Blog

July 2, 2021

Content Creators
On December 23, 1888, Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cut off the lower portion of his left ear.

Furor Poeticus — Is it “Madness,” or is it “Art”?

Inspiration—it’s a process that no content creator can control. What is the source of inspiration, and its prodigy: genius? Inspiration comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning “to breath into.” While the Romans believed it was “an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or visual art and other artistic endeavors,” the Greek empnefsi suggested the poet or artist would go into ecstasy, or furor poeticus—the divine frenzy, or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his or her own mind and given the gods’ or goddesses’ (or Muses’) own thoughts to embody. In Hebrew thought, expressed in Greek, theopneustos meant “God-breathed.” The short answer: no one knows the source of inspiration, divine, sub-conscious or otherwise.

Inspiration can be elusive, as divine assistance and furor poeticus cannot be summoned at will. The great halls of “who-might-have-beens” are populated by unknown artists who have spent their precious little time and resources on Earth waiting on inspiration, which is beyond human understanding, and much less human control.

The artists and creators who we know and cherish throughout time, however, are a motley crew of mentally unstable, substance addicted, depressed, unrealistic, troubled, abused, incompetent and sometimes outright deranged individuals. Yet is that the key? Does a person have to fit into one of the above descriptions to create truly memorable content? Must artists sacrifice sanity, normalcy and conformity to create truly great art? Is that the price of fame and success?

Most humans, however, are too practical to be artists, too cautious to take that road less travelled, which certainly offers no guarantees. It’s a fools’ gambit at best.

Most would-be content creators, after all, never achieve “success” during their lifetimes — while posthumous success is way overrated. By popular account, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died impoverished and unknown to the world at the venerable age of 35, and he was buried in a pauper’s grave. Franz Kafka perished poor and unpublished. Henry David who? Edgar Allan Poe was an alcoholic who died unsuccessful in a gutter and made all of nine dollars for publication of The Raven.

How much easier it would be to learn a reliable and practical trade, get a common job and save a little each year to eke out a humble retirement. It’s the formula for success to the world’s masses. Is the risk ever worth the reward?

But then, what is success really? A good job? A nice house? Enough money to take a holiday once or twice a year? Not if you are cursed with “a gift.” And how do you know if you have a gift? Well, when you are really good — let me be more clear: when you are exceptional at a thing as a result of something innate, something within that comes from without and chooses you, something beyond that which you logically should be able to do, then that is the curse that is your gift, because you ultimately will have to choose what you will do with it.

To ignore it is a sin against divinity, but to embrace it is insanity. Like all things, gifts come in many sizes. If it is a small gift, perhaps a person can find ways to forge a normal, non-illustrious life while transforming that curse to a blessing in small meaningful ways. But if it is a profound gift, then freedom from the curse is not so easy. Ignored, it will gnaw at you. Exploited, it will betray you. Buried, it will bury you. Best to deal with it. Temet nosce.

Meden agan. Two things you must understand: 1) What does “success” mean to you?; and 2) What are you willing to sacrifice for it? If you understand those things, only then can you transform the curse to a blessing. Simply put: What do you want to change or achieve, and why? And what is the price you are willing to pay to accomplish the transformation?

Years ago, when I was in a low place, I wrote a short story as an exposition about “the curse of gifts.” In it a young man who has sacrificed everything for “success” is asked to make one more “substantial” sacrifice in order to achieve his ambition. While there was no logic to it, the purveyor of success demands the ring finger and little finger of his left hand. Those removed and sacrificed, the protagonist will realize uncommon achievement.

Only after the protagonist has sealed the deal does he understand that success comes at a price, and most often the desired expectation cannot exceed the demanded price. As a result, those individuals who pay the ante will always envy and resent the untalented freeloaders and exploiters who leech on the sacrifice paid. These diminished individuals form a unique “Club” of “successful” people who all are mutilated in some idiosyncratic way.

And here is where we come back to Van Gogh. In The Club, which is the story I wrote, all successful people are deformed in some way — mutilated, or more often self-mutilated. It’s the price of fame, if anyone considers fame to be success. And the price of wealth — estrangement, sycophancy and predation. Thus most who are given profound gifts can never escape the curse/blessing.

Engıa pára d’ate. The better success is to seek to use your gifts create and leave something behind greater than what you were given. In the logic of order, you were given these gifts and talents for a reason. In your life, you must grow them to enhance that order. You must not selfishly bury them so that their light will never shine.

In my experience, perhaps the most striking example of this illustration is in the life of Michael Jackson, who was self-mutilated, both within and without, and he knew it. And yet, the most profound manifestation of self-mutilation is martyrdom, or suicide, which is often the final act of Furor Poeticus. Prince was likewise cursed with his gift.

Please take the time to read The Club on this site by clicking the link. To end this blog, I’m embedding a little-known Michael Jackson song, called The Price of Fame. No further explanation required.

June 30, 2021

What is a Content Creator?

What do content creators do? What makes content creation official? Are you a content creator? The answer is simple. If you write, compose, sing, recite, draw, interpret, translate, pitch, blog, design, produce, direct, photograph, edit, consult, teach, collaborate, develop, publish, perform, represent or promote original content, that qualifies you as a content creator. “Content” has a broad meaning, which ranges from humdrum statistics to passionless reporting to college papers—more about that later—but the content creators I seek to reach and empower are those who produce “creative” or “artistic” content.

“Original Content” means you are bringing something completely new to consumers of content. If you cover a song or you produce a Shakespearean play, then the work itself is “content”—subject to copyright laws and royalties, though it is not “original content.” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Othello were derived from the Babylonian love story Pyramus and Thisbe and Un Capitano Moro by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio respectively, but Shakespeare refashioned the work, recreating his own characters, conflicts, resolutions and messages as original content.

Copying or cloning is not content creating, though there is nothing wrong with deriving original work from other great stories that have been told earlier. However, copying any work without attribution is considered plagiarism, which is antithetical to original content creation. Specifically, original content is something unique that a person (or sometimes a program) creates—something novel that finds a way to share an idea or tell a story in a completely fresh or new way.

Let’s begin with the stories we read and watch. King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and for all purposes, who can argue against that? Traditionally, in art and literature, there are seven major main plots: Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; The Quest; Voyage and Return; Comedy; Tragedy and Rebirth. Every story ever told or written fits into one or more of those categories.

Telling the story is the next challenge. When I was in college studying the structure of classical drama, I focused on prelude, protasis, epitasis, catastasis and catastrophe, which became a part of my DNA and which writers of mainstream drama today translate in the arc as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, catastrophe and resolution (which in fiction is called the denouement). It’s an indispensable formula for telling good and memorable stories. All storytellers would do well to remember and incorporate it.

Furthermore, there are seven character roles: The Protagonist (hero), The Antagonist (villain); The Love Interest (object of desire); The Confidant (sidekick); Deuteragonists (supporting characters); Tertiary Characters (minor players) and The Foil (contrasting character(s)).

For practical purposes, however, characters can be classified as flat, round, static, and dynamic, which become the most important tools of content creators who share stories.

In the same way that all organic molecules are composed of carbon atoms in rings or long chains, which are attached to hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, all the stories that we consume and enjoy are created from combinations of the plots and characters listed above. The content creator merely finds a way to combine them in a unique way that is both original and provocative.

If you have an original idea and you have invested the time, discipline and energy to put that idea into a form that translates to and inspires an audience, then you are a content creator. The next challenge: What do you do after your content is created? What do you do after it is published or “dropped?” How do you give that content the best opportunity for success? How do you take control of the process rather than relying on others?

ContentConnect is the answer. Stay tuned—more to come about that!

June 28, 2021

Content Creators

Painting a Room

If you have never painted a room, that gives you all the more reason to read this post, because a room is a project—a model. Whether your next project is a poem, a performance, a song, a short story, a novel, a play, video or a film, it is no different than painting a room.

When painting a room, imagination is required from the start. You first have to imagine what the completed project will look like (create a concept), i.e. the color of the walls and the color of the trim, accents and possible artistic or innovative touches. And with that picture in your mind, you move forward.

Painting a room begins long before the actual process of painting. Once you have conceived what the end project should look like, it’s helpful to acquire color samples, or swatches. You may decide on two colors and place them side-by-side—only to realize they are too similar, or their contrast is ghastly or unsettling. You might seek opinions from friends you trust and who you deem qualified to advise you.

Once you have refined your initial vision, then it is time to acquire all the tools and supplies you will need to complete your project. It’s more than just paint. You’ll need brushes, rollers and innovations developed to paint corners and other difficult areas of the room, and you’ll need a stepstool or a ladder. There will be other adjunct materials not involved in painting that you’ll need.

Masking tape, or even better—Frog Tape, to make sure the lines between walls and trim, between trim and floor, and around fixtures, windows, outlets and switches are neat and clean. You’ll need drop cloths, tarps and/or canvasses to protect your flooring, furniture and windows from spills and accidents. And finally, you’ll need agents and materials to clean your brushes, rollers, surfaces and to address possible errors or any painting beyond(over/crossing) the lines.

In the end, your success a room painter (content creator) is determined by how close the completed room resembles the room (project) you imagined. Yet sometimes, during the process of painting, you might be inspired by the realization of your work to add creative improvements, a message, or flourishes to your initial vision or plan.

Plan for the unexpected…

No one paints a room without encountering set-backs. As careful as you might be about setting up a painting schedule and scheme, sometimes unforeseen issues arise that might put you behind in your plan. If this happens, you should never stop or take an indefinite pause on your project. Rather, you must address the problem directly so can you reset your schedule and promptly resume work toward your goal. If you determine that you are going to run out of paint or capital, plan to address the shortfall before your brush is dry.

If your assistant(s), consultant(s) or collaborator(s) is(are) unreliable, cease working with that(those) person(s) immediately. There is profound wisdom in the sayings: 1) A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; and 2) T’is better to be alone than in bad company. In the end, whether you complete painting or not and the success of your endeavor is up to you. It’s your project. You can’t blame anyone else for your failure, and no one else deserves credit for your success.

One last bit of advice: Once you begin, you cannot stop painting. You must work every day until the project is done, even if it is for five perfunctory minutes on some days to maintain continuity. And finishing is not the same thing as completion. After the last section is painted, you’ll have to back up, just outside the door, to gain a perspective from outside the room. You’ll want to ask yourself, Is this the room I conceived or imagined? From that place and time, you’ll understand how others will view your work.

Is the color solid and consistent? Is there some underlying distraction, or are there some other shades and hues of other colors showing through? If additional finishing is required, don’t be stubborn. If its a second coat, a third coat, or even a fourth coat, do whatever is necessary to arrive at your vision.

If any further explanation is required for “Painting a Room,” I sincerely recommend immediately joining ContentConnect and seeking translation from other content creators, like yourself. Hellen Keller, born blind and deaf, who went on to become one of America’s first disability rights activists, said it best: Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much. Alone, you can successfully paint your room, but with ContentConnect, you will connect with others to paint a palace beyond your imagination!

I don’t usually add any commentary to the videos I post with my blogs, but while I like this clip for it’s relevance—i.e. the less-than-artful typical approach to creating, or painting a room, the laugh tract is cheesy. Excusing that, it really is the path that many would-be content creators pursue. Remember, though: Style and Method Matter!

VOD – Video of the Day – No Commentary

June 25, 2021

In the News…

Tragedy

We all awoke yesterday to the news that a “upscale” condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed with 163 residents inside. Later in the day we saw the video. It did not look good. We watched a huge section of the 40-year-old Champlain Tower South fall flat at around 1:15 a.m. To our eyes, it seemed a first section on the left fell, destabilizing the rest of the tower, followed by the first floor of a second section on the right, causing a cascade of crumbling reaching up the building’s 12 floors, which fell flat, like a pancake, trapping or killing nearly everyone inside beyond a growing billow of dust.

It made no sense. This was not some low-rent inner-city project with a negligent super and dispassionate owners who had stingily deferred building maintenance. Rather, it was an upscale condominium with and oceanside view—a 136-unit condominium where the owners were likely residents, where a three-bedroom, ninth-floor unit recently sold for $710,000. And wait—scratch 12 floors. while the plans submitted by the developer to the city initially called for 12 floors of residential units, this developer decided to add a penthouse, increasing the building’s height by 15 feet, which was above the town’s height ordinance upon completion, a footnote that may have factored into the collapse. Thirteen floors—is anyone superstitious? And why the penthouse? Well, a 4,500 square-foot penthouse closed for $2.8 million a month before the collapse.

Over the weeks, months and possibly years to come, there will no doubt be efforts at accountability and blame, there will be lawsuits, penalties, explanations and assurances that no such thing will ever happen again, but we should never forget the real tragedy—five people dead and 151 missing (quietly presumed dead). How and why it happened and who should be blamed will not change that. It happened.

Life can be hard that way. No doubt there will emerge stories from victims’ families with regrets about something more they could have done, and there will be stories from residents who, for whatever reason, were elsewhere at 1:15 in the early morning of June 24. In the best of times, we sometimes convince ourselves that we have a modicum of control over our lives and over the lives of those we love, when we don’t. It’s the nature of tragedy. None of us can ever be immune to it. It sucks.

Tragedy can strike in any place and at any time. There is no place we can hide, no amount of control that we can exert over it. We can’t protect ourselves, let alone those we love. All we can do is attempt to live our best lives and believe there is a reward and protection in that, whether from God or from karma or from wherever we might put our faith.

And we can begin by finding appreciation in every day we live, and in the people we care about. Yet sometimes it’s not enough to feel an internal, unstated sense of appreciation. We have to share it, externalize it, express it—and sometimes shout it… before it’s too late. If you love someone, find a new way to express it every day. And hugs! Covid-19 has made physical contact awkward for some, but hugs are incredible. We need them. So find a safe way to hug the people you love, and hold them tight.

The collapse of the Champlain Tower South in Surfside was a tragedy that will touch us all for some time, whether we realize it or not, and that is because we are all connected—we’re all in it together. We only have to look to human-induced climate change and the extreme hot weather we are all experiencing. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in it or not. If it’s getting worse, we will all be affected.

In the words of Dr. King: It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. What affects on directly, affects all indirectly.

We should all take a moment to mourn this disaster, for the families who have lost loved ones, for all of humanity, and for ourselves… but hold on to the people you love—and if there is anyone who you think might not be absolutely certain about how you feel, go to them or call them and tell them that today.

June 23, 2021

That Time I…

Hung Out With Chaka Khan (on Prince’s Purple Bus)

Carpe Diem! a Latin expression meaning “seize the day.” It was an unexpected moment. As the manager of Frank Fat’s Restaurant on L Street in Downtown Sacramento (just a block and a half from the State Capitol Building), I was always invited to the Southern Wine and Spirits Holiday Wine and Spirits Tasting at the Hyatt Hotel (directly across from the Capitol), which happened in the fall season of 1997 (though it could have been 1998).

As I was leaving the wine tasting event, one of the Hyatt concierge staff told me that the singer Chaka Khan was in the bar at Dawson’s Steakhouse, which was an upscale restaurant at the hotel. I had a close relationship with the entire Hyatt concierge staff, because at Fat’s, I invited the entire crew for a private dinner twice a year and rewarded staff members monthly for sending business down the street.

When I peeked into the bar, I saw her sitting there, next to another woman, while listening to the tinkling sounds of a blind piano player. I knew the piano player because I used to go in specifically to listen to him for his great left hand and voice, but I cannot remember his name now (maybe someone can help me with his name). He was an old white man who played standards and jazz with incredible soul.

My brother, Jeff, had attended the wine tasting with me, so we decided to have a drink at Dawson’s to check out Chaka Khan. Since the bar wasn’t crowded, the concierge seated me at the table directly next to Chaka (Jeff was on my right and her friend was at her left). Never shy about starting a conversation, I told her that I really liked her jazz album, Chaka Khan, especially “Be Bop Medley,” but I admitted that one of my favorite songs of all time was “Through the Fire,” from the I Feel for You album. She laughed and asked me if I would like for her to sing it to me, and completely stunned, I stuttered through a “Yeah!” reply.

After consulting for a half minute with the piano player, she turned back and sang that song as I sat, mesmerized, hardly believing what I was experiencing.

After the song, I told her she had made that day one of my best, and as we continued talking about music, she said she was working on a gospel album and asked if I would like to listen to some of the tracks. I welcomed the opportunity.

So after leaving the bar, Jeff and I followed her outside and past guards as we board a huge, idling, distinctly purple bus, parked in front of the Hyatt. On the bus, she asked us if we smoked. My brother did, and he made arrangements with my younger brother, Steve, to bring her something to smoke.

So Chaka and I went to some sort of console, and I first listened to what I remember was “Walk With Me Lord,” and perhaps seven other songs. I was thankful, and I invited her and Prince to come dinner at Frank Fat’s on the next night, but she explained to me that she didn’t eat big meals before concerts and why.

By the time Steve arrived, it was getting late, and I had a very young daughter, Natsumi, at home, so I thanked Chaka again and left her with my brothers.

Prince did make a cameo appearance at the door of the bus, but seeing the smoke, he went back up to his room in the hotel. During our conversation, Chaka said Prince was studying the Bible to become a Jehovah’s Witness with Larry Graham, and she said that she had studied the Bible with Larry as well.

During the time since, when reflecting on that night, I remembered Chaka as a kind and generous soul, completely addicted to music, while I understand that addiction.

June 21, 2021

Content Creators

How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Things

Most of us are aware of our limits. Some things truly are impossible, and yet many of the things we believe are beyond our capabilities and abilities are extraordinary things that we can actually accomplish, if we can figure out a way to go about it. Often, while we laud a content creator as we realize some prodigious work or accomplishment and call it “genius,” a closer look often reveals a stubborn, disciplined and systematic individual who has plodded along, often for years, to bring this content to the world.

A blockbuster movie, for example, begins with an idea, and sometimes the beginning of an idea. In order to go beyond a mere notion, this idea must be developed, a storyline must be created, characters must be conceived, a message must be encoded, and the denouement must have impact on a proposed audience. But that is just the beginning.

Next, the idea for this project must be pitched to someone who can get the wheels rolling toward production. Natural questions must be considered. Will the proposed audience be interested in the project, and why? Will proposed success with this audience make the project viable for investors? What is the scope of the project (how big is it)? How much will it cost? Will the project be profitable?

Once the first milestone is reached, then it is time to bring on other collaborators. A good producer is a business person with the knowledge and experience to create and administer a framework in which all project collaborators will work. This often includes finding the most suitable collaborators and contracting them to contribute to the project’s content. The collaborators will include investors, analysts, accountants, technical production staff, a camera crew, graphics creators (and/or special effects experts), directors, writers, actors and many other necessary collaborators.

Yet even before production begins, the producer must oversee the development of promotion and distribution, since a completed film project must have a proposed destination and marketing plan in place before the outlay of the greater part of investor money. A trailer must be developed, and versions of the project must be screened by sample audiences as production advances.

Production involves the work of these many collaborators in the creation of unique content: actors who are working with other actors and directors, who are working with other directors (casting, photography) and producers, who are working with other producers (sets, costume, technical, sound, locations, permits, finance, editors), promotional and distribution companies.

It’s no different for the double-platinum music album, the Emmy-award winning television series, the most popular plays on Broadway or an incredible spoken word presentation. Success requires understanding how to go about doing things.

It begins as an idea, as all extraordinary accomplishments begin as mere ideas. Unfortunately however, most great ideas die because the thinkers of these ideas see what is extraordinary as “impossible,” or beyond their abilities. Not so.

The problem, in many cases, involves thinking too big, though not in terms of ambition. In reality, every big thing can be broken down to two things, half as large, which can both be broken down to two things, one-quarter as large, and so on and so forth. Or a complex thing can be divided into to separate essential elements, and these themselves can be divided into separate components, which can be broken down into manageable pieces, which can be accomplished on an individual basis. It’s like eating an elephant.

The good news: once you learn to eat an elephant, you can do it over and over, and if you have several elephants to eat, you can learn to juggle elephants as you eat them. Yet if you are truly fearless, you can eat even larger things than elephants.

Please Share Your Experiences

What is the most extraordinary thing you have ever done?

What was (were) your greatest obstacle(s)?

How were you able to accomplish it?

How did it change the way you see challenges?

VOD – Video of the Day – No Commentary

June 18, 2021

In the News…

On tomorrow, Saturday, June 19, “Juneteenth” will be celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time in the history of the United States. While Juneteenth has been celebrated for years, notably on the first time on June 19, 1865 when African American slaves living in Texas learned for the first time that they were “free.” What’s remarkable is that slavery in America was abolished by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Nine hundred days! That’s how long it took for blacks in Texas to realize their freedom, extended 2.46 years late.

It was the 1800s, after all, an era before tweets, Internet stories, 24-hour news cycles, and unaided by the Pony Express, which existed as a horse-mounted mail service between Missouri and California from 1860-1861. News travelled slowly, and since Texas was the slavery state farthest west, Negros living in Texas were the last folks to get the news, which came on June 19, 900 days late, and delivered by Army soldiers at Galveston by Union General Gordon Granger.

So from the beginning, Juneteenth was a Texas thing, where former slaves celebrated the end of slavery, 900 days late. Over time, however, and because the end of slavery wasn’t being celebrated anywhere else, blacks in other states began to join the annual celebration and to create traditions related to the event, which included church and community events, barbeques, food festivals and speeches by former slaves and their descendants, the equivalent of an African American Fourth of July. It was also celebrated in Coahuila, Mexico, and in eastern Canada.

Texas House Bill 1016 in 1980 declared June 19 Emancipation Day in Texas, a legal state holiday, and on June 17, 2021, “after unanimous passage in the United States Senate and subsequent passage in the House, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday.”

On an interesting note, the Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery in Confederate states. However, there were two Union slave states, Kentucky and Delaware, who were not affected, and so slavery did not end in those states until after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which constitutionally abolished chattel slavery on December 6, 1865.

That was 156 years ago— ancient history in the minds of many, but we must consider the day an occasion to reimagine the psychological and fiscal impact of slavery on the the generations of African Americans who live and have lived in its wake. To reimagine slavery—an existence that was less than human, human chattel—to be owned, like a tractor, a plow or a mule—for generations. That has had an impact, a legacy that won’t be cured unless there is some intelligent, fair, counteracting weight applied on the distal dish of the skewed scales of justice.

But where’s the grist for the great stories? Think 900 days! If slavery wasn’t bad enough, imagine 900 days of living as a slave, when you were actually free. Imagine working two extra years for free when you should have never been working for free in the first place. Imagine the families hearing the news. Imagine how the relationships between slaves and their former owners changed. And the attitudes of owners who benefited from 246 years of free labor. How would the necessary work get done, and what would be the pay structure. Who were the first black sharecroppers? Imagine that first generation of freed blacks and their stories.

Certainly the wealthy black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma—just north of Texas, was a realization of some of those stories. Oklahoma was a territory that had been established for the resettlement of Native Americans from the American Southeast—many of whom had been slaveowners. Yet Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907.

Tulsa was segregated, as a 1916 city ordinance mandated segregation by forbidding either Black or White people from residing “on any block where three-fourths or more of the residents were members of the other race.” In the Greenwood District, black businesses and families prospered, largely due to serving the black community. By 1921, Greenwood was the successful community known as the “Black Wall Street,” only to be destroyed and devastated on Memorial Day that same year.

Yes, the stories are there, and it is up to us to seek them out, listen to them, and to use our unique gifts in sharing them. It’s a good thing that Juneteenth is now a national, federal holiday, but we can give it true meaning by fleshing out its bones with its unique stories, lessons and histories.

VOD – Video of the Day – No Commentary

June 16, 2021

In the News…

As conscious content creators, we apply an added filter when considering the news, and yet it is easy to get so caught up in political opinions and personal convictions that we miss incredible stories and novel ideas that are staring right back at us, begging to be written or developed. We only have to let go and channel the creative nature within. Instead of struggling to find something provocative or shocking to bring to the world, we should focus on the ordinary and everyday, and make something novel of them. Henry David Thoreau said it most properly — The only thing that you can grow is the thing you give energy to. With the right filter and lens, the daily news can be the source of your best ideas, your greatest work, since every great work of fiction is nothing less than a shadow cast by non-fiction.

For example, we might consider standing back apace and taking it all in, synthesizing from that greater perspective. So what’s in the news today? Well, we’ve got cyber hackers using ransomware to successfully extort the world’s richest and most powerful business entities for millions of dollars, and these companies pay up, despite being urged by their governments to resist doing so. Multiple news sources are also reporting record high temperatures that will affect lives of hundreds of millions across the globe, literally changing the face of Earth in terms of population. Many news commentators insist that global warming, for whatever reason it exists, will lead to extreme conditions in many places, leading to flood and drought, to famine and pestilence. In many places, fresh, clean water for drinking, agriculture and environment will become more valuable than gold.

Do we see an opportunity for a story here, from these news stories that might initially seem unrelated? As content creators, what if we found a way to connect these separate news stories and synthesize something completely new and provocative in terms of how many people who have been affected by these stories will relate to original content based on these relatable issues?

Here we go: H2O — We begin with a group of cyber hackers who are forward thinking, who realize that clean, fresh water is perhaps Earth’s greatest commodity. The origin or nationality of this hacker group is not as important as where they live–in a region where fresh water is abundant and self-sustaining. Global warming and the environment provide the pressure on their targets as limited water supplies shrink and dry up. The cyber group provides added pressure by hacking into the computers controlling filtration in local water supplies, the dams, reservoirs, water districts, etc. Ultimately, the new entity attains a level of control of 40% of the Earth’s fresh water supply, pitting nation against nation, and corporate entity against corporate entity. Perhaps the project answers the questions: Is there a limit to human greed and selfishness? Is there a point when something greater must prevail? Just an idea off the top of my head. But I get something like this every day when I read the news.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved legislation that will make “Juneteenth” a national and federal holiday. If you have to ask what Juneteenth is, you probably need to read more news, but I will provide an explanation in greater detail on June 18, after the legislation passes in the House and the President signs it into law.

Personal note: When I wrote Alberta in 2016 as a fictional work, my main sources came from contemporary news. The story involved an OLM (Our Lives Matter), abuses by law enforcement, conspiracy theories, political intrigue and a character, Justin Luck, the billionaire businessman whose ambition is to foment a second Civil War in America. A secondary storyline involves the issue of “personhood.” Give it a read. For anyone who would like a free personal eBook copy, please email me a request.

While I am working on becoming a competent blogger, I realize that your comments and sharing are necessary to the growth of this post. If a news story has ever inspired creation of content for you, please share your experience here, and share with us how to support you by purchasing your work. Let’s make each other successful! I look forward to your shares.

VOD – Video of the Day – No Commentary

June 14, 2021

In the News…

I’ve never been a late sleeper, no matter what time I get to bed. On a normal day, I’m up at 5:00, and I spend the first two hours reading the news for the day from at least four sources. I guess my reading is not “fair and balanced,” because there are media sources that I don’t consider news, on both sides. Journalistic integrity, methods and standards matter, so rather than listening to blowhards and chicanery from media barkers in equal parts, I prefer “sane and sensible.” It doesn’t take a journalist or a trained analyst to know the difference. And while I realize that a story can’t be shared without a subtle opinion, editorial or otherwise, no one appreciates being told how to think or feel about an event or development for a political end or for propaganda purposes. I realize, however, that I am not without my own biases.

When I read the news, I am looking for new concepts and ideas for stories, examining the “what is” with the “what if…” in mind. “There is nothing new under the sun,” and it’s a waste of time to imagine re-creating or perfecting the wheel. All the great ideas are already there… in the news, if you have worked to developed your imagination.

So what’s in the news today, Monday, June 14, 2021? And specifically for content creators? Well, the U.S. is trying to figure a way to deal with ongoing Ransomware attacks, where computer hackers are breaching the protocols of huge companies’ security systems and shutting down the companies’ abilities to do business unless paid a huge ransom in Bitcoin or some other crypto currency. Colonial Pipeline paid $4.4 million and JBS (U.S. beef supplier) paid $11 million. McDonald’s and the Teamsters Union have also been attacked. There are more than a few creative projects that could emerge from this news, with all the money, the intrigue, the betrayals, the sub-plots and the surprise twists and turns along the journey.

Then there’s the status of Covid-19 vaccinations in the U.S. and the world, along with the concern about more contagious and dangerous Delta variant: 20.7% of the world population has received at least one does of the vaccine, 0.8% of people in low income countries have received the same. In the U.S., 52.8 of the population has received at least one shot. And while the coronavirus is in decline for most of the country, some states, including Alabama, Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado and Washington are reporting increases in new cases, with Florida recording 441 deaths in the last week. What would happen if a profoundly more deadly variant emerged and swept through populations and pockets of unvaccinated families? It would be a horrible and arguably avoidable tragedy, but incredible stories would emerge. Yet praying nothing like that would ever happen, the potential stories could be told anyway. What if?…

Christa Pike is a woman on Tennessee’s death row who is set to be executed for a murder (with torture) conviction from a 1995 case. She had two accomplices, Tadaryl Shipp, who was also involved in the murder of Colleen Slemmer, and Shadolla Peterson, who served as lookout. Pike, who was 18, was sentenced to death, while Shipp, then 17, was sentenced to life (eligible for parole in 2028), and Peterson got a six-year probation sentence. Pike’s lawyers cite that she was abused/neglected as a child, was born with brain damage and raped twice as a child. Maybe there is story there, and maybe the story will inspire a character or a novel story in fiction?

The heat is on in the West. Headlines: Climate change is making Rocky Mountain forests more flammable now than at any time in the past 2,000 years; and Farmers abandon crops, Utah residents asked to pray for rain amid record hot weather in parts of the US; and Potentially deadly heat wave to shatter records across the Southwest; and Across US West, drought arriving dangerously early. Predicted temperatures: Sacramento – 110°, Los Angeles – 100°, Las Vegas 117°, Death Valley 127°. Heat, drought and huge populations. The potential for problems, solutions and innovations are endless, and the potential for engaging, riveting stories is there.

The world’s largest family head, Ziona Chana, 76, died in his native Indian village of Baktawng Tlangnuam. This man had 39 wives, 94 children, 33 grandchildren and one great grandchild. They all lived together in a 100-room, four-story mansion. He was a construction worker with a strong back, but he was also the head of a polygamous Christian religious sect. Apparently, he had his wives on a rotating system for sharing his bed (circa 10 blessed nights each year!). Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear the story from one of his wives’ point-of-view?

VOD – Video of the Day – No Commentary