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.

Using Kickstarter

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA….For some taking the plunge into self publishing, the first step may be a bit  like spacewalking

Taking The Plunge

It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.

Content

Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those who are willing to purchase and read an e-book. This might sound like a no-brainer to many writers, but keep in mind that there is a lot of well-written, highly-conceived material that receives little attention by readers. In other words, to draw the interest of readers you have to hit the right chord that will make that person purchase your e-book. This is just as true for the short story priced at 99 cents, as it is for the full-sized novel that runs in the ten dollar range.

The Writer Glut

As time goes on, literary sales to owners of electronic reading devices may become more difficult as the numbers of authors attempting to self-publish increases and the number of e-book  readers levels off. This is just a matter of  numerical reality and common sense. Nowadays, when I put I put up a new title on Smashwords, it is off the charts (relegated to page 5 or greater) in a few hours. Back when Smashwords was just starting out, a newly published e-book would stay visible (in the first several pages of listings) for a few days.

Reversing The Trend

However, all is not lost for the newbie writer, for there are several ways to beat the odds and gain a loyal following. Let’s assume for a minute that you have already found a small niche with a couple of written pieces that readers respond to in a positive way, which hopefully includes an occasional purchase or two. From here the next step will be to bring more people into your readership base.

The best way to do this is to self-publish more work, while at the same time, letting everybody know about your newest release. Currently, blogging and participating in other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., are the best methods to get the word out……. And hopefully along the way, something that you wrote goes viral and you become the latest internet sensation…….BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT……for slow and steady seems to be the rule of the day.

Going The Kickstarter Route

So far I have been working on the assumption that you are doing everything, like editing, proofreading, cover design and formatting, on your own. If you aren’t, good thinking because bringing talented personnel to help out with these tasks can be a big boost to the way your final product appears to the prospective buyer. It can also be a big drain on your bank account.

This is where funding sites like Kickstarter can be an essential aid to the newbie self-publisher, because by the time your first publication is ready to go live, you will be more of a publisher than a writer. However, the plus side to all of this, is that going through a public crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter will force you to plan ahead and seek good graphic designers, formatters, proofreaders and whoever may be required to get your little literary effort looking ship-shape. And then again another big advantage, is that once your project goes live, your potential readership will grow from the ranks of those who choose to support your project. And that my friends is a win-win situation.

contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride,

Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride.

 

 

Keeping Up With the Times

The Silent Fisherman by N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was a painter, whose exquisite artwork was done primarily for illustrations in books and magazines.

The Silent Fisherman by N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was a painter, whose exquisite artwork was done primarily for illustrations in books and magazines.

The Weird World of the Internet

Things seem to change and evolve at a faster rate than they did back in the good ole days. For example, I never imagined that I would live to see the word ‘google’ become a common verb. I remember learning about the numerical concept behind a google in math class. It was quite mind- boggling, but so is the way we commonly use this scientific term to define an internet search technique. Who knows what the future may bring?

Looking Back

I’m also old enough to have been in grade school when JFK was shot and killed. The whole spectacle, from assassination to burial, became a drawn-out media event unlike anything that had been seen before on TV. ( I was actually watching the tube when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot) Furthermore, the event galvanizing the news media into realizing how much interest can be generated by an extraordinary event like the assassination of an American president and consequently how much time people will invest in following a major news story.

Books In the Electronic Age

Things have changed a lot since the sixties and one of the biggest differences has been the arrival of digital communication. This change also includes something new, called the electronic book, more commonly known as the ebook. Fortunately, today, we still have book stores and book vendors who still actual books made from cellulose paper products. These items have attractive covers, brief promotional blurbs from famous people, some info about the author and a good story. Overall, this piece of merchandise is basically unchanged except the cover artist may have created a cover design containing state of the art digital design.

You Still Can Judge A Book By Its Cover

Surprisingly, e-books still have a lot in common with their paper cousin, the tree book. The cover is meant to catch your eye and draw you in. It is also heavily influenced by digital art, especially since the image must be converted to digital form, so it can be viewed online and eventually be downloaded to your computer or electronic reading device. Not only will the cover be influenced by the new digital design techniques, but writing styles in the electronic age are evolving as well. It still takes a good story to capture a reader, but more and more, the shorter literary forms (such as novellas, flash fiction and short-shorts) are ding a better job at gaining the reader’s attention.

And One More Thing

With the advent of the new media, authors are discovering that the first paragraph and even the first sentence are so important in capturing then reader’s attention. Though a lengthy, wordy and highly descriptive beginning may be still be an important literary achievement, it still might lose the average reader and thus be a detriment to higher sales.

Today's digital imagery not only changes the way we visualize a picture and an idea, but it also changing our reading habits.

Today’s digital imagery not only changes the way we visualize a picture and an idea, but it also changing our reading habits.

(Unfortunately) There Will Always Be A Need For Memorial Day

A replica of the Vietnam Wall as seen in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on Memorial Day

A replica of the Vietnam Wall as seen in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on Memorial Day

A Vietnam Memorial and a Photograph

When American Indians from the West first encountered American photographers and their bulky cameras, the natives often referred to the picture-making device (and photographer) as a shadow catcher. And as a matter of fact, cameras can capture a person as well as their shadow. Furthermore, shadows can be portrayed in all sorts of ways from sinister or ghastly to benign or even humorous. Just a quick look through the annals of fine art photographers will reveal quite a few images of people with all types of dark forms following the main subject around.

When I made the above picture, I was concentrating on the actual names on the wall and the small American flags displayed in front of the wall. The appearance of the shadows and the reflection of the people inside the wall gave this picture a supernatural atmosphere that was totally unplanned. However, over time, I have grown to like both the shadows and the reflection, as I now see these dark shapes as being more transcendental than any thing else.

Not The Real Thing

If you look closely at the people standing next to the Vietnam Wall, you might notice that they make the wall seem small. This is not an illusion, because this is actually a half-scale replica wall that is set up at various places around the country, so people, who do not have the time or money to travel to the nation’s capitol, can see a very accurate replica. This picture happens to have been taken in Old Orchard Beach, Maine almost ten years ago. This situation also underscores the sad fact that our need to remember the war dead can barely keep up with our ability to put soldiers in armed conflicts.

 

A Brief History

Memorial Day occurs tomorrow on Monday. OK it’s not the real Memorial Day. That occurs on May 30th…this coming Saturday. But the New and Improved of Memorial Day does come around this Monday….And as always, it is a good time to remember those who have sacrificed their life in armed conflict. And don’t forget remembrance of the war dead should not be limited to national holidays.

The custom of placing flowers on the graves of soldiers probably exists for as long as there has been organized warfare. However, our Memorial Day seems closely tied to our very own Civil War (or War Between the States as it is sometimes called), for during this bloody conflict advances in military weapons and techniques outpaced improvements in medical treatment. The result was over 600,000 dead and for both sides the task of remembering the dead was monumental. For the rest of the 19th century each side had its own Memorial Day. Then came the 20th century with more wars and war dead and so the custom merged as one and became a national holiday.

Today

Today we have the exact opposite situation, as we faced during the Civil War. Medical treatment has taken giant strides forward, while our ability to maim and kill seems to have taken a big step backward, especially with the rise of car bombings and other terrorist  techniques in the Middle East…….at least that’s the way I see it in this current year (2015).

The American still flies and can be found in many locations, both indoors and outdoors, photo by author

The American flag still flies and can be found in many locations, both indoors and outdoors, photo by author from Minneapolis, MN

 

Why Creative Writing Is Like Playing In An Empty Baseball Stadium!

During and following the recent Baltimore riots, Camden Yard, home of the Orioles, hosted several major league games, where no fans were allowed to attend

During and following the recent Baltimore riots, Camden Yard, home of the Orioles, hosted several major league games, where no fans were allowed to attend

The Event

The recent death of Freddie Gray of Baltimore sparked a series of events that evolved into something more than just an expression of civil disobedience concerning police brutality. The end result was more like a series of protests, where some of the events turned into riots, requiring a police and national guard presence. I know that the whole situation sounds bad, but I do recall as a high school student in the very same city, we received an unscheduled school holiday, when Martin Luther King was assassinated and parts of the city were embroiled in major rioting and looting. And in those days the issues were probably more elevated and intense than recent events, yet despite the seemingly uncontrolled venting of rage, change did come to the city. Even with the recent events in Baltimore, there does seem to be a pathway available to address some of the public issues.

A Bizarre Picture

However, one of the most striking (and surreal) images of the recent riots was the pictures of the Orioles baseball games, where no fans were allowed to attend because of the possibility of disruptive outbursts directly related to what was going on in the streets of Baltimore. When I first saw the pictures of the empty stadium on the news, my thoughts did not go to the street protests, but to the baseball players, who were continuing their professional game, even though no one was present in the sports arena. And it was here that I saw a situation that I could relate to…….more than any picture that emerged from the Baltimore conflict.

scene of players emerging from cornfield in the Field of Dreams movie

scene of players emerging from cornfield in the Field of Dreams movie

Later On

Currently, the games have resumed at Camden Yards and legal charges have been brought against six city police officers in regards to the death of the one person who was in police custody. I have no idea how relations between the city police and the city minorities will evolve, but I do believe that the baseball season in this city will return to normal, if it hasn’t already.

The Analogy or Why Writing Can Be Like Playing In An Empty Stadium

For those writers in the audience, especially those that are just starting out, they may often find themselves in a situation, where the only people aware of their creative activities are those, who are also in the game. This is quite normal for anybody, trying to pursue a writing career or for someone participating in any of the other arts. Perhaps, the most important point here, is that this should not affect how one plays the game. For I’m sure that on those cool days of late April and early May, when not a soul was ateending the game in person, the participants were still playing just as hard and using their athletic skills to the best of their ability. In other words the presence of an audience doesn’t matter, all that much.

Writing Really Is a Field of Dreams

Further contemplation upon this subject leads to the appreciation of one of my favorite baseball movies of all times, Field of Dreams. Not only does this film feature a wild-eyed dreamer, who wants an audience for his game, but also there is this savvy older writer, who understands the game all too well. Maybe one of the most memorial images in the movie is when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are watching a major league contest, while discussing the issues of the day. In other words, they know how to be part of the audience, though the their goals might be much bigger. And here is what I am trying to say, and that is as a writer (or artist) you cannot be too concerned with your audience……just concentrate on your skills as a player. That’s all you can do….the rest is up to fate.

Yankee Stadium on a busy day

Yankee Stadium on a busy day

 

 

Don’t Write What You Do Know, Write What You Don’t Know

Even though N.C. Wyeth was born too late (1882) to know any actual pirates, his paintings and illustrations of these colorful characters still inspire viewers today.

Even though N.C. Wyeth was born too late (1882) to know any actual pirates, his paintings and illustrations of these colorful characters still inspire viewers today. This illustration was first published in Treasure Island.

You might say that writing memoir is like pirating your own life.

Quotation From Toni Morrison

“When I taught creative writing at Princeton, my students had been told all of their lives to write what they knew. I always began the course by saying, “Don’t pay any attention to that.” First, because you don’t know anything and second, because I don’t want to hear about your true love and your mama and your papa and your friends.”  by Toni Morrison

Good-bye To The Memoir

Everyone seems to start out writing memoir,  and perhaps…….the unfortunate ones get successful at it. Look at Jack Kerouac. His second novel On the Road was a smash hit. It even got him on national TV……but at age 47, Jack was dead, victim of severe alcohol abuse. Jack London didn’t fare much better after his series of successful fiction and non-fiction titles. I’m sure everyone has read the short story, To Build a Fire, but how many know that he died at a young age of 40 from a complication of various medical problems including alcoholism.

Now it’s also very possible that having the name of Jack may have lead to the early demise of these successful authors, but no matter how you feel about this premise, I still think that evolution beyond the first person narrative is a good thing for a writer. Just by looking at the lives of famous authors, you might postulate that writing the truth can be a difficult thing to outlive.

Recent picture of Toni Morrison

Recent picture of Toni Morrison

Say Hello To an Octogenarian Novelist and College Professor

Her name is Toni Morrison and she teaches fiction writing at Princeton University. She is also a Nobel Prize (1993 for Literature) recipient and her 11th novel, called God Help the Child, is due to be released this month and is probably already on the bookstands. (Sorry I haven’t been to a bookstore lately, so I can’t verify this.) In a recent interview with her old editor and collaborator, Alan Rinzler, Toni delves into how it is important for young writers to get away from the old concept of “write what you know” and venture into the brave new world of “write what you don’t know”. This may be an invaluable piece of advice for writers regardless of age or experience level.

Maybe It’s Better To Fib A Little

So, what’s the moral of the story here. Well, it goes like this. If you fib a little bit, then you might live longer. It’s kinda like eating hard candy and drinking red wine. That is when done in moderation these things, which are supposed to be bad for you actually relieve some of your stress, thus leading to a longer life.

A very imaginative painting by N.C. Wyeth, entitled Giant

A very imaginative painting by N.C. Wyeth, entitled Giant

This surreal painting is simply called Giant. It was done by the master illustrator and painter, N.C. Wyeth. Just in case you’ve never heard of Newell Convers Wyeth he is the first generation of that famous American triad, which also features Andrew and Jamie. If you ever get a chance to see this painting in person, go do it. You won’t regret it, for this is an impressive, large oil painting that will most likely completely take over any space where it is exhibited.