Home

The Debates I’m Not Moderating

Comments Off on The Debates I’m Not Moderating

 

Department of Let’s Get this Out Of The Way:
Tuesday’s Democratic Debate

Although I didn’t have a stopwatch handy, it seemed to me that Hillary Clinton was given more time than the other candidates for answers and rebuttals. That, combined with her center position on stage and being able to speak last for both the opening and closing remarks, gave her a front runner glow. Was that all just happenstance, or was CNN’s subliminal bias betrayed by those logistics?

Upfront: I am a Bernie Sanders supporter (changed my party registration – I am typically listed as Independent – so I can vote for him in the primary). I thought all of the candidates comported themselves well, including the three no chance in hell lesser-knowns…although not for one moment did I find Clinton’s I-changed-my-mind-due-to-facts-not-polls-I-didn’t-flip-flop Pacific Rim trade pact switcherroo defense convincing.

As for the post-event question everyone seems to pose – Who, in your opinion, won the debate? I’d say, moderator Anderson Cooper.

Really. Cooper was cool, confident, and in control of a situation where all of the participants are looking for any opening to skew things their way.

* He opened by (essentially) challenging each candidate to defend or rebut what is seen as their biggest weak spot;
* He was incredibly well-prepared re the candidate’s backgrounds and political positions;
* He paid attention to the answers and asked relevant follow-up questions;
* He asked no softball or flippant questions;
* He pointed out when candidates dodged questions or answered with non-answers.

Future moderators, take note. All debates should be refereed thusly. Come to think of it, why can’t Cooper do all the debates?  Hell, I’d even watch the next Republican Clown Cavalcade if he’d moderate it.

 

Oh, stop it. I bet you say that to all the boys.

Oh, stop it. I bet you say that to all the boys.

 

I was somewhat bemused with the lesser-known candidate my brain labeled Goofy Smiling Guy, aka former RI Governor Lincoln Chafee. This was because Chafee…do I really need to say it?…had this perpetual, goofy smile, as if he couldn’t quite believe he was standing on an actual presidential debate stage, podium and everything, wheee!

Also, in both his opening and closing remarks, Chafee stressed what he apparently thought was a two-for-one bonus (i.e, both a plus for him and a jab at Clinton): that he was the rare political bird with “no scandals” – nope, not one [1] – in his many years of public service.

 

 

No scandal here...except for that lame necktie..

No scandal here…except for that lame necktie..

Well, okay. However, related to Cooper’s final question – “Which enemy are you most proud of?” – having acquired “no scandals” in a long political career isn’t necessarily something to brag about, IMHO. Instead of being indicative of your unimpeachable ethical standards, being scandal-free could simply signify that you never took a political risk, or that no one whose positions you opposed found you powerful, effective or threatening enough to try to bribe you, set you up or otherwise tarnish your reputation.

*   *   *

Department of Just Because

Lady Marmalade break. Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da, y'all.

Lady Marmalade break.                      Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da, y’all.

 

*   *   *

The Book I’m Not Reviewing

“People write on Huffington Post, they write for Goodreads…valuable sites owned by big tech companies that make a lot of money for those companies. Writers choose to write there for nothing and to provide content for nothing. That’s another issue…something that writers are doing deliberately.”
(Roxanna Robinson, President of the Authors Guild, in her article for The Bookseller, “Authors Guild Warns Authors Over Contributing Online Articles For Free.”

 

I use Goodreads, mostly as a reading log for moiself. That’s about as far as it goes (ahem, along with this blog) for me providing free content. In rating something like 437 books I think I have twice made a one or two sentence comment. I give books a star rating, even as I cringe while doing so at the oversimplification of such a system. [2].  I do not write actual reviews, FAVOR [3], including my refusal to participate in yet-another-way-writers-do-work-without-getting-paid.

However (you didn’t see that coming, right?)….

Here is something resembling a review, for a recent book I rated.

It was a book I wanted to like, because it revolved around stories of certain ruminant of which I am fond.

 

Coulda had a three star rating, but not enough goat screaming.

Coulda had a three star rating, but not enough goat screaming.

 

I liked the brief excerpt the book’s author read during one of those local/community arts “literary events” in which I overdosed on Valium and forced myself to attend was invited to participate.

For those of you unfamiliar with such events, they are sometimes called Book readings or Literary fairs, are oftentimes sponsored by a local independent bookstore, and are almost at all times attended by only the local authors themselves, a smattering of the author’s friends and family, plus a few wannabe authors who wannabe picking the brains of Actual Published Authors ®  for free advice as to how they can go from wannabe to Actual Published Authors ® .

(Translation: few or no books are actually sold. [4] )

The wannabes hang around afterward to tell you how much they enjoyed your reading, and gosh golly they really want to get a copy of your book (which is usually right in front of them, or twenty steps away, at the booksellers’ table), and will try to find a used copy online or check out a copy at the library. They say this as they flash their wide-eyed, isn’t that great? grin, ostensibly expecting you to be overjoyed at their “interest” in your work, despite the fact that none of the book acquiring venues they mention provide any remuneration to either the book’s author or the event’s sponsor. [5]

My favorite comments from book fair attendee/writer wannabees – comments I have heard too-much-more-than-once – come from those who’ve wonder in awe to me about how I managed to have more than one book published by “real publishers” –

I think I should start by self-publishing. It’s easier, right?

yeahright

 

About my few or no books are actually sold observation: sometimes the event authors buy each other’s books…which in my book doesn’t count…and which is how I came to obtain a copy about the Book That Shall Be Reviewed But Not Named.

Once again, I digress – this time, in getting on with my non-review.

Due to hearing the afore-mentioned enjoyable excerpt, I violated my oft-mentioned, principle-from-experience (which is: in general, I do not buy self-published books).  I bought the book, which has been in my enough-to-read-until-the-nuclear-holocaust pile for almost a year. I hadn’t gotten to cracking the covers, but as per the Sad Events mentioned in an earlier post, I was looking for “light” bedtime reading. But, by light I was referring to emotional impact, not basic, compositional competency.

Yep, the book was self-published, but not exactly in the Literary Lone Wolf manner. Many euphemisms have arisen to disguise self-publishing ventures. This book, as per a blurb in the book’s back pages, was the product of a “too tiny to be considered a micro-press.”

Micro press. In my petty imagination – aided by anecdotes participants in such ventures have shared – I picture the micro press members gathering coffee-klatch style to trade woe-is-me-bitches stories about the nasty mainstream publishers who reject their work [6]….

 

nymphpng

 

I’m trying not to be mean. Really. But no matter now micro or macro your press may be, please oh please, if you have a book in print, make it print-worthy.

Of course, with CreateSpace and Kobo and the ever-increasing number of self-publishing platforms (the term, before the e-book debacle revolution, was subsidy or Vanity Press), everyone from the pontificating drunk at the corner bar to my late Aunt Erva’s Rottadoodle can now have a book in print. [7]

So: you no longer have to go down to the copy shop to construct your spiral bound “book” for friends and family – you can have something that looks like a real book. And maybe you don’t care to be taken seriously as an Actual Published Author.  But whether you consider yourself a “real writer” or hobby publisher, for FFS, structure, plotting, grammar and punctuation matter.

And if perchance you want to be taken seriously as an author, don’t have your spouse (or any member of your family, or someone who owes you money) write your author bio/intro. Also, have your copy professionally edited, and by professionally I mean someone who knows what they’re doing, not your best buddy in your sewing circle/Tupperware party/retired fisherman’s club  micro-mini-press group. Find a truth teller, not a cheerleader/ego massager. Find someone outside your circle, someone who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings, someone whom you will reimburse for their work. Isn’t the point to improve, to learn to be a better writer?

Here’s a bit of advice, for which I am once again violating my High Professional Standards ® (i.e., giving it away for free): a clever descriptive phrase used once is…well…clever. Used repeatedly, it becomes annoying and embarrassing – the literary equivalent of a sitcom character’s catchphrase (Dy-no-mite, anyone?).

 

grits

Instead of writing we couldn’t afford a certain purchase the author used something ala my bank account groaned.  Yep, that’s a nice variant, and a chuckle-worthy image comes to mind. Now, be honest with yourself: that phrase isn’t destined to become a classic, no matter how many times you repeat it. Don’t use it a second time (and certainly not a third) in the same chapter.  As per my earlier advice, a good editor would have fixed that.

*   *   *

It’s Good to Dream

Earlier this week, during one of my morning walks, I was thinking about how I’d like to hear musical genre variants of classic TV show theme songs. [8] Disclosure:  you could inscribe the sum total of my musical talent on the tip of my index finger and still have room for the Declaration of independence; thus, this is not a project I moiself can undertake.  But for all you musical geniuses who follow this blog [9], I would be eternally grateful if you could come up with the following:

 

* a mariachi version of the Star Trek (original series, or Next Gen) theme
* The Ramones telling me how to get to Sesame Street
* A hard rock version – I’m thinking AC/DC – of the theme to The Love Boat
* a polka-flavored rendition of  that bad-ass, eight note riff from Mission: Impossible
* The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme as interpreted by Run DMC
* Weird Al Yankovic’s take on the ticking stopwatch intro to Sixty Minutes
* an all-tuba performance of the theme to Bonanza

 

And of course, Luciano Pavarotti singing the theme to The Brady Bunch. The gripping story of “the lovely lady/who was bringing up three very lovely girls” is one that lends itself to operatic treatment, Nest-ce-pas?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May your dreams be good and filled with melodic variety,
May you be proud of your enemies and patient with your literary critics,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And if that isn’t a call for people to try to dig up some dirt on him, I don’t know what is. Anyone remember Gary Hart?

[2] Yo, Goodreads, how’s about at least a half and quarter star options?

[3] All together now, ye acronym amnesiacs:  FAVOR = For A Variety Of Reasons.

[4] Your friends and family already have your books, right?

[5] Really. They fucking say this to your fucking face.

[6] Heartless bastards who insist on basic grammatical proficiency, coherent narratives and other nit-picking shit.

[7] My late Aunt Erva – who was in fact quite punctual – never owned a Rottadoodle (a breed which to my knowledge doesn’t actually exist, but should).  But if Erva were alive today and had a dog, I’m sure her pooch would have a self-published memoir in print.

[8] Because, why not?

[9] Not to get all zen on y’all, but what is the sound of one mouth chortling?

The Pizza I’m Not Delivering

Comments Off on The Pizza I’m Not Delivering

 Happy Maytag Day!

maytag

Dang – I mean, Happy Mayfly Day!

mayfly

Or rather, Happy Maypole Day! 

maypole

Make that, Happy Mayflower Day!

mayflower

Or is it, Happy Mayday?

maydaydistress

Er…maybe…Happy Mother May I Day?

You most certainly may not!

You most certainly may not!

*   *   *

Department of Chick Lit vs. Dick Lit 

I’ve groused about this before.

REALLY

Yes, really.

This being the overt and covert sexism in the literary world, particularly when it comes to book reviews and categorization.

You’ve probably heard the term chick lit, whether or not you fully understand the literary insinuations behind the label. Nutshell: if a female novelist writes about herself, or her fiction’s  protagonists share similar characteristics (ethnicity, age, social and economic circumstances) with herself or her peers, or if Female Novelist tackles subjects related to family, feelings or relationships, she’s a neurotic narcissist and/or what she writes is labeled chick lit. [1]  When a (usually white) male author does the same; naturally, his works are consigned to the label…what would that be: dick lit?

yeahright

Noooooooo.   He gets no such label. He’s illustrating and critiquing the human condition; he’s doing some serious Lit-ra-chure.

The reason for a grousing reprise was the snippet of an artsy radio program I caught while I was driving to some miscellaneous errand. A male voice emanating from my car radio, using the reverent, NPR poetry voice ©  intonation, [2]  was praising the works and themes of the esteemed Russian short story author and playwright, Anton Chekov. And that less-than-reverent yeah, right voice popped into my head.

Anton Chekov is the second most produced playwright in history (the first, of course, is Billybob Shakespeare). Chekov’s stories and plays address themes of the clash between social progress and the maintenance of compassionate human relationships; the frailty of human physical, mental and emotional health; the lack of communication between people of goodwill – even and especially between family members; the lure of aspirations and ideals and the seeming impossibility of realizing them, especially within one’s social and family structure….

Duuuuude.  If Chekov’s works were somehow re-introduced today and Anton was changed to Antonia, there’d be lavender and pink cover art…and he’d never have been awarded the Pushkin Prize.

*   *   *

Speaking of dicks….

Three weeks ago I mentioned my dream in which I had to deliver pizza to former president Ronald Reagan.

In Real Life ® , if I had to deliver pizza to anyone with that particular surname, I would be most happy if it were Uncle Ronnie’s wonderful and witty son, Ron Reagan.

happyza

I’ve been a fan of Ron Reagan’s even before I heard him speak at the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention. RR the younger is proof that not only can the apple fall far from the tree, it is capable of rolling uphill.

Ron Reagan is currently a commentator and program contributor for MSNBC cable news network. His career in media includes jobs as a talk radio host and political analyst for KIRO radio, and he hosted his own daily show on Air America Radio.  RR is known for his progressive and liberal political and social views, and is also an active, out-of-the-closet atheist. His activism on behalf of atheist and Freethought causes includes the pithy PSA he recorded for the Freedom From Religion Foundation…a PSA you may have heard on CNN or Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but which was banned from the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC).

ABC and NBC rejected the PSA – although when first approached by the FFRF, NBC offered to accept the paid advertising if FFRF would delete the spot’s concluding line– it’s punch line, for crissake! – which RR delivers with an adorable, wry smile:

“Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.” [3]

FFRF also wanted to buy time for the ad on Sixty Minutes. After months of delays in their response, CBS rejected that placement AND banned the ad from any national CBS show.

Here’s what some network execs found so scary:

 

 

I’ve watched a lot of CBS’ Sixty Minutes over the years, and have lost track of the number of commercials the network has run that are considered offensive or dodgy by some folk (myself included). Apparently the craven asswipes wise content programmers at CBS have no problem running ads for products that talk directly or obliquely about ED (and the dangers of erections lasting longer than 4 hours!), or commercials which feature people gyrating and clutching their abdomens and buttocks to illustrate the discomfort of diarrhea, flatulence and other intestinal disorders…but an atheist who calmlys jibe about H – E- Double hockey sticks?  Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

 

*   *   *

I have no respect for any human being who believes in it [Hell]. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. I have no respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of childhood with that infamous lie. I have no respect for the man who will add to the sorrows of this world with the frightful dogma. I have no respect for any man who endeavours to put that infinite cloud, that infinite shadow, over the heart of humanity.
 — Robert G. Ingersoll

*   *   *

Department of Getting The Kids Up To Speed

Last Saturday’s book fair. To survive such events, I close my eyes and think of England grit my teeth and think of castor oil, and other things that (as a writer) are supposed to be good for you.

Friend and fellow writer SCM mused about the incongruity of having a book fair at library, where people can read books for free. [4] She also kept me sane through the event via a series of texts that distracted me from smacking people who attempted to walk off with copies of The Mighty Quinn without paying for them, [5] along with the par-for-the-course Book Fair atmosphere that several newbie authors noticed and commented on.

Higher sales (and dignity) than those of book fairs.

Higher sales (and dignity) than those of book fairs.

One Nice Young Man, © an editor and author of children’s picture books who was participating in his first book fair, mentioned in an email to me that he was disappointed in both the turnout and the number of copies of his books sold…but that he (altogether now, authors) had a good time and made some connections/met other nice authors, so it was worth it.

I tried to be gentle yet illuminating in my reply.

It was nice to meet you, too.  Your experience (few sales, but good time) was par for the course. As a reluctant veteran of many book fairs, and can tell you that the turnout was, in fact, typical for a book fair.

Also, the rules of Book Fair are a variation on Rules 1 & 2 of Fight Club:
1. Nobody sells books at Book Fairs.
2. Nobody buys books at Book Fairs.

If you want to find the people, check the cookie booth.

If you want to find the fair attendees, check the cookie booth.

*   *   *

Whether you celebrate the coming of spring or the day when industrial workers worldwide  protest the capitalist insect that preys upon the people, [6] may you have a Happy May Day, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] or the only marginally better regarded,  “women’s fiction.”

[2] You know what that is.

[3] Then NBC decided they wouldn’t take the spot even if it were censored altered.

[4] And for which, all you well-meaning library patrons – or at least those who mistakenly think they are supporting literature by reading library books – the books’ authors are not compensated. If 2000 people serially check out the library’s copy of Reflections on a Wrinkled Elbow, the book’s author receives a royalty on the one copy the library purchased.

[5] This has happened at every such event I’ve participated in.

[6] And when in doubt, I say, celebrate ’em all.