Sunday, August 31, 2008

All DNC, All the Time 2: The Boy Wonder Hits the Big Time

Attendees at Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC in Denver. That's my little boy at center. Photo by Kevin Moloney for the New York Times.

It was a good thing I'd finished my morning tub o' tea when I opened today's New York Times national edition to the politics pages, else I'd have spewed it when I got to the story at the top of page 20: Political Realities May Pose a Test to Obama’s Appeal to Young Voters.

Because the young man holding a flag front and center is none other than my own son, the Boy Wonder. In case you're wondering why he looks so much taller than everyone around him, it's because he is so much taller: 6'4". Thinner too: 130 lbs, despite eating four square meals a day, and then some. Hence his choice of T-shirt, whose logo can't be made out in the photo: "Giraffes United Against Ceiling Fans." (See it here at Threadless T-Shirts.)

The photo was on the NYT home page when the BW saw it late last night. Too bad he didn't get a screen shot, as it's since been replaced. But at least he had his 15 minutes of (anonymous) fame, and I'm sure the folks at Threadless are thrilled.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

All DNC, All the Time 1

Downtown Denver, as viewed from Metro State Auraria on August 24.

In case you haven't heard, the Democratic National Convention has been in Denver this week. Casa Bella has been an unofficial rooming house for visiting Dems. Last Friday, we had two from Vermont: a delegate for one night and a volunteer press relations officer for a week. Sunday, a Democratic Party Girl came from LA; she's also here till tomorrow.

Sunday evening, DPG and I went to a National Jewish Democratic Council reception at the Golda Meir House (who knew?) at Metro State. The free reception followed a benefit screening of "Golda's Balcony," which we didn't attend on account of the $100 entry fee. (DPG noted that the film was shown in LA a year ago; I imagine for a lot less dough.)

Once we found our way to the party through the maze of construction sites and closed-off streets, you'd never know that I was the Denver resident and DPG the visitor. I didn't know a soul, whereas she hailed several old friends from her stint as a Senatorial aide, including "BC," a guy she'd dated. Then she discovered that another acquaintance there had also dated BC. Whoops! I was hoping that the two would down a few more glasses of wine and compare notes. Instead they quickly parted and worked separate sectors of the crowd. (I ran into BC at an event this morning, and believe me, the women--perhaps all women--are better off without him.)

Celebs in attendance (at least the ones I can remember), all of whom addressed the crowd:
  • Valerie Harper, who played Golda Meir in "Golda's Balcony." I was standing next to her early on and we exchanged a few words.
  • Michigan senator Carl Levin, who blasted Bush and his policies, especially the erosion of civil rights, and extolled the importance of a strong Israel, which Obama would support.
  • California representative Henry Waxman, who likewise blasted Bush and extolled Israel, and is very, very short.
  • Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, ditto; taller than Waxman.
  • New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, ditto, who was the tallest of the bunch and wore a sports jacket in a shade of blue not found in nature. Good thing the light was fading, else we'd all have been struck blind.
Another of DPG's old friends from the Hill is now the campaign manager for Bob Lord, who's running for Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, John McCain's old seat. While DPG talked with her pal, I chatted with Lord. It's not often (read: never) that I speak with a politician running for office, so I was fascinated to see how one ticks: always "on," intensely focused, relentlessly upbeat. I could do that for maybe a week; Lord has been doing it for 18 months. Imagine what it's like for a presidential candidate. Yeesh!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Medical News Flash!

Sometimes it's worthwhile to receive bulk emails from dog-knows-who. Today, one rolled in from eMedicine containing this urgent snippet:
Ten-minute leprosy diagnosis
A new dipstick assay offers up to 97% sensitivity in detecting Mycobacterium leprae–specific phenolic glycolipid-I (PGL-I) antibodies.
What a relief! The next time my digits start rotting and falling off, I'll know just what dipstick assay to request from my doctor.

Coming in Late in the Game...A Century Late

Thanks to a link at Booksquare, I came across Cinema stole my favourite books on the UK Guardian book blog. The subtitle to David Barnett's screed is:
I expended time and imagination to absorb these stories. Why should people be entitled to think they know them without putting in any effort?
He writes:
Can there be anything worse than lovingly engaging with a couple of hundred thousand words of prose over perhaps two or three weeks, drinking in the author's dialogue and descriptions, creating your own vision of the work in the privacy of your head, only to have every man and his dog (special offer on Tuesdays at your local Odeon) blast your intellectual ownership of the book out of the water after spending 90 minutes slobbing out in front of a cinema screen?
First of all, for someone who (apparently) makes his living by writing about books, Barnett is an awfully slow reader. Two to three weeks to read just one book?

Second, he's weighing in late, by about 100 years. The first film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was made in 1912, and viewers only had to slob out for 12 minutes. L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and sequels, adapted the series to film in 1908 and 1914. Greta Garbo starred in Anna Karenina in 1935; the film is #42 in the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Passions list of top love stories in American cinema.

Third, if Barnett thinks movie adaptations of books are so dumb (he cites "The Watchmen" as a major offender), why doesn't he just, you know, stay home and read?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heartbreaking Quote

Tayari Jones has a link to an immeasurably sad story that ran in the Washington Post:
Soul Survivors: James Brown's Children Are in Court. They Might Have Settled for Love.

The article made me feel as though I and my 5 half-sisters from my father's many marriages got off easy, though I see a few parallels between his and Brown's personalities. One happy difference is that my dad wasn't the obsessively controlling type; another is that there wasn't a litigious free-for-all at his death.

Bass player Bootsy Collins, who played with Brown and then with my all-time favorite group, Parliament/Funkadelic, had this to say:
"I had this puppy I had when I was a kid in Cincinnati...And this puppy was really sick, and I took it to the vet, but they wouldn't admit him because, you know, I was a kid and I had no money. And this puppy died right there in the lobby. And I always felt that something like that happened to James Brown. That loss is unspeakable, and he just didn't want to be attached to anyone."

Ask Barbet Schroeder, Not Amy

What happens when a married guy gets hung up on a dominatrix; from the 1976 Barbet Schroeder film, "Maîtresse."

The Boy Wonder and I had a good laugh over the lede in today's Ask Amy:
Dear Amy: My husband of 20 years has basically left me for a woman who is a professional dominatrix. He has been seeing her for a year now.
Which reminded me:
Time to put Maîtresse in my Netflix queue. I saw the film in a theater with the Ex a gazillion years ago. We nearly died laughing when, at the end of a scene in which Gérard Depardieu emerges unscathed from a car crash, someone behind us said, "Nothing could kill that big lummox!"

Gotta love the costumes by Karl Lagerfeld, reverberations of which abounded in the ads and features in yesterday's NY Times women's fashion supplement.

Sour Grapes Morph into Egg on Face

Remember how last week publicists Kelley & Hall broadcast their bitter feelings over not being publicly acknowledged by THE LACE READER author Brunonia Barry for the work they did?

Well, the Aug 17 issue of the Cape Cod Times has a feature about Barry and the book: Salem author takes unusual path to publishing a best-seller.

Check out the lede in the fourth graf:
She and her husband also hired a public relations company, Kelley & Hall Book Publicity and Promotion in Marblehead.
Moral: Vent all you want, but don't click "Send."

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Soul of Indiscretion

Good thing I'd already downed my morning tub o' tea, else I would have sprayed it all over my laptop yesterday when I read the GalleyCat post, The Lace Reader's Dirty Linen. Seems that indie publicist Jocelyn Kelley of Kelley & Hall felt dissed by former client Brunonia "Sandy" Barry, whose self-published novel THE LACE READER, which K&H worked on, went on to get a $2.4 million advance from Morrow and is now a bestseller. (I've yet to read the copy that I picked up at the BEA Editor Buzz Forum. One of these days...)

So how did Kelley assuage her hurt feelings? Not in the honorable way: dishing with other publishing industry insiders late at night over a third (or sixth) round in a dark corner of a noisy bar. Instead, she wrote a lengthy tirade against Barry, which she sent to GalleyCat and at least one other NYC media outlet. (A reporter who covers publishing told me he'd gotten it too, and found it "creepy.")

Kelley ended her diatribe:
We have received absolutely no recognition from Sandy, her husband Gary, William Morrow or any of the news outlets who have covered this extraordinary situation. Why are the publicists the "dirty little invisible secret" in a books' success?
My first response was "OUCH!!!" which is how I began my comment on GalleyCat. I also wrote:
Going public with grievances--however justified--about a client is not the way to:
1) receive grateful acknowledgements from said cllent;
2) attract more clients.
Publicists may often be unsung heroes (I tell my clients to praise and thank theirs lavishly), but they are better described as the sparkly secret--or better yet, hidden weapon--in a book's success.
My second response was, "WHAT was she thinking?!" As one GalleyCat commenter wrote:
For all the work Kelley has done, she now sounds like a petulant dweeb. She's also shown potential clients that she can harness the power of the media to complain about them. Tsk...tsk.
My sentiments exactly. To mix and belabor metaphors, that dirty linen is going to bite Kelley in the ass, shoot her in the foot and then burn some bridges. HarperCollins won't be recommending Kelley & Hall to any of their authors, and neither will I.

Pinch-Hitting Can Be Fun!

Me and GalleyCat Ron Hogan. (Note the tan line on my wrist; I had just spent 2-1/2 days in Montauk.) Photo by Carolyn Burns Bass.

At the Backspace Writers Conference last week, I was slated to do just one program: "Promoting Like a Pro" on Friday morning. But when I stopped by for the Thursday afternoon mixer, I found out that MJ Rose & Doug Clegg had bailed on their "Buzz Your Book" program due to medical emergencies. So in the "show must go on" spirit (after all, the conference hotel was on Broadway), I offered to do a "Brainstorming with Bella" program so Rose & Clegg's 4pm slot wouldn't be empty.

I quickly jotted down an agenda and notes for the one-hour session, which I based on a segment of my Book Promotion 101 workshop. Then just as we were about to begin, Ron Hogan of GalleyCat volunteered to help out. He describes what happened next in Make Your Story Pitch Better, Faster, Stronger.

I sure am glad I'd stashed a big supply of Book Promotion 101 business cards & refrigerator magnets, plus Virginia Festival of the Book postcards, in my purse before I headed to the conference that day! Think I'll download some of my program spiels on my Palm PDA, so I'll be well prepared in case something like this happens again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Everyone's a Critic

My friend Stefanie, Bennington MFA & artistic/social doyenne of Schuyler, VA, looked at the photo of Max & Jenny in my previous post (En Vacances) and offered this assessment:
Although I give them points for artistry, I’m afraid that the synchronization of their napping form is lacking. Orientation of one’s pose is SO important.

I watched synchronized diving today on the Olympics. (Like plain diving isn’t hard enough? They have to synchronize it?) It was quite interesting, and Onslow thought the divers did a pretty good job, although they didn’t have the effortlessness and sense of absolute stillness that make Onslow’s and Snickers's work such a joy to watch.
For those who don't recall the boys' oeuvre, here's a refresher:

Onslow (left) and perpetual houseguest Snickers practise their synchronized napping routine.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

En Vacances

Max & Jenny guard my office.

Time for me to pack, then I'm outta here for Lawn Guyland tomorrow. And not a minute too soon: today and yesterday my backyard thermometer read 100F. Montauk forecast: 80. I pray to dog the heatwave breaks by the time I return to Denver.

In the meantime, here are links to some interesting items:
  • Nice Jewish Boys Gone Wild - Podcast of a panel I moderated at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March, with Marc Estrin (The Lamentations of Julius Marantz), AJ Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically), Peter Charles Melman (Landsman) and Adam Mansbach (The End of the Jews).
  • How to Write a Great Mystery - On NPR, fave author Louis Bayard (The Black Tower, The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy) and Tana French (In the Woods and The Likeness) on creating the perfect whodunit.
  • My Life in Sales - Ann Patchett on how the only thing worse than going on book tour is not going.
  • Caregiver RANT - Here's where exhausted or frustrated caregivers can sound off anonymously.

They Knew We Were Coming

Darling Husband and I are off to Montauk tomorrow, after which I'll be speaking at the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC.

Look what's going to greet us at the beach:

The last time I went to Montauk, I was fresh off a job in the art department at Henson Associates. Looks to me like the Muppets' creature-makers have been at it again. Full story: Sea monster washes up on Gawker.

Update 8/8:
Aha! I know a workshop-created creature when I see one. Per today's Gawker, Hoaxes: Monster in a Hall of Mirrors.