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Monday, May 26, 2014

William Butler Yeats

“I always think a great speaker convinces us not by force of reasoning, but because he is visibly enjoying the beliefs he wants us to accept.”

— William Butler Yeats
Irish Poet
1865 - 1939

So what does this quote have to do with being a poet, a writer or an artist?  Like great speakers, creative leaders must enjoy the work they do and be able to communicate their passion through their creative work.  If we are not passionate about what we do, our work will fall flat and be uninspired.  Are you passionate about the work you create?  Do you enjoy creating?

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of John Butler Yeats and Susan Mary Pollexfen.  When Yeats was two, his family moved to England to help his father further his artistic career.  Yeats did not do well in school, particularly in the areas of spelling, math and language.  His family moved back to Ireland when he was fifteen and he began writing poetry.  His first poem was published in 1885 in the Dublin University Review.  Thirty-eight years later at the age of 58, Yeats received the Nobel Prize in Literature and was recognized as one of the most important figures in 20th century literature.

Here are a few poems by William Butler Yeats.

A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

To a Child Dancing in the Wind

Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water's roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool's triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of the wind?

A Coat

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.

Here is Colin Farrell reading When you are Old by William Butler Yeats.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chinua Achebe

"Art is man's constant effort to create for himself a different order of reality from that which is given to him."

Nigerian Novelist/Poet
1930 - 2013

Through our painting and writing we have an opportunity to recreate the world as we want it to be.  We have the ability and the opportunity to alter reality.  The world into which we are born can be changed.  We can change our story by retelling it in new ways.  Have you changed your story?  Have you altered the reality in which you live?  Or are you caught up in facts as reality?  The more you can alter and change reality, the better artist you will become.

Chinua Achebe was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe in the Igbo village of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria.  Chinualumogu means "May God fight on my behalf."  His parents, Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam Achebe stood at the crossroads of traditional Igbo culture and Christian culture.  His father and mother converted to Protestantism.  

Achebe's mother and sister told him many stories as a child which is a Igbo tradition.  He entered St. Philip's Central school when he was six.  He also attended Sunday school every week.  When he was twelve he moved away from his family and his village to attend the Central school where his older brother taught.  At fourteen, he entered secondary school and completed it in four years instead of the normal five.

In 1948, Achebe entered Nigeria's first university and studied English, history and theology. After his college studies, Achebe found work writing scripts for oral delivery at the Nigerian Broadcasting Service, a radio network, in the city of Lagos.  

Achebe's first and most famous novel, Things Fall Apart, was published in 1958. The novel has sold over 8 million copies and has been translated into 50 languages.

Here is a video of Chinua Achebe discussing Africa after 50 years after writing and publishing Things Fall Apart.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Twelve Years A Slave: A Book Review

Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have watched the movie, Twelve Years a Slave, then you should read this book. If you have not watched the movie, Twelve Years a Slave, then you definitely need to read this book. The book is an as-told-to story by Solomon Northup, a man who was born, raised and living in New York state. As Northup tells the story, he was conned into traveling to Washington D.C. where he was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep South in 1840. He spent 12 years as a slave before he was able to send information of his whereabouts to friends who traveled south and freed him. .

The book shares the experience of one man as a slave and all the horrors that he faced. Married with children before the kidnapping, Northup suffered as no person should be made to suffer. He was whipped, beaten and almost hung. His skills as violin player and his intelligence kept him alive through these difficult, almost unbearable times. He was also forced to whip other slaves.

The book was written by David Wilson who served as Northup's ghost writer. It followed in the footsteps of the publishing success of Uncle Tom's Cabin and was used by the abolition forces to further their cause. After Northup's release from slavery, he traveled around the north giving anti-slavery speeches and may have been involved in the Underground Railroad, though, there is no evidence to support this. Published in 1853, the book was an instant success with 8,000 copies being sold in the first month. The book went out of print in 1856 and remained out of print until 1968.

Along side the amazing story of Solomon Northup is the fascinating story of Sue Lyles Eakin and the work she did to bring the book to the attention of American readers in the 20th and 21st centuries. Sue Eakin discovered an original copy of the book in a plantation home near where Northup was a slave when she was 12 years old. Northup's story became her life's passion. Dr. Eakin wrote her master's thesis about Northup's story and after decades of research produced the first authenticated edition in 1968. She continued to spend her life verifying, validating and substantiating the story through thousands of hours of research. In 2007, at the age of 88, she completed her final definitive edition with over 100 pages of new information, images and maps. In her spare time, she authored over a dozen other history books and was a history professor.

One of the fascinating facts that I learned in this book was that in 1840 New York state passed a law authorizing the governor the authority to seek the release of free people who were sold into slavery. This law is what the friends of Solomon Northup used to travel to Louisiana and secure his release.

Amazon lists more than 30 different editions of this book. I would recommend you purchase this edition by Dr. Sue Eakin which contains all her documentation and verification of the facts in the story.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 12, 2014

Zig Ziglar

"You never know when one kind act, or one word of encouragement, can change a life forever."

American Speaker/Author
1926 - 2012

Words are very powerful. A few words here or there can change a life. Who have been the encouragers in your life? Maybe it was a parent, a teacher, a friend, a child or a preacher? What did they say to you? How did they touch your life? How did they change your life? 

Many motivational speakers have inspired me over the years. Driving to Texas from Illinois in December of 1982 to start a new job, I discovered Zig Ziglar, the grandfather of motivational speaking, on the radio. I didn't know who he was or the impact he would eventually have on my life. I have since met him and seen him on several occasions speak. The last time I saw him speak was at the 2000 National Speakers Association annual convention in Washington, D.C. Like many speakers that I enjoy, I have listened to him dozens of times on tape. I, with his permission, actually tell some of his stories.

One of my favorite Ziglar stories is the story of the man who had an opportunity to visit heaven and hell before he died. St. Peter asked the man where he wanted to go. He told St. Peter to take him down to hell. There he saw a beautiful banquet hall with the finest food and drink you could imagine. When he looked at the people he saw that they were skin and bones and that they were cursing and swearing at each other. He told St. Peter to take him up to heaven. In heaven, he saw the same beautiful banquet hall filled with the finest food and drink. When he looked at the people, he saw that they were healthy and robust and that they were laughing and singing. The man asked St. Peter what was going on. St. Peter responded, "Did you see the silverware." Strapped to each arm was a four foot fork and a four foot knife. Now, we all know we can't eat with such large silverware. The people in hell were so busy getting everything for themselves that nobody got anything. Up in heaven each person would feed the person across from him and that person would feed him back. The message is very simple but powerful: if you help other people get what they need and want you will get everything you need and want.

As creative leaders we have the opportunity to touch the lives of the people we meet through our books, paintings, songs, photographs and stories. Whose life did you touch today?

Zig Ziglar
Motivational Speaker / Author

Hilary Hinton Ziglar was the tenth of twelve children born to John Silas Ziglar and Lila Wescott Ziglar.  When Ziglar was five, his family moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi where he spent most of his early childhood.  His father and sister died a year later.  Ziglar served in the United States Navy during World War II.  He married his wife, Jean, in 1946.

Zig Ziglar began his career as a salesman and eventually moved into motivational speaking. He wrote and published more than a dozen books including See you at the Top, Secrets of Closing the Sale and Confessions of a Happy Christian.

Here is Zig Ziglar telling his famous primp the pump story.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Berthold Auerbach

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

German Novelist, Poet
1812 - 1882

Of the arts, music holds the greatest sway over the soul.  It has the power to soothe the pain and free the spirit.  For many of us, certain songs bring to mind special moments and times.  What music do you listen to during times of trouble?  Do you sing in the shower or while walking alone along the railroad tracks?  What music inspires your creativity?  Do you paint to the sounds of rock and roll or write to the concertos of Bach?  What music moves you to dance with joy and to celebrate life?

Berthold Auerbach was born Moses Baruch Auerbach in a village in the Black Forest of Germany.  He was one of eleven children in a Jewish family.  His father, who intended for Moses to be a rabbi, started him in Jewish studies early in his life.  In his 12th year he entered a Talmud school to complete his studies, but he gave up studying the Talmud and entered the university to study law.  He then dropped law for history and philosophy. Spinoza became his philosopher of choice and he wrote a novel about him in 1837 as well as translated his writings.  He was imprisoned for three months in 1837 for his democratic views.  Auerbach married Augusta Schreiber in 1847.  She, unfortunately, died in childbirth a year later.  

Berthold Auerbach wrote poetry, plays and novels.  A complete edition of his writings was published in 22 volumes in 1863.  His novels described rural life in southern Germany.

Free ebook
Here is a link to a free ebook of Landolin by Berthold Auerbach, published by Project Gutenberg.  

Bach Concerto:
And here is a Bach concerto for your listening pleasure.