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.

Why We Read (and write) Horror

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”  by Stephen King

The Joker from the Dark Knight

The Joker from the Dark Knight

Those Terrifying Flying Monkeys

I have a confession to make…….I could not watch The Wizard of Oz all the way through until I was 14 years old. It was always the flying monkeys that would send me running away from the TV set and into another room, where I would bide my time reading a book or some such activity until the movie ended. Even my younger brothers were able to sit through the whole movie before I was able to. Why I was so terrified of these fictional animals I do not know, I just know that there was something very primal in them that frightened the Dickens out of me.

In fact, we all seem to have a few basic fears that storytellers from past ages to the present have tried to exploit. And as Stephen King expressed in the opening quote, their motive may not always be financial, for there is also the innate need to develop an effective way to prepare ourselves for any misfortune or disaster, which are bound to come our way from time to time.

Living In the City Where Stephen King Was Born

For over ten years I lived in the city where Stephen King was born, Portland, Maine. And to be honest, the place is a beautiful city on a series of hills that overlooks a saltwater bay. The port has picturesque lighthouses, ocean-going freighters and popular seafood restaurants that specialize in boiled lobsters. Not by any stretch of the imagination can Portland be considered a dark-spirited place. So where did King get his stories. They must have been internalized.

King’s Memoir Almost Comes Home To Haunt Him

Stephen King’s book On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, started out just like any other book on writing. Put rear end in chair and type. But then a demon showed up, a middle-aged man in a SUV. Accident or not, he ran Mr. King over and near killed the famed author. As a result, On Writing differs from other treatises on the same subject, because the details of Mr. King’s horrendous accident and miraculous recovery become part of the story. Even Mr. King could not escape his own stories.

Quotes On Horror

“There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of hell.”  by Edgar Allan Poe

“[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” by Clive Barker

“Most of the laugh tracks on television were recorded in the early 1950s. These days, most of the people you hear laughing are dead.”  by Chuck Palahniuk

“It’s a dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?”  by Stephen King

“Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called.”  by Remy de Gourmont

“I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times.” Robert Bloch, Psycho

“The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.”  by  Frederic Brown

“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them within our range.”  H.P. Lovecraft,  The Thing On the Doorstep

“It’s not the books of Stephen King that I read,

I need protection from the things in my head….”  by Jimmy Buffett

“Imagination, of course, can open any door – turn the key and let terror walk right in.”  by Truman Capote from In Cold Blood

A scene from The Wizard of Oz, where a winged monkey takes an order from one of the witches

A scene from The Wizard of Oz, where a winged monkey takes an order from one of the witches

The Day After the Oscars

A Collage of Gowns from 2015

A Collage of Gowns from 2015

The Morning After

I woke up this morning and was surprised to learn that last night was Oscar night. I don’t think I missed very much and it came as no surprise that this years awards had the least number viewers in six years. The 2015 awards have also been criticized as the “whitest” group of nominees since 1998. Also by the looks of things, the array of colorful gowns were probably the most conservative in quite a while. A sign of the changing times……..or perhaps just coincidence. My thoughts are that one year does not make a trend. Over the past decade black actors and actresses have been fairly well represented at the podium, while their Hispanic and Asian counterparts have been much less conspicuous. And Native American participants have been almost non-existent. It’s too soon to tell if this is a trend, but if this continues over the next few years, the people who put on the show may have to do some re-thinking.

Highlights

Just from looking around the web on the morning after, the highlights can be described in one short sentence. Birdman won best picture and screenwriter, Graham Moore, gave an impassioned speech about his main subject, Alan Turing and the screenplay he wrote for the Imitation Game. Other than that the Oscars may have been more routine than usual.

Is There More Competition Out There

Naturally, the question arose in my mind about whether the increased presence of Indie films and online venues such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu is taking its toll on our much-cherished national institution. Just from what I’ve seen of Amazon Prime, I would say that there may be something to this argument. Especially, Amazon, which seems to be gearing up in a big way to possibly challenge the dominance of Hollywood……or at the very least providing a viable alternative in the way we are entertained.

Two Questionable Films

Fifty Shades of Grey is tearing up box office sales at the theater almost in the same that the story did, when it was first released in book form. However, at the Oscars, the film was kind of snubbed (though Dakota Johnson did get to present an award). Besides being snubbed the film has been attacked as being misogynistic and misguided. There have even been boycott efforts, but these appear to have little effect, as the film is still the number one grossing film in its second week at the box office. However, 50 Shades did receive support from one star, Julie Andrews, who said she didn’t mind a red room of pain. (really)

And the other source of controversy is the recently released action/thriller called The Kingsman, in which there is a scene, where the head of a black president explodes. Critics here point out that the resemblance to our current Commander-in-Chief is way too close even if it is, just a movie.

It seems to be that a close look at these two questionable films may be symptomatic as to why Hollywood may have a problem with the content and overall caliber of its product. Only time will tell.

 

M104: The Sombrero Galaxy  Image Data: NASA, ESO , NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli - Processing: R. Colombari

M104: The Sombrero Galaxy
Image Data: NASA, ESO , NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli – Processing: R. Colombari

 

 

February Is Black History Month

A primitive-style painting by W.H. Johnson of WWII soldiers, Training for War

A 20th century painting by W.H. Johnson of WWII soldiers, Training for War. William Henry Johnson was an African-American painter, who studied modernism in NYC and Paris, where he developed his popular primitive style.

Monthly Themes

Nowadays, it seems that every month of the year has at least several attached themes that are designed to inspire the enlightened person to take at least a small glimpse outside the world, which surrounds them. February is no exception, for this winter month has several themes associated with it. February is Children’s Dental Health Month, Cholangiocarcinoma Awareness Month, Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, Senior Independence Month, National Bird-feeding Month and last but not least is National Condom Month. Nonetheless, by far the most widely known theme for this, the shortest month of the year is Black History Month.

The Slave Ship was done by the English painter, JWM Turner, in 1840 during the heyday of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Based on the real life event, whereabouts an English sea captain through over a hundred slaves overboard on a trans-Atlantic voyage  to the New World, this piece of art helped raise awareness to the horrors of the booming business of importing African slaves to the Americas.

The Slave Ship was done by the English painter, JWM Turner, in 1840 during the heyday of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Based on the real life event, whereabouts an English sea captain through over a hundred slaves overboard on a trans-Atlantic voyage to the New World, this piece of art helped raise awareness to the horrors of the booming business of importing African slaves to the Americas.

Black History

No matter how you look at it, Black History is inevitably linked to slavery. Even though African slaves had been brought to Europe and other places before Columbus,
the transatlantic travels of the great explorer opened the door for the slave trade. Beginning in 1502, Portuguese
and Spanish ships routinely carried slaves from Africa to the New World. Even though black slavery in America
ended in 1863, the aftereffects and legacy of this human condition still carries on into the present. And this is the essence of American black history.

Barrack Obama was the first black president elected to the White House. He took the oath of office in 2009 and will leave the White House in January 2017.

Barrack Obama was the first black president elected to the White House. He took the oath of office in 2009 and will leave the White House in January 2017.

Beyond Slavery

There is a lot more to Black History than just slavery, especially if you consider that the Emancipation Act was passed just over a 150 years ago.
Since then, the essence of Black History has been about urban migration, de-segregation of the schools, voting rights, equal pay and fair housing.
Also of importance, has been the individual accomplishments of various individuals from the black community. This includes not only politicians,
like our current president, but also, a long list of athletes, actors, musicians, visual artists and authors.

Writing A Story About Black History

Anybody can write a story about Black History. Mark Twain explored new ground with his colorful 19th century
story of Huck Finn and Jim (a runaway slave) and their journey down the mighty Mississippi. Their journey did not end in freedom for Jim, but the struggles
of the two vagabonds has captured the hearts and minds of many readers, ever since the novel was first published in 1884. Since then many literary works,
songs and films have dealt with the sensitive subject of race relations in America. A list of other such classics, viewed from a white viewpoint might include
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Go Down Moses by William Faulkner and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
In fact, February might be a good month to read one of these classics, but don’t stop here for there are many books that have been published
over the years that deal with this important subject.

Two Offbeat American Holidays…..Back To Back

A Super Bowl stadium collaged with two images depicting Groundhog Day

A Super Bowl stadium collaged with two images depicting Groundhog Day

Winter

Winter is 13 weeks long….and depending where you live – this can be a short 13 weeks or a very long thirteen weeks. Also part of the equation is whether you enjoy outdoor winter sports……or not. For an avid skier, a warm winter with no snow can make for a very long winter and an economically bad season, as well, especially…. if he or she happens to be employed with the ski industry. However, for the most of the rest of us, it is a long ways from the winter solstice to the spring equinox. Perhaps, this explains why there are so many joyous holiday within this time period. Without Christmas, New Years Day, Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day, this quarter of the year would be a whole lot, less bearable.

Midwinter

Strangely enough,  two of our most offbeat holidays occur right at the midwinter mark. In fact, this year they fall on consecutive days. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhogs Day, which just happen to respectively occur on the first and second day of February. The combination of the two just might maks for a great way to revel in the fact that winter is half over.

Bad Year For the NFL

A recent news story about the jurors in the Aaron Hernandez trial illustrates just how low the NFL has fallen during the current season. Judy Garsh, judge for the Hernandez trial, has ruled that the jurors can watch the Super Bowl, only if the name of Aaron Hernandez is not mentioned. And, if one of the newscasters has a slip of the tongue, then the unlucky viewers will  have to turn the game off. Now that’s bizarre. Combine this situation with all the sex abuse allegations and the recent deflate-gate controversy surrounding the Patriots victory over the Colts and it becomes quite clear that the NFL commissioners (and many fans as well) with have very good reason to celebrate Groundhogs Day on Monday. Yeah!!!! the season’s finally over.

A Cult Movie Accents an Offbeat Holiday

Look through the comedy section of any movie DVD store (or online site) and you will see hundreds of listings with catchy titles that fail to deliver. Strangely enough, one of the perennial favorites is Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. When first released in 19992, the movie was well received and got favorable reviews. Since then the film has grown in stature, so that nowadays, the popular fantasy fare is consistently listed as one of the top ten comedies and sometimes even included as one of the ten best films ever. So if you have yet to see this film, you might want to give it a viewing. And if one of the announcers slips up and mentions Aaron Hernandez’s name, you can show solidarity with the 18 jurors and turn off the sports contest and put on the groundhog movie.

Qui est Charlie Hebdo, exactement?

Danger, Smile!!!  photo by author

Danger, Smile!!! photo by author

The Charlie Hebdo Affair

Even though it’s been several weeks since the horrific killing at the weekly newspaper office and the kosher grocery store in Paris, the fictional character of Charlie Hebdo is still making headlines around the world. The main reason for Charlie Hebdo remaining in the news is that street demonstrations in many parts of the world are still erupting, especially in nations with large Muslim populations. For the most part the mass protests have been peaceful, but on occasion violence and even deaths have resulted from the public actions.  Even when these demonstrations and acts of violence have come to pass, the name of Charlie Hebdo will be one that is not soon forgotten.

Not So French

When I first heard the news about the attack on the newspaper offices, my first reaction was where did this name come from. Part of my surprise comes from the fact that I have traveled in France and Quebec, and even though my comprehension of the language is not very good, I knew enough to surmise that this is not a common French expression. Charles DeGaulle, now that is French, but Charlie Hebdo, who in the hell is he????

News Flashes Leave Unanswered Questions

Unfortunately, this news story did not end with the dozen people killed at the magazine office. Sadly to say, a couple of days later another killing spree occurred at a Paris Kosher store that left five more people dead. Only after the assailants were killed and the loss of life came to a halt, were we able to step back and take a look at why the activities of the satirical publication were taken with such hatred and outrage. It was also at this time that the meaning of the words were first discussed in any detail.

Charlie_Brown

Good Ole Charlie Brown

As it turns out the Charlie in Charlie Hebdo comes from the American comic strip called Peanuts, where the main character is an ageless middle-grader, named Charlie Brown. So popular is this cartoon that it continues to appear in many daily newspapers, even though its creator, Charles Schultz, has passed on to that great cartooning cloud in the sky. Though I am proud that a major French publication would name their weekly rag on a popular American “funny”, it is beyond me to figure out how Charlie Hebdo became so ghastly humorous.

And Then There Is This Word Hebdo

A t first glance hebdo looks like a Spanish word, but on further examination, the Greek-rooted word, (hebdomos in Greek) is an archaic reference to the number “7”. In this context, hebdo becomes a publication that is put out every seven days or once a week……And it is also a satirical effort that honors Charles Schultz, Peanuts and Charlie Brown.

Know Thy Enemy   or Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo

As far as I am concerned, all of this just does not add up. The satire put forth by Charlie Hebdo is so far removed from the comic strip that it would be laughable, if it had not lead to the death of so many people. Over the ages Europe, including France has been party to invasions from the Islamic world. The siege of Vienna in the 1600s and the Moorish influence in Spain are the two such events that come to mind, though I now understand that there are other similar acts in European history.

Given these historical incidents, I would think that the French satirists would do better in their roasting and ridicule of non-European foreign entities. I have no idea how this story will end, but I cannot see how this conflict will not become more caustic in the near future.

The Interview

 

North Korean Troops Marching London Korean Links Covering Things Korean in London, from London, since 2006

Cheesecake on Parade       North Korean Troops Marching
from London Korean Links
Covering Things Korean in London, from London, since 2006

A Brief Overview

The Korean protest against the showing of a movie, called The Interview, is kind of old news now, especially after the tragic events that just unfolded in Paris, France, just a few days ago. Still, I would like to explore how SONY inadvertently explored some new ways of releasing a film…and how they surprisingly recouped most of their production costs (estimated are at around 44million), once they did decide to go through with the Christmas Day release.

Timeline

On Nov. 24, about a month before its scheduled theatrical release, SONY got seriously hacked. Within a few weeks, SONY announced that it would not release The Interview, even though the Dec. 11 West Coast premiere did take place. Then, right before Christmas, SONY had a change of heart. They would release The Interview both in the theater and through online venues like Google Play and Video on Demand. Though the cinematic showing was limited, the online streaming and downloading of this feature length movie then go forward, as planned.

Some Facts and Figures

As of Jan. 6, the Interview has pulled in 31 million through Video On Demand and another 5 million through its limited theatrical debut. I’m sure the film would have done better at the box office under normal conditions, but right now the film sales must in what can be best called a salvage operation. The film cost only 44 million to make, but add distribution and marketing and now you have a film that runs close to 75 million. And this doesn’t even touch the expenses that were run up, after the SONY Corp. got so badly hacked, for there’s no telling what that cause the entertainment giant.

Has the Interview Enhanced Online Viewing

Even so, there is a definite silver lining in this cloud. And that would be how the enhanced VOD sales, courtesy of a very, ticked off head-of-state in North Korea, saved this movie and perhaps changed the playing field, when marketing a feature length movie. This was happening even before the ‘Interview’ fiasco, but even more than before, producers now must be taking in and discussing how to maximize both types of viewing and sales, when releasing a new movie.

Summing It Up

I’m sure this is big news to Netflix and its upstart challenger, Amazon Prime, who both have tapped into the online streaming market, while completely ignoring (thus far) the virtual reality of showing a full-length movie in a brick-and-mortar movie theater. I can’t help to contemplate that the news that Woody Allen is now in cahoots with Amazon Prime, somehow indicates that dual (theater and online ) releases may in the (near) future plans.

NorthKoreantroopsmarchingfromgunboards.com

What’s New for 2015

Vela Supernova Remnant  Image Credit & Copyright: CEDIC  (Central European Deep Sky Imaging)Team - Processing: Wolfgang Leitner

Vela Supernova Remnant
Image Credit & Copyright: CEDIC (Central European Deep Sky Imaging Conference) Team – Processing: Wolfgang Leitner

Welcome To 2015

It’s now 2015,  hard to believe isn’t it? Here in Montana we are in the midst of a four-day snow event. One that should leave us with at least a foot of snow. So far, the first two days have quite snowy and the total accumulations should hold up. Around the world, Indonesian planes are still crashing, the Russian economy is in deep doo-doo and American politics are still deadlocked….And as always, things are changing for the Indie writer and self publisher. Here’s what new for the self-published and ebook writer.

Amazon

Big changes are up and about at Amazon. On the up-side Amazon Studios is releasing new shows and films via online streaming, thus creating new markets for writers. Interested writers with a good script can apply directly to Amazon Studios and if you make it all the way through the final cut, the end result og having your little sitcom shown by Amazon can be quite lucrative.

On the down side, the Kindle Select Program is being diluted by Kindle Unlimited, so Indie authors are not making as much per boook sale. Authors with books priced higher are particularly hard hit by this new development. (The one beneficiary here would be those making sales at $0.99 cents. Since the paypout is still above one dollar, they gain by selling through KU. But not if the KU price keeps dropping…..which may become a reality.)

The Indie Field

Just because Amazon is cozying up to the Big Boys, this does not mean that the Indie Field is crumbling. There still are many ample opportunities out there, especially for those writers with a very good written, product and a good sense for how the market is changing. One thing to note is that ebook sales may not be showing the explosive growth potential that they did in the recent past. In fact, it is highly unlikely that there be another growth period than the one that we have most recently seen……Unless of course you come up with the next Harry Potter or Shades of Gray.

It’s Still A Great Time To Be a Writer

Despite some ominous signs, it’s still a great time to be a writer. Good reads are being released all the time and with a little bit of skill and a lot of perseverence you could be a writer that reaches a mass audience in a meaningful way.

My Goals

I have quite a few goals for this year. We’ll see how they turn out in about twelve months or so.

1. Finish my half-completed novel and submit the manuscript to agents. (I love the second part of this goal.)

2. Write another screenplay. (The writing part is fun and easy, but oh tell me how do you sell one.)

3. Keep blogging at least once a week. (Sunday is good but I may move to Mon or Tues)

4. Continue writing short stories and flash fiction and then self-publish them as ebooks. (Self-publishing is easy, but selling stories as ebooks is getting more difficult.

5. Invest a little in marketing.

Northern Lights in Ruka, Finland     from wikipedia photo by russavia

Northern Lights in Ruka, Finland from wikipedia
photo by russavia

A Look Back at 2014

 

Star Formation in the Tadpole Nebula  Image Credit: WISE, IRSA, NASA; Processing & Copyright : Francesco Antonucci

Star Formation in the Tadpole Nebula
Image Credit: WISE, IRSA, NASA; Processing & Copyright : Francesco Antonucci

Good Riddance to 2014

Though 2014 has not been all that bad a year, I am more than glad to see it banished into the realms of past history. For me, as a writer, this past year has been one of great promises, all of which seem to have gone unfulfilled or turned into dead-end back alleys. All the good contacts and leads, which I had so painstakingly advanced, dissolved into nothing.

Then there was the closing of Yahoo Voices, a site which I had started to contribute to, way back when it was called Associated Content. Finally, as of this year, the site was beginning to produce some real revenue, but as soon as that begin to happen, YV closed it doors and took all articles off the web with just a 30 day warning…….2015 has to be better!

Important Literary Events of 2014

By far the most important literary event of 2014 was the ongoing feud between Amazon and Hachette. Although this dispute was settled last month, just in time for the Christmas sales, the ebook pricing agreement will affect all the large publishers, who wish to sell ebooks on Amazon.com. Another important Amazon action that will affect many self-publishing Indie authors is the introduction of Kindle Unlimited (commonly called KU) by Amazon. This decision will be especially detrimental to authors, who sell a large number of self-published ebooks  in the $2.99 to $7.99 range through Kindle Select. Stay tuned for there is more to come on this new development.

And finally there is the most recent success of The Interview, a recent Sony pictures release that depicts the death of the leader of North Korea. This is a complex story, where Sony originally eighty-sixed the movie after hacking repercussions, but later released the movie in an unique way that has made the dark comedy a smash hit around the globe.

In Passing

For me, the most notable passing has been the death of Maya Angelou, theaward-winning  African American writer, who penned such American favorites as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. Also gone are Thomas Berger (author of Little Big Man), Nadine Gordimer (July’s People), Graham Joyce, P.D. James and Ralph Giordano (a holocaust surviver and author).

2014 Success Story

One of the most amazing events of 2014 was the landing of a ESA spacecraft on a moving comet. On November 12, 2014 the Rosetta spacecraft successfully landed on the Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko and immediately started beaming back pictures, such as the one below. Unfortunately, a notably 20th century problem has now disconnected the adventurous, ESA spacecraft from the planet Earth. And that problem is low batteries, which is something many of us experience all the time.

The Cliffs of Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko  Image Credit & Licence (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO): ESA, Rosetta spacecraft, NAVCAM; Additional Processing: Stuart Atkinson

The Cliffs of Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko
Image Credit & Licence (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO): ESA, Rosetta spacecraft, NAVCAM; Additional Processing: Stuart Atkinson

What the Future Might Bring?

image from the Vimeo short film titled The Wanders

image from the Vimeo short film titled The Wanderers, which was created by Eric Wernquist and Christian Sandquist and features the words and voice of Carl Sagan.

To view The Wanderers go to the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day site, here.

 

Have a Jolly, Jolly Christmas

Christmas Brings Union, A political cartoon from 1887, from Wkikpedia

Christmas Brings Union, A political cartoon from 1887, from Wkikpedia

Strange Word

Jolly is one of those strange words that only seems appropriate during week long holiday period that occurs at the end of each year. In particular in seems tied to one particular fellow….and that is ole Saint Nick, himself. Burl Ives tied his own rotund self with the word, when he released “Holly, Jolly Christmas”, way back in 1965.

Too Much Horror

I enjoyed writing my little Christmas horror story, ( here is the link ) but now that Christmas is almost here, it is time to share a little joy and humour. After all that is what the holiday is all about. (my apologies to anybody that believes that Jesus was actually born on December 25). Besides, there is way too much horror going around in the world today and we may need a break from all those gruesome headlines. This may be fertile and lucrative ground for horror and suspense writers, but the everyday “Joe” ( or Jill ) needs some fun in his life. Following is my small contribution to the holiday mayhem.

Quotes

1. “One thing I learned from drinking is that if you ever go Christmas caroling, you should go with a group of people. And also go in mid-December.” — Louis C.K.

2. “Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.”  – Victor Borge

3. “Tis Christmas I’ve decided to put mistletoe in my back pocket, so all the people I don’t like can kiss my ass.” from Pinterest, author unknown

4. “What I don’t like about Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”-  Phyllis Diller

5. “Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know the birth of Santa.” Matt Groening via Bart Simpson

6. “The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.” – Joan Rivers

7. “Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer…? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ upon his lips should be boiled with his won pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

8. “There has been only one Christmas — the rest are anniversaries.” – W.J. Cameron

9. “I don’t mind fruitcakes. They’re the one thing during the holidays I’m not tempted to eat.” – Melanie White

10. “The two most joyous times of the year are Christmas morning and the end of school.” – Alice Cooper

11. “I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying: ‘Toys not included.’ ” – Bernard Manning

12. “I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas.” – Sylvia Plath

13. “It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.” – Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

14. “The Four Stages of Life.

          a. You believe in Santa Claus.

          b. You don’t believe in Santa Claus.

         c. You are Santa Claus.

         d. You look like Santa Claus.”      from Pinterest, author unknown

Stolen Stories

illustration by Henry Kane of North country canoeist

illustration by Henry Kane of North country canoeist

Before the Internet

Before the internet came rolling around way back when, books were an important way of discovering strange worlds that were unknown to us in our day-to-day routines, which most of us lead. And as you go further back in time, before the TV network news, movies and the color photographs, you might find that the written word had an added importance in telling people about the strange worlds that existed across the seven seas and into the interior of some of the most isolated spots on the planet. Our world would have been a whole lot poorer, if it wasn’t for the likes of such writers as Jonathon Swift, Jules Vernes, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Shelley or William Shakespeare.

Cache Lake Country

For me, one of the most vivid books of my youth was Cache Lake Country, which was written by John J. Rowlands and illustrated by Henry B. Kane. I grew up in central Maryland where the winters were not so severe and not all too long. So to read about two men who spent an entire year in the North Woods of Ontario, Canada was spell-bounding to say the least. The most fascinating part of their tale was their life on snowshoes, which lasted approximately from December till April. The fact that no photographs are part of this book, only adds to the mystique of time and place, even though the manuscript was published in 1947, when cameras were well in fashion.

Stolen Stories

When I wrote Le Loup de Garou (see previous post), I borrowed from two parts of the Cache Lake book. One part of the short story is influenced by the account of a real-life lumberjack, who gets turned around on one of the coldest nights of the winter and spends most of the night outdoors attempting to gain his bearings. Finally, he comes across a lighted cabin, but not before developing a minor case of frostbite. And then there is the title, which comes from a French-Canadian legend in regards to a wolf-man type of creature that haunts the North Woods at night. So there it is in a nutshell, on how to be influenced by real life experiences, even though they might only appear in book form.

Cache lake woodlore as illustrated by Henry Kane

Cache lake woodlore as illustrated by Henry Kane