The Passing of A Literary Giant

one-hundred-years-of-solitude-by-gabriel-garcia-marquez

Cover for the Marquez novel, One Hundred Tears of Solitude, from Wikipedia

One of Those Rare Reads

Even though I read One Hundred Years of Solitude over 30 years ago, the vivid images and spicy storytelling  still sticks in my mind. Even today, this tragic-comedy from the Caribbean coast of Columbia, counts as one of the most impressive novels that I have ever read. For the English-reading audience, this is a tale that introduced “Magic Realism” to the world, as well as a whole flurry of capitivating Latin American authors. For years, writers like Pablo Neruda, Carlos Fuentes and Jorge Luis Borges had been presenting their slightly skewed version of Hispanic reality to the world; but now with the stories of Marquez came a new label. Loosely defined, magic realism combines the advent of magical happenings with the mundane reality of day-to-day life. Its roots are distinctly Central and South American with authors like Alejo Carpentier, José Ortega y Gasset and Arturo Uslar-Pietri paving the way for a modern group of practitioners that stretches around the globe.

Gabriel_Garcia_Marquez_1984

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wearing a “sombrero vueltiao”, a head garment that is popular along the Caribbean coast of Columbia.

Marquez the Writer

Gabriel (or “Gabo, as he is affectionately known by many) was born in a coastal city of Columbia, called Aracataca. Aracataca is a small, isolated city on the Caribbean, where many of Marquez’s stories are set. The special uniqueness of this  hot tropical land permeates Gabriel’s writing.

The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Wall in Aracatac, Columbia

The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Wall in Aracatac, Columbia

About the Region

Aracataca is a river town located on a South American river of the same name. The coastal lowlands here are hot and humid year round. As a result the area supports an active agricultural commerce that includes bananas, palm oil, sugar cane, cotton and rice. Thanks to the success of the United Fruit Company in cultivating large plantations, the coastal lands  have sometimes fallen under the label of “Banana Republic“. It is from this  isolated birthplace and childhood home that Gabo has fashioned most of his stories.

Marquez and Castro

Marquez and Castro

In early 1959, Gabriel Garcia Marquez went to Cuba as a journalist, covering the revolution that eventually replaced Juan Batista with Fidel Castro. Though not always in complete agreement with the bearded guerilla fighter, the two men became close friends. This alliance on occasion brought criticism from other Latin American writers, who felt that Marquez was ignoring dissidents imprisioned by the Castro regime. Nonetheless, Casteo definitely admired the Columbian author and  is quoted as referring to Marquez as having “the goodness of a child and a cosmic talent.”

Too Bad It Only Happens Every Four Years

Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Sochi, source Kremblin, from Wikipedia
Fireworks at the opening o the 2014 winter Olympics, photo from Kremblin.re courtesy of wilipedia

Fireworks at the opening o the 2014 winter Olympics, photo from Kremblin.re courtesy of wilipedia

Skating Under the Palms

Actually, the competitors are not performing directly under the palms. Instead, the skating events take place underneath the roof of a multi-million dollar sports complex, specially built for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It’s only when the athletes walk outside that they encounter the swaying palms, stately standing beside the shores of the Black Sea. This unusual situation is due to the fact that Sochi is a port city, situated at almost exactly the same latitude as Nice, France……..and much like its Mediterranean counterpart, Sochi is a coastal resort that quickly gives way to massive 5,000 foot peaks, which are snow-covered during the winter months. This is where all the alpine events take place….at a previous existing ski resort, called Roza Khutor located at Krasnaya, Polyana.   

The ski resort of Roza Khutor at Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, Russia, photo from wikipedia.

The ski resort of Roza Khutor at Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, Russia, photo from wikipedia.

Most Expensive Olympics Ever

The original sum allotted by the Russians for building and improving the Olympic site came in at 12 billion. However, that figure has been far surpassed with the total cost estimate now exceeding 50 billion. No host nation has ever spent this much on a sporting event that only lasts two weeks. Nonetheless, the facilities will undoubtedly remain in place for many years to come, so that many other sporting events can take place at these sites.

Promenade_and_beach_in_Sochi during the summertime

Promenade and beach in Sochi during the summertime
photo by RIA Novosti archive, from wikipedia

On Second Thought

Considering all the money that Russia has poured into building the appropriate sports venues, hotels and even upgrading the electric grid for Sochi and the surrounding area, it is probably a good thing that these world events only occur every four years. Not only does this save money, but also the extra time allows  athletes plenty of time to train and prepare for the various contests. Besides the four year wait adds to the drama, when finally the next set of games rolls around and viewers from all around the world can watch the action and rout for their favorite participants and nation (and or nations).

Go Team USA.

Russian ruble printed for Sochi Winter Olympics, from Wikipedia

Sochi Russian ruble printed for Sochi Winter Olympics, from Wikipedia

Knee-deep In Garbage, Firing Rockets at the Moon ( remembering Pete Seeger)

A Trip to the Moon  Image Credit: Georges Méliès, Wikipedia

A Trip to the Moon
Image Credit: Georges Méliès, Wikipedia

“There is hope for the world,” Pete Seeger

The Irascible Troubadour

Pete Seeger first heard the banjo, while traveling through the southern Appalachians with his mother and his stepfather. As it turned out, Pete’s love for the strange sound made by the five-stringed instrument would become a lifetime obsession that would carry him around the world. After working with the prominent folklorist, Alan Lomax, Pete went on to perform with the Weavers. However, Pete’s left-leaning political persuasions caught up with him during the McCarthy era, when he was blacklisted and even imprisoned for a while. The irascible troubadour emerged from the harsh experience to become one of America’s most well-known folksingers and protest performers. After becoming a stalwart of the sixties civil rights and anti-war musical scene, Pete moved on to meet the demands of a worldwide audience.

Pete Seeger at age 88, from Wikipedia, photo by Anthony Pepitone

Pete Seeger at age 88, from Wikipedia, photo by Anthony Pepitone

A Legend Passes On

I saw the headline on the internet the other day. Pete Seeger had died in his sleep at age 94. My first reaction was quite simple……. One can be a rabble rouser and professional shit-stirrer and still live to a ripe old age. And then there is the corollary theory that it is also possible to make a decent living by singing protest songs. Joan Baez did it, Bob Dylan did it, Phil Ochs did it, but nobody did it quite like Pete Seeger….or for as long.

Flash Music

Nowadays we have flash fiction, but Mr. Seeger, the wandering folksinger, was doing the abbreviated musical version, long before the internet made brevity the status quo. Nothing sticks in my mind better than a one line song he sang on one of the late night talk shows (probably Johnny Carson). I think the song went  like this; “Here we are knee-deep in garbage, firing rockets at the moon”. That was it….one line and the song was over and flash music was invented. And Pete had made his point, as only the roving minstrel could do.

Important Update

Nowadays, our rockets at the moon have gotten much more sophisticated. If you don’t believe me, just check out the impressive images sent back to earth by the Hubblecraft, the Cassini spacecraft and the Mars Rover. However, we are still knee-deep in garbage. And the problem seems to be growing.

Pete Seeger’s Favorite Quote

“It is very dangerous to allow the wrong kind of music in the republic”,  Plato.

My Favorite Pete Seeger Quote

“Don’t let your schoolin’ get in the way of your education,” Pete Seeger.

The Red Rectangle Nebula from Hubble  Image Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA; Reprocessing: Steven Marx, Hubble Legacy Archive

The Red Rectangle Nebula from Hubble
Image Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA; Reprocessing: Steven Marx, Hubble Legacy Archive

Congratulations to the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks

The New Meadowland Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the first ever Jets-Giants pre-season game in 2010, from Wikipedia

The New Meadowland Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the first ever Jets-Giants pre-season game in 2010, from Wikipedia

The League Champions

I know this is a bit late, but I would still like to congratulate the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks on their respective AFC and NFC championship victories last Sunday. In just over a week these two teams will meet in New Jersey to decide the pro football champion. This is Superbowl XLVIII and the contest will be a bit of an experiment, as it is the first Super Bowl set in an outdoor, cold weather stadium.

Nothing like this 1966 North Dakota blizzard will affect Super Bowl XLVIII, photo by N.D. Highway Dept., from wikipedia

Nothing like this 1966 North Dakota blizzard will affect Super Bowl XLVIII, photo by N.D. Highway Dept., from wikipedia

What To Expect

Weather-wise the days preceding Superbowl XLVIII look to be bitter cold and windy, but temperatures should moderate by game day with a game time temperature expected to be just above freezing with no precipitation in the forecast. This should allow for a classic showdown between Peyton Manning’s high octane aerial attack and the much-praised secondary of the Seahawks.

Punxsatawney Phil will not attend Super Bowl XLVIII, even though the game is being played on Groundhog's Day, photo from CNN

Punxsatawney Phil will not attend Super Bowl XLVIII, even though the game is being played on Groundhog’s Day, photo from CNN

Superbowl Sunday On Groundhog’s Day

No way around it, this is an unlikely meeting of two unique American events, which have almost nothing in common. Contrary to popular belief Punxsatawney Phil, Buckeye Chuck (Ohio), General Beauregard Lee (Georgia), Sir Walter Wally (North Carolina) or Wiarton Willie (Ottawa) will not be in attendance during thee popular sporting contest……..though the likeness of any of these rodents may be seen in the stands during the game.

However, there is an outside possibility that the real Staten Island Chuck, who resides in NYC, may make an actual appearance and subsequent weather prediction. Then again it has been reported that Chuck is very disappointed that since neither the Giants or Jets have made it to the big showdown, he may by-pass the whole affair……..And for those of you who may opt for an appearance at the annual Groundhog’s Day celebration in Punxsatawney, instead of the late-afternoon grid-iron contest, all indications suggest that the formal Pennsylvania event will be just as popular as ever. In fact, due to the close proximity of the two locales, avid party-goers will be able to attend both happenings if they so choose.

And Rough Is a Might Tame Name, drawing of bucking bronc by Will james

“And Rough Is a Might Tame Name”, drawing of bucking bronc by Will James

My Prediction

I expect Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to win the superbowl, but the reasoning behind this prediction is rather unusual. Actually, it is based on a very strong phenomena called sibling rivalry. You see since Peyton’s brother, Eli, has two Super Bowl victories (and MVP awards) and Peyton has only one. So,  I would look for Peyton to even the score on Sunday evening. I know it takes a lot more than a good quarterback to win a football game much less a Super Bowl (just look at Archie Manning’s struggle as a NFL QB). But still, when all is said and done, I figure that Peyton Manning, with the inspired help of the entire Broncos squad, will find a way to get it done. I guess you might say that this is the weird nature of sibling rivalry.

There’s No Such Thing As An Original Story

Originally posted on Offbeat and Quirky:

Painting of Adam and Eve inside Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia photo by Bernard Gagnon from Wikipedia

Painting of Adam and Eve inside Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia
photo by Bernard Gagnon from Wikipedia

The Ancient Art of Storytelling

My guess is that storytelling has been around for a very long time, perhaps just about as long as the world’s oldest profession. Who knows the first story ever told may be directly located to the practice of the first profession. Anyway, stories  are very old, as exemplified by the pictured mural of Adam and Eve, one of the oldest stories in the bible. However, it is most likely storytelling predates some of the oldest biblical tales, for I’m sure that the ancient hunters and gathering had lots to say around the campfire at night.

Many modern tales can find their roots in the plays of William Shakespeare, painting of William Shakespeare by John Taylor

Many modern tales can find their roots in the plays of William Shakespeare, painting of William Shakespeare by John Taylor

Catchy Phrase

Today I’m stuck in Santa Fe, NM waiting for a bus, so I thought I…

View original 341 more words

There’s No Such Thing As An Original Story

Painting of Adam and Eve inside Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia photo by Bernard Gagnon from Wikipedia

Painting of Adam and Eve inside Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia
photo by Bernard Gagnon from Wikipedia

The Ancient Art of Storytelling

My guess is that storytelling has been around for a very long time, perhaps just about as long as the world’s oldest profession. Who knows the first story ever told may be directly located to the practice of the first profession. Anyway, stories  are very old, as exemplified by the pictured mural of Adam and Eve, one of the oldest stories in the bible. However, it is most likely storytelling predates some of the oldest biblical tales, for I’m sure that the ancient hunters and gathering had lots to say around the campfire at night.

Many modern tales can find their roots in the plays of William Shakespeare, painting of William Shakespeare by John Taylor

Many modern tales can find their roots in the plays of William Shakespeare, painting of William Shakespeare by John Taylor

Catchy Phrase

Today I’m stuck in Santa Fe, NM waiting for a bus, so I thought I would spend the day browsing the library. While doing so, I came across a book on screenplays written by a man named Wells Root and published in 1979. Thumbing through the book I was amazed as to how relevant the written passages were, even though, the most recently mentioned movie was the Midnight Cowboy, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. One of the chapters was titled, “There’s No Such Thing As An Original Movie’ and this, has now become the inspiration for this post. According to Mr. Root, there was a college professor who bet his students that they could not find a truly original screenplay or movie. Supposedly, the teacher never had to pay up on his challenge.

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, from Wikipedia

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, from Wikipedia

Is Aristotle Still Important?

Aristotle and his three acts was in important in 1979 and is still important today. And thanks to a popular little book about screenwritng, called Save the Cat, Aristotle actually may be making a comeback among writers and storytellers. And somehow recent trends show that the three act formula first put forth by Aristotle way back when and perfected by Hollywood late in the 20th century is just as strong as ever. Furthermore, American movies have become so rigid in their structure that more experimentation and breakaways from the magic formula may be in order.

Illustration for Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane  from Wikipedia

Illustration for Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane from Wikipedia

36 Types of Stories

Since Wells Root was co-screenwriters for one of my favorite western comedies, Texas Across the River, I delved into his book as best I could. One of the more interesting ideas he espoused was the concept that stories had be broken down into 36 different types. This idea is nothing new, it’s just that a concrete number has not often assigned to the varieties of tall tales that a screenwriter may draw from. Even Wikipedia has devoted a page to the theory of story classification…… So there you go….that’s what I learned at the library today.

Little Big Man Revisited

The Custer Fight, painting by Charles Marion Russell

The Custer Fight, painting by Charles Marion Russell

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. 

Smoke Signals poster for the Miramax film by the same name

Smoke Signals poster for the Miramax film by the same name

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”.

Chief Dan George from Wikipedia

Chief Dan George from Wikipedia

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.

The Newcomers

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.

The Shootout by Red and Grooms portrays the Cowboy and Indian fight in humorous terms.

The Shootout by Red and Grooms portrays the Cowboy and Indian fight in humorous terms.

Indian Humor

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”.

Throwing In the Towel

NGC 1999: South of Orion  Image Data: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope,  Additional Color Data and Processing: Robert Gendler

NGC 1999: South of Orion
Image Data: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope,
Additional Color Data and Processing: Robert Gendler

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.

Image by H. Koppdelaney

Image by H. Koppdelaney

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.

Image by H. Koppdelaney

Image by H. Koppdelaney

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.

The On-again Off-again Comet ISON Is Fading Away

Comet ISON as captured by Trappist of ESO

Comet ISON near its brightest on Nov. 15, 2013 as captured by Trappist of ESO

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.

This image is NGC 6543 known as the Cat's Eye Nebula.  (X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)

This image is NGC 6543 known as the Cat’s Eye Nebula. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)

Ten Things I’m Happy To Celebrate On Turkey Day

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.