Rick Steves On Barrack Obama

Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark

Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark

A few days ago, Rick Steves the noted travel writer and PBS-TV commentator posted a rather long list of articles concerning Europe’s reaction to the new president-elect of the United States, Barrack Obama. If you are interested check out this page on the Rick Steves website. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, then you will have to tune him in on your local PBS station. Check your local listings for date and times.
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia

Anyway Rick Steves has been putting out lots of interesting travel literature about the ins and outs of traveling in Europe for over twenty years. He has covered the Continent from before the fall of the Berlin Wall and has does an excellent job of providing great travel advice about the opening of Eastern Europe as a travel destination. He even gets himself invoved in political or what might be described as political-cultural commentary. Such was the case last Monday when he posted a list of newspapers that were delving into the recent election and how it was being perceived in European capitols. These articles make an excellent read and are worth checking out because the underscore how  the new president-elect is being received in Europe.

Spruce Up Your Blog With NASA Images

ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA

Earth At Twilight credit: ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA

 

There is a great website put up by  Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP) of NASA called Astronomy Picture of the Day. Everyday a fantastic picture is posted, concerning some sort of visual image from outer space. Sometimes the pictures are even taken from the ground with the naked eye. Other pictures are taken from huge telescopes, while some of the most spectacular images come from the Hubble and other spacecraft.

NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage  (STScI/AURA);

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3370 as seen from the hubble spacecraft, Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA);

Images from the NASA can sometimes be used on your blog or website as background graphics or simple images associated with text. Other pictures are copyrighted and one must contact the maker for permission. Since the pictures are all displayed by NASA, I do not see why permission would not be easily granted. Enclosed at the end of this post is a link to the image guidelines. Check out this next photo that was posted by NASA on Halloween 2006.
Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF

SH2 136: A Spooky Nebula: Credit: Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF

If you are interested in using NASA images on your web, here are the guidelines.

The Red and Blue Of Barrack Obama’s Victory

A red abstract photograph

A red abstract photograph

 

On November 4, 2008 history was made in the United States with the dramatic victory of Barrack Obama over his rival John McCain. Today president-elect Barrack Obama is headed for the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How did the Democratic candidate beat the ever-popular Vietnam War hero and P.O.W.

Very simply it boiled all down to mathematics and a handful of battleground states. Over the past few years the United States has been divided into red and blue areas and battleground states. The red areas vote Republican, the blue areas vote Democratic and the battleground states, which include Ohio, florida, Indiana, Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado can go either way. This year Barrack Obama did very well in almost every battle ground state, thus assuring the Illinois senator a solid victory.

That’s the red and blue of it. How this came to be, I’m not exactly sure, but this is how our polotics will be defined, by afew crucial battleground states.

Blue in graphic design

Blue in graphic design

First Day of NaMoWriMo

The Cat's Eye Nebula

The Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is how my eye’s are going to look by the whole time this whole affair is done, provided I make it that far. I have written 1900 words today a pace that would give me a total of 57,000 words if I can write at that pace for thirty days straight. If today is any indication it will definitely be a struggle.

 

My first chapter came easy, but I struggled through the second chapter of my writing. I had expected to get more done because I have the day off, but I piddled around doing this and that and that and this. One of big distractions was going to other blogs and websites and making comments about my first day of NaMoWriMo, not a good way to begin the day. Anyway I hope tomorrow goes better than today. Fortunately, I get a break because of the change in time. How thoughtful that they could move the week in which we change time back a week just so NaMo writers could get an extra hour in. That was very thoughtful.

So long for now,

 

Henri

NaMoWriMo Begins

An advertisement of a watch in a window.

An advertisement of a watch in a window.

Well folks it’s time to begin the NaMoWriMo novel writing project, except I think I am going to pass until the morning comes. I’m too tired right now and I feel my efforts will be rendered useless unless I get a good night’s rest.
Still it has been fun signing up for the event at the NaMo site and putting out some feedback on their forums. I can’t wait to get started really. The task is awesome, but I think I am up for it.
Check back here in a couple of days and see how I am doing. I will at least have another picture posted.

The Friendship Is a real Ship

The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts

The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts

 

Here is the sailing ship, called the Friendship. It’s official sailing classification is a ship. This means that the boat has three masts, which are all square-rigged. This boat is a replica that was built in 1998. The original ship was built in 1797 and traded all around the world until it was seized by the british during the war of 1812.

 

 

 

 

This new replica makes a great tour (when it is port) for anyone who is visiting Salem or the greater Boston area. Not only do you get to walk on board the ship, but you get to visit the custom house, where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked. It is just several hundred feet away. These sites are part of the Salem National Maritime Historical Site in Salem, Massachusetts.

 This tour is a traveler’s bargain, for once you have forked out your five dollars you get to go two seperate walking tours through the maritme site. Both tours are very good, but I particularly enjoyed this one for you got to spend about a half an hour on the Friendship.

The Amistad under sail.

The Amistad under sail.

 

Here is another replica sailing ship. This is the Amistad made famous by the movie. It was built in New London, Connecticut, just a few years before the Frienship was reconstructed. It is called a cargo schooner and in this case its cargo it was slaves. The ship sailed into Portland Harbor this summer and was berthed at the Maine State Pier, where visitors could take a tour.

Salem, Massachusetts Is Haunted

A Mummy In Salem

A Mummy In Salem

I was in Salem last week just in time for

“haunted happenings” in October. These take place in October and the whole affair is like some sort of strange morf between Halloween and “The Salem Witch Trials”. Whatever the reasoning, the combination works, because people from Boston and all over New England come in droves to celebrate. Reportedly, the place gets very busy on weekends leading up to the “big day” or night actually, which falls on a Friday night. However, I was in town on Tuesday, so things were quiet, but still the town was all decked out for the “Night Before All Saints Day”, better known as Halloween. Still it was fun to wander around and check the place out. I had some business to attend to in Boston, so I left at 5 PM.

Instead of concentrating on the solemn history of the Witch Trials (more about that later) I headed for Derby Wharf and the
Salem Maritime Historic Site, where for five American dollars, I received a grand tour of the Friendship ( a three-masted square rigged ship) the Customs House (where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked) and the Derby House, where the prosperous merchant lived. This part of Salem’s history is quite extensive, but usually overshadowed by the infamous Witch Trials.

Why we are so attracted to the macabre, I cannot say, but this is certainly the case here in Salem.

Inside the prosperous merchat's house in Salem, Massachusetts

Inside the prosperous merchant's house

Y-Eye-Right (From West To East)

Why I write?

I’m more of a visual person that a literary one, but still I found out that sometimes I had to write about my art to explain it to the world.

Was this really necessary? I think so, though it sounds kind of hokey, I’m aware of that. But really it was a part of getting the message across. So I kept writing in a journal to accompany many of the images that I was constantly making in my sketchbooks and drawing books. This went on for ten years or maybe longer.

Then in the fall of 2003 at age 50, I made my first journey to Europe. It was a real eye opener, as I roamed from one old world cobblestone city to another. I started in Copenhagen, then journied through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and back to Germany again. I ended up in Frankfurt; a new city courtesy of Allied bombers, where I boarded an IcelandicAir plane and flew back to the U.S.

Postcard from Prague

Postcard from Prague

 

This picture best expresses some of the things I experienced, while walking around  Prague. This city is a gateway to Eastern Europe and nowhere is that better seen than on the marvellous Gothic Bridge that spans the Vltava River.

Prague is an eerie city and a photographer’s delight. I made many photograph’s while I was here but nothing describes my experience better than this photograph.

Upon my return to the good ole USA, I started writing. Everyday I was up and at it, as if I was writing for a living. After a month of this, I had to go back to work, but finally last month I sold and published the first thing that I wrote upon my return to the U.S. It is called from “West To East” and here is the link. http://www.cstn.org/reports/europe/bus_europe_2008.html

In short this is how I became a part-time writer.

More Words from Bloggers

Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author

Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author

Best Piece of Writing Advice Ever

Best Piece of Writing Advice Yet  (from the venerable Mark Twain)   “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Nothing could be more simple, right?

Today’s look around the internet includes more on Amazon-Hatchette, words from a black screenwriter and a bunch of Tom Swifties.

Does Anybody remember Boyz in the Hood?

Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood

The title definitely caught my eye when the film first came out in 1991, but I never got around to watching the movie (on DVD) till a few years ago. I must say I enjoyed the show immensely. It’s a great coming of age story about a tight-knit group of black teenagers trying to cope with the urban, drug-infested neighborhood that they find themselves thrust into.

The amazing thing about this film is that Singleton wrote the screenplay and landed the director’s spot just a year or two after he graduated from UCLA film school. I can’t imagine anything like this happening today, even though they are more opportunities out there and internet sites like the Black List have made Hollywood more accessible. Do it yourself is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

This Hatchette-Amazon Thing Drags On

“Consider the French Revolution. A bunch of blue bloods really thought they were born to rule, and the peasants couldn’t live without them to govern. They were wrong.” Joe Konrath

Mr. Konrath continues his defense of ebook publishing and self-publishing with this timely rage against Author’s United. His assertion that the ebooks are radically changing the publishing world has been around for several years. Now that the Amazon-Hatchette feud dominates the literary conversation, Joe has gained more notoriety as the great defender of Amazon and the new reality of cheap ebooks. No different than the rise of paperbacks right after WWII or the emergence of DVD discs and the consequent demise of VHS tapes, ebooks are here to stay. Check out his blog…….even if don’t agree his opinions you may the argument compelling.

Who Was Tom Swift?

Last week while discussing the overuse of adverbs, Anne Allen dug up the popular 60s phenomena of Tom Swifties, which derived from the Tom Swift character of YA fame that has been around since 1910.

Here are some of my favorites.

“Careful with that chainsaw,” Tom said offhandedly.

“I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked.

“I wish I drove a Scandinavian car” Tom sobbed (Saabed)

“I wonder if this radium is radioactive?” asked Marie curiously

“We could have made a fortune canning pineapples” Tom groaned dolefully

“That’s the last time I’ll stick my arm in a lion’s mouth,” the lion-tamer said off-handedly.

“I’ll have a martini,” said Tom, drily (dryly)

“I unclogged the drain with a vacuum cleaner,” said Tom succinctly

“Hurry up and get to the back of the ship!” Tom said sternly

“I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically

Don’t lend me more yarn— / I can’t mend worth a darn,” / Said Tom, as he knitted his brow.

Kind of silly, but in a way they still retain some of their charm.

Final Quote of the Day

“Don’t write a book someday, write a book today. That’s what I did.” Chuck Wendig

 

Carrying On Without a Comma -^?/!…:”*!+_+_+”{}”’……Oh Boy!!!What the F#*//*It’s National Punctuation Day

Watch out for those exclamation points. They can derail your entire writing effort. Current literary advice says only to use these common forms of punctuation between dialogue tags and not in the main body of the story. photo by author

Watch out for those exclamation points. They can derail your entire writing effort. Current literary advice says only to use these common forms of punctuation between dialogue tags and not in the main body of the story. photo by author

“And she could throw a mean Tarot
And carried on without a comma
That she was someone I should know”  Frank Zappa from the song Camarillo Brillo

National Punctuation Day !!!

Tomorrow, September 24,  is National Punctuation Day, so go wild and use as much <.?/!@$ punctuation as your little heart desires. This day only comes around once a year, so splurge and go %$#@! hog-wild with the semi-colons, apostrophes and exclamation points……You deserve it…/…You’ve earned it,,baby!!! You’ll definitely feel better afterwards!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Forget about the war against _)&^#!!?,.ISIS, forget about the <://(7%# climate changes and forget about the political fortunes of our not-so-illustrious president. Just be grateful for all the **!//? various forms of punctuation that grace the  !?./<,)( English language. And for those of you who use English as a second language, here are a few examples that will make you ^*%#1!! homesick for the old country……- – – -.  §¡Æ÷ṓ¿ɸȹ………..  So skip that friendly visit to your church, chapel, synagogue, mosque or chapel!!!! Just go out and celebrate National Punctuation Day. Make it the most important day of the year.

And For Those Who Wish To Increase Awareness of Correct Punctuation

LOL!!!!! But if you are really serious about using just the right choice of commas, periods, dashes, hyphens or colons, you might acquire a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss……..and then read it!!!! You won’t be disappointed for Miss Trull has taken a rather mundane topic and made it into a bestseller that has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Or……. you could search out local businesses, who have displayed improper punctuation, and enlighten them to their errors. (Better yet; you can spray paint the words Your Punctuation Sucks on their front window with crimson Day-Glo paint. P.S. Avoid defacing other parts of the building, as you will probably get arrested for criminal destruction of property)

Go to the the National Punctuation Day Website and vote for your favorite form of punctuation.

Throw a punctuation party. This might include cookies or cakes decorated with punctuation marks, games and/or clothing decorated with some form of punctuation.

 

Scotland’s Liberation????

Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada

Is this the future? Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada

The Big Event

This coming Friday Scotland gets to vote on whether it wants to be free from the UK. Right now those favoring independence for the rugged patch of land seem to be slightly ahead……But a lot can change in the days leading up to the vote, even among those picturesque hills that cover the northern tip of Great Britain. No matter how you look at it, this vote is big and the results could create political-cultural ripple effects that would travel around the globe.

If Scotland Votes Yes

As a U.S. citizen, I can’t vote in Scotland, but still that does not stop me from voicing my opinion that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation. Nonetheless, there is no way to predict exactly how a yes vote will play out. This scenario could play out badly for all parties involved, especially Wales, which may want to follow in Scotland’s footsteps, if they succeed.

What A No Vote Means

A “No” vote means the status quo remains in place. Still, there will be changes in Scottish-English relations, for there is a very good chance that London will give the Scottish a little more autonomy within the UK union. A “No” vote also means it will be a long time before Scotland is faced with another opportunity to establish itself as an independent nation. And it also will make things more difficult in Wales, for those who wish to secede. By the way the majority of political leaders from the western nations have gone on record as being opposed to Scottish independence, including our own president, Barrack Obama, who made a very briefly statement that he thought it would be best if the UK remain united.

Quotes About Scotland

1. “My point is there’s a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It’s a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but in Ireland generally.”  Seamus Heaney

2. “Forgive your enemy, but remember the bastard’s name.” Scottish proverb

3. “In Scotland we have mixed feelings about global warming because we will get to sit on the mountains and watch the English drown.” Frankie Boyle

4. Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.” Sir Winston Churchill

5. Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Samuel Johnson

6. The Scottish sun, shocked by having its usual cloudy underpinnings stripped away, shone feverishly, embarrassed by its nakedness.” Stuart Haddon

7. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious. But don’t eat the macaroni pies.” JK Rowling

8. Learning to pipe isn’t easy. At first it always sounds worse than a chicken yard full of squawking adolescent roosters.” Amy Jarecki, from Beauty and the Barbarian

9. Scotland is the Canada of England!” Rainn Wilson

10. Edinburgh is a great big black bastard of a city where there are ghosts of all kinds.” Sara Sheridan, Ma Polinski’s Pockets 11. The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

12. “If you make a film about a pig farmer in Wales and you are a huge hit as the pig farmer’s wife, the next thing is you’ll be asked to do a film about a sheep farmer in Scotland.”  Kristin Scott Thomas

Quotes About the Independence Vote

1. “I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain’s success – so for me there’s no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.”  David Cameron

2. “I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia

3. “Scottish independence throws up the possibility of a more progressive England. We won’t be British any more, we’ll be English.” Billy Bragg

4. “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st century pressures as the rest of the world. The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.” JK Rowling

5. “I would hate to have you lose Scotland,……..I hope that it doesn’t happen but I don’t have a vote in Scotland……..I would think it would be a loss for both sides.” Hillary Clinton to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight

6. (Scottish Independence) “is too good an opportunity to miss”  Sean Connery

7. “Thank you very, very much and Scotland – stay with us.” David Bowie

8. “Staying in the United Kingdom presents greater certainty and stability.” Barrack Obama

9.  “I’m deeply suspicious of patriotism.  People following the band, you know?  I don’t want to be part of it.  It’s paved with fools.” J.K. Rowling

10. “All division worries me.  The secession of a nation without a history of forced unity has to be handled with tweezers and analysed case by case.” Pope Francis

A More Conservative England

Despite Billy Bragg’s rosy optimism, an independent Scotland could result in a more conservative England. This may be come as a major surprise to anyone residing in the USA or Canada, but the elected Scottish representatives serving in London are a very left-leaning bunch. Take away these politicians and not only will GB be more conservative, but the Labor party, which has a lot of support in Scotland will be significantly weakened. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with a system where there’s been 17 years of a Tory Government and the people of Scotland have voted Socialist for 17 years. That hardly seems democratic.” Sean Connery

A Glimmer of Hope

Most observers seem to agree that a “yes” vote for independence would spur other cultural minorities to seek independence from their respective Motherland. Even before the vote takes place, independence movements have been spurred on in places like the Catalans in Spain and the Flemish in Belgium. Even though it is possible that these movements might succeed in the near future, there is one place, where a new independent nation might be particularly beneficial.

And that my friends is the Middle East, where a internationally recognized Kurdish nation is long overdue and greatly needed. If Scottish independence translates into a Kurdish nation, down the road, then I’m all for it.

Words from Bloggers

 

Danger, Smile!!!  photo by author

Danger, Smile!!! photo by author Even in the face of danger, it might be beneficial to laugh a little bit.

 

Today’s Quotes

Today, and especially the last month in particular, has been a news junkie’s delight. With major historical events occurring in Iraq, Syria, West Africa, the Ukraine, the U.S. and most recently the British Isles, there is a lot of conflict in the world, capable of fueling the various news outlets for a long time. This situation is great for journalists, newscasters, filmmakers, commentators and political pundits. It is also a rich resource for novelists, comedians, short story writers, screenwriters and playwrights…….. but in a different way. The following quotes mostly ignores all the world troubles and instead is drawn from the rich world of writers commenting on their craft. Hope you enjoy this Sunday’s selection.

P.S. Each quote is supplied with a link to the appropriate blog.

1. “A lot of people think I had such a rosy career, but I wanted to identify that one of the things that helps you have a long career is learning how to deal with adversity, how to get past it.”   19-time All-Star baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr.

2. “A few aspiring authors get to stay home and write all day. Think of them as the 1%.”

3. “Have fun. Have as much (effing) fun as you can.” 

4. “Something to marvel at. 1 out of every 20 books was written by E.L. James.

5. “Don’t overthink it.”

6. “but if you can find the time to write a number of days or nights a week, even if it’s just five hundred words – that process will help free up your subconscious. And that’s where so many good ideas come from, so many good characters, so many good connections between characters, so many great plot ideas.”  writing advice from Thomas Keneally

7. “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.“ by Flannery O’Connor

8. “Simple words can become clever phrases
And chapters could turn into books
If I could just get in on paper
But it’s harder that it ever looks
If I could Just Get It on Paper
Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett

9.  “Never sign any deal for more than a ten year term.”

10. “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”  –Yasutani Roshi

11. “She’s a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she’s washed her hair since Coolidge’s second term, I’ll eat my spare tire, rim and all.” by Raymond Chandler

12. “Getting it published in the present climate is the heartbreak, but there’s always Amazon.”

And as an extra bonus here is a simple outline on how to write a good ghost story. With all the killing and dying that is going on these days, this might be especially good advice for aspiring writers.

Well, the basic plot of a ghost story goes something like this:

  1. A ghost shows up.
  2. The ghost gets scarier.
  3. The ghost gets even scarier.
  4. The ghost becomes truly horrifying.
  5. The protagonist figures out what to do about it.
  6. Denouement.
In the Center of the Lagoon Nebula  Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA - Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt

In the Center of the Lagoon Nebula
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA – Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt

 

Working Class Writers

Though not literary writers, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two American icons that rose from a modest background to stardom.

Though not literary writers, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two American icons that rose from a modest background to stardom. Here they are pictured on an exterior wall in Las Vegas.

Labor Day Rant

Today is Labor Day and maybe it is a good time to celebrate those writers (and other artists), who held day jobs to support their  dreams. Actually this list is quite long, so I will concentrate mostly on those who toiled in the “School of Hard Knocks” outside the academic system. For a close look at the various and sundry jobs, writers have held in order to maintain their craft, check out this article at Huffington Post.

Now…..Don’t get me wrong……Academia has produced some amazingly talented writers. First to mind, are those wonderful British professors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They both taught at Oxford and at the same time each in his own right produced some of the most remarkable fiction of the mid-twentieth century. In fact, the two were best of friends, who created and nourished The Inklings, an extra-curriculum literary discussion group that always met in one of Oxford’s many well-attended watering holes.

Jack Kerouac and the Beats

Jack Kerouac and company are notorious for allegedly spurning a whole cultural revolution that spurned higher education and encouraged various non-conformist activities, such as socializing at coffee houses (and bars), digging jazz music and writing offbeat and dissident poetry. Except for Kerouac and Neal Cassady, this group racked up quite a slew of impressive academic credentials. Though Alan Ginsburg dropped out of Columbia to write poetry, he did return and complete his degree program. Furthermore, William Burroughs was a Harvard graduate., while Gegory Corso attended the elite university as a a non-matriculating student— a poet in residence. Rounding out the group are Gary Snyder, who attended UCal Berkeley and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who received an advanced degree from the Sorbonne in Paris, France. All in all, that’s a pretty impressive collection of degrees and academic experiences.

The British Class System

Just by the sheer number of writers and poets that have come from the British Empire, this commonwealth of nations has to be one of the most literary places on the planet. Some of the Empire’s finest writers, actually grew up in the British hinterlands and so they never had to opportunity to attend an institute of higher learning. At the top of this list would be  Doris Lessing, a Rhodesian writer, who recently received a Nobel Prize in Literature, and the ever-popular George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair. Eric grew up in remote India and so he was never able to obtain a proper education. Still, this did not prevent the writer from producing several 20th century classics.

Back in old Londontown, fans of the mystery and crime genres will be interested in the life and times of Agatha Christie, who spent her childhood years in both London and Devonshire. Despite being home-schooled, Agatha Christie’s books have sold more copies for all authors except Shakespeare and the Bible.

My Labor Day Reading List

Following are some classic titles by a few brave writers, who went out and did things for themselves…..and then wrote about it. In reality, there are many books in this field. These few titles are just a my personal favorites and perhaps a jumping off point for your own reading adventures……for there are many more great titles out there.

1. You Can’t Win by Jack Black    This autobiographical tale from a turn-of-the-century hobo-cat burglar was William Burroughs favorite read. Need I say more.

2. The Drifting Cowboy by Will James    Though born in Quebec, Will James (an alias used to cover his cattle rustling past) escaped to the U.S. and worked many western ranches as a 20th century cowhand and roper. He also worked as a Hollywood stunt man during the early years.

3. Down and Out In Paris and London by George Orwell    Orwell’s firsthand account of washing dishes in 30s Paris and marching from one shelter to the next in England will leave you spellbound.

4. Roughing It by Mark Twain  Before Twain made it big with Tom Sawyer, the man did many things including tramping across the West during the Civil War.

5. Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry    Here the author of the Little Prince recounts his flying days and a crash in the Sahara that may have lead to the petite prince story.

6. Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour  Louis L’Amour was more than just a western writer. He was also a professional boxer and merchant marine who traveled the Seven Seas. This book takes you through his world traveling and roundabout ways of his younger days.

In Conclusion

Perhaps the biggest working class heroes of all…….the Liverpool Lads

“They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be”

John Lennon from Working Class Hero

Probably no other group of artists better represents  the working class than the British fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Probably no other group of artists better represents the working class than the British fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Quotes from Donald

 

Two street performers celebrate the sunset, photo by author

Two street performers celebrate a rainbow and sunset, photo by author

Hope you enjoy this image of a rainbow and the two street performers.

Some Words of Wisdom (maybe?)

The following words of wisdom (and not so astute words of wisdom) come from a variety of sources. Nonetheless, all these selections of words were uttered by various entities with one thing in common; they were all named Donald. Some of these Donalds are real, while others are just the mere creations of writers. As you browse through these quotes, keep in mind how we, as a society, sometimes delegate our most poignant comments to the strange realm of fictional characters.

Today’s Quotes

1. “There are known knowns. There are known unknowns. But there are also unknown unknowns.”  by Donald Rumsfeld.

2. “I’m not a schmuck. Even if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I won’t lose a penny.” by Donald Trump

3. “At my age you sort of fart your way into a role.” by Donald Sutherland

4. “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.” by Donald Trump

5. “Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war.” by Donald Rumsfeld

6. “You know the funny thing, I don’t get along with rich people. I get along with the middle class and the poor people better than I get along with the rich people.” by Donald Trump

7. “I don’t care if you think I’m abnormal, strange, weird, crazy, insane, odd & bizarre. Life is too short to be normal….” by Donald Duck

8. “I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.” by Donald Rumsfeld

9. “I advise you don’t mess with me, I know karate, kung fu, judo, tae kwon du, jujitsu and 28 other dangerous words,” by Donald Duck

10. “But no, I love acting, it’s a wonderful job.” by Donald Sutherford

11. “I watch people and wonder how some of them found their way out of the birth canal.” by Donald Duck

12. “I had a kind of meandering little career, and then I was given a chance to play one of the bottom six in The Dirty Dozen.” by Donald Sutherland

13. “Don’t get confused between my personality and my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.” by Donald Duck

14. “Oh come off it, MAJOR! You put me right off my fresh fried lobster, do you realize that? I’m now going to go back to my bed, I’m going to put away the best part of a bottle of scotch… And under normal circumstances, you being normally what I would call a very attractive woman, I would have invited you back to share my little bed with me you might possibly have come. But you really put me off. I mean you… You’re what we call a regular army clown.” by Hawkeye Pierce as played by Donald Sutherland from M.A.S.H. the movie

15.  “It is unknowable how long that conflict [the war in Iraq] will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” Donald Rumsfeld in Feb. 2003

Donald Duck first appeared in the 1934 Disney cartoon, The Wise Little Hen. image from Wikipedia

Donald Duck first appeared in the 1934 Disney cartoon, The Wise Little Hen. image from Wikipedia

 

Resistance Is Futile (and other casual musings from the world of Sci-Fi)

Star Trek Encounters the Cube of Borg

Star Trek Encounters the Cube of Borg

This much used sci-fi quotation actually was first used by Dr. Who, not the Borg. The Borg is only the latest in a long line of alien entities to issue such an ultimatum to an inferior force. On a more humorous note check out President Obama as a Borg like creature in the caricature spoof at the bottom of the page. In a similar mode, I have included a collection of 13 quotes from both sci-fi writers and sci-fi movie characters. Check these out and see how they differ.         Henri B

Locutus from the Borg in the Star Trek movie

Locutus from the Borg in the Star Trek: First Contact movie

 

1. “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I cant do that.” – HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2. “Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a Delorean?” – Marty McFly, Back to the Future (1985)

3. “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”   SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Errand of Mercy”

4. “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” by Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

5. “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.” -Roy Batty, Blade Runner

6. “(I’m) from another planet. Let’s just say that we’re neighbors.”  Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still

7. “If you’re going to make a science fiction movie, then have a hover craft chase, for God’s sake.”  by Joss Whedon

8. “Hey doll, is this guy boring you? Come and talk to me. I’m from a different planet.” — Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

9. “Destiny always seems decades away, but suddenly it’s not decades away; it’s right now. But maybe destiny is always right now, right here, right this very instant, maybe.” — Brother Joshua in A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller.

10.  “Do…..or do not. There is no try.” Yoda,  in The Empire Strikes Back

11. Imagination is the key to my lyrics. The rest is painted with a little science fiction.” by Jimi Hendrix

12.  “I realize that command does have its fascination, even under circumstances such as these, but I neither enjoy the idea of command nor am I frightened of it. It simply exists, and I will do whatever logically needs to be done.”   SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Galileo Seven”

13. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” -Philip K. Dick

Obama as a  Borg and Resistance Is Futile

Obama as a Borg and Resistance Is Futile

 

 

 

Good Writing Will Find a Way To the Surface…….No Matter What the Current State of Affairs

Rings Around the Ring Nebula  Image Credit: Hubble, Large Binocular Telescope, Subaru Telescope; Composition & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Rings Around the Ring Nebula
Image Credit: Hubble, Large Binocular Telescope, Subaru Telescope; Composition & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Amazon-Hachette Takes It Toll

As the Amazon-Hachette stand-off continues, it appears the party most being hurt are the authors. Amazon and Hachette aren’t doing too well either, yet still there is no clear signal as to how long this dispute will last or how things will turn out, when the issues finally get resolved. From my viewpoint, which definitely, leans towards Amazon, it looks like ebook sales will continue to grow and that more authors will pursue the ebook as the primary venue for their creative literary efforts. This will include newbie authors as well as writers previously published with both small and large print presses. High profile best-selling authors will continue to see most of their sales come through the retailing of paperback books, which probably predisposes these guys and gals away from the growing ebook market.

How It Used To Be

The conclusion of World War II and the return of the American G.I. to the U.S., lead to many books being published by authors, who in the past may have found a harder road to publication. War seen through the first person had always been prevalent in literature (i.e. The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet On the Western Front ), but there seemed to an outpouring of  books about the “Big One.” The war experience  launched such notable writers as Norman Mailer, James Michener, Elie Wiesel, Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway (Spanish Civil War). Unfortunately, the publicationof war stories has not been discontinued as we roll into the 21st century, for armed conflict around the world has not abated by any means. In fact, it is quite possible that they have increased. However, the point here is that in the 40s and 50s, editors and publishers were not overwhelmed by large numbers of ambitious and talented writers, like they are today.

First edition book cover for Manchild In the Promised Land, from wiki commons

First edition book cover for Manchild In the Promised Land, from wiki commons

Manchild In the Promised Land

In 1965 Macmillan & Co. published Claude Brown’s street-tough classic, Manchild In the Promised Land. Though Claude Brown grew up among Harlem hoodlums, he was able to turn his life around and complete a memoir about his troubled NYC youth in upper Manhattan. The book was discovered in the slush pile by an astute NYC editor and eventually went on to sell four million copies and was also translated into 14 languages. At time of publication Mr. Brown was working as a mail carrier, but would begin a lecturing career that lasted a lifetime once the book became successful. Claude Brown also introduced Toni Morrison to his editor, who also became a major catalyst with her literary success.

Trying To Get A Handle On Today’s Literary Scene

Things are definitely changing today. Books are still being printed and read, but the onset of ebooks has definitely leveled the playing field somewhat. Many of the old authors despise the new format. One of the most notables was the late Ray Bradbury, who recently said this about ebooks:

Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell.”

Despite these words, Mr. Bradbury succumbed to the evils of ebooks before he passed away. However, writers facing the challenge of first-time publication are presented with a whole set of different problems than Ray Bradbury, when he first came of age as a author at the end of WWII. Since mainline publishers are more and more interested in mass market genre titles and less so in literary fiction, contemporary authors cannot necessarily rely on the proverbial slush pile for their success, even though it is still a viable option for some. Instead networking, visibility on social networks, blogging, self-publishing and plain old perseverance all play an important part in getting the story out.
P.S. Thanks goes out to Alan Rinzler at The Book Deal for the inspiration for this blog. Alan is the editor who discovered Claude Brown and was consequently introduced to Toni Morrison, who went on to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Remarks from the Funniest Man in the World

Sunset in Santa Fe, photo by author

Sunset in Santa Fe, photo by author

The Event

Robin Williams, who was on occasion referred to, as the funniest man in the world, died this week, apparently by his own hand. During his acting career, Williams starred in many movies, along with his debut TV role as that lovable alien Mork, in Mork and Mindy. Though Williams has never received an Oscar for Best Actor, at the time of his death he was considered one of the top comedians and actors of his time (please note: as there is still one more Robin Williams film to be released) it is still possible Mr. Williams may receive his much desired Best Actor Oscar.

Sir Robin In His Own Words

1. “People say satire is dead. It’s not dead; it’s alive and living in the White House.”

2. “Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?”

3. “Do you think God gets stoned? I think so … look at the platypus.”

4. “When in doubt, go for the dick joke.”

5. “I love kids, but they are a tough audience.”

6. “The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?”

7.  “If it’s the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?”

8. “I’m looking for Miss Right….or at least Miss Right Now.”

9. “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

10. “I just want to know one thing. Are your kids well-behaved? Or do they need like, a few light slams every now and then?” – Daniel Hillard/ Mrs. Doubtfire, Mrs. Doubtfire “

11. “In Hollywood people are nice to you just in the first week after the [Academy Award] ceremony. Then they are like, ‘Oh, you just won an Oscar, right?’ Three weeks after the big party people are already thinking about the next year’s Oscars. Life goes on. Winning an Oscar is an honor, but, between you and me, it does not makes things easier.”

Ten Best Reasons for Being an Episcopalian by Robin Williams

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.

2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Robin Williams in 1979 as he was sterrring in Mork & Mindy, from Wikipedia photo by Michael Dressler

Robin Williams in 1979 as he was sterrring in Mork & Mindy, from Wikipedia photo by Michael Dressler

Across the Great Divide – Update On the Amazon-Hachette Feud

“Fine! So stop selling them (Hachette books), already. Just shut up about it and pull the trigger. Be mercenary.” Chuck Wendig, commenting on the Amazon-Hachette feud

220px-AcrosstheGreatDivide1976

Across the Great Divide is a 1976 film that stars Robert Logan, Heather Rattray, and George Buck Flower. Perhaps, the title is also symbolic as to what a small group of well-financed writers headquartered in the Northeast has done to the American writing community.

Authors Purchase Big Time Add In NY Times

“Authors aren’t united on anything. Why would they be? We work from home. Alone. We can maaaaaybe agree that pants are a tool of the oppressors and that we subsist on various liquids (tea, coffee, whiskey, the tears of our readers). Why do we have to be united?” Chuck Wendig

On Sunday August 10 a group of authors, calling themselves Authors United ran a full page add in the Sunday NY Times defending the Hachette Corporation of France in its economic loggerhead with Amazon. Around 900 names appeared on the ad, which cost in thelow  six figure range and was financed by 72 of the 900. Basically, the letter accused the Amazon Corp. of organizing a boycott of Hachette products, refusing to discount Hachette products, slowing the delivery of Hachette books and suggesting to readers that they purchase different (non-Hachette) titles.

This debate has dragged on for several months and at this point in time, a settlement seems far off. In the meantime, growing discontent among pro-Hachette and pro-Amazon writers has turned the feud into a bit of a soap opera, especially on the Social Media, where everybody who’s anybody is sounding off on the issue. Though this may make for great entertainment, the situation does not encourage ebook sales, which is essentially the heart of the debate.

My Turn To Rant

Ok, it’s my turn to rant. And by the way, I’m not exactly neutral in this debate since I sell low-priced ebooks through both Amazon and Smashwords. Also, I do sell a story or two to online journals, but this is a rather rare event. Moreover, I have not found a way to break into the print market, except P.O.D., a pathway, which I have not even remotely considered.

My basic complaint with Amazon is that they have too nice to Hachette. They were a primary player in the development of the ebook market and their opinion that ebooks sell best in the three digit range seems valid. And I don’t consider them a monopoly (just a Giant corporation) either for they have lots of competition with businesses like Google, Apple, Kobo and B & N.

On the other hand Hachette’s main line are books in print, so why are they wasting so much time in energy in this fight. It might hurt their print sales and if things go really bad, their French holder, Legardere, might dump them completely. I guess I don’t the understand French business karma very well at all, but it does seem like they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Writers Gone Goofy 

To me the strangest thing of all is the way that millionaire genre writers, such as Stephen King, JK Rowling, Douglas Preston, James Patterson, John Grisham and Heather Graham, have taken on Amazon like it was the devil incarnate. They seem to have all jumped in bed with Big Five publishing (at the same time) without any concerns for their own well-being. Have these people forgotten that once they were unpublished writers?

Things have changed over the last ten years and breaking into print has become much more difficult than it used to be. True this is a slowly developing situation that goes back to the  post WWII years, when there weren’t so many authors pining for a book contract. But today’s Indie ebook market helps newbie authors find a platform. (So do small presses and university publishers). Overall, the old maxim that good writing will find its audience still holds true, but the rules have definitely changed quite a bit……And maybe not so much for the better.

2001 Sourdough Raft Race, passing beneath the High Level Bridge's Great Divide waterfall. (Edmonton, Alberta)

2001 Sourdough Raft Race, passing beneath the High Level Bridge’s Great Divide waterfall. (Edmonton, Alberta) from Wikipedia