Monday, July 30, 2007

History, Espionage, Technology, Art, Illusion and ... Philanthropy

My friend, Lexington resident Rick Beyer, has just told me about a very interesting project he is working on: A documentary film about the Ghost Army: a unit that used all sorts of tricks and artistic talents to create the impression that the Allied forces were operating in much different ways than was actually the truth. More on that later.

I am a firm believer in supporting artists and writers with upfront (tax deductible) cash donations and this message is an appeal for you to do the same. Marsha and I have already donated $100 to the "The Center For Independent Documentary" a non-profit organization that will be funding Rick's current work on the Ghost Army and at the end of this message I am going to ask you to consider giving a donation to this worthy effort. Again, more on that later, but I wanted to make sure you understood what I was asking you to consider up front.

Rick Beyer is an historian, author and film director. He has written three books in a "The Greatest Stories Never Told:" series that are both wonderful to read and beautifully illustrated:

As his books show, Rick is not just a story teller, but also a talented graphics / visual artist.

Combine these talents together and add time and motion, and you get to his work in documentary films. Rick's company, Plate of Peas Productions has created 6 documentaries which have shown on channels such as The History Channel and A&E:

Recently, Marsha had a non-speaking role as a member of the rowdy crowd (typecasting?) in a film about the historical reconstruction of The Old State House is Boston.

Rick's current project, the film documentary, "The Ghost Army", tells a story of deception, art, and showmanship kept secret for nearly 50 years. It is about an extraordinary US Army unit whose mission was to impersonate other army units on the battlefields of Europe in order to fool the enemy. From Normandy to the Rhine they used rubber tanks, sound trucks, and all sorts of tricks to stage a traveling road show of deception.

And that's only half the story. Many of the soldiers were artists recruited from NY and Philadelphia art schools. They literally sketched and painted their way across Europe, creating a unique a highly personal visual record of the war. Here is a trailer that Rick created to generate support for the film:

You can find out more about the Ghost Army at Rick's project website:

This project has already started and to date Rick and his organization has interviewed more than 20 Ghost Army veterans on camera, and collected more than 500 photographs and artworks for possible use in the film. But they still have a long way to go.

And that is where you can help. I would like to ask you to support Rick in this effort.

There is a really interesting organization named who's subtitle is

"It's a small world. You can make a difference"

It's no secret that government funding for the Arts has been decimated in the last 20 years. So, if we can't participate in supporting artists through our taxes, then the only way is to make donations directly to them. In a way, this is more compelling since you can direct your support to projects you really like. And, you will see the difference you will make when Rick's film is completed and shown on TV channels such as the History Channel.


I'm glad you asked:
  1. Go to: The Network for Good
  2. You will see a "badge". Click on the Donate button.
  3. Fill out the form making sure you enter "The Ghost Army" in the "Designation (Optional)" field -- this is important if your support is going to get to Rick.
It's that easy.

I thank you in advance, as does Rick, for considering this request and for your donation to this good cause for the Arts.



Saturday, July 21, 2007



Lists: you either love them or hate them. I have to admit that I have a fascination with them. At times I am a little defensive about this because they reduce understanding of a subject to a rather syntactic recitation of facts rather than deep insight. But, checking off what you have done is an objective way to measure progress.

Read Walt Mossberg's All Things Digital comments.

Check out my Meosphere.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Excellent Information Presentation

Wealthiest Americans Ever...
Interactive Feature: The Money Race

Here are two great examples about how to present information using the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The display of the Wealthiest Americans Ever... is great for two reasons: First, it is always important to understand modern "facts" in the context of history. This puts Bill Gates, Warren Buffet's and Sam Walton's fortunes into historical perspective. Second, it is an excellent example about how to show off data in a compact form using the benefits of the interactive Internet.

The second example Interactive Feature: The Money Race (published the next day by the New York Times: way to go NYT) improves on the first example by adding animation so that you can see how candidates raise money over time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Coonamessett Farm

Coonamessett Farm

We went out to dinner at Coonamessett Farm near Falmouth, MA. It was wonderful. Here's the deal: CF is a working farm growing veggies and fruit on the Cape. Among other things, the farm is one of those cooperative farms where families can buy a share of the output of the farm for a fixed price per year. In addition, CF offers produce to non-members at normal farm-stand prices. From looking around the web a bit, I can see that one of the big draws is a variety of farm animals present. Naturally, these are popular with animal lovers in general and kids in particular.

But the really unique thing about CF are the dinners they offer on Friday and Wednesday evenings. We went on Friday for the Vegetarian Buffet Dinner. Although I am not a vegetarian, I really enjoyed the meal: several different soups including veggi chili, a complete salad bar with homemade red potato salad and curried couscous, and three more significant entries including Eggplant Parmesan, Broccoli Quiche, and Spinach and Feta Pizza. There is also a Jamaican Buffet and Grill Dinner on Wednesdays. An added element is that they have a large deck area where the tables overlook the fields and buildings of the Farm.

The dinners aren't really cheap ($13 or $18 for adults, half price for kids) but they are decent. And, the entire scene is a wonderful place to go with a group for a relaxing al fresco dinner.