Just about everyone I know is transitioning into something. Some are morphing into their lifelong dream, others contemplating a life in retirement, while a vast majority are struggling with jobs facing extinction – wondering how they are going to survive. I am a guy who would rather write about his life lessons than have to relive them. My motto is simply, “As the world turns on its axis, change is happening, and it might work out best to swim parallel to shore.” In short, transition is not necessarily an all volunteer army.
While scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I was intrigued to discover a gentleman who had worked directly with Vidal Sassoon during the height of “Sassoon-mania” in the 1960’s, and following a successful career as a Sassoon trained hair cutter transitioned into a mystery writer. Anybody who knows anything about the Vidal Sassoon hair cutting dynasty is aware of the intensive training, discipline, and commitment to education that is required to fulfill that coveted slot. Many that worked with Vidal later moved on to create their own techniques, salons, schools, product lines, and even – films. Even the late Paul Mitchell was a member of the Sassoon team as they conquered America. So, when I read that Peter Green was giving a talk in Connecticut on a Friday evening – I thought this could be worth the hour drive time.
The Good News Review: Having worked directly with Vidal Sassoon, what did you learn from that experience, and how has it helped you today?
Peter Green: What people don’t talk about so much today is the perfection of Vidal’s haircuts. I was his assistant at a moment in time when the whole thing took off. His first ‘bob’ was inspired by a movie of the day called, “Last Year in Marienbad,” and he called that first haircut “Marienbad.” All of the other haircuts evolved from that first look. That’s when “perfection” took over. Not that his haircuts weren’t good before, but this was something different, and required a higher standard of perfection.
He would go over and over the same section, checking and rechecking. Pushing the hair this way and that to make sure, no matter what, that it was perfect and fell just right. I find the similarity between cutting hair the way I was taught and writing similar. I go over a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, countless times. Checking, and rechecking, just like a haircut, with the understanding that my work, just like a haircut, is only as good as the effort I put into it. There are no shortcuts, and please pardon the pun. It requires discipline, patience, and an understanding that this is what’s required to turn out good work.
TGNR: What were the main catalysts in your life that lead you to this transition into writing?
PG: Some time ago my partner David Daines and I developed a unique line of hair care products that we managed to get on the shelves of Nordstrom and Bloomingdales. We told these stores that after obtaining new financing, we would do everything Calvin Klein had done to promote his products: advertising, point-of- purchase promotions, publicity, product line expansion, etc., etc. The stores said if we did that they would run our products through all of their stores.
Sadly this was at a time when money was very tight and we were unable to find anyone to back us. Except for this one guy. He kept promising us money and kept us dangling for nine months with big ideas and great plans. But he never came through. Eventually we were tapped out and had to pull our products off the shelves. Finally we went bankrupt. We could never figure out what this so-called backer’s game was, except to drive us crazy.All of this was a catalyst for my first book, “The Hit And Run.” Incidentally, he dies on the first page.
TGNR: At what point in your career did you shift into becoming a writer?
PG: After I sold my salon in White Plains I took a couple of writing courses and workshops at SUNY Purchase and Sarah Lawrence College and dove in. I have always written off and on, but never as an almost full-time occupation.
TGNR: Was the transition into writing a difficult one?
PG: It was. That first book took ten years to write and I must have rewritten it in one form or another more times than I care to remember. There is so much to learn, and know, and understand. Like everything else, that takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn.
TGNR: What hurdles did you have to face?
PG: Writing is a business like any other. If you are not trained, or educated in the genre, or have not been doing it all your life you have to learn it. And that takes time. The best adage I was ever taught was “writing is rewriting,” and that takes a very long time to understand.
TGNR: Do you ever refer to past experiences that you’ve had from the beauty business in any of your novels?
PG: All of my stories thus far involve certain aspects of the beauty or fashion industry. You’re supposed to write about what you know. I have been cutting hair for fifty years always at the highest end of the business. It has given me great insight into the human condition and has been invaluable in the development of characters, points of view, and plot line.
TGNR: Who/what are your greatest writing influences?
PG: E.L. Doctorow, for his language and his magnificent story telling. Ed McBain, (Evan Hunter) for his “57th Precinct” detective stories, and his style that I tried to emulate when I first started writing. Donald Westlake for his humor and his bizarre point of view. And Robert Parker for his brevity.
TGNR: When do you know you’re doing your best work?
PG: Personally, and it has taken a very long time to realize this: you never really know. Writing, for me, is a metaphor for life. Every experience takes you a little farther along the trail and gets you to the next level. So it is with writing. I keep learning, and growing, and I hope that it never stops.
TGNR: For others who long to become writers, what advice would you give them?
PG: The same advice. When I finally finished, “The Hit And Run,” I thought for sure everyone would want to read it and I was the next best thing to Hemingway. Oh foolish man. The writing game is the toughest business I have ever been in. The chances of success are somewhere between nil and zero.
With that in mind I write for the sheer love of it. I enjoy the process and am constantly amazed at what I am able to accomplish in my prose. That’s about as good as it gets. Anything else – a nice review on Amazon, a good piece of publicity, or even a sale – is a bonus !
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TGNR: Tell us about your new book, “Things Have a Habit.”
PG: “Things Have a Habit” features my continuing lead character, Detective Jimmy Dugan, who is the sole detective in a fictitious Westchester town of Columbia. He is confronted with a murder that takes place in the parking lot of a local diner. The investigation reaches a dead end until a bizarre set of coincidences that involve the daughter of the women he is living with; the school she attends and the drug trade that takes place there; a local caregiver who is evil in the extreme; a New York City moneylender who is trying to collect what is owed him; and a man who can’t pay his debts.
These plot lines intertwine throughout the story and culminate in an unusual finale that justifies the title, “Things Have a Habit” – something my father drummed into us when we were kids. If you can only hang on through whatever it is you are going through, ‘things have a habit’ of working themselves out.
TGNR: What do you believe is the greatest story you were born to tell?
PG: I have no idea. I am currently working on my fifth Jimmy Dugan mystery, “Everybody Lies,” and already it is taking me to places I have never been before. Long may it continue.
TGNR: Thank you for your time, Peter.
To learn more about Peter Green, or order any of his novels, please click here to visit his Amazon page.
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The death of Filmstruck is the latest symptom of our rapidly devolving film culture: This is a look at what we’ve lost, and what lies ahead.
The demise of Filmstruck is a major loss to the world of cinema. If you were to log on to film Twittertm – that specialist ghetto of cinephiles (“or what you’d call film buffs” as Matthew remarks early in the late Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers) you would realize that many of us are in mourning for a rapidly depleting film culture.
Across the country, most Americans do not have access to an art house theater, and it’s even less likely that they would have access to a repertory theater. Those in New York City can pick their poison between the Metrograph and Film Forum and Village Quad Cinema. Heck they’ve even got the NiteHawk in Williamsburg. Those in LA have the New Beverly. Most of us, however, are just plain out of luck.
Two years ago Filmstruck seemed like the solution. A collaboration between Warner Brothers and the Criterion Collection, Filmstruck was a hand-curated outfit that seemed like film school on a Roku. From Rohmer to Ozu, Sembene to Akerman – world cinema was at your fingertips. You want to spend 83 minutes with Alma from Persona? Sure can. You could check in with Guido Anselmi or Sam Spade or Mabel Longhetti or any of several versions of Orpheus by just pressing a button…and now it’s gone.
A Half Remembered Dream Factory
Every day we seem to forget more of our history. Hollywood is no exception. Often they seem to be leading the way. Hollywood has always been America’s dream factory, and there are some real talented and nice people out there – people who care desperately about movies.
Yet, because of the vagaries of corporate America, and the rush to the all-mighty dollar that capitalism surely compels, Hollywood has become a system that is ruled by puffed-up Harvard MBA’s in slick two-button suits looking for ten percent profit on the next remake.
Now, I don’t really have anything against these people, it’s just that many of them don’t really know or give a lick about the classic days of the industry, the history of world cinema, or even current world cinema beyond their own distribution pacts. They only worry whether their new one hundred million dollar piece of content is going to be allowed to play in China, and whether it will allay some its substantial budget with international pre-sales.
In turn, we have the creation of these monster conglomerates through very big mergers such as Disney buying Fox, or in our case AT&T buying Time Warner, which has led directly to AT&T shutting down Filmstruck.
See, they want to invest only in core businesses that will generate substantial return. This makes complete sense from a business perspective. Except, in the olden days of Hollywood the guys that ran the place, like Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, saw the picture business as more than just a profit machine. They understood they were creating a product that was intangible – a motion picture, not a widget.
Sure, they were interested in making money, they damn well weren’t commies, but at the same time they were making something near Art and they were passionate about it.
There was a time when it felt like cinema could change the world. In his review of The Dreamers (to circle back), Roger Ebert reminisces that back in ’68, Chicagoans were lined up on the sidewalk in the rain to see Godard’s Weekend. Imagine that now? Wouldn’t happen.
AT&T closed Filmstruck because they believed it was niche. Great cinema like Casablanca and King Kong, The Seven Samurai and Weekend, which all those people lined up for all those years ago, is now just niche content.
What’s the use of going to a movie theater if movies are just content no different from a YouTube video? Hollywood has forgotten its heroes. Cinema seems to have forgotten what cinema is all about – stories that move us or elucidate the world around us – or even sometimes elucidate feelings or emotions so deep-seated they would never stir without that silver-screen mirror.
The last three movies I watched on Filmstruck were the creepy Japanese ghost story Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (1959), the vibrantly alive magical realist bossa nova-driven romance Black Orpheus (1959), and Mikio Naruse’s masterful Floating Clouds (1955). Maybe my feeling towards Filmstruck and cinema itself is like Naruse’s lovers’ warmer brighter past in French Indochina – a deeply romantic paradise to which we can never return.
I certainly hope that’s not the case. I hope the future of cinema and the future of repertory streaming services spreads out before us like a mighty bounty.
To ensure this, we all have do our part. Watch movies. Buy movies. All movies. Become cine-literate in everything. Especially the classics.
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Preservation in the Post-Filmstruck Era
What’s next? The terrific physical media company The Criterion Collection is starting their own streaming channel. Will it succeed? Only if enough of us are interested in preserving our globe’s sometimes shared, sometimes divergent cultural heritage.
Films are doorways into past and future worlds. These stories have shaped us, and allowed a plethora of fascinating cultures to share their preoccupations, hopes, and fears with other, sometimes very different people, in every far-flung nook and cranny of this astonishing world. These dreams, stories, and feelings are too important to be allowed to just fade away.
Please preserve them.
Write to David B. Sporn at email@example.com
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The Man in the High Castle Universe: How the Axis Won WW2
Exactly what the hell went so wrong to create the High Castle dystopia? Second World War historian Paul K. DiCostanzo examines the possibilities.
With the interminable wait for season three of Amazon Prime’s portrayal of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle concluding on October 5th, we pose the singular question underlying the series thus far: How could the Axis powers have defeated the United States and its Allies in The Man in the High Castle Universe? The following interpretation is one possible “universe” of Man in the High Castle. One in which we explore the biggest question for most viewers: How the Axis won WW2, or more specifically, “How did the US lose World War II?”
As the show straddles the genres of Alternate History and Science Fiction, the world of High Castle is based on counter-factual history. That being said, the scenario below is projected from historical events that could explain the tragic collapse of the Allies and ultimate rise of the Axis powers.
The Man in the High Castle Universe: What went wrong?
(A stark contrast in the two above maps that mark the conclusion of the historical and fictional WW2)
For an American living in the 21st Century, the victory in the Second World War is even more fundamental to their worldview than even the American Revolution of 1776. It is, after all, the founding story of the modern United States and the rest of the world as we know it.
The concept of the Allies losing to the satanic enemy of Nazi Germany and its Axis collaborators hits home in primordial fashion. It is a concept so deeply disturbing that the dystopia such a defeat would create is generally unthinkable. Yet in the High Castle universe, that is exactly what happened. So, what exactly went wrong in the High Castle timeline?
How the Axis won WW2: The Man in the High Castle Universe Historical Contradiction
In the High Castle universe, many well known events of the Second World War have outcomes clearly contrary to the viewer’s universe. In both the series and the classic novel, details are scarce as to exactly how the Axis managed victory over the Allies.
Putting aside the little information divulged by the show so far – including Nazi Germany’s clear development of the first strategic nuclear weapon – what happened to the Allied nations that allowed this disaster to occur? While there are several distinct possibilities, one must start with the life of one Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.
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10 Things Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Must Do to Avoid Epic Failure
Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery is the swing season for the series. These are several directives to ensure this newest season gets it just right.
Over the past two months new information about the greater Star Trek franchise have hit fans at warp speed. Between the announcement of a new series featuring Patrick Stewart and the contractual standstill leading perhaps to the fourth film in the Kelvin timeline’s demise – there has been no lack of blockbluster headlines. However, the project which will shortly eclipse all the rest is the upcoming sophomore season of Star Trek: Discovery with viewers paying particular attention to where the showrunners wish to take the series. Not to be left out, the following are ten guidelines – directives as it were – to ensure Star Trek: Discovery season 2 will not fall on its face. We begin with the introduction of a new-familiar face: Mr. Spock.
1. A Tale of Two Spock’s: The Delicate Introduction of Ethan Peck in Discovery Season 2
I fully concede the pragmatic reality of the entertainment industry, and that Zachery Quinto was very unlikely to assume the role of the prime universe Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 – but I cannot help stopping and thinking, “What the crap?”
With the announcement that Ethan Peck will play Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, there are now two actors, in the prime of their career, portraying effectively the same character at the same time: Quinto on the big screen and Peck on my iPhone. Lets all be honest with ourselves, that’s really friggin’ weird.
Though Alex Kurtzman and the current Star Trek braintrust were nothing less than effusive in praise for the talented Peck, there are greater factors at play by having more than one Spock.
“We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role. An actor who would, like them, effortlessly embody Spock’s greatest qualities, beyond obvious logic: empathy, intuition, compassion, confusion and yearning. Ethan Peck walked into the room inhabiting all of these qualities, aware of his daunting responsibility to Leonard, Zack and the fans, and ready to confront the challenge in the service of protecting and expanding on Spock’s legacy. In that spirit, we’re thrilled to welcome him to the family.” – Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery Executive Producer
The Reality of Dueling Spock’s
To be fair there has been a Spock duo before, however those were very different circumstances. It was clear for those who have eyes to see that it was a passing of the torch. The beloved Leonard Nimoy, in the best of Star Trek tradition, played the role of a venerated character sanctifying the newest Trek foray with his saintly presence. What Trek fans are dealing with now, whether they yet realize it or not, is a competition that is at best irksome.
Depending on their performance, as well as their dictated place in the narratives they inherit, one of them will ultimately be accepted as THE Spock while the other will be relegated to “Other Spock,” a second class citizen in Trek canon. Not only will this be unfair to the actors who portray him, it is a profound disservice to the character himself to assume this baggage.
The best one can hope for under these circumstances is that Peck will knock this role in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 out of the park. In the end that is always what will matter most and that each “Spock” can be appreciated in there respective spheres.
Speaking of troublesome duplicates…
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