Tag Archives: Trigonis

Running Through the Sixth with my WOEs

I don’t write much about my grammar school years. They were pretty much standard: I cried the first day my Mom and Dad “left me” at kindergarten (I didn’t think they were coming back); between first through third grades I became so well-versed with Janet & Mark until I couldn’t help wanting one to kill the other; and being that I was the quiet one, I’d always sit in the corner during recess or lunch and play with my He-Man figures, continuing where yesterday’s story left off.

Then came the sixth grade, where I encountered one of the most influential educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking a class with: Mr. Torio. The legends about his greatness echoed legion through the halls of Woodrow Wilson School. All anyone ever talked about was how cool the sixth grade would be. “That’s what all the seventh graders are saying,” my best friend Jeremy had said. I even remember meeting a seventh grader once –– a long blonde-haired headbanger (long before I even knew what “headbanger” meant) with a Wilson brand black motorcycle jacket and fingerless gloves. “Just get through these other grades, kid. Sixth grade’ll change your life.”

Well, I made it through six grades (kindergarten included –– my parents did come back for me after all), and I had some memorable teachers: Mrs. Gioffre (kindergarten and Grade 3), Mrs. Fitzgerald (Grade 2) and Mrs. Perz (Grade 7, I think, though it might’ve been Grade 8). Then there were some old guard” types like my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Wickle who made me admit to the whole class that Edith Hamilton’s Mythology was fiction when I believed otherwise. (And still do –– there’s truth to everything, y’know.) And although I recall Mrs. Lange’s fifth grade classroom being pretty stellar, what I remember more vividly reading a copy of Robin #1 over and over again during her math lessons ever since my friend Brian slipped a copy in my desk.

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Photo of Mr. Torio’s sixth grade class at Woodrow Wilson School. (And that’s me at the bottom and to the left.)

All the while, though, I was anticipating just how great it was gonna be once I get to the sixth grade. And it was, in many ways.

See, Mr. Torio was the type of teacher whom you know enjoys sitting up there at his big teacher’s desk, watching over his “kids” like a headmaster out of Harry Potter and making sure we paid attention to the spells of knowledge and completed our home concoctions in our notebooks before morning. But he was also the kind of teacher that cracked many jokes throughout the day, which prior to my then six years of schooling was practically unheard of. Don’t get me wrong, they were all great teachers except for Mrs. Wickle, who was just okay, but they rarely cracked a joke; they smiled, but always made certain you knew you were here to learn, and that learning was serious business and not to be lightened by a brief moment of laughter until after the lesson was complete.

But Mr. Torio, he had jokes, animal noises, and on occasion a little Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor grunt. He also had some of the greatest facial expressions around. He helped break the monotony of standardized schooling in the best possible way, all the while being able to provide us with a trove of treasured knowledge from inside our brown paper bagged textbooks and outside of it. He was the first teacher who made me want to go to school everyday, and made me understand my Dad’s story about how when he was a young boy in Greece, whenever school was closed, he’d cry.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Torio was the first male teacher I ever had. In fact, before I heard the legends of how transformative an experience his sixth grade class would be, I had thought that teaching was exclusively a woman’s career –– to nurture in their students not only with knowledge, but compassion and empathy, as well as the alphabet. Mr. Torio was able to do all that, too, and he did it just as well.

During the sixth grade, I never read comics halfway inside my desk during Mr. T.’s lessons. I waited until lunchtime to run around and play with Kareem, who had replaced Jeremy as my best friend by that time. My Masters of the Universe figures stayed at home until the day was done, at which time I’d resume their stories after my homework was done. Thinking back to those years, 1989 – 1990 was a time before I became who I was meant to become. The man I’m still becoming. Mr. T.’s sixth grade class cultivated in me a genuine love of learning that I carry with me to this day. While fifth grade blackened my eye from my first fight with a bully, it was sixth grade that saved me with my first tryst with teenage love. And when I had questions about it, Mr. T. was there with the answers, whether as a look of approval or words of sage advice.

It’s teachers like him you don’t forget. It’s lessons like those I learned in sixth grade that linger on until “the last syllable of recorded time.”

Years later, when I was finishing up my bachelor’s in creative writing at New Jersey City University in the early 2000s, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I also knew that it probably wouldn’t pay the bills for quite a some time. (And still doesn’t to this day.) Dr. Chris Wessman, my mentor and advisor, made an interesting recommendation on the final day of my independent study in playwriting:

“Why don’t you apply for graduate writing program, John?”

What?” I sneered, much more cynical then than I could ever be now. “What would I do that for?” I’ve had enough of these “Ivory Halls,” I thought to myself. It was time I became a writer.

“Well,” Chris continued, “with an master’s degree, you can get a job teaching, so there’s money coming in while you’re writing.”

Teaching? I had always thought of teaching as something you do later in life, after you had spent your life learning something worth teaching. I remember the word itself being the bane of all writers’ existences, Kryptonite to a real author’s superhuman sense of syntax and soliloquy. The darkest night of a would-be scrivener’s soul that most likely might never see a new dawn. I for one didn’t want to trade in my own black ink for red ink, sacrifice my precision-crafted words for the disjointed ramblings of college freshmen. No, no writer ever wants to teach. It’s the final nail in the coffin before you actually go out do the dying. Teach? I thought to myself. I want to write!

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NJCU graduation, 2001. That’s me (yeah, with a ponytail –– I know!) with my Dad.

But then that same night I thought of Mr. Torio. I thought about all those lessons I packed up in my cerebral suitcase and took with me from his sixth grade and all through my undergrad years. I thought about how much I enjoyed his methods, even though I didn’t know there was such a thing as methodology at that age. If I could be that kind of teacher –– that kind of professor –– well, then I just might consider going to grad school, and soon after saying goodbye to the various seats I sat in as a student, saying hello to the front of the classroom.

And teaching.

I put in my application the following year to CUNY’s Brooklyn College, and I was accepted to its MFA program for creative writing, specializing in poetry writing, my passion. And upon graduating in the summer of 2003, I landed my first gig as a university professor at NJCU teaching a poetry workshop, thanks to Chris Wessman.

Through the wonders of Facebook, I’ve managed to reconnect with Mr. Torio, and it’s quite humbling to see his comments on an Instagram photo I’d taken of my writing station, or when I read a heartfelt message from him. And I try to send him pictures of Jersey City when I’m out and about, since he asked me to send him some so he could see how the city he spent so much time in had changed.

This also got me thinking early this year. About how I spent over ten years teaching at various universities across the Garden State –– from NJCU to William Paterson University, with a few community colleges thrown in for good measure; about how during that same time, I produced over a dozen short films, two theater productions, and a feature-length movie, read at dozens of poetry slams and open mic nights, and wrote the first edition of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers in a little under six months –– “an impossible task” as most of my writer friends warned; about how today, I still consider myself a professor of not only writing and storytelling, but of crowdfunding, and how even at my neighborhood coffee shop, I’ve become a cross between Norm and Frasier from Cheers, giving life advice to baristas and regulars alike. And everyday I try and make sure my Facebook friends and Twitter followers start their days with something positive in the morning, because life doesn’t always give us that opportunity.

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Trigonis the poet reading at Cool Beans Open Mic, circa 2002 – 2003.

But just like “Know Yourself” by Drake, in this blog, I guess you can say I’m running through the sixth [grade] with my WOEs –– WOEs being an acronym for “Working On Excellence” –– and in all these years, I’d say one thing’s been proven: you may not be able to take the writer out of the professor after all. But you also can’t take the professor out of the writer, either.

Thanks for that, Mr. T. –– er, I mean Joe.

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Hitting The Writer’s Block (And Breaking Right On Through It)

In all my nearly twenty years as a poet and writer, I’ve never believed in writer’s block.

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And this isn’t a piece expounding on how I suddenly found myself staring into the blank Microsoft Word document glowing back on my laptop, how my fingers froze, or how some unfelt before fear from the Great Beyond had turned on the faucet and I started sweating profusely.

No, I still don’t believe in writer’s block.

But it believes in me, and it almost hit me nonetheless. Hard.

As many of you probably know, since March of 2013, I’ve been writing a series of mystery novels under the auspices of “Hipster Noir” on the PATH train during my morning and evening commute to work. Three novels later, over 200,000 words, and one proposal to pitch them all to an agent or publisher, I’m still going strong with my fourth novel, The Curious Case of Tomorrow (Or, The Trouble with Time Travel).

But this fourth novel, which is a direct continuation of the third, the way Quantum of Solace is a continuation of Casino Royale, started making me second guess some things. I would still get on the PATH train from Grove Street in Jersey City to the World Trade Center stop on the other side of the Hudson, and my fingers would still go to work with my iPhone music library shuffling between Tom Waits and Gin Wigmore, with an occasional Lykke Li ballad or Pearl Jam anthem cutting in over the seven-minute or so ride.

This time, however, felt different.

I knew that I was really searching blindly for a spark. Now I can’t get too detailed here because I’d have to divulge what my fourth novel is all about, and I haven’t even published any of the first ones yet, but this was the first time over the course of almost thirty-six months that the writing was not yielding anything that I was getting truly excited about, the way the first three novels had done.

Nonetheless, I kept going. I kept writing every morning and evening, just like I’d done for nearly three years. The only difference was that instead of having my characters, story, and all its plot twists, McGuffins and organically sprout from within, I was actively searching for that spark, yet never thinking to admit that I may have finally found what no writer has ever actively searched for:

The Writer’s Block. And yes, I capitalize it like a proper noun ‘cause it deserves a proper level of respect. Anything that pushes us to become better writers does.

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The way I see it, we are the ones who create the Writer’s Block, by pouring out so much of who we are and what we are in our writing. At one point, we run out of things to write. But as Tom Waits sings, “you build it up, you wreck it down…” in a song appropriately titled “Hold On,” that’s exactly I did. I gave it form, shaped the shapeless into something that, in time, and once I found its weakness, I could hope to break right through.

Back to my Curious Case of Tomorrow. Amid my searching within not one, but two separate timelines that this new novel has split into; after figuring out that what I was writing this time around was no longer a mystery novel, but a science-fiction spaghetti western (if there’s even such a thing); when I finally surprised myself one day riding that iron horse through those morning and evening tunnels humming with the electricity of possibility, I knew I had finally blasted right through that ‘Block.

I had found my voice. Again.

Then I realized that it wasn’t the first time this ever happened, but it was the first time I became aware of it’s happening. And I dealt with it.

The Writer’s Block isn’t a stumbling block, it’s an uncarved block. It doesn’t necessarily have to stop your creativity. It’s not the blank page we stare blankly at, but the page that stares at us and pushes us to shut up our minds and write anything, which proves to be the most frightening thing for us writers –– to write without purpose. Without saying anything.

Writing for the sake of writing. Of calling ourselves writers.

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The Uncarved Block, or Pu, as Taoist abstract art.

But at least we’re writing, and in doing so, we’re showing that ‘Block whose boss.

Not enough of us do this. We hit the ‘Block and we wait for the right words. We complain about it on Facebook. We may go out with our friends to forget about that blank stare for a few hours. And each of these may actually work (or seem to work) to get you back on track.

But to find the right words, you’ve got to write down the words. It’s the Taoist principle of Pu –– the Uncarved Block. Though this particular tenet tells us we should let the world carve us into what it wants. From a writerly perspective, we simply need to start with a vague idea and the raw materials of what needs to be said and then hack out the words that don’t add to it. This way, all we’re left with are the ones that do work, and which will resonate and be remembered long after they’re read.

They’ll also be the ones that will remind us why we started writing in the first place.

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Φιλότιμο: Not Without Understanding When Felt Within

A couple Saturdays a month, I try and spend some time with a dear friend of my family’s named Maria. She owns a small Greek bakery on Central Avenue in Union City called Liberty Brand Pastries and Foods, where all the “big fat Greek” families near and far come for their koulourakia (butter cookies), baklava and holiday specialty foods. My Dad and I used to visit her for Kalamata olives and conversation in his native language; now I’m the one picking up olives, feta cheese, and those butter cookies I loved as a kid. Mix in a visit from the neighborhood mailwoman, a random diner owner, and even a priest from the local Greek church, and conversation and Papagalos Loumidis coffee abounds.

Maria talks to her friend Andreas at Liberty Brand.

Maria talks to her friend Andreas at Liberty Brand.

One particular Saturday, Maria and I spoke about many things, and we eventually landed on the subjects of my book and my new gig with Indiegogo. Maria’s fascination by my ability to tell her the weather for tomorrow just by looking at my phone today paled away when I explained to her what I spend my days doing from around 9:30AM to 5:30PM. I told her about my travels over the past five months and how many people and celebrities I’ve met in my short time with Indiegogo, and how I help them make their moviemaking dreams come true by helping them get the funding they need to make films they’ll be proud to show the world.

Maria then looked me in the eye with a certain sense of pride. “Yanni,” she said, saying my name in Greek, “you are a true filotimo.”

Having never heard this particular word before, I asked Maria what it meant. She told me it meant that I was a “friend of honor and integrity,” but then went on to say that filotimo is the most difficult word to translate from Greek into any language, and it’s an even harder concept to fully wrap one’s mind around. When I got home that afternoon, I did a little research. According to Christopher Xenopolous Janus, filotimo is “the most untranslatable and unique Greek virtue.” Composed from two words, filo– (friend) and –timos (honor/respect), filotimo is “a value of personal honor and pride that pivots on empathy and compassion for others as expressed through acts of generosity and sacrifice,” according to an informative blog post on Kafeneio.

Now, being that I’m more American than Greek, I grew up without any knowledge of the concept of filotimo, but it seems its seeds had been planted by my father ever since I was a boy. My Dad certainly embodied the essence of filotimo; he sacrificed so much for my sake, raising me right after my mother died; he stood tall and strong even in the face of the unseen adversary that took his voice and ultimately his life, but not without a near ten-year battle because he felt he still had to look after me. Much like every other story out there, and of course according to Joseph Campbell, we all must “atone with the father” and ultimately succeed him, as is the case with me. And so in that supersession, perhaps I’ve absorbed a subtle fraction of the filotimo he preached and practiced without him ever having to label it or give it a name.

reconciled Greeks, in general, have a strong sense of pride and are often accused of being selfish and having a formidable ego to contend with. But within all men and women who walk through life with open minds emerge two most important elements of storytelling and life: compassion and empathy, which each have their roots firmly planted in the ancient soil of the Hellenic world. With age comes growth and understanding. But to get there, we must first work on ourselves; we must be selfish (for a time, not forever) and start working on, as Michael Jackson once sang, “the man in the mirror.” In order to craft an award-winning screenplay, one must lock himself away with only a laptop, like Herman Melville had done with the writing of Moby Dick. And once the story is written, once the film premieres, we suddenly become the most selfless people in the world by having touched all those others around us in profound ways. Inducing tears, bellying up a laugh, moving a passive bystander to act. And once that happens –– or rather once we allow it to happen –– our individuality softly melts away, as it must, before we are allowed to become something truly great and selfless: a filotimo.

Therefore, filotimo is not merely a word, but a way of life; a feeling, not a philosophy. It’s something that grows alongside and within each and every one of us, not something we learn like mathematics or language. And while I’m still working on nurturing myself in mind, body and spirit, tapping out words on the page, I’m also giving back with each poem I publish, each Indiegogo campaign I help make successful, and with this very blog post you’re reading now. Filotimo resides in other people’s perception of you, like Maria and her perception of me. Its roots, though, come from years of growth and prosperity of the self, then sacrificing that self to the greater good by simply bringing out the greater good from within ourselves.

Perhaps the greatest show of filotimo ever.

Perhaps the greatest show of filotimo ever.

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Filotimo. Machisimo. Mensch. These are all cultural concepts sometimes difficult to grasp. Are there any others that you know of? Share them below –– I’d love to know them and what they mean to you.

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Bird on a Limb: My Facebook-Updated Family Tree

I was always a good kid, at least according to my Dad. I was quiet, introspective, always thinking and always creating. Even as far back as before my mother died, while the grown-ups were talking grown-up things in the living room, I would be in my room quietly playing with my Star Wars action figures. At birthdays and Christmases, long after unwrapping my Millennium Falcons and Fortress of Fangs play sets, I could be found sitting Indian style beside our artificial tree trimmed with kitschy1970s ornaments carefully cutting out the He-Mans and Skeletors on the Masters of the Universe wrapping paper.

That little boy isn't me, but it may as well have been; I loved that play set!

I grew up (somewhat) and learned the value of a dollar and the importance of a dream during weekends selling French fries and stirring egg cream sodas at flea markets, street fairs and carnivals. I finished high school with long hair and a four-year scholarship to NJCU, finished college in five years as a B student with a batch of poems under my arm ready for grad school, and I completed my term at Brooklyn College in two years still sporting a B average but with a better batch of poems bound in customary Master’s Thesis fashion.

Then I grew up some more (sort of), going on to be a Renaissance man of sorts –– published poet, DIY filmmaker, one-time guitarist, part-time blogger, rabid social networker and freelance professor drifting between various universities across New Jersey. Overall, I consider myself pretty fortunate to be living this particular life without anyone telling me otherwise; whenever I wanted to be different, and ultimately when I needed to be myself, I’ve always had a solid limb on the tree of my being out on which I could perch and sing freely, and this limb is my family, which has supported me in everything I’ve done, from tracing comic book covers for some extra pre-teen spending cash to going away to London for a summer to study Shakespearean theater and acting at the Globe to making films today.

But sometimes there are other branches helping to hold you up that you may not have noticed, or perhaps you may never have been aware of.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of my Dad’s death as well as the first anniversary of my discovery of new family members on my Dad’s side. Actually, it’s more accurate to say these hitherto unknown branches of my family tree reached out and discovered me.

Thanksgiving, 2010, with Marinell Montales, Andrea Bertos Quintaglie, me, and Danny Androutsos.

I never knew much about my Dad’s side of the family because whenever he would tell me stories about his past, I would be more interested in drawing Ninja Turtles or making up intricate stories starring my Super Powers action figures; I was too young to appreciate them. Instead, I recollect only brief bits: My grandfather John owning a coffee shop in Athens and drawing when business was slow and my Dad crying as a boy whenever school was closed are little more than vestiges now. The story I remember most tells of how my Dad was marooned in New Orleans because of a stomach virus, and his fellow Merchant Marines had to sail back out to sea and couldn’t wait for him to recover. The reason I remember this one is because I wrote up a story about my Dad for my feature writing class when I was a journalism major at NJCU. That tape-recorded interview I did with him captured the last remnants of his voice before the cancer left behind only a whisper.

The only other thing I remembered was that my Dad had a cousin who lived in Florida named Chris Bertos. That’s how I met Andrea Bertos Quintaglie. She reached out to me through a Facebook message with the subject heading “looking for” and a message that read:

Hi John…I’m looking for a John Trigonis who would be my second cousin on my dad’s side (Chris Bertos) This John’s dad’s name was Teddy and has since passed away. I was just thinking of this person & wanted to make the connection…so if you are the right John (because 3 John Trigonis came up) and you would like to connect with your dad’s family respond…Thanx, Andrea

After I let Andrea know that I was in fact the right John Trigonis, we exchanged a bunch of Facebook messages, and I learned so much about a part of my family tree I hadn’t even known existed. Apparently, I not only now had newfound family members here in the U.S., but there’s a whole flock of second and third cousins living in New Zealand, many of whom knew my Dad. And through Andrea, I was able to make the acquaintance of Nina Bertos Androutsos, Nina Bertos Papadopoulos, and many more of our Kiwi cousins whom she had connected with through Facebook and some serious Sherlock Holmes detective work.

Last year, Andrea held a truly splendid and emotional Thanksgiving celebration, and I finally got to meet her, as well as many other cousins of mine, many of whom proceeded to spin some interesting stories about my Dad; many of them recalled instances when he would come to family gatherings, dance, drink and be merry; others reminisced a tale or two that’d been passed down through the years about how the two dads would get into all sorts of trouble when they were younger.

My Dad, a troublemaker?! Well, blow me down!

At this festive gathering of newfound family, I also had the pleasure of meeting a cousin of mine from New Zealand, Danny Androutsos, whom I found to be a kindred spirit; he’s a musician who happened to be on a world tour –– something Kiwi men do as a rite of passage. It felt as though all the years removed between the two of us were stitched up in the few hours we spent together that Thanksgiving, as well as the couple of nights we spent running around New York City with wine, tasty food, and plenty of catch-up conversation.

What’s more, Andrea and the family attended the Big Apple Preview of Cerise back in December, 2010, which made the event even more special for me because not only was I showcasing my latest short film to my friends, supporters, funders and family, but I was also able to introduce my brother, sister and family to Andrea, Danny, and my other cousins, and it was a heartwarming spectacle to see them all interacting throughout the evening.

My cousin Danny rockin' out at Bar Medusa in Wellington, New Zealand.

I grew up with a large family from my mother’s side; my brother Walter and sister Renee, as well as my brother’s family –– my family –– not only make up the bulk of the branches of my family tree, but they have also been the trunk, never moving, always there, for good moments like graduating college or not-so-good; when my Dad died on December 14th, 2006, my brother and sister were there for me at three in the morning to let me know that it’ll be alright. Perhaps I’d always taken the idea of family for granted, and now, having had some new dots connected on a part of my Dad’s bloodline I’d known little to nothing about has added more balance to my identity as a Trigonis.

I’ve always been proud of my Greek ancestry even though I still know very little about where I come from; I’m especially fond of my surname; Trigonis (Tρυγώνια) means “bird” or more accurately, “turtledove,” and, interestingly enough, is most famous for its use in the old Greek proverb “Μ’ένα σμπάρο, δυο τρυγώνια,” or “One shot, two birds.” I started thinking about identity and ancestry a while back when a man named Vasilis Trigonis reached out to me on Facebook asking if he and I might be related. What’s more interesting is that he’s from Thessaloniki, Greece, and according to him, in the nearby city of Veria there’s a high concentration of people with our same surname. But I’ll leave this story for another time.

Interesting fact: The mythological Phoenix is the natural life partner of the τρυγώνια...

But perhaps Vasilis was right when he wrote that he’s “quite sure that soon or later we’ll discover the story of our ancestors.” And in my case, along came Andrea, and because of her, I’m a few layers deeper to discovering my roots. It never really mattered so much to me when I was a kid, or even when I emerged from grad school with my MFA in poetry. But now, to know that for all these years I’ve been supported by the family I’ve known and loved all my life and a family that has only recently been unearthed but has been there all along gives me a strangely mystical feeling, one that makes me proud of the little I’ve accomplished in this short span of life, and unravels a reason as to why I’ve been able to safely land on any limb I choose without having my song’s get muffled or lost in the leaves. The stronger the limb, the stronger the support for this turtledove to sing from any height.

And if there’s a Facebook in the Great Hereafter, I only hope my Dad might look down past the cosmos this Christmas, 2011, to give this, my latest status update, a “Like.”

My Dad and me, circa 1982, maybe. I've since traded in my pistol for a pen; I'm sure I've made him proud.

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Callbacks & Additional Casting for “Mating Dome” — The Next Trigonis Film

8/28/11 UPDATE: Callbacks and Further Auditions Announced!

Following on the heels of my most recent short film Cerise, I’m pleased to announce that I’m getting ready to tackle my next short film––Mating Dome, a sci-fi comedy which “exposes” the true nature of mating in the 22nd Century!

Callbacks and Second Casting Call
We are still seeking our lead female roles. If you auditioned for us back on Saturday, August 20th, you may be getting a call if you made the cut, so be on the lookout for a phone call from our producer Ruben Rodas or our AD Pao Calderon this week.

If you’d like to audition, we’re looking for fun, sexy, slim and talented actresses between 20 and 30 years of age to play supermodels from the future. The film will be shot over the first weekend in October (September 30th, October 1st and 2nd) in New York City.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, please email a PDF resume along with a recent head shot and, if possible, a swim suit picture (preferred, but not required) to matingdome.casting@gmail.com.

This casting call is open to union and non-union talent, and the position is PAID.

Now Seeking Male Parts
We’re also casting for one lead male role (speaking) in Mating Dome, as well as a few non-speaking roles. The physical requirement is key: You must be built! (This is the 22nd Century, a utopian future in which the women are slim and slender and the men are cut and ripped.)

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, please email a PDF resume along with a recent head shot and, if possible, a body picture (preferred, but not required) to matingdome.casting@gmail.com.

This casting call is open to union and non-union talent.

Who’s the Team Behind the Dome?
Well, I’ll be directing and editing Mating Dome, and you can find out more about who I am simply by perusing the stories that make up my Manvelope or by following me on Twitter. The film will be starring Joe Whelski (who also wrote the story and script) and will be shot by Alain Aguilar, which marks the comeback of a talented triumvirate that once went by the name Nothingman Production, specializing in creating quality films (something) with little money (nothing)!

And we’ve got even more help! Mating Dome will be produced by Ruben Rodas of Skyframe Pictures, and as a producer, he’s building up quite a resume for himself; definitely someone to keep an eye on if you need to get things done.

Follow, Like, and Keep Informed
That’s all for now, but you can get a head start on keeping up with all that’s going on under the Mating Dome by following the film on Twitter and “Liking” the Facebook page!

Cheers, everyone, and don’t forget to close your towel!

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Uneasy Lies the Autobot Who Wields the Matrix

The other night I was watching Michael Bay’s Transformers for the second time for reasons beyond me. Maybe it’s all that ever-scraping steel shifting raucously from car to bot. Maybe it’s the nostalgia-factor, all those lost happy hours spent in front of my family’s monstrous Zenith from the 60s. Maybe it’s the fact that I never could draw Optimus Prime quite right. Whatever the reason (certainly not the storyline), I found myself engaged.

During this viewing I noticed (for the second time) that Optimus Prime doesn’t pull a trailer when he transforms into cab form, which is a prominent feature in the old cartoons.

Optimus Prime (G1 TV Series)

Autobot leadership defined.

Autobot leaders have to have trailers. This has always fascinated me even as a 12-year-old boy (I didn’t get out much!) It’s as if the leader inherits a world of difficulties once the Matrix of Leadership is bestowed upon the (un)fortunate leader-to-be. Optimus Prime is a prime example, of course. He transforms from robot to rig, that long gray trailer attaching itself to him almost unconsciously.

And just what is the trailer Optimus trucks behind him? In a few episodes (as well as the original Optimus Prime toy), the trailer is a mobile command center, or Combat Deck, complete with a mobile scout called Roller. Interesting enough, Wikipedia mentions, “while Prime could survive the destruction of either, despite the slight degree of autonomy they possess, the Combat Deck and Roller would not be able to survive without him.” Taken as a metaphor for Autobot existence without Optimus, without leadership, nothing can exist. That’s quite a world to carry upon one Autobot’s shoulders!

Then there’s Rodimus Prime. He is probably the sole reason I started thinking more about the trailer motif. In Transformers: The Movie, we’re introduced to the youthful robot Hot Rod (or Rodimus Major) who transforms into the coolest car next to Bumblebee’s ‘09 Camaro. He’s hip and energetic, but a bit naive. Once Optimus dies and Ultra Magnus loses the Matrix to the resurrected Megatron, Hot Rod takes in the Matrix and becomes Rodimus Prime. Once he transforms to vehicle form, he now has a sort of camper that attaches itself to his futuristic hot rod self, as the young robot is propelled into a brave new world of Autobot leadership, heir to a trailerload of responsibilities (as we’ll see in subsequent seasons of the original series.)

Rodimus Prime & Hot Rod (vehicle forms)

Rodimus Prime & Hot Rod toys in vehicle mode.

In Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, Part II, the dying title character states “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” In the case of Optimus and Rodimus Primes, uneasy lies the Autobot who wields the Matrix. Actually, it’s interesting to note just how similar Transformers: The Movie is to Henry IV, specifically with regards to Hot Rod, the metallic embodiment of the Bard’s unlikely protagonist Prince Hal, who at the beginning of the play hasn’t a care in the world for politics, war, or the state of his country. He changes through the duration of the two parts, and once his father dies, he inherits the crown of England and is ordained Henry V, much the same as Hot Rod receiving the Matrix (and his own trailer) to become Rodimus Prime.

I love stuff like this, and to tell the truth, after writing this, I’m not only fascinated by the idea of the trailer, but by the fact that Transformers: The Movie actually is essentially both parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV…but I’ll save that for the 200 page doctoral dissertation I’ll write in an alternate future!

So what cool or interesting things have you discovered while watching your favorite old school cartoons like Transformers?

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