It’s Twelve past Twelve

It’s Twelve past Twelve

Posted on March 16, 2011 by

…And my partner is still up storyboarding.

Our walls look like a graphic novel.

Sleep.  It’s been weeks.   How do most women cope with a husband as a constant partner?  (Writing is so — intimate.)

Robert and Michelle King have been married since 1987 and writing partners since 2001. Together, they have produced 13 episodes of ABC’s 2006 drama In Justice and 155 episodes of the recently ended, critically acclaimed drama The Good Wife. The couple has accomplished this without having a single fight, they say, and their partnership continues with CBS’s political farce BrainDead and the 2017 Good Wife spinoff for CBS All-Access, “The Good Fight!” starring Christine Baranski and Cussh Jumbo. The Kings share the secrets of their collaboration on set and off.

Would you recommend producing together to other couples in the business?
Michelle: I don’t know whether it would work for every couple, but the job seems completely overwhelming to do solo. I don’t know how anybody does that.

People miss The Good Wife, but love the spin-off, “The Good Fight” with Christine Baranski (left).

What intrigues you about the law as a subject?

Michelle: With The Good Wife, it was more that the character was fascinating. We had looked at various women in political marriages who had been the victims of scandal, and many were attorneys.

Robert: I’m attracted to the use of language as a weapon. Instead of guns, you’re using the force of argument and wit.

What current shows make you say, “I’d love to have done this!”
Bob’s Burgers! The writing is so funny and the characters are terrific.

Robert: Amazon’s Catastrophe, about an American guy who gets a woman in England pregnant on a [vacation fling]. It’s very human and very, very funny.

What’s your advice to aspiring producers/writers?
Don’t get stuck on one script. Put a script that you’ve finished to the side and move on to the next. You never know what will stick with people, so you should always be writing new things.

Michelle: Go into TV, not movies. It’s an exciting time.
Robert: It’s Gold Rush time! It’s what I imagine the ’70s were for the movie business.

 Another trade mag picks up on the excitement of the spinoff, as do audiences…

Robert and Michelle King (‘The Good Fight’ creators) on adapting to the cultural shift caused by Donald Trump.

The Good Fight goes mad in season 2

Day 415

 According to EW,  they know great TV when they  see it, and The Good Fight‘s new season is great TV, tense with a topical paranoia that goes deeper than mere Trump talk. There’s something insidious in the air, swirling around Diane and her colleagues: Death threats, but also an eerie feeling of constant assault. “You should smile more!” one judge (Rob Reiner) tells Diane. “I don’t know when it happened that women stopped smiling.” Diane bursts out laughing, the kind of laugh that never sounds like a smile.


The premiere of season 2 of Good Fight takes place entirely during a funeral for former partner Carl Reddick (played last season by Louis Gossett Jr.). Barbara (Erica Tazel) gives a fiery eulogy: “Carl Reddick was born when Nazis were marching in the streets, and he died when Nazis were marching in the streets.”

Heavy stuff, but the fun of the premiere is how all the mourners use the somber day as an opportunity for some wheeler-dealing. Adrian (Delroy Lindo) is trying to secure a big client for the firm. (The client’s name rhymes with “Shmobama.”) New series regular Audra McDonald plays the dead man’s daughter, Liz, a United States Attorney who recently tweeted that the nation’s new boss is a white supremacist. She’s looking for a new gig, but everyone on The Good Fight is hustling somehow. Diane’s secretary Sarah wants to go Full Kalinda and become a full-fledged investigator for the firm. FBI Agent Starkey (Jane Lynch) swings by the funeral to taunt Maia (Rose Leslie) with new information about her renegade-banker father.

It’s a great episode of television, somehow thrillingly tense but still a boozy good time. (Diane learns about microdosing, and so did I.) The next couple episodes are more recognizable as A Show About Lawyers, cases introduced and resolved, familiar-faced guest judges. But the feeling of wrongness never goes away. Chicago’s attorneys keep dying. Moral and ethical ambiguities keep on piling up. When someone in the firm is threatened by a client, there’s a spiraling quandary: The cops need to investigate the clients, but that would violate attorney-client privilege.

The third episode rips from some very specific headlines, litigating a version of the Bachelor in Paradise scandal. A female contestant on a sex-idiot reality franchise called Chicago Penthouse claims she was assaulted and sues the show. What follows is a spiral through legal gray areas, signed documents, the ambiguity of reality TV’s reality, the most difficult questions of consent. All this in an episode that also features an apparent assassination attempt involving freaking ricin.

Cerebral, freaky—and fun, too! Not every element of The Good Fight fully fits together. Maia spends the first few episodes wrapping up the uninvolving criminal-dad subplot. The final twist in the assassination subplot beggars belief. The series takes a few dramatic shortcuts that reflect the Goodverse’s old-school procedural roots. (Liz is the ex-wife of Adrian, and then her current husband is a policeman called to the firm during the ricin scare.)

But in its second season, Good Fight keeps complicating its own internal structure, wandering off-course into unexpected tangents. Baranski is doing incredible work here. Without ever making Diane look weak, she radiates a cosmic exhaustion. “I just don’t like hustling every day to keep this firm afloat,” she says. But it’s more than the firm. She’s hustling to stay sane in a world gone mad. Good luck, Diane. We’re right there with you.

So, with a world gone topsy-turvy, I am indeed fortunate to have a partner to navigate.
Problem-solving is sexy.
World-building, discovery of gold.

Creating together, rewarding.

In 2018 the  Dashiell Hammett experience cannot hold up – everyone is too “woke.”

Screenshot-2018-4-2 Marissa Gold'sy

Finding new avenues of discovery  is something special.  When I feel to ‘run’ with the creative beast and he doesn’t, I write anyway.  Creative hours are there for a reason – the energy of purpose keeps one hopped up on writing.   The adrenaline of it – the flow – the stamina.  Now I’m writing a novel.

It works for me, sending me in new directions, exploring unusual angles.  I am free to go about the job of fearlessly creating, deeply exploring and richly incubating — in my mind’s sky while my partner runs through his.  We look forward to the finished product, an orderly explosion, arriving at a cohesive story that neither of us could have achieved without the imagination of the other.

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

The process. Gotta love it!

go get em


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How can writing sprout one’s wings?


I’ve found that whether the world does stomach-turning twirls or floats us all on a cloud, when I write, I am inviting colourful characters and brave new worlds to display themselves in fascinating fashion.

If you have a great, burning passion to communicate stories, and it gives your life purpose and meaning, go there no matter what.

This immediately places me in a personally spiritual place. I’m no longer weighted by the world’s folly. I’m observing the world from a clean P.O.V.

This is how I stay balanced while in the now.

Outfit optional.

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Tech Culture

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I’m always interested in Silicon Valley’s playlist – down n dirty rap, Dancehall, or Trance.
I cross-check theirs with Ari Melber of MSNBC.  He uses the  lyrics of rap within the context of Politics.

Either way, it’s fun. As much as many scoff at Rap or Dancehall, there’s undeniable culture and poetry to it.

Apparently there’s also fashion.

note: (check out the playlist at the end of the article.)

Tech Fashion

Is Tech Remaking Culture in Its Image?

The ethos of Silicon Valley

In the 2000s, the former Hollywood agent Scott Sternberg’s Los Angeles clothing brand Band of Outsiders was the peak of hipster fashion. It sold quirky oxford shirts, skinny chinos, and skinnier ties by capitalizing on an image of exclusivity—it was for Kirsten Dunst, probably not you.

Maximum Activity

The brand flamed out around 2015, passing into the hands of its Belgian investors. (Just as happens in the show, “Silicon Valley.”  Here today, wth tomorrow.

Last month, Sternberg launched a new, very different project called Entireworld. It’s an e-commerce company, avoiding the overhead costs that helped sink Band of Outsiders, and, as its name suggests, it’s supposed to be for everyone. Entireworld markets an androgynous-leaning set of bright pastel t-shirts, striped socks, and $95 monochromatic button-downs on a website that resembles an early Apple ad, down to the stiff serif logo.

Entireworld aspires to a vague utopianism, as if it could clothe the planet in a woker version of American Apparel. Sternberg told GQ that his inspirations included the Case Study Houses, a series of modular glass-and-steel homes in California by mid-century figures like architect Richard Neutra and the Eameses, as well as Brasilia, the white, curvilinear capital of Brazil that was the vision of Oscar Niemeyer. Sternberg’s leap from exclusivity to universality makes more sense when compared to the clothing brands that have emerged out of San Francisco and Silicon Valley over the past few years, funded by technology venture capital. Companies like the omnipresent sneaker-maker Allbirds and the minimalist wardrobe-provider Everlane have created a template, both aesthetic and economic, that is now leaking back into highbrow fashion.

In the past year both Allbirds and Everlane have opened new storefront locations in downtown Manhattan, moving into brick-and-mortar for the sake of public visibility as well as accessibility—despite the convenience of shopping online, people still like to try stuff on before spending money. I visited them both to see if what was for everyone was actually for me.

The gray felt, gray rubber sole, and ropy gray laces of the classic Allbirds sneaker have already become synonymous with start-up entrepreneurs; The New York Times pinpointed them last year as a way to “fit in” in Silicon Valley. Launched in 2016, the sneakers are unisex, washable, and wearable without socks, an advantage for the efficiency-minded (or washer-less). Fittingly, the New York Allbirds outlet is set up like an Apple store’s Genius Bar, with a long, curved, blonde-wood counter extending down most of the space across from wall-mounted displays of shoes. The wall is studded with succulents and covered in a cartoon cityscape.

Who doesn’t like rotating?

In front of the bar are rotating stools where customers speak to a sneaker-barista, requesting specific models from a menu. The effect is democratizing and nonhierarchical: I sat on an equal level with my fellow customers as we slid our feet into the glove-like shoes, reinforcing the sense that we were all supposed to be buying the same things. The sneakers come in different styles, but only the way Skittles come in different flavors. The variation is minimal, with a few desaturated colors; a choice between wool and sustainable tree fiber; and laces or slip-on. Between these options we must all identify the limited range of our individuality. Much like the iPhone in the years before the watches and the luxury X model, the sneakers, priced at $95, are both upscale and homogenous, an extension of the modernist ideal of universal design.

A few blocks away on the same Soho street, Everlane looks even more like an Apple store, with a white-painted facade, floor-to-ceiling glass storefront, and an immaculately ordered interior in which everything seems to be visible at once. The aesthetic is again androgynous; a men’s section is marked on one wall but isn’t much of a departure from the rest of the store, with offerings in various shades of neutral.

Everlane was launched with a single t-shirt in 2011 in San Francisco on the principles of ethical manufacturing and radical transparency, as its tags now boast. Each item of clothing—jeans, t-shirt, skirt—identifies the factory where it was made, like a recycled-water clean denim producer in southern Vietnam. It also makes manufacturing costs clear, showing a lower mark-up than traditional brands. Most items are below $100, more than Uniqlo but less than luxury.

The store is a frictionless multimedia experience, like shopping online but in real life. The walls resemble the empty background of a website. Every rack looks like an Instagram snapshot. No cash is accepted. On hanging headphones customers can listen to ambient sound made from recordings in the brand’s factories. At Everlane’s previous Manhattan retail outpost, a hidden upper-floor loft, most items couldn’t even be purchased on-site, only ordered on a computer. Here, there’s an iPad displaying the full selection of simple, well-constructed jeans, flats, striped shirts, and, the latest addition, underwear. The store was a riot of white, blue, khaki, pink, and black, since the customers were wearing the same strict palette as the employees, like a herd of normcore zebras. Then again, I was wearing it, too.

This serene space broadcasts the idea that Everlane’s capsule clothes are suitable for all people, evoking an infinite range of humanity clad in dun linen and recycled denim. Yet the only sizes of pants on display in the men’s section were 30 and 32. For women, the brand doesn’t go above a size 14. The discrepancy between image and actual product casts doubt on the ideals of technologized clothing companies. Fashion has always been built on exclusivity, but these businesses have gained valuations in the hundreds of millions of dollars claiming the opposite while failing to completely execute it.

Allbirds’s glorified slippers are most useful if all you do is pad around an office all day, and even then you should still avoid inclement weather. They’ll support your feet for a few hours at a standing desk but not a service job. The informal style of Entireworld would be great for an L.A. creative director but not if your job has an actual dress code. The innate exclusivity is wrapped in a veneer of non-exclusivity. Functionalism is affected but not enacted. It echoes how digital platforms like Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb are meant to be democratic—anyone with an internet connection can use them—but in practice they work in very different ways for different users, benefitting some and excluding or exploiting others.

The modernist architects that Scott Sternberg cites dreamt of designing perfect modular houses for all of humanity. The end result of that movement today is a fetishized niche of elite culture and a dwindling set of museumified public buildings. Case Study homes sell on the private market for millions of dollars. Tech-wear may not be as expensive just yet, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.


Wearable Tech, Fashion Weeks and Conferences

In the world of fashion weeks, New York Fashion Week has been a leader in wearable tech, with brands like DVF, Rebecca Minkoff and Tory Burch showing covetable pieces which marry fashion and technology.

At London Fashion Week, Richard Nicholl showed a dress made with fiber optics by Studio XO. CuteCircuit, a London-based wearable fashion company favored by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, has been popular at past New York Fashion Weeks. There have also been progressive developments in fashion schools, encouraging students to learn about tech design innovation.

Schools such as Stanford’s d:school, FIT, London College of Fashion and Woodbury University encourage design students to look at technology and software more deeply.

What The Future of Wearables Look Like

Mattias Lewren, global managing director of Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech Industry Group, says, “companies should consider investing in wearable product innovation and building ecosystems that connect wearables to the broader array of interactive digital networks.”

Success in the wearables markets will be driven by companies that continually put consumers’ needs first. These companies should consider why consumers want technology connected to their bodies and how it could augment their lives. By adding information accuracy and device stability into the overall experience, companies can successfully create beautiful, intuitive products that consumers will want to buy.


Check out this playlist:
The end of an episode of Silicon Valley is like a touch of cilantro in salsa—perfection, if you’re into that sort of thing. The show’s closing credits usually roll to bass-heavy rap or electronica, and the song itself is often an ironic counterpoint to some awkward final moment.

Silicon Valley co-creator Mike Judge is known for his musical choices—in 1999’s Office Space, software engineers destroy a printer to “Still” by Geto Boys. Even the eponymous stars of MTV’s Beavis & Butthead, which Judge created in 1993, had an appreciation for heavy metal.

Judge’s sendup of the self-important tech world sets the tone with its theme song, “Stretch Your Face,” by Tobacco, an electronic musician who also fronts the band Black Moth Super Rainbow. Rudy Chung, one of Silicon Valley‘s music supervisors, said they chose “Stretch Your Face” (paywall) because it was “nerdy and ballsy.”

So far, HBO hasn’t released an official soundtrack for Silicon Valley, but at least one Spotify listener has put together a pretty comprehensive playlist of songs used on the show.

Happy listening!

E1—Minimum Viable Product: Green Day – Minority
E2—The Cap Table: The Notorious B.I.G. – Party and Bullshit (Ratatat remix)
E3—Articles of Incorporation: Blake Mills – Hey Lover
E4—Fiduciary Duties: Tobacco – Father Sister Berzerker
E5—Signaling Risk: Pueblo Cafe – Nuevos Tiempos
E6—Third Party insourcing: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Party and Bullshit (Ratatat remix)
E7—Proof of Concept: Danny Brown – Smokin & Drinkin
E8—Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency: Green Day – Minority

E1—Sand Hill Shuffle: Run the Jewels – Blockbuster Night Part 1
E2—Runaway Devaluation: Ernesto Molina – Los Cazadores
E3—Bad Money: Shirt – Phantom (Redux)
E4—The Lady: Dizzee Rascal – I Don’t Need A Reason
E5—Server Space: Alabama Shakes – Don’t Wanna Fight
E6—Homicide: Big Makk – Bandz
E7—Adult Content: ZZ Top – Rhythmeen
E8—White Hat/Black Hat: Bass Nectar feat. Fashawn and Zion – Lost in the Crowd
E9—Binding Arbitration: Portugal. The Man feat. Danny Brown – Evil Friends (Jake One Remix)
E10—Two Days of the Condor: Pusha T feat. Diddy – Changing of the Guards

E1—Founder Friendly: DJ Shadow (feat. Run the Jewels) – Nobody Speak
E2—Two in the Box: The Pioneers – Time Hard
E3—Meinertzhagen’s Haversack: Bell Biv DeVoe – Poison
E4—Maleant Data Systems Solutions: Pusha T feat. Future – Pain
E5—The Empty Chair: Mala Rodriguez – Jugadora, Jugadores
E6—Bachmanity Insanity: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – White Sandy Beach Of Hawai’i
E7—To Build a Better Beta: San Holo – Raw
E8—Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride: Crispian St. Peters – The Pied Piper
E9—Daily Active Users: Tinariwen – Chaghaybou
E10—The Uptick: Cypress Hill feat. Tom Morello – Rise Up

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The Third Self

I have a different experience with each project I undertake.  The book that I am presently writing stops me occasionally while my fingers fly across the keyboard taking dictation from my inner me.   At some point my inner me pulls my strings to drink from the spiritual creativity pond. Why? Information is always the answer–the string-puller, keeping vigil with every word I type, tells me when I am required to go deeper still.

My normal writing schedule has ripped itself to pieces and I am now learning to wait for the flow while writing what I call a placeholder.

Thank goodness I ran across Mary Oliver’s interview with Maria Popova, Apr 23, 2018.

“When the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”

–Leonardo Da Vinci


Mary Oliver on Time, Concentration, the Artist’s Task, and the Central Commitment of the Creative Life.

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

“In the wholeheartedness of concentration,” the poet Jane Hirshfield wrote in her beautiful inquiry into the effortless effort of creativity“world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.” But concentration is indeed a difficult art, art’s art, and its difficulty lies in the constant conciliation of the dissonance between self and world — a difficulty hardly singular to the particular conditions of our time. Two hundred years before social media, the great French artist Eugène Delacroix lamented the necessary torment of avoiding social distractions in creative work; a century and a half later, Agnes Martin admonished aspiring artists to exercise discernment in the interruptions they allow, or else corrupt the mental, emotional, and spiritual privacy where inspiration arises.

Rusałka by Alfons Mucha

But just as self-criticism is the most merciless kind of criticism and self-compassion the most elusive kind of compassion, self-distraction is the most hazardous kind of distraction, and the most difficult to protect creative work against.

How to hedge against that hazard is what beloved poet Mary Oliver(b. September 10, 1935) explores in a wonderful piece titled “Of Power and Time,” found in the altogether enchanting Upstream: Selected Essays (public library).

Mary Oliver writes:

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.

Oliver terms this the “intimate interrupter” and cautions that it is far more perilous to creative work than any external distraction, adding:

The world sheds, in the energetic way of an open and communal place, its many greetings, as a world should. What quarrel can there be with that? But that the self can interrupt the self — and does — is a darker and more curious matter.

Echoing Borges’s puzzlement over our divided personhood, Oliver sets out to excavate the building blocks of the self in order to understand its parallel capacities for focused creative flow and merciless interruption. She identifies three primary selves that she inhabits, and that inhabit her, as they do all of us: the childhood self, which we spend our lives trying to weave into the continuity of our personal identity (“The child I was,” she writes, “is with me in the present hour. It will be with me in the grave.”); the social self, “fettered to a thousand notions of obligation”; and a third self, a sort of otherworldly awareness.

The first two selves, she argues, inhabit the ordinary world and are present in all people; the third is of a different order and comes most easily alive in artists — it is where the wellspring of creative energy resides. She writes:

Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.

Oliver contrasts the existential purpose of the two ordinary selves with that of the creative self:

Say you have bought a ticket on an airplane and you intend to fly from New York to San Francisco. What do you ask of the pilot when you climb aboard and take your seat next to the little window, which you cannot open but through which you see the dizzying heights to which you are lifted from the secure and friendly earth?

Most assuredly you want the pilot to be his regular and ordinary self. You want him to approach and undertake his work with no more than a calm pleasure. You want nothing fancy, nothing new. You ask him to do, routinely, what he knows how to do — fly an airplane. You hope he will not daydream. You hope he will not drift into some interesting meander of thought. You want this flight to be ordinary, not extraordinary. So, too, with the surgeon, and the ambulance driver, and the captain of the ship. Let all of them work, as ordinarily they do, in confident familiarity with whatever the work requires, and no more. Their ordinariness is the surety of the world. Their ordinariness makes the world go round.

In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities.

Part of this something-elseness, Oliver argues, is the uncommon integration of the creative self — the artist’s work cannot be separated from the artist’s whole life, nor can its wholeness be broken down into the mechanical bits-and-pieces of specific actions and habits. (Elsewhere, Oliver has written beautifully about how habit gives shape to but must not control our inner lives).

Echoing Keats’s notion of “negative capability,” Dani Shapiro’s insistence that the artist’s task is “to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it,” and Georgia O’Keeffe’s counsel that as an artist you ought to be “keeping the unknown always beyond you,”Oliver considers the central commitment of the creative life — that of making uncertainty and the unknown the raw material of art:


Intellectual work sometimes, spiritual work certainly, artistic work always — these are forces that fall within its grasp, forces that must travel beyond the realm of the hour and the restraint of the habit. Nor can the actual work be well separated from the entire life. Like the knights of the Middle Ages, there is little the creatively inclined person can do but to prepare himself, body and spirit, for the labor to come — for his adventures are all unknown. In truth, the work itself is the adventure. And no artist could go about this work, or would want to, with less than extraordinary energy and concentration. The extraordinary is what art is about.

In a sentiment that calls to mind Van Gogh’s spirited letter on risk-taking and how inspired mistakes move us forward, Oliver returns to the question of the conditions that coax the creative self into being:

No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

Above all, Oliver observes from the “fortunate platform” of a long, purposeful, and creatively fertile life, the artist’s task is one of steadfast commitment to the art:

Of this there can be no question — creative work requires a loyalty as complete as the loyalty of water to the force of gravity. A person trudging through the wilderness of creation who does not know this — who does not swallow this — is lost. He who does not crave that roofless place eternity should stay at home. Such a person is perfectly worthy, and useful, and even beautiful, but is not an artist. Such a person had better live with timely ambitions and finished work formed for the sparkle of the moment only. Such a person had better go off and fly an airplane.

She returns to the problem of concentration, which for the artist is a form, perhaps the ultimate form, of consecration:

The working, concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work — who is thus responsible to the work… Serious interruptions to work, therefore, are never the inopportune, cheerful, even loving interruptions which come to us from another.

It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.


Appreciation: Maria Popova – cultural curator and curious mind at large,  Wired UK, The Atlantic and Design Observer, and is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings (which offers a free weekly newsletter).  


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To live is to dance with Joy

For those who serve humanity, it is profound and noble to be alive at this time! What we do now matters more than praise or fame and causes hearts to dance with joy!

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Altered States

Altered States is a 1980 American science-fiction horror film directed by Ken Russell and adapted from a novel by the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The film was adapted from Chayefsky’s only novel and is his final screenplay. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly‘s sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine and LSD.

It marked the film debut of William Hurt and Drew Barrymore. Chayefsky was credited as a screenwriter for the film using the pseudonym Sidney Aaron, his actual first and middle names.

The film score was composed by John Corigliano (with Christopher Keene conducting). The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing.

That was then.

This is now.


In the article, “Sleeping Around” Dr. Christopher Winter, MD   discusses doctor Lilly, a self-described “psychonaut”, who used the tank to study various theories. Today, the study of sensory deprivation, or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (R.E.S.T.), has led to a more widespread use of these techniques to promote health and well-being.

Altered States   

Belle Beth Cooper’s article  bolstered my thoughts about the experiments of John Lily, who  reported his experience of travelling within himself, his own cells, like discovering a new world.

According to BBC, this quieting of the senses also has an effect on creativity.  If you have been tying string with a coin on the end to a finger, to wake you up just at that moment in-between being fully awake, or fully asleep, maybe this will work.

I used to think sensory deprivation was just a crazy torture method that no one in their right mind would opt-in for, until I stumbled upon some information recently about sensory deprivation floatation tanks.

These are water tanks big enough for one person, often set up at spas, where you can pay to float in salty water for hours, receiving almost no sensory information at all.

Sure, it seems crazy, but there are actually some alluring benefits, particularly when it’s done for short periods:

Short-term sessions of sensory deprivation are described as relaxing and conducive to meditation; however, extended or forced sensory deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, and depression.

And as much as I’m really excited to try one of these tanks myself now, I’ve also found some interesting ways to use the same principles in an average day.

So what is sensory deprivation

Sensory deprivation means not giving your senses any input at all. So in total sensory deprivation (which seems to be pretty close to impossible), you wouldn’t be able to sense anything—no sounds, no sights, not even the touch of clothes on your skin.

Forced sensory deprivation has been used in torture situations, but there’s more to it than that. It’s been used for computer games, and has also been studied extensively, particularly in the 1950s and 60s. This is when floatation tanks first began to gain interest. In 1954 the first floatation method was created by John C. Lilly, a neuro-psychiatrist, as a way to create sensory-deprived control groups for his experiments, but he found that the floatation itself was a much more interesting area to study.

sensory deprivation floatation tanks can boost your creativity

Since then, floatation has become a popular recreational activity thanks to the clarity and relaxation it provides.

How sensory deprivation floatation tanks work

John C. Lilly’s original floatation experiments involved people wearing uncomfortably tight suits and breathing masks while being completely submerged. The tanks also made lots of noise, so complete sensory deprivation wasn’t possible.

The modern scenario sounds much more comfortable, and goes something like this:

You strip off, shower and step into a pod-like tank full of water and 850 pounds of Epsom salts. The salts make sure you float and prevent the risk of drowning by making it extremely difficult to roll over.

sensory deprivation floatation tanks can boost your creativity

Inside the tank, you close the door (it doesn’t lock, so you can get out anytime) and lay on your back in the water. The salts make you so buoyant that you feel weightless. You can keep your eyes open, but it’s so dark that you won’t notice any difference if you have them closed. Oh, and you’re wearing earplugs, so you can’t hear much of anything.

You lay here, alone and isolated from sensory input for 60 minutes or more.

Slate’s Seth Stevenson explained it like this:

On a weekday morning, I climbed the stairs to La Casa, took off all my clothes, and, after showering, stepped into a large tub inside an enclosed chamber. I slid the blackout door closed behind me, eased down into the water, and touched a button that switched off the lights. I was floating in total darkness and silence. The saturation of Epsom salts in the water made me unnaturally buoyant—my face, stomach, and knees an archipelago of islands amid the tub’s ocean.

What sensory deprivation does to your brain

We’re all different so results will obviously vary, but there are some patterns in what people experience from being in the floatation tanks.

Seth’s account of his first experience is fascinating:

For what must have been the first 15 minutes, I wondered what I was doing there. I thought about my plans for that evening, stories I was working on, whether there was any food in the fridge back at my apartment. I felt bored. I felt silly. … I even got jumpy. I had a brief urge to stand up, water dripping everywhere, and walk out.

Then a transformation began. If you’ve ever taken psychedelic mushrooms (and come on, who hasn’t?) you might recall a certain feeling that arises as the drugs take hold. “Something is happening, something is happening,” your body says to your brain, with mild urgency. I got a feeling akin to that while floating. My brain went a little haywire. When the storm passed, I found myself in a new and unfamiliar state of mind.

The long period of nothingness leaves you with only your mind, essentially. Once your body starts to get used to the lack of sensory input, the stress-centers of your brain relax and release less cortisol—the main brain chemical related to stress. Graham Talley, who owns a sensory-deprivation tank center in Portland, explained it like this:

Getting rid of all sensory input allows the ‘constantly-make-sure-you’re-not-dying’ part of your brain to chill out for a second, allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play.

Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress. “Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness,” Graham continues. “Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break. Without the gravity pushing you down, your spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest.”

Being inside the floatation tank takes your brain from highly conscious alpha and beta waves to solid theta waves—the kind you would normally have right before falling asleep and just after waking up. Normally we only experience these theta waves for a few minutes, but having extended theta periods helps us to visualize better, often giving us vivid mental images.

We all experience theta, but most people fall asleep at the onset of it. You’re probably familiar with the telltale sign of theta—vivid mental imagery even though you’re awake. The float tank provides a reliable means to achieve and sustain this beneficial state without the years of practice that is normally required by advanced meditators to achieve theta at will.

The benefits of depriving your senses

Floatation has also been seen to improve a range of ailments and emotional states, such as:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • chronic pain
  • problem-solving skills

and even technical ability for musicians.

Some researchers conducted an experiment on musicians to see how their abilities would be affected by floating in these tanks. They had interesting results:

“a significant difference between the treatment and comparison groups on technical ability, but not on any other dimension,” the researchers write. Thanks to this enhanced skill level, those who had floated “had significantly higher grades in the jazz improvisation class than the comparison group.”

…the difference in their ability was very likely the result of the flotation sessions.

Wikipedia lists some more of the benefits:

In a float tank the theta state can last for several minutes without the subject losing consciousness. Some use the extended theta state as a tool for enhanced creativity and problem solving. Spas sometimes provide commercial float tanks for use in relaxation. Flotation therapy has been academically studied in the USA and in Sweden with published results showing reduction of both pain and stress. The relaxed state also involves lowered blood pressure and maximal blood flow.

How this affects creativity

In terms of creativity specifically, here are two of the common patterns that people generally notice from using the floatation tanks.

1. Creativity is heightened immediately

When tests were done on the increase of creativity and technical skill, the longer the period after being in the tank, the less pronounced the effects:

Previous research that found increased creativity in university students after floating sessions measured their abilities immediately after they left the tank and dried off.

Float H.Q. in Portland even set up an Artist Program to introduce artists to the for free:

One of the coolest advantages of floating is how much it boosts creativity and nurtures inspiration. After floating in complete isolation, your senses are heightened… colors are more vibrant, scents more aromatic, and food taste better.

2. Hallucinations are common

When part of your brain stops getting input—e.g. if one of your senses is deprived—other parts of your brain will pick up the slack. Many floaters experience hallucinations as their brains respond to not getting sensory input. This is part of the vivid mental imagery I mentioned earlier—your brain is relaxed enough to visualize strong images you wouldn’t see normally.

Interestingly, hallucinations were more common in study participants who expected them (or some kind of danger). In one experiment, participants who were greeted by researchers in white lab coats, given medical examinations first, and shown a panic button to press if they wanted to get out were more likely to hallucinate than those who were approached by casual-clothed researchers and told to break a window if they wanted to get out.

How to deprive your senses

Are you curious enough to try it now? I certainly am. But, if you’re not quite ready to give it a go, or you’re not lucky enough to have a tank nearby, you can actually try some mild forms of sensory deprivation at home (If you’re really serious, you can buy your own tank for a few thousand dollars, but let’s start small, shall we?).

boost your creativity by shutting down your senses

1. Reduce visual input

Try laying down in a dark room—maybe your bedroom or living room—with the curtains drawn. If it’s easier, you could try using a blindfold or eye mask rather than closing your eyes, but try to block out as much light and visual stimulation as you can. Try not to move and see how your other senses respond to the lack of sensory input. You’ll probably notice some sounds you would normally miss!

You might want to try this first thing in the morning, as well. When you first wake up, rather than grabbing your phone or jumping in the shower, keep your eyes shut and lie still. See how strong your other senses seem (like hearing or touch) in the absence of visual input.

2. Shut out the noise

Auditory input, like visual stimulation, is one that we don’t realize the prevalence of. Sounds are everywhere. Unless you live far out in the countryside, you probably don’t ever get even a short period of time without any noise. If it’s not music or people talking around you, you can probably hear your neighbors, cars on the street outside or a dog barking down the street.

Imagine removing all of that input—just the sounds you hear—and what a huge impact that could make.

Try this: grab some ear plugs and headphones, and sit in a comfy spot by a window—really pay attention to what you see. And what you don’t hear. Even if you can’t block out all sound, you’ll notice the difference of muffling a lot of it.

In particular, when you remove the headphones, you’ll probably notice the intensity and variety of noises you’re hearing.

3. Isolate yourself

Cutting off your senses isn’t easy when you’re around other people—we’re just a noisy species by nature.

Setting up some regular isolation time can help you get that coveted just-you-and-your-thoughts time that comes from spending an hour locked in a floatation tank. You could try a regular bath time ritual—maybe adding some earplugs and an eye mask as well. Your bedroom could work as well, or even an isolated outdoor space.

Wherever and whenever you can get away from other people to be alone with your thoughts, give it a go.

There are probably some other great ways to mildly deprive your senses and heighten your creativity. What are your favorites?


The salt water floatation pool at The Twelve Apostles’ #Spa in #CapeTown an ideal way to recover from jet-lag and lethargy.

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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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