Wednesday, September 2, 2009

May I Have Your Attention, Please? (or) You Can't Make This Stuff Up... Or Can You?

I don't know if this little news item slipped past you;

Disney to acquire Marvel for $4 billion

LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Co. says it is acquiring Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion in cash and stock, bringing characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man into the Disney family.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of 5,000 Marvel characters.

Disney said Monday that Marvel shareholders will receive $30 per share in cash plus 0.745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own.

It said the boards of Disney and Marvel have both approved the transaction, but it requires an antitrust review and the approval of Marvel shareholders.

Once upon a time in the "Land of Make Believe," there was a very expensive marriage...

There are two different ways of looking at this corporate conjugal venture, both fairly interesting. The first wanders into a place we know as "Stone Cold Reality Land."

Consider this: a company that is one of the most widely known and successful entertainment conglomerates in the world, whose origin and worth is based upon the brilliance and driven imagination of one man (who rallied many other like-minded and talented individuals to work and create with him) is acquiring another company that has been around since 1939, was in bankruptcy from 1996 through 2000 but literally has a "cast of characters" known as the "Marvel Universe" which has survived all the lengthy trials and travails of the publishing/comic book industry. Now the payday for persevering has arrived.

Returning to our marriage theme, this then is the union of one company (aka "the House of Mouse") with another that helped spawn the most common form of pulp magazine in America before WWII, the comic book.
At a price tag of $4 billion, that's one expensive "imaginary" wedding... which brings us to a second way of looking at this merger back in the "Land of Make Believe."

None of this is "real." It's all fiction, an illusion, child's play... but with one very important catch.
We have decided that this is both valuable and real, not "airy fairy" made-up junk.

And how did we do this?

Simple. We paid attention to it.

From the mind of an imaginer (or in Disney parlance, an Imagineer,) comes a creation, a "fancy of flight." Should the imaginer be pleased with the creation, he pays attention to it and thus imbues it with spirit, with life. Now should the imaginer dare to think great thoughts about the creation, he sets it free upon the (maybe) waiting world. What will make or break the success and longevity of the creation is the same thing that brought it to life; how much attention will be paid to it over the course of time.

You see when someone asks for your attention, at that moment you are literally giving away the most valuable thing that you possess. It is so valuable that it can fuel the fire of a creative empire, produce great works of art... or lead down the path of violence, misery and all stops in between.

Why do you think so much "imaginary" money is spent in myriad forms of advertising?

(And by the way, money really is imaginary. It only has value because we've collectively agreed that it does. Should you doubt that, look up Peter Minuit and the 1626 purchase of Manhattan for $24 worth of cloth, beads, hatchets and other odds and ends, a perfectly acceptable transaction there and then.)

From Mickey Mouse to WALL-E, the Fantastic Four to Daredevil, all were spawned via imagination, nurtured by attention and brought to "empire" status via mass attention/mass consciousness. That's how the "Land of Make Believe" really operates and why $4 billion is the price tag in this "little transaction."

Who knows? After reading this, perhaps you won't brush aside someone's "wild imaginings" so casually!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where Are We Now?

My last blog was about a monumental event that marked its 40th anniversary in July; the first successful landing by man on the moon. It was a co-triumph of science and the bold expansive nature of the human spirit, an event shared by people all over the planet.

This upcoming weekend also marks a noteworthy anniversary. The 15th, 16th and 17th are the 40th anniversary of "3 days of peace and music" that you may have heard of; Woodstock (even though the actual festival location was Bethel, 50 miles from Woodstock, NY.)

In an era before PC's, the internet and cell phones, the "official archives" consist of photographs, an Academy award winning documentary... and stories.
The stories were captured by journalists, recited by the "ones who were there" as well as the ones who weren't. That last group includes me. At 13 (and a rebel neither at heart nor practice,) I was transfixed by the stories, captivated by the newspapers and glued to the TV. Something huge was happening and I could feel the energy and impact in the way that parents and adults were talking about it, reacting to it. Sad to say, I remember many were gleeful at the overall horrid conditions and hoping it would result in a bloody disaster.

It didn't. As a matter of fact, there were more births at Woodstock (2) than deaths (1). This is remarkable when you consider that originally they anticipated 60,000 people would attend the festival. When 186,000 tickets were sold, the estimate increased considerably. And then 400,000+ assorted souls decided they just "had to be there." Not included is 250,000 others that who tried but never made it to the site. This is the mass that trekked towards a small town that had a population of 2,366 in August, 1969.

The music was vital, remarkable and diverse. A throng such as this equally enthralled by the music of The Who and folk singer Joan Baez? Indeed, that was the case. A mass of humanity that suffered through two storms in three days; one dumped over three inches of rain in a few hours. Not enough food. Not enough toilets. 100 arrests were made, all on narcotics charges.

Violence? There simply wasn't any. The most wonderful line in the documentary was spoken from stage during the height of the hardship, joy and madness: "There are a hell of a lot of us here. If we are going to make it, you had better remember that the guy next to you is your brother." Obviously, they did.

A generation was defined by this event, a generation that was positioned just in front of mine. I have marveled about Woodstock since the weekend it happened and especially from the time I first saw the film. I wished I had been there but wasn't. That's my misfortune.

On the other hand, the seminal event of the 60's, the Vietnam war, never claimed me nor any of my friends. As we turned 18, the war was winding down and the few draft lotteries we "participated" in claimed none of us. There was no longer any need to "start a revolution." That was my good fortune.

The Woodstock Generation had long hair, scruffy jeans and "classic rock."

Mine had white leisure suits, Saturday Night Fever and disco.

Suddenly, I'm feeling a bit depressed. (Just kidding...)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Once Upon A Time...

Occasionally, the world stops.

When the world stops, it is usually for a moment of high drama. Virtually the entire waking consciousness of the world fixates on an event and/or person in a moment that can range from terror to joy with alternating stops in between. If you've been alive since January 1st, 2000, you've seen a few of them already.

In the "way-back machine" of my life though, there is one moment that happened forty years ago tonight that to me surpasses all of the others. It transfixed the world in a way that is hard to fathom; in a way where the entire world held it's collective breath for several days and especially for about twelve hours.

Forty years ago tonight, men successfully landed upon and walked on the moon.

I know, I know... if you weren't alive then it's just something that you've read about in history books. I understand and had the same feelings when I had to learn about World War II in school. Even though our parents had fought in it, it just wasn't "real" to us.

But imagine if you will that for one night, EVERYONE was watching television around the world. I still remember seeing pictures in Life magazine of tribal people gathered around highly primitive TVs and radios to witness the live reports.

For me, my family was situated in the dark living room in Linden, NJ and I was on the floor, eyes plastered on the screen of our console TV set. I had grown up with the space race, totally captivated each time a Gemini or Apollo flight would take off. To actually be there, watching on TV in my living room as two men walked on the lunar surface was almost beyond my comprehension. I still have an old black-and-white picture of the flickering screen, shot with an old Kodak Instamatic camera. I have newspapers, magazines, collectible mementos all put away in perfect condition from this night. I have proof that "I was there!" It was the defining highlight of my childhood.

As a thirteen year old boy, I knew then that nothing would ever be the same and that prediction surely has come to be. It amazed me how quickly the country became blase' about the space program after that. It took another "world stopping" moment during the gut-wrenching crisis of Apollo 13 to remind us all just how extraordinary this accomplishment really was. "Been there, done that" (along with "got the T-shirt") is a prevalent attitude. I don't really know if that's good or bad however, it most certainly is the way that it is.

For me, I look back on this with great joy and fondness. It is a good memory. With the completion of the International Space station and the stride back towards the moon and then to Mars, I hope that others might get excited about the amazing possibilities that we imagine first "in here" before they appear "out there." These things change the world in far reaching ways.

Forty years to the day, my wish on this moonless night is that we may all experience many more amazing and joyful "world stopping" moments in this lifetime. That's one I can sleep on easily tonight.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Form Me To You

All right, a quick show of hands... how many of you were thinking when you read the headline "Oops, he made a typo"? I'm betting virtually all of you did. However, you're wrong! I meant it exactly as it is written. Ponder these ideas while looking at the amazing sight of the Hubbard glacier in Alaska.

Since the world began, there is not one drop more nor one drop less of water. We have today what we've always had here on the planet since the start. (Just goes to prove that "recycling" is neither new nor original.)

In all of this time, the "form" that water, the essence of life, has taken has constantly shifted from liquid (such as the water you see here) to solid (the ice and snow of the glacier) to gas (the wispy clouds above the mountains.) Somewhere in, on or above earth, all three states consist of the same basic material; flowing, shifting, melding and co-existing, every drop is accounted for just as it's always been.

Take that mind-expanding idea and advance it one major step forward. One of the forms that water takes is snow. Snow is nothing but individual ice crystals falling from the clouds and piling up in various locations on earth. There is an absolute number that represents the total amount of individual ice crystals that have fallen since time began but I'm neither scientific nor mathematical enough to even guess how to annotate that here. As far as I'm concerned, "an infinite amount" does it for me.

...and not two of them have ever been the same. They have all been different.

That is the power beyond knowing that nature is. When I really thought about this, it overwhelmed me at first. However, it also gave me some new ideas, new ways of looking at things; those things are about you and me, the "snowflakes" of humanity. I started looking at "us" in a whole new light.

That's enough "mind-blowing" for one blog. Back with more tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chipping Away at the Old Block

Cute title, don't you think? A real play on words especially with a picture of me and my father taken in Florida in March sitting below them. However... some "old blocks" can't be chipped away at. Sometimes you just have to stick a ton-and-a-half of dynamite below them, light the fuse and hope you don't wind up killing yourself in the process.

Yeah, for me it was that kind of trip. If I had to subtitle it, I would tag it "Process can be a bitch."

All I can give you is a taste of what happens when you know that there is major emotional baggage that you've been carrying around for way too long and you decide at some level, "That's enough." My father and I had our reapproachment back in 1995 after my younger brother died at 35 years old. He was my only sibling and at this point I had not spoken to my father for over 20 years. I had created a total detachment from his entire side of the family, burned all bridges at front, back and in between.

I'll make a long story short and say that I wrote him a letter and he was moved enough to actually meet me and we talked for hours. That was 14 years ago and we've been glaciers, slowly and emotionally moving inches over time. As for me, I could always feel the remaining distance and I knew that I was internally responsible for most of it. One can't escape the heaviness, the wordless lies. The presence is always there.

So I drove down to Florida to see him in the first week of March, my life partner Jeri along for the ride (and what a ride!) My family took this drive several times in the Sixties and just the time spent in the car on the trip down was affecting me.

So what happened during the three days we visited? I had an awful lot to forgive and release within myself about this man, our family and my view of myself. I had put myself in the position of "no escape" by traveling down there. What manifested during those days was an excruciating episode with my back that I had to drive back home with, more tears during the passage than I ever knew were within me, emotional upheaval akin to being manic depressive and more insight about being the "author of my own story" than I could ever have achieved otherwise.

Oh yeah, deep end of the pool stuff. I had been carrying it around seemingly forever and it HAD to go, so I constructed this "destruction." Of course, I know that one can't actually "destroy" anything. This much I can say; I now feel a deeper sense of peace and authority in my own life than I have felt in a very long time. It has manifested itself in the phone conversations my father and I have had each weekend since I returned. There's just a new sense of closeness there that didn't exist before this trip.

I had to travel many miles to "come home." I'm glad that I finally did. My answer to the question I posed yesterday is that I'd rather be happy. No doubt about it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

So Who Are We Now?

It becomes fascinating to examine old photographs, especially when they contain an image of you and even more so when they contain you as part of your family. Pictured here is my 1974 high school graduation and left-to-right is my grandfather Kondler (my mom's dad,) my mother, me, Grandma Mae (my grandfather's second wife) and my father.

This is looking back 35 years ago for me. I think about some of the drama that we had already known at this point (like moving these grandparents out of Newark, NJ during the 1968 race riots) and the some of the drama yet to come (such as my parents divorcing in the next six years and I not speaking to my father for more than twenty
years beyond that.) Yet this shot is one that captures one of those "momentous occasions" we all rendezvous with numerous times during our current stay. We have "no idea" what is around the corner; all we know is how the moment feels (sometimes.)

That's really the point this is coming around to. It can all seem so "obvious" when we look back with the benefit of hindsight. "How could I have NOT known that would happen? All the signs were pointing right at it! I must have been blind." I'll quote from one of my favorite albums and animated movies, "The Point" by Harry Nilsson. As his character "The Rockman" says, "You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear, dig?"

I often remind myself of that now as I see the world of my choosing. We all do it. The question is, is it really the world that you and I want to see? Well, answer this... would you rather be right or would you rather be happy? Careful, the answer you give might not be what you think! More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Journal Takes Flight

When I was in high school in the early 70's, I wanted to be a journalist. I was caught up in the excitement and energy of the time (especially the breaking Watergate scandal.) To me, journalists were equal parts crusader, celebrity and spy; defending the public trust, shining a light on the plentiful good and bad aspects of the world and exposing the crooks to the harsh light of scrutiny. Big words, big world, big job.

It's funny how things work out in the game of time. My career never went that path for reasons that I still can't quite put my finger on. However, that doesn't change the fact that I am and have been a "journalist" all of my life. I have been jotting down observations, conjecture and ramblings in journals for most of my life, recently having celebrated fifty-three trips around the sun. Considering the seismic shift that's changing the face of how we consume information (as well as the fact that newspapers are teetering on the brink of complete obsolescence,) this blog is as good a place as any to share my thoughts, ideas and observations with any who are attracted to them.

The hardest thing I've had to digest in life is that in order to have control one must surrender all pretense of being in control. That illusion's not worth the monstrous effort required for zero-to-minimal results (and most of them are fleeting.) I'll touch more on that later down the road.

If you've been drawn here to partake in this offering I say "welcome." I'm truly honored to have you along for the ride. I've learned that there are no accidents in this world so I hope you find your time well-spent. I'll be sharing some things that have indeed left me both amazed and amused. How you will find them all depends on your point of view.

After all, it's your world. I'm just visiting!