scale effect

Well, I said I was probably going to do something with that wing cycle and this is the best I could come up with.

I just took some audio from Adventure Time and only used about 6 base mouth frames for each camera view. The result is: choppy lip sync. But manual scaling in after effects tends to do that.

I was just animating something for fun. I was going to upload it last night but it was almost 3 am by the time i was done with it and I was comatose and running on autopilot.

Lull Before the Storm (1944) - the English Lion and the American eagle crouch side by side on the cliffs of Dover, preparing for D-Day.

Steven Universe Theory: How The Gem’s function

In this theory I am going to attempt to explain how the Gems of Steven Universe could potentially function in real life. This theory is based on a relatively superficial understanding of things like Quantum physics, so a more knowledgeable person in such fields would likely be able to tear this theory a new one. In fact I encourage such critiques, as I find debates like this rather entertaining.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s try to answer how, with my woefully rudimentary understanding of quantum physics, that The Gems could potentially function in real life.  

First we need to answer, what are the Gems? In the internet short called Classroom Gems, Pearl explains that Gems project hard light structures from their gems that comprise of their physical form from their gems. These Gems contain all of what they are, and their body is, as Steven puts it, “just an illusion.”

An illusion with Mass.

Is the concept of Hard Light possible? Actually yes, and in fact we’ve reputedly already made headway in this department. Princeton University has reported that they have begun Crystallizing Light. 

How have they achieved such a thing you ask?

Well what they did was they created a super conductive structure where the billions of atoms inside of it worked in tandem to create what they call an “artificial atom.” Photons that come in contact with this superconductive artificial atom take on the properties of said atoms, and they begin to interact with each other like particles. These photons, now entangled together like particles, began behaving like the states of matter, assuming qualities of liquids and crystallized solids.

In these experiments at Princeton, they reported that they were able to make light slosh about in a contained area like a liquid, and they were able to “freeze” this light into a Solid as well, all thanks to this superconducting “artificial atom” structure.

So we know now that there are potentially circumstances in which light photons can be made to behave like particles, thus creating hard light structures that are entirely malleable and able to shift between liquid and solid states very easily (assuming all this data is viable and laudable of course.) This sounds eerily similar to the Gem’s “physical” bodies. Much like with the results of these experiments, they are able to alter their physical forms at will, and as solids they behave just like regular physical bodies, if not much more durable.

So this begs the question, could a Gem potentially function as a superconductor?

A Superconductor is what is known as a Macroscopic Quantum effect, or something in quantum physics that is observable in large scale, as supposed to the atomic scale that quantum effects are normally associated with. A material becomes a superconductor when it reaches a temperature that allows energy to have zero resistance while traveling through the object. Normally an object’s conductivity is subject to resistance, which will cause the energy traveling through the object to be expelled via heat. This is why batteries run out of power when you put them inside something, because that energy is eventually expelled out of the wires via heat instead of continuing to circulate in the circuitry. In a Superconductor, the energy never leaves the circuitry and continues the circuit indefinitely until it no longer has its super conductive properties. 

This is consistent with Gems in Steven Universe, as all the energy they will ever need is inside their gems. While real life super conductors require intensely cold (or hot) temperatures in order to achieve this quantum state of conductivity, the Gems themselves appear to be a highly sought after theoretical state simply referred to as a “room temperature superconductor.”


A room temperature superconductive material would change the world of technology forever. Extremely advanced technology that is theoretically possible, but require an intense amount of energy with conventionally conductive materials, would be able to achieve the same effects with a room temperature superconductor with very little or no energy loss. As long as the equilibrium of Superconductivity is maintained, anything that utilized such materials would be able to function indefinitely.

This as well is consistent with Gems from Steven Universe. While each gem has variations on how much power they can exert at a given time, as long as they maintain within their boundaries and limitations, their gem forms will hold and sustain themselves for thousands of years with no sign of deterioration. This would also explain why maintaining larger hard light bodies than their Gems are equipped for is taxing for them. By pushing themselves beyond their equilibrium, they are losing their superconductivity and are losing energy from their gems via heat.

 When a gem is poofed, they retreat inside of their gems restore the equilibrium that superconductivity offers before reforming their bodies.

Can a Gem behave as a Superconductor? Gems, Diamonds and the like are composed of Carbon. Carbon can most definitely be used as a superconductor, especially as shown with experiments with a substance called Graphene. 

Graphene is essentially a 2 dimensional diamond, a lattice of carbon a single atom thick that is intensely durable (many times stronger than steel) and is a step in the direction of finding that coveted room temperature superconductor. Part of the process that takes place in the Kindergartens therefore, is changing the gem from a conventionally conductive substance to a room temperature super conductor, and feeding the energy that is drained from around them into the gem so it can achieve equilibrium inside of it and they can pop out fully formed. 

This would also explain why better formed gems like The Era 1′s are able to create things like Gem Weapons, while Era 2′s can’t even shapeshift. Gems like Garnet have energy to spare, so they can use it to create other hard light structures besides their bodies without affecting their equilibrium, while a gem like Peridot cannot afford such exertion. 

So far we’ve explained that, theoretically speaking, the Gems are a room temperature superconductive structure made of carbon, which house within them an equilibrium of energy that can be used to manipulate photons into behaving like particles, which they use to comprise their physical forms. Next is to explain where the intelligence and personality comes from. This is decidedly easier to explain. 

The Gems are artificial intelligence.

 Each atom inside of this room-temperature superconductive gem is a transistor, the thing that sends those 1′s and 0′s that are the building blocks of any and all computer programs and languages. We already have single atom transistors, so applying them in an intricate structure in the form of a seemingly ordinary gemstone is both plausible and practical. In fact we are currently working on a device that uses graphene (that afore mentioned 2 dimensional diamond) that uses light instead of electricity to compute things. In the lattice of graphene there is a single atom which operates as an “optical switch” 

Or a switch that can be flipped on an off at the speed of a photon. 

To put it in more simplistic terms: Its a computer that does its computing at the speed of light and is woven together at the atomic level, not with visible circuit boards. The kind of processing power such a structure would have would definitely allow for an artificial intelligence comparable with or even significantly smarter than the average human. 

So to recap: A Gem from Steven Universe, in real life, would theoretically be an Artificial intelligence, programmed into an atomic, superconductive-supercomputer (which computes at the speed of a photon/light) made of a type of carbon, has an equilibrium of light based energy within itself that won’t deplete as long as they stay within their boundaries of how hard they can exert themselves, and can manipulate photons into behaving like particles which comprise their physical forms. 

This art is super good but I wish the flashing effect were scaled down, I feel it diminishes the art as well as makes it harder to get nice screencaps.

Jack wins.

He did the thing. He did the thing where he wills for more power and gets it. This is all taking place in a spiritual form and this show does not have episode to episode continuity, but I feel so validated in every way I’ve described his magic sword. I am the absolute best at magic swords you guys.

He scaled himself up to the shadow dragon’s size. Badass.

He grabs and throws the energy ball back. What are these DBZ shenanigans? I love this!

Jack wins super hard.

Everyone gets their souls back! Good end!

Okay! This wasn’t the Shadow vs Light fight I expected, but it was still one in the end. It was also a fantastic display of creeping horror and gorgeous art. You can’t tell me this episode isn’t a 10/10. You can’t.

Because it is.


Checking my work with concentric circles.  I nailed it on the MacMurray wheel, but the rest have required some minor warping to get them to fit.  In all likelihood, these won’t be the final textures, but I wanted to make sure everything was centered and circular so they can provide a good starting point.  

The ABC Skill: Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions

In DBT, the content of the Emotion Regulation unit can be broken down into three main categories: 

  1. How to identify and understand your emotions–there are no specific DBT Skills that fall into this category, but the content is still an important foundation that the other two categories build on. 
  2. How to change or regulate your emotional responses–this includes Skills like Check the Facts, Opposite Action (link coming soon), and Problem Solving. 
  3. How to reduce your emotional vulnerability–these two Skill sets are known as ABC PLEASE.

This post is going to start covering content from the third category.  This category is incredibly important because not only will they aid you in becoming less vulnerable to crisis, but it will actually give you direction for how to build a life that you want to live–a life you have choice and control in, that is founded on positives rather than simply surviving day-to-day, crisis-to-crisis.  You want to have as much content from this third category in your life as possible in order to counter, to balance, and ultimately to supersede your Bad Days with Good Days.  This doesn’t mean the Bad Days will go away entirely, but it does mean you will have more emotional reserves (or spoons) to minimize the scale and effect of each crisis you encounter.

1. What is the ABC Skill?

The ABC Skill is really three separate Skills all rolled into one acronym because they work towards the same general goal.  Each letter represents one whole Skill that can exist independently of the other letters, which is why I’ve decided to break up the post on the ABC Skill into three posts that address one component each. 

The three components of ABC are:

  • A: Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions
  • B: Build Mastery
  • C: Cope Ahead

The ABC Skill set focuses on how to help you take action in a positive, effective manner that will have both short-term and long-term benefits to your mental health and general well-being.  Basically, these Skills exist to make your life better by reducing your vulnerability to Emotion Mind and to stress-triggered or stress-aggravated symptoms of BPD.

2. What is meant by Accumulating Positive Experiences and what is the point?

The A component of the ABC Skill is Accumulate Positive Experiences/EmotionsThis means doing things that you can genuinely enjoy, participate mindfully in, experience happiness or joy as a result, all without judging yourself or feeling guilty.  It’s important that when Accumulating Positive Experiences, you do so Mindfully because it can actually be fairly difficult to do things you enjoy when your life is dominated by distressing symptoms, bad experiences, and negative emotions. 

You might find that your depression has significantly impaired your ability to find enjoyment in the things that you used to really enjoy.  You might find that your anxiety discourages you from trying new things that might be enjoyable because you’re too afraid that you won’t actually enjoy them, or that you’ll fail, or that others will judge you.  You might find that your paranoia or hypervigilance from trauma makes it almost impossible to fully Participate in an activity that you would otherwise enjoy because you’re always on edge and don’t know how to relax anymore.

You might find that your mental illness has skewed your thinking to be so negative that you no longer see any point of seeking out positive experiences because the positive feelings that come from those experiences won’t last.  You might worry that the negative thoughts and feelings will quickly return and it’ll be all the more disappointing and distressing when you fall back down again.  It’s hard to keep getting back up and trying again when your mental illness keeps knocking you down–it might even seem safer or less harmful to not even try to get back up again because you want to protect yourself from as much hurt as possible. 

When it comes to disorders like BPD, this is a constant battle we wage between ourselves and our illness.  It’s a battle that we will likely be fighting for a long, long time.  We have ups and downs but the ups never last long enough and it can be incredibly discouraging and disheartening, which makes it harder to endure the downs.  DBT aims to provide you the tools you need to fight and win these battles by teaching you Skills that you otherwise would not have at your disposal. 

By Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions you effectively replenish your emotional reserves, reduce your vulnerabilities, and give yourself a reason to pick yourself back up after getting knocked down again.  The goal of Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions is to increase your “ups” by making those ups more frequent, longer in duration, and more stable. 

Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions is one component of reclaiming your life from your mental illness, to re-learn how to live a life that isn’t entirely dominated by the day-to-day struggle to survive and endure. It shifts the focus from enduring or fending off negative experiences/emotions to actually seeking out positive experiences/emotions and enjoyingThe goal is to slowly fill your life up with these positive experiences so you’re fighting those battles less often.  Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions serves both short-term and long-term purposes: reducing your emotional vulnerability, while also helping you build a life that is fulfilling and meaningful to you.

3. How to Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions in the Short-Term

The point of Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions in the short-term is to do pleasant things that are possible now.  Your BPD symptoms (or symptoms of other comorbid disorders as previously mentioned) might make it very difficult for you to enjoy much of what you used to be able to enjoy, so it’s important to take baby-steps and have hopeful but realistic expectations. 

Do small and simple things that you can enjoy as you are in this moment, and slowly build yourself up to being able to attempt bigger experiences that may be more meaningful or fulfilling.  Sometimes small, simple, and silly things can be meaningful too, because every positive feeling you make for yourself should be considered a victory when you generally feel miserable.

You Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions in the short term by:

  1. Start building positive experiences now.  Don’t delay or avoid, don’t tell yourself you haven’t done anything today to “deserve” to have a positive experience today.  You may not feel entirely comfortable spending your time on something positive for yourself, at least not right away, but this is one of those times where it’s okay to give yourself a little push.  Remember, positive experiences are good! They’re positive experiences because they don’t have negative components or consequences.  They aren’t supposed to result in feeling bad or feeling worse–they’re solely meant to benefit you in a positive and enjoyable way.  Start small and work your way up.

    Increase pleasant events that lead to positive emotions.  Try to work up to doing one pleasant thing each day–it doesn’t have to be different each day but you should try a variety of things to broaden your experiences eventually.  The List of Pleasant Events is a good place to start for ideas.  You can also make your own List of Pleasant Events/Activities and print it out, highlight it, stick it to your wall or your fridge–somewhere you’ll see it regularly–and work through it at your own pace. 

    If you find yourself avoiding doing your Pleasant Events, practice Opposite Action (link coming soon).

  2. Be mindful of positive experiences.  Focus your attention on positive moments when they are happening.  Use your Mindfulness What Skills and How Skills to do this.  Don’t multitask!  Dedicate this time to your Pleasant Event and to your experience of the Pleasant Event only.  You want to Participate and engage fully in each experience, soak up the positive feelings or thoughts or sensations. 

    Being mindful of your enjoyment will help you recall the experience at a later date, such as when you’re in crisis and are having a hard time remembering or believing that you have had or could ever have positive experiences and emotions.  If you find your mind wandering to negative territory during your Pleasant Event, refocus your attention or Turn Your Mind towards the positive.

  3. Be unmindful of worries.  It’s rare to ever be told to be unmindful of something in DBT, but this is one of those times when you don’t want to give any mental attention to thoughts or feelings you may have if they are negative and detracting from the positive experience.  You might have worries such as thinking about when the positive experience will end or what will happen after it ends; you might worry about whether you deserve this positive experience; you also might worry that others might expect much more from you now that you were able to expend the effort required to do this one Pleasant Event for yourself; etc. 

    Gently push away these thoughts if you cannot avoid acknowledging them.  Rehearse some affirmations or “challenges” to counter these kinds of thoughts.  These thoughts might be rooted in deeply-held personal beliefs about emotions and about yourself (a list of such myths and possible challenges to them will be written at a later date), so counter-arguments (“challenges”) may not come easily to you in the beginning, or you may not truly believe those affirmations or counter-arguments yet.  It takes time.

    Keep trying!  Remember, if we don’t challenge our negative thoughts/feelings or allow ourselves to have positive thoughts/feelings, then we won’t be able to accumulate positive experiences because we will always stay in one place, restricted by our negative experiences.  It may take you several tries, dozens and dozens of tries before you can effectively challenge, push away, or be unmindful of these types of negative thoughts, but it is possible.

4. How to Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions in the Long-Term

The point of Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions in the long-term is to make changes in your life so that positive events will happen more often in the future.  This is commonly referred to as “building a life worth living” but honestly I believe that all lives are already worth living, they just may not be lives that we want to live.  So I prefer to say that the long-term goal of Accumulating Positive Experiences is to build a life that is fulfilling and meaningful to you–a life that you want to have.  The way you make these changes is to live according to your values.

These are the steps that you would take in order to Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions in the Long-Term

  1. Avoid avoiding: Start now to do what is needed to build the life you want.  You need to make the active choice to pursue Accumulating Positive Experiences and be an active part of that accumulation, rather than hoping that these experiences will just happen by chance.  If you’re not sure about what to do or how to do it, follow the steps as a guide.

  2. Identify values that are important to you: Ask yourself, what values are really important to me in my life? What things to I want to be the foundation of my life? It’s okay if these things change as your identity shifts, and it’s also okay if these values are not 100% firm.  It’s also okay if the values you identify conflict somewhat.  What matters is that you have an idea of what is meaningful to you and the general direction you want to take your life in.  See the List of Values and Priorities for guidance.

  3. Identify one value to work on now.  Ask yourself, what is really important to me, right now, to work on in my life?  That thing may not end up being something you would value under other circumstances, but this is the step where you take your present situation into account.  From where you are at this point in time, what would benefit you the most to work on? What do you deeply want more of in your life that you currently lack, that is within your power to obtain for yourself? Your criteria for determining which value you work on first could be all sorts of things, as long as–at the core–it is about bringing something positive into your life that will make you enjoy or value your life more.

  4. Identify a few goals related to this value.  Ask yourself what specific goals you can work on that will make this value a part of my life?  This value becomes the guiding force behind your goals.  These goals can be small or more ambitious, but make sure these are things that you can work towards right away.  You don’t want to choose goals here that you wouldn’t be able to start working on until a number of future conditions have been met, though it is important to be aware of these sorts of long-term, complex goals.  The idea here is to make things as easy as possible for yourself to take definitive steps towards a more enjoyable and fulfilling life.

  5. Choose one goal to work on now.  Do a Pros and Cons, if necessary, to select a goal to work on now.  You might want to start with something small and easily achievable so that you don’t get discouraged.  You also might want to pick a goal that has a strong degree of immediacy to it, meaning that achieving this goal means instant or near instant improvement to your life in a significant way. 

  6. Identify small action steps toward your goal.  What small steps can you take to get to your goal?  This step really helps if executive dysfunction regularly interferes with your ability to set and achieve goals.  Break steps into smaller components, so that each step becomes a series of smaller steps.  It becomes easier to make progress because small tasks don’t seem nearly as daunting as tackling the whole goal at once.

  7. Take one action step now. This is pretty self-explanatory, but you have to make sure you’re actually taking action rather than just making plans and not following through on those plans.  You don’t have to tackle the whole goal in one day–you can just do one or a few of those smaller actions steps if that’s all you can handle today.  

Remember that Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions is supposed to make you feel better and make your life more enjoyable–it shouldn’t stress you out, constantly frustrate you, or inconvenience you.   Pursuing goals can sometimes be stressful or frustrating or even inconvenient at times, but the benefits should outweigh the disadvantages.

You can work on Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions in the short-term by yourself rather easily, as this Skill lends itself well to working at your own pace and listening to your own desired.  When attempting to Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions in the long-term, though, you may want to work with a therapist or close friend in order to help determine what options are feasible to work on now and what values and goals should be set aside for later, when you are further along in your recovery journey.

Further Reading: List of Values and Priorities, List of Pleasant Events, Intro to Emotion Regulation, How can I build positive experiences?   

TL;DR: Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions is a component of the Emotion Regulation ABC Skill, which is a Skill used to reduce your emotional vulnerabilities.  Accumulate Positive Experiences/Emotions means slowly filling your life up with positive experiences and feelings in order to make your life less vulnerable to negative feelings and experiences. 

In the short-term, this means doing some sort of pleasant thing that is possible right now, no matter how small and trivial, and doing such a thing every day.  In the long-term, this means living according to your values and allowing your values to guide your goals so that you can restructure your life around enjoying positive experiences instead of enduring negative ones.  Accumulating Positive Experiences means giving your life direction so that you can ultimately build a life that you find personally meaningful and fulfilling.


In the Sight of the Public, Always

In the meantime while @neko-puff is occupied, I’m going to share a little scene based on her CyberTube AU. I hope I did well!

Also spoilers warning: This story may hint or reveal some undisclosed information about CyberTube. Read at your own discretion! 

Keep reading

Stuck in the Cage (With You)

Originally posted by supernatural-squadd

“You heard me just fine. My soul for Sam’s. Easy switcher-oo.” You clenched your jaw, impatient with how long the archangel was taking to think about the deal you were offering. Dean needed Sam back, you could see it. You weren’t as good of a hunter and both of your older brothers always tried to protect you, leaving room for silly mistakes to be made.  

Michael finally answered, “Fine.”

For as long as he took to make a decision he sure didn’t take his time to take action. Your ears popped and everything went black.

A boot nudged your ribs and you sat up to find yourself surrounded by thick, metal bars, looking up at the pure blue eyes of Lucifer himself.

“The youngest Winchester, how interesting.”

Keep reading

The Making of Artastic Part 1: The Why

Why Artastic Began

“Don’t become an artist. You’ll be poor.” A lot of would-be artists receive that advice in childhood. Why are some artists successful, and others not? And could that be different?

A large part of the problem is what they sell and how they sell it. Many artists don’t know how to sell themselves. Many are shy. Or they don’t sell things that scale effectively.

Artists Are Poor Because They Don’t Scale

One-time commissions are a common way for artists to make money, but they’re not sustainable. They can only sell once. Not only that, but artists tend to drive their own prices down. Many of them aren’t confident enough to charge more, so it’s hard for all artists to charge a lot. When I tried calculating my commission prices to reflect an hourly rate, it was less than working at McDonald’s. I know I wouldn’t be able to make a living with just commissions.

Things that you make once, but sell many times, are viable ways of making money. Like manga, anime, and games. Downloadables. Video courses. Art books. These bring value into people’s lives. Passion projects are worth creating.

Why Do Artists Let Their Passion Projects Die?

But many artists stop midway in a project. Had a manga half-written? What about a novel? School, work, or whatever gets in the way. Many of us give up at some point, losing interest in our passion projects – projects that may have become the next biggest hit, exciting millions across the globe, and given us some form of stable income. 

But it’s not impossible. Professional mangaka and companies do this every day. Why? It’s because they have the skills, motivation (monetary or otherwise), time, and the teamwork to do so.

Let’s say artists already have the skills. They do, it’s clear. Time? Maybe not as much as the pros, but it’s certainly not zero. Motivation probably waxes and wanes with the stress of school or work life. But teamwork is often nonexistent; many are solo creators. Lack of accountability makes it easier to let a project die quietly.

So what separates successful creators from less successful ones? It’s their ability to manage their projects. Isn’t that sad? That means a lot of really skilled artists are buried. 

Could a Company Empower Artists By Taking Over The Business Side?

Artastic was originally a business model experiment. Could popular artists bring enough attention to a product that featured undiscovered artists, such that new fans could find them? At the same time, it was an experiment to see if a team of artists with strong project management could successfully fund, create, market, and monetize a product that needed a fixed amount of time and effort to create.

It was an experiment testing how a company could help artists shine by taking over the business aspects of art. Like how a manager supports a movie star.

And that’s how Artastic the art book came to be.

Artastic wants to help undiscovered artists shine. Support our Kickstarter.

*Note: Most if not all of this is from my own experience since high school, selling anime art online and observing how it works. It may or may not apply to other kinds of art. Just a disclaimer. :)

anonymous asked:

What do you do to practice effectively? (scales? etc) How do you use your time wisely when practicing? What would you recommend for beginners?

-practice consistently. for me, an hour a day is usually a good amount of time, and any practicing I do past that point isn’t as beneficial (but it’s still good)
-practice difficult things. too many musicians just ignore the parts they can’t play. purposely seek out whatever parts are causing you trouble and slowly think through them and then work through them
-think when you practice? some people don’t do this, apparently.
-if it sounds bad, work on it. the purpose of practicing is not to play things beautifully. it’s to suck, discover why you suck, and work towards sucking less. then eventually you won’t suck. this is as encouraging as I get. good luck
Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens may have been an ‘unruly’ child, but he still played Macbeth at 14.

Dan Stevens may have been an ‘unruly’ child, but he still played Macbeth at 14. Little wonder the doomed hero of Downton Abbey  is now a fully fledged film star. Sally Williams meets Disney’s latest leading man

Having spent three years playing the ill-fated Matthew Crawley, the accidental heir to Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens seemed fixed in the public’s perception as a thoroughly well-bred chap: a purveyor of good manners, good looks and period dramas. He was so suave in his tailcoats and white bow ties that one critic likened his ‘floppy-haired, Oxbridge burnish’ to a young Hugh Grant.

But in recent years Stevens seems to have  done all he can to obscure his fine features.  He dyed his hair black and appeared ravaged  as a heroin trafficker in the thriller A Walk  Among the Tombstones. He wore heavy armour and a melting nose as Sir Lancelot in the comedy  Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

And in High Maintenance, a cult series about a weed dealer in New York, he was a cross-dressing  stay-at-home dad.  Now he is the Beast in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in which he spends the best part of two hours disguised as a 6ft 10in leonine monster.

The film, about a prince who is transformed into a brute as punishment for his arrogance, is much-anticipated (the trailer alone broke records, with 127.6 million views in its first 24 hours online). Stevens’ startling blue eyes are still apparent – particularly when he is face-to-face with Belle (Emma Watson), whose love he must win to become a prince again – but the rest of him is concealed under bad teeth, demonic horns and a Lycra muscle suit.

I felt pretty monstrous on that gorgeous set. It was incredibly lavish

You  don’t even hear his normal voice (which, as fans  of audiobooks will know, is beautiful – he has narrated over 30 titles, from Agatha Christie to Roald Dahl), because he does something clever with his larynx to make it particularly growly.  It’s all part of a post-Downton period of exploration, he explains: ‘I realised I hadn’t been  challenging myself.’


We meet at a hotel in London, where he appears in a pork-pie hat and a hipster cardigan. Now 34, he is much leaner than in his Downton days, and his hair is back to its natural chestnut brown. Having moved from London to New York in 2013, he lives among artistic types in Brooklyn with his wife, Susie Harriet, a South African jazz singer, and their three children, Willow, seven, Aubrey, four, and Eden, 10 months.

Stevens is polite, extremely likeable and laughs easily, but what is most striking is his intellect. He won a scholarship to Tonbridge, an independent boarding school; speaks French and German; and studied English literature at the University of Cambridge.

In 2011 he was the quick-witted guest host of an episode of Have  I Got News for You (crammed in while filming Downton; his co-star Hugh Bonneville, who played the Earl of Grantham, declined because  ‘I am only an actor’ and ‘not sharp enough  to compete with the regular panellists’). The  following year he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize, for which he had to read 147 novels.

The move to New York, he says, marked  ‘a different approach to a lot of things. My own personal health was one.’ He swims, does yoga and goes to the gym, and his diet is dairy-free  (he orders black coffee). ‘I didn’t take very  good care of myself when I lived in London,’ he admits. ‘Under three layers of tweed, you can hide a lot of ills.’

He works hard as an actor, researching roles, exploring the psychology of his characters. And during the five-month shoot for Beauty and the Beast at Shepperton Studios, Surrey, he went to the gym every day. Stevens says he needed to strengthen his legs to withstand the punishment of performing on 10in stilts – ‘metal, elevated platforms that were extremely painful and hard to walk in’, he explains. ‘I also developed really good core strength. It helped with the breathing, it helped with the singing.’

Emma was looking gorgeous in this immaculately conceived creation and then I come lumbering in in this grey, Lycra muscle suit

He did the film because the VHS was part of his childhood – he was eight when the animation came out and had ‘a much-watched copy’ – and because the role was exciting. ‘It was a brilliantly intriguing character to tackle. I thought, “Wow, I get to be the Beast!”’  Creating the Beast was exactly the kind of technical exercise Stevens now thrives on.

He talks of how he had to give two different performances – one neck-down and one neck-up. First, he acted out the movements of his character on-set with Watson, wearing the muscle suit and the stilts, which, he admits, could be alienating.

‘I felt pretty monstrous on that gorgeous set. It was incredibly lavish – the ballroom was based on the Palace of Versailles but turned up to 11, excessive opulence, beautifully lit. Emma was looking gorgeous in this immaculately conceived creation – it took something like 10,000 hours of work to make that dress. And then I come lumbering in in this grey, Lycra muscle suit.’

He has only praise for his co-star. ‘It was  fascinating doing the scenes with Emma. I don’t think there’s another actress on the planet  who is more experienced at working with this level of new technology,’ – after the high-scale visual effects of Harry Potter films – ‘and she was totally unfazed.’

Every 10 days or so, he would sit in a booth with his face covered in ultraviolet make-up  and give his second performance, re-enacting the scenes from the previous days in front of  a bank of cameras. This footage was used to create the Beast’s face.

‘It’s never been done before,’ he says proudly.  There was also another reason for taking the role, he adds. ‘Beast is for my children, for my wife, for my family.’

Dan Stevens was born in 1982 in Croydon, to a mother he never knew. At the age  of seven days he was adopted by two schoolteachers. It’s a subject he has rarely discussed publicly. He was later joined by a brother (no blood relation), who was also adopted.

The family lived in Marlborough, Wiltshire, then Chelmsford, Essex, and when Stevens was eight moved to Brecon, in Wales.  He says his parents – ‘warm, lovely, good people’ – were always open about him being adopted.

‘People like to pathologise adoption, but actually there is no conventional way to be brought up. People can have biological parents who are absent for whatever reason during their childhood, and their parenting can be replaced by any number of people. Adoption is just one of many ways that children get nurtured and loved and end up as human beings who are every bit as interesting and whatever as regular children.’

The circumstances of his birth, he admits, do raise a question mark over his acting ability.

‘It’s quite possibly a genetic thing; it’s quite possibly a nurture thing. The parents that raised me weren’t actors, but they loved going to the theatre and they watched television and movies, so  I was raised on a cultural diet of books, of literature, and also of performance, of watching great movies and plays.’

‘Distracting’ is how Stevens describes himself at primary school; that’s what most of his reports said, ‘either because I was bored or because I was just being an idiot’. The solution was to put him on stage. ‘It was almost presented as a punishment that I was going to be in the school play,’ he says. Acting became ‘a vent for something’.

At the age of 13 he won that scholarship to Tonbridge School. ‘My parents, as teachers, knew about that kind of thing, and I wish more people did really, because I was given some incredible opportunities and am very grateful for that. There is a system out there that champions curiosity in kids, and it doesn’t matter if your grandfather went wherever.’

And yet the change was traumatic. ‘These schools are built like castles. They have imposing façades and are run on very  old English principles, and they are all trying  to be echoes of each other.’ Stevens became ‘unruly’ – smoking, getting suspended, going  on demonstrations. But expulsion was averted  by a teacher.

‘My English master, Jonathan Smith, was one of those magical teachers who could  spot a kid in trouble and know the right thing  to say to him,’ he has explained. ‘I owe him a  tremendous amount.’

A novelist, writer and teacher, Smith was head of English at Tonbridge for 17 years. His former pupils include the poet Christopher Reid, who won the 2009 Costa Book Award, and Vikram Seth, author of A Suitable Boy. His son, Ed, is an author and former England cricketer.

Smith and the drama teacher Lawrence Thornbury ‘were this incredible duo, and it was just like an oasis of creativity and a real escape from the rest of it’, Stevens says. ‘They championed what I was good at and recognised where  I needed to be directed towards, and offered guidance. Even if it was just, “You are having  a moment, read this book.”

‘I got very into the Beat poets, William Blake, Seamus Heaney – it was almost like feeding  a curiosity, feeding certain passions. Whatever  it was, it was like, “Oh, there is something more out there. I can get into this.”’

A turning point was being cast as Macbeth when he was 14. What did they see in him?  ‘Precociousness, probably.’ He explains his urge to perform very simply: ‘The most nervous I ever get is when I have to go and be me somewhere.  If I’ve got a nice costume and some lovely lines  to say, I know I’ll be all right.’

Stevens would later use his Downton fame to help make a film adaptation of a book written by Smith. Summer in February is the tale of a real-life love triangle between British artist Alfred Munnings, his friend Gilbert Evans and the woman they both loved, artist Florence Carter-Wood.

The book was first published in 1995, and the film was released in 2013, starring Stevens as Evans and Dominic Cooper as Munnings. Was that a thank you? ‘There are easier ways of saying thank you than trying to make an independent film of somebody’s book, but yes, subconsciously it was. It was a real labour of love.’

Downton seemed to be in every country in the world. There was no rhyme or reason as to why it caught fire as widely as it did. We were all surprised

It was Smith who encouraged Stevens to go to Cambridge, which he loved, meeting like-minded people for the first time and starring in student productions. Many of his friends were alternative comedians – Mark Watson, Tim Key, Stefan Golaszewski – and he started doing  stand-up, even seeing a future on the comedy  circuit.

The theatre director Sir Peter Hall spotted him acting alongside his daughter Rebecca  in an undergraduate production of Macbeth. Six months after graduation, Hall cast them both in a touring production of As You Like It. ‘I wasn’t buying a house off the back of that job, but it felt like a success in that I had always wanted to do professional Shakespeare and learn about verse speaking,’ Stevens says.

He toured England and America and won critical acclaim, being nominated for an Ian Charleson Award in 2004. Success followed success.

In 2006 he starred as Nick Guest in the BBC adaptation of Alan Hollinghurst’s novel The Line of Beauty (‘I have not seen Dan Stevens before but from now on  I will be on the lookout for anything else he appears in,’ wrote one reviewer); and in 2008 he played Edward Ferrars in an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But it was an audition later that year that changed everything.

Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has explained, ‘We were looking for a young man who was handsome, of course, but who conveyed a real sense of uprightness. Not an anti-hero but  a real hero – someone who, at the same time, seemed strong and rigorous and interesting.’

When did Stevens realise Downton was a phenomenon? ‘I happened to have been in the States and I flew back to Heathrow, and someone came up to me at the airport who was obsessed with the show, and that was only four episodes in.  I thought, “That hasn’t happened before.”’

Americans were especially fascinated – the series won a Golden Globe in 2012. ‘And it wasn’t just there,’ Stevens says. ‘Downton seemed to be in every country in the world [at its peak it played in 250 territories]. Like in Spain, it become one of the biggest foreign shows there for 20 years. There was seemingly no rhyme or reason as to why it caught fire as widely as it did. We were all surprised. Even Julian.’

It has been five years since he left Downton – or rather didn’t renew his three-year contract. ‘It’s called an option for a reason and I chose not to continue,’ he explains. He remembers his days on-set with nostalgia.

‘The dining room scenes were a torture to shoot, but as a result there was  a kind of gallows humour that we all developed. You are eating all day, increasingly cold peas and congealed gravy, and there are 20 of you sat around a table. We used to play wink murder. Maggie Smith [who played the Dowager Countess] is unbelievably good at wink murder.’

Stevens says the decision not to continue was made with his wife. ‘We’d just had our daughter Willow when I started the show and we thought, “OK, a three-year engagement.”

Then by the end of three years I was ready to try something else.’  Family is at the centre of his life. He was 23 when he met Harriet – they were working at different theatres in Sheffield – and was in the thick of marriage and babies ahead of his contemporaries. He was 26 when Willow was born.

‘If it feels right, it feels right. We fell in love and that was it. 

Three children on and it’s still magical.’  He is a doting father, changing nappies, though he admits he’s ‘not the best’ at getting up in the middle of the night. Harriet has put her career is on hold, he says. ‘But there is still a lot of singing in our house.’

His biggest indulgence is travel. ‘We enjoy taking our kids to see beautiful natural spots. Wherever we are in the world, we always try to find something like that.’

As an actor, Stevens’ ambition is to keep trying new things. Future projects include a portrayal  of Charles Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas, a film that charts the creation of  A Christmas Carol; and he is about to start shooting Apostle, a dark thriller about a religious cult.

‘When I left Downton, a lot of people would levy questions like, “What are you doing? What are you going to do?” And I guess the last few years have been about answering those questions in a number of different ways.’

Beauty and the Beast is released on 17 March


The Great Stink - Victorian Plague

By the mid-1800s, the River Thames had been used as a dumping ground for human excrement for centuries. 

The crisis came to a peak in the ‘Great Stink’ of London in 1858. Such was the overpowering smell from the Thames, that the curtains of the Commons were soaked in chloride of lime. For centuries, the “royal river” of pomp and pageantry, the city’s main thoroughfare, had doubled as a dumping ground for human, animal and industrial waste. As London’s population grew – and it more than doubled between 1800 and 1850, making it by far the largest in the world – the build-up of waste itself became a spectacle no one wanted to see, or smell.

The apparent progress of flushing toilets (marketed to the masses at the Great Exhibition in 1851) only made things worse, overwhelming old cesspools and forcing ever more effluent into the river, which belched it back into the city at each high water. The result was successive waves of waterborne diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and, most feared of all by mid-century, cholera. For this “Victorian plague” there was no known cure. 

London had lacked a unified authority with the money required to address such an extensive problem of sanitation on an effective scale. Now the recently formed Metropolitan Board of Works was empowered to raise £3m and instructed to start work without further delay. The board’s chief engineer, Joseph Bazalgette, who had already spent several exasperating years drawing up plans for an ambitious new sanitation system, only for each one to be swiftly shelved, at last got the go-ahead to begin construction. 

“What was extraordinary about Bazalgette’s scheme was both its simplicity and level of foresight,” writes Paul Dobraszczyk in London’s Sewers. A classic piece of Victorian over-engineering, the infrastructure was planned to accommodate a population growth of 50%, from 3 million to 4.5 million. Within 30 years of its completion, the city’s population had in fact doubled again, reaching 6 million. It is testament to the quality of design and construction that, with improvements and additions, the 19th-century system remains the backbone of London’s sewers in the 21st century.

painting above: The hard work of thousands of labourers overseen by Bazalgette inspired the artist Ford Madox Brown as he painted Work, a large canvas completed in 1865, the same year that the main drainage works were opened at Crossness by the Prince of Wales 

darlinstewart  asked:

Hi Alex, huge fan of TDM books! Ruby is probably my favorite fictional heroine and I just wanted to thank you for her! Also, as a writer, I find myself never fully satisfied with my writing and always wanting to go back to tweek something. Do you have anything you wish you could change in any of the TDM books? Thanks so much!!

Oh yes! There’s plenty I still angst about plenty–typos, certain metaphors, and so on. The bigger things I wish I had the foresight to fix are super emphasizing that Chubs is black beyond his initial description since so many people miss it, being more overt about the fact that Clancy doesn’t sexually assault Ruby beyond forcing a kiss, and Zu’s muteness.

The last one ties me up in knots a lot, actually–I think what it represents to the series as a whole is still important (their inability to vocalize what they’d been through, her trying to regain some control over her life after the emotional trauma and ultimately how it comes to control her), but I had no idea when I wrote TDM that there’s actually a harmful trope about mute/quiet Asian characters. I think Zu does speak through her actions and sass, but… yeah, I still torture myself over it pretty frequently.

Edited to add: I’m also perpetually frustrated with myself I didn’t catch that her having abilities labeled Yellow is not great given the history of slurs used against Asian people. Obviously there are Yellow characters of other ethnicities in the trilogy (also referred to as “S/he is (a) Yellow,”). It’s an unintentional coincidence based on the abilities I wanted her to have and how dangerous those abilities would have legitimately been considered. The color coding, if you remember, is based on the old terrorism risk warning scale in effect after 9/11, but I should have made this connection back in 2010/2011 when I could have scrapped that idea and found another color or label to use. Same goes with not knowing that the NAACP finds the song “Black Betty” offensive in their reading of the lyrics, and that its origin/meaning is uncertain (I had always heard the story that it was based on a marching song and musket). So I sincerely apologize for any offense I might have caused by not doing my due diligence back in the day and researching these elements.  

In all honesty, there just comes a point that you have to let go of a manuscript or story, trust you did the best you could, and move on to something new. Good luck with all of your writing. xx