Friday, December 27, 2013

Throwing The Book At Book Thieves – Texas Style

Poor Jory Enck! He borrowed a GED study guide in 2010. He got it at the Central Texas community of Copperas Cove located about 70 miles northwest of Austin.

In September 2013, a new law came into effect that defines the failure to return library books as thef, which is a felony. The new law makes sense; non-returning of library books drains recourses. In Texas alone, the libraries loose an estimated $18 million in “lost” books (around 1 million items). Since many communities have to deal with shrinking budgets and rising costs, they are looking for ways to have their library items returned in time.

The Texas procedure is as follows. Any library item that is not returned within 20 days carries a fine of $200. If this fine is not paid in time, a warrant will be issued by the municipal court for theft.

That’s what happened to Mr. Enck. The police went to his address due to a reported disturbance. Once they arrived, they arrested based on a previous warrant for theft of the study guide. He was promptly arrested for theft since he failed to return his overdue library book.

Mr. Enck was released on a $200 bond, and returned the book in question to library. He also turned to the media to state that he wouldn't set foot in a library again.

He also said: "I think I will probably just purchase a book from Amazon."

Mr. Eck forgot to mention that he had not been able to return the guide earlier since he had to serve a three-year prison sentence for robbery.

Texas is not the only state cracking down on people like Mr. Enck. Iowa jails this kind of offenders for one week. A man from Newton (Iowa) served jail time of more than a week for not returning six CDs and eleven library books with a total worth of a whopping $770. Vermont and Maine are also cracking down people that don’t return their library items.

The Enck incident is for now an oddity. However, it could happen far more frequently in the (near) future, especially since after such an arrest, long overdue library items are suddenly returned.

So what do you think? Are libraries (and the government) correct to crack down on people like Jory Enck to preserve their assets?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Interesting Background of the 100-Year Old Crossword Puzzle

On December 21, 1913 ArthurWynne published the first crossword puzzle in the US newspaper New York World where he worked as an editor. It was supposed to be a gimmick on the fun page of the newspaper’s Christmas edition.
As it turned out, it was just the beginning of a global phenomenon. People were enticed and wanted more. The newspaper included a weekly crossword puzzle in its Sunday edition. (Fun fact: the crossword puzzle was first referred to as the “wordcross” puzzle.)

By 1924, the crossword puzzle had become so popular, that journalist Louis Hinrichs of The Times referred to it in 1924 as “an insidious activity” that “the US of A is addicted to”.

By that time, most newspapers had incorporated the crossword puzzle tradition. Solving the crossword puzzle has become a favorite pastime by the readers of the morning edition around the world.
Publisher Simon & Schuster quickly indentified a marketing opportunity and published the first crossword puzzle book. The company was able to sell hundreds of books.
The renowned The Times crossword puzzle started in 1930. The Times asked its readers to answer in Classic Greek and Latin in order to preserve its elite image.  The Times published its 25,000the crossword puzzle in November 2011.

The world-famous crossword puzzle was used as an HR tool during WWII. To find out if potential code crackers were any good, the British government asked them to solve a tricky crossword puzzle of The Daily Telegraph. 

The first Dutch crossword puzzle appeared in the Dutch magazine “Het Leven” (The Life) on January 24, 1925. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Vincent Van Gogh’s ’s Colorful Goodbye Present To All Of Us

As we all know, Vincent van Gogh was a tormented soul. This makes his last painting the more remarkable.

"Green Wheat Fields, Auvers" has been in private hands for more than half a century, and was only recently exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Art historians were excited since it is the last masterpiece that Van Gogh completed before his tragic demise. He died in 1890 at age 37 in his beloved France.

The oil painting was owned by the late millionaire Paul Mellon. His father Andrew Mellon founded the National Gallery of Art in 1937. The painting graced the walls of Paul Mellon’s home until his wife  Rachel, donated it to the museum in 2013.

Mary Morton, curator of French paintings at the museum, stated "Here in the gallery, it needs nothing. It is incredibly powerful."

The painting is quite large, measuring two and half feet by three feet, and does not feature any persons or objects; just landscape. It depicts the northern French countryside with light green wheat fields, pale flowers, and a large blue and white, cloud-filled sky. The bright colors are interesting considering that towards the end of van Gogh's life his other works are quite dark and bleak.

According to Ms. Morton "He [Vincent van Gogh] was soothed by nature, feeling these incredible waves of joy."

Needless to say, this is pure speculation. We just don’t know what went on in the soul of this tortured genius. All we can do is feast our eyes on his brilliant painting and enjoy. All in all not a bad legacy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pixar’s Golden Rules For Storytelling – Excellent Advise For All Writers

Pixar Animation Studios is known for its animated feature and short films. The Emeryville-based enterprise is known for its compelling story lines.

Following are 23 rules that will help writers to hone their storytelling skills. Enjoy!

1. A character is more admired for trying than for succeeding (e.g., Finding Nemo)

2. What interests you as a writer can be very different from what the intended audience is interested in. (Remember Toy Story 2?)

3. Trying for a theme is important, but keep in mind that only at the end of the story will it be clear what it’s all about; that’s also the time to start rewriting!

4. The bare bones of a story consist of: Once upon a time there was […], Every day, […], One day […], Because of that […], and that […], Until finally […]

5. Keep it simple and focus by combining characters and avoiding detours.

6. Write about what the characters are good at and juxtaposition them against their polar opposites. (e.g., Shrek and Farquaad).

7. Describe how your characters deal with challenges. (e.g., Ice Age)

8. Write the beginning and the end of the story. Only then write the middle part. (e.g., Casablanca)

9. Once the story is finished, let it go. It will never be perfect and will only suffer from too many rewrites.

10. When suffering from writer’s block, make a list of what will not happen next

11. Analyze stories you like and find out why they speak to you since it influences your writing.

12. Start writing down the story and start editing and/or sharing it. You cannot write the great American novel in your head.

13. Be creative by disregarding the first few ideas that come to mind since they will be (too) obvious.

14. Characters should have opinions and attitude since your audience doesn’t like them to be passive, malleable and too perfect!

15. Get to the core of the narrative by analyzing what drives you to write this specific story.

16. Stay true to your characters by putting yourself in their situation. (e.g., Poirot)

17. Make your audience root for your characters by letting them overcome difficulties or even making the fail. (such as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in The Perfume by Patrick Sueskind)

18. Keep disregarded writing; it will be useful at a later stage or for a different story you will write at one point in the future

19. Know yourself and realize when you are really writing or just tinkering around.

20. Use coincidences to get characters into trouble, but never to get them out of it.

21. To find your style, take a novel, story, TV show or movie you hate and rearrange them to your liking!

22. Put emotion in your writing by identifying with the story’s setting and characters.

23. Figure out what the essence of the story is and how to tell it in a concise way. This will be the basis for your storytelling.

Monday, December 09, 2013

When Street Art Goes Mainstream – The STIK Story

STIK is a young British street artist known for graffiti portraits of beguiling stick people.

He learned about art as a life model at St. Martins and The Royal Academy.

 “I took in art by osmosis; I would be naked as dozens of artists talked about body, balance and composition.”

Two years ago STIK was a homeless street artist only just beginning to leave his strange, distinctive stick figures across London’s skyline. He is now one of the British art world’s hottest properties. His paintings grace the walls of Elton John, Bono, Brian May and Tinie Tempah. STIK’s art was recently sold at Christie’s and exhibited at Imitate Modern in the West End.

STIK is quite protective of his art – he recently got a cease and desist order when one of his iconic figures was picked up and turned into a viral infomercial for a huge company.

STIK is the creator of a 60ft Avenue A mural that will grace an East Village corner for a year. STIK stated “Making street art is my way of showing the world I exist. I am very defensive about the world I have created. The projects I’ve turned down are on a global scale. My form and discipline comes through necessity – to paint a picture in the time before the police are dispatched.”

STIK is also embracing acrylic on canvas, and will promote his art in Tokyo. STIK explained “I’ve been offered a lot of walls. When I do a piece on the street, I am very specific. I don’t feel like I can get permission from a Council or landlord – if I don’t feel it should be there, I don’t do it. If I’m not confident about it it’s not going to happen.”

The Dorian Grey gallery is presenting STIK’s solo show during December 2013. The gallery is exclusively hosting STIK’s long awaited print release ‘Liberty’ and is also launching a political journal ‘The Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary 2014’ which features STIK’s cover art.

The Londoner is quite enamored with NYC. “I love New York, I find it very friendly.”