Picard Prep: Know the Score

A fantasy concert for a crew member of the Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” season one episode “Where No One Has Gone Before.”

A fantasy concert for a crew member of the Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” season one episode “Where No One Has Gone Before.”

Captain’s Blog: Stardate 91419.5

“Encounter at Farpoint,” the series premiere for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was the only “Star Trek” pilot to debut without a typical television “teaser.” The episode dove right into the main title opening sequence. The music here would define a generation of “Star Trek” and continue a legacy of orchestral themes that continues today.

This is the opening credits for Star Trek TNG Season 1. It is cut, without re-encoding, from the Blu-Ray pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint".

The first four notes, and subsequent lead-in, of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” opening theme are lifted and re-orchestrated from the “Star Trek” original series theme by Alexander Courage. They suggest an anticipation and sense of wonder that lead us into this vast galaxy of “strange new worlds…” On my first viewing, I was instantly enchanted by this palpable energy.

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission to explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” These are the first words we hear spoken by the captain of the Enterprise, who we know from the trailer is Captain Jean-Luc Picard. His voice matches the sense of anticipation that we feel in the swelling music. He brings an instant sense of depth, wonder, and power in his rich and tempered phrasing. 

Like so many then and now, I could sit and listen to Patrick Stewart read from Wikipedia, but the authority in his voice to my younger self was very enticing.

It was heavily noted in reviews and by fans that the language was changed from the original, both to allow for an “ongoing” mission as opposed to a five-year mission, and exchanging the phrase “no man” for “no one” to be more gender inclusive. Public opinion on this issue ranged from praising the changes to people irritated by making alterations to a classic. I, for one, appreciate the inclusivity.

As Courage’s intro swells, we are introduced to the new Enterprise, what we will learn is the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D (the D being the adjusted call sign to indicate the fifth official ship to bear the name and call numbers). It is a majestic vessel with sleek lines, a more oval saucer than it’s predecessors, and as I watched for the very first time I was instantly enamored by this ship’s elegance.

As the Enterprise takes off at warp speed, the music transitions into another familiar score. Although there was an original opening credit sequence scored for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” by Dennis McCarthy, the decision was made to use the music written by Jerry Goldsmith for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Believe it or not, I would (and still do) watch the opening credits with wonder and joy. Like a familiar prayer or national anthem, this music fills me with a sense of confidence, pride, strength, and hope.

An alternate main theme TNG composed by Dennis McCarthy with lead-in by Alexander Courage.

Music for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” would play a very important role in the storytelling for the first five years of the new series. Gene Roddenberry and his team wanted the show to have a cinematic feeling, so to that end, they wanted original music written and scored for each episode and recorded by a full orchestra. While this lead to some beautiful moments, it did prove costly as well. When Rick Berman was looking to expand the franchise around 1992, he made the decision to adjust the music to a more stock selection, to allow the budgets to facilitate two series running simultaneously and the development of two more down the line. 

Nevertheless, for five great seasons there was a lot of original music written by Ron Jones, Jay Chattaway, and Dennis McCarthy. There are well over a dozen albums representing this fine music available for purchase in iTunes.

I would learn about the unused alternate theme the following summer when the soundtrack to “Star Trek: The Next Generation ‘Encounter at Farpoint’” was released on cassette tape. Incidentally, the opening credits for “The Orville,” an homage to ‘90s “Star Trek” by superfan creator Seth McFarlane, have a very similar feeling to this alternate opening. “The Orville” opening theme was written by Bruce Broughton.

Watch ALL “Star Trek” series at cbs.com

Learn more about “Star Trek” at startrek.com

Watch “The Orville” at hulu.com

This blog is not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with CBS Studios Inc. or the Star Trek franchise. All STAR TREK trademarks and logos are owned by CBS Studios Inc.

Picard Prep: Save the Date

“Picard” Prep
Save the Date
September 26, 2019

Publicity photo for season one of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

Publicity photo for season one of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

Captain's Blog: Stardate 90819.4

A typical weekend for me as a child would be sitting on our enclosed porch with my father. He’d be watching television after a long work week, be it the Master’s Tournament or a Bruce Lee marathon, and I’d be playing with my action figures or coloring. 

Come to think of it, many of my habits still have not changed. 

Among the programs he’d watch were the reruns of “Star Trek,” what is now referred to as “Star Trek: The Original Series.” There, in primary colors, were Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov hurtling through space getting into adventures here and there that ranged from the serious to the downright silly.

Most of what my father watched went in one eye and out the other, and “Star Trek” was no exception. Very often, if my father wanted me to watch or do something, I would hem and haw and either refuse or do so begrudgingly until I was allowed to stop. (RE: Gardening)

So naturally, when he suggested I sit down with him to watch the premiere of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” I was skeptical and annoyed. Now, my family have what we call a “no thank you portion” requirement for new things. This usually applies to food, wherein I cannot say I do not like something unless I’ve tried it. Once I have, I am allowed to refuse more. And yes, I am using present tense because the rule is very much still in effect.

Under this edict, I was pressed into watching this pilot episode, with the understanding that I would not be expected to watch more unless I wanted to. Suffice it to say, I’ve been watching ever since. 

Fast forward to today, and the news that “Star Trek: Picard” just wrapped filming season one for an early 2020 release on CBS All Access, and I cannot adequately express my excitement. In anticipation of this new series, I have been inspired to take a deeper look at each and every episode that I think I know so well, try to remember what I thought then, see what I think now, and list some great quotes and life lessons along the way. Think of it as my answer to “Julie and Julia.” 

I plan to cover every episode and film, with maybe a few surprises along the way, until the new series premieres. I’ll then turn my focus around to see how the show effects me now, and what I think younger me would think of the current state of “Star Trek.” I invite you to follow along. My blog series will launch on the 32nd anniversary of the release of the TNG pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” September 26, 2019.

“Let’s see what’s out there.”

The trailer for the original pilot of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

The trailer for the upcoming series “Star Trek: Picard”

Watch ALL “Star Trek” series at cbs.com

Learn more about “Star Trek” at startrek.com

This blog is not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with CBS Studios Inc. or the Star Trek franchise. All STAR TREK trademarks and logos are owned by CBS Studios Inc.

The Strength of a Sapling

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 52519.3

Many years ago, a young boy brought home a tiny maple sapling. It was a gift from his third grade teacher. Brimming with excitement, he was thrilled to have found the solution to his Mom’s sadness. Just a few short months before, an amazing and long-lived elm tree, placed squarely in this family’s front lawn, had fallen victim to Dutch Elm Disease, a sickness that worked it’s way through most of the elm trees in their town. The boy’s mother and father were devastated to lose, not only the beautiful tree, but the cool shade it brought to the entire house.

With a quick step, he arrived home and shared the wonderful news that soon, there would be a new great tree in the front yard. Problem solved.

As she looked at this struggling sapling, the boy’s mother grew more disappointed instead of less. How could she plant this tree, more like a cutting or a twig, in the front lawn of all places? This silly, weak, wisp of a thing might never grow. It would just whither away in view of the entire neighborhood, and when it died, she would have to console her son while the neighbors all watched. Her answer was no.

The boy was devastated. Even if he understood (or, at least accepted) why his parents didn’t want to plant the tree in the front yard, the tree still had to go somewhere. “It’s probably just going to die” was not a good enough reason not to plant it.

“What about in the backyard?” Well, his father had worked so hard to tailor and trim the backyard and its gardens just the way he wanted so there wasn’t really “any place” for a new tree. His answer was no.

“I have to plant it somewhere,” said the boy. 

The backyard ended at a small, wooden fence that split the south wall of the garage. Behind it, there was a small patch of land that had no real function or purpose. It was away from the alley by a bit, had some weeds and crab grass popping up here and there, but was otherwise a pretty useless spot. “You can plant it here,” his parents said.

So, the boy and his parents followed the instructions sent home by his third grade teacher, and planted the small, tender sapling into the hard, barren patch of earth that was out of view to the neighbors, the house, and virtually everyone else. He would come by and check on the tree all summer when he went out to play. 

Despite all expectations to the contrary, the tree survived. By the time the boy moved away to college, the tree was as tall or taller than the garage. Now it was his mother and father who visited the tree, reminded every day of their son.

As his life progressed, their son moved further and the tree grew larger. It grew so tall, in fact, that its branches started to get tangled into the power cables. One day, the boy’s mother came home to find workmen from Commonwealth Edison aggressively chopping away at the maple’s branches. Enraged, she shouted at them and made it very clear every year that followed that they were not to harm this beautiful tree. Her son planted it there, and it is perfect and special. 

Despite her best efforts, ComEd has continued to break, trim, and damage branches of this tree throughout the years. It may not live in the perfect spot. Strangers may continue to limit where it spreads its branches. It may not be seen by many people. Nevertheless, this tree stands tall, strong, and beautiful.

* * *

Most of the time when I go home to visit my folks, it’s fall, winter, or early spring. I don’t often get to see my tree with lush, green leaves. However, I recently took a trip home to see my family and caught this lovely picture of My Maple and it was beautiful and breathtaking. 

Today is the [redacted] anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah, and I am reflecting on where I am today. I live in Los Angeles, which I have done for only two months. I am juggling three jobs. I miss my parents, my boyfriend, and my non-LA friends every day. I still haven’t really found a set up for my room that makes me happy and feels like it has the right flow. In fact, I often feel my energy bottom out when I get home from work…though that may have something to do with waking up at 3:30 most mornings.

My new home, much like my tree’s, is off the beaten path. It’s on a literal one block offshoot of a street that feels hidden from the neighborhood. Our house is the third in a row, up a hill, even further from said “beaten path.” And much like my tree the day it came home, this move has no guarantee of success.

Still, with all of that said, I am planted. I have a space where I can stretch my branches and continue to grow. It may not look like what I though it would when I was young. It may have challenges I did not expect that are beyond my control. But there is room here. There is nourishment. Though my loved ones are far away, they give me the unwavering strength and support I need to keep going.

There is time enough now to bloom.

Pumpkin Spice Challenge

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 012519.9

“He who controls the spice, controls the universe!” - Baron Harkonnen, Dune


There is a sickness within my soul. A dim, rust colored vice that infuses my very being. This cloying yet fiery contradiction calls from within my subconscious, pleading with me to embrace it on a very basic level. It is the pumpkin spice.

It is fair to say that this Friday did not go the way I had intended. After doing some research this morning, and signing up for a few interesting looking workshops through the SAG-AFTRA website, I set out to run a handful of simple errands near where, theoretically, eleven boxes containing a significant amount of my personal belonging were to be delivered. My night was supposed to be filled with unpacking, clothes hanging, item sorting, and a little nostalgic weeping as I build my new, open ended home here in LA.

However, by 4:30 pm as I was tracking my boxes, the FedEx website said that the business they were being delivered to was closed and/or that the person to whom they were supposed to be delivered was not there. I know, quantifiably, that this was false. I also know that, despite being given a phone number with the shipping information, that number was not called. Whatever happened, the website claimed they would try again on the next business day, which is Monday.

I will let you know how my conversation goes with FedEx tomorrow as they try to explain to me why they shouldn’t give me some sort of rebate given the failed service, but that’s a blog for a different day.

When I got back home, winded and left with nothing to do, my first impulse was to eat something. I’ve been “mostly” off sugar for three days, with my last hurrah being a box of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios that my roommate bought me as a welcome home gift. I’ve been rationing it to last the week, having one small bowl a day with unsweetened coconut milk. My emotions erratic, and my free time now boundless, I demolished three consecutive bowls. Defeated, I discarded the now depleted box.

Thumbs twiddled. A puppy was played with. Parents and boyfriends had long conversations. Seconds crawled by as I looked about my empty room. Suddenly, a rumble echoed through my intestines. I was hungry again.

Now, as I grocery shopped this week I had two main objectives: minimize wasted food (primarily produce) and eliminate ALL processed sugars from my purchases. I have been extremely proud that I have not only cooked and/or consumed all the food I bought, save two yellow squashes, but I have already gone through my usual and expected sugar withdrawal symptoms. 

But tonight, I heard the call from across the street. The surprisingly scrumptious 7-Eleven pumpkin spice ice cream whispered to me. Filled with the processed sugar and dairy I have been instructed to avoid for my better health, mixed with non-gluten-free graham crackers and other goodies into a creamy pint of heaven. I’ve had it before. But tonight, I craved it.


“You’re not REALLY starting your sugar purge until next week.”

“You’ve already had pumpkin spice today…what would be the harm now?”

“You’ve had a shitty day. You deserve this ice cream.”


The argument being made by my sweet tooth was pretty convincing. I had my shoes, my sweater, and my keys all ready to go.

But then I remembered something else. I remembered how I feel, inside, when I stray from a dietary goal like this one. Not only are there the physical discomforts that come with indulging in these kinds of treats, which can include gas, bloating and abdominal pain, but there are also the emotional ones. The feeling of failure for not sticking to something as “simple” as eating the groceries I’ve bought. Feeling setback that much further by the extra calories. Knowing that my desire to eat this ice cream was coming from a place of frustration and boredom. This was not a special dessert shared with a lover on Valentine’s Day. This wasn’t a birthday surprise. This was about to be a pint of feelings, clocking in at around 800 calories, that would bring with it a slew of negativity.

Slowly, I kicked my boots back off and trundled into the kitchen. In just a few quick moves, a serving of this week’s chili (which is actually quite good) was heating on the stove. I topped it with a generous spoonful of goat cheese. As I write this I am full and sated by this fully sanctioned, highly nutritious, and extremely tasty healthy meal.

Despite the siren call of my paramour pumpkin spice, I avoided the temptation and remained true to my directive for another day.

I survived the Pumpkin Spice Challenge.

Residual

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate - 010218.4

residual

[ri-zij-oo-uhl]
adjective

1.       pertaining to or constituting a residue or remainder; remaining; leftover.

2.       Mathematics .

a.       formed by the subtraction of one quantity from another:
a residual quantity.

b.       (of a set) having complement of first category.

3.       of or relating to the payment of residuals.

I got a lovely Facebook message today from someone I hadn’t heard from in quite some time. With the recent activity regarding the new American Idol promo that dropped New Year’s Eve, I was surprised and thrilled to hear that he was reaching out because he saw me on something else: Chicago PD at the gym on USA.

In 2017, I shot my very first network television speaking role. I was “Hotel Manager Number Two,” a slightly uptight fellow I named Douglas. My brief scene was with the ever-charming John Cena and the delightful Tracy Spiridakos. I had called them to report some suspicious activity and I led them to the hotel room of the person of interest.

I was on set that day for about four hours, had my own partial trailer, a beautiful suit and an expensive pair of brand-new shoes. There was a star on my door.

Actual shooting time was probably twenty minutes. We did a rehearsal before lunch and then shot shortly after. For lunch we had salad in a jar, which I would try putting into practice in my own life down the line. We did a handful of takes and everyone involved made the whole experience quick, easy, and very pleasant. I remember leaving set that day feeling incredible.

That feeling came back the night we watched the episode at a friend’s place. I remember feeling just so excited, so proud to see myself on screen. My names was in the closing credits. It was just great.

In our business, once an episode going into reruns and syndication, you start to receive additional checks for your work called “residuals.” There is some mathematical equation that calculates these over time. For some folks, years and years later, they will still receive a check for a project.

But to me, getting that message from my friend today, there is definitely something else “residual” about this experience that is multi-layered. For starters, the reminder of this day on set made me smile. A lot. Left in me from that day is the clear memory of that experience. It’s one of my fonder work memories of my career so far.

But there is something else that is “leftover” from that experience. I am now permanently a part of the amazing universe of television created by Dick Wolf. Fans of this show will see me and maybe even remember me from the last time they saw that episode. Friends of mine may see me on their screens at the gym for years to come.

I am a re-watcher. I have seen episodes of Star Trek, Buffy, and Charmed (among others) countless times.  There are actors who play guest or co-starring roles I don’t believe I’ve seen in any other series. But I recognize them. There is a permanence to film that is very attractive to me. I like the idea that, even when we go, a sample of our work is left behind. In its own way residual. There’s something in that I find oddly comforting. And for the re-watchers of Chicago PD, I am part of making that world come to life for them.

Every Stars Journey Starts Somewhere

Captain’s Blog: Stardate - 010119.1

The three of us sat gabbing on the sofa, waiting for the beautiful ball of Swarovski crystal to drop on Times Square, catching up on the months it had been since we saw our good friend. Work, travel, and simple timing had kept us from seeing each other since maybe even the end of August. Around 15 minutes to NYC midnight, I excused myself to take a call from my Mom.

“We saw you! It just aired.”

This fall I made the move to LA. I left both of the desk jobs I had in Chicago, one of which I had for almost ten years. Both were good jobs that, despite getting to know Chicago’s brown line REALLY well, were pretty easy to maintain. I was grateful to have the work and the flexibility to pursue acting in my home town.

The decision to leave Chicago was a difficult one to make. It came with a lot of unknowns, and it can be hard, especially for a person outside of the business, to know what kind of metrics to use to measure success. I did my best to explain my strategy to my family, knowing that there would be some fear and skepticism along the way.

My first few months in LA I explored several different avenues. I took a number of workshops through my union and through The Actor’s Fund to meet people in the business and try to get the “inside scoop” into my new market. I followed up on leads and took lunches with Chicago ex-pats, and I explored SAG-AFTRA background work.

Working background the first couple of months in LA was an incredible experience for me because I learned a number of really wonderful things. I’m no stranger to being on sets in Chicago, but I wanted to nose around on sets in Hollywood and get a read on the flow of the business out here. 

I walked onto the Paramount Studios lot feeling ready for my close up, Mr. deMille! Knowing that I was walking on the hallowed ground where some of my favorite stars had walked while on my way to work was just an exhilarating feeling. I know I was not going their to speak on film (yet) but it was still electric. 

My final gig before coming back to Chicago for the holidays was on an “American Idol” promo. The shoot was fun, and I was fortunate enough to be upgraded to principal along the way. This had happened to me before and is one of the fun surprises that can come from this kind of work. 

I came home for Thanksgiving with stories of celebrity set sightings, early morning drives through the valley, and revealing that I would come home after a twelve hour work day and be tired, but no where near as exhausted as I could be from even a four hour shift at a desk job. Still, I was still not convinced that my move made sense to everyone in my life. Fast forward to New Year’s Eve.

“We saw you! It just aired.” There was excitement. There was joy. There was pride. No matter how many LEDs were glowing in Times Square, I felt certain that the lightbulb I needed to beam had finally illuminated.

As the promo says…every star’s journey starts somewhere. 


Listen to Your Heart

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Captain's Blog: Stardate 123118.3

I laid on my left side. The cotton hospital gown fell open and chilly blue goo was dripping down my chest. A few feet away I watched with fascination as the valves of my heart popped open and closed with a regular pattern of “floop-floop.” They were like tiny little pinball flippers. Depending on the setting, blue and red lights flashed within the components of my heart indicating the direction of blood flow. To me, this was like watching electricity dance. I was mesmerized. 

The woman conducting my echocardiogram joked that the specialists often have to fight each other to look at a heart so young. She told me it was beautiful, which I found oddly flattering despite it simply being a view of a healthy heart. This echo and EKG were preventative measures to establish a baseline, assuage any fears my hypochondria have cooked up in 2018,  and give us all some peace of mind. Being adopted, I have no real medical history to know about heart disease or any other pre-dispositions.

Along the way this morning, I met several other characters, including a receptionist with an incredible bass voice, a mother of two college kids, a doctor working on call for the new years, and wishes for a less stressful 2019 for all involved. 

As I look back on the year I find myself trying to listen to my heart. Where have I been? Where am I going? Where are we all headed? Will my loved ones be okay? What’s next?

This has been a volatile year for the nation and the world, but also for me personally. There were milestone birthdays, major life changes, new jobs, old friends, amazing progress and tragic losses. It is a year that in many ways is ending on a note of uncertainty.

There is a storm today that is dumping rain on nearly half the country. Out our window, I can barely see the buildings across the street. The lake itself has vanished. From a certain vantage point, the living room window is nothing but a blank slate. Much like the coming year. 

Like many, I have goals, plans, and strategies to be more productive, successful, and happy in the coming year. If I have to pick a single “resolution” however, it is to practice mindfulness whenever possible. Be present in the moment. The future will come whether we want it to or not. Change is the only true constant in life. Rather than worrying what’s to come next, I hope I can spend more time taking a moment to breathe. I want to release the thoughts that are constantly pecking away at me, causing stress and anxiety and doubt.

My new year’s resolution is to take time every day to pause, breathe, and just listen to my heart.

Songs Of Love and Cheesecake

Post-college road trip to Las Vegas to find an apartment and postpone adulting for a while.

Post-college road trip to Las Vegas to find an apartment and postpone adulting for a while.

Captain’s Blog: Stardate 120918.9

Wesley: “I miss her. I feel empty.”

Guinan: “I know that sensation. But there’ll come a time when all you remember is the love.”

- Star Trek: The Next Generation

When we started dating in college, it was the middle of our senior year. The truth of our adulthood was looming heavy on our actions and our love. Not to mention, a steady diet of Olive Garden cheesecake, because when you’re in your 20s, you can handle that.

Our decision about being grown ups was to defer the responsibility and dive head first into graduate school in Las Vegas. Six of us total from our graduating class made UNLV our next stop on the road to maturity. 

One of my best memories is when four of us drove non-stop to Vegas shortly after graduation to check things out and find a place to live. After a campus tour, the group said we didn’t have time to stop by the “Star Trek: The Experience.” I was bummed, of course, but knew that I’d have plenty of time to stop there later. And then he and our fellow travelers took us there anyway. I saw Klingons and Ferengi standing at the door and I wept.

Before our move was official, we spent the summer in Lincoln, New Hampshire. I booked a summer stock gig out there and my boyfriend and my college roommate decided to come along. So, instead of me living with the company in provided housing, the three of us rented a studio hotel room in a place that made “The Shining” hotel seem open and inviting. My roommate worked at the hotel welcoming people on horse tours, my boyfriend got a job in the box office, and I rehearsed “Anything Goes,” “She Loves Me,” and “West Side Story” with an incredibly talented group people. One of those folks would end up in the original Broadway cast of “Book of Mormon.”

When we got to Vegas that fall, we adopted my first pet together; a beautiful grey cat most of you have heard me talk about at least once or twice. We weren’t entirely sure what the sex was of the kitten, so we made a deal. If the cat was male, he would be named Tamino from “The Magic Flute.” If the cat was female, B’Elanna from “Star Trek: Voyager.” B’Elanna it was. Though he and I would break up a year or so later, that cat changed my life and was with me for fifteen years.

The UNLV experience was not great, but there were some good memories. Working on the new opera “Shining Brow,” which got cancelled because there was no orchestra…but, not before I had the chance to correct the music director on the correct way to say “Cheney.” Working on “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” which got cancelled…but not before we changed the lyrics from “and one of them is black” to “and one of them is tall,” because, well, my boyfriend was not black. But he was tall. We did do one opera that year, “The Marriage of Figaro,” I think…but I can’t remember anything about it. 

OH! There was the Halloween party that wasn’t! See, in college, my roommate and I threw amazing Halloween parties! Like…the best! So, she and I decided to continue that tradition in Vegas. The five of us (one had already left) even had a theme: Disney villains. My roommate was Cruella deVille, I was Hades, my boyfriend, who was already 6’3”, was Maleficent. The horns we built must have added at least another 7-8 inches. Unfortunately, we hadn’t really made any friends yet, so the five of us went to a club instead and Maleficent was definitely the hit of the dance floor.

All but one of us moved out of Vegas the following spring. While we were all selecting our next steps, he and I auditioned at the University of Colorado, Boulder. We were there overnight, and it was during that trip we saw the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode of “The Body” where, spoiler alert, Buffy’s mom dies and the whole team has to face the truth of a devastating loss. We sat there and sobbed together.

September 11, 2001. He and I were just settling into our new apartment in downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin Avenue. Classes had started at the University of Minnesota. We hadn't really even made any friends yet, so we sat there together. Stunned. Devastated. Alone.

We developed a love of Domino’s Pizza that was almost unnatural, made much easier by the ridiculously cheap deal they had for pick up. The Domino’s was literally across from our building, so this was an easy habit to establish. Finally, we decided that we had to limit our pizza consumption to once a month. When it came time for our next pizza a month later, Bob the manager was so relieved that we were okay. He had gotten worried that he hadn’t heard from us in a while. 

We broke up the following spring, and it wasn’t long after that he met the man he would share the rest of his life with. I did not, though I had another amazing six years in Minnesota filled with music, love, and adventure before moving back to Chicago. 

There was not a ton of connection with my ex-boyfriend after we broke up. Which I suppose is part of that process. But I learned a few tidbits along the way. He became a licensed psychologist. He moved to New York and Texas. He and his husband were married by none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This past year he was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer. They found it rather unexpectedly while investigating what seemed to be an unrelated pain. What followed was a hard-fought, brave battle with this monster of a disease. I read on his Facebook today that the most recent treatment has failed and he has decided not to pursue another round of chemotherapy. My ex, Rush Williams, is now being moved into hospice care. 

Earlier this year, as I made public my impending move to Los Angeles, he wrote.”Shaun, I'm really proud of you; not because you're moving to LA, but because as long as I've known you, you have always followed your heart. I hope this next chapter brings you all the happiness and goodness you so richly deserve.” Even though I’m a writer, I found myself unsure of what to say. I was overwhelmed. I still am. To take the time to send such a beautiful message with everything he was going through moved me deeply. But I didn’t know what to say.

Rush, I am really proud of you. The life you built with Michael has clearly been full of joy, of passion, of music, and of great care. Care of each other, care of family, and care of those around you. I am proud of how you have faced this challenging battle with bravery and with optimism every step of the way. I remember the love. I remember the cheesecake. I am thankful that Michael and your family have all been with you to give you strength and support. I am thankful that your life has been filled with love, and that we got to share some of that love along the way. I send you love and light as you face this next step. 

REVIEW: "Charmed" Episode Four - "Exorcise Your Demons" (Contains Spoilers)

Sarah Jeffrey (Maggie), Madeleine Mantock (Macy), and Melonie Diaz (Mel) - The Vera Sisters

Sarah Jeffrey (Maggie), Madeleine Mantock (Macy), and Melonie Diaz (Mel) - The Vera Sisters

Captain’s Blog: Stardate 110718.2

Full disclosure: This review is written by a caucasian, cis-male, gay/queer Jew. I continue to work on my awareness of my privilege and always welcome a new perspective. In other words, please call me on my shit if I mis-step, because I am always trying to listen, learn, and do better.

Sunday night, the fourth of episode of “Charmed” debuted on the CW. On the surface, the story was fairly innocuous and simple. However, the deeper you look at this episode, you realize that there is a cultural subversion lacing this series that speaks to some of the deeper issues of our day. In these forty minutes, they touched on concerns of white feminism excluding women of color, systemic racism, and cultural erasure, while tossing in fear of police violence against people of color, fear of coming forward with accusations of sexual violence, and gender imbalance in the workforce for good measure. 

All of this was present in this forty minute episode, but none of it was so overt that it seemed preachy, forced, or distracting. In fact, if you weren’t looking for it, you might have missed it. But it was clear to me that there were deliberate choices at play every step of the way.

ONE MORE WARNING…SPOILERS TO FOLLOW.


First, the basic plot. Three nascent sister witches are faced with a decision. Either they kill a woman who has been possessed by a violent demon, or the creature will likely destroy the town. Their whitelighter (guide) brings in the “big guns” in the form of an elder witch. She insists killing the host is the only option, but the sisters believe they can save the soul of the human. The Vera sisters defy the elder and are able to exorcise the demon.

From a fantasy perspective this was a really fun episode! There was a solid conflict, really high stakes, glimpses into personal relationships, lots of layered storytelling, and even a surprise or two despite the familiar story. Now…for the subtle and brilliant social awareness of this episode.

Beginning with the visiting Elder, Charity Callahan (Virginia Williams). She is a powerful, blonde, caucasian, presumably cis-female who is in a position of power over three Latinx women. The irony that Charity’s “mortal” persona runs a business that supports women through Capitalism is tossed in to add an extra punch. In and of itself, this casting may not be indicative of social commentary, however there are two moments where this becomes extremely clear. The first is her willingness to sacrifice the demon host, a woman of color and victim of sexual violence, for the greater good. In it’s way, this speaks to an argument that many white women who claim the monicker of “feminist” often neglect or exclude the voices of women of color.

This is reinforced beautifully in a later scene between Charity and Mel (Melonie Diaz). Mel proclaims she will be trying to exorcise the demon without Charity’s help or approval. Charity responds by, literally, taking away Mel’s voice. This was already established as one of her powers, so it wasn’t uncomfortably out of the blue, but the message of this dynamic was very clear.

As for cultural erasure, this episode began to answer a question on a lot of people’s minds: If these women are Latinx, why is all their magic in traditional Latin? What about magic that is more in line with their cultural identities? We got a glimpse of that this episode and I cannot wait to learn more.

When looking for the proper exorcism spell, the Book of Shadows turned itself to a blank page. However, when the three sisters come together and join hands to form the Power of Three, the page reveals a spell written specifically for this moment in time by their late mother. Unlike the other spells, this one is in Spanish, and their whitelighter Harry (Rupert Evans) points out that it uses a “Santeria based spell, unsanctioned by the Elders.” 

Courtesy of a two-second Google search: 

Santeria has its origins in Cuba and Brazil and is widely practiced in both countries. The religion combines worship of catholic saints with the traditional Yoruba faith. ... Santeria is a powerful form of white magic that helped African slaves through difficult times.

So, in the mystical hierarchy of this iteration of Charmed, there is an “accepted” practice of magic, predominantly in Latin, which has rules that seem to exclude certain cultural and magical practices. This hints at systemic racism, cultural erasure, and implies a fear of the “other” within this ancient power system. Again, it was a two-line exchange, did not take time or focus away from the task at hand, but it laid some groundwork for some very interesting conflicts. It also suggests that the writing team is fully aware that they are writing for Latinx witches and they will be speaking to their cultural history in future episodes. 

The other commentary was laced into the power dynamics between detectives Trip (cis-male caucasian) and Mel’s girlfriend Niko (cis-female, Asian lesbian). He behaves dismissively, ignores her input, and even has to be informed by Niko that Mel is uncomfortable around cops “like most people of color are.” The episode also opens with a flashback scene to before the series began when Angela Wu comes to Marisol (the mother of the Charmed Ones) asking for help with her sexual harassment at school.

Overall, this was probably the best episode of this new series yet. Does it have it’s flaws? Absolutely. So many first seasons have hiccups along the way. But there is a lot of potential here. The original is being honored in tone and in much of the lore, but this is definitely a new “Charmed.” And I really like it.

Harry Potter and the Ministry of Muscles

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Captain’s Blog - Stardate 92918.8

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

- JM Barrie, Peter Pan


To catch those of you up on what all this mess is about, I have joined an October Challenge Group, let by NYC actor/fitness-and-life coach Brian Douglas James. The title is his, and I hope he won’t be mad that I threw together a quick graphic, but part of our prep assignments is to come up with something that reminds us of our “why” as well as checking into our goals and reasons for having them. I decided to do this assignment as a blog, and created a little “vision image” (instead of a whole vision board) that would serve as sort of my "class syllabus cover page.” And this is it. So…on to the assignment:

My goals here are pretty straight forward. Gretchen Rubin talks about the finite energy we have in a given day. Each decision we make takes energy. But habits are decisions we have made that are so practiced, we don’t have to make them any more. They happen instinctively. Some might call it muscle memory. 

My goals for October are first and foremost to establish consistent, maintainable habits in the following realms:

  1. Fitness:

    I want going to gym to be as regular as brushing my teeth in the morning.

    I want to start to see gains in muscle shape and “visibility.” It is less about mass and more about look. Sounds shallow, I know. But I’m an actor, and my goals require me to either get into either a more athletic shape or adjust my goals and actively pursue a more “character-centric” body shape. Which either means gain more weight without muscle or lose weight without muscle. Either way, I’m in an “in-between” physical place on the cusp of athletic, so I’d much rather move that forward.

  2. Meal Planning:

    I’ve been having some pretty frustrating digestive challenges for a few years. I have finally found some causes for it and some solutions, but the hardest thing for me to do is maintain the eating habits that need to stay in place for me to feel better. Losing weight and looking better is almost an afterthought for this process, though as my body started processing more nutrients efficiently, I finally started losing weight. But I’ve been cheating a lot, mostly due to (blamed on) a move, missing my boyfriend, a busy schedule, etc. I want to focus on committing to weekly meal planing.

  3. Accountability:

    I respond well to external accountability, and especially in the third week of a new attempt to set a habit in place, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the work on my own. I joined this group for the support I’ll need to see this through to week four and, hopefully, beyond.

  4. Mindfulness:

    I continue to resist a regular meditation schedule, despite hearing my first meditation instructor, music theatre legend Betty Buckley in my head making it VERY clear there that, if my career goals are what she thinks they are, there is NO reason NOT to. Just fucking do it! (To be fair…I cannot remember if she said fucking…but even if she didn’t, the energy was definitely there.) By the way, I dropped a name somewhere…if you could help me pick it up, that’d be great.

  5. Academic Excellence:

    This basically just means that I loved being in school. I excelled in most classes, especially those I was passionate about. And since all of the above hit my bottom line for goals, growth, and moving to the next tier in my life, I am hoping a “classroom-like” group will lend me the structure to take some of the energy out of the process.

As for the why, I have a few answers to that as well.

  1. I’ve just moved to LA, which is a huge change with a complete upheaval of all of my less-than-helpful habits, familiar surroundings, and standard roadblocks. Before I come up with a whole mess of new ones, I want to feel the success of committing to these habits. 

  2. Brian has been poking me on Instagram about this and has been friendly, funny, and persistent. All qualities I think will help me achieve these goals.

But the biggest why is that I need back the energy I spend to make the decisions each day to workout or not, prepare food or not, meditate or not, and where these will fall in my day. I need that energy to be out of that decision making process. I need to be able to put it towards the other work I need to do. I need these things to be inherent patterns in my daily life so I can focus on pushing myself harder where I really need to. So, I’ve decide to try something new and see if it can get me closer.

Accio fitness goals!