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I’m a big fan of NBC’s The Blacklist.

I’m also a big fan of James Spader and have been since he played Dr. Daniel Jackson in the movie Stargate.

With that said, it didn’t take much effort for me to binge every episode of the NBC thriller this summer as I tried to follow all the bread crumbs, laid out by Jon Bokenkamp, that guided viewers over the past five years, to the surprising Season 5 Finale.

So, the question on every Blacklist fan’s mind in the off-season was — and still is: Who is Raymond Reddington if he’s not … Raymond Reddington?

To start off, I don’t believe Spader’s character is a twin of the skeletonal remains identified by Tom as the real Raymond Reddington.  That’s too simple.    Even though identical twins have different finger prints, they share the same exact DNA.  Genetically speaking, they’re clones.

So, that story line is out.

I also don’t think the present Raymond Reddington is biologically KGB agent Katarina Rostova, if you will excuse the dead naming (if that applies here); Raymond’s former wife and Elizabeth’s biological mother.

As many in the blogosphere hypothesized,  Katarina was surgically transformed, becoming the new Raymond Reddington, since the real Raymond Reddington was quite literally a bag of old bones.

For the longest time, I believed this storyline.  I became even more convinced during my summer binge.

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The first solid clue came after again watching the episode Cape May from Season 3.

I had a sense, while watching Katarina and Raymond interact, that Reddington wasn’t just reflecting on a past relationship; s/he was actually reliving a personal memory.

Her suicide was a metaphor for the end of her life as Katarina; a diversion to convince others to buy into the deception; or both.  Could her auburn hair be the real reason Reddington’s closest allies call him “Red”?  I questioned.

However, I wasn’t fully convinced.

I thought it all may have been just a “red” herring, pun intended, until Reddington’s arch-rival, Alexander Kirk a.k.a. Constantin Rostova entered my Summer of The Blacklist Binge.

For almost a full season, the two men rivaled. Finally, Constantin was one the verge of victory.

Seconds before he was about to kill Raymond with a lethal injection, “Red” leaned over and whispered something that only Kirk could hear; something so profound it stopped Constantin dead in his tracks — ending the rivalry.

At the time, I believed it could only be the words: “It is me … Katarina.”

From that moment, I was convinced that this was the only possible conclusion to define this character identity crisis — until the start Season Six!

There was something with the way Raymond spoke that revealed a secret that went beyond the surface.

Raymond Reddington was hiding something — something deep inside.

My suspicion grew more certain after watching Episode Three: The Pharmacist.

Though the plot focused mostly on Reddington’s court case and his secret immunity agreement, the subplot offered some interesting bread crumbs to follow.

If you saw the episode, you may remember when Samar and Amir brought an unusual piece of evidence, a next-gen inoculation gun, to one of the Amir’s techies, an underground biohacker?  (The dude with computer chips in his hands and on his forehead.)

Biohackers “hack” their own code — their own genetic code.

By biohacking yourself, they believe, you can actually transform your body so that you feel more energized, be more productive and, overall, feel like the best possible version of yourself. [1]

Remember what Raymond said to Elizabeth at the U.N. — esecially the part about being the best possible version of oneself!

To steal a line from The Prestige the movie with one of the best twist ending:

Every mystery, like every magic trick consists of three parts, or acts. The first part of the magic trick is called the pledge, the magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course…it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

The Pledge was the appearance of a man, Raymond Reddington, to start the series.  The Turn was his disappearance, at least genetically, at the end of Season 5.

Now, you’re looking for the secret, right?  But, you won’t find it, unless you know where to look.

Remember, in a trick, making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.

In this case, you have to bring back Raymond Reddington.

How do you you that?

Well, the biohacker may have given a major the clue.

It was so ordinary, you might have missed it; mainly because it is only ordinary  to scientists.  To everybody else, it’s extraordinary.

It was the term: CRISPR

CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.   What it is or where it came from is quite interesting — but too complicated to discuss in this piece.   (If you want to know more, WATCH THIS.)

Simply, its a palindromic repeat of the bases that make up DNA.

One particular palindromic cluster of repeating DNA called CRISPR-Cas 9 — something discovered in ordinary yogurt — is now being used to genetically redesigned many things, including the human genome.

Still following the breadcrumbs?

Remember, making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. 

However, here, we have to go beyond appearance — or, as you learned in high school biology, one’s phenotype.  We go beyond the surface, and go directly into Raymond’s genotype.

In short, Reddington had his DNA altered, so he couldn’t be identified — and the bones in the bag became a genetic body double.

Far-fetched?  China has already gene-edited people with CRISPR.

So, the Human DNA in the bag of bones might very well be on file as that of Raymond Reddington.  However, it’s not really him; its a genetic “fall guy”, if you will.

Now, here’s the third act of Reddington’s trick, the hardest part, the part called “The Prestige” where Raymond Reddington is made to reappear.

How?

While on trial, Reddington’s DNA will be examined, and “Red,” played by James Spader, will be exposed as an imposter.

The reveal will have him played as a patsy for the real Reddington.  In his usual eloquence, he will give a speech which convinces all involved that he stole Reddington’s identity and finances for the purpose of doing good in the world.

Finally, he will also convince the world that the real Reddington died years ago and, I suspect, the he will give an explanation on why the former government agent turned high-profile criminal and how Reddington and Katarina possibly died.

The Task Force will be disbanded; Elizabeth will be heart broken; Samar cured — probably by a CRISPR treatment; and this “Red” will be released in the last episode .

All will sadly feel very contrived and deus ex machina as the series approaches the end.

But remember, the third part of the trick hasn’t been fulfilled; the part called “The Prestige”.

Like Keyser Söze, Red’s true identity will be revealed as he walks away from the last six years.  He is Raymond Reddington after all.

We’ll discover that Liz was a double-agent, now self-identified as Masha, who was involved from the very beginning; from the very first day.

Her involvement with Reddington, her biological father, was all part of an elaborate plan to seek revenge against all those who played a part in the death of Masha’s mother, Raymond’s immortal beloved, Katarina — and no one (not even Dembe) will be the wiser.

For the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

And that’s how I predict The Blacklist is going to end.  And if it doesn’t end this way, it should!

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa Klaus, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Goatee 2

Shortly after my high school senior pictures, I grew a mustache.

It remained a permanent feature on my face until college when a group of us sharing a summer home in Chico, California collectively decided to shave.

Truthfully, I had little say in the matter.

It just so happened that I arrived home and found all my housemates clean-shaven.  Apparently, a pact was made when I was at work.

So, I chose to voluntarily shave.

Better to comply, I thought, than risk losing a part of my upper lip to one or more razor- wielding pranksters, after falling asleep.

Oddly enough, I haven’t grown a permanent mustache or beard since.

Sure, I’d elect not to shave, from time-to-time, during an elongated vacation.  However, I would make sure I was clean-shaven before going back to work.  Several times, I thought about keeping my vacation whiskers, but my boys would often strongly suggest that I didn’t.

This Christmas, however, I went back to work with a full goatee for the first time since my summer of fun!

As in the past, before returning to work, I asked my boys if I should shave or keep my Christmas goatee.

“Keep it,” my five year-old surprisingly suggested.

“Really?”  Why?”  I hesitantly asked.

“Just keep it,” he added with a mischievous smile.

Though suspicious, I kept it.

The Sunday before returning to work, we went to Church like we do every Sunday.  During the homily, my little man sat on my lap — as he does every Sunday during the homily.  As he leaned back, he rested his head against my chin, as he always does.

Suddenly, he started to rub the back of his head against my freshly grown bristles, causing me to smile.

“Is that why you wanted me to keep my goatee?” I whispered.

He smiled and nodded, yes.

And that’s the story behind the legendary Christmas goatee.

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa Klaus, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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It’s January 6th. The Solemnity of the Epiphany. The adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi.

Many Christians across the globe exchange gifts on this day — the 12th day of Christmas.

The Magi, as you may know, were the wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manager.

Of all the traditions that go with this day, my favorite is quite personal; it’s the reading of O Henry’s classic “The Gift of the Magi”.  I first remember reading “The Gift of the Magi” in 6th grade.

No story had so impacted me before, as did O. Henry’s tale of Jim and Della Young — and I am forever grateful.

This year, start a new tradition or enjoy the classic tale once again.

CLICK HERE to READ “The Gift of the Magi”.

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘Twas, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

IMG_1627 (2)

It’s good to have a dog in your life.

After my dog Gino died, it took me almost a decade before I even considered replacing him.  Finally, I gave into the demands of my two boys.

My wife and I considered a pure breed, but eventually decided to get a rescue. The decision was more financial than any other reason.  I couldn’t see myself paying $1500 for something I really didn’t want.

However, in no time, I remembered how good it is to have a dog in your life.

A dog can truly remind you that there’s at least one thing out there that still loves and respects you — no matter what.

Maybe that’s why, when written backwards, the word “dog” spells “God”.

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa Klaus, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

kwanzaa

In 2006, my wife and I moved to Los Angeles, so I could pursue my screenwriting career.

Thanks to the networking skills of my buddy David, I went to work right away writing a script.  It was a frightening tale about a serial killer with an odd sense of social justice.  (I’ll just leave it at that.)

Bringing my press secretary work ethic to Hollywood, I surprised many by completing a first draft in less than six months.

Soon, I was going from meeting to meeting.  Paramount Studios.  The William Morris Agency.  Life was exciting — but far from good.

Since I throw myself into my work, my wife noticed the nefarious storyline was slowly corrupting my soul and personality.

Finally, the holidays came. In an attempt to bring light back into my world, she started pitching story ideas to write about that were filled with good cheer.

Each one, I rudely rejected.

Nothing worked, but she kept on trying.  Finally, she said the words that would change the direction of our lives forever…

“Maybe you should write a Kwanzaa movie?” she said as we passed a store-front display.    It worked.

“Me? A Kwanzaa movie?” I said with a smile.  Not many people are as white as I am.  In fact, once someone jokingly asked me my street name and I literally gave them my home address.

“Yeah,” she continued. “You can call it Kwanzaa Klaus.”

By the time we finished our walk, I had the whole story outlined.  Likewise, my spirit was lifted.  Later that week, I pitched the idea to a life-long friend who was working with Adam Sandler.

“I’d read it,” he said, so I wrote it.

Several weeks later, I had a finished copy, and I sent it to one of the assistants I met at William Morris.    He was kind enough to give me a few notes.  With that, I sat down, completed the first rewrite, and resubmitted it.

Things move slowly in Hollywood, so I moved on to writing a new project.   During that time, I approached my good friend, John “Rusty” Proctor.

“Hey, would you mind reading a script I wrote?”

“No problem,” he said with a smile.  Rusty always smiles.  He read the title out loud. “‘TWAS? What’s it about, Christmas?”

“No.  It’s about Kwanzaa,” I added.   And so began the awkward reactions I would received since.

“Cool, cool,” Rusty added.  Rusty always adds “Cool, cool” — and he put the script under his arm and walked off.

While writing the script, I researched the Festival of Kwanzaa and became in enamored with its teachings and traditions.  So, I asked Rusty to read it because I didn’t want to write a script that offended people — African-Americans, to be specific.

I have many friends of many races and backgrounds, however, Rusty was the only one of my friends that was both African-American and a fellow struggling screenwriter — like me; and I wanted to see if his background could provide any insight that might be helpful.

I didn’t expect an immediate response.  So, I was surprised when he called me the next day.

“Hey, I just finished reading your script.  I couldn’t put it down,” he said.

“So, what did you think,” I asked with the constant insecurity every artist possesses.

“It pissed me off,” he added.  I was shocked into silence, then Rusty added,  “I’m pissed off that I didn’t write this.  I never told you, but I celebrate Kwanzaa each year when I get to go back to D.C.”

This may sound trite, but a life-long friendship began at that moment.  And, if you ask my wife, I am not good at close relationships.

Rusty brought the script to a friend who was a producer.  Meetings followed, and so did the awkwardness every time I was introduced as the writer.

The script was optioned.  Life was both exciting and good — then came the Writer’s Strike and just like that … it all ended.

To make ends meet, I started to teach, and soon discovered another calling.  Life, as they said, went on.

As my boys grew, I started putting them to bed by telling stories.  One night, I dusted off Kwanzaa Klaus and began reading it at night, minus the “INTeriors, EXTeriors and CUT TOs.”

Finally, I formatted the story as a book and published it.  My good friend Rusty wrote the Forward.

For me, Kwanzaa holds a special place in my life.

Kwanzaa drew me from darkness.  Kwanzaa saved my marriage.  Kwanzaa gave me a friend like no other. Kwanzaa drew me closer to my boys.

With that, for me, Kwanzaa means Light; Kwanzaa means Love;  Kwanzaa means Friendship;  Kwanzaa means Family.

All of these are the first fruits of life, are they not?

Because of all these things, every year, my family celebrates Kwanzaa.

We may not light a Kinara.  (However, my nine-year-old just took a book about Kwanzaa from the school library, so maybe we may start.) We do, though, celebrate the seven core principles of Kwanzaa in our hearts; the principles of Unity, Responsibility, Cooperation, Family, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.

But, don’t we all?

Recently, I received a phone call from someone who was familiar with the project when it was still just a screenplay.

“We’d like to turn Kwanzaa Klaus into an audio-book and try to drum up interest in the screenplay again.  Can you think of anyone we should ask to narrate it.”

I could only think of one name … John “Rusty” Proctor.

In the end, Kwanzaa means Hope.

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Heri za Kwanzaa.

K Klaus audio cover

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa Klaus, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more. Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom where featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and Burbank Leader, and earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.  James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar, as the teacher who most influenced their academic career.  He has also appeared twice, as an educator, on “America Live with Megyn Kelly”.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

christmas-2976357_960_720

My wife and I decided very early in our marriage not inoculate our children beyond that which is legally required.  So, our boys were never vaccinated against Christmas.  I know, I know; so many parents, these days, do.  However, we have decided the benefits outweigh the risks.

So, although Santa Claus delivers presents to our house on Christmas Eve, like he does across the globe, he’s not some fat guy from the North Pole.  He’s a saint.  Saint Nicholas of Myra to be specific, a member of the Communion of Saints with all its mystery and power, of which one can become a part.

And though we exchange gifts on Christmas morning, we focus on the Real Gift that is Christmas:  The Christ Child, with all His splendor and glory.

Finally, we celebrate Christmas by going to Mass, as the name of the day implies.

Our pediatrician displayed concern when she first heard of the odd behavior of our youngest, who was, at the time, two-years-old.

“Do you want a sticker when you leave?” she asked at the end of his appointment.

“Can I have two, please?” he kindly requested.

“Two!  Why do you need two?” she sternly questioned.

“For my brutha,” he added, with the cutest two-year-old mispronunciation.

“Your brother?” she asked with a gasp.

My wife and I turned towards each other and exchanged glances.

“Yes, he’s always looking out for his big brother,” my wife softly interjected.

“WHAT?” the kind doctor added with disbelief.  “He’s two. Two-year-olds are supposed to be only  thinking about themselves … totally self-centered.”

Humbly, we lowered our gaze.  Of course, she’s our family doctor.  If anyone was aware of our beliefs and practices, it would be her.

When our oldest son turned nine this year, he already started to show the contagious effects our anti-modernist decisions.

He is constantly thinking of others; and this Christmas, he has become really good at wrapping presents — all of which are from him to other members of the family.

Just last week, he turned to me and suggested that he needed time to buy his little brother a gift.  As a Dad, I quickly became concerned.

“It’s kind of  pricey gift, Bud,” I said.  “Are you sure you want to spend that much?”

“Yes,” he replied.  You should have seen the look on my face when he told me that already saved enough money.

“You better be careful,” I warned.

“Careful?”  You see, he’s not yet aware that our decision as parents has made his immune system vulnerable to love and kindness.

“Yeah, it looks like you have caught the spirit of Christmas,” I added. “Like Saint Nicholas, you might turn into a Claus.

To which, he proudly smiled.  Yes, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.

Have a merry Christmas and a joyous new year!

 

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘Twas, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

christmas-2976357_960_720

My wife and I decided very early in our marriage not inoculate our children beyond that which is legally required.  So, our boys were never vaccinated against Christmas.  I know, I know; so many parents, these days, do.  However, we have decided the benefits outweigh the risks.

So, although Santa Claus delivers presents to our house on Christmas Eve, like he does across the globe, he’s not some fat guy from the North Pole.  He’s a saint.  Saint Nicholas of Myra to be specific, a member of the Communion of Saints with all its mystery and power, of which one can become a part.

And though we exchange gifts on Christmas morning, we focus on the Real Gift that is Christmas:  The Christ Child, with all His splendor and glory.

Finally, we celebrate Christmas by going to Mass, as the name of the day implies.

Our pediatrician displayed concern when she first heard of the odd behavior of our youngest, who was, at the time, two-years-old.

“Do you want a sticker when you leave?” she asked at the end of his appointment.

“Can I have two, please?” he kindly requested.

“Two!  Why do you need two?” she sternly questioned.

“For my brutha,” he added, with the cutest two-year-old mispronunciation.

“Your brother?” she asked with a gasp.

My wife and I turned towards each other and exchanged glances.

“Yes, he’s always looking out for his big brother,” my wife softly interjected.

“WHAT?” the kind doctor added with disbelief.  “He’s two. Two-year-olds are supposed to be only  thinking about themselves … totally self-centered.”

Humbly, we lowered our gaze.  Of course, she’s our family doctor.  If anyone was aware of our beliefs and practices, it would be her.

When our oldest son turned nine this year, he already started to show the contagious effects our anti-modernist decisions.

He is constantly thinking of others; and this Christmas, he has become really good at wrapping presents — all of which are from him to other members of the family.

Just last week, he turned to me and suggested that he needed time to buy his little brother a gift.  As a Dad, I quickly became concerned.

“It’s kind of  pricey gift, Bud,” I said.  “Are you sure you want to spend that much?”

“Yes,” he replied.  You should have seen the look on my face when he told me that already saved enough money.

“You better be careful,” I warned.

“Careful?”  You see, he’s not yet aware that our decision as parents has made his immune system vulnerable to love and kindness.

“Yeah, it looks like you have caught the spirit of Christmas,” I added. “Like Saint Nicholas, you might turn into a Claus.

To which, he proudly smiled.  Yes, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.

Have a merry Christmas and a joyous new year!

 

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘Twas, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

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