Without giving away too much

I haven’t written on the craft of writing for awhile but yesterday morning as I watched CSB Today the cast of the cop drama, Blue Bloods were on which reminded me of the tried and true aspects of character development.

The show is going into it’s eighth season. When asked what kept it alive and fresh, all 3 guest stars, Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan, and Will Estes claimed it was the writing.

In Blue Bloods, Tom Selleck plays NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan, a widower and patriarch of a law enforcement-steeped family. His character is macho, stubborn and lives by a double standard. With three grown children, he steps in to make sure his sons, a detective and a patrol cop never get any favoritism while he makes deals behind the scenes with his daughter, an Assistant D.A., ensuring he gets what he asks for. Although the show portrays family values of loyalty, mutual respect and they congregate weekly to have a family dinner together it’s main attraction is that it’s a character driven show. Characters are at the heart of the best stories. 

You need to establish your characters so that they are flawed and relatable, without giving away too much. Readers need to slowly discover what makes them tick. So whether it’s a television show or a novel, without good characters, readers won’t care about the fascinating world or the intricate plot a writer creates. Crafting a protagonist readers will love, or an antagonist that we love to hate, will keep readers glued and become characters that readers will want to hang out with, time after time.

If I saw you in Heaven

My mind lately has been intersecting ideas about life, death and art.

Over the holidays my sister-in-law laughed when I told her that not only am I a Downton Abbey fan but I go to bed thinking about the story-line and the characters. She asked, “you go to bed thinking about castles,” to which I replied, “their lines are so enriching, they’ve become like family. And yes, I would love to wake up in a castle.”

Last nights episode with Lord Grantham spitting blood like a geyser, made me think of how even in the best of circumstances you can create tension within a character.

I also loved the lines Tom delivered when he crooned, “Long live our own Queen Mary,” sounding like a fairy Godmother, but it was when he said, “There’s no such thing as safe love. Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.” nudging her toward romance that made me stop and think about the truth in vulnerability.

But it was the Dowager’s lines confronting Denker that ruled the night.

When both Robert and Cora were sharing their travels with their grandchildren I thought about how the same table was laid out for the Dowager and her trip to Russia.

Long ago I was given a book on one of the oldest and largest museums of art and culture in the world: the State Hermitage Museum in Russia. It was founded by Catherine the Great, who in 1764 purchased the first two hundred and fifty-five paintings from an art dealer in Berlin.

Immanuel Kant called us specks of sand in an infinity of time. Kings, presidents, and tyrants; art makers and collectors; brick layers, bread bakers, and flower pickers. One day we’ll all be gone.

Actually, it was Hippocrates who said it first: ‘Life is short, art is long.’ If we cannot live forever, at least let our names—in memory, carvings, newspapers, and books, in paintings, statues, palaces, and gulags.

Like Empress Catherine who created the Hermitage, and German Field Marshal Ritter von Lieb who flooded it. Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity. Harry Truman, who put it in a bomb. Pol Pot’s killing fields, John Lennon’s strawberry ones. Yuri Gagarin who went to space, David Bowie who sang about it.

The verdict is still pending on the rest of us. Presidents will make speeches, dictators will rename cities, architects will build towers, artists sculptures, explorers will discover islands, scientists cures. Men will write books and sing songs and climb mountains and walk on Mars. Even fleeting men can leave footprints, and history remembers those who do.

And we… will we carve our initials on the bark of a tree and leave them there hoping that perhaps, just perhaps, we leave something behind worth remembering.

What will document as proof of your time here in this lifetime?

The more I see you

Is there anything about Masterpiece Theatre that isn’t extraordinary? One of the reasons why I am so riveted by their series is that they are dramatic classics without over done theatrics. They narrate great tales with quality acting. It’s so believable that I feel as if I am an observer standing in the actual story. One reason I get pulled in, is that British actors may get more technique training and from what I see use their voices and bodies more effectively than their Yankee peers.inthe DirectorsChair

I was engulfed by Any Human Heart, Downton Abbey, Foyle’s War, Grantchester, Mr. Selfridge, The Paradise, Upstairs Downstairs, Wolf Hall and now the magnificient Poldark that conveys every emotion possible.

At the beginning of the year I caught House of Cards and watched with interest as I found a parallel to Macbeth. House of Cards is a modern tale of a man and his wife that illustrates the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake.

I’ve eliminated all network television (Charlie Rose is on too late) and favor serialized television and PBS with great storytelling and where the more I see, the more I want.

Old Hollywood

Yesterday turning the corner at Castle Green were film crews. Obviously a big budget film. Not so unusual, the location has been a favorite among location scouts. Film Director Tim Burton chose the Hotel in filming both Edward Scissorhands, and Nightmare Before Christmas. The building is a Victorian treasure and looks stately, imposing and luxurious http://www.castlegreen.com/about-the-castle-green/.

Earlier in the day, I was at Pasadena City Hall, another architectural treasure. With the late morning sun, the Mexican tiles I walked on glistened from the sun. It got me thinking about everyday sites being captured on film.

LACityHall
Los Angeles City Hall

So with that thought, I’ll share what I know about another City Hall; once considered the tallest building in Los Angeles, built in 1927, and that is, Los Angeles City Hall. It held that title until 1967 when the skyscraper known as 611 Place was built.

In the Adventures of Superman television show that aired in the 1950s, starring George Reeves, the Carnation Building located at 5045 Wilshire Boulevard, stood in for the “Daily Planet.”

The Daily Planet was the newspaper where the man of Steel; Clark Kent, and his friends and fellow reporters, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane fought crime. Later on in the series Los Angeles City Hall was the used as the Daily Planet building.

1920'sFlapper
Flapper

I love those old tv shows and films, when it was a different era and a better world in some ways.

Los Angeles City Hall also appeared in Dragnet, LA Confidential, The War of the Worlds, Changeling and many other films. And they say that there’s no history here. Ha! It doesn’t happen to be 1000 years old, nevertheless, it’s still history.

Love & Lipstick

One of the things I miss about Europe are the local parfumeries. It was a good source of inside tips into how European women manage to look good. Mind you, at the time I was deeply afflicted with sinusitis but when has something practical ever interfered with my having a shopping experience? No siree!

I never embraced the mall concept nor found this element of shopping fun and fantasy until the desert. In a Las Vegas department store on the hunt for cosmetics, I’d walk in and into the arms of the shopping associates I am covered with kisses and compliments and greeted like a visiting film star, as opposed to a woman who has just ruined their morning by arriving before their coffee break. Once the boring business of my purchase is over, I am sprayed with a scent. This personal touch isn’t limited to luxury retail shops. It’s as if shopping is at the core of the Sin City psyche.

It reminds me in Zola’s novel, Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies Paradise), published in the late 19th century, he describes the rise of the Parisian department store, its effect on the local women and central role in daily life.LaRocheLove&Lipstick

During the last French fashion week, the star attraction wasn’t some supermodel shimmying up the catwalk or the latest collection from Stella McCartney, but a shop. Not just any shop though, the new Louis Vuitton shop, a 20,000 square feet homage to luxury on the Champs-Elysées. The classic Parisian building, with its soaring cylindrical atrium, took two years to get ready for the show. The two-day launch party cost millions of €uros. Two weeks after the grand opening, you still had to queue to get in.

It’s as if Las Vegas emulated ‘the Parisian shop’ as a symbol of their own; roomy and spacious intent on offering customers a high degree of personalized service. I can hear the words of PBS’ Harry Selfridge, we are here to dream, not talk about money. It’s this attitude that makes shopping in Las Vegas a joy. It is a piece of theatre to be enjoyed, not something to be done in a hurry or out of mere necessity.

Los Angeles doesn’t have this philosophy, vibe, or attention to detail. Even the décor is functional, masculine and straight-forward. It’s not about the champagne or chocolates, it’s about the hunt.

On my next trip to Paris, I think I shall head straight for Chanel on the Avenue Montaigne. I may be like Holly Golightly circling the counters, looking for the least expensive item, but I am pretty sure I will have a good time.

There’s something about Mary…& Edith & Cora

The one place where I haven’t been and would love to be invited is New York Fashion week. It’s where established and up and coming fashion designers debut their quirky themes and collaborations for the next season. I watch faithfully from my computer, in the summer, from Paris for the following spring and every winter for the fall season. Preferring the rich luxurious textures and dark dramatic colors of a fall wardrobe; given the choice between the two shows I’d opt to attend the fall presentation.steet-6AWintour-LNyongo-NWatts-Vogue-14Feb14-Rex_b_1080x720

However this year what I couldn’t understand is why the attendees were dressing like it was summer. New York was having a snow-storm and women were out as if there was a heat-wave. Call me old-fashioned but I think dressing for the weather is crucial. There’s nothing chic about pneumonia or a slip in the snow. Besides coats and faux furs make a statement- rich and luxurious.  And why were women wearing sunglasses when there was no sun?

Personally, I don’t understand why the Duchess of Cambridge is outdoors without a coat. England is deathly cold; the damp kind that goes to your bones!

Which brings me to fashion and merry old England.

One of the most pleasurable visual transformations on Downton Abbey has been the changing fashions and how the women are becoming modern. We are witnessing their individualistic freedom of figuring out their place in the world. Many of the customs that seem time consuming, such as dressing for dinner, that keep the servants securely employed also keep the Crawleys in the ranks of nobility. As they have shifted from the Edwardian era to rocking the 1920’s, hemlines have risen, and style with a less constrained look. Take Lady Edith Crawley EdithasFlapperfor example; I adore her flapper look, showing more skin, and how a scarf tied her head with finger waves accentuating her face. And Lady Mary with her dropped waist-dresses and long pendants looks tres chic. Last episode on a visit to see Mr. Ross her geometric suit dignified her place in the world. Lady-Edith

FlapperMary

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And I love the Countess of Grantham. Soft and soothing in blue, her ethereal ensemble dittoed the outdoor tablecloths at the bazaar and blended with the sky.

Cora elegant before the War

Cora elegant before the War
Cora just as stunning  in the 1920's
Cora ELEGANT in the 1920’s

Even, Lord Grantham, smart in his summer suit, never looked more handsome, especially in this photo. uktv-downton-abbey-s04-e08-14