+#Easteropera mixtape #1 - Eden's Cobby

Easter's overture is told in a series of stories called mixtapes, which are a chronology of separate (motion) pictures that comprise Day 0 of the opera's first act, and may or may not have anything to do with the definition in the popular sense of the word. Whereas the opera itself is recorded with a virtual camera system (vcs), the mixtapes have no such photographic requirement. With each mixtape, we are following a certain character in singular form, offering up small tidbits of information related to the overall story arc.

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This following verse is one of a number of preliminary scenes for the character 'Socks'.

In the case of 'Socks', he is ultimately responsible for the murder of Felix Yota, a public accountant working for the City. That angle is critical as to why the District Attorney in the opera decides to campaign for public office in the manner that she does. The following mixtapes provide a first-look lede into said activity.


Background
'Socks' is the streetname given to an understudy gangster serving in the illegitimate business of 'Theo/Roscoe' throughout Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a Black male in his mid-twenties in age. His chosen nickname comes from the irony that he (proudly) does not wear socks with his everyday attire.

These days, he has just gotten news from his girlfriend that they are to be expecting their second child, another daughter, in the coming months. Although he is usually a reliable companyman, he always resorts to / relies on his instinct and selfish ways in his business dealings, which makes him an untrustworthy person to a large degree.

He has been under the employ of Roscoe for approximately two (2) years, and has risen to the rank of lieutenant within the kingpin's organization. Keeping in mind that he only got into the drug game to make money and not friends, he prioritizes his life in such a way that his lifestyle comes first, then family, and maybe other extracurriculars down the line. In that order. Now with an expanding family, Socks wants out of the game completely; his plan is to do a few more jobs, collect his money, gather his family and then vanish.

A careless individual, he makes his living being 'that guy' who gets the dirty stuff done. He is not a nice person, having probably murdered 12-15 people in cold blood since being employed by the organization. We're learning now that he is also a thief. If he is to be successful in executing his escape plan, he’ll have to control his impulses, and also watch is back.

- Scene 1 {Eden's Cobby} -

[characters: Socks, Foot Soldier, d0x]
-- Socks is alone, seated in a quiet place outside somewhere in the innercity. It is around mid-morning and he appears to be waiting for someone. It looks as if he is smoking a narcotic, but this could just as likely be tobacco cigarette. Someone approaches him from a short distance and they begin to converse. --

Foot Soldier: Uh.. Socks?
Socks: (looking up but not making direct eye contact) …Yeah.
Foot Soldier: I'm supposed to meet you -- (cut off)
Socks: -- What's your password?
Foot Soldier: 'Skittles'.
Socks: Alright.
Foot Soldier: (reaches into his pocket and pulls out a bulky packaged envelope) Well, here it is. (he then starts to toss it before stepping closer to Socks and handing it to him instead) It's all there.
Socks: (nods)
Foot Soldier: I thought there were two (2) of you here?
Socks: That's right.
Foot Soldier: Where's the other -- (cut off)
Socks: The way this works is you deliver your bulk, and then pick up mine. (still puffing, he then points to a car at a distance) .. the black car over there.
Foot Soldier: Mario wants triple the manpower next time we have to make another move like this.
Socks: (making direct eye contact) I don't give a fuck about what Mario wants!
Foot Soldier: Tell that shit to Roscoe.
Socks: (chuckles)
Foot Soldier: Mario's concerned about Roz's call to axe that family last week without notice.
Socks: It wasn't Roscoe's call. He knew a little too much, .. our names, faces. (litters by flicking the butt of what he was puffing on)
Foot Soldier: Execution-style? Man, if that was you, somebody's got to let us know because Mario's the connect for that side of Olney.
Socks: Somebody did just let you know.
Foot Soldier: You work alone?
Socks: (pulls gun from under jacket and places it on bench next to him) Nope. Like I said, there are two of us.
Foot Soldier: Okay. (short pause) Looks like we're finished here. (begins to walk from where he came) Behind the back tire, right?
Socks: Yeah.

The Foot Soldier makes it to the car parked about seventy (70) yards away. Just as he searches for the suspected package in question, he is shot from behind. Minutes later, Socks makes a call to d0x, the organization’s technician and business intelligence, presumably to inform him of the ongoings. The actual meeting took place at 9:00am local time, but Socks told his superiors that it was scheduled for 9:30am.

Socks: (leaning on the side of his car after putting the wounded body of the Foot Soldier in the trunk) Hey, they never showed.
d0x: What?!
Socks: I've been here for like five (5) minutes. This was only supposed to be a one-minute deal. These people are making me nervous, man. I don't even know if we can trust this Mario motherfucker!
d0x: Hm. This is twice this month.
Socks: Did you give him the right place?
d0x: Yes! Coordinates back in Cobbs Creek, like we said.
Socks: Well, the motherfucker ain't here! This could be some sort of an ambush or something. I'm moving out.
d0x: Meet at the barbershop on 38th & Lansdowne.
Socks: Bet. I'm going to grab something to eat. I'll be there in twenty (20).
d0x: Make it ten (10).

Socks closes the call, opens his driver-side door, gets in the car, and drives off. We are to believe that he killed the Foot Soldier, placed his dead body in the trunk, and has stolen the loot.

- End Scene 1 {Eden's Cobby} -

(see also #Easteropera mixtape #2)

+5ZZ6

Redox-sensing transcriptional repressor Rex

+Goodbye to a hero, Stan Lee (dedication)

It's not everyday that you get to live-witness the career of someone who truly enriched the world, but that's exactly what I got to see with Stan Lee and his work.

I can only hope that Mr. Lee lived a fulfilling life. What he did for American culture and the entertainment industry in general is well-noted. His comic book creations and the hero of his imagination, I believe, forever changed the way humans think about themselves and our possibilities. I personally want to thank him for sharing what he could and did do in terms of characters, their stories, what it means to be misunderstood, how to persevere, and countless other attributes that escape me at this moment.

I usually don't pick favorites, but I have, on more than one occasion, found myself asking who would've won in certain hypothetical battles (Hulk vs. Superman is a good one that comes to mind, btw, X-Men would totally mop the floor with The Avengers😉). The truth is, I really don't have to; just being able to be have that conversation should be an honor in itself. Letting yourself get lost in such ludicrous discussions just because is a great thing. We have the folks at Marvel Comics/Entertainment to thank for that, and Mr. Stan Lee, in particular.

One thing I'm really happy about is that he got to see his ideas brought to life on the big screen. It's one thing to flesh something out on paper with ink and lead. It's another thing to have talented animators, cinematographers, and a cast of professional actors portray your characters pretty much as you imagined -- decades prior. In my opinion, that's the equivalent of winning the Nobel Prize in your later years (something that I never agreed with. If you deserve it, the Committee should just give it. Why wait, you know?). I'm also really happy that he was honored with cameo slots in pretty much all of those movies. It goes without saying that Mr. Lee and his iconic creations have been - and likely will remain - a respected exponent in what it means to pursue your dreams and live up to your potential.

Thank you, sir,

+6A7W

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+Brock Vickers as🎭 'Gunyo Gruber' in Easter

Gruber.

Yes, that Gruber. The infamous villain from The Detective series (especially, Nothing Lasts Forever, where he is better known as 'Hans Gruber'), who became a household name in the movie, Die Hard (1988), after being played impeccably by Alan Rickman.

Fast-forward. New time. New interpretation. New actor.

Brock Vickers[a] will bring his acting chops and athletic background (he was a former collegiate baseball player) to the role of Gunyo 'Little Gun' Gruber in my opera, Easter. Let's keep our fingers crossed in hoping that we make Roderick Thorp proud.

We know that (according to the literature), despite his gruesome exterior, Gruber did what he did (perhaps not in the manner that he did it) because he was a freedom fighter. Ironically, he attacked the Klaxon corporation because he thought - thanks to his independent leftist leanings - that the company wasn't doing enough to help the less fortunate in the South American country from which it was exploiting. In that sense, he (as the leader of a terrorist group) was a self-proclaimed Robin Hood.

Our first encounter with Gruber comes in Die, Detective!, where he is a Pinkerton contractor working for shipping magnate, Maundy Lindros, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Normally, Maundy wouldn't need the services of someone like a Gruber, who is a versatile mercenary employed by her business to head general counsel as she battles legal difficulties put forth by the incoming competitor, Canaan Dusk and his company, Nile, LLC, because she's made due just fine these past forty years with smart management to her credit. But the days are no longer quotidian. This is the first time in her career that Maundy has had to operate from a position of apparent weakness - a challenge she does not relish by any means - as she engages with her longtime political rival, Ember Libitina, in the civic sphere.

Some call him "Little Gun", even though he stands 6'3''. He's nice when he has to be, the jobs call for it. Just know that Gruber is a dangerous thirty (30) year-old German-born double agent for the IDF. He was hired to do a job - and he'll do it well - but can he really outmaneuver Ms. Lindros at her own game? We have five (5) chords to do a character study and learn his fate, as Gruber starts out as a lightweight, but becomes a major player by ChordH of the opera.

+4O6S

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+4ZVY

Structure of human ALDH7A1 complexed with NAD+ in space group P4212

+2BGH

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+1GPE

GLUCOSE OXIDASE FROM PENICILLIUM AMAGASAKIENSE

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+6D50

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+Paul Allen ... still computing (dedication)

Personal computing legend and software icon, Paul Allen, left us, but his work lives on.

I came up in the industry hearing loud whispers of the Microsoft story. Two very young men who were childhood friends from Seattle leave exceptional academic programs to build what at one point was the most successful company in the world (and still to this day, one of the most valuable technology companies on the market. Stock prices as of October 15, 2018 closed at $107.60💹). That always spoke to me, telling me that with smart investments, good timing, and strong work ethic, America is a country (perhaps the only one) where if you really want to, just about anyone can achieve what they set out to do.

A favorite quote of his (head over to my quotes blog, if that kind of thing interests you) comes from the book, 📖Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry--and Made Himself the Richest Man in America, where he tried unsuccessfully (or successfully, depending on how you look at it) to prep a seventeen years-old Bill Gates on college life as an incoming freshman at Harvard. He says something to the effect of, "You know, Bill, you're going to meet people who are smarter than you (at Harvard).". To which Gates replied, "Smarter than me? No way, no way!". Those words stuck with me. I think it's because Bill refused to believe it, and decided that he wasn't going to let himself fail at the hands of someone else. He was all for taking control of his own destiny. (One bit of trivia: Paul Allen scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT, while Bill Gates got a 1590.)

Even though he left day-to-day operations at Microsoft for health and personal reasons in 1983, he helped lay down a company culture that defined an industry, change the world, and ultimately, helped people. I also respect what Paul Allen did with his extracurriculars. He was the owner of the Portland Trailblazers (NBA), Seattle Seahawks (NFL), and the Seattle Sounders FC (MLS). As a sports fanatic and Pacific Northwest (Montana) resident, I appreciate that bit of recreational lifestyle he nourished for the region.

Thank you, Paul.

+Rock Hefner to portray🎭 'Bobbe Penn' in Easter.Die, Detective!

Moving along...

In my opera, Easter, we have an overarching plot with a lot of smaller substories. And in those substories are front-facing characters with tie-ins to real-world happenings. Basically, what this amounts to is me trying to say that I couldn't tell the story of Easter without a ritornello.

What may be confusing to some people is that the prelude, Die, Detective!, is in itself a backstory, so to speak (sort of like a roman à clef), that sets up the remaining four (4) chords (you'll see). But, as it stands, this actual first chord features a number of times where the protagonist/antagonist must revisit his past in order (for the audience) to piece together present-day clues. Take, for instance, August 1978, where we find a young Montana-grown Joseph, full of hope+aspirations, caught between his military friend's personal strife, and his own ambitions of perhaps someday becoming a renown comedian.

Note (+): The comedian angle for Pascha is reminiscent of me. Part of my own biography is that I was a touring stand-up comic during my teenage years. I retired from the craft February 14, 2009, but I *think* I still have some funnies left. In this chord, pretty much all of the jokes spoken are mine. I consider it a natural extension of what Bruce Willis brought to the John McClane role, where he would make wisecracks throughout. Also, Philadelphians (particularly folks from West Philly) have a special kind of humor that I'm excited to showcase here.🤪

black and white photo of the Uptown Theater


That Summer (Labor Day weekend), Philadelphia's famed Uptown Theater is closing its doors due to increasing blight in the north part of town*; the neighborhood is no longer as safe and vibrant as it was just a decade prior. The African-American community is still feeling the effects of the Civil Rights Movement, compounded with first Chief of Police and then-Mayor Frank Rizzo's antics and policies frozen in place during that decade. Turning inward, the Community becomes increasingly activist, self-destructive, and simulataneously self-expressive [in my opinion, some of the most beautiful music from that era came directly out of Philly]. In the middle of all this we have some blue-eyed soul, a young Pascha who is also struggling to find his place in the world as he chases his dreams, follows his heart, and succumbs to destiny. This part of the story (fictitiously what transpires in the aftermath of the Amateur Night held on Saturday August 5, 1978) is the most pivotal in telling because the events define who and what our eponym is (to become).The venue's closure🔒 part is factual, but the date(s) may not be accurate.

The significance of the Uptown Theater cannot be understated here (it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982). Factually, Georgie Woods ceased to produce shows in/by 1972, not 1978. I, of course, am using artistic license with many facets of this history - dates, names, etc.. I'll artifact some interesting tidbits of information about that period of time in Philadelphia's history in this footnote.

The venue is located at 2240 N. Broad Street, near the campus of Temple University. It was erected between 1927 - 1929. For many years afterward, as North Philadelphia became a bright spot and entertainment destination for fresh immigrants to the city, the middle and upperclass residents frequented the area (section of town) for its nightlife, which complemented the blue collar vibe of the neighborhood. In its heyday, Uptown Theater was a rival to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NYC in terms of acts brought in, community tradition, and popularity.

In its later years, namely those from the 1960s and early 1970s, it was a hub for civil rights activism in the forms of spoken word and music, as the Black demographic was somewhat under siege from law and order. The area was riddled with high crime, causing the neighborhood to, well .. change. A lot of prominent and high-profile African-Americans from that era, such as Malcolm X and those from the NAACP, would visit (the area, radio stations, and the venue itself), thereby re-energizing the Community. Additionally, Woods would hold what he called 'freedom shows' to further make this point.

In Die, Detective!, we go as far back as June-July 1978, and explore the ongoings of MOVE (particularly the buildup to August 8, 1978). This is crucial as presented inside (metaphorically-speaking) the Uptown Theater.


Rock Hefner posesAgain, in bringing this flashback to life, there was a lot of second-hand study done during my research, but I had a few allies here. There are people still around who can vividly recall the days when acts such as The Supremes were booked to perform at the venue on the cheap (relatively speaking, $400 for a 10-day residency!!!🤯). Uptown Theater was also a staple on the so-called Chitlin' Circuit. Many of the acts (colored or otherwise) over a period of time were brought in courtesy of Georgie Woods, himself a voice (literally, he worked in radio🎙️📻) instrumental in getting other voices in the Community heard at a time when the work to do so was still greater than the payoff. As they say, old habits die hard. In Die, Detective!, Woods is portrayed (an indirect representation) by native Philadelphia personality, Rock Hefner, who - as Bobbe Penn (the name was his pick) - brings his own individuality to the role.

Note (+): At first, I had Bobbe Penn as part of a duo that was supposedly modeled after the music production team, Gamble & Huff, from that era. They were called 'GO' from 'Todd G' and 'Warren O'. There was a scheduling error with the would-be partner of one of the actors, so I went ahead with just making the producer solo. I then decided that music production (having to create 1970s-style R&B tunes) just for a solo act would be too costly, and wouldn't really add anything outside of a soundtrack.

Penn's story was always going to be attached to the Uptown Theater. After further review, the solo act became synonymous with the tellings of those years through the lens of Georgie Woods. Now with that character being a disc jockey, I have a perfect excuse to introduce one of my all-time favorite songs, 'Blame It On the Boogie', which was something I was going to do, anyway.😅

In real life, Rock Hefner has a fantastic sense of humor. Considering that this chord is ultra-serious in its content, having him onboard to convey this backstory is quite the treat in an otherwise pseudo-depressing piece.

+Rauol Gore cast🎭 as 'Socks' in Easter.Die, Detective!

Having spent a considerable amount of time in Philadelphia trying to gather an understanding to the swagger of the City, I've come to realize that you truly must carry yourself a certain way in this town in order to remain respectful of her inhabitants and customs. Or else. I made a few announcements with the Greater Film Office of Philadelphia about my opera, Easter, as well as with some of the local newspapers🗞, but to really get the vibes of how things are done, I took to the streets.

There, I consulted with a number of people who - if you must know - have helped me with crafting certain elements* of this storytelling that make it look and sound authentic. One of whom is Rauol Gore, who will play the character of 'Socks' in Die, Detective!. Ironically, 'Socks' is so-named because he adopted the style of actually not wearing socks🧦 over his feet with his attire (that name and backstory were credited to Gore himself).Okay, really just his scenes while in character.

I originally had Roscoe as a lone kingpin, so clever and dangerous that he has managed to evade capture and prosecution for nearly three (3) years pretty much by his lonesome. This is as radical as it is incredible, say some persons with legitimate street cred in Philly, who tipped that in reality, the code for any gangster to follow is that they must always watch their back because there is a hungry lion in the shadows ready to pounce. It would, therefore, be highly unlikely for a gangster, let alone a kingpin, to operate solo (hence the term 'gangster'); there would be an intrasquad Number Two. That person would be the lookout and group manager, considering that a drug ring is a type of business operation. In Roscoe's ring, this person is Socks. I was also informed that when huge sums of money are involved (as is the case with Mr. Alphabet's city-wide investment), the worst of human nature surfaces, and individuals tend to only (want to) take care of themselves [folks don't share]. This translates as Roscoe needing to always look over his shoulder in the company of his understudy.

Socks' character allows for me to innovate with the format. Since he is more or less a bit player in the opera, not dissimilar to Ric Flair's part, we are releasing a set of compensatory 2D 'mixtapes' (ie. experimental short dramatic videos) under his banner to help further emphasize his importance and better explain his angle leading up to Die, Detective!. His own credibility was on the line in this endeavor, as Gore, also known as the rapper, Zula, was a tremendous resource in intimating intricacies of the streets (within certain parts of Philadelphia) with me.👍🤐