The AFTERLIFE EPITAPH – Nov. 24th, 2008 #4, Vol.1

We are about to give thanks for things in our lives. It will be harder this year for most to say anything but they are thankful for their health (leaving out the fact that they don’t have health insurance) or that we have found hope in a new president who will bring change. Bring change. Something I have heard over and over. Just until a couple of weeks ago, the word “maverick” was bounced around so much without true thought to what it meant, I developed a gag response when it was uttered while others would take a shot of alcohol. In both cases, we all ended up sick.

Maverick. What truly upset me was the improper use of the word itself. It was scripted for those who could never tell a true maverick if he/she was planted firmly in front of him/her, nor was it a proper description or title for those on whom it was bestowed. How do I know? I have had the title all my life and I am damn well proud of it. In a recent interview, the writer referred to my status and way of life in a very straightforward way:

“Artists like Jonathan Schneider are living proof of the chaos theory:  the most creative place in the universe is at the edge of chaos.  Jonathan Schneider demonstrates his comfort zone at the edge in the choice of his motto, “Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae” (There is no great ability without a mixture of madness).”

I was the kid who was sent to the principal seeing directions as ways of finding a different route to the correct answer. I was the co-worker who stood out because I didn’t say “yes” when the boss asked if we all thought his/her plan was the best solution. I was also the one who came up with innovative ways for a company to make millions upon millions of dollars. I showed them how to do it better, faster and cheaper and while being brow-beaten for not thinking along with the team or the status quo, there were others implementing my suggestions. Sometimes I got credit and sometimes I did not. THAT, dear readers, is a maverick. Sometimes broken but never self-appointed. Like a nickname that sticks and is worn like a badge of honor, the title “maverick” belongs to those who dare and accept the life such a title brings. 

mav·er·ick  n.

1. An unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it.

2. One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
adj.                        

Being independent in thought and action or exhibiting such independence: maverick politicians; a maverick decision.

 

[Possibly after Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870), American cattleman who left the calves in his herd unbranded .]

 

This week, I want to look at innovations created by true mavericks. Focusing on things that not just were great inventions, but things that changed our lives forever. Not just an invention like radio or television, that has certainly changed society and our individual lives, because it will be replaced by something else. It may evolve, it may be replaced. Someone will find a better way. The items spotlighted here are true innovations that will always be in our lives and will touch every human being. 

 

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Certainly no mention of mavericks would be legitimate if the list didn’t start with the early pioneers of rock and roll. As with classical music, it’s here to stay, possibly because the Rolling Stones are genetically engineered to live forever and will keep giving concerts for the next 5000 years. I suppose my admiration is not only for those who suffered back in the 1950s with labels and threats placed upon them by society, but also for those who must secretly face the shame that they had turned down groups like the Beatles because they would “never amount to anything.”

 

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Internet. Need I say more.

 

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One of my personal favorite mavericks was William M. Gaines, President and Founder of EC Comics. The man who gave us horror comics and the society bending, MAD Magazine. When the government tried to shut him down because of comics effects on the moral fiber of Americas youth, he fought and found a way around the arbitrary rules put in place to put him out of business.

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MAD kept publishing and generations grew up with the fold-in, the Lighter Side, Alfred E. Neuman and the little marginal cartoons by Sergio Aragones. Every now and then, MAD, known for respecting nothing, would even take a shot at itself. A bit of the “shamelss, self-promoting, breaking-my-arm-patting-myself-on-the-back department, when I was Art Director, I was allowed to incorporate the cover logo into the visual gag. It was successful and many feel spawned the popular belief that a magazine logo did not have to sit in front of all images and that only part of it would still be recognized as the brand.
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Even spawning jokes at the expense of the sacred logo, the issue above caused a major stir when letters flooded in asking if we had noticed there were two “a”s in the logo (never mind the “Proofreader wanted” or “details on page 53” when it had always been a 49-page magazine). It was said that the issue was a rare printing mistake and worth $2,500. When people started asking where they could buy a copy for $2,500 or that they had bought something for $2,500 and now wanted to sell their rare issue, it was released that the $2,500 was a rare printing mistake and it was actually worth the cover price of $2.50. That’s when the threats of law suits started pouring in.

 

Generations of readers entered the establishment but carried with them the lessons from MAD. Those who entered advertising, movies and television obviously took the lessons they learned and applied them to their own work. Humor and spoofs made fun of the very things MAD sought to out. Even politicians were heard saying the famous motto, “what — me, worry?”
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Even the CEOs of large corporations begged to be used in MAD ads. The more they were called idiots, the more they liked it.
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Although CEOs beg to be in ads or personally call to buy the original art from ad spoof where their product is referred to as poison, dreck, excrement or a danger to society, somewhat negating the original anger America had to having institutions laughed at, MAD continues to pervert generations and will, I suspect, as it passed a fifty-year anniversary mark, continue to do so.

 

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Obviously not in order of importance, the cell phone is another invention that has transformed life itself and will continue to do so with minimal changes. Martin Cooper, widely regarded as the Father of the Mobile. introduced the brick-sized cell phone that had a hefty $4 per minute call charge.
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35 years later (and several pounds off the phone), cell phones are replacing some new inventions and replacing older ones. Family plans and low costs have every family member owning a phone, so, land line phones have seen the end of days. Likewise, portable calculators, PDAs and even the iPod is expected to disappear within the next year. Cell phones are replacing digital cameras and video cameras and, with the expanding research and breakthrough of e-ink technology (paper-thin, color screens for video and images), it can safely be said that laptops for many uses will be replaced by cell phones.
There are those that claim cell phones will replace mail and, unfortunately, junk mail. I’m sure that you and I both get junk texts right now.
Another trend is that people are leaving their wrist watches at home. Cell phones will tell you the time, date and just about anything else you want to know, which is why it is also replacing date books, day planners, calendars even alarm clocks.
Here to stay, the cell phone is a part of us and somehow I suppose that someone will figure out a way for it to literally become a part of us.

 

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Who was Dr. Seuss? He was not a doctor and not a who. Theodor Seuss Geisel was a real maverick. Almost kicked out of school for certain incidents, he is a household name all over the world. As with all greats and ground-breakers, his first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” was rejected 27 times.
As a creative, I am struck by his art style. Thinking of art of that time and even of today, Geisel’s drawing style, linework and even his characters were like nothing ever seen before (or since). He broke all the rules. I mean ALL the rules. Usually I would make a quip about 27 more brainless idiots in the world when I wrote how his first work was turned down 27 times, but one has to admit that this work was so ahead of its time, it must have been impossible to find anyone who would appreciate his genius.
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Even with his fame and the fact that each book sold better than the previous one, there is one book you will not find on shelves in your local book store. “The Butter Battle Book” was a commentary on the rising cold war of the 1950s. Seen as being too controversial for the times, it shed light that many of Geisel’s books were commentaries on society.
No matter how many books are replaced by movies or computer files, I think it’s safe to say that Seuss’ work will be a print staple for generations of children yet to come.

 

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Necessity certainly is the mother of invention. One of the biggest necessities is what men do to survive in war. Durning the early days of the Iraq war, it was reported that soldiers didn’t have the proper body armor and the Hummers they drove were substantially under protected. Minds started working and the soldiers themselves devised ways to create their own versions of armor.
In the days of the second world war, a small businessman, Andrew Higgins, had an idea that would allow troops to assault beaches while saving lives due to the design of protection and quick dispersal.
In an interview in 1964, General Eisenhower said of Andrew Higgins, “He is the man who won the war for us.” Eisenhower went on to explain, “If Higgins had not designed and built the LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”

Andrew Higgins was a self-taught genius in small boat design, building boats out of wood before the war for use by the oil industry to explore the swamps in Louisiana. He was so sure that there would be a war and a need for thousands of small boats, and also certain that steel would be in short supply, that he bought the entire 1939 crop of mahogany from the Philippines and stored it for future use!

When the war started the Marines realized they needed landing craft and expected the Navy to supply them. The navy opened the design up for competition and Higgins applied. Higgins had several things working against him.

• He was a hot-tempered, “loud-mouthed Irishman who drank a bottle of whiskey a day.

He built his boats out of wood rather than steel, which didn’t sit well with the Navy.

• His firm was a small fly-by-night outfit on the Gulf Coast rather than an established firm on the East Coast.

• He insisted the “Navy doesn’t know one damn thing about small boats.”

 Higgins struggled for several years, always managing to get a small contract here and there. The Marines loved what he produced. It was far superior to anything the Navy had been able to design. And he finally got a large contract for his LCVP (landing craft, vehicle and personnel).

Once he got the initial contract he showed that he was as much a genius at mass production as he was at design. He setup assembly lines scattered throughout New Orleans, some in tents. He employed up to 30,000 worked and integrated his work force with blacks, women, and men… the first time this was done in New Orleans. He paid top wages regardless of race or sex and tried to inspire his employees with slogans like “The man who relaxes is helping the Axis.”

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One of my favorite maverick innovators was a man who also turned down millions of dollars for his work.

George Washington Carver, born of slave parents on July 12, 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri, devoted his life to research projects connected primarily with southern agriculture. The products he derived from the peanut and the soybean revolutionized the economy of the South by liberating it from an excessive dependence on cotton. Carver developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut, which created new markets for farmers.He didn’t just keep the best for himself; he gave it away freely for the benefit of mankind. Not only did he achieve his goal as the world’s greatest agriculturist, but also he achieved the equality and respect of all.

 

George’s formal education started when he was twelve. He had, however, tried to get into schools in the past but was denied on the basis of race. No black school was available locally so he was forced to move. He said Good-bye to his adopted parents, Susan and Moses Carter, and headed to Newton County in southwest Missouri. Here is where the path of his education began. He studied in a one-room schoolhouse and worked on a farm to pay for it. He ended up, shortly after, moving with another family to Fort Scott in Kansas. 

Though denied admission to Highland University because of his race, Carver gained acceptance to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1890.  He became well respected for his artistic talent (in later days his art would be included in the spectacular World’s Columbian Exposition Art Exhibit). Carver’s interests, however, lay more in science and he transferred from Simpson to Iowa Agricultural College (which is now known as Iowa State University). He distinguished himself so much that upon graduation in 1894 he was offered a position on the school’s faculty, the first Black accorded the honor. Carver was allowed great freedom in working in agriculture and botany in the University’s greenhouses.

In 1895, Carver co-authored a series of papers on the prevention and cures for fungus diseases affecting cherry plants. In 1896 he received his master’s degree in agriculture and in 1897 discovered two funguses that would be named after him. Later that year Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school’s director of agriculture.

At Tuskegee, Carver developed his crop rotation method, which alternated nitrate producing legumes-such as peanuts and peas-with cotton, which depletes soil of its nutrients. Following Carver’s lead, southern farmers soon began planting peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. Carver then developed 325 different uses for the extra peanuts-from cooking oil to printers ink. When he discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils, Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including synthetic rubber and material for paving highways.

 He continued constantly working with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans trying to produce new products. He developed more than 300 products from the peanut (including Peanut Butter), 175 from the sweet potato, and 60 from the pecan. He extracted blue, purple, and red pigments from the clay soil of Alabama. He researched the manufacture of synthetic marble from green wood shavings, rope from cornstalk fibers, and veneers from the palmetto root. During WWI, he worked to replace the textile dyes that were being imported from Europe. He ended up producing and replacing over 500 different shades. In 1927, he invented a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans.

 Although he did hold three patents, Carver never patented most of the many discoveries he made while at Tuskegee, saying “God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?”

 Thomas Edison, the great inventor was so enthusiastic about that he asked Carver to move to Orange Grove, New Jersey to work at the Edison Laboratories at an annual salary of $100,000 per year and state of the art facilities. He declined the generous offer, wanting to continue on at Tuskegee.

One could sing the praises of Carver enough to fill books and the number of men and women like him who thumbed their noses at the rules set by society, yet they provided that very same society with innovations that made life richer and easier. Sort of makes you think, doesn’t it?!

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The Afterlife is a collection of true mavericks. We give you ideas and innovation that will drive your product to greatness and people will still laugh at us and call us hurtful names. So contact us today to discuss your needs, Call us mavericks, nerds, ne-er-do-wells or whatever; just call us!

Jonathan Schneider – Archangel of creative
The AFTERLIFE

“Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae”
~ There is no great ability without a mixture of madness.

 

 

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3 Responses to “The AFTERLIFE EPITAPH – Nov. 24th, 2008 #4, Vol.1”

  1. I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template if you need any assistance customizing it let me know!

  3. better a maverick than a lemming be …

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