Today’s Word: mazuma (noun) – Mazuma (mah-ZOO-ma) is a slang term for money. As used by Morgan Scott in The New Boys at Oakdale: “All his life, he’s had to pinch, and now he hangs on to the mazuma with a deathlike grip.”

Did You Know?: The inventor of the Frisbee was cremated and shaped into a Frisbee.

Worth Quoting: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Art Notes

This weekend in Miami…

… at the Pinta Art Fair, we are inaugurating the publication and promotion of Central American Modernism, a book that took me and Suzanne Snider (my partner in the art business) 8 years to produce.

The Pinta Art Fair is one of about a dozen art fairs that run simultaneously to Art Basel. Pinta focuses on art from Latin America, which is the focus of my three art galleries: Ford Fine Art (in Delray Beach), Rojas Ford Fine Art (in Miami), and the Galeria at Rancho Santana.

I’m very proud of this book. It’s going to have an important place in the scholarship of Latin American Modernism.

If you are in the neighborhood (Winwood), stop by.

Here are some photos from our booth at the fair…


The Wide Reach of the Blame-and-Shame Industry… or, How to Stop Waiting for Deus-ex-Machina Solutions to Unfairness and Inequality, Part 2

Wednesday, December 5th

Delray Beach, FL.- Aiden, a reader from South Africa, wrote recently, taking me to task for the essay I wrote about the very hot (in certain circles) topic of white male privilege. https://www.markford.net/white-male-privilege-where-do-you-stand-on-the-social-justice-scale#more-4272

(Aiden – thanks for the letter.)

The idea is not complicated: Historically, white men have benefited from being at the top of the pecking order in most modern societies. Some activists argue that this advantage became institutionalized in the economic, political, and cultural experience of people as paternalistic hierarchies —  and that this is responsible for most of what is bad in the world. In particular, the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and power that hampers (if not actually prohibits) the advancement of all women and every other ethnic and racial group.

Their argument is, in other words, a philosophy of blaming.

Aiden’s letter was, in part, a reiteration of their stance that since white males are to blame, the solution is to knock them out of their privileged positions and replace them with women and people of color. Once that is done, the equality of not just opportunities but outcomes will be possible.

In South Africa, he says, “white male privilege is real.” And 24 years after apartheid was abolished, it is still “glaringly obvious” in every corner of the country, from “the boardrooms of large corporate companies to the dusty streets of the townships.”

“As a colored man from South Africa,” he says, “I live in a world that is unfair, unequal, and scaled on gender-race privilege.”

He challenged me: “Now ask yourself, how is a black child who is undernourished, uneducated, and displaced supposed to raise themselves out of poverty and into a world where they have more than enough?”

Here is my answer:

Read MoreThe Wide Reach of the Blame-and-Shame Industry… or, How to Stop Waiting for Deus-ex-Machina Solutions to Unfairness and Inequality, Part 2

Today’s Word: declivity (noun) – A declivity (dih-KLIV-ih-tee) – as opposed to an acclivity – is a downward slope or inclination. As used by Arthur Young in A Tour in Ireland: “The declivity on which these woods are finishes in a mountain, which rises above the whole.”

Did You Know?: The U.S. once had paper money in the amount of 3 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents. These “fractional bills” were issued by the Treasury from 1862 to 1876 in the face of a growing coin shortage.

Worth Quoting: “Don’t lose faith in humanity. It is an ocean. A few dirty drops does not make the ocean dirty.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Watch This: “The World’s Biggest Jerk” is so good, I almost wish it didn’t have a happy ending…




The Wide Reach of the Blame-and-Shame Industry… or, How to Stop Waiting for Deus-ex-Machina Solutions to Unfairness and Inequality, Part 1

Monday, December 3, 2018

Delray Beach,FL.- One of the first things a copywriter learns about selling diet products is that it is very important to say, at some early point in the sales message, “It’s not your fault.”

This does several good things.

  • It makes the targeted customer feel good to have the burden of responsibility lifted from his shoulders.
  • It relieves, to some degree, the shame of being overweight. (“If it’s not my fault, why should I be ashamed?”)
  • It creates a sympathetic bond between the person delivering the message and the targeted customer.

Now if you know anything about obesity, you know that there is sometimes some truth to the not-your-fault statement. Some causes of obesity are genetic. Not all. But some. And it is perfectly fair to assert that one of the reasons Americans are so fat is because they’ve been given incorrect information about healthy eating since they were children. The widely held (and then dispelled) idea, for example, that eggs are both fattening and also a danger to heart health. So you can imagine that the copywriter with a conscience might want to mention facts like these in his copy to support the much broader claim that obesity is not the fat person’s fault.

Bad eating habits are, of course, the primary cause of obesity. But the intelligent copywriter knows he’s not going to sell any diet pills by pointing that out.

We do the same thing when we are selling wealth-building products. Recognizing that our targeted customer feels angry and/or ashamed because of his lack of financial success, we can offer him some immediate relief by telling him that it is not his fault – even though some part of it probably is.

How I Learned to Avoid Shame by Blaming Myself

Many years ago, when I first began to study advertising, the gurus at the time pretty much agreed that the most effective ads were those that appealed to the prospective customer’s emotions – in particular, to his greed or fear. I launched an argument then that continues today: those hidden emotions, like shame, are much stronger. And that indirectly addressing those emotions is a much better way to gain and keep customers.

Read MoreThe Wide Reach of the Blame-and-Shame Industry… or, How to Stop Waiting for Deus-ex-Machina Solutions to Unfairness and Inequality, Part 1

Today’s Word: interloper (noun) – An interloper (IN-ter-loh-per) is a person who interferes or meddles. As used by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper.”

Did You Know?: In Japan, you can buy all sorts of things from vending machines. Not just condoms and cigarettes and snacks and cans of soda, but comic books, hot dogs, light bulbs, women’s underwear, and alcohol.

Worth Quoting: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King

 Watch This: Wouldn’t it be cool to have this guy delivering pizza to you when you’re having a dinner party?



Intimations of Mortality

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Delray Beach, Florida.- My friend Alec sent this brief note to me this morning:

“A light went out in our bathroom.  I remember that I changed it 14 years ago.  I showed my son how to do it, thinking surely it is the last time that I’ll change it.”

It reminded me of something Gary North, who was in his mid-sixties at the time, wrote about a dozen years ago. It went something like this:

“Just bought a suit. It’s inexpensive but well made, a nondescript charcoal gray that I can wear for almost any occasion. A good investment, considering the likelihood that this may be the last suit I ever buy.”

It stunned – and spooked – me.

Now I’m doing the same thing. All the time.

Should I get a new car? I don’t see why. I have more cars than I need right now. The car I drive is an Audi S5 coupe. I bought it slightly used five years ago. It’s fantastic – reliable and fun.

The other two, a 27-year-old Acura NSX and a 13-year-old BMW 850, are rarely used. Should I sell them? No. They cost almost nothing to maintain. And they will likely hold their value. Someone will figure out what to do with them when I die.

The last suit I bought – for Patrick’s wedding five years ago… was that my last? Yes, I think it was. I have a half-dozen perfectly good suits in my closet. I might wear each of them once a year.

Sometimes these intimations of mortality prompt me to spend more.

“A six-foot tree would be one-quarter the price,” Paul Craft, my palm tree consultant, tells me. “And it will be 30 feet tall in only 15 or 20 years.”

Only 15 or 20 years?” I say, laughing and shaking my head. “No. Order the biggest one you can find.”

We joke about death, but only to trivialize it, to temporarily diminish the dread.

At my book club meeting last night, we talked about the fear of death. (We were reviewing two books: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant.) About half of the group (four) admitted to that fear. The other half said they didn’t. I said that the only way one can be fearless about one’s death is to deny it. I said something like, “If you really contemplate your own death, the utter extinction of your personal self, you cannot feel anything but terror.”

I did not persuade them.

Read MoreIntimations of Mortality

Today’s Word: mortality (noun) – Mortality (mawr-TAL-ih-tee) is the condition of being dead. Not to be confused with morbidity (mawr-BID-ih-tee), which is the condition of being ill or diseased. As used by William Shakespeare in The Life and Death of King John: “We cannot hold mortality’s strong hand.”

Did You Know?: The country with the longest average life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization (2015), is Japan at 83.7. Japan is followed by Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Spain, Iceland, Italy, and Israel. The USA comes in at 31, with an average life expectancy of 79.3. South Koreans and Slovenians live longer, on average, than Americans. The countries with the lowest life expectancies are in Africa, with Swaziland at the end of the tail at 49.18.

Worth Quoting: “Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.” – Bertrand Russell

Watch This:

It’s very seldom that I come across a “public service” message that I can’t at least quibble with. And want to quibble (if not argue) with because I’m instinctively uneasy with someone else telling me what to do, especially when it comes to my private life. But I could find nothing at all to quibble with after watching this video…



Wilderness Man Survives Again

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Delray Beach, Florida.- After a frenetic week with the extended family in Nicaragua, I was in need of rest. The last thing I wanted to do when we arrived at Miami Airport last Saturday was to jump on another plane and fly down to Brazil. But I’d made a promise to a friend and partner. I’d committed to spend some days in Sao Paulo speaking at a conference on wealth building and meeting with the marketing and copywriting teams of our three publishing businesses down there.

I mused about calling in sick. I had a runny nose, so it wouldn’t have been a total lie. And also, let’s be honest… did they really need me? My Brazilian fan base (if you want to call it a fan base) had shrunk considerably since they stopped carrying my essays. The audience I’d be speaking to was less than 300 people. More to the truth of it, I hate giving speeches. And as for those meetings with all those young talents, what could I possibly tell them that they didn’t already know? They’d read my books. They’d seen my lectures. I’d be just another old guy telling them old stories about old ideas.

I walked K out of the airport to the car service lot where Lou was waiting for her. She was talking about what she’d be doing when she got home. I was thinking (for the zillionth time): “Why don’t I just quit? Why am I still working?”

As I put her luggage into the trunk, I imagined myself climbing in there with it. What if I disappeared? Just disappeared. I could hightail it to my writing studio above the garage and hang out there for a few months until I could come up with a story to account for my absence.

Walking back into the airport, I did what I always do at this stage of my before-the-business-trip blues. I imagined myself a pioneer in the wilderness. An 18th century family man in Appalachia or the Rockies, setting out from my little log cabin in a blizzard, rifle in hand, to hunt for the meat and pelts that would keep my family alive.

“It’s too dangerous now,” imaginary K warns me. “Wait for a calm in the storm.”

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,” I reply. Then I kiss her on the forehead, pull down my coonskin cap, and march out the door.

The “hunt” in Sao Paulo was, as always, less brutal and less perilous than I had feared. The first night was easier than marching through the howling snow. It was more like watching a good documentary while sipping Chenin Blanc in the business class cabin of American Airlines flight 993. And giving my speech was less like tracking elk than excitedly explaining to lots of friendly faces my latest ideas about building wealth safely in today’s markets.

And the half-dozen meetings to which I’d have nothing to bring? They turned out rather well, actually. All those young, smart folks — they paid attention. There were nods and even smiles. And there were questions. Lots of questions that I could answer with confidence.

Then, in between, there were several really good meals with several really interesting people, two great lessons and three rolls with world-famous Jiu Jitsu champions, visits to two of Sao Paulo’s great art museums, and a VIP tour of the municipal theater. (One of the most beautiful opera houses I’ve ever seen.)

Lou dropped me off at home this morning at 5:30. It’s 6:30 now, and I’m sitting in the kitchen, writing this. Looking up through the east window, I see a thousand little clouds, dark violet in the darkness, spread out along the horizon above the ocean. It is dawning, and it’s a quick dawn. And as the minutes pass, little dark shapes are lit up from beneath in a luminous orange as the sky lightens from gray to streaks of purple and pink and blue.

My next trek into the wilderness is more than a month away.

Today’s Word: torpor (noun) – Torpor (TAWR-per) is sluggish inactivity; lethargic indifference. As used by Sarah Bernhardt in her memoir My Double Life: “I did not want to move again, and the torpor seemed thoroughly delicious.”

 Did You Know?: A hardboiled egg will spin, an uncooked egg will wobble.

 Worth Quoting: “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” – Dorothy Parker

 Watch This

 Very funny! I didn’t see it coming.