It’s Twelve past Twelve

…And my partner is still writing our project.

You guessed it, he’s a he, and I’m me.  A woman writer in the twenty-first century still dealing with issues of,  “Hey, hold on there! Where the heck do you think you’re going so fast?”

Guys don’t get it, just like in regular life.  I mean after all, my partner is also my partner.  No we’re not married or we’d be called the Roses.  Nope, we live together mostly in bliss … until it’s time to write.

The problem is that I’ve always detested back seats. Writing since seven years old and having raced cars and torn up the pavement with my Kawasaki (motorcycle), playing the dutiful, soft–spoken, smiling doll – mouth only opened when required – is damned near impossible.  So I’m percolating, rather than collaborating.

Okay: I kinda expected a Dashiell Hammett experience – you know,  William Powell and Myrna Loy doing their thing in The Thin Man series.  Interestingly, that partnership so perfect aired in the late ’30’s.   Nick and Nora Charles and of course,  Astor the pooch and Mrs. Astor.   The perfect San Francisco family for hard-boiled detecting.

Yet here we are in 2011 and getting my dearest to acknowledge my Noraness as a necessity rather than a safety net, mothering role is frustrating.  The voyeur in me smiles as I look up over my Macbook at him, enjoying himself writing for both of us while I write this.  Will he run out of steam? Hardly.   He’s a Scorpio.   Maybe that’s it.   The sign so secretive, we’re not sure who those born under it are and if they really exist.

So what I’ve done is this: I’ve started three screenplays in the creative hours I’ve been hopped up to write, but left waiting.   I know what you’re thinking . “Hopped up”,  she said.  “Wonder on what?”

On adrenaline, that’s what; caused by my co-conspirator in the adventure of screenwriting.  Yes, it works for me.  It builds up,  all those feelings,  sending me in new directions discovering new and exciting angles, as I sit here seemingly percolating — I’m fearlessly creating,  deeply exploring and richly incubating  — in my mind’s sky!


Thank you partner, for sharpening my edges, bringing my blood to a boil, and causing me to discover pure gold!

What a process. Gotta love it!

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Spilling one’s Guts


A few years ago I had an accident that landed me in the hospital where I had a series of surgeries. Scared me to the core. Before that incident, I felt invincible.

After surgery, I read Stephen King’s memoir. I had no personal like or dislike for the author, but I knew he was wildly prolific. During film school, I worked at a Barnes & Noble bookstore (as well as Disney) and noticed that King’s books were also written under about six other pen-names — probably so he wouldn’t saturate the market (under one name.)

But now, in his memoir, he was in the same position that I found myself in as a van had come out of nowhere and hit the writer as he jogged, landing him in hospital broken and wondering whether he could ever find his way again.

Writing does require passion and mental stamina.

Here is King’s forward to Dark Tower, written probably around 2003. (I read this in 2015 and for some reason, it saved my writing life, along with John Truby ‘s review of Mad Max: fury road, and the female myth.)

Stephen King:
I think novelists come in two types, and that includes the sort of fledgling novelist I was by 1970.
Those who are bound for the more literary or “serious” side of the job examine every possible subject in the light of this question: What would writing this sort of story mean to me?

Those whose destiny (or ka, if you like) is to include the writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: What would writing this sort of story mean to others?

The “serious” novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the “popular” novelist is looking for an audience.

Both kinds of writer are equally selfish. I’ve known a good many, and will set my watch and warrant upon it. Anyway, I believe that even at the age of nineteen, I recognized the story of Frodo and his efforts to rid himself of the One Great Ring as one belonging to the second group.

They were the adventures of an essentially British band of pilgrims set against a backdrop of vaguely Norse mythology. I liked the idea of the quest—loved it, in fact—but I had no interest in either Tolkien’s sturdy peasant characters (that’s not to say I didn’t like them, because I did) or his bosky Scandinavian settings. If I tried going in that direction, I’d get it all wrong.

So I waited.
By 1970 I was twenty-two, the first strands of gray had showed up in my beard (I think smoking two and a half packs of Pall Malls a day probably had something to do with that), but even at twenty-two, one can afford to wait. At twenty-two, time is still on one’s side, although even then that bad old Patrol Boy’s in the neighborhood and asking questions. Then, in an almost completely empty movie theater (the Bijou, in Bangor, Maine, if it matters), I saw a film directed by Sergio Leone. It was called The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and before the film was even half over, I realized that what I wanted to write was a novel that contained Tolkien’s sense of quest and magic but set against Leone’s almost absurdly majestic Western backdrop.

If you’ve only seen this gonzo Western on your television screen, you don’t understand what I’m talking about—cry your pardon, but it’s true. On a movie screen, projected through the correct Panavision lenses, TG, TB, & TU is an epic to rival Ben-Hur. Clint Eastwood appears roughly eighteen feet tall, with each wiry jut of stubble on his cheeks looking roughly the size of a young redwood tree. The grooves bracketing Lee Van Cleef’s mouth are as deep as canyons, and there could be a thinny (see Wizard and Glass) at the bottom of each one.

The desert settings appear to stretch at least out as far as the orbit of the planet Neptune. And the barrel of each gun looks to be roughly as large as the Holland Tunnel. What I wanted even more than the setting was that feeling of epic, apocalyptic size. The fact that Leone knew jack shit about American geography (according to one of the characters, Chicago is somewhere in the vicinity of Phoenix, Arizona) added to the film’s sense of magnificent dislocation.

And in my enthusiasm—the sort only a young person can muster, I think—I wanted to write not just a long book, but the longest popular novel in history. I did not succeed in doing that, but I feel I had a decent rip; The Dark Tower, volumes one through seven, really comprise a single tale, and the first four volumes run to just over two thousand pages in paperback. The final three volumes run another twenty-five hundred in manuscript. I’m not trying to imply here that length has anything whatsoever to do with quality; I’m just saying that I wanted to write an epic, and in some ways, I succeeded.

If you were to ask me why I wanted to do that, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s a part of growing up American: build the tallest, dig the deepest, write the longest. And that head-scratching puzzlement when the question of motivation comes up? Seems to me that that is also part of being an American.

In the end we are reduced to saying It seemed like a good idea at the time. Another thing about being nineteen, do it please ya: it is the age, I think, where a lot of us somehow get stuck (mentally and emotionally, if not physically). The years slide by and one day you find yourself looking into the mirror with real puzzlement. Why are those lines on my face? you wonder. Where did that stupid potbelly come from? Hell, I’m only nineteen! This is hardly an original concept, but that in no way subtracts from one’s amazement.

Time puts gray in your beard, time takes away your jump-shot, and all the while you’re thinking—silly you—that it’s still on your side.

The logical side of you knows better, but your heart refuses to believe it. If you’re lucky, the Patrol Boy who cited you for going too fast and having too much fun also gives you a dose of smelling salts. That was more or less what happened to me near the end of the twentieth century.

It came in the form of a Plymouth van that knocked me into the ditch beside a road in my hometown.

About three years after that accident I did a book signing for From a Buick 8 at a Borders store in Dearborn, Michigan. When one guy got to the head of the line, he said he was really, really glad that I was still alive. (I get this a lot, and it beats the shit out of “Why the hell didn’t you die?”) “I was with this good friend of mine when we heard you got popped,” he said. “Man, we just started shaking our heads and saying ‘There goes the Tower, it’s tilting, it’s falling, ahhh, shit, he’ll never finish it now.’ ”

A version of the same idea had occurred to me—the troubling idea that, having built the Dark Tower in the collective imagination of a million readers, I might have a responsibility to make it safe for as long as people wanted to read about it. That might be for only five years; for all I know, it might be five hundred. Fantasy stories, the bad as well as the good (even now, someone out there is probably reading Varney the Vampire or The Monk), seem to have long shelf lives.


Roland’s way of protecting the Tower is to try to remove the threat to the Beams that hold the Tower up. I would have to do it, I realized after my accident, by finishing the gunslinger’s story. During the long pauses between the writing and publication of the first four Dark Tower tales, I received hundreds of “pack your bags, we’re going on a guilt trip” letters.

In 1998 (when I was laboring under the mistaken impression that I was still basically nineteen, in other words), I got one from an “82-yr-old Gramma, don’t mean to Bother You w/ My Troubles BUT!! very Sick These Days.” The Gramma told me she probably had only a year to live (“14 Mo’s at Outside, Cancer all thru Me”), and while she didn’t expect me to finish Roland’s tale in that time just for her, she wanted to know if I couldn’t please (please) just tell her how it came out.

The line that wrenched my heart (although not quite enough to start writing again) was her promise to “not tell a Single Soul.” A year later—probably after the accident that landed me in the hospital—one of my assistants, Marsha DiFilippo, got a letter from a fellow on death row in either Texas or Florida, wanting to know essentially the same thing: how does it come out? (He promised to take the secret to the grave with him, which gave me the creeps.)

I would have given both of these folks what they wanted—a summary of Roland’s further adventures—if I could have done, but alas, I couldn’t. I had no idea of how things were going to turn out with the gunslinger and his friends.
To know, I have to write. I once had an outline, but I lost it along the way. (It probably wasn’t worth a tin shit, anyway.) All I had was a few notes (“Chussit, chissit, chassit, something-something-basket” reads one lying on the desk as I write this).

Eventually, starting in July of 2001, I began to write again. I knew by then I was no longer nineteen, nor exempt from any of the ills to which the flesh is heir.

I knew I was going to be sixty, maybe even seventy. And I wanted to finish my story before the bad Patrol Boy came for the last time. I had no urge to be filed away with The Canterbury Tales and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The result—for better or worse—lies before you, Constant Reader, whether you reading this are starting with Volume One or are preparing for Volume Five. Like it or hate it, the story of Roland is now done. I hope you enjoy it. As for me, I had the time of my life.

-Stephen King January 25, 2003


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A spark of light – until we meet again, my friend

Anita had an exquisite way with words and always came from truth, whether hard or soft as a pillow. Through personal dialogue and encouragement, and the very intimate meetings where she facilitated our Sophia group, I not only got insight into the writings of Daisaku Ikeda, but learned to implement them, bit by tiny bit. Anita called it, “How to eat an elephant in bite-sized pieces.” She constantly gave me opportunities to express the talent she was convinced I had — more so than I was, always “shoving me into my own light.” “Stand in your light and own your power! “she’d say. She not only said that, but showed me how by being the mighty, flapping wings behind those words, manifesting them in reality. Her grasp of the

Her grasp of the gosho, and her way of explaining them on a cellular level was magnificent to experience. And she loved to say shocking things just to prod me into loosening any tight, prudish grip I had on how to behave for society’s approval. There was nothing to taboo to discuss; in fact, Anita seemed to appreciate the unusual. She turned everything on its

There was nothing too taboo to discuss; in fact, Anita seemed to appreciate the unusual. She turned everything on its head, and made sense of it all.

There is no way to truly express the profundity of her Broadway-styled, spectacular and heartfelt memorial service, which was attended by a splendid array of family, friends, performers and admirers. When I first met Anita, I instantly felt myself a part of her family, as have so many. Together, at the memorial, we were all transported to a place where the eternal magnificence of Anita and the love she shared graced us all with an eternal kiss of light. It was like walking on a golden chord, through a kaleidoscope of light laden with transformative powers. I felt like we had all joined hands in one, big, ceremony in the air. I will never forget it.

When I first met Anita, I instantly felt myself a part of her family, as have so many. Together, at the memorial, we were all transported to a place where the eternal magnificence that is Anita and the love she shared, graced us all with an eternal kiss of light. It was like walking on a golden chord, through a kaleidoscope of light laden with transformative powers. I felt like we had all joined hands in one, big, ceremony in the air. I will never forget it.

It was like traversing  a golden chord, through a kaleidoscope of light laden with transformative powers. I felt like we had all joined hands in one, big, ceremony in the air. I will never forget it.

Thank you, Anita. Thank you, thank you! I see now how it’s done."Anita's gift"

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Peripeteia /ˌpɛrəpˈt.ə/ (Greek: περιπέτεια) is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point.  The Anglicized form of peripeteia is peripety.

[per-uh-pi-tahy-uh: a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in a literary work.

In Literary works, a complex plot implies a reversal of intention or situation and recognition.  Reversal of situation is a change from which the action veers round to its opposite.  Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge.  Both these parts of the plot turn upon surprise.  If peripeteia is a sudden and unexpected change of fortune that swiftly turns a routine sequence of events into a story worth telling, then how can you use your moment of ‘falling round’ into a personal demonstration of magnificence?

The Handmaids Tale

A review:


The TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale has finally brought Margaret Atwood’s tale of near-future totalitarianism to the small screen, and while the first three episodes of the Hulu series remain largely faithful to the original novel, there are some key differences. If you’re curious how the show departs from the book, read on. Spoilers follow, of course.

The Setting

The book: Published in 1985, Atwood’s novel imagined a near-future America, specifically set in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are numerous references to the ’70s and Offred describes seeing graffiti that references the ’80s, but the main narrative offers no other firm dates. The novel’s epilogue takes place in the year 2195, when “the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies” discusses and debates the veracity of Offred’s story.

The show: Also set in what appears to be Cambridge, but in the present day or a time very close to it. (In one scene, Offred makes a reference to Uber.)

Offred’s Real Name

The book: Atwood never reveals Offred’s actual name, though there has long been a theory that it might be June, one of the names she lists when she is talking about how during their indoctrination at the Red Center, she and the other Handmaids-to-be “exchanged names from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.” All of the other names show up as characters in the book, leading to the speculation that June is Offred’s true identity.

The show: At the end of the first episode, Offred reveals her secret, forbidden name via inner monologue, and it is indeed June.

Racial Diversity

The book: Gilead is overtly racist as well as sexist. We’re told that black people — who are called “the children of Ham,” after one of Noah’s sons who is often construed as black — were removed from society and resettled in “the National Homelands,” an undisclosed place somewhere in the Midwest. We don’t really know what that means, but as all of history has proven, minorities getting rounded up and carted away certainly doesn’t lead to anything good. Rita, one of the domestic workers known as a Martha, is described as having “brown arms,” but it’s not clear what race she is. It’s equally unclear whether Gilead allows nonwhite people to work as servants. Jewish people are given more status, since they are considered “Sons of Jacob” per their role in the Bible, and have the option to convert or emigrate to Israel.

The show: Several significant characters are nonwhite. June’s husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and her friend Moira (Samira Wiley) are black, and several of the other Handmaids are also women of color. Offred’s daughter is biracial, rather than having the pale hair described in the book. Although all the wives and high-ranking men we’ve met so far are white, the white supremacy that exists in Gilead still permits black and brown women to bear the children of powerful white men, implying that they would adopt and accept children who are biracial.

The Commander

The book: We know that the Commander — the high-ranking man to whom Offred is assigned to bear children — is named Fred because of the Handmaid name she is given, but we never find out his last name. (The epilogue speculates that he might be a man named Frederick Waterford.) After he and Offred play Scrabble, he asks her to kiss him and is sad when she does not do it “as if you meant it.”

The show: The Commander is indeed named Waterford. However, his appearance is different. In the novel, we’re told that he is an older man with silver hair and a mustache who looks “like a midwestern bank president.” Joseph Fiennes is many things, but he is not a man who looks like a paunchy, middle-aged financier from Wyoming. Their first Scrabble liaison is entirely chaste.

Serena Joy

The book: The Commander’s wife described as blond, with a face that is too big and a nose that is too small, and she sometimes wears a veil. She, too, is older like the Commander, and Offred comments that she has arthritis.

The show: Actress Yvonne Strahovski is blond, but definitely a young and very attractive woman rather than an older one. (This is a consistent theme in the casting.) Her version of Serena Joy does not wear a veil, but rather dresses in relatively conventional ways in comparison to the Handmaids.


The book: She’s described as a little plump with brown hair, and she does not say that she is gay or had a wife. Offred doesn’t tell Ofglen when the Commander wants to see her in private; instead, Ofglen somehow knows through her connections in the rebellion and asks her to find out more. Although she does disappear suddenly one day, Offred is never interrogated about it, and the new Ofglen reveals that her predecessor killed herself “when she saw the van coming for her.” There’s no way to know, of course, if this is true.

The show: She’s played by Alexis Bledel, so she’s not plump at all. She reveals to Offred that she had a wife and daughter in the time before Gilead. Offred tells her about the Commander wanting to see her in secret, and also asks her to find out more about him. In the second episode, we learn that Ofglen was arrested not for her participation in the rebellion, but for her relationship with a Martha. She is charged with “gender treachery” and ultimately pardoned because of her fertility. Instead, she is forced to undergo female circumcision to remove her “unnatural” desires.


The book: She is not particularly rebellious at the Red Center and does not lose her eye; rather, she is a bit of a suck-up and the Aunts even ask her to inform on the other girls. In the book, it is Moira who causes trouble, faking appendicitis and then attempting to seduce the soldiers en route to the hospital to escape, for which she ends up having her feet beaten with frayed steel rods.

The show: When Janine rebels against the Aunts at the Red Center, they remove her right eye as punishment, per the biblical passage about how “if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”


The book: Nick is not just the Commander’s driver but one of the Guardians, or soldiers of the Gilead regime. He is white, though tanned, with a “French face, lean and whimsical.” He takes a risk by winking at Offred, who suspects he might be an Eye spying for the government. When Nick later approaches her with an invitation from the Commander, he kisses her — and later, Serena Joy arranges secret trysts between him and Offred to improve her chances of pregnancy.

The show: Nick is mostly referred to as the Commander’s driver, though Offred calls him by his first name when the Eyes arrive to interrogate her. He appears to be nonwhite (the actor who plays him, Max Minghella, is of Chinese descent) and he tells Offred to “be careful” when she flirts with him. Though Nick appears to care for Offred — in the third episode, it is implied that he alerts Serena Joy to the Eyes’ interrogation — they have no relationship to speak of.

The Technology

The book: Atwood wrote her novel in the early- to mid-’80s, back when credit cards and computerization was relatively new, and so the terminology imagined for digital technology is a bit retro-futuristic: banks are “Compubanks,” bank and credit-card accounts are “Compucounts.” Basically, everything digital is “compu-,” much like the “e-” prefix that got attached to everything electronic in the ’90s.

The show: Because it is set in the present day (or near-present day), everything digital is referred to simply as what it is. Banks are banks and credit cards are credit cards.

The Protests

The book: Offred didn’t attend any of the protests or marches that took place after women’s rights were taken away by the Gilead regime. As she puts it, “Luke said it would be futile and I had to think about my family, him and her.”

The show: After women lose their right to have money and hold jobs, both June and Moira attend a protest that becomes violent, with soldiers firing into the crowds and many people killed in the streets.

The Child Abduction

The book: Offred describes her 11-month-old daughter being briefly abducted from her, stolen from a shopping cart at the market. When she screams, the woman is stopped and detained until the police come.

The show: June’s daughter Hannah is abducted shortly after birth, taken after a woman assaults and possibly kills a nurse at the hospital. The kidnapper is stopped by the police before she can take the baby from the building.

The Salvaging

The book: The “women’s salvaging,” as it is called, takes place in Harvard Yard and initially features the hanging of Handmaids and a wife who have committed unspecified crimes. When a man condemned for supposedly raping a Handmaid is brought out, it is Ofglen who attacks him quickly and brutally. Ofglen later tells Offred that he was with the rebellion and she wanted to put him out of his misery.

The show: When the salvaging begins, it is Offred who lands the first blow. She attacks the man brutally, perhaps as a catharsis for all the trauma she has experienced.

Hulu’s Original: 13 nominations for an Emmy.


In an April stacked with wall-to-wall, top-notch prestige television, it can be challenging to figure out which new or returning series to push to the top of one’s priority list. So here’s a piece of advice: slide The Handmaid’s Tale, the new Hulu original based on Margaret Atwood’s revered 1985 novel, into one of the top must-see slots.

A faithful adaptation of the book that also brings new layers to Atwood’s totalitarian, sexist world of forced surrogate motherhood, this series is meticulously paced, brutal, visually stunning, and so suspenseful from moment to moment that only at the end of each hour will you feel fully at liberty to exhale. Assuming the rest of the episodes are as strong as the first three provided for review, The Handmaid’s Tale will stand as not only the best one-hour drama Hulu has produced, but one of the best dramas of the year, period.

Given the rise of nationalism both here in the U.S. and abroad, The Handmaid’s Tale also possesses a relevance and sense of urgency that make its story of oppression, misogyny, and extreme conservative rule seem extra timely even though it is timeless. “There would be no mercies for a member of the Resistance,” says Offred, the story’s protagonist, during a voice-over in one of the early episodes. You hear her say this, and you know she’s talking about a resistance completely different from the grassroots movement against the Trump administration. You shudder anyway.

The first episode — which, along with two subsequent ones, begins streaming April 26 — opens with a pulse-pounding, frenetically shot sequence reminiscent of the film Children of Men, which makes sense since some of that film’s plot elements were reminiscent of Atwood’s novel. We see the woman we will later learn is Offred (Elisabeth Moss, in an excellent, firmly controlled performance), her husband, and their daughter attempting to get out of the U.S., first in a car and then by fleeing toward the border on foot while armed men engage in pursuit. Things do not go well. After that opener, we cut to an image of Offred at some point in the future. She is alone, dressed in the puritanical red dress and white bonnet that is the handmaid’s uniform, and in a sparsely decorated room that is now her home. “I had another name, but it’s forbidden now,” Offred says. “So many things are forbidden now.”

For the handmaids — women who are still capable of bearing children in a society where babies have nearly become obsolete — just about everything is forbidden. Their function is to keep their mouths shut, unless they’re uttering one of their many customary, pious phrases — “Blessed be the fruit” or “Praise be” — and to allow themselves to be penetrated by their commanders while the commanders’ wives, who will eventually raise any children the handmaids conceive, bear witness to the sexual act. All of this is straight out of Atwood’s book, as is the account of the harsh indoctrination process that Offred must undergo before being assigned to her commander, as well as a focus on the development of her relationships with Moira (Samira Wiley), a handmaid who was Offred’s best friend before the American government’s collapse; Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), a fellow handmaid who may be more of a rule-breaker than she appears; Nick (Max Minghella), a guard at the commander’s compound who takes an interest in Offred; and both the commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), whose feelings toward the woman charged with carrying their “blessed fruit” are far from straightforward.

Series creator Bruce Miller, who wrote all of the episodes, hews closely to the original text, not only in terms of basic plot but also in his approach to world-building. He reveals key pieces of backstory slowly, in IV-drip fashion, just as Atwood does. Because the novel is so compact — the first episode of the series covers more or less everything that happens within the first 100 of its roughly 300 pages — Miller extends certain scenes and adds new ones that provide a sense of reinvention to this evocative American horror story.

In other words, even those who know the book well will likely find the series revelatory. There’s something startling and powerful about watching the circumstances that Offred describes on paper — the finger-pointing and slut-shaming of a handmaid-in-training, the indignity of the Ceremony nights when Offred is pounded by the commander while his wife holds her arms down — actually play out before your eyes.

The first three episodes are, appropriately, directed by a female filmmaker, Reed Morano, best known for her work as a cinematographer on everything from the movie The Skeleton Twins to HBO’s Vinyl to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. She brings a confident visual aesthetic to the series that is impossible to ignore yet not excessively showy. Overhead shots are used during key moments, suggesting that what’s happening to Offred and her fellow sex-servants is, indeed, in keeping with another phrase used by the handmaids, “under his eye.” In the second episode, when one of the handmaids gives birth, Morano shifts to that from-up-above point of view and captures a sea of crimson and white as her fellow handmaids, dressed in their usual garb, embrace the women to provide comfort. It is such a beautiful, distinctively feminine, pointillist image. Up close, you see every individual woman hugging one another, forming a circle. From a distance, they are collectively a flower putting its petals back together.

The performances in The Handmaid’s Tale are just as strong as the direction, with Wiley, Bledel (for real, she’s very convincing here), and Ann Dowd as the punishing Aunt Lydia among the standouts. But ultimately, the series belongs to Moss, and wow, is she great. Offred spends every hour of every day trying to suppress her emotions; she’s basically a boiling tea kettle doing everything she can to keep the steam inside, and that tension radiates off of Moss in every scene, when she stammers, nervously swallows, or clasps her hand over her mouth to make sure uncontrollable laughter doesn’t spill out into the air. Even her voice-over narration is often spoken in low tones, as if she’s nervous that someone other than a Hulu viewer might overhear her.

“Now I’m awake to the world,” Offred tells us in one of those whispery confessionals. “I was asleep before.” The Handmaid’s Tale has the same effect. It’s a bracing, thoroughly engrossing wake-up call that puts a lump in the throat and never lets it dissolve. And for that I say: praise be.

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Third Person Close … admittedly a wonton within another, within a third.

by denise kwong

Says , whom I read while scanning articles on the best POV for a particularly special story.  She writes:

I personally love close third person. The closer, the better! ;-)

Here’s an excerpt from my short story “Confession” (already published) which is written entirely in close third person. It’s also written in stream-of-consciousness hence the lack of punctuation.

It was hot in the piazza. The sweat drilling down his brow smudged all the colors of all the people into a puddle painted before his squinting eyes and suddenly he shivered a cold anxious shiver that ran down, all the way down, shocking his body raw, the body that had been slowly, cozily heating itself up in the April sun of Rome. Back home it’s still cool he thought and shut his eyes back into his brain. He pushed with all his might to will himself back home and straight into his cool wooden patio chair the one that swung slowly back and forth in a breeze across his patio and he could feel the fresh eastern wind on his face scraping the sweet scent of newly blooming spring gardens budding trees and he opened his eyes overjoyed but the heat clamped down on him with a hand yet heavier than before. His present reality was too much to bear. They were still there the throngs the masses the gullible sinners standing on the cobblestones ignoring their true boredom fatigue hunger thirst and nausea because they had traveled thousands of kilometers and miles by all modes of transportation available for outrageous prices herded like cattle into airplanes buses cars and trains and rushing along all the roads that had always led to Rome, and all just to say for the rest of their lives I saw the Pope and then forget entirely what it was really like to stand there in the piazza in front of an edifice that had seen more ignominy than ever there were Popes in history. He noticed her standing next to him and he remembered she was the one who had dragged him away from the comfort of his home to this foreign place his wife he remembered she was his wife but he allowed himself to forget at least for now he allowed himself to dream and imagine himself there alone in the midst of these miserable masses his simple chain of thought alone daring to separate from the others, his will alone rising above the downtrodden verses murmured by the papal voice, repeated with low confused and unintelligibly senile breaths, and he thought of the enchanted spires of Budapest the misted streets of Prague the dusty roofs of Morocco the painful lush forests of South America the green eerieness of China the fresh breezes of Alaska and all the places he ever travelled, glorious voyages of his early youth when he was wild single and free

[END EXCERPT, © Birgitte Rasine]

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Anatomy of a character


I am amazed at how much detail goes into creating believable characters.  From the book “Homeland Revealed,” Creator/ showrunner, Alex Gansa  actress, Claire Danes share.

Gansa: I am a writer. My title says Executive Producer, but I am, at the end of the day, a writer. And there is no greater feeling for a writer of television than to deliver fifty or so pages every few weeks to an extraordinarily talented group of actors and filmmakers and to watch them transform those pages into an episode better than he could have ever imagined. Such has been my privilege for three seasons on Homeland.

Every successful television show is a miracle. So many forces conspire against its survival from the very start, and so many hard choices must be made—narrative choices, casting choices, staffing choices, programming choices—any one of which can prove fatal. I know that people don’t like to hear success explained away as luck, but in the case of Homeland’s debut, there is simply no other explanation. Everything that could go right did, and everything that usually goes wrong didn’t.

Carrie Saul

Character study:  CIA AGENT CARRIE MATHISON WANTS only one thing: to prevent terror against American citizens. But her complex, driven personality can make her appear as an incredible asset to some and a risky liability to others. She is driven, whether she likes it or not—and she not only likes it, she lives for it.

Carrie didn’t start out quite as colorful as we know her today. In fact, she didn’t start out as “Carrie.” At the time they were writing the pilot, Gordon and Gansa had just seen Danes’s Emmy-winning performance in Temple Grandin. “We were very specific in our minds that the character was of a certain age, with a certain energy and intelligence and vulnerability,” Gordon recalls.  “We created a character who was very much like Claire Danes—in fact, we called the character Claire.” Gordon and Gansa sent the script to the actor, who, by good fortune, was available and liked what she saw.

“She was incredibly capable, smart, and had a lot of authority, but also this really interesting vulnerability,” Danes says. “It’s always interesting to play somebody who has a secret. But here was a secret agent who had another secret buried beneath all of that.” Interestingly, that secret—Carrie’s mental illness—was not originally part of her character. After the pilot had been picked up by Showtime, Gordon and Gansa were called in for a meeting. “They were tremendously excited about what we’d done,” Gansa recalls, “but there was a sense that Carrie was not a cable-worthy character yet. She was always a pariah. She always had an unpopular view. But there was nothing that anchored it.” The network had successful shows about a drug addict, a multiple personality, and a serial killer. “There were all these bigger-than-life pathologies. They wanted something to make her richer or deeper.” On suggestion from Gansa’s wife, the concept of a bipolar disorder was added. “We had gone through every possible pathology. But being bipolar excused her unbalanced and erratic behavior, in a strange way, because she had a condition that she was fighting. And there was an aspirational quality to her actually overcoming it at some point.”

Danes, who came onboard after that decision, also liked the way the writers made use of it.

“I never wanted her condition to become a gimmick. And nobody on the show ever made it ‘cheap,’ which is why it’s so special.” Both the writing team and Danes did research on bipolar disorder, utilizing Kay Redfield Jamison’s book An Unquiet Mind as a key resource (as was Jamison herself). In addition, writer Meredith Stiehm also happens to have a sister who suffers from the illness. “Meredith was often the voice of Carrie, particularly with regard to bipolar disorder,” Danes notes.

“She knows how the illness works, so that was a serendipitous gift for us to have her onboard.”

Danes herself also spoke with another author, Julie A. Fast, interviewed friends who knew of the psychology of the disease, and studied YouTube videos to get a sense of the unique physical behavior bipolar patients have. “Carrie is what’s known as bipolar 1,” the actor explains. “They tend to be more manic than depressive and have a more rapid cycle than bipolar 2 people.” Mania is also a bit more interesting, for storytelling purposes, than the depressive side. “They have a hard time with personal boundaries when they’re manic, and they’re very charismatic. They’re attractive and attracting. And they are often very promiscuous. They self-medicate with alcohol, tend not to sleep, and talk at a faster clip. And they’re very imposing. There’s a point on the continuum when they are high-performing, in fact out-performing everyone around them, something they always strive for and try to maintain.” Patients like Carrie, when they can, will tend to reject the medications that are there to help prevent the up-down swings of the disease, writer Chip Johannessen notes.

“It tones them down. They feel it takes life that was Technicolor and makes it black and white.” His colleague, Alex Cary, likens Carrie’s behavior in such instances to that of a German shepherd he once owned. “I had a house with one of those invisible electric fences and a collar for the dog. I would see her go through it and grit her teeth; I would see the determination and courage just to break free. I’ve always thought of Carrie that way.”


Carrie is also a fan of jazz, again, something not originally considered when her character was created. “It’s very improvisational and symbolic of her inner life,” says director Michael Cuesta, who first brought up Carrie’s affinity to the genre. “It’s complex and unpredictable, just like Carrie.” Its place in her work first appears in the pilot, when Carrie, having picked up a man in a bar, has a sudden realization about Brody’s apparent signaling to his handlers via finger tapping signals.

Production designer Patti Podesta first came up with the idea, she recalls. “Cuesta and I were talking, and he said, ‘How would she figure that out from looking at the jazz band?’ I said, ‘She’d be watching the fingering of the musicians, and it would make sense to her, because that’s how her brain works,’ and everyone went, ‘Yeah!’” Her drive to pursue terrorism—and Abu Nazir in particular—is considered to stem from an experience in Iraq, where she served as a case officer. “I think she came of age there, really,” Danes notes.

The writers surmise that she was, at one point, close with a guide/translator, whom Carrie saw killed. “They had been separated in a crowd, in a flash mob in the streets of Baghdad,” says Cary. “He had been taken as a traitor and strung up on a bridge and burned alive, and she had been in the crowd, unable to do anything about it, and watched. For me, that’s what has driven her to fight terrorism.” Carrie remains a loner, much like her mentor, Saul Berenson, and other great members of the agency.

“She’s a little bit like Edward Scissorhands,” Danes says. “She’s afraid of getting the agency. “She’s a little bit like Edward Scissorhands,” Danes says. “She’s afraid of getting close to people, because she knows the kind of damage her condition can wreak.” Her relationship is truly with her job. “The best way she knows to take care of herself is to work,” says Cary. “When she’s working, she’s really on top.”

Despite her very human flaws, Carrie’s heart and underlying drive come from the right place. “She is a true patriot,” says Danes. “She makes huge personal sacrifices in order to do her work well. And we admire her for that—it kind of justifies all of her less charming qualities.”

Carrie Bipolar

Some of the most fascinating parts of Carrie’s personality come from the fact that she suffers from bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression. People who are bipolar experience distinct—and severe—mood swings.

“It’s not somebody who just feels lousy in the afternoon or gets irritated in the evening,” explains Carolinas HealthCare neuropsychiatrist Dr. Jay Yeomans, a consultant to Homeland. “These are distinct mood changes, not precipitated by any event, and last for days or months.” Untreated, bipolar individuals experience both severe depression followed by bouts of manic activity. The depression is much worse than for people who suffer from more common “unipolar” depression, Yeomans says. “They have to pull themselves out of bed, drag themselves around the house all day, and experience inappropriate guilt and remorse.”

They often experience disturbances in sleep, appetite, and sex drive, have a lack of interest, and are “anergic,” meaning they have absolutely no energy. The flip side is their manic behavior, characterized by unbridled energy. “They generally will multitask, doing two or three things at once, and tell you they ‘feel great.’ And they’re not insomniacs.

They don’t have trouble sleeping; they don’t want to sleep. They have no reason to.” There is also a sense of grandiosity with bipolars, a feeling of being unstoppable and having a “special mission,” which, in Carrie’s case, is actually true.

“There’s a feeling of ‘nothing is going to stop me from achieving my goal,’ an obsessive quality, a determination. Even though people tell Carrie to just drop it and move on, she won’t let go.”

Bipolar people will engage in incredibly risky behavior. “There’s a hypersexuality, but other kinds of things too, like getting into accidents, trespassing. They’re very outspoken, because, for them, there are no boundaries. They’ll say things in public that are just outrageous.” Carrie, he notes, is “mixed bipolar,” which means she has plenty of energy but then becomes dysphoric. “Classically, the person who is manic is really gregarious.  They can actually be very Carrie, he notes, is “mixed bipolar,” which means she has plenty of energy but then becomes dysphoric. “Classically, the person who is manic is really gregarious.

They can actually be very entertaining. But a mixed bipolar can have all that energy but be really irritable and dysphoric.” Bipolar disorder can be treated with several different drugs. On Homeland, Carrie is treated with lithium, a safe, naturally occurring salt that acts as a mood stabilizer, to level out the peaks and troughs of the patient’s mood swings. “It’s not used as much today as some other drugs, but it’s still quite effective.” Clozapine, which Virgil finds Carrie taking in the pilot, is more typically prescribed for schizophrenics, rarely for those who are bipolar. “It’s one of the ‘big guns,’” Yeomans says. If they don’t respond to medications, patients may opt for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), as Carrie does at the end of Season 1. Yeomans was impressed with Dane’s performance. “She did her homework. It is uncanny how well she portrays somebody with bipolar disorder.”

AFTER RUNNING ONE OF THE most successful thrill rides in TV history for eight years, where does one go next? Executive producers/writers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel on Fox’s mega-hit 24. The show’s eighth and last season was in production when Gordon received a call in late December 2009 from his agent, Rick Rosen, who was on his way home from Israel. “He said, ‘I have your next show,’” the producer recalls. That next show was Israeli filmmaker Gideon Raff’s Hatufim (or Prisoners of War), created for Israel’s Keshet Broadcasting. Raff had begun the show with a three-page synopsis, after which he was given the go-ahead from network executive Avi Nir to write a full season’s scripts. Impressed by the results, Nir asked Raff to translate the first episode into English and gave the English translation to Rosen, before even a frame of footage had been shot. Upon receiving the script from Rosen, Gordon and Gansa were immediately impressed and wanted to see more. “America had been engaged in two conflicts for ten years, but there was no strong character on American television that really reflected the price of war,” Gordon recalls.


Source: Hurwitz, Matt. Homeland Revealed

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Hollywood’s history of aiding in the role of Intelligence – Argo

The real players

Following the SOTU address last night by President Barack Obama, many felt the afterglow of  having a phenomenon for President all along, working without beating his chest like “Tarzan” or pitting people or countries against each other, or religions against each other – but instead  doing what has to be done and must be done, with the brave men and women willing to and trained to do it.

Even the Republican response to the address from Nikki Haley agreed with the President’s call for unity  and warned of the dangers of following a town-crying, truth-denying and egotistical Donald Trump, a Nationalist seeking to destroy civility and democracy in this great United States.  His arguments call for those in this Administration to drop diplomacy and adopt outright hate of everyone who does not look like him – which, in itself would be difficult.  Not many orange people lately, with flying-saucer hair showing up on our radar.

The entire address can be read or watched here:

SOTU 2016.jpeg

I  decided to watch “Argo” again for the heck of it.  The Shah of Iran thing, where his Country, Iran, wanted to kill him for the atrocities heaped upon them.  Because he sought asylum in the U.S, our U.S Embassy in Iran was attacked and hostages taken.  Some were sheltered by Canadians.

Basically, The “Canadian Caper” was the popular name given to the joint covert rescue by the Canadian government and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of six American diplomats who had evaded capture during the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran, and taking of embassy personnel as hostages by Islamist students and militants on November 4, 1979.

The rescue involved CIA agents (Tony Mendez and a man known as “Julio”) joining the six diplomats to form a fake film crew made up of six Canadians, one Irishman and one Latin American who were finishing scouting for an appropriate location to shoot a scene for the nominal science-fiction film Argo. The ruse was carried off on the morning of Sunday, January 27, 1980, at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. The eight Americans successfully boarded a Swissair flight to Zürich and escaped Iran. The 2012 film Argo, which won three Academy Awards and three BAFTA awards including Best Picture, is a fictionalized cinematic representation of the operation.

Before I forget, here’s a link to some answers from the CIA about the authenticity of ARGO.  Pretty darned close!


Officially, Jimmy Carter had maintained for negotiation purposes that all of the missing American diplomats were held hostage, so the rescue came as a complete surprise to the public. American gratitude for the Canadian rescue effort was displayed widely and by numerous American television personalities and ordinary people alike, with Taylor a particular focus of attention. The Canadian flag was flown across the U.S., along with “Thank You” billboards.

In summary, after a short delay because of mechanical difficulties with the jet airliner, the group of eight boarded Swissair flight 363 for Zürich, Switzerland. By coincidence, the aircraft was named Aargau, after the Aargau canton in northern Switzerland. Upon landing in Zürich, the six diplomats were taken by CIA operatives to a mountain lodge safe house for the night. There, they were told that, for diplomatic purposes, they would not be able to talk to the press, and that they would be kept hidden in a secret location in Florida until the hostage situation was resolved. Mendez and Julio continued to Frankfurt, Germany, where Mendez wrote his after-action report. The next day, the story broke in Montreal, written by Jean Pelletier, then the Washington correspondent for La Presse; it was quickly picked up by the international press. The six diplomats were driven by the CIA from Switzerland to Ramstein Air Base in West Germany to be flown across the Atlantic to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

After the six American guests left on Monday, January 28, the Canadian embassy was closed that same day, with Taylor and the remaining staff returning to Canada. The six Americans arrived home on January 30, 1980.

Brings to memory today’s rescue, how it actually happened and how they have chosen to cover it: The stories don’t add up.  Possibly went another way, with platitudes sewn in to minimize damage.  Just go see ARGO.

14 sailors

Suppose the rescue was  more like ARGO?

ARGO – Actual Plane Flying Diplomats from Tehran

The Swissair plane which flew the six “houseguests” from Tehran to Zurich was a DC 8-62, made by McDonnell Douglas (construction number 46134/513) and delivered to the airline in 1970. The plane was powered by four Pratt & Whitney engines (JT3D-3B).

Its registration – clearly visible in this photograph – was HB-IDL (while it was in service with Swissair).  Its code name was “Aargau.”

Swissair flew this plane between 1970 and 1984.  It was sold, in 1984, and re-registered as N924CL, flying for Capitol Air (which became National Airlines).  Later, it flew cargo for Airborne Express with registration number N802AX.


Check this:

Here, President Obama and Seal Team 6 unite after a quiet, brilliant and dangerous operation.  That operation was smooth as silk.  We heard about it, naturally, after the fact.


So, can we give an ovation for a man who has had every trial possible heaped upon his shoulders, yet has done so many heroic things himself, unseen, unreported by the Media?

For example, his stance against gun violence.

Photo: Former Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords and her husband Capt. Mark Kelly listen to a question for President Barack Obama during a live CNN town hall event on reducing gun violence in America, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Jan. 7, 2016. January 8th marks the anniversary of the 2011 shooting at a Tucson, Ariz., constituent event that left six dead and 13 injured, including Rep. Giffords, the target of the attack. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


The thing is, we do what needs to be done, and everyone understands the parts they have to play.
Trump might think that diplomacy is never necessary and the way to carry out and operation and rescue our team willing to do it, would be to scream it out for all to hear — that way, the operation would fail, naturally, but he’d look good.
In fact, the most sophisticated of plans are implemented quietly, like composing a great symphony with each part coming together as a whole in one’s mind, and no one is the wiser for the details. President. Obama’s brilliance is gilded by the teams willing to play their parts – the teams that he has put his trust in, and they in him.  (Think Seal Team 6).

Thank you Mr. President!

The list of accomplishments of this young President, Barack Obama, #44, in the shortest time possible and with dangerous minds opposing him at home and at every turn, has been nothing but brilliant, as acknowledged by the rest of the world.


In the Blue Room of the White House, President Barack Obama talks with people whose lives have been impacted by gun violence, prior to announcing executive actions that the administration is taking to reduce gun violence, Jan. 5, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
the people.jpg


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the you that is whole and roundIn Literary works, a complex plot implies a reversal of intention or situation and recognition.  Reversal of situation is a change from which the action veers round to its opposite.  Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge.  Both these parts of the plot turn upon surprise.  If peripeteia is a sudden and unexpected change of fortune that swiftly turns a routine sequence of events into a story worth telling, then how can you use your moment of ‘falling round’ into a personal demonstration of magnificence?

According to Aristotle, Perepetia is the fatal working of the plot to result the opposite of that intended. For example events do not turn up according to the intentions of expectations of the hero. They move in an opposite direction to his intention.  In our daily lives we could see this as those events that shake us to the core, and force us to question everything that we thought we knew, abandoning the ‘smaller’  for the ‘larger’.  It’s any point in which we find ourselves standing on unfamiliar ground.

The model of the Nine Consciousness is particularly freeing, explaining how one may transform the pain associated with seemingly unconquerable pain.  It is the model by which mythologist, Joseph Campbell, based his foundation for “Hero of a Thousand Faces.”

From Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” to Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott‘s “Alien” the heroes journey replicates our own drama played out on the stage of life, and if done well,  to a rousing,  standing ovation.

Cause and Effect  and

the Nine Consciousnesses

Cause and Effect

As we go about our daily lives, in every single moment, we make causes in the things that we think, say and do.  Just as there is a Law of gravity,  Mahayana Buddhists illuminate the existence of the law of cause and effect, which explains that when we make a cause, the anticipated effect of that cause is stored deep in our lives, and when the right circumstances appear then we experience the effect.  This concept of cause and effect is at the heart of Buddhism, and the characters for ‘renge’ in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo mean the simultaneity of the internal cause and the internal effect. This means that, through chanting, we have made the cause for our Buddhahood, and the effect of it exists simultaneously with that cause. By chanting we are directly causing our Buddhahood to appear.
‘Renge’ literally means ‘lotus flower’, which is a beautiful plant that floats on the surface of water and its beauty is nourished through its roots in the mud. This is a metaphor for our lives. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo uses the `mud` in our lives to enable us to reveal our highest life-state.
But the Lotus flower is significant for a second reason. It is a plant that flowers and seeds at the same time. It beautifully illustrates the profound working of life where the effect is simultaneous with the cause.
An example of the way Buddhism views cause and effect might be of a young person going home to spend a weekend with their parents. They have a blazing row before the end of the weekend and the young person leaves. In Western society we tend to see the blazing row as the cause and the young person leaving the effect. But Buddhism focuses attention on the internal cause and effect. So it may be that the internal cause turns out to be that the young person disrespects their parents, at quite a deep level, perhaps without realising it. The effect, which is simultaneous with this cause is the state of hell, and it is this that is triggering the arguing. This example could equally be the other way round, with the parents doing the disrespecting. It is the internal cause and effect, which a person who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can change, replacing their internal feelings with respect.
Through the simultaneity of cause and effect we can cause our Buddhahood or enlightened nature to appear. To help us gain a clearer understanding of what Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is we need to appreciate the nine consciousnesses. The nine consciousnesses can be thought of as different layers of consciousness, which are constantly operating together to create our lives. And as we progress through explanations of these consciousnesses the significance of the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect should become apparent.
 The Nine Consciousnesses

1.  Touch
2.  Taste
3.  Sight
4.  Hearing
5.  Smell
7.  Subconscious/Limited Egoistic Self
8. Karma storage
9. Buddha nature/Enlightened Universal life force / Nam-myoho-renge-kyo 

The First Five:

The first five ‘consciousnesses’ are our basic senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, which we use to take in information from outside ourselves in order to understand what is going on in the world. Imagine the moment of birth. The baby at that moment is aware of sound, of smell, touch, taste and sight. Like the baby we become attached to the world to such a degree that, for many, the world in all its complexities continues to hold our attention and we remain ignorant of the working of the deeper ‘layers’ of consciousness.

The Sixth

Eventually the baby grows and learns that what it is seeing is, say, ‘blue’ or what it is feeling is ‘hot’. This is the sixth consciousness or the mind as we are used to thinking of it, which functions to enable us to make sense of what is coming to us through our senses. It is primarily through the interaction of these first 6 consciousnesses that we perform our daily activities.

The Seventh

The seventh consciousness is directed towards our inner, spiritual world. It is in the 7th consciousness that the conditioning we experience as we grow up is stored. It is through this consciousness that we have our sense of who we are, our gender, our national identity and so on. Attachment to a self distinct and separate from others has its basis in this consciousness as does our sense of right and wrong. We might see the appearance of various therapies and counseling in the West as a response to the desire on the part of many to free themselves from some of the conditioning that has taken place in life and which is stored in the 7th consciousness.
Western culture really only has an understanding of the first 7 consciousnesses.

The EighthThe concept of an eighth consciousness storing all our internal causes and internal effects (our karma) is generally not in use in daily life. And the concept of a ninth consciousness being the fundamental workings of life itself throughout the universe is definitely not part of our culture! The ninth consciousness in Buddhism is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or the Law of life

The eighth and ninth consciousnesses are operating at the level of the fundamental interconnectedness of all of life. If our eyes could see our karma and the 9th consciousness we would see all of life as deeply interconnected. The perception created in the 7th consciousness of a fixed and isolated self is thus false. This is one of the deep seated delusions regarding the nature of the self. The narrow ego of the 7th consciousness resists life expansion. A human life which is ‘touching’ the eighth consciousness is cracking the shell of the limited ego and becoming open to its greater self. The seventh consciousness is also the seat of the fear of death. Locked in the 7th consciousness the narrow ego assumes it will perish and cease to exist at death. Such a life is unable to see that the eighth consciousness is an enduring flow of life energy that will migrate between lifetimes.
The delusion that the 7th consciousness is one’s true self is fundamental ignorance, a turning away from the interconnectedness of all beings. It is this sense of oneself as separate that gives rise to discrimination, destructive arrogance, and the acquisition of material possessions and wealth that far surpass what any one human being could possibly need.
The eighth consciousness is a vast storehouse of all the causes and effects, which affect the way that the world comes to us. It is where we accumulate our karma, both positive and negative. It accounts for our looks, our circumstances, our reactions, our good or bad fortune, our work, our relationships, our health, in fact, every aspect of living. As causes are made in thought or word or deed, so internal effects are stored in this level of consciousness.
Because the internal cause and effect exists deep inside, on a level of life, which is interconnecting with all of life, eventually external causes and effects appear in response to the karma in the eighth consciousness. It is the existence of the eighth consciousness that explains the great differences which exist between say ‘identical’ twins in their experiences of life. It explains how things that happen to a young child appear to have no cause in this lifetime. It is this eighth consciousness or karma, which migrates between lifetimes. It is our karma from previous lifetimes which we are born with, which then causes the world to come to us on the basis of our internal causes in all the different aspects of life.
If life were only these eight consciousnesses things would be fatalistic and bleak. One cause would create its effect, which would condition all future causes and their effects and so on, leaving us stuck on a particular path with particular tendencies. We cannot gain access to this 8th karmic consciousness with our minds, which are too shallow. Will-power and effort alone will not enable us to change deep-seated karmic tendencies.
The Ninth Consciousness
Buddhism teaches that there is a ninth consciousness, which Nichiren Daishonin identified as the Buddha nature,  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or Life-force.   It is the basis of all life’s functions and is known as the ‘amala’ or ‘fundamentally pure’ consciousness, shared at the most profound level with all life. As we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, so life-force comes from the ninth consciousness, purifying the internal causes and effects that lie in the eighth, and improving the way our sixth and seventh consciousnesses function. We start to create new causes in the eighth consciousness, based not on the tendencies that we have developed after making many different causes, but on the life-state of the Buddha, and therefore filled with courage, compassion and wisdom. Another benefit of this process is that we start to see our lives with the eyes of the Buddha, enabling us to see our karma in its true light. As we see it, so it becomes easier to challenge it and change it.
To use an analogy, the emergence of the world of Buddhahood is like the rising of the sun. When the sun dawns in the east, the stars that had shone so vividly in the night sky immediately fade into seeming non-existence. If they disappeared, it would go against the principle of causality. But just as the light of the stars and the moon seems to vanish when the sun rises, when we bring forth the state of Buddhahood in our lives we cease to suffer negative effects for each individual past negative cause made. In other words, this does not deny or contradict general causality. General causality remains an underlying premise of Buddhism. But it is subsumed by what might be termed a ‘greater causality’. This greater causality is the causality of attaining Buddhahood or Enlightenment. It is the causality of the Lotus Sutra and the Mystic Law.
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo then liberates us from our negative or unhappy karma, and enables us to make causes and create lives that accord with our greatest dreams both for ourselves and for the society in which we live. The best causes we can make are those that contribute to kosen-rufu, and help people to establish Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in their own lives, enabling them to reveal their own Buddha nature.
From this perspective, peripeteia may be seen as the point where we are presented with an opportunity to transform from within,  rather than viewed as ‘tragedy.’
9th consciousnesses chart
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If Every Hero Has An Oracle, So Must We…

Every hero has two things:

  • An oracle
  • A mentor

The hero uses the oracle to connect with the power from which he is the mentor, as a guide. Much like in The Matrix, and excellent model for real life.  The One (Our example hero) Neo, had “The Oracle” as his touchstone to enlightenment, and a mentor  (Morpheus) to guide him through his adventure and support his needs for self-discovery in order to overcome the obstacle (Smith – the “glitch” – the challenge).  We also have an Oracle – it’s an inside job.  As writer’s we are tasked with the same journey, if not the same kind, as our characters.  No wonder it’s the writing, itself that matters most.

There’s always a choice to be made, one that starts the adventure from which the hero can never turn back…


The Hero needs a Mentor – really badly:

The mentor teaches his protege how to use the tools with which he is equipped –in fact, he may point out that the hero has it in the first place.  Then the mentor teaches the hero how to use his talent.  He convinces him again and again to believe in himself.  He re-energizes the hero when the Antagonist tries to rob him of his life-force – to stop him from gaining his goal.  The Antagonist challenges the hero’s fears, while the mentor shows him how to develop confidence and skills.  He trains the hero for battle.

And every Hero needs an adventure, a journey which always starts with a challenge and a question from his/her “yang.” Will Shakyamuni find the answers to the question of life, and live to tell about it?  Will Neo escape being killed by Smith?  Will we overcome—insert blank –?

And remember when going for something of great good we will be challenged immediately.
Imagine someone or something will be there ready, blocking the gate to enter the adventure to test the hero’s worthiness; an obstacle that keeps you from “entering.” In life, it is the same.  You set out for a goal, but the first sign of trouble sends us running.   Or do we buckle down to employing the strategy of the Lotus Sutra, for example.

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Travelling through the stars, dancing in the light — until we meet again, my friend.


Anita had an exquisite way with words and always came from truth, whether hard or soft as a pillow. Through personal dialogue and encouragement, and the very intimate meetings where she facilitated our Sophia group, a meeting of minds discussing the books, “The Human Revolution” and our role in society.  I not only gained new  insight into the writings of Daisaku Ikeda, but learned to implement them, bit by tiny bit, throwing them up against all challenges that seemed larger than life, as they always seem.   Anita called it, “How to eat an elephant in bite-sized pieces.”

She constantly gave me opportunities to express the talent she was convinced I had — more so than I was, always “shoving me into my own light.”

“Stand in your light and own your power! “, she’d say.

She not only said that, but showed me how by being the mighty, flapping wings behind those words, manifesting them in reality. Her grasp of the gosho, letters from the 13th century reform priest, Nichiren, and her way of explaining them on a cellular level was magnificent to experience!  And she loved to say shocking things just to prod me into loosening any tight, prudish grips I had on how to behave for society’s approval. There was nothing too taboo to discuss; in fact, Anita seemed to appreciate the unusual. She turned everything on its head, and made sense of it all.

Saying goodbye to a friend entails, well, saying goodbye.  But this event choreographed for Anita unfolded in a rich and opulent, sensory experience — hopeful and uplifting, bittersweet, and at times hilarious.  There is no way to truly express the profundity of this gathering,  attended by a splendid array of family, friends, performers and admirers.

When I first met Anita, I instantly felt part of her family, as have so many. Together, at the memorial, we were all transported to a place where the eternal magnificence of Anita and the love she shared graced us all with an eternal kiss of light. Like walking on a golden chord, through a kaleidoscope of light laden with transformative powers.  I felt like we had all joined hands in one, big, ceremony in the air. I will never forget it.

Thank you, Anita. Thank you, thank you! I see now how it’s done!

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Paint it Big!

I thought I knew Georgia O’Keeffe. C’mon– big, interesting and sexually suggestive flowers, right?

My idea of who this ground-breaking artist was came from a story told in my writing class about her fleeing her art studio shed, where she painted freely and in the nude, until realizing that a bunch of nosey children had discovered her secret garden shed and were “peeping” at her. She abandoned her secret garden shed never to return.

But there’s more to O’Keeffe than that. In fact, her story parallels that of another powerful, female painter — Frida Kahlo, one of the boldest female artists in ant century.

Georgia O’Keeffe also continues to astonish. Several recently uncovered letters to her longtime lover Alfred Stieglitz were recently published as part of a new exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art.   As Lifetime’s recent biopic on Georgia O’Keeffe reveals, the artist had a steamy, on-again-off-again relationship (and later marriage) with photographer and modern art promoter Alfred Stieglitz.

Further insights into their relationship come from the letters, published in the catalog for the Whitney’s current show, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction.” These exchanges provide a rare glimpse intothe private lives of these art world superstars.

Art and Other Affairs
Stieglitz was in his 50s and married at the time he met O’Keeffe, who was 29. A friend had sent Stieglitz some of O’Keeffe’s artwork which he displayed without permission. O’Keeffe went to New York to confront him.

And that’s when the sparks began.

O’Keeffe’s letters to Stieglitz began tentatively (“Words and I are not good friends” she wrote in January 1916), but over time they became increasingly charged with sensuality and desire. “I am on my back — waiting to be spread wide apart — waiting for you,” she wrote in 1922. (Keep in mind that Stieglitz didn’t divorce his wife until 1924.)

Marriage on the Rocks
Stieglitz’s relationship with O’Keeffe was professional as well as personal. He often photographed O’Keeffe, sometimes in front of her art to emphasize their sensual forms, sometimes in the nude, and several of those images were displayed at an exhibit at the Anderson Galleries in 1921, creating instant buzz for the young artist.

Before abstract art became trendy, O’Keeffe embraced it with broad strokes and bold colors, saying, “I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way — things that I had no words for.”  Stieglitz and O’Keeffe married in 1924, but he cheated on her with other women and she often retreated to Santa Fe, N.M., where she could focus on her art and distance herself from Stieglitz. While there, their relationship continued until Stieglitz’s death in 1946 — the same year she became the first female artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Metropolitan Art.

Perhaps she loved the tumultuous ups and downs of her yo-yo relationship with Stieglitz. Or maybe she appreciated the impact he had on her artistic career.  It doesn’t sound that different from the Hollywood marriages of today. In more ways than one, Georgia O’Keeffe was a woman ahead of her time.

Alfred Stieglitz,  Georgia O’Keefe 1933, collection of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and FilmAlfred Stieglitz, [Georgia O’Keefe] 1933 (gelatin silver print)

In almost every way she reminds me of Frida Kahlo. They could swap biographies, if not artwork, and definitely husbands. Diego Rivera could have easily been Alfred Stieglitz if Kahlo had not allowed herself the luxury of becoming heart-sick. Maybe she was tired of that, particular battle. Yet her struggles were not in vain, and her name and work lives on.

The sharp departure between the women’s outcomes reveals itself in their story endings. While Kahlo died after being hospitalized and heart-broken by her husband, Rivera, sleeping with her arch-enemy as she lay dying, O’Keeffe soared as her husband declined. Frida had been a revolutionary, herself, fighting for the equality of Indians in Mexico. Frida’s father was German, and her mother, from Mexico.

Frida and Diego, nicknamed “The Elephant and the Dove”.

Georgia O’Keeffe outlived her lover, and on the day of his death, she became a superstar in her own right and took her place on the stage of history!

Kahlo’s work and passion are undeniable and rich with fertile genius. If the two women had met, maybe Kahlo could have enjoyed the fruits of her labor

while Diego declined, as O’Keeffe had. But that’s not how it happened for her or for Virgina Woolf.

I think it extraordinary that once in a while truly interesting people cross our paths leaving us richer for the experience one way or another.

Here are some of Georgia’s paintings with her quotes:

“Making your unknown known is the important thing.”

“To create one’s own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.”

“Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest”

“I said to myself, I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me — shapes and ideas so near to me — so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught”


“If I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”


“I know I cannot paint a flower. I cannot paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning, but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time.”


“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

“Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction” at the Whitney

Photo of Georgia O’Keeffe in New MexicoPhoto of Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico

This show should set heart’s on fire all over again. O’Keeffe’s work is tremendously enjoyable and she’s genuinely interesting as a person and an artist.  Some have been to her homes in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The goal of this exhibit is to present a different side of O’Keeffe. Rather than the sexual associations others have attributed to her work, the focus here is on abstractions and radical work from her early career which became the basis for her representational work.

Towards the end of her life she returned to these abstracted forms. This show is one of the largest O’Keeffe exhibitions ever assembled, started four years ago with five curators working on it.  Unexpected treasures came out of this show — the unsealing of letters between O’Keeffe and Steiglitz that had been sealed for 60 years. This correspondence gives us more insight into her life and her work.

Special Number 12, 1918, Charcoal on paper, 24 x 19Special Number 12, 1918, Charcoal on paper, 24 x 19″


O’Keeffe attended art school briefly in order to become an art teacher. She believed that art was not about representing something from the natural world but about the artist expressing her personality.  This approach came from her teacher and mentor, Arthur Wesley Dow, a pioneer in art education.  She had a desire to “speak” through her work and the charcoal works on view in the first gallery are her pure feelings translated to paper.

Art was a way for her to connect with the unknown through abstracted forms and later in her use of color. As we now know, Steiglitz was impressed by her work and his positive feedback gave her the courage to continue. In 1916 her work was shown by Steiglitz for the first time at his gallery 291.

It is interesting to note that the forms in these charcoal works come directly out of the arts and crafts movement at the turn of the century.  The forms in her charcoals establish a vocabulary that she returns to again and again throughout her career.

Blue 1, 1916, Watercolor on paperBlue 1, 1916, Watercolor on paper

In 1916 she introduced the color blue into her work and created a blue watercolor.  This exploration of one color most likely came about after reading The New Science of Color by Beatrice Irwin which suggests mastering one

color at a time.

In 1917 O’Keeffe moved to Canyon, TX to teach and added representational color. O’Keeffe was not interested in subject matter in and of itself, but as a springboard for something else.

Steiglitz showed these works and on her visit to NY, O’Keeffe met other artists in his stable including Paul Strand. After this meeting, her work became much more abstract.

Through her work she created a sensation of someone or something, not the thing itself. She worked serially throughout her career and color was her means of connecting with the unconscious.

“The meaning of a word to me is not as exact as the meaning of a color. Color and shapes make a more definite statement than words.” ~1916, Georgia O’Keeffe.

In 1918 she changed from watercolor to oil paint and she matures quickly as an artist. She uses space and color so magically the canvas seems to pulsate with life, energy, passion!

She is able to create atmospheric space as well as crisp linear space all within the same work. O’Keeffe also uses musical references in her titles around this time because she feels that music, like her paintings, can convey powerful emotions.  She moved to NY at this time and it was at this time that Steiglitz began to photograph O’Keeffe. Interestingly, there are over 300 photos of her because Steiglitz believed you could not get a sense of someone unless they were photographed over a lifetime.

These photos influenced O’Keeffe’s work in the way that Steiglitz cropped shots to make abstractions as well as the smooth velvety surface he created, she utilized these techniques in her paintings.

Alfred Steiglitz, photo of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1919Alfred Steiglitz, photo of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1919


In 1921 a stir was created when Steiglitz had a show in which 45 of 125 works were of O’Keeffe in various stages of undress. She was 24 years his junior and he was still married at the time.

It was at this time that the critics began to talk about her work as sexual and the photos only added fuel to the fire. O’Keeffe found this extremely insulting because the work was so much deeper and broad reaching than just being about sex. Perhaps people were confusing sexuality with sensuality.

In 1923 she began to move towards representational imagery because her abstractions were narrowly received as about fertility, womanhood, the female orgasm, etc.

Abstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on canvasAbstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on canvas


O’Keeffe’s handling of paint was remarkable. She layered and softly blended colors to avoid muddied colors. She wanted the surface of her paintings to be like a skin with a feathery quality and a constant tension between the out of focus atmosphere and her crisp, sharp lines. She controlled subtle modulations of color in a brilliant way and developed a way for geometry to represent the NY skyline.

O’Keeffe never made preliminary studies for her works, she would just lay down the pencil without straying from her original idea!

Wave, Night, 1928, Oil on canvasWave, Night, 1928, Oil on canvas


When Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe married in 1924 they spent a great deal of time upstate near Lake George.  Water imagery was something she created a great deal during this time. She took images, simplified them, simplified them again and again until they were unrecognizable. She was a phenomenal technician and her treatment of white is just like that of colors.

One pastel work entitled, Pink and Green, from 1922 caught my eye. It is a smaller piece but the color and abstraction leads and loses the viewer in the work.  O’Keeffe was most attracted to things in nature that are boundless, timeless, and eternal. Perhaps it is in this union with nature she conveys that makes O’

Keeffe so beloved as people can relate to her work.  They have experienced nature being so beautiful that words can’t describe it, only a representation of an experience can truly express it.  It was the works of O’Keeffe and John Marin that kept the gallery going with their sales. The idea of sexuality linked to her work plagued her but it also generated sales and got people talking about her.

In 1926 Cheney Brothers Silk Company commissioned 5 oil paintings for their fall ad campaign, two of which are on view in the show.  In 1929 O’Keeffe took her first trip to New Mexico as she wanted to get away from Steiglitz who had entered into a new relationship with Dorothy Norman.

After the 1923 show she wanted her work to be open to more broad interpretation and she did not pose nude for photos again; she wanted to re-frame her public persona.

Two works stand out moving between galleries:

Black Abstraction, 1927, Oil on canvasBlack Abstraction, 1927, Oil on canvas


The first is Black Abstraction from 1927 in which a black circle and an unidentified organic shape mingle with a small white dot at the center.  This was created after her experience of undergoing anesthesia.

Abstraction Red and Black, Night, 1929Abstraction Red and Black, Night, 1929

Abstraction Red and Black, Night from 1929 is a very small work with two vertical deep red rectangles with a black form on the left and a brown diagonal on the right.

In 1929, much to Steiglitz’s chagrin, O’Keeffe accepts a commission for Radio City Music Hall for the women’s bathroom. Unfortunately the plaster was wet and the paint did not stick, the result causing O’Keeffe to have a nervous breakdown.  She did not paint for a year and a half, her confidence so shattered that she almost had to learn how to paint again, especially the abstracts.

Black Place I, 1944, Oil on canvasBlack Place I, 1944, Oil on canvas 

This re-learning resulted in a series of predominately black and gray works of “The Black Place” about 150 miles from her New Mexico home.  She wrote to Steiglitz that she “sees him in this place.”

His mustache as the swirling hills, etc. In this sense, they can be interpreted as portraits of him. Though she begged Steiglitz to come visit her in New Mexico, he never did as he was petrified of travel.

Black door with red, 1955, Oil on canvasBlack door with red, 1955, Oil on canvas 

Steiglitz died in 1946 and in 1949 she moved to New Mexico permanently.  It is in these later works that there is a coolness and serenity that permeates through. While in New Mexico she used bones as framing devices for her abstractions. She paints her door in Abiquiu as a black square surrounded by red and golden rectangular areas, just as Frida Kahlo painted her famous home a beautiful and startling blue.

O’Keeffe developed macular degeneration which caused her to lose all but her peripheral vision causing her latest works to be more simplified, abstracted forms once again.  She had come full circle!

” I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.”


” Whether the flower or the color is the focus I do not know. I do know the flower is painted large to convey my experience with the flower — and what is my experience if it is not the color?”


“I think I am one of the few who gives our country any voice of its own.”


“One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work.”

“One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.”


“Now and then when I get an idea for a picture, I think, how ordinary. Why paint that old rock? Why not go for a walk instead? But then I realise that to someone else it may not seem so ordinary.”


“Sun-bleached bones were most wonderful against the blue – that blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.”


“I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way — things that I had no words for.”


“I don’t much enjoy looking at paintings in general. I know too much about them. I take them apart.”


“I don’t see why we ever think of what others think of what we do — no matter who they are. Isn’t it enough just to express yourself?”


“Wise men say it isn’t art! But what of it, if it is children and love in paint?”


“I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore.”

“I have had to go to men as sources in my painting because the past has left us so small an inheritance of woman’s painting that had widened life…. Before I put a brush to canvas I question, “Is this mine? Is it all intrinsically of myself? Is it influenced by some idea or some photograph of an idea which I have acquired from some man?”

“Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they may say something.”

“Slits in nothingness are not very easy to paint.”

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

“The days you work are the best days.”

“You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.”

Epilogue:   A Winning Life

O’Keeffe met photographer Todd Webb in the 1940s, and after his move to New Mexico in 1961, he often made photographs of her, as did numerous other important American photographers, who consistently presented O’Keeffe as a “loner, a severe figure and self-made person.”

While O’Keeffe was known to have a “prickly personality”, Webb’s photographs portray her with a kind of “quietness and calm” suggesting a relaxed friendship, and revealing new contours of O’Keeffe’s character.  In 1962, O’Keeffe was elected to the fifty-member American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts  and Sciences in 1966. In the fall of 1970, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted the Georgia O’Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, the first retrospective exhibition of her work in New York since 1946, the year Stieglitz died, reviving her public career.

In 1972, O’Keeffe’s eyesight was compromised by macular degeneration leading to the loss of central vision and leaving her with only peripheral vision. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972, but continued working in pencil and charcoal until 1984.

Juan Hamilton, a young potter, appeared at her ranch house in 1973 looking for work. She hired him for a few odd jobs and soon employed him full time. He became her closest confidante, companion, and business manager until her death. Hamilton taught O’Keeffe to work with clay, and working with assistance, she produced clay pots and a series of works in watercolor. In 1976 she wrote a book about her art and allowed a film to be made about her in 1977.

On January 10, 1977, President Gerald R. Ford presented O’Keeffe with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to American citizens. In 1985, she was awarded the National Medal of  Arts.

O’Keeffe became increasingly frail in her late 90s. She moved to Santa Fe in 1984, where she died on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. In accordance with her wishes, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved “faraway”.

~ Dax

Photo credits: Georgia O’Keeffe
Originally posted in Noire By Nature on May 14, 2011

Posted in Art, Screen Writing | 2 Comments