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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Watching Old Movies
A few weeks ago, the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe sponsored a free showing of the 1970 classic, Little Big Man. The film starred Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway and Richard Mulligan, as General Custer. The western spoof was a box office hit, but just as important was the reality that the film adaption, which came from a Thomas Berger novel of the same name, opened the door to Indian awareness in American cinema.
Furthermore, the movie launched a new wave of Native American actors, actresses, writers and directors, some of whom are still active today. One of these persons, a film director from the Cheyenne-Arapaho nation by the name of Chris Eyres, introduced the film and attempted to explain what the film meant to him, even though he was too young to appreciate the film, when it was first released. Chris Eyres, who teaches filmmaking in Santa Fe, is best known as director of Smoke Signals, which is drawn from a Sherman Alexie’s story, “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”.
The Big Names
The cast of Little Big Man really helped to make the movie, for it featured a couple of the big names at the time. These included Dustin Hoffman as Little Big Man and Faye Dunaway who did a great job in portraying an erotic preacher’s wife (Louise Pendrake) and an eccentric hooker with a mild Southern accent (Lulu Kane). The movie also got a big name director, Arthur Penn, and a seasoned musician, John Hammond to write the music score.
Little Big Man helped launched the career of Chief Dan George, a Native American from Canada, who did not begin his acting career until he was 60 years old. Dan made Little Big Man, when he close to 70 and followed with several other film appearances, including a minor role in the Outlaw Josey Wales. Richard Mulligan portrayed General George Armstrong Custer as a military man with a severe psychosis. It was Mulligan’s biggest role of his career, even though his portrayal of Custer as a man on the edge of insanity is probably not historically accurate. Custer may have made some bad military decisions and severely underestimated the number of Indian warriors in the area, but there is little evidence that he was off his rocker. Still, the idea of Custer, as unstable, still has considerable appeal today.
Most importantly, Little Big Man, introduced history of the “Old West” from a Native American perspective, along with Indian Humor. This second link goes directly to a passage from Vine Deloria’s classic book, “Custer Died For Your Sins”, a witty and humorous title that superbly underscores the concept of “Indian Humor”.
Confessions of a Failed Scriptwriter
Just last week, the crew over at Scriptshadow, posted a long post about what happens when after 11 years of hard work, you cannot sell a screenplay. The author is Randy Steinberg and his intent is not self-pity, but rather an honest attempt to pass on to other struggling screenwriters he learned from his own mistakes. Hopefully, by writing this article, Mr. Steinberg will be able to move on to something more constructive and satisfying to his own sense of well-being.
Throwing In the Towel
Though written several years this lively article by successful screenwriter, Terry Rossio, is a must read for anyone considering the calling of writing screenplays for Hollywood (or anyone else that might be interested). To me this lively rant is timeless, as I seem to reference the piece every other year or so. In case you haven’t heard of Terry Rossio, he along with his writing partner, Ted Elliott, have written the scripts for such popular films as Shrek, Aladdin, Little Monsters, the Mask of Zorro and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Don’t Throw In the Towel
Steinberg’s blog post, which just went up last week, has already drawn quite a lot of buzz around the web. One writer, Daniel Gardina, referenced to another post by popular blogger, Nathan Bransford, titled Be Wary of Anyone Who Tries To Tell You There’s Only One Way to Find Successful Publication. It seems to me this is the attitude that Randy Steinberg ought to be suscribing to…….and perhaps by posting his long confession, he may eventually get to where he wants to go.
It’s Not All In L.A.
One attitude that seemed to surface a lot among readers, who follow the Scriptshadow blog….is that you have to move to Los Angeles to be successful as a screenwriter. For here in tinseltown, you will find all the agents, managers, producers and what-not that might discover your writing ability and help make your script a reality. Although being near Hollywood is certainly still important, I feel that in the digital age, being there is not so imperative. Everyday there seem to be more and film companies popping up in the various hinterlands across the U.S.A. For reference, just take a look at this blog.
Adding To the Buzz
The day after Thanksgiving, the internet was all a buzz with news of the comet’s survival, as it passed around the sun on Thanksgiving Day. This is good news for comet watchers and stargazers everywhere and as a result I could not let the day pass without throwing in my two cents worth. Even though ISON’s resurrection may only be a temporary reprieve from death in outer space, the situation has definitely given us comet watchers something to talk about.
Comets and Cats
On Turkey Day, the official skywatchers were calling Comet ISON D.O.A. Then one day later, they were using the cat analogy to salvage their scientific opinion. Most likely this descrepency was not so much due to incompetence, but rather, it may be related to the much improved view that spacecraft such as the Hubble and SOHO can now provide. Never before has modern man received such a superb picture of a comet as it sped across the other side the sun. Nonetheless, it is a very humorous situation to hear the experts backpeddle and use the cat analogy as a defense, even though the premise that comets like cats are unpredictable….has been circulating around the blogosphere for several weeks…..ever since ISON underwent a sudden brightening in mid-November. Also, a corollary has developed; comets like cats, can have nine lies.
The Pros Get It Wrong, Then Right
Now than a new week and a new month has started, it looks like ISON was a doomed comet….that like Icarus….it flew too close to the sun and died. Still, there is a trail of dust (that used to be ISON) moving away from the sun, but it is way too small to be observed by the human eye or even small telescopic devices. Chances that this mass will revive itself into a visible comet are close to zero. Nonetheless, it’s been a fun ride with the general public now being more aware of those faraway visitors from the outer reaches of our solar system. And scientists have gained a little better understanding as to what happens when a comet swings around the sun.
1. Free Turkey – Thanks to the generousity of other Americans, l can enjoy a hot Thanksgiving dinner without spending any money or doing any cooking. I know this sounds very callous, but with every avaiable nickel going towards putting a roof over my head, the chance of going to a place like the Salvation Army to enjoy my hot sliced turkry and pumpkin pie is wonderful. Maybe next year I will be in a position, where I can contribute more.
2. Good Health – Even though I somedays walk as many as ten miles on my local rounds, I am grateful that I am able to do this without any discomfort or pain. Many others ( some of them much younger than me) are not so fortunate.
3. Thursday Afternoon Football – Another decadent pleasure that seems to have become a mainstay of the fourth Thursday in November.
4. Spiced Eggnog – This goes well with #3. I like the store-bought version bettrr than the homemade variety that some people work so hard to make.
5. Butternut Squash – Today most commercially produced pumpkin pie is made from the pulp of butternut squash, which is slightly sweeter in taste and lighter in color to real pumpkins.
6. Native American Agriculture – How can one enjoy a Thanksgivinf Day feast without paying tribute to the diverse crops of squash, corn, beans and pumpkins that had been developed in the Americas for so many centuries before the pilgrims arrived.
7. A Sunny Day Here in Santa Fe – This part of the country has justed passed through a wicked winter storm, which dumped a whole bunch of snow and sent night time temperatures. However, the storm has passed, the days are warmer and the mountains are covered with the white stuff. This makes for good skiing, an abundant spring runoff and a pretty holiday sight.
8. A Reprise from Black Friday – Even though I spent the last two weeks on a temporary job helping a new sporting goods store open for Black Friday, I am grateful for the wages already paid and the fact that I don’t have ro work on Friday.
9, Comet ISON – Even though it appears that the comet has broken up (bummer) I am grateful to Hubble, ESO, NASA, SOHO and ISON for keeping an eye on the voyageur from the Oort Cloud.
10. A New Pair of. Blue Jeans – On the Tuesday before T-day a family member mailed me a brand new pair of jeans. They are due to arrive on Saturday.
Johnny Depp the Literary Agent
Johnny Depp is at it again…….and I’m not talking about another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, though it is quite possible that an additional jaunt through the Caribbean is in the works. (Why kill a good thing?) No, what has caught my interest this time is the 2013 release of a Woody Guthrie novel entitled House of Earth. And please don’t use the lame excuse that Mr. Guthrie has been deceased for almost 50 years…..That won’t work. You see Woody Guthrie published two books when he was alive. In case you aren’t aware of these literary efforts, they are titled Bound for Glory and Seeds of Man….and they’re both autobiographical. So it’s no great stretch to surmise that somewhere there’s a half-way-decent Woody Guthrie novel floating around.
Woody Guthrie’s Posthumous Music Release
Mermaid Avenue is the name of the album and it featured Billy Bragg along with a band called Wilco and together they performed and recorded a whole slew of never-before-heard Woody Guthrie tunes. Overall, the collection is pretty good with my favorite being Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, a fun little tune about growing up in Okfusgee County in Oklahoma. What is most amazing about this selection of songs is that the lyrics were left behind by Woody. So without benefit of any musical notations, Billy Bragg took on the task of creating musical folk compositions from the bag of words. The outcome is pretty amazing really……and has resulted in additional compositions from the trove of leftover lyrics held by Woody’s daughter Nora (both by Billy Bragg and other musicians).
Publishing a Novel
Compared to Mermaid Avenue publishing the novel must have been easy. The manuscript had been around since the late forties, a time when Guthrie’s first two books had been released, but the first symptons of Huntington’s disease had not yet begun to show. The novel had been shopped around to various publishing houses, but there were no takers.
Now that the year 2013 has arrived, the book is in print and available in most bookstores. Credit goes out to Johnny Depp and Douglas Brinkley of Infinitum Nihil, who have decided to publish House of Earth, long after it was first finished in1947. Basically, this production company concentrates on film ventures with House of Earth being there first pure literary venture.
What’s Inside House of Earth
I have not read House of Earth, but I do know that the title is a reference to adobe construction, a building method that fascinated Woody Guthrie, when he was alive and well. Also, the storyline of this novel centers on struggles of those who lived through the Dust Bowl, which Woody did in Pampa, Texas. To find out the rest of the details, you’ll just have to read the book……or wait until the movie comes out.
Number Five Entertains
Last week I had a chance to view this year’s release of The Great Gatsby. Overall, it is Hollywood’s fifth attempt at making a great movie out of a great book and who knows whether it will be the last. First of all, let me say I did enjoy the movie. I usually don’t go for films that rely heavily on the new digital technology for special effects, but in the case of this Gatsby version, I found that they added to the story by helping visualize turning back the clock to the roaring twenties. The atmospheric effects obtained through digital manipulation were very good, making you feel that you had been transported back into time.
Revisiting F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is not the only piece of Fitzgerald’s fiction that has produced as a feature length film. The other cinematic effort comes from a short story that Fitzgerald wrote, called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The story was first published by Collier’s magazine in 1922 and then was featured in Tales from the Jazz Age, a collcetion of short stories that was published in the same year. Since this weird and fantastic tale revolves a main character, who was born as an old man and died as a baby, it can be easily placed in the catch-all category of speculative fiction. The 2008 movie featured Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the leading rolls. It did quite well at the box office and has continued to sell as a popular DVD ever since it closed at the movie houses.
Today, this film probably has a larger following than Fitzgerald’s super popular novel, which goes to show that a successful novel does not guarantee a box office smash hit.
My New Nook
I missed the Rum Diary, when it came to the big screen, but since I had read the book several years before the release, I was very interested in how the film turned out. In my case, this meant viewing the movie on my new Nook HD+. Although it took almost two hours to download movie, once I started the feature the movie played uninterrupted until the very end. The picture quality was excellent and the sound was about average. The cost for these two hours of entertainment were just $3.99. (note that I viewed the less expensive SD version, but still found the quality almost identical to the slightly more expensive HD version.
Not Quite Autobiographical
Even though Johny Depp looks only a tad like the late Hunter Thompson, this tale of romance and treachery in the Caribbean is not entirely autobiographical. You see….. Depp never worked at the San Juan Star, he just hung out with a couple of fellas who did. And not surprisingly that hanging out involved a heavy amount of drinking, especially rum, the island favorite. All in all, this combination makers for a good elixir for writing a captivating story which dives into alcoholic despair and the dark side of life.
The vehicles in the Rum Diary are a classy lot, as they almost steal the show. Two are pictured above and two are shown below. Not many realize this but two different makes of automobiles were used to portray the red sports car. Most of the time, a 1958 Austin-Healey was pictured, but sometimes a red 1959 red Corvette was used……(Baby you’re much to fast ).
Three Cheers to Johny Depp
Without the deep interest of Johny Depp, Rum Diary would have never been printed, much less made it to the big screen. Thompson had always wanted to be a novelist, but never made it that far. Instead, his success came from publication of Hell’s Angers and then the even bigger Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His journalistic success even attracted the friendship of a young actor named Johny Depp, who was instrumental in transferring Fear and Loathing to the Silver Screen.
Then while hanging out with Thompson at his Colorado ranch, Johnny Depp discovered the manuscripts of several novels, none of which had ever been published….though they had been shopped around a bit by Thompson before he was rich and famous. So first Depp got the manuscript in front of the right people (agents and publishers) and it became a book. And then with Depp’s help it was made into a movie after Thompson had passed on. So, if anyone complains that Depp has had too much influence, I don’t want to hear it here. It my opinion he has saved a good story.
For some strange reason, Halloween this year has me down and out in the city of Las Vegas Nevada, though not so down and out that I couldn’t afford a cheap motel room for a week (Vegas has lots of good offers in that category) and a night out on the town on All Hallows Eve. (that was last night Oct. 31) For somebody in my position, the choice is not hard to make….Head straight to Fremont St. in the downtown area and check out all the free shows. This includes the live music shows on stage, the street performers, the light show that comes up every hour from 6 p.m. till midnight and the constant parade of costumed partygoers that roam up and down the wide avenue that has mostly become a pedestrian walkway. And if you get thirsty, you can always go inside and buy a cheap beer. Then there are always the ever-present slot machines, which could conceivably pay for your night out. They almost did for me, but even so I enjoyed the evening thoroughly.
During my night out on the town, I had a lot to celebrate and think about. For during that very afternoon I had received an e-mail
from an interested agent about a screenplay I had written about a year and a half ago and circulated through an equerry service back in May. And the strangest thing about all of this was that the person had a physical address and phone number right here in Las Vegas (Did she know I was in town for a few days?). So without any ado and with much excitement, I e-mailed back a reply complete with a brand new synopsis that I had worked two hours on. Today, I received the bad news, a rather lengthy rejection on why she was passing. Still, the brief rush of excitement made my day and at the same time I was glad I had resisted the urge to contact her directly by phone or personal appearance. (It was very tempting)
Do e-query services work?
I’ll address this issue in more detail later, but my first attempt at this much-frowned-on method of querying
yielded surprisingly good results. Though the inquiries were few and far between, I achieved what I hadn’t been able to do by querying on my own … and that is find some legitimate insiders in the film business to read my screenplays. No offer of representation came with these readings, but my limited success was a big improvement from my own direct query efforts.
Velvet Underground No Show
As a college student, I once went to a campus (Syracuse University) rock concert that featured the Velvet Underground along with Boz Scaggs and Nils Lofgren. The Velvet Underground was a no show, but each of the other two put on a knock out show that I have never forgotten. For the longest time I always held that no show against Lou Reed and his fellow musicians. However over the years I have come to realize that the VU failure to appear may not have been such a big mistake. Simply said, it was just the wrong venue for Lou and his fellow members, who were already carving their own path away from the mainstream of Rock’n Roll.
The Bard of Long Island
Actually, Lou was the vanguard of a whole new genre of lyrical poetics that stretched far and wide. Even before his death the number of musicians who claim Reed as major inspiration is astounding. Reed’s influence embraced such diverse musicians as Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Nick Cave, Patti Smith and Robbie Robertson. His greatest track, Walk On the Wild Scene, is still popular today and is widely regarded as a successful blending of poetry and popular music.
Where It Is Now
Various astronomical publications are now reporting that Comet ISON can now b seen by backyard astronomers as it races through the sky towards its rendezvous with our nearest star, the sun. The comet is still too small to be seen with the naked eye, but amateur astronomers can find the comet by turning their telescopes towards the planet Mars and then searching for the star, Regulus. Those who wish to know the exact hour by hour coordinates can go here.
A Real Sungrazer
We won’t know for sure until after Thanksgiving, if ISON will survive its trip around the sun, but if it does the close pass could turn this comet into a spectacular astronomical event. If it does ISON should remain visible to us earthlings, even those that don’t have telescopes, until the new year. Right now all indications from space observers indicate that ISON will survive its trip around the sun. Let’s hope so, for this comet could add some beautiful fireworks for the holiday season.