Thursday, March 28, 2013

Civility on Social Media

So the U.S. went through two days of what could be historical marriage equality cases in the supreme court. Now we sit and wait to see what decisions have been made. Everyone has their own personal opinions around the topic (and I think we all know where I stand on the issues). However, I just have to say this:

It was amazing to see social media light up the way that it did and not see major political discussions taking place.

Perhaps I was in a vacuum in my social world, but I never saw any heated discussions happening (as I had last November prior to elections). There was a beautiful out pouring of support or quiet protest: whichever it was - I found it inspiring. People rallied and shared photos and painted Facebook red and for those that do not agree with it (at least those in my news feed), they kept those opinions to themselves.

I did hear and read of a few people here and there that lost 'friends' due to their opinions on the case and I'm sorry that it came to that for those people.

But as for me and my was great to see such love. 

Thank  you to those I follow and that follow me. Support is a wonderful thing. Kindness is a gift. And perhaps someday...well, we'll just leave it at that for now.

Peace & Love.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Guest Blog: This Poet Doesn't Stop

Today I welcome Travis Laurence Naught to my blog to guest blog. If you have read his book or follow him on twitter or Facebook, you'll notice he is someone that doesn't hold back when he speaks: raw and truthful words come from the mouth of this man; words that make one stop and think.  He has a new book coming out and I wanted to be a part of his blog hop.

Take it away, Travis!


Before we get going, I would like to thank Gregory for posting a guest blog by me!

The Virgin Journals is the reason that I am friends with fellow ASD Publishing author Gregory G. Allen. He took time out of his life to review my unpolished poetry memoir and make recommendations to a new friend he had met on-line! That is one of the foundational things about being an author today ... connecting with other authors. It used to be that we writers were the most private of sort. The click of a mouse and  Starbucks on every other corner culture has changed that in to a major social scene. You found this site on the internet. That means you are socializing electronically. 

For years and years, I had been treating writing as my own form of personal therapy. "Vent that s*%t or your brain is going to explode!" Nearly 150 poems or pieces of narrative nonfiction were sitting on my computer, so I decided I wanted to release them as a book. Gregory was my director. He helped me find a perfect fit for a bunch of unrefined thought. 

Not necessarily unrefined. Thoughts that everybody has were rolling through my brain on a near constant level and my physical disability provided me with the opportunity to take note of them. Now, I would love to be out working as a part of the work force, but since my body will not allow physical labor because I am a wheelchair user, I took to writing full time in order to make a contribution on the world. 

People have always told me to write a memoir of sort. They are amazed by the guy in a wheelchair who doesn't let his disability stand in his away. I have one very obvious shortcoming that made me believe nobody really cared ... my less than desired celibacy. Poetry was the natural outlet for my frustrations surrounding that particular topic. Writing is what people wanted from me. I took the chance and combined the two for public viewing. 

That is where the Virgin in my book title came from. Here is my introduction to the world of writing! It also has the very apparent double entendre with a nod toward my sexuality. The second reason for the word Virgin comes into play regarding the title of my second collection: Still Journaling

I still am! Since becoming a fully stamped and certified "author", my poetry has become  tighter (not necessarily shorter) but no less honest and personal. Taking the time to write as a job means I am allowed to explore life more fully and take notes on different subjects. Subjects that I might not ever be able to partake in. One of the poems from Still Journaling is about jumping out of helicopters to ski! Here's Adrenaline Rush from my new e-book:

Mountainside submariners
Dive in up to their knees
Porpoising in and out
Of white powder snow

Jumping off cliffside high rises
Wings strapped to their feet
Flying ice covered inches
Over Earth's ground floor

Forever freedom racing by
Speeding, swerving, twisting, turning
Between the rocks and by the trees
Seen by goggle covered eyes

An experience beginning close to God
Ends with emotional self applause

Another reason that I've enjoyed this new-found writer lifestyle is for the necessity to stretch my comfort zone. Doing this mostly means asking for help from others. I need a lot of help, as a quadriplegic, so I generally try not to ask for more than is required to keep me healthy. Writing keeps me healthy! I know that now, and have learned to ask people for help writing lines or even complete poems down for me as I am out and about. My words on the following page were written by people who are not me ... it is a very intimate experience to have someone encounter my first draft words, but Technically Jesus proved my need to have another write for me, as a refined version of it made the cut for Still Journaling!

To sum up; writers need one another, my writing has proved that physical ability does nothing toward changing natural thoughts, exploring all of life is a benefit that every author gets to try on, other people have helped me explore life more now than ever before! Hopefully I was able to curb my selfish focus and you were all able to take something from this article ... even if it is just the urge to spend $5 on your favorite e-reader and purchase Still Journaling!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Great & Powerful IS Oz?

Perhaps a few weeks late from its opening, but I finally saw the film "Oz The Great and Powerful". I had tried to stay away from comments about it online, but already had heard the rumblings of it not being 'so great'. Well, I take a slightly different view on it.

First, let me say that director Sam Raimi and his team have paid a beautiful homage to "The Wizard of Oz" for which his film is a prequel. Set 20 years prior to Dorothy dropping her house on a witch (presumably in case the team wanted to create yet another film prior to the iconic one), in many ways they have stayed very true to what we all remember and love from the original. Unlike what happened with the Star Wars prequels, I felt this could have been the same team if the 1939 MGM team had been whisked away in a tornado to 2013. The black and white opening in Kansas stays in tact. We meet actors that will appear later in Oz. And when we get there, the colors and CGI effects are vibrant and beautifully just as technicolor was to an audience of days gone by. I also want to give a huge shout out to Danny Elfman for an original score that evokes the 1939 film.

When the now classic film first appeared, it wasn't a well-recieved movie. That is hard for us to fathom now, but it took years for it to become the classic  that we know. I'm not saying this movie is headed in that same direction, but I think that should be remembered when people start out reviews by bashing the movie on the screen today.

Though L. Frank Baum never wrote a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz" (he wrote many sequels), writers Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire have taken on the task and stayed true to the tone of what Baum had done. We all know the Wizard was nothing but a fake at the end of the original film, but what got him there? What was his wants and desires? And what would cause a man to stay in this land? Enter a womanizing fake of a magician to answer those questions for us. While I appreciate the backstory of Oz (known as Oscar Diggs), James Franco didn't quite get there for me in the film. I've heard that Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp were the first choices and I can only imagine what each of them could have brought to the role. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy James Franco in movies. I just never felt his plight in this one. 

I did however enjoy the secondary characters and thought Zach Braff and Joey King were wonderful sidekicks. While others have complained about the casting of the three witches, I actually found this film in a way to be more about the power of these women and less about the great and powerful Oz. The women are all sitting around waiting for a man to save them and yet they seem they could get by on their own without any man. With just a few script changes and we have a great female empowerment tale. (Just saying.) Michele Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz give there own take on witches we've met before and some we never knew. (Don't forget: Dorothy's house fell on one of them.)

Wicked The Musical
I think the hardest part of this movie for some theater people to take is how to settle in their mind how "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire fits into the equation. Many people love the musical based on that book and because the stage version did such a great job at combing Maguire's book with the original movie, we have it in our heads that is the backstory. Just like the writers of "Oz the Great and Powerful", Maguire had created his own prequel to tell this well known children's tale (and rumor has it his version may soon be on the big screen too).

For me, I took this movie for what it was and allowed it to take me on the twister of emotions that can at times thrill, pull at the heart string, and occasionally have me looking at my watch.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

American Idols Take Broadway

Can we just talk about American Idol for a moment? You know, the show that has been on for what feels like forever where they churn out performers on a conveyor belt of popularity and ride them until the next comes along.

One of the biggest things that always confused me was when Simon would say “you are too Broadway” – as if that is a bad thing. And this year, Randy has turned into the one telling the men they are too theatrical.

Let’s just look at the amount of previous American Idol people that went on to do theater, shall we? It seems to be like Idol was a direct line to working professionally in the theater. (And I know this is not a complete list that I came up with.)

Clay Aiken: Spamelot
Fantasia Barrino: The Color Purple
Jordin Sparks: In the Heights
Taylor Hicks: Grease
Ace Young: Grease, Hair
Counstatine Maroulis: The Wedding Singer, Rock of Ages, The Toxic Avenger, Jekyll & Hyde
Crystal Bowersox: Always Patsy Cline
Diana DeGarmo: The Toxic Avenger, Hair, Hairspray, Brooklyn: The Musical, 9 to 5
Anthony Fedorov: The Fantasticks, Rent
Frenchie Davis: Dreamgirls, Ain’t Misbehavin’
Justin Guarini: American Idiot, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Tamyra Gray: Rent, Bombay Dreams
Ruben Studdard: Ain’t Misbehavin’
Trenyce: Ain’t Misbehavin’
LaToya London: The Color Purple
LaKisha Jones: The Color Purple
Syesha Mercado: Once on This Island at Papermill Playhouse
Bo Bice: Was scheduled to do Pump Boys & Dinettes, but it was cancelled
Katherine McPhee: Smash (which is a Broadway themed show)

And even Carrie Underwood is going to be playing Maria in the new Sound of Music for television.

Evidently, American Idol and musicals go together like America and apple pie.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vacation from Life

View from Balcony
Anyone who reads my blog knows I love to travel.

Sometimes, we just need to stop the world and 'get off' to forget about everything else going on. That was the kind of trip I had last week while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was a time to unwind, escape the cold of the northeast and simply relax. Nothing planned. Just me, good friends, a loaded up kindle full of books and the sun.

Naturally, being a writer I can't help but notice people and my surroundings. And occasionally  I take notes of something that may end up in a book at some point. What I found interesting was no matter the age around the pool (and many were older people), everyone seemed to have a reading device. I saw more kindles on this trip than ever before. Very few actual books. And if not a kindle, then an iPad or a smart phone where people were deep into something to pass the time. 

I guess we all love to escape when on vacation, but it seems people are talking less and 'escaping' more.

Puerto Vallarta had amazing restaurants and my friends knew all the great places to go. From eating on a mountain side to awesome places at the water's edge, we hit so many.

I also got to see a fellow author visiting from Canada and it was great to see him again after a year. David Hallman seems to make that his home for several weeks each winter (and I can see why). (I told him I wanted to be him when I grow up!)

We ended the trip with another love of mine. Going to the theater. While I usually enjoy theater that makes me feel something full of angst, sometimes I just want to laugh. And I did. Del Shores' "Sordid Lives" is a play that became a movie and then a television series. I've never seen it on stage and it was a hoot for this Texan to see this play that pokes such fun at my home state. And then to meet Mr. Shores afterward the show (whom I sent a copy of Well With My Soul to when it first came out) was a real treat as this man shares so much of my Southern Baptist upbringing and Texas history.

All in all, what a great vacation it was. Being back to reality is hard, but at least I got a chance to recharge during the cold winter months and enjoy the beauty of nature.