Thursday, April 23, 2015



This is my new favorite word.  My old favorite was Wait. What?

Whuck says the same thing but with an edge.  Whuck is weary of all the trash that goes down.

Today and all week, for instance, my local Waldbaum's had no Earthbound organic greens.  " I don't know why but they haven't come in," said the greengrocer.  Whuck????

Am I late for the party?  Did you already know about this word?

I hope you like it, too, because undoubtedly it will be used here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Selective news and Jell-O Redux

(A visitor looked at this post.  I re-read and it seemed better than most so I decided to re-post)
Going, going, gone for One Hundred and Nineteen Million Dollars

Most of us know The Scream as a painting of excruciating desolation. You have to be a learned art connoisseur to appreciate the artistic quality of this painting.  My grandmother, Farida, who suffered transplantation during WWI, would probably not have included it when she packed up the few things to put in her knapsack. 
The version of The Scream (there are four) that was in the news recently was a crayon pastel with a blood red sky. They say the figure is a man but it looks more like a woman in a shirtwaist dress reacting to a washing machine that has overflowed and is sending a cascade of suds into the wood floor of the living room.  The painting sold for 119 million dollars last week. If I sound like an ignoramus making fun of this iconic symbol of human anxiety, it is because I am an ignoramus. The artist left this explanation for the painting in his diary:
I was walking along a path with two friends the sun was setting I felt a breath of melancholy. Suddenly the sky turned blood-red I stopped and leant against the railing, deathly tired looking out across flaming clouds that hung like - blood and a sword over the deep blue fjord and town My friends walked on - I stood there trembling with anxiety And I felt a great, infinite scream pass through nature. (1892)
Norway, the artist’s home, has an extensive social welfare system. Norway has a lot of money acquired from their extraction of petroleum in the North Sea. They keep their money for their citizens and don’t dribble it away on wars and foreign aid to countries that hate them.  A compulsory National Pension plan provides citizens with benefits such as universal child support, one-year paid maternity leave, and pensions for old age, disability and rehabilitation. Norway's extensive attention to the medical and financial needs of its people translates into a long average lifespan.  Seems like a happy place to me.

Mensa, Mensa, Mensa
A two year old has been admitted to Mensa.  The toddler with an IQ of 154 can recite the alphabet backward and forward, count to 1,000 and name the planets in the solar system. Memorization seems to be the measure of genius here.  What about original thinking? Has that toddler ever had a unique thought? Can you imagine anything more dreary than going to Mensa meetings where everyone is trying to play extreme smartness. You only hear of Mensa when unlikely candidates are admitted.  If Jessica Simpson was admitted, we would be like “huh?” 

Jell-O Redux
I haven’t thought about Jell-O in decades. I was never a big fan of Jell-O (the dessert) and aspics (the savory version of gelatins).  It would take a lot of money to get me to willingly make an aspic. Last week, I was browsing the baking aisle in the supermarket and discovered a shelf full of puddings and gelatins. 
The cursing angel of good, said to me “Why the f**k are you so against Jell-O?” To my surprise, the sugar-free version of Jell-O has O calories. What?  I took a box home.  It was so good, I ate the entire portion while it was still only half jelled.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Don't show me this message again" Redux.

Note:  This is an excerpt from my favorite book: One Hundred Open Houses.    This is the book that saved me from total deterioration at a certain time in my life. My agent took me to lunch in Sag Harbor.  We changed restaurants twice.  We'd look at each other and say, You want to leave?  Let's go.  After we finally settled down and started to eat, she said, Write another book.  It's time.  I like the book Julie/Julia.  I like the structure - cooking all of the recipes in the one book.  What if I did one where the structure was looking for an apartment and going to open houses, I asked? Great, she said.  Do that.
One of the happy outcomes of having a bestseller (Three Daughters) is the spillover reader interest in One Hundred Open Houses)

Don't show me this message again!
The pseudo-porn magazine contact has sent me an e-mail with a huge file attachment  because his parent company has had ten lawyers drawing up the contract.  Lawyers on staff of large corporations are lazy and careless.  They send you boiler plate stuff written in the Middle Ages and when you point out that the terms are impossible to enact, they tell you to just cross it out.  When I try to open the attachment, the message says that the file is compressed.  I e-mail back that the file is compressed and he tells me to use WinZip to open it.  That’s like telling me I have to turn into a crocodile to open it – in other words, impossible.   I look on my desktop and there is an icon of a vice squeezing a file cabinet as when you want to glue furniture. I click on the icon and whoa! WinZip appears right over the e-mail. It says. “Do you want to unzip this now?”    I love it when the message is clear.  
Once I called Dell for advice on an e-mail problem and the tech person in Sri Lanka or wherever told me to check “Don’t show me this message again.”  The minute I checked it I realized I needed the message to get to my e-mail. He said, “I’ve been working here 10 years and I know pretty much and I could probably help you solve your e-mail problem but I have to follow the rules.”  I should have known he was telling me in a subtle way to urge him to help me but (not knowing the next help station was going to charge me to undo the damage from their bad advice,) I said, “Oh, that’s all right.”  I think the people in Calcutta or Sri Lanka have better ethics.  They are more empathetic and want to do the right thing unlike American telephone companies.  When I called back almost in tears, a soft voiced man said:  “I know one way to help you get that message back.  It’s called ‘system restore’ and it allows you to go back to any date you select and start all over again.” And that’s exactly what I did.  I went back to May 10, a Monday, when I still had not checked: “Don’t show me this message again.”
Imagine if you could do this in real life.  I’d go back to 1999 and be rich again.  And then I’d go back to 1960 and accept a date with Butch Ordway.  Or I’d go back… oh, hell, I can’t go back.  
When I first came to work here, I didn’t know how to transfer a call.  I was on overload for about two weeks and even with a gun to my head I couldn’t have told you what color the walls were.  Now I’ve used WinZip. 
I open the contract and try to compare what we sent to the pseudo-porn people and what they are sending to us.  It’s tedious and confusing and I already have a slight headache
Before work today, I went to see the dentist to see what is making the right side of my face hurt. They took an x-ray of the pain site and I thought the technician was going to look at the x-rays scream and say: oh, my god, your teeth are all messed up.  That’s not what happened.  She said my sinus was resting on the nerve. If you thought they were going to say: you don’t need us, go home, no charge.  That was not the case. The dentist looked in my mouth and said I had some fillings that were decomposing and now he’s going to do a whole bunch of things that are going to cost a lot of money.   I’m obsessing about it because in the moment of relief that my teeth were okay, I relaxed my attention and the medical establishment swooped in and mapped out a plan to keep me there for a year and separate me from thousands of dollars.
Three calls to the dentist’s office and now his whole desk staff has doubts about me.  I want to know why he can’t do everything in one visit.  I want to know how much it is all going to cost.  I want to know whether it is necessary.   For some reason the woman on the phone finds these questions unreasonable and obscure, as if no other patient has asked them before.  In the medical establishment, if you ask a question the staff always sees you as trouble. It’s our own fault.  The rules that the medical man is the king and the patient is damn lucky to be in his presence were made a long time ago.  So I have to let this bullshit dentist have his way about “decomposing”: fillings that haven’t given me one iota of trouble. On top of that, without any permission from me, he has numbed the entire left side of my face and ground down one poor tooth to a nub. “You’ll need a crown on that one,” he says.   Yes, I obsess but this dentist is nuts.  Trust me, he is nuts.
There was something on the news today that vindicates my theory that you should never have a medical procedure by the ‘top man.’ Every horror story I’ve ever heard about a procedure is always prefaced with the words ‘he’s supposed to be the top man.’
This man went in for a knee operation and when he comes out, the nurse is wheeling him to his room and says casually:  “Well you have a new left knee.” And the patient says, ”It was supposed to be the right knee.  The doctor marked it.”  Sure enough there’s a big x on the right knee but the numbskull replaced the left knee.  And the hospital is only awarding him half a million dollars.  I would have ruined that lazy crazy bastard.  I’m ready to stab that dentist who ground down my poor tooth. If someone replaced a perfectly good knee and left me with the same problem I came in with, I would never be done hunting him down.  Dr. Feldman was the name in case you need knee surgery.
I can’t stop thinking about that dentist that absolutely ruined two of my teeth and drilled them down as if he were excavating for a new subway or something.   Why do people become dentists anyway, to be legally aggressive?  Now my mouth hurts and I can’t eat peacefully. I guess I shouldn’t complain about that.
On top of this, Shana’s dog has pooped in the office and in order to kill the smell they sprayed the kind of floral scent that gives you a big headache.  I just read a story about a woman who was frequently ‘employee of the month’ but had to quit because of the excessive scents people wore to the office.  While I’m talking about scent assaults, I may as well call your attention to the soap Lever 2000.  I went up to my second floor one day because I smelled the overpowering scent of cheap perfume mixed with stale sweat.  I thought a cologne-crazed robber might be hiding up there.  The smell was suffocating and it was coming from an unwrapped bar of Lever 2000.  I began to feel nauseous and had to take it far out of the house and throw it away.  I would vote for any candidate that would outlaw perfumed soaps, shampoos or anything else.  Thank god for scent-free All.
Shana has no reprimand for the dog.  She loves, loves, loves the dog.  Twice the dog has done number two in the office.  Once right next to the hardest working employee who takes twelve hours to tell you something that could be said in half a sentence.  However, she claims to work until two in the morning (which, by the way, is Shana’s dream employee).  If you worked past seven at night, she would hire you forever even if you were dealing drugs.
So the hard worker had to go out and buy Febreze and clean up the poop and spray everywhere.  But then she said a brilliant thing and a courageous one, too.  She told Shana, there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.
I know too many people who are blindly in love with animals. Peta petitioned the government not to give Timothy McVey any meat for his last meal. The reasoning was why should one more living thing be killed for the monster. Ay, mommie!   I know people who prefer their pets to humans and many of them are women who never had children.  These people are perfectly okay with having the dog knock you down or put his muddy paws on your best silk dress. They let cats sit on the dinner table before and after you eat and only say, “Now Fluffy get off there,” in that tone that Fluffy has learned means “I love you so much, you can sit on my toast for all I care.” And Fluffy does want to sit on the toast especially when it’s still warm. 
When Oprah was on Ellen, they had a dog love competition.
Ellen:  What makes you happiest?
Oprah:  Being with my dogs. 
Ellen:  How many do you have.
Oprah:  Three and I’m getting two more.
Oprah:  I don’t understand people who don’t love dogs.
Ellen:  Me either.  Where are you going after the show?
Oprah:  To play with my dogs in the dog park.
Ellen:  I’ll go with you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Snap Out of It" or The Power of One

Yesterday I noticed the number of my blog followers had increased by one.  Hey, I said to this invisible new arrival, I was just about to stop posting and then you hopped on the bus full of expectations. 

Here's how it has been in that quagmire known as my frontal lobe where I keep my rotational thoughts - you know the ones: I need to go to the dentist but I'm afraid he's going to throw me and my crazy teeth out.  The deck has a rotting floorboard and someone's leg might go through? I still haven't plugged in the air purifier because I can't see the settings and somehow I think I'm incapable of putting on a light.   

Turn me on, you nitwit

You complete me.  Unfortunately.

That Fit Bit I was overjoyed to receive is just lying there and the little feet are still.   

Talk to me.

    Why am I napping so much?    The new mic I was overjoyed to receive is just    lying there gathering dust. I started learning about podcasts in September.

My blog is just lying there.  I haven't done a new post in days.  What do I have to post about anyway? Maybe I'll just stop posting.  I'll go look at my stats and see how many visitors I've had besides the Russian porn sites that visit me regularly. (By the way, there's nothing you can do about these trolls infesting your blog.)

Yesterday, my new blog follower slapped me hard with an open palm and said,  "Snap out of it!"  When I'm in this state, I always think of Cher in Moonstruck where, in her typical Cher way, she slaps Nicolas Cage to startle him off his self-indulgent, transitory emotional streak.

I think that will do it. 
Thank you, new follower.  The slap hurt a little but it did the trick.

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Chinos?" I asked. "No," he said, "Canvas."

The other night I went to a good friend's house for dinner and within minutes complimented one of the guests on his shirt.  It was one of those crushed linen shirts that wrinkles just right - a bad boy shirt with a banded collar that makes you think of dissolute expatriates who write features for hometown papers. 

What about my pants, said the guest.  
Chinos? I asked.   
No, he said.  Canvas.
Eight ounce weight?
Ten, he assured.

In that moment I realized how much I missed copywriting.  I had the desire to sell this man's outfit as if it was spring merchandise and I was once again the diligent copywriter hawking softgoods for Macy's Department Store.  "Canvas," I murmured, "but canvas that has surrendered its toughness and moulds gracefully to the human form."  I could visualize the headline.  "Canvas? Yes, canvas! Reborn. Repurposed. Resplendent."  These trousers say, "I'm expensive but worth it.  See how the pockets are finished with a wide edge? See how the legs end in an impudent narrow cuff?  See how the color is not camel or beige, maybe closest to the third tier of sediment in the buttes of the Kalahari?"

I wanted to also write an ad for the dinner but the seductive mushroom risotto, glistening, earthy and aromatic overtook all my senses.

Being a copywriter is a wonderful profession.  It demands that you celebrate the most insignificant thing:  a baby's undershirt, a bathroom shelf, a rug, a camisole, a Panama hat.  If there are any theater producers out there, let's do a musical called "Copywriting."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

One of these things is not like the others

This post is for all my sisters and brothers who self-publish and get "customer reviews" and receive some quizzical reviews that make them scratch their heads.

First, I am not complaining or whining.  Really. I have had some scathing reviews that should have sent me to bed in a dark room.  I picked myself up and kept going.   I've had reader reviews that said my writing was disjointed, confusing, too long, too short, too sexual, too boring, jumped around, couldn't be followed, had pages missing,  punctuated by an imbecile, punctuated by less than an imbecile, had a horrible ending, etc.  I've had readers say they wanted to throw the book across the room.  Did throw the book across the room. Wanted to throw the book at me. I've had many readers say in their review that they gave fewer stars because the book should have been longer.  The book in question was 720 pages.

The reviewing system at Amazon is like the wild, wild west: thrilling, rough, scary and seductive.

In the screenshot below, a frustrated customer who didn't get her book and couldn't get satisfaction, put her complaint where she thought it would do the most good.  If I had her e-mail, I would gladly send her a book.  BTW, Amazon is always diligent about customer satisfaction and I'm certain they will make this right.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Newborn whippoorwills were calling from the hills.

Ever since Amazon recorded my novel, Three Daughters (btw, on sale all of Feb for $1.99) for Audiobook and MP3 I've had it in my head to record all my stuff and put it up on the Audible site.  In my manic "discovery" stage I'm certain that I can
            make acceptable podcasts
            including book serials
            blog post entries
            talk incessantly and begin a whole new creative life
            make money and please the world with my great ideas

The cursing angels of good ideas and delusional ideas are to blame.
The good angel said, " I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind."
The other angel said, "F**k, yes.  Jump right in and do it. Who cares if it's amateurish.  Life is antic.  They keep saying crazy Kanye is a genius.  Maybe you are, too.  Besides, talking is easier than writing.

Guess who Audible belongs to?  It belongs to my celebrity crush, Jeff Bezos, who made Amazon.  The gang at Audible or ACX which is what they call the production entity, is super friendly and the staff there urges you to phone them anytime and ask anything.  You get the idea that the audio engineers are sitting around in Timberland boots and jeans and taking a spin on their Segways every few minutes to let off steam.  When a business is too welcoming, you get suspicious. I'm pulled along BECAUSE they are encouraging diy.  Most time you are urged not to do things yourself but to call a professional.

ACX does something else that's dangerous.  They especially ENCOURAGE authors to do the recording of their own work.  They say, "Nobody knows your work better than you."  That's not necessarily true.  Some of my readers have better insight into my writing and explain the books to me. Some readers say, "This book went on and on.  It put me to sleep."  One reader was so comatose she called me Consumer Star Beer. Or maybe it was AutoFill.

My first thought about recording was:  "Uh. No."  My voice is kind of childish and uneven. According to Dr. Weil, I don't know how to breathe. (He says breathing correctly is the most important health practice.) But then: VANITY.  And because: GRAMMY FOR THE SPOKEN WORD.  If there is an opportunity to do something that might (will) come out poorly and needs (demands) some innate technical know-how, prior training and SHOULD NOT (but will) be cobbled together - I'm in.

ACX knows authors are crazy and delusional so they suggest that we send a five- minute demo for their critique to see if we are capable of making the team or should hire one of their voiceover pros.

I borrowed my son in law's digital recorder.  He showed me the on/off buttons, the replay button, the volume wheel, the usb port.  I ignored the gazillion other buttons and started up.  What else could it take? Right?

For reasons unknown - really, I don't know where this idea came from - I put a Ralph Lauren king-sized pillow on either side of the recorder for acoustical excellence.  I brought up my Kindle Single, "Thinner Thighs In Thirty Years" on the Kindle screen and began to read the first scene.  This work was meant to be delivered as a one-woman show and it was produced (strange things happen to me) by a company in Sanibel, Florida at the Periwinkle Playhouse.

Each of the fifteen or so short scenes begins with a snippet of a poignant vintage song. Yes, I sang the snippet before beginning the reading. Remember, I had been encouraged by ACX to be my own narrator.  Scene one was framed with this lyric:  "If I had to choose just one day to last my whole life through.  It would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you."

This song is a Nat King Cole classic, That Sunday, That Summer, that also contains this lyric. "Newborn whippoorwills were calling from the hills. Summer was a-coming in but fast."  What the heck is a newborn whippoorwill?  It is a baby bird named onomatopoetically for its song.  This was the lead-in song I had chosen for a comedic monologue about divorce and new beginnings. I read the rest of the scene (about five minutes) and sent it off to ACX for appraisal.

A month later I received this response:

"I have reviewed your recently submitted sample and have a few notes.  First, I have to say, your performance was great! Very warm and friendly." At the end there was a smiley face. (WAIT! WHAT?)

There was more stuff in the e-mail about the noise floor and the QC check and mastering but he finished with:  "Again, you have done a great read." Even a person who is adept at lying to herself found this hard to accept.  How could my squeaky, sloppy speaking voice do a "great read"? The other thing he said that I paid attention to was: "your noise floor is quite low." Ralph Lauren's pillows absorbed all the noise.  Yay, I was a natural, no?  So there you have it.   I will get up early one day soon, read through all of the tech stuff, learn to edit out mistakes on a free program called Audacity.  Learn Audacity. Learn to master.  Learn to encode.  I will do all of this after the eternal snow and ice melt and the dog days of winter evaporate.