My Curriculum Vitae is uploaded to LinkedIn: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/merchantdavid>.
My Blog (where I muse about exoplanets and astrobiology–astronomy is a passion of mine): <https://alienrealities.blogspot.com/>
What is in your iPod?
I have a very wide range of tastes across many genres and cultures.
What do you read?
Most anything. About books, I agree with Mr. Sagan:
I also agree with George R.R. Martin’s Tyrion Lannister, from A Song of Fire and Ice:
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
My favorite fiction genres are medieval (especially the Old English Period, like Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and Marie de France’s Lais), Shakespeare (especially Macbeth), science fiction, and steampunk. I will read almost anything, fiction or non-fiction, related to Mars (the planet, not the candy bar).
I also like reading novelizations of or stories inspired by my favorite video games. For example, the novelizations of the Biohazard and Resident Evil games (and movies) are rather good as is the Biohazard Marhawa Desire manga series by Naoki Serizawa.
My favorite non-fiction genres are astronomy/physics, medieval history, theology (world), video game design, and writing.
What shows and movies do you watch?
I am a cinephile with a wide range of tastes, from documentaries to fantasy to fiction, including foreign films.
As for sports, it needs to be a local team (LA Tech Bulldogs) or Olympic sports (gymnastics, skating, diving) for me to be interested, though I have watched a NASCAR race from time to time.
What about the theatre?
I am a fan of live theater. Ruston Community Theater (RCT), www.rctruston.org/, puts on excellent plays each year at the Dixie Theater (located downtown Ruston), including at least one musical and one children’s production.
Louisiana Tech’s theater department, www.latechuniversitytheatre.com/, also puts on excellent plays each year. Check out both schedules and make it a point to see a live play this year.
Both have open auditions—no experience necessary. RCT also welcomes backstage help (props, backdrops, sound, and lighting). I have acted on stage several times, mostly for RCT, as well as worked backstage.
Also, Tech’s Theatre Department offers a stage combat workshop once a year (usually around the end of March or start of April): <http://techtheatreplayers.wixsite.com/scw2018>. Open to anyone (as long as you can hold a sword—minors will need parental consent).
My experiences with the theater:
- My first experience was helping with a staged reading of “Dr. Will” at Louisiana Tech, 2006. I read the role of Rev. Rick.
- In 2007, I played Vinnie in RCT’s production of The Odd Couple.
- In 2008, I played the evil Dr. Pinch in RCT’s The Conjunction of Comedia & Errata, a science-fiction version adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors.
- In 2017, I had several small roles in RCT’s musical production of A Christmas Carol. One day I would like to play Scrooge on the stage (maybe another retirement activity). I know some think I already play Scrooge when it comes to grading :-).
- In December 2018, I was honored to be able to portray Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street.
- I am also involved in puppet theater for Louisiana Tech’s Annual Birthday Festival: In 2017, I was Anthony in the puppet play parodying Anthony and Cleopatra, written by Dr. Celia Lewis; in 2018, I was was both the jester and the evil Edmund in Queen Leer, a parody of King Leer written by Dr. Celia Lewis.
I have also worked backstage (backstage minion) thrice and ran sound once Murder’s Bad But Monday Can Kill You! (backdrops, grand, props, telephone sound effect), March 2018; Hello, Dolly!, July 2018 (backdrops, grand, props); Witness for the Prosecution, March 2019 (ran sound); and The Music Man, July 2019 (backdrops, grand, props).
By the way, Louisiana Tech also has the Louisiana Tech Concert Association (LTCA) which brings in great musical and theatric talent from around the country, and sometimes the world. Check their schedule at <https://www.latechuniversitytheatre.com/concert-association.php>.
What video games do you play?
I have been playing since the days of Pong. I was addicted to Pac-Man when I first went to college (back in the before-time). I tend to like RPGs, especially dungeon crawlers.
Old favorites: NeverWinter Nights, Might & Magic, and Ultima (the original series, not the MMORPG). I loved Dragon Age: Origins. Other games I am fond of playing are American McGee’s Alice, Bioshock, Fallout: New Vegas; Mass Effect, Pillars of Eternity, the Sacred series, and Skyrim. As much as I am a fan of Resident Evil, the later games have been pretty much “meh”; I really wanted to like those games.
Where have you traveled?
The World is a book and those who do not travel read only a single page. —St. Augustine of Hippo
I am an Army brat and ex-U.S. Navy sailor. While I was born in Michigan, almost eight of my first nine years were spent growing up in Germany.
At the time I joined the Navy, they had the slogan “Join the Navy and see the world”—I forgot that 70 percent of the world is covered by water. I saw a lot of water, cruising the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean (including above the arctic circle), Norwegian fjords, and, most often, the Mediterranean Sea.
OK, we did pull into port many times, and out to sea I saw whales playing in our ship’s wake, dolphins escorting us into port, giant sea turtles swimming alongside, giant icebergs cruising by, as well as some ethereal times when out at in the middle of the ocean a dense, insulating, almost otherworldly fog would envelop the ship.
After the Navy, I still traveled, just not as much as I would have liked. When you are young and have the time and energy, I would highly recommend you travel whenever you have the chance. Do not put it off to “one day” as often that “one day” does not come. I have missed a few travel opportunities that I now regret missing.
Other countries I have visited (not just passed through): Belgium, England, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. I also have had several wonderful extended stays in Japan. If you are only able to travel to one country in your life, I strongly recommend Japan: the history, the food, the people, the countryside, the bullet trains—it is an amazing and beautiful country.
In the U.S., I have lived in California, Florida (including Key West), Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, and have visited most of the rest. I have spent the longest time in Louisiana, so it is my home state by default.
Travel helps you learn more about your own country, the world, and yourself. If you have the opportunity to travel, you should do so. Tech has a study abroad program, check out <http://techtravels.latech.edu/> for more information.
At the very least, meet people from different countries.
Vegetable gardening, solving acrostics, astronomy, writing, and drawing. I am relearning the flute and trying to learn the Theremin as it fits in with my love of classic Sci-Fi movies—but mercy, that is one difficult instrument to learn.
Many of my interests are reflected in my Pinterest boards <https://www.pinterest.com/davidmmerchant/>.
I also usually give a talk at the annual LA Tech Shakespeare Birthday Festival held in the Shakespeare Garden (GTMH courtyard). My talks are discuss Shakespearean influences on and references in science fiction or fantasy and, one time, a Japanese film, Throne of Blood (蜘蛛巣城 Kumonosu-jō, “Spider Web Castle”), which re-imagined MacBeth in samurai times.
My talks have so far covered Shakespeare influences in Star Trek, The Forbidden Planet, Dr. Who, the Lord of the Rings, Japanese film, as well as the influence of Shakespeare on Charles Dickens. I usually cosplay when doing so, from Star Trek officers (Federation and Vulcan), to the Fourth Doctor, to a samurai, to Charles Dickens.
The Shakespeare Birthday Celebration is an all-day event with sword fights, Shakespearean insults, puppet plays, poetry readings, and a variety of short talks covering the wide range of influence Shakespeare has on every storytelling media. Held every April, if you are in the area, it is worth checking out.
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