Monday, January 25, 2010

What goes around comes around

I attended a book signing a few nights ago, where a local author, a full-time bartender, talked about the creative process of writing a mystery novel that features a "hard-boiled" but gentle private investigator. Ironic that this event coincided with the notice of the death of the king of modern detective mysteries, Robert Parker, whose Spenser novels have been best sellers for decades.

Anyway, this new author entertained a receptive crowd with anecdotes about his experiences in writing his first novel. In so doing he got so carried away with thanking his many supporters that he neglected to tell us how he overcame the lethargy that writers experience when they have exhausted all they can say about a specific thought and end up staring at a blank computer monitor screen.

Robert Parker, throughout his entire career reputedly always wrote five pages of a novel everyday, seven days a week. Five pages, that's 2500 to 3000 words, every day, quite a feat. When I talked with the local author as he signed a copy of his book for me, I asked how much time he devoted to his first attempt. His response was interrupted by his publicist who needed his attention and when he continued with me the talk shifted to other subjects, so I never learned his regimen, except that he told us that it had taken him two years to finish a 285-page book. In Parker time that's about two months. I guess the local guy has to ratchet up his work ethic.

Leaving the book signing, I was asked about my book, which has morphed into a screenplay. I've been working on it for about 18 months, off and on and I've only got 40,000 words done, maybe enough for a "treatment" as they say in Hollywood, but only half of a thin novel.

Another friend asked why I didn't compile and publish a selection of the editorials I have written for ILS over the first 25 years of the magazine. This prompted me to start looking through the bound copies of the 24 volumes of the magazine; an exercise which changed direction as I forgot the original idea of trying to determine if there was enough material for a compilation and turned my attention to what I have been writing all these years.

No, I'm not going to bore you with nostalgia, but I did think you might be interested in a column I wrote in April of 1992, in the depths of the other recession that disrupted growth in the industrial laser business. Setting aside the dated references to a "white paper" I thought the message to the then President George Bush (the elder) has meaning today.

Who's in charge here, anyhow? The Congress? The Bureaucracy? The political candidates? Heaven help us if the latter, with all their posturing and finger pointing.

No, it's quite simple. The President is in charge. Mr. Bush, an old navy man, should remember that the captain of the ship assumes full responsibility, no matter what happens.

So, Mr. President, set aside politics for the moment and heed the words of one of the Democratic candidates for nomination. In his well-written and presented white paper, "A Call to Economic Arms – Forging a New American Mandate," Paul Tsongas
(since deceased) hits us where it hurts; "A nation without a manufacturing base is a nation heading toward Third World status."

He doesn't enamor himself to fellow Democrats with such statements as, "America's standard of living is totally dependent upon their capacity to compete and be profitable." And scientists and engineers should applaud this: "The economic war that we are loosing is centered on process technologies. The taking of new ideas, indeed even old ideas, and converting them to manufacturing goods is the great trade battleground."

President Bush would do well to read Mr. Tsongas' white paper, set partisan political rhetoric aside, and take the high ground with a statesmanlike position on rebuilding the U.S. as a world-class manufacturing power.

We know how to do it Mr. President--we just need the man in charge to identify the issue as one of his greatest national concerns. No government handouts. No new commissions. No wasteful regulations. Just a call to arms, if you will. We can do it, Mr. President, but we need your sincere and unflinching support.

You can substitute Obama for Bush and it still resonates.

This is not a new position for me, as I have always espoused the American "can do" spirit. Historians may say that it was a significant contributor to recovery from the 1990-92 recession. With some support from the top it might be a contributor to speeding up the moribund rebound we seem to be experiencing.

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