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In August 1953, an obscure country boy named Elvis Presley walked into the offices of Sun Records. He aimed to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.”

A Boy From Tupelo. Early Elvis Presley recordings.

He later claimed that he was merely interested in what he “sounded like”, although there was a much cheaper, amateur record-making service at a nearby general store. Biographer Peter Guralnick thinks that he chose Sun in the hope of being discovered. Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, “I sing all kinds.” When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, “I don’t sound like nobody.”

Elvis Lives! anagram t-shirt

Keep hope alive with this positive anagram about the King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis couldn’t imagine what was coming next for him. How could he foresee a glorious career of legendary fame and musical adventure? The future is hidden until it happens. You never know what you might be capable of, until later. If you knew what was in store for you, life wouldn’t be nearly so interesting. So maybe it’s time for you to head down to Memphis.  You never know what might come of it.

Moving slow? Feeling snarky? Having trouble getting started? Now that it’s back to “la course de rat,” you may well be cursing what society has labeled the worst day of the week. 

But here’s the good news: Monday is not the ungodly descent into Hades we’ve been conditioned to think.

A recent survey revealed that day-of-the-week stereotypes (i.e., “Monday blues”, “Wednesday hump day”, “TGIF”, etc.) were only pronounced when subjects predicted their moods for each day of the upcoming week.  Which means if you reframe today as “tolerable” or even “pleasant,” there’s every chance you can bury the Monday stigma and the angst it can cause.

So what’s Monday got going for it? First off, you’ve probably stored up a few more winks thanks to “no alarm Saturday” and “slept through church Sunday.” Plus, two days away from the office is a restorative in itself. That’s good, solid energy you can draw upon during the course of the day.

Then there are the remarkable stories you can spill to your work mates regarding your blissed-out triumph of a weekend.  Like how you piloted your 40-foot sloop to victory in the local regatta and then rolled sevens at the World Dice Championship. (And don’t forget the models.  Of course there were models!) Remember, everyone exaggerates his or her own adventures. Feel free to do the same.

Finally, Monday gives you the perfect excuse (“for christ sake, it’s Monday”) to drag your heels a bit before you tackle that inbox full of projects, deadlines, and ass-ripping notes from your churlish supervisor.

If you really want to really bitch about a day, try Tuesday. That’s when the work has backed up, the boss is getting testy, and the heavy-duty shit hits the fan. Yep, Tuesday’s the day you’re most likely to work through your lunch break due to the realization that you screwed around on Monday, and now you’re behind the 8-ball.

In fact, almost one in five employees will leave the office late on a Tuesday, as they work after hours to salvage the week after putting in a poor effort the day before.

So rather than predetermine that Monday is going to suck it big time, why not look at the facts. And then enjoy showing people your pictures from that Saturday evening rave, where the cops arrested everyone but you!

Enjoy your Monday.  You’ve earned it.

 

According to the market research group Nielsen, American adults now spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media. 11 hours!  That leaves just 3 hours for meals,  2 hours for naps, and 8 hours for a decent night’s sleep.

The best way to combat and reverse this trend?  Put down the iPhone, lap top and tablet and go for a stroll outside! Not only will it help your visual system relax, it’s good for the rest of your body too.

As for missing your screen time, there’s an amazing show worthy of an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and whatever award they give to blog sites right outside your door.  Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, a rural area, or on a flotilla somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, the best entertainment is that which nature has provided.  (And by nature, we mean anything other than being connected to a  gadget at the expense of missing out on life itself.)

As if getting some fresh air and sunshine wasn’t reward enough, we’re happy to report the time outdoors will also reduce your risk of becoming nearsighted. A recent article published in the “Optometry Times” proves the more time individuals spend looking at their electronic devices, the harder their focusing system works, causing accommodative spasms and stress on their visual system. As a result, people are suffering from head aches, dry eye, and becoming myopic at earlier ages.

So head for the great outdoors! And while you’re out there, here’s a wonderful uplifting song that can instantly raise your serotonin levels to a brimming cupful should you sing it out loud in the company of strangers:

Zip a dee doo dah, Zip a dee ay,

My, on my, what a wonderful day!

Plenty of sunshine, headin’ my way,

Zip a dee doo dah, Zip a dee ay,

Mister bluebird on my shoulder,

It’s the truth, it’s natural

Everything is satisfactull,

Zip a dee doo dah, Zip a dee ay,

Wonderful feeling, Wonderful day!*

Granted, this ditty comes from the Disney film “Song of the South”, a movie that has been labeled “racist” and “backwards leaning” by those offended by its depiction of Uncle Remus as a slave on the plantation.  Disney defends “Song of the South” by saying Uncle Remus could leave the plantation freely, any time he wanted. The same as any of us can leave our jobs in the corporate slave trade, if we are willing to forgo a weekly check and not mind the stigma of having “time on our hands” instead of constantly checking our iPhones for important missives from corporate communications. So here’s hoping you have a bluebird on your shoulder, instead of a Galaxy Note 9 in your pocket.

That’s what happened to a young man named Paul McCartney on this day in 1957.

A friend of his from the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys invited him to come check out a band called the Quarrymen, playing at St. Peter’s Church.  Now he could have said no, but he didn’t.   And if he had only shook hands with Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) or Len Garry (tea chest bass), then history wouldn’t have been written.

But he focused on the guy leading the band.  “He was singing ‘Come Go With Me,’ the Del-Vikings’ song, which I thought was fabulous until I realized they weren’t the right words,” recalled Paul.  “He was changing them. ‘Come go with me … down to the penitentiary’ — he was nicking folk-song words and chain-gang words and putting them into the Del-Vikings’ songs, a clever little bit of ingenuity.”

Why not take a cue from Paul and venture outside to meet someone new?  Who knows where it might lead?  Perhaps to the toppermost of the poppermost!

 

With Memorial Day coming up, and people taking the opportunity to do things they don’t normally do (navigating holiday traffic, eating cured meat, forgetting to apply SPF 50, firing up a barbecue), it’s time to turn our attention to the noblest of professions: nursing.

Nurses are there for you in times like these. They don’t judge questionable behavior, but instead provide care and comfort, even if it’s the result of a mistimed water ski jump.

Here at SuperOptimist headquarters, we don’t spend a lot of time looking at calendars or clocks, being that we’re busy making the most of every moment. So imagine our surprise when we discovered that National Nurses Week had already come and gone!

It turns out that this celebration of caregivers begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th — Florence Nightingale’s birthday. That’s nice and all, but it’s during national holidays that nurses should really be honored.   At this point, we remembered another tenant of SuperOptimist practice: celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want.

So we hereby extend National Nurses Week for another 72 hours, and encourage you to recognize and appreciate the nurses in your life. Not just the hospital variety, who will be working overtime due to the human need to pack in the most fun over a three-day weekend, but the mother who fusses over every sniffle and scrape, the neighbor who rushes over with a bandage after you slip with the electric hedge trimmer, the son or daughter who administers to the visiting parent as if they were about to expire, or the concerned friend who hasn’t heard from you in 24 hours and calls repeatedly to make sure you’re still ambulatory.

As for a gift? You can always send a fruit basket. But we recommend getting a large tattoo of your favorite nurse on a forearm or neck to show your unwavering devotion. Remember: nurses work hard, and they have to stand all day in ugly shoes.  They deserve more than a thank-you card.  Let the celebration continue!

Some consider a public yawn to be a sign of ill-breeding, poor manners, and worst of all, an inability to control oneself.  Nonsense!  Your yawn is actually a sign that you are deep thinker, a hard worker, and, dare we say it, a leader in your field.  Here’s why:

Scientists at Princeton University postulate that yawning plays a vital role in your well-being by cooling your brain.  When you start to yawn, the stretching of the jaw increases blood flow to your cranium, while in turn forcing downward flow of spinal fluid.  Air breathed into the mouth during the yawn chills these fluids, like a car’s radiator cooling the engine.

So the next time you feel a yawn coming on, don’t stifle it. Don’t hide it behind a hand or elbow. Let your yawn announce itself, jaws agape, eyed clenched shut.  Whatever sound that arises within the cave-like expanse of your mouth set asunder, let it echo as if it were a note ringing out from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

End your yawn with a satisfying sigh and a smack of the lips. Should anyone ask why you’re taking so much pleasure in the act, explain to them the science behind the activity.   Of course you’re yawning!  You’re simply cooling your brain off, since yours has been working overtime.   Suggest to them that they’re not yawning because they don’t have as many world-changing ideas as you.   Watch as they suddenly start following your lead and yawning like crazy.

You are a leader! A leader of yawns!  Now isn’t that satisfying?

Performers expect to hear applause after they do their job.  In fact, standing ovations have become the norm at entertainment events. But why should this be the case for actors and musicians only?

Getting applauded feels great, and everyone should experience that acknowledgement of their effort.  Hotel maids, traffic cops, baristas, coders, heavy equipment operators, escorts…they all deserve a rousing cheer for a job well done.

And while you’re at it, give yourself a big hand for whatever you’re doing right now. Whether it’s successfully delivering a power point presentation to a grim boardroom, navigating the bowels of Penn Station to make a train, or cleaning out your hall closet, the one you haven’t touched in 12 years — three cheers for you!  Remember, you deserve it!*

*The researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have discovered that applause is contagious, so the more you give yourself, the more others will join in.

In the midst of all the tributes to the former First Lady and mother of “W.”, we couldn’t help but wonder how this woman survived in the midst of two Georges and a Jeb.  So we did a little research and found this quote from her:

“The darn trouble with cleaning the house is it gets dirty the next day anyway. So skip a week if you have to.”

It seems that Babs overcame society’s push towards having everything neat and tidy (which, as we all know, life never is). One could also extrapolate this to include work, eating vegetables, and returning phone calls from the IRS.  We applaud her for turning her back on such small-minded thinking in favor of letting her freak flag fly — as well as not dying her hair or getting any botox (that we know of.)*

*As for her politics, well…as Babs also said, “I don’t like attacking.” So we’ll leave it at that.

 

On this day in 1938, the first true superhero comic book was born. And the artist? Joseph “Joe” Shuster.

You might think that Joe lived a charmed existence after Superman became a hit. Instead, Joe’s life was wrenched by a series of unforeseen tragedies, starting with selling the rights Superman for a mere $130.  For a couple of comic book guys back then, this wasn’t unheard of.  Plus they received a contract to keep coming up with new stories.  What more could you ask for?

Later, after Superman had become a success, the pair tried to void the contract. No dice. Eventually after more legal hassles, the comic book company used other artists and writers to create new Superman stories, and removed Joe’s name from the title altogether.

As you might guess, Joe’s career headed mostly downwards after that. Despite trying to create another smash hit, he couldn’t find much traction with titles like Funnyman (a TV comedian becomes a superhero, using practical jokes to render criminals helpless!). Eventually Joe’s eyesight went bad, preventing him from drawing. He worked as a deliveryman to keep food on the table, moving in with his mother for a time.

The only saving grace for Joe was a protest movement in the ‘70s that helped restore his name to the Superman franchise. In order to not incur the wrath of the public, DC comics also agreed to give him a yearly stipend of $20,000 and health insurance (later raised to a whopping $30,000). Despite this backhanded acknowledgement, Joe fell into debt and died of congestive heart failure and hypertension.

So why is Joe’s story one that a SuperOptimist can celebrate? Because Joe created what is arguably the most successful comic book character in history! Because he was a human being and made mistakes in areas that he wasn’t skilled in, like reading fine print and engaging in corporate malfeasance! Because he had to deal with pain and suffering like we all do! Because many artists get ripped off during their lives by corporate entities, and yet the white collar criminals who screwed Joe out of his creation will die in anonymity, while Joe remains a true American hero!

Finally, would there be a SuperOptimist with a Superman? Probably not! So here’s to Joe Shuster. May his creation continue to battle the forces of evil, and take out a few corporate attorneys in the process!

Society has bred us to be eager for an acknowledgment from others.  We work extra hard for the praise that comes from a job well done.  And yet when one steps back from the daily striving, much of what we labor to accomplish is merely an illusion, as are the bon mots that come with it.

Pick a profession.  How much is satisfying about the job, and how much is simply busywork?  When the boss says “good work” on a power point presentation, does that overcome the inner suspicion that 12 hours spent unearthing stock photos of satisfied consumers was a waste of time?

To set a goal that doesn’t get you a pat on the head (and may never) takes courage, especially in a world where many people behave like the proverbial student waiting for the teacher to anoint them with a gold star.

Here’s an idea.   Don’t rely on others to acknowledge your effort.  Give yourself props, and lots of them.  For example, tomorrow when you wake up, if you make it out of bed, give yourself a gold star.  And another one for brushing your teeth.  And another for making yourself breakfast.  This way, you’ll be having a four-star day even before you leave the house!

Question: why did facebook create “likes” instead of gold stars?  We recommend they change this to a more universally recognized system of praise.

 

Celebrities

We’re particularly impressed by the powerful and iconic paintings of the artist Haddon Hubbard “Sunny” Sundblom (June 22, 1899 – March 10, 1976.) This stuff is brilliantly painted and aims an artistic arrow into the heart of Americana. We’ve done some research into exactly how he approached oil painting and we share it with you here:

When painting, Sundblom would work from dark to light, and thin to thick, utilizing a wet-into-wet (or ala prima) approach in laying down heavily loaded strokes of color. This technique of working while the oil was still wet allowed Sundblom to complete many of his illustrations in only one or two sittings. He was a remarkably fast painter, and his speed helped him to maintain a sense of freshness and spontaneity in his work. When Sundblom first sat down to consider a picture, he would start by making loose, rough sketches.

According to Harry Ekman, an artist who worked with Sundblom in the late ’50s, “He would sit down, and roughly—I mean quite roughly, sometimes on monogrammed stationery—make very abstract sketches. You could recognize some substance to the doodles, but they were mostly value sketches. He would make many of those and just keep going until he got an idea. Then he’d call in his models and take photos. When he started out he used models and worked from life, but by the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, you’d have to pay $30 to $50 an hour for models, so it became prohibitively expensive.”

Not surprisingly, Sundblom often used his neighbors, colleagues, and three young daughters as stand-ins for many of his illustrations. After taking the black and white reference photos, he would make a quick but highly accurate charcoal drawing on his canvas, and seal it by fluffing pumice across its surface, blowing ethereal varnish or shellac on the board with a spray atomizer. Unlike some other illustrators, Sundblom only used the photos for a reference, never trying to copy the actual look of the photograph. Sundblom very rarely used a Balopticon projector, as many other illustration artists of the day were doing to save time.

“He believed that if you were doing an illustration for a story, you should enhance the story. You should always add to it,” Ekman said. His goal was iconic powerful images and copying photography alone would never deliver the iconic power he sought.

Alexander Kortner, an illustrator and protege of Sundblom’s, said, “He was a terrific draftsman in his own right. He would first make a sketch from nothing, just out of his head. Then he would use some reference photos to construct his drawings on canvas with charcoal. He very seldom used a Balopticon, and he never stayed too close to the reference photos. He drew with the brush as he painted. His drawing on canvas was never very detailed, but it was beautiful in and of itself.”

Then he would start in painting, and it was miraculous the way he mixed colors from a rather ordinary palette of 12 tube colors and his only medium was turpentine. Few people ever actually saw him paint, but I did,” Kortner said. “He would start with big bristle brushes and rough in the whole thing in an hour or two. He was very, very fast. It’s surprising how much he could do with a big brush. in a demonstration for an artist’s group in Chicago, he’d make a painting in about an hour and a half at the most, and it’s a beautiful thing. At the end of the demo, they would raffle it off to whoever was there. He didn’t do demonstrations too often because he wasn’t fond of it, but he would do them occasionally for the Chicago Artist’s Guild. He would start with a raw canvas and start right in. Some of the best illustrators in the city would come to the demonstrations just to watch him work.”

If you want to try to work in the Sundblom style, one of the best ways to modify your current habits and be more Sundblom-esque may be to set a 60-minute timer while you paint. Try to force yourself to work faster than you normally do. Don’t be fussy or precious but strive for accuracy and efficiency. Get that idea down in paint! Remember, the client expects your great iconic art done by tomorrow. Better get moving