globe's stage was dark, except for USO shows broadcast nationally and overseas on Armed Services Radio for the troops. It was not until 1949 that the Old Globe re-instituted its annual Shakespeare Festival with a production of Twelfth Night.

The Old Globe began hiring professional Equity Actors in1959 attracting top talent like Christopher Walken, Michael Learned, Christine Ebersole, Robert Foxwood, Christopher Reeve, and David Ogden Stiers to name only a few. The roll call of fine actors who have graced the Old Globe's stage reads like a Who's Who of American actors.


Arson fire destroyed the Old Globe building on March 8th, 1978. The loss of their beloved theater hit the San Diego community hard. But the show must go on! The play running at the time was relocated downtown to the Spreckle's Theater--so it could complete its run. An outdoor structure was quickly built on an adjacent canyon hillside which was ready for the Old Globe's Summer Shakespeare Festival several months later.

The San Diego community rose to the call to rebuild the Old Globe. Fundraising events were held throughout San Diego ranging from blind auctions to Jazzercise marathons. Combined with business support and private endowment funding, the Old Globe was reborn in 1982. The state-of-the-art modern theater opened with a production of Shakespeare's As You Like It

Two years later, the temporary outdoor Festival Stage also fell victim to arson. It was immediately replaced with the 612 seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in 1985.

The Festival Stage
Today, the Conrad Prebys Theatre Centre includes the Old Globe Theatre, a proscenium arch stage; the Sheryl and Harvey White Theater, a theater-in-the-round stage; and the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater stage.

Built adjacent to the Old Globe are the box office, gift shop, administrative offices, and rehearsal halls. Lady Caroline's Pub lies between the White and the Festival theaters and helps frame the plaza welcoming a quarter of a million patrons to the complex annually.

In addition to Shakespeare's plays, the Old Globe produces a broad array of modern, classic, and original works. Fifteen plays hit the Globe's boards every year. Several of their debut productions have gone to Broadway winning Tony Awards. What began as a community theatrical enterprise has become a top-rated, nationally respected regional theater.


Preview scenes from this summer's 2015 Old Globe musical production of Kiss Me. Kate.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Conan O'Brien Hosts Week of Comic-Con Shows from San Diego--July 8th-11th

The San Diego Comic-Con International--known simply as Comic-Con--is a four-day event held during the summer at the San Diego Convention Center in lovely Southern California. This year's event takes place July 9th-12th.

Three hundred comic book enthusiasts attended Comic-Con's first event held at the U.S. Grant hotel in 1970. Organizers soon discovered that working with groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Mythopoeic Society broadened its fan base and attracted a lot of new talent to their event. For the last several years, the gathering at the San Diego Convention Center has been at full capacity with 130,000 participants. The economic impact on San Diego is $180 million.

In the beginning, Comic-Con showcased primarily comic books and science fiction related items but soon expanded to include a wide range of pop culture including animation, anime, collectible memorabilia, video games, web comics, and fantasy merchandise.

Tony Stark makes an appearance at Comic-Con.
Popular sponsored events include panel discussions, seminars, and workshops with comic book artists and writers. There are feature film previews and an independent film festival for movies and shorts without a movie deal. Film and television personalities attend this convention to create a buzz about their upcoming projects and take full advantage of the extensive media exposure.

Comic-Con began awarding their Inkpot Award in 1974 to persons of interest in the Popular Arts industry. In 1988, organizers established the Will Eisner Award--named after the pioneering comic book writer and artist. Winners comprise the comic industry's Hall of Fame. Comic-Con has a large ballroom for exhibitors and an Artists' Alley for autographs and photo-ops from artists, writers, and celebrities.

Tigra
One of the standout features of Comic-Con are the costumes worn by many of the participants and the masquerade contest to determine the year's best. The spectacle is nothing less than Halloween on steroids. No shortage of superheroes, villains, plum smugglers, and buxom beauties.

The San Diego gathering is the Mecca of Geekdom. This year, their king--Conan O'Brien--will host a week of shows from San Diego's historic Spreckles Theatre. Rather than beginning the week with Monday and Tuesday night shows, Conan's week will begin Wednesday night and run through Saturday. Episodes will air on TBS at 11:00 PM nationwide and across their mobile and digital platforms the following day.

Conan O'Brien
Guests already announced are the casts of The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. Saturday night's line-up is a secret--making me think it might be the cast of next year's Batman v Superman. I'll have to tune-in to find out.

Comic-Con is suffering from its own success and has outgrown the present San Diego Convention Center facility. Because of overcrowding, organizers have capped attendance since 2007. In October 2013, the San Diego Coastal Commission approved a $520 million expansion to add another 225,000 square feet to the facility. 

A new 80,000 square foot ballroom is planned, and a second tower will be added to the Hilton Bayfront Hotel adjacent to the convention center increasing its capacity by 500 rooms. Comic-Con is expected to remain in San Diego for many years to come.



http://teamcoco.com/comiccon

Comic-Con 2015 is already sold out, so begin planning for 2016. Information about obtaining an authorized Member I.D. number and purchasing tickets for next year's event can be found at this link:  http://www.comic-con.org/cci/purchase-badges

Monday, June 29, 2015

Twelfth Night--Gender Bending at The Old Globe in San Diego


The Old Globe Theater's opening night of Twelfth Night--Shakespeare's gender bending romantic comedy--couldn't have been more timely given the recent Gay Marriage Supreme Court ruling. With the GLBT banner waving from the California Tower in Balboa Park, these talented actors--under the skillful direction of Rebecca Taichman--brought that madness we call love, in all its ridiculous splendor, to the outdoor Festival Stage in San Diego.
 

My wife and I attended an Old Globe fund raising dinner before the show with many of San Diego's theater glitterati in attendance, not least of whom was Marion Ross of Happy Days fame. Miss Ross is a local San Diego girl who first appeared on the Old Globe Festival stage in 1949 as Olivia in Twelfth Night. Miss Ross was seated directly in front of us and intently focused on the performance. I caught her quietly reciting the lines a couple of times.

As she was walking up the aisle at play's end, I offered her my arm for the long trek up the stairs. She smiled and said, "Please."

I'm hear to tell you that Mrs. C. is just as charming in person as she was when she appeared in America's living rooms with Richie and the Fonze.

For still photographs from the performance, check this link: 
https://www.facebook.com/TheOldGlobe/photos/ms.c.eJxd0MkJwEAMQ9GOgj1e1X9jgVzC~;OtDyMJuXhE9vV2pKHv8l2hKdd4yGRQVZJc9at0ZWc6dUdhhZg0ZE~_VoKc6ebKeE87qwWTUFSXFz5aC52iAdvD7FhRP8zw4zG0nJ~_~;Njfr7NLxxZYgM~-.bps.a.10153315337154350.1073741897.8498549349/10153367686549350/?type=1&theater

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Detroit's Edgewater Park--A Fading Memory

Pay-One-Price Ticket
The Rouge River ran behind Edgewater Park--a twenty-acre amusement park on the West Side of Detroit. The park opened in 1927 on West 7 Mile Road and Grand River--just in time for Depression and World War II generations to escape the dire headlines while having some fun and diversion during hard times. 

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s--my era--the amusement park was one of the most popular recreation spots in the Detroit area. When we were kids, my parents took us to the park every year or so, but when my friends and I started to drive, Edgewater park was a regular after dark destination. We drove north up Telegraph Road from Dearborn Heights. It took no time at all to get to this oasis of affordable amusement and cheap thrills.

Popular rides and attractions were the one-hundred and ten foot tall Ferris Wheel with its great neon lighting effect at night, the Wild Mouse that would give riders whiplash, the always popular Dodge-Em cars, the reality-altering Hall of Mirrors, and the Fun House where many a male got to first base for the first time.

Clicking and clacking before The Beast's first drop.
Edgewater Park's premiere ride was a wooden roller coaster named "The Wild Beast." During the days of Pay-One-Price admission, some riders would see how many consecutive times they could ride The Beast in a day. I remember riding it seventeen times and having bruises all over my body afterward. One person claims to have ridden it twenty-seven times in one day, but I'm not certain how many of those rides were pre- or post- mortem. He must have worn protective clothing. The real record is lost to history.

In the 1960s, the Teen Scene became a popular weekend spot. Admission to the park and the concert were included in the ticket price. Popular Motown groups often appeared at the park--as did the likes of Del Shannon and David Cassidy. Corn dogs, Coney dogs, cotton candy, and real French fries with malt vinegar drew teens to the park in huge numbers.

Roller Coaster Ruins
Declining revenues and competition from other amusement parks like Bob-Lo Island in the Detroit River and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio proved to be more than the old park could handle. The last click of the turnstile was on September 13, 1981. The park operated for fifty-four years, but little is known of its history. Today, the site is home to the Greater Grace Temple.

Photos of Edgewater Park: http://photos.metrotimes.com/15-nostalgic-photos-of-detroits-old-edgewater-amusement-park/#16

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chameleon Charm and Serial Killers




In the late nineteenth century, Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso was credited with the theory that some types of people are closer to our primitive ancestors than others. Dr. Lombroso utilized the work of anthropologist Pierre-Paul Broca which relied on facial measurements and anomalies of the skull, face, and body to determine who was--or was not--a criminal type.

Lombroso based his theory of the born criminal--who was a throwback to earlier hedonistic races--on hundreds of post-mortem examinations of criminals. He compiled a list of criminal traits which included receding hairline, forehead wrinkles, bumpy face, broad noses, fleshy lips, sloping shoulders, long arms, and pointed fingers. This condition was named atavism and was strongly associated with Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species--published in 1859. The belief that there was a face of evil was an easy one for society to accept in the Gilded Age of Queen Victoria.

In the twentieth century, this theory was strongly reinforced in the popular culture through cinema, novels, radio mystery shows, and television crime dramas. Of course, some common criminals undoubtedly conform to the stereotype of the dumb hoodlum by virtue of their less than average intelligence and their need to follow a charismatic leader, popularly known as the Boss or the brains of the outfit. This folklore gives rise to the idea that criminals--psychopaths among them--are easily identified because they look different from normal people.


Rather than scientific, these ideas broke along racial and ethnic lines, and in nineteenth century America, religion was also a prejudicial factor in determining guilt. It was believed that Catholics and Jews bore a greater responsibility for crime, in cities like Boston and New York, than the hard working Protestant folk. The Nazis made great use of this type of junk science against European Jews, which they proudly documented for the world to see in the last century.

Serial killers are cut from different cloth than common criminals. Psychologists have done extensive studies on this unique category of murderer. Their studies have discovered that they tend to be above average in intelligence and some are gifted. These are people who often have a belief that their intellect exempts them from the rules and regulations that were devised to keep less intelligent people in line--an attitude of entitlement develops.
Their intelligence allows serial killers to tidy up evidence, dispose of the body, and return to their normal fa├žade of life until the urge falls upon them to strike again.

Understanding the construction of the mind simply by looking at physical traits doesn’t work. Serial killers often look normal and blend into the background, so their behavior often requires sophisticated psychological profiling before they are caught. Regrettably, profiling only becomes more accurate as the body count rises, sometimes not even then.

Everything about serial killers is frightening. But the most disturbing thing of all is that they look just like the rest of us. These people are often superficially described as charming or engaging.

John Norman Collins
Even after the outrages of serial killers have been discovered, many people are dumbstruck despite the evidence that a normal looking person could be responsible for such carnage. It is part of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality of their personality disorder that enables serial killers to deceive people so easily. They are natural actors because deception and manipulation are second nature to them.

The true beginnings of modern crime fighting: