Wednesday, January 28, 2009


(painting from Uncover Austin Magazine)

There are just days when I want to poke my own eyes out
--yeah, I know, suiting.

So I am designing Oedipus for MCC here in Mesa and well, I have a slight resignation about it. I am not totally in love with the concept laid out for the designers. Call me a traditionalist but I feel that some plays should not be messed with very much--you know, "let's not take it so far out of reality that we alienate our current demographic". However, this concept--if marketed correctly--will bring in a whole new demographic and that is great, but this is also why I am hesitant. I worry about how it will be marketed.

Firstly, the concept is...wait for it..."post apocalyptic sadomasochism". Shocker, right? Everyone and their pet cat has done this and Julie Tamor has done it better, thank you very much. Don't get me wrong, I can do this. It is not beyond my capabilities just beyond my logical understanding? I am not sure how this will further the plot. Yes, elements of the concept will serve to further the plot but has the director pushed it too far? Not only do we have fetish wear but huge body tattoos as well. What purpose does it serve if the show looks "cool" but the audience fails to understand the message? I am not saying that it should not have been set in another time period, only that perhaps the concept should have been reined in just a smidge.

Really ROUGH sketches for Creon and the chorus priestesses

Secondly, what is this young director trying to prove? "Hey look at what I can do? Isn't it the coolest thing since the internet?" Maybe. I am well aware that educational theatre is allowed to experiment because the funding is more stable that that of independent theatres but there are still funds attached based on the monetary numbers of the house and needs of the department. When the deciding committees get together and figure out what plays to perform the following season, they do it with a budget in mind. The smaller the buget the smaller the concept? Perhaps. Great shows have been done on limited bugets with great success but will this be one of them? I do not know the answer to that..I wish I did.

Where's Alice when you need her? LOL


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Angel....of Death...or not...

Her Lover or a Psychopomp?

(click above picture to hear Tea Party's Angels)

Psychopomp: Guider of souls; Personified and perceived as a male or female spirit, angel, or personage responsible for the mediation and conduction of the earthly dead from the conscious realm to the unconscious realm--earth and heaven; also responsible for finding lost souls and guiding them on to the next life.

So often in her Twilight series, Ms. Meyer has Bella referring to Edward as her angel. For me, the imagery fits. Edward is often referred to as so painfully beautiful that I found myself saying, "Alright, already! I will never be that beautiful...stupid shiny Volvo owner!" Meh? What's a human to do? And then I began to ponder on what could be construed as the metatphoric meaning of the angellic references. Angels, in christian teaching, usually guide humans to righteous choices or celestial paths. Where was this angellic imagery taking Bella? What path and why? Why is the bond so strong so quickly no matter the distance?

Where does the "angel" take Bella? Anywhere?--Maybe. She is drawn to Edward by an involuntary need with in herself. He is mysterious and handsome and she cannot resist what seems to be hiding behind his eyes. We may attribute this to Bella's "danger magnet"...or maybe she just can't resist a good mystery. When Edward save s her from being crushed by Tyler's van with his bare hands, Bella is driven to find out who and what Edward might be. Bella "tricks" Jacob into telling her what the Cullens are. She confronts Edward about what she believes he is and when given her answer, Bella is relieved, not scared. It is always her choice to follow Edward. He never wants to force her to turn away from humanity or what it means to be human--even duping her in to attending prom so that she will not miss important human rights of passage. Even in this, Edward asks if she is angry or wishes to leave. He always give her the choice to go with him or not.

What path have Edward and Bella taken? It is the path of love. One that involves passion. A need--like we need air-- to be with one another no matter the cost. The kind of love everyone wants. It is this kind of love that seals the bond and makes it so strong. It is why they can not live without one another. They are soul mates although, Edward professes to believe that he lacks one.

And when the path seems to be at an end...I admired Edward's respect of Jacob Black when he sought permission to "turn" Bella into a vampire should her pregnancy not end well. Knowing that they, two, could not live in a world without Bella in it shows compassion. It was a level of respect that Jacob did not expect. Through his permission the path is allowed to continue on this earth.

So, metaphorically speaking, the character of Edward is a type of psychopomp. He lovingly guides Bella from her mortality to immortality. He is her angel in death as well as in life.

"He grinned his crooked smile at me, stopping my breath and my heart. I couldn’t imagine how an angel could be any more glorious. There was nothing about him that could be improved upon."

Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 12, p.241

Psychopomp By Tea Party

(click above to hear Tea Party sing this song)

You wanted this
So sad to see
The sweet decay
Of ecstasy

And you want it all

A frozen sun,
Will guide you there
As shadows hide
The deep despair

I'll give you something more
And you'll fade away
One last kiss before
You fade away.

So sleep tonight,
In idle dreams
The pain will drown,
Your silent screams

And you want it all

I'll give you something more
And you'll fade away
One last kiss before
You fade away
Lives you once adored
will fade away
Lies you can't ignore
You soon repay
As you fade away

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shakespeare & Meyer: Shared Imagery

click below to hear Paramore's Decode

There are many obvious parallels to our friend, William, aren't there Ms. Meyer?
Isn't it interesting that Stephanie Meyer has chosen to adhere to the high school reading list? By this I mean our characters are supposed to be reading things like Romeo and Juliet and there are many intelligent and clandestine comparisons in Ms. Meyer's books to the high school reading list of her characters.

Firstly, who doesn't obviously compare Bella and Edward to Romeo and Juliet. Juliet on a balcony with Romeo below; Bella at the upstairs window with Edward below; lovers destined to be with one another but separated by unnatural hatred of warring houses or unnatural love of species; la tua cantate and star-crossed lovers; blah, blah, blah...Get it?

It is worthy of note that Shakespeare's lovers are "star-crossed" which serves to intimate that the stars themselves have predestined the love and end of that love. Conversely, Meyer sets her novel in an area of the North American rainforest that rarely sees sun let alone stars, therefore their fate cannot be "predestined" by the stars. Not even Alice, with her visions of the future, is not right all of the time although she could be construed as a Greek Oracle--that is for another discussion.

Alright, so what seems to be the major theme for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is love--specifically young, passionate love, even forbidden love. The same can be said for Meyer's first two books, Twilight & New Moon. Our lovers in both cases can't not avoid one another. For Romeo and Juliet they are doomed lovers. Choices, circumstances, and misunderstandings lead to their deaths. However, in Twilight, Meyer doesn't doom her lovers' love to death but rather seals their fate to loving one another for eternity in this life and not yet in heaven as are Shakespeare's lovers.

Romeo and Edward are similar in one important way--each makes a conscious decision towards love and the circumstances that surround it. Romeo and Edward are aware of the hazards of breaking social expectations and prior commitments not only to self but family as well. Neither one are subjects of the Greek tragedy or hamartia. They have no real tragic flaw because they choose their paths and make mistakes. For example, Romeo confronts and challenges Thibault after Mercutio's death. He chooses to kill Thibault not because he is flawed to do so but because of his circumstance. Romeo must uphold his family’s honor—it is a social norm of the time that cannot be ignored. By comparison, Edward chooses to save Bella from being crushed by Tyler's van not only because he loves her but also because of his circumstance: he is impossibly fast and can get to her before the van; he must save his family from exposure because allowing Bella's blood to be spilled would have rendered Jasper uncontrollable as well as himself. Hamartia in the essential Greek sense means"to have a moral deficit". In this light it is clear that neither Romeo nor Edward have any such defect in their morality.

A major motif in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is the imagery of light and dark: Loyalty to family or loyalty to love. The imagery in Twilight saga is similar. Fascinatingly, light is not always good and dark is not always bad but there are many shades of gray. Lines are blurred--this is especially true in New Moon. Bella is in conflict as Edward leaves her "for her own safety". She falls into a dark place for months as her depression deepens over her loss of Edward. She eventually seeks companionship from Jacob Black. Bella is not romantically in love with Jacob and only cares for him as her very best friend. When she learns that Jacob is a "werewolf" and has a hatred of all vampires--good or bad--her lines of what is right or wrong, light or dark become blurred. She can not convince Jacob that not all vampires are bad and would not violate the ancient treaty of the Quilleuttes. Bella describes Jacob as being like Paris in the tale of Romeo and Juliet:

Scan from New Moon pages 370-371

The use of the light and dark imagery in Romeo and Juliet is also to show conflicting alternatives of equating the light of someone in one's life to the darkness--death in a sense; in Bella's case, a hole--that the absence of that beloved can exhibit. Juliet is Romeo's sun and Edward is Bella's light and comfort and vise versa. In Romeo's soliloquy under the balcony, as he contemplates the sun and the moon saying that Juliet is the sun and he wishes to banish the moon so that he may only have his sunlight. He continues in his wish to stay with his "light", Juliet, the morning after their only night together, “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes” (III.v.3). Romeo, like Edward, has no wish to live in a world where his light is not.

Similarly, Bella pursues "more light and light" as she tries to fill her need to hold on to Edward after he has left. She pursues dangerous "extreme sports" that she might hear his voice warning her to stop what she is doing. She has no wish to release him from her life and she states as much in New Moon as she mulls over Shakespeare's lovers: "She (Juliet) would never have moved on...Even if she lived until she was old and gray, every time she closed her eyes, it would have been Romeo's face she saw behind her lids". Bella cannot live in this manner. She, like Juliet, cannot live without her Romeo following him in to death, if necessary, so as not to be without him: "I'd never seen anything more beautiful--even as I ran, gasping and screaming, I could appreciate that. And the last seven months meant nothing. And his words in the forest meant nothing. And it did not matter if he did not want me. I would never want anything but him, no matter how long I lived" (New Moon, page 451). Similarly, Juliet feels the same upon waking from her false death to discover her lover, her only love, truly dead, "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die" (Act V.iii).

I do not fault Ms. Meyer in her choice to share such similar imagery--either conscious or unconscious. Rather, I am pleased and admire her for doing so. She has given a generation of young readers the ability to relate Romeo and Juliet toward their own lives. For me and some of my friends--Jeanene--she is a hope that we, too, can publish our own works!


Similar/Related Quotes

The odds are always stacked against us. Mistake after mistake. I’ll never criticize Romeo again.
Edward Cullen, New Moon, Chapter 23, p.508

Damn it, Bella! You’ll be the death of me, I swear you will.
Edward Cullen
, Twilight, Chapter 17, p.363

"Tempt not a desperate man" - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 5.3

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm not a child anymore...

For Beverly Jo Nelson

by live
(click above link to hear song)

...lightning crashes, an old mother dies
her intentions fall to the floor
the angel closes her eyes
the confusion that was hers
belongs now, to the baby down the hall

oh now feel it comin' back again
like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind
forces pullin' from the center of the earth again
I can feel it... the angel opens her eyes...
presents the circle
and puts the glory out to hide, hide...

Earlier on of my posts I queried, "When vampires who are nightmarish enter the scene then can't we see just how truly like humans they are--Can't humans be just evil? Nightmarish? Don't we have serial killers? People who murder for tiniest reason? [Don't believe me--I have a personal story there--another time perhaps?]"

Now is the time...

On March 19, 1981, my sister, Beverly Nelson, was found dead in a pool of her own blood at the Burgerville USA where she was the assistant manager. She had been beaten with a hammer and shot during a robbery. Four youths were sentenced for the crime--they were all under the age of twenty-one. She was just 27 years old. I was eight and can remember that day as if it happened 20 minutes ago.

That cold March day I sat blissfully at school unaware of the tragic news that would be there to greet me as I got off the bus. I aced my spelling test and that meant that I would be rewarded with a promised desire for having achieved my goal. Carol and Mel, my parents, put a high price on education and I intended to obtain every reward that I could. As I got off the bus that afternoon, my prized test clutched in my hand, I was happy and eager to tell my Mom the good news. It was all the proof that I needed to have my reward given to me...I was focused. I ran in to my grandparents' house [we were living with them so that my Mom could help my grandmother with tasks like cleaning and bathing], bursting with excitement but the soberness of the scene stopped me in my tracks. My Grandma sat at the kitchen table blankly staring at her hands. Her long snow white hair which was usually put into a neat bun at the back of her head now hung around her shoulders partially covering her face. My Mom sat opposite of her also staring blankly down at her hands. I started to panic. A barrage of questions quickly escaped my mouth.

"Mom? What's wrong? Is the baby [my sister Becky] OK? Rachel? Where's Grandpa? Is he OK? Is it Dad? Where's Dad?"

She stared at me as if some kind of pain was keeping her from speaking.

"Mom? Are you OK?"

She was nodding her head "yes" as she said, "The girls are fine. Grandpa's on the couch and Dad is at work."

Then what was wrong? I looked at my Grandfather, age had not taken his his hair nor its color, but his face was pale almost grey. He was a tall man to me but at this moment he seemed so small and frail. I knew that things were certainly not fine and I wanted to know what the matter was. In any case, I was eight and doing jobs around the house that most kids my age weren't allowed to do. I could handle this. It couldn't be so bad, could it? Maybe we were moving again? No, what ever it was couldn't be that bad.

I looked at my Mom again and pleaded for her to tell me exactly what was wrong. She stared at me for a long moment. If I wasn't so scared I might have continued on in my excitement not knowing the answer. My Mother's eyes began to water as she struggled to find the right words to tell me. She started and then stopped.

"Moni...Bev can't come for the family reunion this summer..."

This wasn't bad. Bev could come later with her husband and son. When I mentioned my thoughts my Mom hung her head. Looking back on this moment, I realize how hard this must have been for her. This was one of life's toughest blows and she had to explain it to an eight year old. How? How do you tell a child that someone she loved has died? Not just died but was brutally murdered over a small sum of money in a register. How would she even comprehend the words? The moments ticked by...I stared back...

I loved Beverly. She and my brother, Terry, came to our house when we lived in Washington. They were nice to my Mom even though they didn't have to be--after all, she was their stepmother. It was nice to have an older sister even though she was so much older than me. I always looked forward to the day when I could just talk with her like she would talk with my Mom.

I stared at my Mom waiting for the rest of her explanation. She made the choice to just tell me and be done with it.

"Beverly, Beverly...died today. Some men killed her"

It was a surreal moment. For me, it felt as though time had stopped for an instant. There were so many thoughts racing in my head that I couldn't hear anymore. They stared at me...waiting...and then somewhere in the pit of my stomach I heard a noise. Not just a noise but a scream. I was screaming. I dropped everything and ran out the back door past my Aunt Judy's house and down the road where my cousin Beth and her brothers were playing in a newly constructed fort. They laughed and yelled for me to come and play.

"Play?" I thought, "I don't feel like a kid anymore. How can I play?"

Of course they would be happy to play it wasn't their fault. I just wished that I could've been that happy and able to forget what had just stolen the innocence of my world. I rushed in to my own yard and slumped onto the swing. My tears rolled off my cheeks and down the red wool coat I wore. Red...blood...died...killed...

Soon I felt a hand on my leg. I don't know how long I sat there before Beth and Jason had come over to see me. Fumbling for the words, I tried to explain what was the matter, but I didn't know what to say and I'm certain that I wasn't making any sense to them. It didn't matter. They just sat there with me and let me cry. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done. Simple. Perfect and nice. We sat there until my Dad whistled for me to come back to Grandma's house. As I walked out of the yard and passed through the gate I felt a sense of urgency for my Dad. His loss was my loss. I ran to him knowing that if anyone could make me feel better it was my Dad. I threw my arms around him, clinging to him as if he would disappear, too.

"C'mon, Bev, it's getting cold out here. Let's go inside..."

Surely, I heard him wrong. I held his hand as we walked silently to the door. The house was eerily silent except for the low murmur of my Grandpa's voice as he spoke to my Dad or my sisters as they fussed. My Mom didn't need to ask me to set the table, automatic pilot set in and I put the silverware on to the table. As we sat at the table, the silence became louder. No one really ate. Moslty we picked at the food but went through the motions as if we did eat. The dishes of food were passed around as was the salt and pepper...

"Bev, pass me the peas." I looked at my Dad, perplexedly. This time I hadn't heard him wrong.

"Dad, I'm not..." but my objection was silenced by my Grandmother as she covered my hand with hers. When I looked at her, she just shook her head and smiled at me. I was devastated. Did he miss Beverly so much that he wanted her instead of me? Could he not see who I was? Questions and doubt clouded my mind as I cleared the table. I stood at the sink, mindlessly playing with the suds.

"Monica, you know that your Daddy doesn't wish you were gone, right?"

It was Grandma. My pain over my Dad's lack of recognition was written all over my face. I didn't understand why he would make such an obvious mistake.

"Have you ever seen pictures of Beverly as a child?"


"You look a lot like her. When your Daddy looks at you he can see Bev, honey. He hurts, maybe not in the same way you do, but he is hurting. He has to be strong and he doesn't want to cry. He wants to be strong for you, your sisters and your Mom. Don't correct him when he says your name wrong. When the time is right he'll find his way. Don't worry, honey."

It was three months before my Dad called me by my own name on a consistent basis. I wasn't allowed to go with my parents back to Washington state to Beverly's funeral. My parents felt that because she had been beaten with a hammer and there was an open casket, Beverly might not look like I remembered. It was better for me to not remember her like that lying in a coffin.

"Honey, it's only her body in that box not her spirit. You have a better memory of Bev in here..." my Mom said as she rested her hand on my head, "than you would if you saw her at the funeral."

I'm still not fully convinced that I agree with my parents decision. Do not misunderstand me, I fully comprehend why they made their choice but I simply wanted my chance to say 'goodbye'.

Bye, me a seat...

Ed Nelson, Beverly's husband once said this with regards to this tragedy:
" It was hard, he said, to learn how his wife had been brutally murdered. "It's not the life I dreamed of," Nelson said. "This may sound strange," he said, "but I believe there is a purpose for everything. There's something to be learned. I can't change the circumstances, but I can decide how I let it affect me. These are building blocks in my life. I didn't order them, but I'll be a better human being for it."

I hope I can always remember this. --MH

Friday, January 09, 2009

Unconditional Love

"Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something."
Bella Swan, Twilight, Preface, p.1

What is unconditional love? How do we recognize it? Wikipedia describes unconditional love as the following: Unconditional love is a term that means to love someone regardless of his actions or beliefs. It is a concept comparable to true love, a term which is more frequently used to describe love between lovers. By contrast, unconditional love is frequently used to describe love between family members, comrades in arms and between others in highly committed relationships. It has also been used in a religious context to describe God's love for humankind through the forgiveness of Christ. However, this can be seen as contradictory in some cases where God's "unconditional" love is predicated upon the believer's fulfillment of one or more criteria. But this love is not solely based on those met expectations.

Can we recognize it without confusing this love for the enabling of bad behavior? Ah, this is the tricky part. Too many times people, often women, confuse unconditional love with looking past the bad or inappropriate behavior of a spouse or significant other which results in physical or mental harm.

For my part today, it is interesting to note that Bella and Edward have such a relationship--sort of? Yes? Yes. No? It is kind of grey. Despite his claims, Edward is able to walk away from Bella in New Moon so that he doesn't continue to put her life in danger because of what he and his family are...vampires. And Bella?--she is able to love Edward despite the possibility that he may not have always honored human life. It doesn't matter to her. As far as she is concerned he has had 70 years to change his ways and go straight. Stay straight. His past for her is not what he was then but what he is now. She looks at him and sees a future--albeit a future like his. Edward? He sees a future with and for Bella too. However, in his foresight, Bella lives a human existence, grows old, dies and then he will have the Volturri kill him shortly thereafter. For a guy who can read minds, sometimes, he can be so unimaginative...LOL.

"He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance."
Bella Swan, New Moon, Chapter 1, p.13

I'm betting on Alice! If you have read the series, then you know what I mean. ..Anyhoo...It becomes a little grey and blurred when Bella becomes depressed as she pines for Edward. Her behavior is unhealthy and you may question [somewhere in the back of your mind] why she would choose to continue her affections for months, months, after he has left. Her need for him, at this point, is such a negative addiction that she endangers her life just to hear his voice "knowingly" scold her actions. And then the cogs in my brain clicked...hadn't I done this same thing at eighteen? Wasn't I in a messy break up that took me years to overcome? As I read the following quote my memories of that time came flooding back to me and helped me to remember why, as teenagers especially, we mourn the loss of love so deeply.
" When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?"
Bella Swan, Breaking Dawn, Book One Preface, p.1

It's true and I felt that strongly one in my life. Maybe time and experience has made me more rational as I aged. Who knows? I could feel that strongly again. Or will time make me so less passionate that I will logically go on with out this person in my life? I don't know--no one does. We only think we know until we are faced with those challenges and a new set of circumstances, ones we never imagined, are before us. It is then that we discover, as Bella did, what we are made of and to what lengths we will go to keep that love in our lives.

When Alice returns with bad news of Edward, Bella forgets herself, her problems, her anger and any hurt she felt in those months. She is completely selfless. Her focus becomes Edward's safety and his preservation, aiding in whatever way she can to save him--if she can save him. It is here that the character of Bella comes to an re-understanding, on some level what unconditional love means on its highest level: Dying for that person if that is what it takes. Giving of herself so freely that her own safety becomes irrelevant. Her conclusion doesn't surface until the danger passes. It is only then that she is able to put her actions and the consequences into a perspective she can understand.

"Option three: Edward loved me. The bond forged between us was not one that could be broken by absence, distance, or time. And no matter how much more special or beautiful or brilliant or perfect than me he might be, he was as irreversibly altered as I was. As I would always belong to him, so would he always be mine."
Bella Swan, New Moon, Chapter 24, p.527

How crazy is it that it takes danger, death defiance or near misses to help us understand what we would be losing? Think about it. How many people on their death beds say, "Gee, if I had only spent more time at my job, then I would have been fulfilled?"I am going to hazard a guess here and say, hmmm...none?! At the end of our lives that is not the kind of thing we want to remember. We remember love! The happiness it brought us. The sheer joy of being with someone, anyone--lovers, children, friends--who brought love into our lives.

"The way he stared at her! It was like a blind man seeing the sun for the first time. Like a collector finding an undiscovered Da Vinci, like a mother looking into the face of her newborn child."
Bella Swan, Eclipse, Chapter 11, p.242 [About Jared & Kim] Leave it to Baz Lurhman to burn into our memories the haunting song lyrics "...the greatest gift is to love...and to be loved in return..." Truer words were never spoken.

Let books and movies inspire you to find that "love of your life". Just keep in mind that you must stop dreaming and start living in order to find it.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

For Jack Bertram

"They were the faces that you never expected to see...painted by an old master as the face of an angel"
Bella Swan, Twilight, page 19

When I taught at the University of Michigan-Flint, I struck up a friendship with an unlikely man. Jack Bertram. He was about 28 years old and mature beyond the years that were given him. My first meeting with Jack was when he took a flat patterning class from me. It was not odd for a man to take these classes but Jack stood out. 'Stood out' is an understatement...Jack had presence. He was approximately 6'4" and weighed about 350 pounds. The way he was proportioned made him seem like a giant. I have large hands for a female--from the bottom of my palm to the tip of my middle finger measures about 7 1/2 inches with the palm being 4 inches at its widest point. Jack's hands were easily twice that size. His brown curly hair and full beard made him seem like something out of Norse mythology. Basically, he could crush you but honestly he would never hurt anyone.

My friendship with Jack didn't flourish until after he was my student--safety, first; no fraternizing with the students. Anyway he would come up to the costume shop and volunteer or escape the noise/drama in the lobby. Drama is always the case in the Theatre Department. We would talk about what ever he wanted. Some days it was school. Other times it was women. And then there were days when all he wanted to talk about was myths, legends and how they tied into religion, but the one thing Jack especially loved to talk about was vampire myths. He was fascinated how Christianity treated or related to them. He LOVED this subject--he loved to argue them out with you and see all sides and I genuinely looked forward to speaking with him. I had a small vampire obsession of my own thanks impart to my father and Leonard Nimoy.

The time always passed too quickly when he was on a roll but he would always come back to banter more. For a long time Jack evaded my direct question on how he came to be obsessed with vampire myths. It wasn't until learned that Jack had an epileptic seizure and would be missing classes that a theory began to formulate in my mind: when you can taste your own mortality why wouldn't you want to be immortal; there will never be enough time to do all you want to do and immortality would allow one to fulfill dreams that illness would rob.

This had to be the reason. He loved the power vampires had and especially loved Joss Whedon's Angel--because here was an vampire with a soul. One who was harrowed up by the images of the innocent lives he had taken--"doomed" as it were to righting the wrongs of those who still were soulless.

Jack returned to school a short time later. He was not his usual self since he had this grand mal attack. I was shocked. Although his stature did not change his countenance had an almost child like quality, that of a scared child. He came to visit the costume shop and I asked the usual questions about his illness--the whats, wheres, whys and how comes. And then I just spat out,

" Does your obsession with immortality and vampires have anything to do with your epilepsy?"

He was quiet for a moment and then said,

"Holy Sh*t, Monica! Don't beat around the bush." I laughed because I knew I had hit the mark. Then he said, tapping my forehead with his finger, "Get out much?" I laughed again knowing this time he had hit the mark. I don't get out of my head much. I'm safe here inside my mind--I think.

We talked about my theory and the possible truths of it. "You're right, you know?" Jack said. "I will never have enough time in this body as it is now to finish all that I hope to start." I was struck by the sadness in his voice. It wasn't anger but regret for the things he'd never dare dream to do. "Ah, well. Die young and leave a beautiful corpse...or in my case a big corpse!"

"You really don't think that you'll live a long life?" I said.

"No, I won't make it to thirty-five" he replied. There it was. I could see it in his face. if by revelation, "I'll be lucky to see thirty." I was thirty-three at this time and could barely fathom what he was telling me, but I have never seen truth like the truth that I saw in his eyes that afternoon.

He went on to tell me that he felt as though his epilepsy was stealing his life one seizure at a time. Of course he was obsessed with being immortal--the stakes wouldn't be as great. As a vampire, strength and inhuman power would be on his side. He would be able to travel when and wherever he wanted, do whatever he wanted when he wanted without having to worry about the mind splitting pain that his gand mals inflicted. He wouldn't have to worry about taking his medications or being a guinea pig for the new meds that were supposed to rid his brain of the frequency of his seizures but always seemed to make them worse. I couldn't fault him. No one could. Looking at his scared and pain filled face that afternoon, I wished for his sake that he would have the opportunity at his immortal dream.

I left the University of Michigan-Flint in the spring of 2006, but I kept in constant contact with Jack. His friendship was one that I never wanted to lose. We always talked about religion and life after death and of course, vampires .

At the beginning of April 2007, Jack and I had a long conversation about his life and if I thought that he was good enough to go to heaven. He explained or rather confessed all he felt that he had done wrong in this world. He began to worry me a little with the manner of his questions and I asked him if everything was alright. As was usual, Jack said that everything was fine but that he'd been thinking a great deal about his family should something happen to him. He was worried about his little cousins but also his Mom. Although they hadn't always gotten along he worried that if he did die she would be devastated. Jack didn't want that but didn't know how he could stop it. I placated him with any answers I could think of but I knew it was in vain. I couldn't stop his Mother from grieving in her own way any more than Jack could.

And then Jack joked, "You know, if I was a vampire I could come back and appear to my Mom as a ghost. She probably would be less aggravating to my Dad if I did". It was funny to think of Jack doing this. Mostly it was funny because I imagined Jack "appearing" to his mother torn between his human promise to ease her grief and his new immortal thirst for blood. Should he concilate her or kill her and ease his father's pain instead? If you know Jack then you know how funny this image is...laugh it up, he would.

Two weeks later, while working for the Arizona Broadway Theatre, I received a phone call from Stevo Gilewicz. He told me that Jack had passed away from seizure related complications. Simply, he had gone to sleep and never woken up. I was shaking all over. My sobs were caught in my throat and everyone in the ABT costume shop stared at the strange guest designer who couldn't keep it together during a phone call. To put it mildly, I was a mess. I couldn't believe that he was gone--I had just talked to him. We had made plans to meet up that summer and catch up. Why now? I organized a phone tree and called everyone that I knew. When I was done I sat on the bathroom floor sobbing. And then I started laughing. I thought of Jack as a vampire standing in his mother's room fighting the urge to eat her for dinner so that he could deliver his last message to her, easing her grief all the while thinking it would have just been better to eat her!

We, who knew you Jack, miss you still...


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Vampirical Similarities

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Genesis 2:17
I was struck by some of the similarities that Twilight has to the Buffy series--not just the obvious--human girl falls for the tall, dark and brooding Vamp--but also, the tortured nature of those beings [Angel & Edward] that believes no matter how much good they do they will still go to hell because of the nature of their current circumstance.

Again, with the similarities to humans...Don't we all feel that no matter what we do it'll never be enough or make any difference?

I do. Yes, I am religious and believe in God and the existence of evil. So, I always fight the internal battle of will I be good enough to go to heaven? It is so easy to take the road of least resistance--to give into the "human" side of myself and act out instead of rising above and acting the way God would want me to. I'm not going to lie--I am hardly ever able to rise above my gut reactions and choose the better part but hey, at least I have a sense of humor as I do it. Alright, so that is no excuse. I should chose the better part and rise above.

So, what motivates us to do this? Some of my friends would say that for me it is a form of conditioning brought on by years of religious teachings. I might agree with that were it not for one small little problem...the years where I openly rejected those teachings and went on a self destructive rampage. I chose to go against all that my parents had taught me as a kind of experiment. I wanted to see if there was anything to be gained by this behavior. If acting in a manner less than what I was taught to do or be would somehow benefit or enlighten me in such a way that would make me happier.

It did not make me happier. However, I was enlightened. I found that I had different choices that I could make. Ones that I never dreamed of and ones that I never want to think of again. I lost my sense of innocence and that can never be replaced...but my eyes were opened to my vast possibilities. Discoveries were made but mostly I was given proof that the happiness that I searched for was hidden in those core principles of truth that my parents had always taught me. So now there are days where I ask myself, "Why did I choose to veer off a perfect path? Can I ever be forgiven? Is my soul lost?" And then I wake up. Of course I am not lost. I believe that as long as I continue to try--doing all that I can do--then I have a chance at God's grace in my life.

"The vampire who wanted to be good — who ran around saving people’s lives so he wouldn’t be a monster…"
Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 10, p.204

Again this statement from Bella draws a parallel to our own lives. If we run around trying to save ourselves and those we love and care about then we won't be monstrous to ourselves...we will be seen as caring, noble and wonderful in their eyes. It is the stuff that the proverbial "warm fuzzies" are made from, people! Losing yourself to find yourself. It gives us a feeling of being whole--we help complete peoples lives. As humans on this earth we travel in circles. Imagine that these circles we travel are similar to dropping a stone in a still pond--this represents your life. Then another stone is dropped in the pond a short distance from where your stone has been dropped. The ripples will eventually touch one another just like we touch others and blend into their lives. The ripples blend together becoming one indistinguishable from the other.

"If I was in hell, you wouldn’t be with me."
Bella Swan, New Moon, Chapter 23, p.503

Here is hope. A gift from Bella to Edward. This quote reminds me of someone who asked me if I believed in "hell". I told him that I didn't believe in the kind of hell that we see in paintings that depict demons, fire and brimstone. I believe in a hell where the hell is a mental regret of sorts. Personal hell. For example, knowing and having a perfect recollection of every moment in your life--good and bad--and being frustrated and regretful of those things that you didn't do and now can not change. Tortured by the positive change we could have made but chose not to. Everyone has regrets don't let them fool you--they choose to not acknowledge them. The only way to truly live without any regrets is to live the very best life you can--leaving a positive mark everywhere you go.

Edward? He doesn't really believe that he is going to hell either. He holds out a hope that he will find a heaven. His hope is revealed under the clock tower of Volturra when Bella slams into him, saving him from the Volturri wrath.

"You smell just exactly the same as always. So maybe this is hell. I don’t care. I’ll take it." Edward Cullen, New Moon, Chapter 20, p.452

Carlisle always tries to reassure his son that he will not go to hell. That his existence here is a different plane. That he still has choices and the ability to honor human life. Edward lives on the hope that Carlisle is right and chooses a better path. This hope allows him to love Bella unconditionally and in return she has given him another hope--that she will love him unconditionally as well.

So, we choose. We choose the path that we will follow and those choices will bring us closer to happiness or remove us from it. The choice is ours but we must choose. We can not be fence sitters because even if we are on the right path we will still be run over if we don't continue to move forward.


The Vampire Who Wanted to be Good...

The mythology of vampires is always thought to be dark, haunting and the stuff of our most terrifying nightmares. Not so in the Twilight series. Stephanie Meyer makes vampires--the Cullen family at least--inviting and open. They are almost made to appear more human than the humans at times. For example, Dr. Carlisle Cullen is a doctor, an odd choice for a vampire but as he explains in the series when a human is turned into a vampire, they will have an enhanced ability from their previous life. He believes he brought compassion [let's not forget will power and stellar good looks] from his human life. Carlisle has had centuries to perfect his abilities and medicinal talents--making him an excellent doctor. Unlike most vampires, he is not tempted by the scent of human blood, most likely due to the 300 years he has spent abstaining from this temptation.

Quick History:
Carlisle's father was an Anglican Pastor that hunted for witches, demons, vampires and werewolves during the 1640's, but his father never found any real creatures of this sort just humans he believed were" the creatures of Hell" and many died not being really guilty.

When his father became ill, Carlisle, assumed his father's positions and discovered a real coven of vampires. During the raid of the coven, he and his group tried to kill the vampires, but Carlisle is bitten. Although he is not dead, he knows what his father will have done with him--burned at the stake because of contamination--and so Carlisle crawls to a heap of potatoes and buries himself for three days while the transformation becomes complete. Knowing what he has become, Carlisle leaves with no intentions of coming back.

"I’m the world’s best predator, aren’t I? Everything about me invites you in — my voice, my face, even my smell. As if I need any of that!"
Edward Cullen, Twilight Chapter 13, p.263
So why make the vampires so inviting? So human? Why not? According to the series they are only separated from humans by two chromosomes. So why not show how similar vampires can be to humans?

When vampires who are nightmarish enter the scene then can't we see just how truly like humans they are--Can't humans be just evil? Nightmarish? Don't we have serial killers? People who murder for tiniest reason? [Don't believe me--I have a personal story there--another time perhaps?] It also draws a clear line, one that defines choice and free will. Look at this vampirical family that chooses to live a "vegetarian" lifestyle and see all the power and wonder that these beings hold but still have control of his/her choices. They choose to honor human life not take it and that makes them human as well as humane. It's the golden rule in its most basic form.

Are we not wondrous beings as well? And...Do we not have the same choices? Ones that can make us seem more or less human, but we may say that these characters are super-human or fictitious and their problems do not equate to ours. Fine. Believe that and choose to turn away from a belief that you are capable of achieving what you want to do.

Bella doesn't fall for Edward because she knows he's a vampire. She falls for him and is intrigued by not only him but his family because they are unique to her. A mystery that she needs to know more about. They lead, for vampires, extraordinary lives but they do not stand out in any special way other than just being a curious lot. A mystery that most people wouldn't bother exploring, but Bella isn't that ordinary either. She is discerning enough to know that Edward's agitated outward appearance is a facade to protect a deeper mystery. And so she searches...shouldn't this compel us to search out our own mysteries and find our own answers?

" I wasn’t interesting. And he was. Interesting… and brilliant… and mysterious… and perfect… and beautiful… and possibly able to lift full-sized vans with one hand." Bella Swam Twilight, Chapter 4, p.79

We are all unique and can be just as mysterious--maybe not to ourselves but to others or someone. Find your path; find yourselves; find your dreams because you are the only ones who can fulfill them.



I mean, really, who wouldn't like the Cullens--or at least be envious of them--they look like freakin' models for Ralph Lauren!

Friday, January 02, 2009


OK, OK, so I resisted the Twilight Saga for a very long time...

But then a friend got me interested by simply bringing the first book to my house. I resisted for 3 more weeks...then after a small argument with my husband, I decided to read a book.

Most of what's on my shelves I have read a number of times. So the only thing new was Stephanie Meyer's Twilight. I was determined to dislike it. I say that I was determined, however, it didn't work. So much for my stalwart resolve! By the next morning I was more than half through with the book and continued to read voraciously every spare chance I had...what the heck was wrong with me? I am a thirty-something woman not some wide-eyed teenage girl falling hopelessly in love with a fictional hero character. What was this attraction? It was "like my own personal brand of heroin". Sick--I know, but I couldn't stop. With less than 100 pages left to read, I went to see the movie. Not the greatest in cinematographic history but fun nevertheless. Have I mentioned the theater was filled with girls ages 12 to 18 years old? And...that this wasn't their first or even third time seeing it? [Lest you forget that I am an adult...anyhoo] Let us just hope if the next movie gets made that the continuity secretary is on top of his/her game. [Example: Edward says he doesn't have contacts, but in a flashback we can clearly see the ridge of a contact...but I digress.]

So why are these books so appealing? For me it is the way Ms. Meyer has carefully woven--and even sometimes blatantly woven--themes of good vs. evil; self vs. self; truth vs. myth; and conditional love vs. unconditional love. All lines are blurred there are no definitives. Ms. Meyer makes this clear with the character, Alice, and her visions of the future. Alice's visions are subject to change based on the free will of the individual. Funny that...because so are our futures...

More on this Twilight Saga to come...