How Talk Radio Can Attract Millennials (3/4): The Campaign

Last time we talked about The Problem that talk radio faces today.

Now for the fun part: The Campaign.

After locating suitable on-air talent, a Seattle talk radio station would have to tailor the show to the preferences of Millennials and then market the heck out of it using The Seven Touches Method.

Let’s say that you’re a producer at a Seattle talk radio station. You’ve managed to find some hot on-air talent.

He’s a young, energetic, smart kid with a great radio voice, a keen grasp on the issues, and strong writing skills.

You’re all set to put him on the air, but then you realize that you need to build some buzz for this new show first. (Let’s call it The Mark Dogero Show.)

Enter me, a marketing consultant you hired to help with this task. After sitting down and talking with you and the talent, I present you with a seven-touch marketing plan.

The seven-touch marketing plan is a tried-and-true method of marketing which is even more pertinent in the social media age.

The saying goes that your audience needs to hear about your product (The Mark Dogero Show) at least seven times before they’ll buy it, or in this case, tune in to the show or listen to the podcast.

Before you do anything, be sure that the show itself will appeal to your target demographic. Up to this point we’ve been saying that we want to reach “Millennials,” but we have to get more specific.

For the purposes of this scenario, let’s say our target demographic is college-educated Seattle-area 18-34 year-olds with a Christian background who lean libertarian and who are most concerned about social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and abortion.

As for the show itself, I’m no expert on radio (that’s your job, Mr. Radio Producer), but my experience tells me that the key to appealing to Millennials is to take the moral high ground.

If you can convince this particular target demographic that your viewpoint is morally superior to that of the opposition, then you’ve got them hooked. Millennials want to on the side of the good guys.

Be sure to back up the style of morality with the substance of facts and figures. Millennials (I’d like to think) aren’t complete idiots.

Now, on to The Campaign.

The first of your Seven Touches is a face-to-face encounter. Send Mark on a speaking tour of every college campus in the Greater Seattle Area.

Have him speak to (the admittedly small-numbered) every on-campus chapter of the College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, free of charge.

Identify other groups, large and small, of like-minded persons, such as local conservative and libertarian Facebook groups, and promote speaking engagements to them as well.

Use targeted ads on Facebook to spread the word to people matching the target demographic to attract more people to these meetings.

The ads should use buzzwords like “justice” and “equity” and “economic empowerment,” which when applied to a libertarian idea, will attract Millennials from left, right, and center.

For example, you could run an ad on a lecture series on rent control, the minimum wage, and zoning regulations.

Titled, “The Injustice of Progressivism”, your ad would have copy saying: “Learn How Regressive Laws are Hurting the Most Vulnerable and Keeping Our City Poor.”

So people come to the speaking events, and word gets around about Mark’s new show on the radio, which you’ll emphasize is available on SoundCloud and via your radio station’s app.

People will sign up at the meetings and events for subscriptions to Mark’s blog, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and get email updates from your station!

These email updates are the second touch. They will include Mark’s written thoughts in addition to the show and video clips from the show itself.

These will keep you stuck in the mind of your audience, even if they ignore most of Mark’s emails.

That’s where the third touch comes in: social media updates. Mark will be most active on social media platforms where the target demographic is most active, namely Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Since the target demographic is very attuned to video, updates on these channels should include short video clips of Mark speaking about trending issues and topics, taking questions from the audience, and interacting with relevant guests.

Speaking of guests, that brings us to touch number four: Influencer endorsement! That is, have someone on the show whom Millennials trust and promote clips of their appearance on social media.

This one was a little tricky to figure out when planning this post, as most influencers who resonate with our target demographic tend to lean left or else do not have much to say about the issues that The Mark Dogero Show would care to discuss.

What I mean to say is that most public figures whom Millennials pay attention to are Hollywood actors, musicians and bloggers, along with the occasional politician.

The obstacle, as so eloquently popularized by Ryan Holiday, is in fact the way forward.

In addition to inviting recognized conservative or libertarian figures of note, also invite persons of the opposite inclination to be on the show.

When Mark is talking to an influencer whom he agrees with, very good.

But when he’s talking to an influencer whom he may oppose on policy issues, it will give him an opportunity to show how “fair” and “tolerant” he is by having such guests on his show and hearing them out.

A focus on local personalities and figures would be best. Remember, your audience lives in Seattle!

Touch number five would be to distribute free or low-cost pamphlets or eBooks written by Mark to your followers that can be easily shared with friends.

Readers should be able to recommend Mark’s books enthusiastically, so they’d better be good!

Touch number six would be to promote the eBooks and pamphlets on Facebook and Twitter through targeted ads. You’ve gotta love those things!

Combined with the word-of-mouth generated by their being a great product, those pamphlets will spread Mark’s philosophy in written form my leaps and bounds!

The final of the seven touches is an email invite to an event hosted by the radio station, featuring this Mark Dogero guy that everyone’s been talking about.

An example of such an event would be a debate or a lecture. Since it’s an event being put on by the radio show, it could be broadcast over the airwaves.

It could also be live-streamed on Facebook, recorded and posted to YouTube, and, of course, put on SoundCloud!

But remember, the key here isn’t quantity of platforms. It’s better to focus on where your target demographic is hanging out. Promote the event ahead of time using targeted ads, calling on people to tune in on the radio or online.

Use the opportunity this opportunity from people signing up to attend the debate or lecture to build your email list for further marketing efforts.

Also use it as an opportunity to upsell other shows put on by the station, not to mention those eBooks and pamphlets.

If this strategy has been properly executed, The Mark Dogero Show will be a knockout, and advertisers will be clamoring to get behind it.

These seven touches can overlap a little. Some of them can be expanded to make a total of nine or ten touches. In today’s wonderful wired info-saturated world, some marketing gurus have suggested that as many as thirteen touches may be necessary.

But the principle remains that with a good product, followed by a disciplined marketing strategy such as the one detailed here, a large following of Millennials can be attracted to our imaginary talk radio show.

So, Mr. Radio Producer, what’s next?

We’ll talk about a few miscellaneous details that we haven’t covered yet in the fourth and final installment of this series: Review.

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How Talk Radio Can Attract Millennials (2/4): The Problem

The fact is that most of my fellow Millennials aren’t listening to talk radio.

There’s no reason they shouldn’t.

My personal observations and at least one poll indicate that many Millennials identify philosophically as libertarian. That’s a start.

But conservative talk radio, which relies heavily on programming which appeals to older audiences, is slowly waning.

Social media allows ideological opponents to harass the medium online faster and harder than pundits can react.

It generally lacks the same internet presence that can allow it to beat back such attacks.

The result is that talk radio continues to fall back on the old stalwart of older blue collar folks.

But insofar as I can tell, stations aren’t attracting large swaths of Millennials, who should be welcoming them with open arms.

This is The Problem.

Changing demographics and inflamed social media reactions have resulted in talk radio both losing advertising money and failing to attract new audiences.

The main issue that talk radio faces today is the blunt reality is that there just aren’t enough young listeners to sustain the medium.

In an interview with Forbes, media scholar Jeffrey Berry summed up the numbers game that talk radio faces today:

 

And it’s a shrinking demographic. For every white farmer in the heartland who dies, he’s being replaced by a 25-year-old Hispanic living in the Bronx. It’s just the way America is going right now.

People are obviously listening to talk radio, and will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, the audience that most talk radio shows are aiming for isn’t the type that media buyers want to target, that is, Millennials.

Meanwhile, firestorms on the internet instigated by ideological opponents haven’t helped either. In fact, they may account for the lion’s share of the blame.

A 2015 article for The Wall Street Journal reported that controversial comments by Rush Limbaugh directly led to advertisers choosing to avoid buying airtime around such shows.

The article reads:

Local and direct-response advertisers, such as flower-delivery and financial services, continue to advertise on conservative talk shows. But overall demand has tanked among national advertisers for anything else that could air on the same stations, putting some syndicators and stations in a bind on their programming.

As a result of various reasons, having to do with the philosophical inclinations of Millennials and sloppy marketing work, Millennials typically don’t listen to talk radio, conservative or otherwise.

A Nielsen report, for instance, states that only an average of 3.7% of persons aged 18-34 listen to news or talk radio.

The report also notes: “On average, radio reaches nine out of 10 Millennials across all three life stages each week.” (The report breaks down the age group’s preferences by life-stage.)

So Millennials are listening to radio in general, but most of them aren’t listening to talk radio.

The talk radio format still has a hope of reaching Millennials and expanding its audience, thus attracting more advertisers.

If by some marketing miracle this can happen, then the newfound popularity of talk radio among Millennials will make airtime an investment worth the risk for cautious media-buyers.

To accomplish this feat, conservative talk radio will have to do two things:

  • Present a product (programming) that will appeal to the tastes and ideology of libertarian or conservative Millennials.
  • Execute a marketing strategy that will reach this demographic and make the medium attractive to them.

This post discussed The ProblemNext time we will discuss The Campaign.

Rated P for Passable – An Ancient Secrets of Lead Generation Review

Note: This review is adapted from an article I wrote on LinkedIn on November 4, 2016, which was in turn adapted from a review I wrote for Ancient Secrets Of Lead Generation: Your Primitive Business Guide To Better Leads With Less Effort on my Goodreads.com account.

Today’s business blogosphere is teeming with thought-leaders and wannabee-thought-leaders, including myself.

The ones who manage to grow a big enough following are invariably offered book-deals.

The typical result of such book-deals is a compilation of the newly minted thought-leader’s most popular blog posts.

Combine that with a sliver of original content and a punchy-sounding title, and you’ve got something that will fly off of conference room tables and help fuel the thought-leader’s personal brand.

Ancient Secrets of Lead Generation by Daryl Urbanski is one such book. Although it contains legitimately good business advice, it is without a doubt the most sloppily-written eBook I have ever read.

I put this book on my to-read list after I saw it on Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA reading list. After having read it, I concluded that Ancient Secrets does have some good points.

Unfortunately, they are rendered nearly moot by its chronically haphazard editing. This is another hallmark of the books put out by mini-thought-leaders such ask Urbanski.

Ancient Secrets of Lead Generation is a slim volume with advice which is almost as gaunt.

The basic principles of hanging out where your target audience is and using targeted ads for different demographics are rather elementary, but sometimes that’s a good thing.

What’s unique about Urbanski’s book was that he made me rethink my ideas regarding these tactics.

I guess you could say that Urbanski gave me perspective on this strategy by giving an example of it in practice, via his anecdotes of running a small martial arts business.

But that’s where my admiration ends.

The eBook’s core flaw is that it’s littered with typos, misspellings, and bad grammar.

This takes the reader out of the experience of reading to an intense degree, making it difficult to absorb the author’s platitudes. It also undermines Urbanski’s credibility as a marketing guru.

If he cannot produce a high-quality product, then his marketing scheme will only serve to fuel the dubious reputation that reviews like mine will give him.

Again, a lot of eBooks written by mini-thought-leaders such as Urbanski tend to be a bit spotty in terms of editing, but this book left me utterly flabbergasted.

To wit, Ancient Secrets of Lead Generation presents old ideas in a new perspective, making them easy to grasp for relative amateurs such as myself.

Sadly, the book’s execution is critically lacking. It would have been improved a hundred times over if Urbanski had hired a decent proofreader.

How Talk Radio Can Attract Millennials (1/4): Intro

My day job is listed on my Twitter account as “Marketing Director at the Renton Printery.”

My family’s print shop is a brick-and-mortar, blue collar establishment.

To while away the countless hours working on the machines, starring at computers, or even sitting at desks occasionally, we listen to a lot of talk radio.

I’m generally fine with talk radio, even though I don’t usually tune in outside of the shop.

I have a short commute and don’t drive much, so that nixes opportunities to listen to full broadcasts of Rush or The Great One.

The point here is that without a lot of Millennials tuning in with our smartphone apps that can stream radio and podcasts whenever we want, older talk stations are missing out on a sizable chunk of listeners.

Meanwhile, their primary audience, the older folks who crew the shop where I work, are slowly shrinking in numbers and influence.

Thus, the only advertisers interested in leasing airtime on talk radio are peddlers of mattresses and men’s health products.

This is The Problem.

The other day, the Marketing Guy-half of my brain sat down with the half of my brain that was listening to Michael Medved and put together a thought:

“There must got to be a way to get more people my age to listen to talk radio! I like it just fine when it’s convenient, so there must be others like me who think the same.”

Enter The Campaign.

I began constructing in my head what it would take for my local talk radio station to make me, a representative of a sought-after target demographic, want to go out of my way to listen to their programming.

The goal of this series is to explain the current marketing funk that conservative talk radio has found itself in, how it might lure a new demographic into its audience, and what the benefits of such a circumstance could be.

Talk radio’s listener base has few young people in its audience, myself included. But with a targeted marketing campaign tailored to millennials, new life could be breathed into it, leading to The Reward.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, in which we discuss The Problem.

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Goodreads Review: Save the Cat!

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever NeedSave the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the first book on screenwriting I’ve ever read. Despite its subtitle, it made me want to read more books on screenwriting.

“Save the Cat!” is probably the most well-known book on screenwriting there is. For this reason, I see now that its advice has been disseminated among and copied by a multitude of other writers of books on writing, such as “You Can Write a Novel” by James V. Smith.

What all of the books I’ve read on the subject have in common is they all copy at least some of the advice in “Save the Cat!” in one way or another. Most of them also copy Blake Snyder’s smarmy style of writing.

But Snyder has a leg up on all of these posers. Unlike the majority of writers of books on writing, Snyder has actually written and sold screenplays to studios, and therefore has credibility.

At this point, the peanut gallery will probably say, “Well, just because he sold some screenplays doesn’t mean those screenplays were good.”

Meanwhile, this same peanut gallery (including other writers of screenwriting books) haven’t sold any screenplays. Presumably, if they knew how to write a good screenplay, they would have sold some by now.

The aforementioned James V. Smith, however, also uses this tactic, though he has to his name a handful of obscure military fiction novels, not quite the same as screenplays one sells to Hollywood big-wigs.

Smith therefore has all of Snyder’s ego but none of his achievements. If Smith had gotten a well-known book published by some big publisher that I’d heard of, that would be a different matter.

The advice Snyder himself gives is nothing short of eye-opening. He cuts right to the chase, spending little time hyping himself or trying to prove to his readers that they should believe him. Such an approach is all to common in modern guru books.

Snyder’s advice on genre, story structure, various tricks of the trade, and most importantly, “The Board,” are so fun to read about.

It’s more than just writing advice. Snyder is explicitly nonacademic in his approach, making it feel like you’re having a conversation with some guy you met at a Starbucks.

Indeed, Snyder is indeed a product of a unique era. He hailed from the spec-script hey-day of the 1990s, a prosperous time in Hollywood, yet just before the internet had fully blossomed into the informational juggernaut we know it as today. I wonder what he would have thought about the superhero craze that’s going on presently.

Snyder passed away in 2009. If he still lived, I imagine he would still be going strong in the era of Facebook, Twitter, and Web 2.0. Rest in Peace, Mr. Snyder, and good job on having “How to Train Your Dragon” dedicated to you. You would have appreciated it, I’m sure.

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Every Christian Movie I’ve Ever Seen Is Awful. But Why Do They Sell Tickets?

The last Christian movie I saw was a Pirates of the Caribbean-knock off called Beyond the Mask.

If the pretentious title wasn’t enough, the 2015 movie’s script followed all the standard beats of a Christian movie:

  • All Christians are perfect nice-guys (as in Fireproof and The Identical).
  • All non-Christians are jerks (as in Courageous and Flywheel).
  • Your youth pastor think it’s great (as in every Christian movie ever made).

The fact that the film was a technical and aesthetic monstrosity aside, I left the theater wondering why my fellow Christians continue to eat this garbage up.

Quite obviously, it’s not because the films are good.

Courageous was a clumsy grab-bag of sitcom humor, melodrama, and gunfights.

The Identical had an original concept, but everything but its logline caused me unintended laughter and cringing.

Fireproof is probably the Citizen Kane of Christian movies. (Some might opine that Facing the Giants, which I haven’t seen, deserves that title.)

Insofar as I can tell, its script, while minimally passable in terms of dramatic quality, was copied from a Christian marriage counseling book.

Titled The Love Dare, this totally real book was actually named and featured in the movie. I’ve heard of product placement, but this takes the cake.

Speaking of product placement, this leads me to the real reason that Christian movies continue to sell tickets at multiplexes.

Ready? Okay, say it with me:

Marketing!

Now it’s time for me to take off my film critic hat and put on the Marketing Guy hat.

Months in advance before the 2014 film God’s Not Dead was released in theaters, trailers and what-not found their way onto the computer screens of young, tech-savvy believers, their parents, and most importantly, pastors!

Okay, thought my teenage-self. This looks pretty cool.

Meanwhile, the filmmakers cut new trailers featuring big-name Christian media personalities such as that guy from Duck Dynasty and his wife and Christian rock band the Newsboys.

If my teenage-self kind of wanted to see that sucker then, I definitely wanted to now! It had the Newsboys in it, and I just loved their music!

That, my friends, is what we call a celebrity endorsement from an influencer to whom your target audience will pay attention.

As if all that wasn’t enough, as the time drew close for the film to be released, I heard rumblings from fellow churchgoers about the film, and how some were going to see it.

I’m fairly certain that at least some of my pastors mentioned it. I know for certain that one of them proclaimed his enthusiasm for the 2016 sequel, God’s Not Dead 2, from the pulpit.

But this wasn’t just positive word-of-mouth, though it was that too in retrospect.

It now wasn’t only an excuse to see a movie the Newsboys in it, it was a religious duty.

By paying twelve bucks to sit in a chair for two hours and watch that one kid from Good Luck Charlie literally debate philosophy with the guy who played Hercules, you were helping to propagate the Gospel.

In the end, I wound up not going to see any of the God’s Not Dead films. But I almost wish I did, just to see why everyone kept saying, “Oh, it was great.”

Nevertheless, God’s Not Dead had a box office of some $60 million, more than recouping its shoestring budget. Indeed, I recall 2014 being hailed as “The Year of the Faith-Based Film.”

Having not seen God’s Not Dead or its sequel, I cannot in good conscience comment here on its quality.

However, I can tell you that one of my more secular friends scandalously watched part of it on YouTube.

He is the sort of person whom I and my fellow Christians are told that we must help to evangelize to by supporting the film.

He thought it was boring and stupid.

Funny how that works out.

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The First Comic Book I Ever Read

It must have been ten years ago. My dad and I had stopped in a Half-Price Books while waiting for some work to be done on our car.

My ten or eleven-year-old self meandered among the shelves, bored out of my mind, when I came upon the comics section.

Peering over the boxes, I curiously thumbed through them. I finally selected two promising issues: Detective Comics #610 and Robin #2.

Of the two, I easily liked the latter the best.

Thus, I treasure Robin #2 by Chuck Dixon as the first comic book I ever read. Before, I’d only read those old Bionicle comics that LEGO put out.

I already had a superficial familiarity with superhero comics, thanks to chatter from friends and bit and pieces I’d seen here and there.

But this was my first introduction to Batman comics proper. It was my first taste of the comic book stories of yesteryear, and I found it absolutely thrilling.

Just imagine the world I had stepped into: Robin, a.k.a.  Tim Drake, staring down the business end of an overzealous cop’s shotgun.

The story goes on as Robin/Tim deftly escapes Shotgun Smith and makes a go at nailing some wacky gang called the “Speedboyz.”

But Tim also takes time to call his girlfriend to apologize for cancelling their date (while still dressed in his Robin costume).

He also talks on the phone with some guy named “Alfred” about another guy named “Jean-Paul” going crazy, and apparently this other dude named “Bruce” is involved somehow.

This stuff barely registered with me at the time, but I got the gist of it: Tim Drake is just a regular kid with regular problems living in a weird-butt world.

I loved it then and I love it today.

This day and age is the golden age of reprints. I didn’t buy comics when I was a kid, besides the two I just mentioned.

But now I can read any comic I want, including thousands of back issues made in the ’90s and early 2000s.

I just finished reading two fabulous trade paperbacks collecting Kelley Puckett’s run on Batgirl, when Cassandra Cain held that moniker. Best comics I’ve read in a while.

Now they’re releasing all sorts of old stuff in book collections.

Batgirl. RobinAzrael. The mega-series of Knightfall and No Man’s Land. All waiting for me to read.

I have a lot of catching up to do.

Image courtesy of dc.wikia.com

My 11 Process-Oriented New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

In keeping with Derek Magill’s advice, I have decided to go about my New Year’s resolutions for 2017 with a different approach.

Mr. Magill states that the best way to accomplish a goal is to focus on the process, not the end result. It’s more efficient to focus on working a little bit of the way toward your goal every day than to be constantly trying to charge ahead all at once.

With that in mind, here are my eleven process-oriented New Year’s resolutions for 2017:

1.) Exercise 30 minutes a day every day.

I’ve managed to get in at least a little bit of exercise every day since the last day of last year. I haven’t engaged in serious cardiovascular exercise due to the icy weather preventing running.

However, I have done a set amount of weight-lifting and push-ups every day, plus a up to 2 miles of walking on a good day. Not quite 30 minutes, but I’m working towards it.

2.) Write 1 post on the Comics Experience boards every day.

This is a relatively easy goal to accomplish, considering that it’s pretty hard not to look forward to.

The purpose of this resolution is to improve my standing on the Comics Experience message boards and establish myself as a well-to-do member of this little online community. So far, so good.

3.) Write an 8-page comic and get it drawn, inked lettered, and posted on the internet.

This resolution is interconnected with another one I have that’s further down the list.

The comic I have in mind is a prelude to The Overlord, meant to build anticipation and demonstrate my skills as a comics writer.

Having nearly completed the script already, all I have to do is find a set of collaborators who can help with this.

(To achieve this, I intend to attend Emerald City Comicon this year to do some networking. There’s also a collaboration forum on Comics Experience, both of which sound promising.)

4.) Drive 30 minutes a day every day for 30 days.

This one… has gotten off to a decidedly rocky start. I drove home from church on Sunday without much of a hitch, but I haven’t driven since.

For those of you who know me, I have been struggling to obtain a driver’s license for some time now. I’ll just say I’ve had a devil of a time learning to drive.

Luckily, new developments on my side of the internet could prove beneficial in getting that the skills I need to be drive safely. I just have to remember: it’s all about the process.

5.) Write a new blog post every day for 30 days.

This resolution is taken directly Derek Magill’s linked post.

In his original post, he suggested that if you want to become a well-known blogger (goal), then you ought to write a new post every day for 30 days (process).

Therefore, I’ve been plugging away for the past three days, and I believe I’m on a role.

Here’s hoping I haven’t spoken too soon.

6.) Finish the Constitution 101 course by watching 1 lecture per week until completed.

One of my pastimes is watching these free online courses offered by Hillsdale College.

I swept through the course on American history, but I’ve been stumbling in my efforts to complete the course on “The Meaning and History of the Constitution.”

I think this is mainly because it’s mostly theory, as opposed to the rich, detailed story of a survey of American history.

But I am confident that with a clear objective and method at my disposal, I can get back into my groove and finish this informative course.

7.) Read the 100 shortest books on my Goodreads to-read list in a year.

Having read 50 books last year, I narrowly met my Goodreads objectives. But now I am ready for a more ambitious goal.

I have over 500 books in my to-read list on Goodreads, and of those that have listed pages numbers, I intend to read a good deal of those ranked the shortest.

The idea is to prioritize quantity. I’ll have read a lot of very short books, but I won’t have learned nothing.

There are plenty of books that are a joy to read because of their concise genius. I look forward to reading them, particular several penned by C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer.

With luck, maybe I can bang out this batch within a hundred days.

8.) Finish reading the complete works of Bastiat. Read 2 pages a day for the whole year.

For those of you who’ve been keeping an eye on the Goodreads tab on this blog’s sidebar, you’ll notice that The Bastiat Collection has been there from the beginning.

This 1,000 page eBook is a real monster of a text, the densest thing I’ve taken on since I read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. That beast clocked in at more than 600 pages.

But now I’m about halfway through Bastiat, so I calculate that if I read 2 pages a day every day for the rest of the year, I can wrap it up by September.

9.) Watch a classic movie every week and write a review about it for 50 weeks.

Not really that hard of a goal to meet, all things considered.

All I have to do is make sure I have a couple hours to myself every weekend and then spend five minutes writing a quick review on my Letterboxd account.

This will also provide lots of fodder for my posts related to old movies. I’ll be glad to see what bits of wisdom I can glean from my efforts to watch every old movie available.

10.) Write 2 pages of comics script every day for a year.

Now we’re getting to the meat and potatoes of my New Year’s resolutions.

Thanks to this simple, process-oriented goal, I have nearly completed the script for that 8-page comic I mentioned earlier.

With luck, I’ll be able to continue in this manner as I work on both this and other projects. Once again, so far so good!

11.) Read and study a chapter of the Bible every day for a year.

For ten years, I read a daily entry of a One Year Bible every day. The result was that I read through the entire Bible some 10 times.

I switched to a more in-depth study, meticulously making my way through various sections with a commentary on hand.

However, the lack of process-oriented focus which accompanied the use of my One Year Bible left me struggling to stay on task with my studies of the Scriptures.

Therefore, I have now resolved to tackle it in a more concentrated manner, as stated above. That is the bare minimum. I may or may not study more than that on a given day.

These are my resolutions for 2017. I now hope that I can stick to them!

Goodreads Review: The Giver

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my shelf forever, but I only read it recently in an effort to quickly finish my Goodreads challenge. I now wish I’d read it years ago.

This book, ostensibly for middle-graders, blew my mind in a way no book has done so since I read “Ender’s Game.” Written in deceptively simple and sparse, almost clinical prose, “The Giver” tells the story of a perfect community where everyone goes about their lives, from cradle-to-grave, in a world free from pain, unhappiness, and choices.

The book’s hero, Jonas, is named Receiver of Memory upon turning twelve, even though he doesn’t really know what that means. His mentor, the previous Receiver of Memory, known as “The Giver,” slowly reveals to him the horrible truth behind The Community.

At it’s most basic level, “The Giver” is “1984” for kids. I believe it is quite clear that Lois Lowry has penned a warning against Statism. It even has a heart-crushing, ambiguous ending similar to the one which Orwell included in his book, though this book’s case is slightly abated by the existence of three related installments. I understand that none of these are direct sequels.

The book reads really fast, I being able to go through it in less than two days. I guarantee that you will be kept glued to your seat with this book. It’s just impossible to put down.

I think this book is particularly prophetic in its portray of The Community where Jonas lives. There’s an enforced hypersensitivity about the use of language. Euphemisms for death, euthanasia, and infanticide are rampant. Jonas and children his age are given pills to combat “the Stirrings,” itself a euphemism for sexual arousal. Motherhood is looked down upon as a rather unimportant “job.”

This book is chilling. Give it to your kid to read, but only if you fully understand what it’s about. I’d advise reading it yourself, because it’s a darn good book, and also you can answer their questions when they read the thing.

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Miracle on 34th Street: When Big-Wigs Had Big Hearts

This previous month, I watched Miracle on 34th Street as part of our tradition of watching Christmas movies during Christmastime.

When I watch old movies such as these, it always strikes me just how good they are.

There isn’t just a higher standard of cinematic craft in place, but the entire value system on which these old movies are built is drastically different from those of today.

In the film, a man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), claiming to be the real Santa Claus, becomes the Macy’s department store Santa Claus. He promptly sets out on a one man mission to spread genuine Christmas cheer.

What makes Miracle different is that it doesn’t cast the businessmen running Macy’s as dastardly villains, as a modern film might do.

Rather, it goes with the typical Old Hollywood policy of making sure that everyone gets their just deserts, no matter who they are.

Miracle on 34th Street not only demonstrates that businessmen weren’t typically castigated as scumbags in 1947, but that being decent is good for business.

A major theme in the film is the primacy of kindness and charity over the crass and ruthless desire to “Make a buck, make a buck,” as Alfred (Alvin Greenman) puts it.

Kris’s strategy for fighting this mentality is to refer the parents of children he sees as the department store Santa to other stores where they can find items that aren’t available at Macy’s.

Though his bosses are at first alarmed, the head of the store, R. H. Macy (Harry Antrim), makes Kris’s unorthodox tactic official store policy following an avalanche of public support.

As a result, Macy’s not only skyrockets financially, but sets an example for their competitor, Gimbel’s, to adopt the same policy. This feeling of charity and helpfulness leads the two stores to mend fences.

As I’ve written before, Old Hollywood was made up of people whose sense of morality bled into their art.

This principle is evident in Miracle on 34th Street‘s depiction of commercialism as a problem. Unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s the first in a long line of films to decry this particular ism.

The difference between Miracle‘s take on commercialism and others is that it presents a realistic motivation for someone like R. H. Macy to not be a Grinch.

Macy sums it up nicely when he says that by being “known as the helpful store,” they’ll make more profits than ever before. Mr. Macy is hardly a villain.

In fact, there are practically no villains at all in this charming picture, aside from the sleazy pseudo-psychiatrist Sawyer (Porter Hall).

Speaking of Sawyer, this leads us to one of the hallmarks of Old Hollywood: Justice is always served. Miracle is no exception.

In the course of the film’s events, the vindictive Sawyer is fired after orchestrating Kris Kringle’s unjust insanity hearing.

Fred Gailey (John Payne), the lawyer who defended Kris at the hearing, gets together with the Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), the leading lady who rediscovers faith in the good things in life.

Even Alfred gets a direct commendation from Mr. Macy himself, a fine reward for a kindhearted boy who enjoys dressing up as a street corner Santa Claus and giving kids presents.

Things have certainly changed since then. Businessmen are almost invariably portrayed as bad guys in the movies.

“Corporation” might as well be a portmanteau of “corrupt organization.”

The question isn’t whether change has occurred. (It has.)

The question isn’t even whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. (It’s a bad thing, no doubt.)

The real question, the one I want to know the answer to, is why this change happened at all.

Image courtesy of hark.com.