We've all been there. You fall in love with a book as you're reading it. It may even seem less like a book and more like an event. This book is your new favorite. You can't wait to tell your friends and family about the book, and then...you get to the last chapter and it falls completely apart. It seems to happen more frequently with books that cover social issues. The set-up is insightful, but the solution chapter doesn't hit the mark.
The weakness of last chapters is in large part a function of the sheer difficulty of devising answers to complex social problems that are sound, practicable and not blindingly obvious. Besides, those who give the most subtle diagnoses may not have the problem-solving disposition needed to come up with concrete, practical recommendations.
There was a day when filmmakers created a film and showed it to an audience that had no clue how movies were made. They didn't know the work that was involved. They didn't know the commitment it requires to take a movie from script to screen. They didn't appreciate the process behind making a film. Those days are gone.
While some see audience as the faceless mass waiting to be entertained or reduced to eyeballs needing to be captured, (Jay) Rosen points out that audiences now have the means and ability to make their own work...more people will have a newfound respect for those with talent (it isn't easy to create content worthy of an audience) and a network of creators can be harnessed to spread work much further than an expensive ad campaign can do.
The Beatles were a legendary band because they got along so well, right? They created brilliant songs out of their utter love for each other, right? The music came from their heart, and their hearts were always working in concert to craft historical pop songs...right? Not really. According to a new book by authors Richard Courtney and George Cassidy, at least some of their collaboration was born out of strife.
THE Beatles were stymied. During a 1968 recording session, they couldn't find a suitable introduction to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," a song written by Paul McCartney. John Lennon didn't much like the song, and, after several hours, he stormed out of the studio. When he returned, he strode to the piano and banged out several chords, then added petulantly, "Here's your intro!" "All eyes shifted to Paul, expecting rejection, perhaps an outburst," according to a new book, "Come Together: The Business Wisdom of The Beatles." (Turner Publishing, $24.95). Instead, McCartney defused the tension with this: "That's quite good, actually." Lennon's chords, pounded out in a fit of pique, make up the song's now-famous opening.
It's Never Too Late to Keep a Promise or Write That Book
Be careful of those promises you make. Gone unfulfilled, they could haunt you for years - decades even. Take one Barnaby Conrad. He promised his old boss, mentor and friend, Sinclair Lewis, that he would indeed finish his tome on John Wilkes Booth. Shortly after making the promise, Lewis died and Conrad let the years slip away without finishing the book. Fast forward 60 years, and Conrad fulfilled his promise. What prompted him to finish?
What moved him was his son Barnaby Conrad III, a writer and magazine editor who in 2009 had joined Council Oak Books and was hunting for new acquisitions; a year later, 59 years after Lewis died, he signed his father for an advance of $5,000. "I basically lit a fire under him again," the younger Mr. Conrad said.
There are those who have a problem with product placements in films and there are those who embrace it. Morgan Spurlock has created a documentary examining the practice of product placement and branding, and he funded the film with product placements in his film. In a practice of pure irony, Spurlock found companies that paid him to let him scrutinize how they package their brands.
So when business people decide to let documentary makers inside their well-fortified doors, exactly what do they hope to get out of it? Do they think they can charm them? Outwit them? Or maybe these buttoned-up corporate types just crave a star turn? Pat Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media, says she thinks that some companies that choose to participate do so because of a keep-your-enemies-closer strategy. "If they're not there, it looks like an admission of guilt," she said. "And at least if they show up they have a chance to get their side of the story - their spin - across."
There are no shortcuts worth taking in a creative business. While some seek fame and fortune by chasing down record executives and singing in contests, Anthony D'Amato chased down a professor at Princeton and handed him a demo CD. Why? Because this particular professor was Paul Muldoon, a renowned poet. D'Amato wanted to fine-tune his songwriting skills by learning from a master wordsmith.
"I wanted to get better, and I knew he was somebody who could help me get better," Mr. D'Amato, 23, said, sitting with Professor Muldoon recently in his office. Professor Muldoon, 55, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2003, and he is chairman of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton. Starting in 2009, Mr. D'Amato, then a Princeton junior, met with Professor Muldoon every few weeks to pore over drafts of Mr. D'Amato's songs, which he started writing as a high school student at Blair Academy in Blairstown.
The day that many have predicted may be here. E-books outsold print books the week after the holidays on USA Today's top-50 list. Sure it was only a week, but it's a pretty significant development. Like it or not, e-books are growing in popularity and the trend does not appear to be stalling anytime soon.
USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, to be published Thursday, will show digital's new popularity: E-book versions of the top six books outsold the print versions last week. And of the top 50, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. It's the first time the top-50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print. "Lots of consumers woke up Christmas morning with new e-reading devices ready to load them up with e-books," says Paul Bogaards of Knopf, American publisher for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which holds three of the top four spots on the list.
There is no doubt that George Lucas is a filmmaking genius, and I get a little uncomfortable being overly critical of his choice to create the three prequel movies to his Star Wars empire (that's empire with a lowercase "e"). But let's face it: the first three films were groundbreaking in scope and structure. They changed film. The prequels did not. So, what was different? Why didn't they have the same impact? The Moon brothers' assessment is that the prequels were just a bunch of unnecessary back story.
The problem that the prequels had, especially for those who were around when the original trilogy came out, is this: Our imagination is so strong, usually it's hard to top. We put together the clues to form the full backstory in our minds. Put the two trilogies back-to-back, and you'll find that there are little inconsistencies. Backstory and story don't quite match, especially regarding the reasons and circumstances surrounding the turn of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side.
It is human nature to lament the state of popular music. My generation does it. The generation before me does it. Cavemen did it when a three syllable grunt was something you could dance to. Someone is always unhappy about the current crop of songs getting the most attention. Jon Pareles of the New York Times is the latest to hate the string of songs played over and over again in various venues.
The pressures on musicians to keep things simple are obvious. What have become all-too-familiar 21st-century refrains - too much information, too little time and the diminished attention spans that result from trying to cope - have only grown more insistent through the decade. The recording technology of loops and samples encourages unimaginative producers to repeat something merely adequate for the length of a song rather than developing or enriching it.
As an artist, I suffer from an emotion called doubt. From time to time, I doubt my talent. I doubt my chances of success. I even doubt my right to call myself an artist. I suppose it comes with the territory, and I have always been able to work through it, but I have talked to a lot of writers who are so filled with doubt that it cripples their confidence to the point that they can't write. If you find yourself wresting with doubt, here is the secret to free yourself from its evil clutches. You are the creator of your own doubt.
I mean that literally. Doubt is an emotion. Emotions are small-chain proteins called peptides. Peptides are created in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. When I doubt myself, my hypothalamus goes to work creating the proper peptides and sends them out to interact with the cells of my body. My stress levels go up and my energy level goes down. The initial source of the doubt may have come from an external source, but the doubt itself is produced by me.
Why does knowing this help me? Because if I can manufacture doubt, then logic dictates I can manufacture confidence, too. With a thought, I can flip a switch in my hypothalamus and start producing the confidence peptides. They will interact with my cells. My stress levels will fall, and I will be full of energy. I don't need an external source to build my confidence. I have the tool (my hypothalamus) to create the small-chain proteins that will squelch the doubt.
The trick is to find that thought that will trigger the production of the confidence peptides in your hypothalamus. Strangely enough for me, that thought is an understanding that most of the great artists I admire struggled to make it. They went through periods of self-doubt, as well. What made them great was that they chose to manufacture confidence over doubt.
So, the choice is yours and no one else's. What kind of small-chain protein will you produce?
Richard is an employee of CreateSpace and an award-winning author.