Sunday, March 28, 2021

It Can Be Art

I was watching a video on a glassblowing competition.

One competitor looked at another competitor’s submission and said, “I made a sculpture, he made art.”

I feel that way sometimes when I read copy written by other writers. “What I wrote today is good, they made art.

When you read outstanding copy, what is it that makes it so much better than other copy?

For me, the first thing I notice is rhythm and flow … how I comfortably, almost effortlessly, move from point A to point B, enjoying the ride and interested to see where I’m being taken.

With outstanding copy, I find myself getting involved in the actual message, not the delivery. It makes me forget to look at it from my copywriter mindset where I analyze each component, think about why the writer decided to include it, and agree or disagree.

Monday, March 15, 2021

10 Things I’ve Learned About Advice

Many years ago, my dad taught me that sincerely asking for advice is a sign of intelligence.

Since then, I’ve learned a few other important things about advice:

1. “Can I pick your brain?” is an irritatingly generic way to ask for advice.

2. Don't assume everyone's best advice is your best advice.

3. Staying silent is more effective than providing unsolicited advice.

4. Don’t assume that someone offering you advice is doing so just for your sake.

5. Understand that when you ask for advice, the person you’re asking is expecting you to follow it.

6. Don’t ask for advice simply to gain validation.

7. Make sure the person you seek out for advice has an appropriate level of expertise on the subject.

8. Don’t ask too many people for advice.

9. Be specific about the kind of advice you need.

10. Don’t make the decision for someone. Give them the tools to make their own decision.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Daylight Savings Time

Not a fan of gaining an hour in the fall and losing an hour in the spring?

Blame one of America's founding fathers: Ben Franklin.

Although originally presented with his trademark wit, Ben Franklin gets credit for introducing the concept of daylight saving time.

At age 78, while serving as ambassador to Paris, Franklin wrote a letter to the Journal of Paris of his "discovery" that the sun gives light as soon as it rises, and teasing Parisians for staying up late by candlelight. In this satirical piece he came up with the concept of Daylight Savings Time. Others took daylight saving time much more seriously and now, over 2 centuries later, the world uses his basic concept to better utilize the benefits of sunlight and to conserve energy.


The Journal of Paris



You often entertain us with accounts of new discoveries. Permit me to communicate to the public, through your paper, one that has lately been made by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility.

I was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduced, and much admired for its splendour; but a general inquiry was made, whether the oil it consumed was not in proportion to the light it afforded, in which case there would be no saving in the use of it. No one present could satisfy us in that point, which all agreed ought to be known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the expense of lighting our apartments, when every other article of family expense was so much augmented.

I was pleased to see this general concern for economy, for I love economy exceedingly.

I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I imagined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but, rubbing my eyes, I perceived the light came in at the windows. I got up and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted, the preceding evening, to close the shutters.

I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o'clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward, too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o'clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes. And, having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result.

Yet it so happens, that when I speak of this discovery to others, I can easily perceive by their countenances, though they forbear expressing it in words, that they do not quite believe me. One, indeed, who is a learned natural philosopher, has assured me that I must certainly be mistaken as to the circumstance of the light coming into my room; for it being well known, as he says, that there could be no light abroad at that hour, it follows that none could enter from without; and that of consequence, my windows being accidentally left open, instead of letting in the light, had only served to let out the darkness; and he used many ingenious arguments to show me how I might, by that means, have been deceived. I owned that he puzzled me a little, but he did not satisfy me; and the subsequent observations I made, as above mentioned, confirmed me in my first opinion.

This event has given rise in my mind to several serious and important reflections. I considered that, if I had not been awakened so early in the morning, I should have slept six hours longer by the light of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the following night by candle-light; and, the latter being a much more expensive light than the former, my love of economy induced me to muster up what little arithmetic I was master of, and to make some calculations, which I shall give you, after observing that utility is, in my opinion the test of value in matters of invention, and that a discovery which can be applied to no use, or is not good for something, is good for nothing.

I took for the basis of my calculation the supposition that there are one hundred thousand families in Paris, and that these families consume in the night half a pound of bougies, or candles, per hour. I think this is a moderate allowance, taking one family with another; for though I believe some consume less, I know that many consume a great deal more. Then estimating seven hours per day as the medium quantity between the time of the sun's rising and ours, he rising during the six following months from six to eight hours before noon, and there being seven hours of course per night in which we burn candles, the account will stand thus;--

In the six months between the 20th of March and the 20th of September, there are



Hours of each night in which we burn candles


Multiplication gives for the total number of hours


These 1,281 hours multiplied by 100,000, the number of inhabitants, give


One hundred twenty-eight millions and one hundred thousand hours, spent at Paris by candle-light, which, at half a pound of wax and tallow per hour, gives the weight of


Sixty-four millions and fifty thousand of pounds, which, estimating the whole at-the medium price of thirty sols the pound, makes the sum of ninety-six millions and seventy-five thousand livres tournois


An immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles. If it should be said, that people are apt to be obstinately attached to old customs, and that it will be difficult to induce them to rise before noon, consequently my discovery can be of little use; I answer, Nil desperandum. I believe all who have common sense, as soon as they have learnt from this paper that it is daylight when the sun rises, will contrive to rise with him; and, to compel the rest, I would propose the following regulations; First. Let a tax be laid of a louis per window, on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.

Second. Let the same salutary operation of police be made use of, to prevent our burning candles, that inclined us last winter to be more economical in burning wood; that is, let guards be placed in the shops of the wax and tallow chandlers, and no family be permitted to be supplied with more than one pound of candles per week.

Third. Let guards also be posted to stop all the coaches, &c. that would pass the streets after sunset, except those of physicians, surgeons, and midwives.

Fourth. Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient? let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity; for, ce n'est que le premier pas qui coƻte. Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following. But this sum of ninety-six millions and seventy-five thousand livres is not the whole of what may be saved by my economical project. You may observe that I have calculated upon only one half of the year, and much may be saved in the other, though the days are shorter. Besides, the immense stock of wax and tallow left unconsumed during the summer, will probably make candles much cheaper for the ensuing winter, and continue them cheaper as long as the proposed reformation shall be supported.

For the great benefit of this discovery, thus freely communicated and bestowed by me on the public, I demand neither place, pension, exclusive privilege, nor any other reward whatever. I expect only to have the honour of it. And yet I know there are little, envious minds, who will, as usual, deny me this and say, that my invention was known to the ancients, and perhaps they may bring passages out of the old books in proof of it. I will not dispute with these people, that the ancients knew not the sun would rise at certain hours; they possibly had, as we have, almanacs that predicted it; but it does not follow thence, that they knew he gave light as soon as he rose. This is what I claim as my discovery. If the ancients knew it, it might have been long since forgotten; for it certainly was unknown to the moderns, at least to the Parisians, which to prove, I need use but one plain simple argument. They are as well instructed judicious, and prudent a people as exist anywhere in the world all professing, like myself, to be lovers of economy; and, from the many heavy taxes required from them by the necessities of the state, have surely an abundant reason to be economical. I say it is impossible that so sensible a people, under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known, that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing. I am, &c.


Source: Nathan G. Goodman - The Ingenious Dr. Franklin. Selected Scientific Letters.


Want more insight into Ben Franklin's genius and sense of humor? 

Available at Amazon.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Pitching a Winning Script

Disclaimer: This blog post might be considered a time waster. 
Chances are it will distract you from something else
you really should be doing right now. But It's fun. 
Which in my mind isn't a time waster at all. 
If you have the time to waste, that is.

I watched a documentary about the movie Die Hard.

This movie went against the grain of the accepted action film genre by, among other things, casting a “regular” guy (Bruce Willis) as opposed to a typical action star of the day, such as Schwarzenegger or Stallone.

As a highly successful gamechanger, Die Hard became a reference in a slew of story pitches that flowed into the movie studios. Some were made:

  • Speed (Die Hard on a bus)
  • Air Force One (Die Hard on a plane)
  • Under Siege (Die Hard on a boat)
  • Masterminds (Die Hard in a school)
  • Sudden Death (Die Hard in a hockey arena)

So, if the way to get a movie script sold is to reference successful movies, do you think any of these  pitches could sell? 

It's Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Pinocchio with a bit of Independence Day thrown in: 

An adventurous archaeologist goes to school but is led astray by a cat and a fox and joins a last ditch mission to destroy the alien mothership and save the planet.


It's Edward Scissorshands meets Excalibur with a bit of King Kong thrown in:

A young man with scissors for hands becomes the rightful king of England and is later carried to the top of the empire state building for a final showdown against some bi-planes.


It's Goodfellas meets 2001: A Space Odyssey with a bit of The Good Bad and the Ugly thrown in:

A young Italian American has to stop his ship's computer from trying to kill him and makes an alliance with his rival to find the buried treasure.


It's Jurassic Park meets Fight Club with a bit of Shrek thrown in: 

A paleontologist in a hat starts an underground fighting club with a friend and falls in love with the princess he was sent to rescue.


It's Mary Poppins meets Cinderella with a bit of Big Trouble In Little China thrown in:

A magical nanny is barred from going to the ball by her cruel stepmother and fights off some martial arts god-types.


It's fun to play with the Random Story Generator



.NOTE: A few years ago, Willis addressed the conjecture over Die Hard being a Christmas movie (Warning: rough language)

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders. The team applauded as Byron held up th...