Watch the first episode of This Emotional Life  -



by Gretchen Rubin

The folks at PBS sent me an advance copy of their upcoming documentary, "This Emotional Life." It's a three-part series focused on how people can be happier. Ah, my favorite subject!


I've been thinking about this very question all day long, practically every day, for the past several years, while I was writing my just-published book, The Happiness Project, and working on my daily blog, also called The Happiness Project. I whole-heartedly agree with one of the main tenets of "This Emotional Life": you can be happier than you are. But how? That's what the documentary seeks to address.


Episode Three, "Rethinking Happiness," was particularly engaging, because it covers many of the most fascinating--and controversial--topics within the larger subject of happiness. What's the relationship between money and happiness? Does marriage bring happiness; do children bring happiness? Who fares best--and why--when faced with a huge happiness challenge, like being a prisoner-of-war for years, being paralyzed in a diving accident, or not being able to find a job? How can people learn to forgive?


I was particularly interested in the discussion of the question: Has any of the advice given by the "self-help" industry been proven scientifically to work--and how effective is self-help, anyway? Turns out self-help is enormously effective, but some of it is dangerously unproven.


I'm a big fan of Daniel Gilbert's work (he's the author of Stumbling on Happiness), and he made a charming host. The episode features several profiles of compelling people, as well as appearances by some of the most interesting researchers in the field.


There are also lots of fun little cameos by celebrities like Larry David, Chevy Chase, Alanis Morissette, and (a bit incongruously) Adam Gopnik. (Larry David's contribution: "If you don't have a job you like, and you're not having sex, you're not going to be happy.")


I could have kept watching for hours.




Watch clips from the series:


Larry David, creator of TV hits CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM and SEINFELD, shares his unique perspective on happiness. From THIS EMOTIONAL LIFE (PBS, Jan. 4-6, 2010).


This Emotional Life: Happiness


This Emotional Life: Stress/Mental Well-being




 Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose and Jane Austen Today shares her joy and excitement of the new season of Masterpiece Classic. Are you as excited as we are!?!


Oh joy! In less than a month, the Masterpiece Classic season begins on PBS offering another incredible lineup of quality period and contemporary drama's. This is my favorite time of year for television and this season certainly aims to please offering some old classics and new surprises. 

Masterpiece is branching out a bit this year in scope. Not only will we enjoy new adaptations of classic bonnet drama's set in Regency and Victorian times, we will be offered more contemporary fare from the twentieth century. I am intrigued by the diversity of stories chosen and the top notch casting. Which new productions this season am I looking forward to with rapt anticipation? Well, of course as a Jane Austen enthusiast I am excited about the new adaptation Emma, but also a return to the delightful Victorian village of Cranford, and a certain dashing and adventurous British army officer in a red coat, Richard Sharpe. La!

Read more

Watch a clip from Emma


Cranford. A sleepy 1840s English village comes to life with gossip, parties, romances, sudden death, bankruptcy and the drama of an encroaching railway on this three-part series based on the beloved Victorian-era writings of Elizabeth Gaskell. Shown: Shown: Julia McKenzie (left) as Mrs. Forrester and Imelda Staunton (right) as Miss Pole.


A lavish new adaptation of one of Jane Austen's most popular novels stars Romola Garai (left) as the "handsome, clever and rich" heroine and Jonny Lee Miller as her suitor, Mr. Knightley.

"I like to sleep so I can tune in and see what's happening in that big show. People say we sleep a third of our lives away, why I'd rather dream than sit around bleakly with bores in "real" life. My dreams...are fantastically real movies of what's actually going on anyway. Other dream-record keepers include all the poets I know."

- Jack Kerouac

Like all artists since the beginning of time, I've looked to dreams for inspiration.

I started writing down my dreams as a teenager, after I got my hands on Jack Kerouac's Book of Dreams--dreams he collected by scribbling in his notebook the minute he woke from sleep.

Later on in college, I studied just enough psychology to learn that the creative process mirrors the dreaming process. As the film director David Mamet says in his book On Directing Film, "The dream and the film are the juxtaposition of images in order to answer a question." Not only can the dream provide us with material, but the process of dreaming itself can provide us with inspiration towards a process of working.

Any artist will tell you that when the work is going really well, it's as if you're taking dictation. The characters speak because they want to speak. The act of art-making is an attempt to fall into a kind of dream state. We do this by abandoning the linear and the logical for the non-linear and the free-associative. This is when creativity happens.

After watching this NOVA episode, I pulled out my pen and crayons and attempted to digest what I had seen through drawing--juxtaposing images in space. It was not unlike dreaming, watching the images come out of my hand...


To view high resolution version of image - click here - View image




Place of Execution

Masterpiece Contemporary

Val McDermid, the author of 23 crime novels, is one of the U.K.'s greatest Crime Writers. Her latest Dr. Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan novel, Fever of the Bone, is now out in the U.K. The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan Series has been adapted for TV as the Wire in the Blood Series. Her stand-alone novel, Place of Execution, will be shown in the U.S. on PBS, November 1 and November 8. Juliet Stevenson stars in the production, and just won a CWA Actress Dagger for her performance. Also starring are Lee Ingleby and Greg Wise who give hauntingly strong performances.


Poe_Court_1_.jpgPlace of Execution is a terrific production on so many levels, and one that will reverberate within you long after you've finished watching. Part of that is due to the excellent cast, and part of it is due to the brilliant novel by Val McDermid on which it's based. Told in two overlapping and interlocking plots, Place of Execution takes place in both the present day, as well as 1963 rural England with two different investigators exploring the disappearance of a 13 year old girl who vanished without a trace on a winter afternoon in 1963. This is not Miss Marple's English village. Place of Execution is a first rate thriller about the choices we make in our lives, the events that shape us and the hold of obsession over us. Don't miss it.

I caught up with Val to ask her a few questions about the production of Place of Execution.

Janet Rudolph: Your books have been adapted for TV before, is the adaptation of Place of Execution different from the previous adaptations?

Val McDermid: The main difference came from the split time frame in the original book. It meant that we had to have two actors for several of the key roles. And of course we had to get the period details spot-on because enough people have accurate memories of the 1960s to get on our case if we got it wrong!