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The Trenton Solution

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Cities have been around for thousands of years. Waset, Egypt, once called Luxor or Thebes, has been continuously inhabited for 5500 years. Some ancient cities are dust, their populations moved on to, well, another city. Presently, there are eleven cities that have over 10 million inhabitants. The top two are Shanghai, which is nearing 18 million, and Istanbul, where there are over 13 million people. There are 45 cites with populations of 5 million or more, and 85 with over 3 million.

It is obvious, to me, that human beings like their lives to be lived in cities.

In the 21st century, more people live in cites than in the countryside. This is especially true of modern nations with the technology to support individuals who don’t grow their own food. Growing food is time consuming, and, in the age before the industrial revolution, back breaking. The wealthy of history paid others to grow their food for them. Now, most of us do. In our yards, very few of us have any vegetation that is eatable. Plants are for show, ornamenting or providing shade.

We’ve come a long way.

Since folks love cities, it is important to keep them running well. Many cities, however, are failing as they are heavily in debt and some face bankruptcy. Let’s state the obvious; in debt cities are not run well.

I have a home in a city that is in financial trouble. As yet, the City of Trenton is not declaring bankruptcy. Nonetheless, its citizens could face that awful prospect. We can look at the financial disaster, ad nauseam. That won’t help us if we don’t address the larger problem. Attitude. There are too many citizens in Trenton that have a failure to engage. Indeed, like many rotting municipalities, Trenton is losing its inhabitants as people vote with their feet.

Can we get those people back into this city? No. Can we save this city by engaging its unengaged? No. We cannot, nor should we, save a city with so many disinterested inhabitants. Therefore, to change Trenton, we must import a different type of citizen, one that takes an active interest in their surroundings.

Where to begin? We know we need a new mayor. Still, a mayor can do only so much. I suggest that we need a branding solution to go along with the political one. We the people need to engage in marketing this city to the outside world. To accomplish that, let’s ask and answer these two questions: What is right with this city? How do we get folks to come here to live?

To get us started, I’ve made a list of 9 items stating “what is right” with why Trenton is a good place to live.

  1. We know what realtors tell us about “location, location, location.” Let’s look at our location. Trenton is: 

    a. only 28 miles form Philadelphia, connected by freeway and train transportation. Think Trenton as bedroom city for Philadelphia and other places in Pennsylvania. See item 3 for the reasons why this idea is solid.
    b. NYC is 66 miles, or 90 minutes away on the train. Though a longer commute, with exorbitant rents in NYC and in Northern New Jersey, living in Trenton to commute north can make dollar sense.

  2. Trenton is a small city. There are approximately 86 thousand individuals here. Traffic jams? What’s a traffic jam?

  3. For those with a fondness for historical architecture and old buildings that can be turned into captivating living spaces, this place is the place. The stock is abundant, waiting only for someone’s imagination to touch it. For what a body pays for a large closet in NYC, one can have a large home in Trenton. 

  4. Trenton’s got history. The city is 335 years old. No, not as old as Thebes, but for the USA, that’s getting up there. The founder’s house, Trent House (1710), is still there. So is the Old Barracks plus places where Washington won battles. One can find the history of capitalism here as well. The folks who built the Brooklyn Bridge lived and worked in Trenton.

  5. Trenton has art. There’s a museum plus there is Artworks. Its yearly “Art All Night” draws in thousands of individuals. Artworks has programs running all of the time. For the starving artist, Trenton has reasonable spaces to live/work. Artists! Stop spending your money on overpriced spaces in NYC or Los Angeles. Come here instead, and put your money into your art, not a wealthy landlord’s pockets.

  6. Trenton has art, part 2. Singers, dancers, musicians, actors, storytellers, and so forth, make Trenton your home. Everything you need is here. As with the reasons in item 5, money saved on rent can be put into recordings. Exit 7 A is a very well priced recording studio, audio and video. I repeat. Put money into creating art, not an overpriced living space.

  7. Trenton has culture. Meaning, there are folks here willing to put their time, efforts and money into things like a philharmonic orchestra, a museum, theater arts, etc..

  8. The mix of people in this town will never bore you. Indeed, this town is peopled by individuals who march to the beat of their own drum. I see this as the biggest difference between Los Angeles, my family home, and Trenton, my spirit home. In L.A., too many people try too hard to be edgy. In Trenton, they just are.

  9. Trenton is full of opportunity. All you anarcho-capitalists, here’s your laboratory. I dare you to take on this town.

In conclusion, Trenton is a good thing. However, once thousands of others discover it you can kiss those low prices on mansions goodbye. And then say hello to traffic jams. Yes, success will bring on its own set of issues. So bring them on.Image

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Written by lcrockett

January 15, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Immortal Reality

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The other night I watched an old favorite of mine. The film Becket.

Becket, starring that dynamic drinking duo, Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, is trash. Oh, on certain levels it’s good trash, but for the most part, it’s bunkum. Here’s why.

As someone who makes her living from history, you can bet I study the past. Constantly. It’s been this way for nearly 30 years now. Therefore, I’ve learned a thing or two. When Becket was released as a film, in 1964, I went to see it because it starred my favorite actor, O’Toole, who I had recently seen in Lawrence of Arabia.

The film Becket, is an adaptation of Jean Anouilh play of the same title. M. Anouilh also wrote the screenplay, along with two other writers. The plot is based on an actual incident in twelfth century England and France, in which the title character, Becket, is murdered. Richard Burton plays Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Peter O’Toole is Henry Plantagenet, King of England and Duke of Normandy.
When Anouilh wrote Becket, acting for the stage and movies was quite different from what it is today. The play, written in 1959, required the more emotional style of acting referred to as melodrama. I call it the bombastic style of theater as the scene set ups lead to those super meaningful dialogues between characters. The bombastic style also has the Big Monolog scenes. Often times, the Big Monolog is delivered during a courtroom scene.

In the theater, such acting works. Actors can be heard in such plays! Nowadays, actors are so puny with their voices that they have to be miked to be audible. Even in many movies they cannot be heard. Part of the reason for this boring state of affairs (an actor who cannot be understood is a big bore) is the newer naturalistic style of acting. My opinion on this is that natural styles work well in the movies and TV, but not on the stage.

The point here is that the movie Becket gets into the bombastic thing and one is jarred by it. That makes the film “out of date” stylistically. As a film, however, it has its place in history for that very reason. Apart from that, there are the historical inaccuracies that are really bothersome. I say that because I am one of those individuals who thinks movies and TV series are a way to instruct while entertaining. Much like the Adams series was able to do. History doesn’t need to be fooled around with. It’s too interesting all by itself. As I watched Becket, I kept thinking about how this would translate into a wonderful series. There are so many complex characters waiting to be explored, so many human issues to be highlighted.

When I say explored and highlighted, here’s what I mean. The lives of both men, Henry and Thomas , were well chronicled. We have descriptions of both men. While I loved Peter O’Toole as Henry, I could not help but think it would be wonderful to see an actor play him who had a physique similar to Henry’s. Henry was short, stocky, with a too large head and freckled. He sounds more like Huckleberry Fin than one of the most powerful men in his time. The question, and theme, is how could such an odd looking man obtain and retain the power that he did?

Anouilh, who was a very prolific playwright, wrote dramas that dealt with the theme of individuals taking on the evils they were faced with. That means he wrote about heroes. In Becket, Thomas Becket becomes the hero because he takes on the very powerful, all bullying King Henry. That part of the story as laid out by Anouilh is true. After that, there’s nothing much to the story that resembles the facts. What Anouilh is giving us is historical fiction. In his day, there was not the attention to historical details that we are becoming more accustomed to. Yet most Hollywood producers fail miserably when it comes to the story lines and characters of the past. The Brits do it better, but they tell lies as well. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the movie industry thinks audiences can’t take the realities of the past.

To me, one of the truly important aspects in historical fiction is to get the relationships right. Because it’s in fiction that the writer can explore the reasons why human beings do the things that we do.  Becket does delve into the friendship between Henry and Thomas, also true, but the background of that friendship is nothing but a lie. That, dear reader, ticks me off.

For some reason that I have never heard about, Anouilh decided to lie about Thomas Becket, to turn him into something he wasn’t. In Becket he is portrayed as an Anglo-Saxon with a chip on his shoulder toward the Normans. The fact is Thomas was as Norman as Henry. He was born in Normandy, he was from the minor nobility, or, as we would say now, he was good middle class stock. He was well connected so was given opportunities. That is how he came to be introduced to the young King Henry in 1154.

This is an important point that folks need to know and understand. There are rules in life that never change, never have changed, never will for they are immortal realities. One of those realities is the above, that who you know will get you to at least the front doors of people who can advance your career.  Building a reputation for yourself is another ancient rule. If anything, Thomas Becket is a good example of how to succeed in life. Of course luck plays into these things, like Becket’s introduction taking place as the new king is searching for “new men” to help him govern his kingdom. Being at the right place at the right time is only a part of the equation. First, however, one has to be ambitious and capable. Thomas was both.

The story of this man’s fantastic rise to power ends badly. Thomas decided to bite the hand that fed him. The ending of this story takes us on to a new subject that I will cover in my next piece.  Viewing the film stirred my little gray matter quite a bit so I am not done with the twelfth century. Henry and Thomas and company have much to say to us folks dwelling here in the 21st century. Well, what’s 900 years among friends?

Written by lcrockett

October 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm

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