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The tourist traps are empty
Vacancy abounds
Almost like it used to be
Before the circus came to town
When the Coast is Clear
Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett and Mac McAnally

Siesta Key

Earlier this year Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Florida was listed as the top beach in the United States by Trip Advisor. I hadn’t been to Siesta Key in over a decade so I took some time Monday to stop by and took the above shot with my iPhone. I’m drawn to simplicity, so while I know that sky begs an inspirational graphic—like “Keep Writing”— I think I’ll post this photo as is.

Clean and simple. (But do keep writing.)

P.S. And if you’re down today and need some inspiration, do you know what you have to do? “Just keep swimming.”

Scott W. Smith

“I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane.”
Annie Dillard
In her essay Total Eclipse written after she saw the total eclipse in 1979

St. Petersburg, Florida averages 248 sunny days a year and August 21, 2017 was one of those days. A total solar eclipse would have been spectacular, but Florida isn’t scheduled to see a full solar eclipse until August 24, 2045. 

I was on the University of South Florida—St. Petersburg campus yesterday during the partial eclipse and took the photo below of student Antonio Permuy who was wearing his David Bowie shirt as a nod to the 1979 eclipse—the last total eclipse seen in the contiguous United States.

USFSP-Eclipse

Another photo I took yesterday was of a statue of Christopher Columbus at St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, Florida. Columbus pulled off one of the greatest eclipse ruses back in 1503. In fact, it may have saved his life.

After some ship and provision problems, and a mutiny of his men, Columbus used his almanac to trick the locals in what is now Jamaica into thinking that he (or his god) could bring about a lunar eclipse.

When the moon disappeared briefly and appeared, let’s just say that the tension between his men and the islanders went away and they made sure Columbus and his men were taken care of until repairs could be made and other provisions arrived. At least, that’s the way I heard it.

Columbus

Scott W. Smith

Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Carly Simon/You’re So Vain

EclipseSalzburg20082017_4

There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since Feb. 26, 1979. So today is s a big deal here is the States. The eclipse will be visible along the path that runs from Oregon to South Carolina. There will be many eclipse parties in cities across the U.S. and I hope the clouds stay away.

I briefly thought about driving to Charleston, S.C. to see the eclipse because that’s a fun town any time of the year. But I was fortunate enough to be backpacking across Europe in 1999 when I saw a total solar eclipse in Salzburg, Austria. Anything compared to that would be a let down.

Here’s are two edited journal entries I kept on that trip:

August 11, 1999
Salzburg, Austria
10:04 AM
Big solar eclipse day. But it’s pretty cloudy in Salzburg. It would be nice to see the eclipse, but it was something we learned would happen only after we planed our trip. It would be nice to see, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t see it. Although some have predicted it would usher in the end of the world. 

Yesterday we woke up to a cool downpour. It was nice to sleep with the windows open and feel the cool breeze blow in. It rained most of the day and we had an enjoyable time just walking around the town and going into shops and visiting Mozart’s birth place. 

One of the highlights of the trip was that evening. We went up to the fortress for a candlelight dinner and a Mozart concert. It was perfect. Great view of the city from the fortress as well. 

CCI20082017_8

A couple of photos my wife took in Salzburg minutes before the solar eclipse in 1999

99EclipseSalzburgScott.jpg

August 11, 1999
10:04 PM 
On the train between Salzburg and Munich

Wow. We saw it. A total solar eclipse. At about 11:30 AM the moon began to move in front of the sun. It had been cloudy all mourning and we weren’t sure we’d get to see the total eclipse. The paper said Salzburg on had a 30% chance of seeing it. 

By 12:00 most of the clouds had moved away from the sun. Slowly we watched with ur special sunglasses as the sun continued to be eclipsed. The sun began to look like a crescent moon in reverse. 

I was thrilled to see this much since I thought the clouds would block the entire show. Around 12:30 it became apparent that we were going to see the whole thing. Within minutes the sun would be blocked. I’d see pictures before of a full eclipse but I had not thought about what would happen. 

There were a group of guys pounding on drums at a fast rhythmic beat. It made the whole event feel like a tribal ritual. People began to holler and cheer. (I don’t think I’d see anything like that since the applause the setting sun received from a crowd gathered on Mallory Square in Key West). 

And then it happened.

Like a giant stepping in front of the sun it became dark all around. It got cooler—like 10 or 20 degrees cooler. It was magical. One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

I took as many pictures as I could, but I’d be surprised if any of them came out. It got darker than I thought and I do not think I adjusted enough in my exposures. [Note: I was shooting film so you couldn’t just check you shots like you can digitally.] Maybe next time. Nairobi 2001 I think someone said.  

But it was really a great place to experience such an event.

Looking back 18 years later I think part of what made my first and only solar eclipse so special is it was we didn’t think we were going to see it. And seeing it in the town where Mozart was born made it even a little more special.

P.S. My photos of the eclipse itself are on slides somewhere, but aren’t great since I only had a 200mm lens. If I had to do it all over again I would embrace my limitations and focus on capturing the atmosphere of the people gathered to watch.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

“After his break with Mr. [Dean] Martin in 1956, Mr. Lewis went on to a successful solo career, eventually writing, producing and directing many of his own films.”
David Kehr, New York Times

Actor, comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis died today in Las Vegas, so I thought I’d pull some quotes of his from a string of posts I wrote about him in a few years ago. His 70+ year entertainment career was longer and more eclectic than most. (The 91-year-old began performing as a teenager and was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2014.)

Professor Jerry Lewis (The Total Film-Maker)“ I’ll tell you what I did to become a film-maker. I had this drive and I was curious.”

Professor Jerry Lewis (Great Filmmakers) “I’m convinced that the best example of a total film­ maker was Chaplin.”

Professor Jerry Lewis (Screenwriting) “Producers and directors buy a property because they like the story. Actors buy it because they see them­selves in a part. “

Professor Jerry Lewis (Actors)  “Speaking now as an actor: tremendous ego is involved and we tend to believe that whatever weaknesses we have are justification for our neuroses.”

Professor Jerry Lewis (21-Year-Old Spielberg)  Recently I saw a film made by a twenty­ one-year-old, Steven Spielberg… It rocked me back.

Professor Jerry Lewis (Director) “Simplicity makes bet­ter film: master, medium, choker.”

Professor Jerry Lewis (Shlemiel-schlimazel) “I do not know that I have a carefully thought-out theory on exactly what makes people laugh, but the premise of all comedy is a man in trouble, the little guy against the big guy.”

Scott W. Smith

This is a repost of my 2010 post J.K. Rowling on the Benefits of Failure that touches on her life before writing the Harry Potter series of books.

“A mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
J.K. Rowling
The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination
Harvard University Commencement
June 5, 2008

Scott W. Smith

“Everything I do I just assume I’m going to fail. All seems impossible but I’m very scared of failure –you know, everyone is –and that sence of the impossibility gets me to crank up the turbines. Everything mentally and physically at my disposal I pour into a project.”
Sebastian Junger (Author of The Perfect Storm, War, Tribe)
Outside mag Sept 2010
Article: The path of most resistance
Page 74

Junger is not only a best selling author, but co-director of the Academy Award-nominated Restrepo (2010) documentary.

Scott W. Smith

Enjoy the Process

I have had many, many failures and I’m a big fan of them…NBC a couple of years ago optioned one of my books and it was going to be a comedy where every week this writer did another wacky experiment and chaos ensued. And it was a total failure—it didn’t get picked up….There was one producer who I read a book of hers and she’s like ‘if you cannot enjoy the process then you’re screwed.’ Because the chances of the getting a movie actually made are so infinitesimal. So enjoy the process. Enjoy the walk up the mountain.”
New York Times best selling author A.J. Jacobs  (The Know It All)
Tim Ferriss podcast interview How to Turn Failure into Success

Jacobs can be heard on the podcast Twice Removed and found on Twitter @ajjacobs . To read more about his failed sitcom (and the pilot episode that cost almost $3 million to produce) read his Esquire article My Life as a Sitcom.

Related posts: “I never saw myself as a sitcom writer, but I was waiting tables…” (The journey that led Rob McElhenny to buying a couple of screenwriting books, a camera at Best Buy, to working with screenwriter Paul Schrader that took him into a deep forest when it failed, on the way to creating the long running Tv show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. )
Susannah Grant on Failure
Aaron Sorkin on Failure

Scott W. Smith

 

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