Friday, March 30, 2018

Artist's block ... writer's block

They are one and the same and this self-portrait by Norman Rockwell shows that even the most prolific of artists will hit a wall once in a while.  It depicts him approaching a deadline with no idea in mind ... so he used that as his theme and it became the October 1938 cover of the "Saturday Evening Post". 
I'm taking my cue from Mr. Rockwell and using the "writer's block" that is plaguing me lately as my topic for this post.  As most of you know my blog is actually made up of little vignettes of a lifetime of memories and of current things that I want to share with you.  That's my format and it works well except for times like this when my mind goes blank. 
I'm pretty sure that some of you have experienced the same thing and I'd be interested to hear how you've handled it.  I want to keep my blog going and I really like the format but I also don't want to fill my pages with mindless blue sky ... so I guess I'll give it a few days and see what pops up.   At the very least it's a great mental exercise and I can certainly use that !

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A MUST SEE documentary...

About 5 weeks ago I watched “Trumping Democracy” a documentary that was published in 11/17. I was literally shocked by what I was viewing and I wondered why I had heard nothing about it in the news. Surely, if this were true, it would be something that we all needed to know.

In great detail the documentary described how a multi-billionaire named Mercer came up with the idea of illegally gathering pertinent facts from Facebook accounts and using the info to sway voters in National elections. I had never heard his name and knew nothing about his company, Cambridge Analytica. However, another company that he owned was Breitbart News and that name was very familiar to me. Steve Bannon was part of Breitbart also and Mr. Mercer was instrumental in getting him involved in Trump's campaign and eventual presidency.

The news about Cambridge Analytica is finally seeing the light of day but I find the newscasts very complicated and hard to follow. I am so glad that I saw the documentary because it demonstrated, in factual detail, how all of this was accomplished.   Fascinating … yes, but frightening also.  An example of politics at it's worst and how it affects us as a nation and in the eyes of the world.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Charles Dickens, the Crafty Entreprenaur


Most of us know that Charles Dickens was a genius and one of the most quoted writers to ever put pen to paper. But, how many of us know that he was the consummate businessman? He actually sold three copies of the same novel “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” to most of his same customers and here’s how he managed that:

In 1836 Dickens was approached by a publisher, Chapman & Hall, with the proposal that he write captions for a series of pictures by the popular artist Robert Seymour. These were cartoon-type characters. The wily Dickens, who was unknown at the time, argued that the stories should be the main focus and that he would write a novel to complement the pictures and had a scheme that would guarantee it’s success. The publishers were naturally dubious but they listened to his idea.
He proposed that they publish his novel in monthly installments, a brand new concept. Each chapter would end on a note guaranteed to make the reader anxious to buy the next copy. This worked very well. The reader didn’t mind paying a small monthly stipend and, since the novel spread out over two years, they didn’t realize that they were paying top dollar for the book.

Shortly into the project the artist Robert Seymour, who was a depressive and a heavy drinker, committed suicide. Hablot Knight Browne, nicknamed “Phiz”, was hired and he went on to illustrate
Dickens’ works for the next 23 years.
The novel is a collection of the adventures of Samuel Pickwick and his friends and it proved to be a huge success. By the end of the serialization 40,000 copies were being printed. “The Pickwick Papers” had taken the world by storm and launched Dickens to celebrity status. Now all of Dickens’ readers yearned for a more substantial copy of the book. They only had the flimsy magazine pages and a leather-bound version was printed to satisfy this demand. Thus the same reader bought the same book twice.
Now is where Dickens became especially crafty. He organized a group of workers who scoured England buying up the old magazine copies for a mere pittance. Most people were happy to get rid of them and had no idea that the pages would be placed in a fancy tie-back folder and resold as, “The Original Collector’s Edition of The Pickwick Papers”.

This became a coveted item and most of the people who had bought the serialized version month after month now paid a premium price to put the “Collector’s Edition” on their bookshelf or in their safe. They felt, rightly so, that these original flimsy pages would be worth a good deal in the future.

So that’s how Charles Dickens managed to sell three copies of the same book to the same customers. Sounds like a great story line to me...something Dickensian about it !



Thursday, March 15, 2018

Let's keep the momentum going ...

Here you see NBA player Dwyane Wade and our current Secretary of Education Betsy Devos 

They were both visitors on the same day that the Stoneman Douglas High School students came back
for their first full day after the horrendous shootings on February 14th.  Of course it was an emotion filled day and the stark contrast between the two visits couldn't have been more different.

Evidently someone in Washington must have thought it was time for Betsy Devos, as the nations Secretary of Education to show some concern but she seemed devoid of empathy ... reading a politically correct prepared statement and not even sitting down with any of the 3,000 students.  To say the least they were underwhelmed.

Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, received a standing ovation of love and excitement when he showed up unexpectedly.  He waded right into the crowd of students and expressed what an inspiration they were to him.  It was uplifting for all involved and he was in no hurry to leave.

In a tweet, after his visit, he wrote:  "I just had a great conversation with some of the students at Stoneman Douglas High School about some important/impactful things that they have planned.  I'm looking forward to being more  involved in the change that they WILL create."

I pray he is right and I can't wait to watch this generation show us how it's done !


Saturday, March 10, 2018

You can't make this stuff up …

On March 8th the news that Trump and the North Korean leader Kim may soon be actually in face to face negotiations came as a surprise to many. However, it was probably the President himself who was least surprised at these developments.

Just 6 days before Trump had attended a Gridiron dinner in Washington, a white-tie affair for journalists. Few there expected to get news of an upcoming US/N.Korea summit but they did.

In Trump's own words he is quoted as saying:
"I won't rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un. I just won't. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that's his problem, not mine."
(as I said ... you can't make this stuff up !!)


Monday, March 05, 2018

A man of integrity ...

Paul Newman is no longer with us but he left a legacy that few can rival. Many years ago I heard a TV announcer interview him and he said that he and JoAnna had decided to put a cap on the amount of money they needed to lead a good life.

He went on to say that a person, or persons, could only have so many “toys” and, in a world that was overcome with poverty and hardship that he felt it was a crime to just keep on getting without giving back. He said he intended to live by these words.

While movies brought in the big bucks it was his love of driving race cars that filled the latter part of his life and I just watched a documentary about that. As a matter of interest the 2006 animated film“Cars” was his last film. He was the voice of a 1961 Hudson Hornet and also helped check the authenticity of the races.
Newman's Own, his line of salad dressings, sauces, and snacks gives every bit of the profits to education and charitable purposes. Since it's inception over $250 million have been donated. 

Many needed causes have found an answer through his selfless contributions but I think his favorite might have been the Hole In The Wall camps.  The first one was started in 1988 and there are now camps all over the world. It provides a memorable free holiday to children with life-threatening illnesses. 

And his reward: