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What’s Up

Here’s a progress report about some of my work, which I generally don’t like to discuss before it’s finished. Much of what I am writing takes time to develop, and one of my projects – a war story intended for movies – is gaining feedback. As with much of what I’m writing, it is taking longer than anticipated, though I have a patient and understanding partner. Another story is in the early stage. I have a development meeting tomorrow to further advance what at its core is an inspiring tale of a self-made man. Other projects are making progress, too, including my goal to make more archival material available in new formats and create new commentary and content about foreign affairs, health care, music, film and history. This week, I helped a couple market their start-up business and I made a breakthrough on a project about an exceptional person whom I’ve been asked to write about.

Some projects do not work out as planned due to factors beyond my control. I had been asked to write memoirs for someone of some renown and I was unable to do so as anticipated because, unfortunately, it turned out that the person was diagnosed with dementia and we were unable to develop the manuscript. It is frustrating when that happens. That’s partly why I’m glad I was able to interview and write about actor Peter Breck before he died, and I am planning to produce a series about his late Big Valley co-star, the legendary Barbara Stanwyck, including reviewing a new biography about the movie star.

I know that good writing requires an ongoing commitment to excellence, so I am taking writing and communications classes while finishing the fourth and final year of my studies at the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) and I am still working on an idea for objective communication, as I mentioned here. It has been over three years since I sold Box Office Mojo with my partners to one of the world’s largest companies and it’s been exactly six years since I wrote this review of an unforgettable winter movie about dogs, which was part of the reason I said Yes to one of my current works in progress. Much has happened (and not happened) in those years and I am positively excited about what I’m working on – including uncredited work for others – so I wanted to share some of what I’m doing, some of what’s up, with my faithful readers. That means you. Thank you for your support.

John Lewis

Professor John Lewis died yesterday after waging a heroic battle against cancer. I already miss his encouragement, partnership and friendship. Seven years hardly seems like enough time to learn from him, trade with him and laugh and celebrate with him and his equally amazing wife, Casey. Leonard Peikoff, who posted the kindest statement about Dr. Lewis on Facebook, rightly recognized today that John Lewis embodied Ayn Rand’s “benevolent universe” premise, which I know to be true firsthand. He was brave, bold and unconquerable. He was also insightful, disciplined and accessible, showing everyone how to live sumptuously, savoring every moment. He had been a businessman before he became a college professor, which I think may be why he did not act as though he lived in an ivory tower. When I attended my first Objectivist conference in New York City during the 1980s, I encountered students and faculty who were uptight and unfriendly. Not welcoming John Lewis, who waved you over, looked you in the eye, smiled and said ‘good morning’ and meant it. He was deep and serious and he knew that Objectivism is a philosophy for living on earth. So, he called on my birthday and congratulated my achievements and we shared our accomplishments with enthusiasm. I first requested an interview with him about Alexander the Great in 2004 for a series of articles for a movie Web site and I wasn’t at all sure he’d say yes. But he did. I’ll try to find those pieces and post them. In the meantime, here is my interview with him from last year, posted before the 10th year since the 9/11 Islamist attack on America. I am still mourning and sifting through my thoughts about the loss. But I know cheerful John Lewis, whose outstanding scholarship includes stern, passionate warnings and lessons, fought tenaciously for the future and lived a happy life.

2011: Site Facts

Here’s my annual breakdown of site visitors and readership (read my roundup for previous years here).

Most traffic apparently originates from search engines and social media, with other referring sites including various blogs, Capitalism Magazine, Huffington Post, Salon.com, the Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia (which cites several of my articles) and the New York Times, which linked to my 2000 interview with Korean War Marine and writer Martin Russ in its obituary when he died last winter.

Top site categories (not to be confused with the blog’s sub-categories) are About, Contact, Services, and Movies. My blog is the most widely read page. The most popular interview this year is my exclusive interview with former Gov. Gary Johnson about his presidential candidacy, followed by my exclusive interview with Duke University history Professor John David Lewis about war and my exclusive interview with composer Alexandre Desplat about his score for The King’s Speech. Other top-ranked interviews are my 2009 conversations with director Thomas Carter and Seton Hall University philosophy Professor Robert Mayhew about We the Living by Ayn Rand.

Major educational domains that bring traffic here include: Harvard, Indiana, Columbia, Clemson, Penn State, University of Kentucky, and Ohio State, also Texas A & M, University of Montana, University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Yale and NYU. The top three military domains are Navy, Army and Air Force. Readers from tech businesses include Microsoft, Amazon.com and Apple. Apple’s devices dominate the top machines for mobile readers. The top searched keywords (besides my name) that brought readers to the site: ‘freelance writer’. Most readers live in the United States, Canada, Australia, the U.K., and Norway.

The number one major movie review was for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 4, which I called the worst movie of the year (it still is). Other popular reviews were my recommendations for Marvel’s Captain America and Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The top ranked blog post was Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand. Among widely read posts: Conservatives and the Tea Party, Why I Like Apple’s Logo, The Suicide of Leanita McClain, Death of a Terrorist and The Vancouver Kiss. I’m happy to report that the blog is rated five stars by Facebook’s Networked Blogs app readers and it ranks in the top 50 for blogs about ideas, movies and the culture. 2011 is the first year in which I posted during all 12 months.

Merry Christmas 2011

Allow me to wish you, dear reader, an early Merry Christmas. Thank you for the support, encouragement and readership this year, my first with a full 12 months of posts since starting the blog in 2008. May the cheerful spirit of the season last these next 20 days and well into the new year. Joy to the world.

New Functions & Features on Site

When I created this blog, I decided to keep it simple by making my posts free, accessible, and closed to advertising. The only income I earned directly from the blog recently ended when Amazon.com rightly terminated its partnership program in California, due to the state’s new dictate to tax online purchases. As you can see from the Archives, posts are fairly regular. I enjoy writing in this relaxed forum, which I started in 2008 as an outlet for my thoughts. The cost of living has gone up, as you know, and, while people hire me to write, edit, and produce, and I have partners and patrons on certain works in progress, every dollar helps.

So, a PayPal ‘Donate’ box has been added to the blog for those who gain value from what I write. Readers who like a post and/or want to help may choose to click on the ‘Donate’ button on the right to make a safe, secure gift transaction through PayPal. I don’t expect to make much money from the feature, which I view as a simple trade with those who value my writings, so feel free to read and enjoy without worry and know that I appreciate your consideration in advance. I’ve also added the ability to ‘Like’ a post on Facebook and, through a WordPress plug-in called Add This, which insists on describing its cross-posting function as ‘Share’, post one of my pieces on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, or you can e-mail or print the blog post by clicking on corresponding icons. These add-ons are hardly new or cutting edge, but I prefer a slow, deliberative approach to integrating my work with technology and social media.

My book review of Joe Camp’s The Soul of a Horse elicited a nice response from the author, and thanks for the plug to tutor, horseman and blogger Michael Gold, who linked to the review on his blog. I appreciate everyone’s links to my posts. Incidentally, one of my interviews with the writers of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is cited by the editors of the Horizons of Cinema series published by State University of New York (SUNY) in Second Takes: Critical Approaches to the Film Sequel (2010).