Archives: Memories

Marketing Advice from Lucy, Ralph, and George

The Web’s evolution as a medium of communications reminds me of how another communications medium started out too…television. Some of the evolution that took place almost 60 years ago may be applicable to the Web today. Three of the legends of early television may have relevant help for us. Here are some Web tips from Lucy, Ralph and George.

Early television experimented with formats. In the beginning, only one camera was used. Later on two, and finally three became the standard. If you look at early episodes of I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners and Burns and Allen, you’ll see how much could be done with simple camera setups. Perhaps Web designers, who think that using the latest plug-ins is effective, might learn a little from those old techniques.

Lucy, Ralph and George (Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, and George Burns, respectively) also might serve as models for what they said. They all used comedy. Perhaps more Web sites should include some humor. Another aspect of their comedy was that they didn’t use, or apparently need, profanity. Good clean fun was what they were able to achieve.

The story lines on each show were also simple. There were usually only the regulars who appeared…only four per show. They kept the story short (half-hour segments) and simple. Folks could understand the plot, and it would be over within the attention span of most viewers.

Another good point for Web creators…simple and short makes sense.

Another aspect of the old time television shows was that they were in black and white. As photographers like Ansel Adams would prove, black and white works. Colors often divert attention away from the content that you are trying to achieve on the Web. Dazzling sites may only be remembered for the glitz, not the message.

When creating a Web site it may be a good idea to remember these communications pioneers. Their programs are still being viewed.

Although it may appear that I’m a bit old fashioned in my taste (which I usually am), it’s also good to remember that some old-fashioned concepts are equally valid today. Learning from the past can save a lot of time, effort and even money.

Looking Over the Shoulder of a Genius

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I didn’t know Picasso. I didn’t know Einstein. I didn’t know Jim Henson. But, I was recently given the chance to look over the shoulder of Jim Henson!

My wife gave me the first season DVD of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock…a program that appeared during the 1980s that I used to watch with my then little boy (who isn’t so little anymore). Aside from the video’s this boxed collection is truly unique. It includes a replica of a notebook that Henson used when he was thinking about creating the program. It’s his real notebook, handwritten in various colors. When could one have a chance to almost literally look over the shoulder of a genius as he was thinking about his new venture. Wow!

Dumb is Good … or how I got started as a writer.

Contrary to what they teach you in school, dumb can be very good for you. My writing career started because I was extremely dumb. If I were smart, I would have never done any writing. It all started when I applied for a job that I was not qualified for at all.

At the time, I was a teacher who was also working part-time as a wedding photographer. My wife noticed an ad in The New York Times seeking an editor for a newsletter about Nikon cameras. Since I was a photographer, owned Nikon cameras, and was looking for ways to make extra money, it seemed ideal. Never did I think that one should have any writing or editing experience before applying for such a job. The ad was somewhat unusual. Instead of asking for a resume, it asked three technical questions about photography. I answered them all and sent off my answers. This was back before email or even faxes.

About six weeks later, I got a call asking me to come in for an interview. The interview was with the editor-in-chief of Amphoto, the largest photography publisher (at that time) in the world. Of course, he asked if I had writing samples. I didn’t. After chatting for a while, I mentioned that I was a wedding photographer. He said that he wanted a sample of my writing on wedding photography. At the time, Amphoto and Kodak were releasing an encyclopedia of photography, one issue at a time. The issue that would include wedding photography was not completed. I wrote the sample and they used part of it in the encyclopedia, and gave me credit as one of the editors.

Another interview was scheduled with the editor. I thought that we were going to discuss the job that I had originally applied for. Instead, he told me that they were in the process of releasing a series of books. He asked if I could write the book on wedding photography. I instantly said, “No problem.” He said fine and would send me a contract. When I got home, my wife asked me if I could really do it. My answer to her was a little different. I said, “I have no idea!” My Amphoto Guide to Wedding Photography came out a couple years later.

It doesn’t end there. The editor suggested that I write an article for a newspaper – The New York Times. I laughed. He wasn’t kidding. He told me who edited the then weekly Camera Column that appeared in The Sunday New York Times. I sent in the article and was shocked a couple of weeks later when I saw it in The Times.

If I knew that you had to be qualified to apply for a job, I wouldn’t have ever written anything that was published. Dumb was very good.

Incidentally, I didn’t get the job. They said I was over qualified for it!

Bucked Teeth Wasn’t Bad Enough … I also Stuttered!

As a boy, I wasn’t like everyone else. My front teeth stuck way out. My teachers, the neighbors and my parents all didn’t think I was too bright. And…I stuttered. Wearing braces, although sometimes painful, took care of the teeth. A variety of review books and hours of studying dissipated the concerns over my intelligence (or the lack thereof). Those were pretty easy to solve compared to the stuttering.

Throughout elementary school and junior high I attended special speech classes. The teachers were genuinely concerned for my well being. Their eyes told more than what they said. They cringed as I tried to speak. Everyone had a suggestion on how to stop the stuttering. One speech teacher suggested that I try to speak more slowly. Didn’t work. Another suggested that I deliberately repeat the first sound of troublesome words until they would be able to pop out of my mouth like a jack-in-the-box. Didn’t work. There were too many words to think about. One person even told me that if you sing you don’t stutter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sing either. Of course, everyone suggested that I try to relax. Although relaxation may help to reduce your heart rate, it didn’t help reduce my stuttering.

My parents were upset and probably embarrassed. Their only child was so different from the others on the block. In my Brooklyn neighborhood, I was the only one who stuttered. For about the first ten years of my life I never even heard another stutterer. Friends tried to help by saying the word that I tried to say and added to my frustration. I don’t remember if I was made fun of more for my over bite or the slowed speech.

The summer of 1962, between junior high and high school, proved to be memorable. We moved from Brownsville to the Glenwood Projects in East Flatbush. I had to adjust to the new apartment, the new people, and worry about starting the fortress that they called Tilden High School the next fall.

That was probably my best and worst summer ever…because it happened. I remember it as though it happened yesterday. I went into that plain white bathroom, looked into the dirty mirror and started having a conversation with myself. “You look as good as anybody else,” I said. After thinking for a minute, I added, “You can do whatever others can do.” The conversation ended abruptly…and so did the stuttering! That was it. A thirty second pep talk and the stuttering that lasted for more than ten years ended…suddenly.

When the fall came I was put into a special class for stutterers at Tilden. The teacher couldn’t understand why. According to her, I wasn’t a stutterer. I spent that time looking at the other stutterers and thinking about how I had felt a few short months before. They looked down upon me as an outsider who could speak normally. The subject of how I stopped stuttering never came up. It wouldn’t have helped anyway. I’ve never heard anyone say that they stopped stuttering the way I did in all the years since that fateful day in 1962.

I’ve since read of various methods used to help stutterers including one where they tell people to speak with marbles in their mouths. Sorry, I don’t know why.

All I did was have a talk with myself. Why did it work? I have no idea. But, it worked!

Occasionally, I hear myself hesitating when I speak. However, it never interfered with my life after that. During my 33 years as a teacher no student ever made a comment about my speech…and kids always look for something to criticize. Over the years I have gone out of my way to speak in public. I’ve given dozens of workshops for adults. On a couple of occasions I had the opportunity to speak in front of audiences of more than a thousand people! After one such occasion a colleague said, “You didn’t even look nervous.” I wasn’t. I know that public speaking is supposed to make folks into nervous wrecks. The opposite is the case for me. I like speaking in public. I’m comfortable with it. All because of a pep talk in a bathroom in apartment 2A in Flatbush.

Save Your Family

Murray and Family in Poland

Family memories fade! Pictures help. Unfortunately, a picture alone will be useless in a few decades.

When you take a family photo it’s important to describe who’s who…in writing…preferably on the back of the photo.

My father came from Poland during the 1930s. Before he left Europe this family photo was taken. All except two of the people in the family were victims of Nazi execution. My father and his brother were the only ones to survive. Incidentally, my father is #9. The problem is that this is the only photo that survived. Unfortunately, the paper that described who was who has been lost…forever. Writing a caption is one of the best ways of preserving your family heritage.

I Remember Mr. Green

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, I knew Mr. Block (the butcher), Mr. Dubinsky (the tailor), Mrs. Chursin (candy story owner), Mr. Gerber (the grocer), and Mrs. Berlin (the owner of the apartment building that I lived in). Just about everyone called them by those names, adults and children. Respect was an integral part of life in Brownsville back then.

Each Friday afternoon a man came to the house with his tools: a mop and a pail. He washed down the floors of the apartment house each week. He was a black man. There weren’t any black people who lived on the block. This was back in the mid to late 1950s. Civil Rights and Political Correctness weren’t big back then. But…everyone called him Mr. Green.

Respect is very easy to give and costs nothing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we brought some of the memories from Brownsville back to life again?

Exercise Your Brain using Old Photos on eBay

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Did you ever think that you could exercise your brain using eBay? I think you can…using old photos. You can search eBay for tons of vintage photos. Most have little information about the history of the photo. Here’s where the brain exercise comes in. Using clues you can find on the old photos you will be surprised how much you can learn about them.

Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, has plenty of information to help you. She has several books that you can use. She’s also available to help you through personal consultations and she can speak to your group.

Learn a little, exercise your brain, and have fun with old photos. It’s a win, win, win!

Bad pictures make good memories…

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It’s corny.

It’s out of focus.

Posing is terrible.

Outfit is embarrassing.

Old Dumont TV weighted a ton and was only about 10 inches across.

Everything says terrible picture…except one thing. It’s a picture of me taken about 60 years ago in Brooklyn.

Pictures like this are not examined for quality. They are thought of as old memories that remind us of bygone days. The quality of the picture is unimportant. Only the memories count.

As you take a zillion pictures on your iPhone think about what memories will last 60 years from now. Preserve the ones that are important.

Save Your Family

Murray and Family in Poland

Family memories fade! Pictures help. Unfortunately, a picture alone will be useless in a few decades.

When you take a family photo it’s important to describe who’s who…in writing…preferably on the back of the photo. [The folks from the Pic Scanner App made a very important point: “Don’t caption photos with ballpoint or ink pens: they smudge, leave emboss marks. Use acid-free/archival pen or soft pencil.”]

My father came from Poland during the 1930s. Before he left Europe this family photo was taken. All except two of the people in the family were victims of Nazi execution. My father and his brother were the only ones to survive. Incidentally, my father is #9. The problem is that this is the only photo that survived. Unfortunately, the paper that described who was who has been lost…forever. Writing a caption is one of the best ways of preserving your family heritage.

Write captions…and save your family!