Charleston is a funny place – literally.

large214

Charleston is a funny place!

You may remember – because I went on and on about it a few months ago – that my play Never Living had a staged reading at 5th Wall Productions in the western part of the Ashley in what we in the Lowcountry like to call Charleston, SC. You may also remember that I humble-bragged how great the experience was because the cast and director were perfect, blah, blah, blah.

In this case, the blah, blah, blah is skipping over even more effusive and mushy praise that is all 100% true, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about the actor who read the part of Ned Smiley, Deshawn Mason. My wife and I chatted with him after the reading, and it turns out in addition to being an actor, he’s also a stand-up comedian. He informed us that he was in a comedy festival competition and invited us to come to the show. I was, of course, petrified. I have a terrible poker face, and if I see him perform, and he’s not funny, I won’t be able to fake my way through phony accolades.

But he had done so well with the reading, and he’s such a personable kid, we decided we owed him the courtesy of watching him perform his art. In short, we went with the intentions of supporting a new friend, but we had somewhat muted expectations. Comedians are hard to find in huge metropolitan areas, one would think the odds are greatly diminished in a community the size of Charleston. We walked into Theatre 99 and committed ourselves to watching 10 comedians perform their best six minutes of material. To borrow a Mitch Hedberg sentiment, we were either going to hate it or love it – or feel so-so about it.

Much to our relief, the first comedian took the stage, and he was actually funny. I mean really funny. The second comedian took the stage, and the same thing. And then – DeShawn. Well, I’m a little embarrassed to have to admit that I had nothing to worry about. The kid was funny as hell. He knocked it out of the park, and it was such a relief. My ineffectual poker face could take the night off.

The comedians that followed delivered, too. There was zero bad material. Every comedian provided a lot of laughs.  There were a few that just needed a little more stage work, but that will come. They all clearly know comedy.

Deshawn (2nd place), Jeremy McLellan (1st place), and Nick Alexander (3rd place) made it to the next round in the competition. They will be performing in December with the three comedians selected from tonight’s performance. If you’re in Charleston, I highly recommend you get your tickets for this evening’s round of the festival competition. If it’s anything like last night, it will be full of laughs.

I’ve spent my day what-if’ing.

I’ve completed the first “flesh-out” of 40 chapters in my adventures of outlining, meaning I’ve added on average a 70-word description for each of the first 40 chapters in the second Pearl of Justice Mystery.  I only have 61 chapters to go.  The awkwardly worded, one line per chapter outline has been a huge help in speeding up the process. The next iteration of the outline should be even easier to create. I’ve never created an outline from nothing before. I’ve written 40 pages of a book and then outlined from there, but to create an outline from the storytelling ether with no baseline to work from is much more exhilarating than I had imagined. I’ve spent my entire day so far asking myself “What if?” And I can think of no better way to spend my time.

I took a lunch break and watched the documentary Chaos on the Bridge by William Shatner. It’s about, of all things, the making of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apparently, it was an epic challenge because of one person, Gene Roddenberry. He put a lot of constraints on the cast and crew, in particular the writers. Thirty members of the writing staff quit the first year of the show! He wanted them to do the impossible, he didn’t want the Enterprise to have any conflict among the crew. It was to be presented as a Utopian paradise. It’s a maddening thing to ask writers to do. Conflict is at the core of character development. I highly recommend the doc to all, but in particular I think writers should watch it. I was enthralled.

Stay classy, Murica – or at the very least, stay American.

I’m staying off Facebook today because I’ve got tons of work that requires my brain firing on all cylinders, and sometimes Facebook makes my brain shutdown. This post will automatically post, but other than that, I can’t Facebook for now because, frankly, it’s heartbreaking. A tragedy always makes Facebook an emotionally draining venue, but this time around it’s intensified because I’ve seen so many jettison the basic ideals by which they claim to live.

I don’t know the Shaun King featured below (I know the guy who played QB for Tulane and Tampa), but I appreciate his commitment to his principles.As we’ve seen, fear can make you abandon your beliefs in very short order.

12244748_947616468610605_6579571027108114032_o

It’s telling that Ted Cruz wouldn’t even pass this basic Christianity test when he is proposing such a test for the Syrian refugees. I’m torn because if this test would result in removing Cruz from our country, I want to support it, but in the end, I have to stand by my principles that a “religious” test is grotesquely un-American.

As I’ve stated on many occasions, I am not Christian. I follow no religion. I’m sure I would not pass Cruz’s test, nor, in all candor, would I pass the test above. The difference between Cruz and me is that I think the Christian doctrine Mr. King has outlined is worth honoring, not denouncing.

BTW – We can take care of our Veterans and the homeless and 10,000 refugees. To suggest otherwise, is a politically motivated stance. It’s time we make a humanitarian stance and help those in need, period.

Friends are friends, and I won’t end a relationship just because I think they are wrong, but by God, they are going to know exactly how I feel. Innocent people are in tremendous peril, and we should lead by giving them a safe haven because it’s the right thing to do.

Pearl of Justice Update

So, diving into the second Pearl of Justice Mystery before the first one is completed has turned out to be a very edifying experience. It is a stand alone story, but there are a few bridge elements from book to book. The first draft of the outline for book two is done. It maps out 101 chapters in very minimal detail. It spans three pages, and the notes on each chapter amount to disjointed sentences that mean very little to anyone else but me. Basically I said, “This should happen here” 101 times.

face 2a

I have the bones. The next step is to add some meat to the bones. I’ll start with a 50 word breakdown of each chapter and then follow that up with about a 200 word breakdown of each chapter. By the time this thing is done, I’ll just plug in some dialogue and BAM! Detective Dani Pearl is taking down backwoods crackers once again.

The release date for the first book – currently titled The Deputy – is July, 2016.

 

Without Courage or Compassion, Y’all

_82017055_fullsizerender

This is a Syrian child. She’s just spotted a cameraman. Mistaking his camera for a gun, she puts her hands up hoping she won’t be shot. Southern governors in America will not give her shelter.

Without Courage or Compassion. That is the American South I woke up in this morning. A certain segment of this country’s political ilk has turned away from Syrian refugees and declared them less than because they are Muslim. Red state governors, with overwhelming support from their constituents, have banned these people running from famine and war from finding shelter within their states’ borders. These children of God have no country and apparently no worth. I am ashamed to say my Southern brethren have chosen ignorance and fear over courage and compassion. This Jesus they pray to, this Middle Eastern man they call their savior, this Son of God whose family was once denied refuge, He is a stranger to them.  We in the South once again find ourselves on the wrong side of history. Unfortunately, that is our heritage.

I’m aware governors outside of the South have made the same decision, but I’m speaking as a Southern American today. Not one Southern governor has made the compassionate or courageous choice. That is a great source of shame for every Southerner. We are led by cowards.

Into the Badlands

I honestly didn’t plan to watch Into the Badlands last night, but they suckered me in by making The Walking Dead the lead-in, and I was further foiled by my habit of losing the remote. The universe conspired against me. I was forced by my lack of desire to get off the couch to watch Into the Badlands, and I’m glad I was. It was incredibly entertaining. It was Kill Bill with a twist of post-apocalyptic fantasy. I dub AMC the king of original programming. They are constantly knocking it out of the park.

Religion Is the Problem

War is not the answer

War is not the answer

If that headline offends you, it should. It’s ridiculous to make such a blanket statement. Religion didn’t attack Paris. Islam didn’t attack Paris. A fringe group of religious fanatics attacked Paris. Muslim extremists attacked Paris. To blame it on every religion is as irresponsible as blaming it on all Muslims. Being that culturally reductive and simple minded is dangerous because painting with such broad strokes is in and of itself extremism, and it can lead to a thirst for misplaced retribution. Historically, the death of both innocence and innocents is the cost of such ignorance, and we are left with a growing horde of terrorists. In essence, we are caught in a continuing cycle of inhumanity.

This is the time for nonbelievers, believers, Christians, Muslims, Jews, people of every faith to come together and refuse to give in to the hatred. Religion is not the problem. Muslims are not the problem. Peace is the answer.