On This Day – March 18th

The man above my Gentle Readers, for those who don’t recognize him, is Irving Berlin. A prolific composer who came to the United States from Imperial Russia at the age of five. Berlin was not even 20 years old when he sold the publishing rights to his first song, “Marie from Sunny Italy” for 33 cents in 1907. His success, however, would begin with the song he copyrighted today in 1911.

“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” would become one of the highest selling piece of sheet music in history, topping 1.5 million copies in the first 18 months of printing. It’s simple,yet catchy, tune was easy for amateurs to master, increasing its popularity. For those unfamiliar with the tune, CLICK HERE to hear it played by Wayne King and his Orchestra.

Irving Berlin’s early success would lead to a career writing songs and musical scores for stage and screen. By the time of his death at at 101 in 1989, Berlin is attributed with over 1500 songs. In his career he gave us “White Christmas”, “God Bless America”, and “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. All three staples of American musical culture.

According to a couple of inflation calculators I found on the internet, Berlin’s 33 cents he received for his first song in 1907 would be roughly worth a whopping $8.46 cents today. If he had taken this pittance and given up, the American Music scene would be much different than it is today.

What we should learn from this genius of music is to never give up. Just because your first attempt is a failure, or not as much of a success as you would like, DON’T GIVE UP. You never know when that big break is going to hit. Until next time my Gentle Readers. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 17th

Luck of the Irish to you my Gentle Readers. May Saint Patrick’s Day bring you much revelry. It was this day in 461 AD that the man who would become the patron saint of Ireland died in Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland.

Image from The Famous People.com

The man began life as a son in a Christian family in England with Roman Citizenship. Patrick lived his well to do lifestyle until, at the age of 16, he was captured and taken to Ireland by marauders.There he spent 6 years as a herder, turning to his religious faith to survive his abduction. When he escaped and returned to England, it would be natural for the man to hold a grudge against his Irish captors. This is not the case.

Patrick tells us in his own words, in his book Confessio, that he experienced a dream that told him to return to Ireland. After becoming an ordained bishop, Patrick did just that. He returned to his kidnapper’s homeland to preach the Gospel. He spent 40 poverty stricken years: building churches, teaching, traveling, and converting thousands of Irish. Instead of rage or hatred for those who took 6 years of his life, Patrick sought to better the Irish people. For this he was named their Patron Saint.

The legends of Saint Patrick have grown in the succeeding centuries. There are tales of him baptizing hundreds of people in a day and drove all the snakes from Ireland. Some say he used the three leaf clover, Ireland’s famous shamrock, to teach about the Holy Trinity. I would ask what is the deal with the 4 leaf clovers then. Who is the extra leaf?

Anyway, I think there is a great lesson in Saint Patrick to think about this day as we all don our green attire and drink or eat to excess. That lesson is one of forgiveness. If a young man of 16 in the early 400s can find a way to not only forgive his aggressors, but seek to better them through education, then we should be able to do so much more today. Drink the green beer and wear the leprechaun hat today my Gentle Readers. Also channel the incredible forgiveness of Saint Patrick. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 16th

An icon of American Literature was published on this day in 1850.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter would become required reading over a century later (at least I remember it as such). When he published it however, it was finally the means to financial success for his growing family. Hawthorne had struggled up to this point, even trying his hands at an agricultural coop (which he turned into his novel The Blithedale Romanc, and spending time working in a Customs house in order to support his family.

Hawthorne was born in Salem Massachusetts. The 100 years since the actual witch trials had left a heavy pall across the town, influencing much of Hawthorne’s early years. After he started to see marginal success in 1842, he married Sophia Peabody and moved to Concord, Massachusetts. There he became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Branson Alcott, father of writer Louisa May Alcott.

A few years after the publication of The Scarlet Letter, President Franklin Pierce, a college friend of Hawthorne’s, would make him the American consul to England. His family would live ‘across the pond’ for three years, before returning stateside. He would later leave die in Plymouth, New Hampshire in 1864.

The story told by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter is sadly all too true in this world today. Adultery doesn’t carry quite the same shame and stigma experienced in this country’s infancy, but it should. If you are not capable of holding onto your promises, then it is best to not get married in the first place. Find where you belong my Gentle Readers, and stay out of someone else’s relationship. It never ends well. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 14th

The last few posts I know I have stuck to one event from the date, mainly because that was the topic that spoke to me. March 14th however has a couple of things that I want to talk about.

The year 1879 brought us one of the greatest minds on earth.
Albert Einstein. A man so brilliant and dedicated to science that we often call people we think of geniuses as “Einstein”. His research led to nuclear fission, the founding of the Manhattan Project. He condemned its use as a weapon despite his support of the Allies during World War II. Luckily for us all, he was visiting the United States when Hitler came to power. Given that Einstein was Jewish, he wisely stayed in the US instead of returning to his teaching post in Berlin.

This day also saw the release by Putnam of Max Brand’s first western novel, The Untamed, in 1919. Max Brand, a pen name employed by Frederick Faust, is considered the most prolific writer of Westerns to date. Faust was known for applying his keen writing style without geographical, and sometimes historical, accuracy. To his readers it didn’t matter that the locations didn’t exist or the conditions works of fantasy, the story was compelling enough to drag you in and force you to turn the page. It is estimated that upon Faust’s death in 1944, he had penned over 30 million words amongst his more than 500 Western serials and short stories.

My last entry for today was actually my first pick for this post. I wanted to save it until last to be my closing remarks. Sylvia Beach, was born on this day in 1887, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. When she was 14, her family moved to Paris. Sylvia was in love with the city. She stayed and, in 1919, opened her soon to be famous bookstore Shakespeare and Co. Her store would become a haunt of great literary giants in the 1920s like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Sylvia was a strong advocate of James Joyce. When Joyce’s serial publication of Ulysses was cut short in the Americas, Sylvia published it completely herself in 1922. The book caused great controversy and was banned from US distribution until 1933. If it were not for Sylvia’s tenacious love for the written word, this work may be something that never saw the light of day.

Thank you Sylvia for your tireless efforts on behalf of readers everywhere. You are an inspiration to speak up against censorship just because it may make a few people uncomfortable. Be brave and tenacious my Gentle Readers. There are always going to be critics. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 12th

The year is 1922. Léo-Alcide Kéroack and Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque had no idea that the baby boy they welcomed into the world would become an icon of the Beat Generation.
Jack Kerouac was a man of many talents. In high school he was a football star, earning scholarships to Columbia University, among others. His football career would be cut short by a broken leg. Before he became the poet and author we all learned about, he was a Navy man in World War II. His service however was cut short due to personality problems attributed to mental illness. Jack would continue his adventures on the seas as a merchant seaman for a couple of years. By the late 1940s he would begin his wandering journey that would later become fuel for his story, On the Road. Jack rubbed elbows with the likes of Allen Ginsburg and William Burroughs. Marijuana smoke and alcohol turning into creative flourishes of poetry that people still pattern themselves after today in dark coffee shops.

Excerpt from On the Road “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh…”

I say take today to go be like the “mad ones” Jack wrote about my Gentle Readers. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 11th 2016

Today in 1818, a legendary icon of literature and horror was born. Mary Shelley, just 21 at the time, published her masterpiece, Frankenstein.

To think, at 21 she created a work of fiction that will surely last well beyond its 200 year anniversary that is coming up in 2018. Countless printings and cinema editions have been produced from this single piece of literature. The number of appearances by her creation in television is testament to its enduring appeal to the masses.

I have always been familiar with the book, having read it multiple times in my youth. I never realized then that she was only 21 at the time of publication. It seems unreal. She had to have been a truly amazing young woman. I have trouble picturing myself at 21 being ready to put forth anything of its like.

I wonder what she would tell today’s youth about success and having dreams. When most youth here in the states are thinking about the day they can legally buy alcohol (I know not all but it was something we all thought about), she was publishing her first, and greatest novel. Not only was she young, but she was a woman in the 1800s. Women had fewer rights in those days. They were often viewed as little more than property to the patriarch of their family. Property to be sold off to the highest bidder, or for the most political gain. Then they would be treated as property by their new husband. Mary seemed lucky in that regard to have truly married for love.

Fortune did not come easily in her lifetime. Tragedy also struck as most of her children did not survive into adulthood. She lived most of her life on a small stipend from her father-in-law, until her one surviving son came into his inheritance and title.

What we should take from Mary’s story my Gentle Readers is to never give up. If a young woman in the 1800s could create such an enduring classic piece of literary history, then there is hope for us to eke out a space on the shelf nearby. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 9th 2016

Well Gentle Readers, I am a day late on this one but it was a big day because in the year 1959, we got our first look at:

That’s right. Barbie herself arrived at the American Toy Fair in New York. Now, growing up a boy in the 80s and 90s, Barbies were for girls. As a grownup and an uncle with a couple of nieces, Barbies are for whoever asks you to play with them. My unborn child will have the option of playing with Barbies if they want regardless of gender (I am voting girl anyway but healthy is all that is important). All this gender role politically correct nonsense has poisoned this country. Sometimes you have to call

a spadespade1.pnga spade, spade2.jpeg

and an asshole hypocrite, well, you get the picture right?

Anyway. I seem to have digressed from where I was heading with this post. I just want all parents, or future parents/uncles/aunts/ANYONE who influences the lives of children to realize that a doll is a doll. The values and prejudices you instill in the child is the solution/problem, not whether the doll is proportionately healthy, or has so many designer clothes and dreams houses.

Case in point, I grew up with GI Joes, He Man, and Ninja Turtles. I am not running around New York’s sewers eating pizza and wearing a bandana. Or am I? HA! I am also not some crazed one man army fighting COBRA, or whatever villain has cropped up to threaten the US of A. I believe in this country but I am not going to pick up a gun bigger than most of my body and go toe to toe with any super soldiers.
RocknRollJoeJust look at those guns. That can’t be realistic. And I KNEW THAT. I loved GI Joes and all the toys that came with them, but I knew they were unrealistic. The villains weren’t much better.
Especially that guy with the reflective face shield.
What was really his deal anyway? I don’t think he could see out of that thing. Maybe that’s why he was so angry all the time. It had nothing to do with the Joes. It was the crappy attire he had to wear. Someone higher up should have thought better about their gear designs.

What I want you to take away from this somewhat off topic post is, Congratulations and Happy Birthday to Barbie, a doll that has caused much controversy, but also been highly successful commercially for decades. If your little boy pulls you down the Barbie aisle at Wal-Mart, don’t push him towards the latest incarnation of Macho Toys. Love him for who he is and the curiosity he has. And if your little girl thinks princesses are overrated, so be it. Show her the strong side of femininity. Teach your kids to value themselves and to value others. Teach Respect for elders, our military, and other people in general. Teach them peace, not bias and hate. Don’t be an asshole and raise more assholes. This world has enough of them. Until next time my Gentle Readers. Live well, write well, be well.


On This Day – March 6th 2016

Today Gentle Readers, is the birthday of arguably the greatest of the Renaissance artists, Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475). Michelangelo, well known for his painting of the Sistine Chapel, was prolific and highly sought after throughout his 88years of life. His early years were spent with the Medici family under the tutelage of Bertoldo di Giovanni. Sculpture, painting, and even poetry proved to be talents this great man excelled at. He even ‘dabbled’ in architecture and was instrumental in Mannerism, the movement that succeeded the Renaissance.
David_by_Michelangelo.JPG ‘David’, another of Michelangelo’s more famous works.

Amongst his works was a collaboration with Leonardo Da Vinci for the Florence City Hall. The murals, depicting military scenes, sadly did not survive for us to enjoy today. I can only imagine what it would be like to stand in a single room and see the two great masters working side by side, perhaps sharing a meal when they took a break. The conversations they must have had.

I don’t want to rehash his entire life story, but you can find more with a simple search of the web. You can start with the Wikipedia page-Michelangelo, which has many links to other sites.

For those of you who history gives a headache, even the impressive career of Michelangelo. You are in luck. On this day in 1899, Bayer patented aspirin. Headache sufferers rejoice for your savior is here.
The German company would face many difficulties before and during the World Wars as part of Nazi Germany’s pharmaceutical juggernaut. After having its US and Canadian assets seized, it would take until 1994 for Bayer to reclaim what was lost.

Speaking of Nazi Germany, it was on this day in 1941 that the Dutch Resistance attempted to hijack a German truck carrying food for the German air force, the Luftwaffe. Unknown to these young and hungry Dutch resisters, the head of the SS in Holland, Hanz Rauter, was riding in the truck. During the hijacking he was shot, but survived. In retalition the SS in Hollands rounded some 263 Dutch and executed them. Rauter would be later tried and convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death. His execution came in 1949.

Today was also the birth of Rob Reiner in 1947. Reiner would begin acting in his teens and later form Castle Rock, based on a city in Stephen King’s novels. Reiner would bring several of King’s works to the big screen but my favorite work of his is “The Princess Bride”. I will never forget the scene where Cary Elwes, playing the part of the Dread Pirate Roberts, is tumbling down a steep hill. Having been pushed by Buttercup, who clearly wanted him to die, he screams out, “As you wish”. Buttercup then knew that this was her beloved Westley, thought dead by the same Dread Pirate Roberts.
This movie had a great cast. The great Peter Falk playing the narrator and Grandpa in the scenes where he is reading to his grandson, Fred Savage. Then Cary Elwes as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts. Mandy Patinkin with his life’s mission to find the six fingered man and avenge his father. The lovable rhyming brute Andre the Giant “Anybody want a peanut?” These two ‘villians’ were led by Vizzini, Wallace Shawn. ‘Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.’ Billy Crystal even made an appearance as Miracle Max. This movie makes my top 5 list alongside Hackers and Godfather. One day I want to visit the Cliffs of Insanity in County Clare, Ireland.

It is inconceivable that this movie is nearly 30 years old. I was 5 when it came out, so it would be a few years before I saw it for the first time. Well, my Gentle Readers, in the words of Miracle Max and his lovely witch, I mean wife, Valerie, “Have fun stormin’ da castle.” Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.

On This Day – March 4th 2016

Today is a day of Presidential news my Gentle Readers. First up are the inaugurations of two of our most well known Presidents.

Thanks to Whitehouse.gov for the images.

Both were inaugurated on this day with Lincoln in 1861 and FDR in 1933. Neither of them would have been possible without our government beginning to function under the Constitution on this date in 1789. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson would give his first Inaugural address. Future President Ronald Reagan also married his wife, Nancy, on this day in 1952. The two met when he was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG). Nancy Davis, an actress in her own right, was trying to clear up the confusion between herself and another Nancy Davis, who was on the McCarthy Communist Sympathizer list.

From Presidential Actors to a tragedy of Tinseltown. Hollywood lost one of the greats on this day in 1994, John Candy was found dead on in Durango Mexico where he was filming his latest production in a career that included a favorite of mine, Spaceballs. That was such an incredible movie, and I fear he never knew just how great he was as he has been quoted as saying, “I don’t watch my movies. I just get too critical of myself.” The large, funny man will forever live on for me as the one and only Mawg, half-man half-dog. I truly hope he was his own best friend.

In 1952, Ernest Hemingway finished “The Old Man and the Sea”. He wrote a letter to his publisher saying he had finished the book, stating it was the best writing he had ever done. Critics agreed, granting it the Pullitzer Prize in 1953. If only I could drink as he did and produce the quality of work that he did.

Well, today was a day of triumph and a day of sadness Gentle Readers. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.


On This Day – March 3rd, 2016

Today, my Gentle Readers, is a day that changed the course of history for the disabled for it was on this day in 1887, Helen Keller was introduced to Anne Sullivan.
Thank you to the Helen Keller Foundation.

Helen Keller, under the tutelage of Anne Sullivan would transform from a “spoiled and willful child” into a champion for equality, not just along the lines of disability, but for races and genders. It is truly an inspiring story that deserves to be told. No matter what life hands you, you can still be extraordinary.

The United States government was very busy on this day throughout our history. Some of the highlights include: In 1873, Congress enacted a ban on sending obscene materials through the postal service. So much for your subscription to Playboy or Hustler. Ha. In 1845 they would vote to override John Tyler’s 10th use of the Presidential Veto, the first time Congress would exercise their right with a two-thirds majority. The Missouri Compromise (1820) and the Civil War Conscription Act (1863) were also passed on this day. 1931 saw Herbert Hoover enact the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.
Thanks fifthharmony.wikia.com

The Literary World saw the birth of Pullitzer Prize winning poet and author, James Merrill, son of the founder of Merrill-Lynch. An admitted sufferer of writer’s block, James Merrill is quoted as writing,  “Freedom to be oneself is all very well. The greater freedom is not to be oneself.” He would found the Ingram Miller Foundation, sponsoring the arts through his philanthropy. He also would serve as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1979 until his death in 1995 from a heart attack.

I think that is all for today Gentle Readers. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.