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I first met Dedeker Winston over four years ago, when I was just starting out as a photographer.

Yggdrasil - © Sarah Allegra

Yggdrasil – © Sarah Allegra

She was one of the first models I worked with and we clicked so well that we’ve been working together ever since.  She is one of my go-to models, one of the best and most reliable I have.

All Of Winter In A Day - © Sarah Allegra

All Of Winter In A Day – © Sarah Allegra

She instinctively understands what I’m wanting from a shoot and she delivers every time.  Of course, I adore my other models too, I have the best group of ladies and gents willing to pose for me, but this post is specifically about Dedeker.

Mark of Cain - © Sarah Allegra

Mark of Cain – © Sarah Allegra

Because, you see, Dedeker was chosen to be on Fox’s new reality show Utopia, which airs tonight.  Their sites describes the show’s premise well, so I’ll let them explain it:

La Belle Dame Sans Merci - © Sarah Allegra

La Belle Dame Sans Merci – © Sarah Allegra

“Behold UTOPIA, a bold new series based on the hit Dutch program. Watch what happens as 14 pioneering Americans wave goodbye to the lives they’ve known, move to a remote location, and set out to create a society from scratch. They’ve got limited supplies, wildly diverse backgrounds, and zero bathrooms.

What could go wrong — besides everything?

The Utopians will make every decision about how they live and work. Will they choose democracy or dictatorship? Capitalism or socialism? Fidelity or free love? Which religion, if any, will prevail? Will they punish or forgive? Keep or share?

Are those chickens friends….or food? If not now, when?

It is all up to them.

This is not a game. There is no prize. This is UTOPIA: reality TV in its truest form.”

Shades We Weave - © Sarah Allegra

Shades We Weave – © Sarah Allegra

It will certainly be interesting to watch how the show evolves.  And of course I’ll be watching to support my girl Dedeker 🙂

Wings For Marie - © Sarah Allegra

Wings For Marie – © Sarah Allegra

One of the unique qualities about the show is how long-running it’s intended to be; the contestants have to be willing to stay there for up to a year; perhaps even longer.  While no one is guaranteed to stay that long, it’s a possibility.  And I’ll admit, I was very sad to think about not having one of my favorite girls around to shoot spontaneously as the desire came up.

Alone In The Wilderness - © Sarah Allegra

Alone In The Wilderness – © Sarah Allegra

But I’m more interested in supporting Dedeker.  This sounds like a really unique opportunity for her and she’ll definitely come out with the story of a lifetime to tell!

Are You The Beast Again? - © Sarah Allegra

Are You The Beast Again? – © Sarah Allegra

So in the spirit of supporting her and promoting her being on the show, I decided to put together a post with some of my favorite Dedeker images from the last four years of partnership!

Potion - © Sarah Allegra

Potion – © Sarah Allegra

All of the Utopia contestants have their own catch phrase/tagline for lack of a better term.  Dedeker has been billed as the professionally-belly-dancing, polyamorous, nude model who has no fears of being naked – a trait I can personally attest to.  I have many images of her, both clothed and unclothed, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to celebrate more of her nude work.

Water Birth

Water Birth – © Sarah Allegra

She is equally skilled at both kinds of modeling, even when it involves wearing hand-made, noxious-smelling, tea-dyed dresses, heavy crowns of branches which have to be strapped to her body to support them, with decorative ribbons biting into her flesh because her photographer was too busy focusing on other details and she was too much of a pro to complain.

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

Dedeker has been instrumental in the building of my most-beloved photography series, DreamWorld (my own Utopia, if you will).  She has portrayed countless characters, including dryads, oracles and deer-people to name a few.

Water For The Free - © Sarah Allegra

Water For The Free – © Sarah Allegra

The Oracle  - © Sarah Allegra

The Oracle – © Sarah Allegra

So good luck to all the Utopians!  But most of all to Dedeker 🙂

Coming Over Like A Storm - © Sarah Allegra

Coming Over Like A Storm – © Sarah Allegra

And De, let me know when you’re back so we can shoot again!!

Fledgling - © Sarah Allegra

Fledgling – © Sarah Allegra

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I’ve talked to you guys about Rectify beforeRectify, Sundance Channel’s dreamy, introspective show about Daniel Holden who  was convicted of a crime when he was 18 and spent the last 19 years on death row.  New DNA evidence has emerged which frees him from prison, but he is not exonerated.  He is sent back into the lion’s den of Paulie, Georgia, a fictional small town where everyone has been steeped in this crime for the past two decades and everyone has an opinion on Daniel’s guilt or innocence.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

It is an absolutely brilliant show.  I’ve met a lot of other fans online and they are truly some of the most rabid, enthusiastic people you could imagine.  Much of this is due to how original Rectify is.  It moves at its own pace, intentionally slower and more deliberate than most current shows.  It gives its characters time to breathe and allow us to learn much about them in moments which would be smaller in another show; Daniel’s magical wonder at watching and feeling the feathers from his pillow after having not seen or felt a single one in 19 years.  The writing is incredible and uses silence just as loudly and profoundly as the most eloquently-written speech.  The characters are all given fair treatment; there are no black and white “good guys” and “bad guys.”  They are all just people trying to do their best.

And the casting… my god, there are no words.  It is just perfect.  Perfect in every single way.  There are no weak links anywhere.  From the leading roles, Daniel’s family, to what could be considered “small” parts – Chet, the bookstore owner, played by Brian Bremer, or Marcy, the waitress, played by Kim Wall; every single one is a real person and the talent of the actors makes them big.  You wish you could invite these people over for dinner.  Much praise has been heaped upon the lead actors, and every bit of it is well deserved, but even the people you only get glimpses of are perfect.  Bruce McKinnon, playing Daniel’s step-father Ted Sr. reminds me so much of my late grandfather, I wish I could hug him.  Kerwin, played by Johnny Ray Gill, will change your life.  I don’t have enough space here to list every actor and describe how wonderful they are; you’ll have to just watch it for yourself.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Another thing I adore about Rectify is the heavy use of symbolism, metaphor and philosophy.  I talked about this more in my first post about Rectify, so I’ll just touch on the broad strokes.  The first season is six episodes long, with each episode covering one day.  This brings to mind the seven days of creation in the Bible and how God created man on the sixth day.  The mysterious Goat Man… is he representing God wrestling with Jacob or Satan tempting Jesus in the desert?  Or both?  Guilt and innocence, sin and salvation are recurring themes.  As you watch, you pick up more and more tidbits of metaphor, making the story that much richer.

It is a genuinely original and remarkable show, especially compared to everything else on TV right now.  I consider myself a Rectify pusher, as almost everyone I know personally who is a fan of the show started watching it because I insisted they give it a try.  And I will recommend the same thing to you 🙂  Season one is streaming on Netflix.  Season two, given a whole 10 episodes, just finished, but I imagine it will find its way to Netflix soon.  Rectify’s thoughtful pace is seriously ramped up at the end of episode five… I usually recommend to people that they only watch episode five when they can go straight ahead to six, because you will be dying to.

Jayson Warner Smith as Wendall in Rectify. Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Most of the Rectify cast can be found on Twitter and they have all proven to be extremely friendly and happy to interact with fans (time permitting, of course; they still have lives).  I’ve given them all a standing invitation to come join DreamWorld any time they’d like, which may happen soon to my delight!  Over the course of chatting with some of the lovely actors from the show, I got to know Jayson Warner Smith a bit, who plays Wendall; Daniel’s creepy, sinister neighboring inmate.  At first I was almost afraid to talk to him because Wendall is so… well, Wendall.  But Jayson is just an absolutely lovely person who is nothing like Wendall.  He is an actor, after all 🙂  Here’s a great video highlighting some of Wendall’s best/worst moments from season one.  You’ll also see Daniel Holden, played by Aden Young, and Kerwin Whitman, played by Johnny Ray Gill.

I asked Jayson if he would mind doing an interview for my blog and he was kind enough to say yes and take time out of his schedule to answer my questions!  Jayson is currently living in Atlanta though he lived in Hollywood for two years.  He’s also well-versed in both stage and screen acting, though I haven’t had the chance to watch him perform live yet!  Read on for the interview, then I’ll tell you about my latest image which was Rectify-inspired.

 

*****

 

1. Do you have a favorite role that you’ve played?

Bobby Gould in Speed the Plow on stage in ATL. Love the Mamet language. Oh and Jack in The Weir also on stage in ATL.

2. I was impressed to find out you’re a musician as well as an actor!  Do you have any part in writing the songs?

I wrote the two on my site. Those were recorded with an iPhone at a party. Turned out pretty well. I seem to work best with a deadline it seems. I had to have them done in a month for this party.

3. If a horrible world existed where you could only practice music or acting, assuming they paid the same, which would you pick?

Ha. They both do pay the same right now.

Acting. I’m not disciplined enough to be a musician.

4. What would your dream acting role be?  It can be anything, including parts from movies which already exist.

That depends on so many things. The best experience would be working with super talented collaborative people. To have a role in that setting that the audience completely empathizes with.

Also, Elwood P Dowd in Harvey.

5. Do you have a favorite way to get into character, or does it vary from role to role?

That’s a novel. Sorry.

6. What is one thing you’d like your fans to know about you?

I’m just a regular guy. And I love F1. Go McLaren!

7. What music do you find yourself listening to frequently, and what shows are you sure to never miss?

Pandora has become my soundtrack. It rotates from Lyle Lovett to Rufus Wainright to The Shins to Blitzen Trapper to Radiohead to Avett Brothers to Sigur Ros etc.

TV? Mad Men, Top Gear (UK), Cosmos, Halt and Catch Fire, Downton, Justified.

8. I thought it was great that you participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (and you were so smart in how you performed it!)  Are there any causes you’re passionate about?

Just the Boy Scouts. I am an Eagle Scout and it made me a better person. It’s a shame that all of this political mess has gotten involved lately. Their organization has been trying to please everyone and as a result the whole program is becoming useless. It’s a real shame.

As Bill Cosby is quoted as saying: “I don’t know the key to success but I do know the key to failure – Trying to please everyone.”

9. Does playing Wendall in Rectify leave a film on your soul or are you able to shake him off quickly once the scene is done?

It’s just acting.

10. What do you like best about living in Atlanta that you wouldn’t have living in Los Angeles?

A house.

Hah- absolutely to answer #10!  Thank you, Jayson, so much for taking the time to do this!  It was a pleasure!  Now if we can just get you out to LA just for a little while… 🙂

Now, on to the photo!

Waiting For Paulie

Waiting For Paulie

The title is a play on the name of the town the show takes place in.  I created this just after season two ended – and ended on a very bad cliffhanger too!  Thankfully, season three has been secured or I just would not have known what to do.

I’d been eagerly counting the days for the second season to start and was enthralled with every new episode.  I’ve watched season one probably a dozen times already (I have it on DVD.  I’d also like to state for the record that I watched the entire season in one day; I REALLY love the show).  Season two, with more episodes, was able to expand upon the groundwork laid in season one, but as the show tends to do, it left us with more questions than answers.  I think I held my breath for the entire last half of the finale, which was a magnificent climax to the season.  After watching it though, I felt so sad that this season was over.  I wouldn’t see anything new from these characters for another year.  And they feel like friends to me, not fictional characters; I truly care about them.

After moping around for most of the morning after the finale, I finally decided to channel my impatience into a self portrait, because that’s what I do.  I set out intending just to use the window and have a couple feathers drifting down, reminiscent of Daniel’s experience with his feathers.  But as I worked, nature kept insisting on making herself known in the image.  Before I knew it, ghostly birds were flying everywhere while vines and smoke crept up from the corners.  I didn’t over-think it as I was creating, but as I thought about it afterward, it felt very true to the show.   Life and death.  Dark and light.  Magical moments between the mundane.  Nature and hope triumphing.  Light illuminating the shadows.  It summed up a lot of my feelings for the show in a way I still can’t really put into words.

There are some detail shots below, but if you only take away one message from this post, take this: go watch Rectify right now.  You will not be sorry 🙂

Waiting For Paulie - detail

Waiting For Paulie – detail

 

Waiting For Paulie - detail

Waiting For Paulie – detail

 

Waiting For Paulie - detail

Waiting For Paulie – detail

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***WARNING: this post will contain spoilers for this season of True Detective.  Turn back now, ye who have not seen it.***

There.  With the formalities out of the way, we can settle in and chat 🙂

I don’t believe I have ever witnessed such a frenzied, overwhelming reaction to a television show in such a short amount of time.  True Detective was only eight episodes long.  I knew, for myself, that I was going to be completely obsessed with it by the second episode; I warned Geoff about it and that I was going to have to buy it on DVD the very moment it came out.  You all probably know by now how I tend to obsess over things.

For anyone unfamiliar with True Detective, it is an eight-episode series which recently ran on HBO.  It tells the story of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, two detectives who are partnered together to solve a serial killer murder mystery.  The show jumps around from 1995, when they believe they solved the crime, and 2012, when it rapidly becomes obvious that something is amiss; the killer was not apprehended after all.

What impressed me so much was how strongly the entire internet reacted to the show.  Within those same short, first few weeks the internet exploded with True Detective interest, and by the finale, the fervor was so high that fans streaming the episode through HBO GO crashed the network’s servers.  This is the kind of rabid loyalty that usually takes years to build up, like with Breaking Bad, for example.  Both shows completely deserved the devotion given to them, but it intrigues me that True Detective was able to accomplish this in a mere eight weeks.  What is so different about this show?

Like the very best art, it’s extremely difficult to parse out exactly what makes it so special.  True Detective was pure magic, and I don’t believe it’s something that can be distilled down to a formula and repeated endlessly.  But I’m still going to take a stab at defining what I think people, including myself, are responding to so strongly.

1.  Relateable, real, unique characters.  Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey respectively, are fascinating.  They are fully realized, flawed, broken men but they still try to do good and make a difference in the world.  Whether you’re more of a Hart or a Cohle (guess which one I am – HAH), you’ll find someone to identify with.

These men both deserve Emmys and any and all awards given out to television performances for their acting.  To be honest, I’d never really gotten Matthew McConnaughey before.  True Detective completely changed my opinion of him; I was absolutely blown away.  Woody Harrelson is, of course, spectacular as well, but I went in expecting to enjoy his work.  McConnaughey’s jaw-dropping performance in scene after scene was a revelation to me.

2.  A script which treats its audience with respect.  You will not be talked down to here.  There is no spoon-feeding of the audience.  You are expected to pay attention and remember clues dropped in one episode and discovered in another.  Nothing has been dumbed-down and it’s incredibly refreshing.  I want my shows to challenge me, to engage me, to literally take me on a journey.  True Detective does all that and more.

3.  Myth and metaphor.  If you’ve seen any of the series, you’ve probably already read about how much of it was inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ 1895 classic work The King In YellowThe King In Yellow is a collection of short stories about a fictional play within the stories by the same name.  The first act of the made-up play is safe but it lures you into reading the second act.  Anyone who reads even a few words of the second act is shown such horrific truths about the universe that they’re driven insane.  Carcosa, The Yellow King, masks (both literal and metaphoric, masking who you truly are), black stars, the sign of the Yellow King, truth about the world bringing on madness, it all stems from The King In Yellow.  This is the kind of thing that really excites me.  And yes, I did read the entire King In Yellow between episodes just enhance my viewing pleasure.  This is the kind of loyalty the show inspires.  While it is certainly possible to watch the show and enjoy it without having delved into hundred-year-old, obscure literature, you want to for True Detective.

I have always been a proponent of the power of myth and metaphor.  Its something that I try to use as often as possible in my own work.  They are an incredibly strong force, which is rarely drawn on in television; certainly not to this degree.

Take the detectives’ names.  Marty (Martin) Hart and Rust (Rustin) Cohle.  Marty; the warm, personable, passionate, fiery, family-man-with-something-on-the-side.  Martin is derived from Mars, Roman god of war and means “warring.”  “Warring,” whether against the killer he hunts or the banalities of daily life, and “heart” are two perfect words to sum Marty up.   “Rust” and “coal” are perfect expressions of Rustin Cohle; bleak, nihilistic and emotionless.  Rust only occurs on metal, an element which is the perfect metaphor for Rust, cold and strong, but wounded, and we watch him disintegrate a little bit at a time.  Coal… I can think of nothing better to describe Rust’s heart after his young daughter’s death, which sent him down this path of meaninglessness and hopelessness.  But like real coal, there is the potential to change into something utterly different and glitteringly beautiful.

The more you pay attention to the show, the more subtleties you pick up on.  Pay attention to how the color yellow is used, for example.  Scenes that have the most to do with the killer are the most yellow.  When Rust makes Marty view the VHS tape of Marie Fontenot’s murder, not only is the whole screen is saturated in yellow, it’s a clear metaphor for Marty having read the “second act.”  And after you’ve read the second act, there is no going back.  Things can never be the same.

Myth and metaphor are so cleverly and generously used, I could go on for pages about it, but you get the idea.  I think you’ll have more fun if you watch the show and try to pick out the references yourself 🙂

4.  A beautifully shot piece of art.  Not to mention interestingly shot.  Incredibly complicated, gun-fighting, fist-fighting, dozens-of-extras, police-cars-and-helicopters, lifting-the-camera-man-over-a-fence-with-a-crane, six-minute-without-a-cut scene, anyone?

I also love how the show uses classic noir and literature traits, like showing peoples’ reactions to horror instead of the horror itself.  It’s an underused and extremely effective method of story-telling, not to mention underscores the mysterious tone of the entire show.

5. Healing and redemption – and the twist-within-a-twist ending.  You expect, this being a show about two detectives solving a crime, even though by now you know you’ll see something more than that, that the show will end on a climax of Marty and Rust catching the killer.  And they do catch their killer…  who ends up being at once creepier and more ordinary than you had expected the grand Yellow King to be, which feels like a very authentic picture of actual murderers.  Twist one.  Marty and Rust catch their Yellow King about halfway through the last episode, giving them almost another 30 minutes to fill.  Why would they need the extra time, you wonder.  To finish the story.  To really finish the real story.

What’s the real story?  As Rust says, it’s the oldest story, of light verses darkness.  Not just in the grander sense of of Marty and Rust catching their man, but of them facing the darknesses within their own lives.  For Marty, this means seeing the family he destroyed years ago with his multiple affairs.  And while things are far from all forgiven and forgotten, the show makes it clear that the fact that his ex-wife and daughters are even in the same room with him is a huge hurdle to have crossed.  Marty is not ok.  His family is not ok.  But now, finally, things can begin to heal and just maybe, they will be ok some day.

And then there’s Rust.  Rust, who began to withdraw from the world years and years ago when his young daughter was suddenly killed.  Rust, who wants to hurry up and catch their man because his entire life has been “a circle of violence and degradation as long as I can remember” and he wants to end it as soon as his work is done.  You can’t blame him for feeling that way.  I think he expected he would die in the final confrontation with the killer, which very nearly did happen, but he finds himself alive still at the other end, after awakening from the coma his wounds put him in.  What’s left for our nihilistic, philosophical, misanthropic hero?

A lot, it turns out.  Our emotionless, cerebral, steely man, who I can remember smiling only once during the whole series, breaks down sobbing.  In his coma, he had a vision of the afterlife where he encountered his father’s and daughter’s spirits, and moreover, he encountered their love.  Love which continued beyond death.  Which wiped away any disappointments his father may have had for him in life, any guilt he may have felt over his daughter’s death.  He was wrapped in pure love, something he had never experienced before.

It profoundly effected him.  When Marty, looking up at the night sky observes that the dark seems to have a lot more territory, Rust responds with “Yeah, you’re right about that… But you’re looking at it wrong… Once, there was only dark.  If you ask me, the light’s winning.”

Twist two.  The entire show wasn’t about them catching the Yellow King.  The entire thing led up to this moment, when Marty and Rust are reconciled, the healing has begun, and Rust has his first moment of optimism.  Healing and redemption.  Light verses dark.  That’s what we’d been watching this whole time.

 

So how does my self portrait tie in?  In a lot of ways actually.  Most obviously, it’s a reference to the starry night Marty and Rust philosophize under, the hope and beauty they were able to find.  The yellow is obvious as well, and since purple is yellow’s complimentary color, that seemed like a good direction to go in.  What’s hard to see in the shrunken, internet-appropriate version of the image is how the yellow fabric is sliding off my face; the mask is coming off.  And most importantly,  I wanted to portray the optimism Rust found there at the very end.  Maybe life isn’t all shit and misery.  Maybe it’s full of beauty and wonder too.  I’ll do my part to try and make that second part more and more true.

The Light Is Winning

The Light Is Winning

 

The Light Is Winning

The Light Is Winning – detail

The Light Is Winning

The Light Is Winning – detail

The Light Is Winning

The Light Is Winning – detail

The Light Is Winning - detail

The Light Is Winning – detail

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Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

This is a preview of a new set I’m currently editing for DreamWorld. This set will be important to the entire series as it marks the entrance of the first non-benevolent character.

At first I had envisioned this character, whom we only get a glimpse of for the moment, as a more Puckish, trouble-maker character, but as I worked on the costume and planned the shoot, I was also watching the first few weeks of True Detective. True Detective (one of the most original, mythic, challenging, well-acted and completely-fabulous-in-every-way show I’ve seen in a long time) had already begun making dark allusions toward The King In Yellow, and I found it seeped into what I was doing. And the darker I took the character, the more right it felt, so it was perfect timing on the part of the universe.

My model for this shoot is the incomparable Dan Donohue, an actor known for his extensive stage work, including just about every Shakespeare play you can think of and Scar, in Disney’s Broadway production of The Lion King.  Dan is currently rehearsing for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he will play Richard the III in Richard the III, along with Mr. Murry in A Wrinkle In Time.  While Dan himself is one of the sweetest, sincerest, most lovely and generous people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, he has the magical ability to summon inner darkness on whim. I had him start the shoot a little more Puckish and less evil, and let him get more and more dangerous as we progressed. And, of course, I ended up loving the darkest shots the best.

I have the wonderful problem of having too many wonderful images to choose from, but I’ll get by somehow. I wanted to send this one out into the world today, not only to harken the rest of the set, but to celebrate Dan’s appearance on Brooklyn 99 tonight!  It’s a fantasic comedy in its own right, and Dan will be a great addition.  He’s one of those all-talented people who is good at just about everything. It should be a lot fun to watch, especially since Stephanie Beatriz, aka Rosa is his real-life girlfriend!  Think Rosa will warm up to him?  Let’s find out by watching tonight!  🙂

* * * * *

In other news, there are some new ME/CFS developments which could be incredibly damaging to how the medical communities, and in a trickle down way, the public in general, think of us and treat us.  The short story is that the government has hired a new commitee to come up with a new definition for ME/CFS.  Not only is this completely unnecessary as we already have two extremely comprehensive definitions in the International Consensus Criteria and the Canadian Consensus Critera (both PDFs), but because the team of 15 people they have assembled is comprised of only 8 ME specialists.  I’m having trouble finding the data at the moment, but the remaining specialists in the team may not all even be doctors.  This does NOT seem like the optimal group.

With the pittance given to ME research in the US, it seems absurd to spend nearly 1/4 of it reinventing the criteria wheel, and even more absurd when so many of them had no prior knowledge of ME as an illness.  The ineptitude of the group can be read about in the sample letter below.

There is something we can do to combat this nonsense.  You can go to: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/, type in your zip code and find your representatives.  Email them the following:

Recently, the IOM released its report on Gulf War Illness recommending that the illness be named “Gulf War Illness” and that the two existing case definitions be used.  In short, the IOM has done exactly nothing since they were hired four years ago– for $840,000 – to come up with a case definition.

The illness, they said had “too many symptoms.”  HHS has now hired IOM to “define” Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) – another complex illness with many symptoms – to the tune of 1 million dollars. And, like the committee hired to review GWI, the IOM committee for ME/CFS is primarily composed of non-experts – people who have no research or clinical experience with the disease. 

Fifty of the world’s top ME/CFS experts have formally protested the IOM contract to Secretary Sebelius. They have pointed out that there already is a case definition for ME/CFS designed by experts, the Canadian Consensus Criteria, and that having non-experts devise a new definition will set research and patient care back by decades.  These experts are backed by thousands of patients, some of whom publicly voiced their opposition to the contract on January 27, 2014 at the IOM public meeting. 

Jim Binns, chair of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses says, “The conclusions of the report show that it was a waste of money. The committee never had the expertise or the process to do a case definition.”  The current IOM process to review and redefine ME/CFS is an even bigger waste of money. It also a waste of time, which patients who are desperately ill with this disease cannot afford to lose. 

Please support us by asking HHS to cancel the IOM Review of Diagnostic Criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and to follow the recommendation made by the experts: Immediate adoption of the Canadian Consensus Criteria for ME/CFS.

The implications of what this group decides could be devastating to the already disadvantaged ME/CFS sufferers.  You can, of course, add your own details, but the letter above is a good sample.  One thing we have seen is that this group can respond to public pressure and outcry, so let’s make them respond!

My deepest thanks to anyone who is willing to do this!

The Shadows Lengthen

The Shadows Lengthen

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Something a little silly and fun for today….

One of the very cool things that Geoff and I got to do over our Christmas road trip was drive by the house used as the exterior shots of Walter White’s house in Breaking Bad.  To both of us, it was a mini pilgrimage, a holy shrine dedicated to one of the best shows television has ever produced.  (Seriously; we were talking about it the other night and couldn’t think of ONE single time the show had miss-stepped even slightly in its entire run.  What other show can you say that of?)  I brought my Heisenberg hat along the entire trip just for this one moment, and it was completely worth it.

IMG_0900

I tried to be cool, but inside I was fangirling and squealing over the fact that I WAS STANDING IN FRONT OF WALTER WHITE’S HOUSE OMG.  It ended up being a very Breaking Bad Christmas all around; AMC ran a series marathon right around Christmas, and Geoff and I both gave each other some very fun Breaking Bad gifts.  His stocking contained some “blue meth” sugar candy from a great shop on Etsy 🙂

While running the marathon, AMC’s website had some really fun Breaking Bad extras for fans to enjoy, such as a quiz which would tell you which villain you were most like.  I was perversely proud and pleased when the quiz told me I was most like Gus Fring.

Copyrights belong to AMC.

Copyrights belong to AMC.

I even saved my results because they were so fun.  And you know?  I can kind of see it.  Were I to take the path of the bad guy, I probably would be that scariest kind of quiet, seemingly peaceful villain who, when the mask is dropped, threatens to kill you, your wife, your son and infant daughter, then slits a man’s throat with a box cutter in front of you just to prove his point.

So who am I?  Gus Fring?  You’re goddamn right 🙂

All Hail The Queen, my Breaking Bad homage.

All Hail The Queen, my Breaking Bad homage.

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Sundance Channel’s new six-episode drama last year had my attention when, during the trailers, I heard the words “from the producers of Breaking Bad,” and “How does it feel to be free but not exonerated?”  My ears were sufficiently pricked.

Starting intentionally slowly-paced, the show gives you time to warm up to it, get to know it and its characters well.  You come to love or loath them all quite intensely by the time the end of episode five comes and leaves you gasping.  The first time I watched the show, I’d recorded them on the DVR and was watching while I edited; I rarely watch TV without editing.  I was enjoying myself the whole time, but at the end of episode five, I literally stopped breathing for a few seconds.   And I was so glad I could immediately launch myself into episode six.  It was compelling enough for me to set my editing completely aside, and I wept through almost the entire second half of the last episode.  To say it hooked me would be a dramatic understatement.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Images copyright by Sundance Channel.

I kept those beautiful, perfect six episodes on the DVR for a long time.  In fact, I recall only feeling comfortable deleting them when I knew that the season would be released on DVD soon.  I was compelled to go back and watch them over and over again.  Like the very, very best story-telling, there is enough for you to grab onto the first time through, but it has so many layers and levels, you pick up new details and nuances each time you experience it again.  And good heavens, how ballsy is Ray McKinnon, the show’s creator, for waiting until the very last moments of episode five to sink that hook into your mouth?

Rectify follows the story of Daniel Holden, a man who has spent the last 19 years of his life on death row for the brutal rape and murder of his highschool girlfriend.  New DNA evidence has emerged to show that Daniel at the very least could not have been the sole perpetrator, and possibly wasn’t involved in the murder at all, so he is released from prison but his name is not truly cleared.  Back home in the imaginary small town of Paulie, Georgia, everyone has an opinion on Daniel’s guilt or innocence.  The town has been steeped in this murder for the past two decades and everyone is prepared to fight for what they believe is the truth.  Is Daniel truly guilty or innocent?  The show bravely decides to not supply the viewer with the answer outright, but leaves you with enough breadcrumbs to follow if you wish.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Images copyright by Sundance Channel.

Rectify is perfectly cast.  I was new to Aden Young, but his strikingly soulful eyes and body language say so much for him without needing words.  Daniel was always shy and not much of a talker and spending 19 years away from society hasn’t helped that any.  To those who believe he’s guilty, his awkwardness is another nail in the coffin.  To those who believe he’s innocent, anybody would be a little awkward in his situation.  One of the most brilliant bits of the show is that through some very clever plot points, Daniel himself does not know whether he’s guilty or innocent.  The waters are murky for everyone.

I have to say, I love Daniel, in a way which almost rivals my love for Richard Harrow.  There’s something similar about both of their characters too; by no means are they interchangeable, but the Venn diagrams of their personalities overlap in some significant ways.  They both have an innocence, a sweetness and purity about them, despite some of the bad thing we know (or suspect) they’ve done.  I can strongly identify with both of them for their shyness, their introversion, their outsider-ness.  But while they both seem to have hearts shining bright with solid gold, we know there’s deep pain within them both, and we’ve witnessed them doing some bad things.  Often, I would venture, for good reasons, or at least what their character believed was a good reason, but they are not fresh, untrampled flowers of purity.  I think that dichotomy is what makes them such fascinating characters.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Images copyright by Sundance Channel.

There is a religious undercurrent to almost everything in the show, and if you were raised in a Christian house like I was, you’ll pick up on them.  Ray McKinnon deftly uses these subtle metaphors and allusions to underscore various points, sometimes answering your question for you, adding extra layers of meaning, or purposely confusing things even more.  Kerwin’s declaration to Daniel that he knows Daniel is innocent “Because I know you.  Because I know you.  Because I know you,” brings to mind Peter’s thrice-over betrayal of Jesus, and subsequent thrice affirmation of his love and devotion.  Even the fact that the show takes place in exactly six shows, over six days; this brings to mind “on the sixth day, God created man.”  The story is ultimately about Daniel’s new life, his rebirth into society, so the metaphor makes perfect sense.

The clarity over what’s real and what is not is always in question and only gets murkier as the season progresses.  The Goat Man, played by W. Earl Brown, is a perfect example of both those points.  Does he represent God, wrestling with Daniel  in the wilderness, or Satan tempting Jesus in the desert?  There is no ivy on the stature the Goat Man shows to Daniel, but there is the next day when he visits it with his sister Amantha.  Was the Goat Man real or not?  If he isn’t, where did that big wad of cash Daniel has come from?  God, Satan, real, not real… I could believe that the Goat Man is all these things at once.

Image copyright of Sundance Channel.

Images copyright by Sundance Channel.

The end of the last episode by no means wraps things up tidily, but was incredibly satisfying nonetheless.  I was ecstatic when I heard that Rectify had been picked up for a second season, this time being given an entire 10 episodes to mesmerize us and fuck with our heads.  Will we find out the truth behind the murder Daniel was convicted of next season?  I hope so.  And I have my own strong theories about what will be brought to light.  Rectify, I will be glad to see you back.

Longing For Better Days - a simple self portrait which seemed appropriate for the immense solitude Daniel has endured.

Longing For Better Days – a simple self portrait which seemed appropriate for the immense solitude Daniel has endured.

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