Notes on recent release: Courage With a Cure

Notes on Courage With a Cure, by Anna Franco

Courage With a Cure is my play, released in August 2014.  I started writing the play around the time that I was researching medical innovation for a talk that I gave in 2012.  The play is about a patient who needs medication that is not available in the US.

Synopsis

Courage With a Cure is about a woman, Ginnie Searlyse, who discovers that she has a neurological disorder that prevents her from playing the piano, typing, writing, or doing other things that use fine motor skills with her hands.  She has ataxia/dysmetria, a disorder that prevents her from accurately judging distance, which causes her to have trouble striking the right keys on a piano or keyboard.

Ginnie seeks medical help and is referred to a hospital in Taiwan, where she can be treated with a drug that is not available in the US.  Cerebesil (a made-up drug for the story) has a strange side effect.   As she progresses through her treatment, Ginnie learns that the side effect of this drug has attracted the attention of some who are neither doctors nor their patients.

Is Ginnie affected by the side effect?

Unity of Purpose

This play does not uphold the unity of time and space, although it does have an integrated plot idea.  It takes place over several months and spans two continents.  This was necessary for the plot, as the main character is being treated with medication over this time period, and the medicine is only available on the other side of the world.  I had to show Ginnie over several months, and I had to have her travel from the US to Taiwan for the treatment to happen.

I was not bothered by this fact about the play; it still remained logical.  Unity of time and place are classical ideas in drama.  One of my favorite plays, Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand also does not hold to the unity of time and place.  Cyrano travels to the Spanish border, and the play concludes many years later, after the main action has taken place.  Still, the play upholds a integrated purpose and plot.

I tried to uphold an integrated purpose in the plot and action of Courage With a Cure, as the main action centered around Ginnie getting her medicine, despite whatever obstacles come her way.

Challenges

Two of the biggest challenges I faced when writing Courage With a Cure were (1) having the doctor and the biochemist explain the drug’s side effect, and (2) working through a scene with bad guys.

Challenge #1.  Explaining the side effect of the drug was difficult because the human mind is complex.   I did not want the message to be that the drug can substitute for character, or that virtue comes in a pill, but I did want the effect of the drug to be significant in the plot and in the character’s lives.  I also wanted to show a separation between reason and emotion.  To bring these theoretical ideas into a plot was challenging.

There were so many opportunities for the characters to misunderstand or misinterpret the side effects, and in fact, that is what I was counting on with the criminal characters.  Even the good characters had valid concerns and questions. Ginnie understandably worries that the side effect of the drug, with its behavior altering ability, could defeat the overall purpose of the drug, which is to give her more control over her fingers’ actions.  Mr. Isaki questions whether the drug makes a person more moral, or whether it just effects their emotional experience.

Although I think the length of the play was appropriate for that story, I realize that the drug’s side effect could be explored in far more depth (perhaps this is the basis for a sequel).

Challenge #2.  Creating evil characters is a challenge, at least it is for me.  There is a tendency on my part to distance myself from them, yet I do not want them to be cardboard characters.  In Courage With a Cure, the two criminal characters do not even have names, apart from Man #1 and Man #2.  This is not unique to the bad guys, though; even the guards have names Guard #1, 2 and 3.  Still, it is a sign that I could not consider the villains beyond their necessary place in the plot.   I do show that as criminals, they are also cowards, aptly so in a book about courage.  They are short-range characters with no appreciation for the independent human mind, unlike the heroes of the play, the doctors, biochemist, and some of the patients.

 Humor

Courage With a Cure was not initially meant to be humorous.  In fact, it covers very serious subjects (illness, crime).  For the most part, the play is serious, but elements of humor do crop up,   Still, the fact that people are trying so hard to get on with their lives, despite their medical condition, shows that the subject truly is serious (although this is not incompatible with the humorous elements).

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Courage With a Cure is available on Amazon.com and CreateSpace e-store.  For now, unlike the medicine in the story, this play is only available through US distribution, but that may change later as I look into expanding distribution.

Light Motifs: August 2014

LIGHT MOTIFS
August 2014: News & Announcements

Just released:  Courage With a Cure:  A Play in Three Acts by Anna Franco

Courage With a Cure is a play that is being self-published using CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.  It is available on the CreateSpace e-store, and will soon be available on Amazon.com.

[Update: (August 12, 2014) On Amazon.com:  Courage With a Cure
]

Ginnie Searlyse develops a neurological disorder that affects her fine motor skills, and the best known cure is not available in the United States.  She travels to Taiwan with her family to receive the treatment.  The medicine has unusual side effects, and others besides doctors and their patients have an interest in it.

Soon to be Released:  Hummingbirds in Winter by Anna Franco

Boston Tea Party Opera Premiere at Fringe Festival, NYC August 2014

The Boston Tea Party Opera will premiere in NYC at the Fringe Festival, with shows on August 9, 13, 16, 18, 22. The Boston Tea Party Opera (BTPO) by M. Zachary Johnson is an operatic musical, with songs depicting American colonists during the events leading up to the Revolutionary War.  The BTPO plot shows the conflict between two lands: one is a monarchy, bent on rule by force, while the other seeks independence and liberty from the first.

 http://objectivemotifs.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/interview-with-m-zachary-johnson/

Movie Review: Divergent

MOVIE REVIEW: Divergent

Reviewed by Anna Franco

Based on the best selling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent is a welcome rejection of dictatorial powers.  The successes of the book and the movie are encouraging, if they truly mean that Americans still value their liberty.

Divergent takes place in Chicago, a dystopic, future version of the city, after a war has destroyed parts of it and beyond.   Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley) is getting ready for her aptitude test, at age sixteen.  The test is a means by which the young people discover where they best fit into society: it tells them which one of five factions they belong to.  Although they are allowed to choose a different faction despite their test results, they must choose only one faction, and they cannot change after that. They join this faction for the rest of their lives, and it takes the highest priority in their lives, above family.

In an early scene, Tris curiously and openly admires the Dauntless faction, the brave warriors who seem to live more active and freer lives than that of her family’s faction: Abnegation.  Abnegation, or the selfless ones, exist to help others;  they are also the current leaders of the society, but they are criticized and under scrutiny by the Erudite faction (the intelligent ones).  Although Tris genuinely loves her family, she recognizes that she does not entirely fit into the Abnegation faction.

When her test proves inconclusive, she discovers that she does not entirely fit into any one faction: she is ‘divergent’, with qualities from three different factions.  She is warned by the test administrator that this is a dangerous position to be in and a secret she must guard with her life, for the society does not approve of the divergents, and some would kill her if they found out.  Still, she must fit in somewhere, or face the prospect of being ‘factionless’.

Not fitting in is Tris’s theme.  She must make a life for herself in a world where factions are vying for control.  She has rare a self-control over her fears and chooses the Dauntless faction, where she learns how to develop this to her advantage; however, she must also discover why divergents are so feared.  As a divergent, she has abilities that others do not, which helps her to remain in control and independent.  This independence makes her especially dangerous to the new regime, and she is always at risk of being discovered.

While Tris is the heroine of the story, Four ‘Tobias’ (Theo James) is a heroic leader and teacher at Dauntless.  He becomes Tris’s protector, as he is more knowledgeable about the Dauntless.  During their relationship, she sees his tattoo, which contains images of all five factions.  Here, the theme of the story seems to wobble a bit.  While Tris deals with the challenge of not fitting into any one faction, Four seems to want to fit into all factions, which raises the question of what the real theme is.  Is it that one should be an individual and not have to fit into a government provided faction? Or is it merely the wish to fit into all factions, accepting the five faction system as a proper way to describe the human race?

Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is a leader within the Erudite faction and champions the faction system as the best way to keep society running.  We meet her at the choosing ceremony, where she is explaining the faction system to the young sixteen year olds who are about to choose their future.  Her ultra cool and calm demeanor gives her the aura of being intellectual, although this calm dissolves when Tris disrupts her plans.  Jeanine comes across as patronizing, at times feigning concern and sympathy for Tris, but in fact she is a very controlling woman, and Tris sees through her mask.  Jeanine’s wish is to erase the human sense of self, based on her premises that human nature is evil, and the only way to create a peaceful society is to bring human nature under tight control or even destroy it when necessary.

The movie is a thrilling, suspenseful action film, with philosophical overtones.  From the first scene to the last, the character of Tris captures the audience, with her growing sense of self and courage.  She faces a hard battle, and anyone concerned about how political corruption can take control over people, will find that battle moving.

Copyright © Anna Franco, 2014

Light Motifs April 2014: Recent Release

Sufficient Ransom by Sylvia Sarno, is a thriller/mystery about a child kidnapped in San Diego and his mother’s search to rescue him.  The book was released in March 2014, through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and is available on Amazon.com.

I have only read the opening pages so far, but the conflicts build immediately for Ann Olson, mother of young Travis.  Read quotes from the book at Sylvia’s twitter account: @SylviaSarno.

 

Light Motifs February 2014: News and Announcements

LIGHT MOTIFS: February 2014

Recent Release New Book by Glenn Reynolds:  The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself is Glenn Reynolds’ new book, published by Encounter Books in January 2014. Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit, explains some problems with American education.

Interview: Dana Honeycutt on Running the NYC Marathon 2013

ATHENA’S DEPARTMENT

INTERVIEW:  Dana Honeycutt on Running the NYC Marathon 2013 By Objective Motifs

On November 3rd, 2013, Dana Honeycutt ran the ING NYC Marathon.  We asked Dana about his experiences achieving this super goal, and here he explains what it took to prepare for and run the marathon.

Objective Motifs:  How do you train to run the marathon?

Dana Honeycutt: I have been running half marathons on a regular basis for years, so I have a level of baseline endurance I can count on.  When a marathon is coming up, the main change to my training is to add the weekend long run.  Beginning about 5 months before the race,  I start ramping up the distance of this run.  My first one might be just 8 miles.  But by 4 weeks before the race, it is up to 20+ miles.

Elite marathoners run over 100 miles per week.  Even recreational racers typically run on most days.  But early on in my life as a runner (going back 25 years), I learned that my body could not handle such frequent runs.  In particular, I would get injured if I ran on consecutive days for long periods of time.  I just need more than 24 hours’ recovery between runs.  As a result, I became a 3-day-a-week runner, and tried to make up for the lack of overall mileage with increased intensity or increased distance on the individual runs.  On the off days, I swim a couple of times a week, so I’m not completely idle.

High mileage runners might scoff at the type of training I do, and indeed there is a general correlation between weekly mileage and race performance.  But even with my lower mileage training, I was able to run a 2:58:59 marathon in my 30s and a 1:28:49 half marathon at 50 (which was the time that qualified me to race in NYC).

OM:  What steps did you take to reach this goal?  What other important races did you run in?

DH:  For many years, I had been under the impression that the only way for a non-elite runner to enter the NYC Marathon was to be selected in a lottery.  I never bothered applying because I didn’t like the idea of being subject to the whims of chance rather than being able to make concrete plans to do the race a certain year.  But having done L.A. and Boston, NYC was the one other big race that I really wanted to do, so I thought that perhaps one day in the indefinite future, I would go ahead and apply.

Then in 2007 a friend pointed out that you could qualify for NYC in the same way that you could for Boston.  Even better for me as a half marathon specialist, you could do it with a sufficiently fast half marathon time rather than having to run a full marathon as Boston requires.  Soon after that, I made qualifying for NYC a goal, and I wanted to do it before turning 50.  As a male in the 45-49 age group, I had to beat 1:30:00.  (The times have since been made tougher — more on that later.)  At that point, my typical times were close to 1:40, so I knew I needed to get faster, but the goal didn’t seem too far out of reach.  I thought it would take a year or two.  It ended up taking almost four.

The main change to my training was to increase the amount of interval and tempo work.  Interval runs involve going substantially faster than race pace for a shorter distance — 400 to 800 meters, say — then resting for a few seconds to a couple of minutes and doing it again.  Tempo runs are longer — 3 to 5 miles — and are done slightly faster than race pace.

The San Diego area has some great half marathons, but due to their hilliness, some are less promising than others if you want to break a certain time.  I focused on the Silver Strand and Carlsbad races due to their relatively flat courses.  But all of the half marathons I did over this time were important in assessing my progress from year-to-year.

Here is my progression of times for Carlsbad, the race at which I ultimately qualified:

2008  1:38:44

2009  1:35:52

2010  1:32:38

2011  1:29:40

So in 2011, at age 49, I finally did it.  But that’s not the end of the story.  I felt no urgency to actually run NYC the next year.  The reason is that the qualifying time for 50-54 year olds was 1:40:00 — 10 minutes slower.  Since I’d be 50 the next year, I figured I could easily qualify for years to come and then do the race when convenient.  So I waited and did not register for NYC.  (In retrospect, this was a good thing, since Hurricane Sandy caused the cancellation of the 2012 race.)

Then in the summer of 2011, the NYRR pulled the rug out from under me.  They drastically tightened the qualifying times such that I would now need to beat 1:29:00 as a 50 year old — a minute faster than I had run at 49!  It would still be possible for me to register for the 2012 race based on my 2011 time.  But if I wanted to race any later, I would need to get still faster.  Even though the lottery was still an option, by this point it had become a matter of personal pride that if I ever raced NYC, it would be because I earned my way in.

From the progression of times above, you can see I was knocking off about 3 minutes per year.  So it looks like I could just keep it up.  But once I went sub-1:30, I could tell I was close to the limit of progress.  And, I think due to the increased training intensity, I was getting various annoying injuries that required me to back off and lose progress while I let them heal.  Still, I was going to keep up the training and go for it at Carlsbad in January 2012.

Come race day, I was feeling pretty good.  As I recall, weather conditions were ideal.  As the race progressed, I was a little bit behind my target pace, but not too far.  The Carlsbad course is relatively flat, but it does have a few rolling hills that sap your speed.  The good thing is that the final mile is downhill, and when I came to that mile, I knew I needed to push, because I had a lot of time to make up (20+ seconds).  So I did push, and it hurt like hell.  But I kept telling myself, “You have to do this, or run NYC next year,” “Pain is temporary, victory is forever,” and, “For God’s sake, don’t miss the time by a second or two!”

I made it with 11 seconds to spare, finishing in 1:28:49, a 6:47 pace.  Later I learned I had placed 2nd in my age group, so I got a little plaque to put on the mantel.  But I decided that was it. I’m never going to run this fast again.  NYC Marathon 2013, here I come.

(To add yet another wrinkle, due to all of the runners rolling over from the 2012 cancellation, the marathon organizers decided that even time qualifiers such as myself would have to go through our own lottery in order to do the race.  Fortunately, I made it through.)

OM:  What strategies do you consider to maintain your pace and endurance (things you do before and during the race)?

DH:  For me, a half marathon is a race, while a full marathon is a survival contest.  I can run a half at close to a 7:00 per mile pace but (at least in the past 10 years) find it seemingly impossible to get down to even an 8:00 pace in a full.  Of course, you expect to go *somewhat* slower in a full.  But in my case, the difference is dramatic.

For anyone, the battle in a marathon is to maintain a reasonable pace through the end while not running out of fuel.  The two are correlated in that if you do run out, your pace will collapse at the end.  To clarify: everyone has vast stores of fat in their bodies which would be sufficient to sustain them through multiple marathons — at slow, plodding speeds.  But if you want to run at a decent pace, the relevant fuel is glucose from muscle glycogen, so I and pretty much every other marathoner eat large amounts of carbohydrates in the days before the race to try to top off our glycogen stores.  During the race we take Gatorade at the water stations or eat high-carb gels along the way in order to spare these stores.

For pacing, the main challenge is to not go out too fast.  If you have properly tapered (scaled back your training) before the race, then at the start, you will feel full of energy and ready to go.  You need to force yourself to hold back for at least the first half of the race.  So all the way through Brooklyn, I told myself, “Take it easy,” concentrated on running at a relaxed pace, checked my GPS watch to make sure I wasn’t speeding up, and intentionally stayed in the middle of the road, away from the crowds.

OM:  What are you thinking while you run the race?

DH:  I do a lot of self-monitoring.  The following are paraphrases of thoughts that went through my mind along the course.  Imagine an ongoing mental dialog throughout the race in which I repeated some variant of each, as well as various other thoughts, multiple times along the course.

“Enjoy yourself; look around; don’t worry too much about your time.”

“I’ll skip this station and get water at the next one.”

“My stomach is a little upset.  I need to wait before taking gel.”

“I should have waited longer to do my last pee.”  “Just relax.  The urge will diminish.”

“Take it easy.  Save your strength. Stay away from the crowds for now.  Save the high fives for the end.”

“Pace looks OK.  Keep it in the 8:05 to 8:10 range  until halfway” [I had a GPS watch to monitor my pace.]

“There’s the Empire State Building [across the water].  We’re making progress.”

“When is this bridge going to stop going up and turn down?” [Queensboro Bridge.]

“Keep the cadence up.”

“Uh oh, I’m slowing.  So much for a negative split.”

“This is starting to feel like work.”

“I had no idea this hill was so long and steep.” [along 5th Ave.]

“I really, really want to be done with this.”

“I need to do at least a few high fives before I finish.”

“I’m too tired to wave any more” [at people calling my name, which I had written on my shirt].

“Not another hill!”

“Done. Finally. Ouch, my legs hurt.”

OM:  How do you feel when you start the race? finish the race? are in the middle of the race?

DH:  You can infer some of this from the progression of my internal dialog above.

At the start:  Happy to finally be moving.  Enjoying Sinatra singing, “New York, New York.”

In the middle: Relaxed but focused.  Monitoring effort, speed, hydration, how my stomach feels, whether there are any turns ahead, and so on.

Late in the race: Tired.  Starting to feel the fatigue in my leg muscles.

Last two miles: Pain.  Straining to push myself forward and minimize the time lost.  (After my pre-race goal of sub-3:35 was shot, my late race goal became sub-3:40.)

Finish: Mental relief to be done, along with physical pain in my legs worse than when I was running, and a slight degree of stomach upset.  After walking, sitting, drinking and eating a little, and walking some more, the extreme discomfort dissipated over the next 30 minutes.

OM:  How aware are you of what is around you or happening around you during the race (people, scenery, etc)?

DH:  Very aware of immediate surroundings such as the runners around me — I need to be or I’ll collide with them.  I also look far ahead to be aware of the where the course goes next so I can try to take the most direct line around any corners or obstacles, so I can see where the next water station is, and so on.

For this race in particular, I was committed to enjoying it, so I made a conscious effort to look around more at the scenery and crowds than I would in a typical race.  So generally the crowds and scenery were at the periphery of my awareness, but periodically I’d make a point of focusing on them.

OM:  What was distinctive in the NYC marathon experience?  What was it like starting with the Verrazano Bridge?  Which bridge did you like best?  least?  Which marathon route did you like best?

DH:  Distinctive in NYC was the setting, the sheer size of the race, its logistical complexity, and the geographically diverse participants.  I spoke with people from Germany, Alaska, Sweden, New Jersey, and Poland, and probably other places. (I didn’t always ask.)

Starting at the base of the Verrazano Bridge was great.  First, the view was incredible.  Second, starting on a long uphill grade helps counteract the natural tendency to start at too fast a pace.  So that was the bridge I liked the best.

The bridge I liked the least was Queensboro.  It’s a long bridge with a 3/4 mile climb at the beginning, and it comes at mile 15, by which point I was getting tired.  It was on that bridge that it started to become clear that not only would I not be able to increase my pace in the second half of the race, I wouldn’t even be able to maintain it.

I’m not sure what you mean by “Which marathon route do you like best?”  If you mean “which marathon course,” it would probably by L.A. — though I haven’t raced that course in 20 years, and the current course is very different.  I remember the course as quite flat, especially the last few miles — but it may have been that I was just much younger and did not notice the hills as much as in NYC.

OTOH, if the question is, “Which part of the NYC course did you like best?”, then the answer is undeniably Brooklyn.  It was a long, flat stretch early in the race, so I was fresh and could enjoy myself.

OM:  What was your time and how was that?

DH:  My time was 3:39:37, which was a little slower than my target of 3:30 to 3:35.  It was my second slowest marathon, the slowest being 3:42:37 at the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 2005.  Just doing this race was a very big deal for me, and I did it for the experience, not with an eye to setting a personal record.  So I’m not that disappointed in the time — and happy that I was at least able to go sub-3:40.

OM:  What’s next?

DH:  I will be doing the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January, which I do every year.  It’s a good, well-run race with a scenic course, and I feel great loyalty to it because I qualified for both Boston (with the full) and NYC (with the half) on that course.

After that, I need to decide on a new long-term goal.  NYC was my focus for 5+ years, and I’d like to come up with an athletic goal that is comparably motivating.  I’m done with marathons, though.  They just beat me up too much, I’m not competitive at that distance, and with NYC behind me, there are no specific marathons left on my bucket list.

I already did triathlons from the late 80s through the mid-90s, and that no longer appeals to me (mainly because I don’t like the training required for the bike stage).  Something involving swimming, or swimming and running together (“aquathlons”), is a possibility.

Copyright © Dana Honeycutt, Objective Motifs, 2013

Light Motifs October/November 2013

LIGHT MOTIFS:  NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

Objective Motifs Becomes a Blog

Objective Motifs is happy to announce that it has become a blog on WordPress.  We will post our material online. The pieces will be posted on a rolling basis, as they become ready.  Readers can also find us on Twitter at Objective Motifs@ObjectiveMotifs

Energy Articles on PJMedia

On September 15, 2013, PJMedia published: “A Dark Future for Energy Exploration” by Anna Franco.  This is a fictional projection of an oil and gas company of the future.

On July 7, 2013, PJMedia published: “Green Appeasement: Oil, Gas Industry Wasting Billions on Alternatives” by Anna Franco.

Ted Cruz and the ObamaCare Battle

On September 24th, Senator Ted Cruz (TX) gave a 21-hour talking “marathon” as part of a major effort to gain support to defund ObamaCare.  Together with support from Mike Lee and a handful of others, like Senator Sessions, Ted Cruz spoke and read to Congress and to the nation about what it means to stand up to ObamaCare.  He discussed everything from morality and politics to the meaning of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, but most notably he quoted from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

In this rare display of one man’s refusal to back down and comply with government or even party expectations, Ted Cruz did more than just say “no” to the Affordable Care Act;  he said “yes” to integrity, to America, to liberty, to Atlas Shrugged, to literature, and to many other important values.  His talk was a combination of deliberate political persuasion, answering questions from friendly senators, reading books out loud, reading public tweets (#MakeDCListen), etc…  By bringing in both the American culture and the American public into a Congressional talk, yet without ever yielding the floor, he tapped into the arts and minds of the country while delivering his own thoughts.

Despite this eloquent appeal, however, the vote for cloture was passed, and the bill that would allow the Affordable Care Act to be funded was moved forward and eventually passed.  On October 2, reaching another impasse regarding the debt ceiling, the government began its 16-day shut down, not that this brought much peace and quiet to the nation.  Meanwhile, the government health care exchange sites had opened (sort of) the day before, albeit plagued with glitches.  In the background to all of this, in New York City, the Heritage Foundation had a billboard placed in Times Square early September alerting the public: “Warning, ObamaCare May be Hazardous to Your Health.”