With Publicists Like These. . .

I’ve read a lot of book PR, but this release for an upcoming novel  actually made me feel a bit sorry for the folks who had to write it:

Set in contemporary London, The Seven Days of Peter Crumb  is a Jekyll & Hyde for our time—a dark, psychological account of a week in the hell inhabited by one savage soul. It is a debut novel that disgusts and dazzles in equal measure; a novel that requires a strong stomach, and an even stronger moral compass.

Intelligent, wry, and seriously twisted, Peter Crumb . . . is determined to leave his mark upon humanity—randomly, unjustly, with infinite attention to detail. Allowing the morning’s newspaper headlines to loosely dictate his actions, Crumb sets out on a killing frenzy, the macabre details of which he imparts through his morbid diary.

Peter Crumb’s savagery will have readers turning the pages, even as they try to look away, and will create an indelible, unavoidable memory in their minds. Gritty, dazzling, and profoundly disturbing, The Seven Days of Peter Crumb  is an extraordinary literary debut that portrays the deterioration of a severely splintered soul.

Hmm. Maybe turn a page and look away. . .Or do you look away while turning the page, or . . . Perhaps just read with one eye? Could be tricky.

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Blogger Explains “Life List” Caution

Back  to the “soft rollout” of the  Life List.

Why my delay? Actually, rather than being due to sheer laziness or ADD tendencies, my long LL drumroll can actually be blamed on some good habits I picked up a couple of years ago while interviewing  personal productivity guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  I recommend his book and his methods to anyone with too many keys on the keyring. If your  life feels out of control more than a couple of times a week, the Way of Allen may help.

I noted earlier that the mental exercise of trying to build a Life List was helpful in clarifying what really mattered and what didn’t, because when you’re about to say “This is something I must do,” you’ve got to include the price tag–how much time, how much money, and how much in opportunity costs are you willing to pay to do this thing on the LL?

 Allen’s teachings add another good mental filter. If you identify something as a project, you must attach actions to it immediately; otherwise, it just becomes another of those deadly energy- and attention-draining “open loops” to worry about. It’s nothing more than a Beach Boys resolution–“wouldn’t it be nice if. . . ?”

So, for example, if you vow to buy a car by 2008,  well . .   What kind? How much? New or Used? You’ve got to start reading and looking and educating yourself to make a good  choice. So, Allenites know, you’ve got to break “Buy Car” into component steps, and here’s where you’ve got to think clearly and cut through the fog.

If you just write down “learn about new cars,” that doesn’t take you anywhere. Surely you don’t plan to learn about all new cars. And learn how? By going to the Tokyo Auto Show?The first step may be something as humble as “Subscribe to Consumer Reports so I can see their annual car recommendations.”

Allen stresses that the action must be expressed as something active that you can do: Subscribe, in this case. The next step might be “Call Henry to see how he likes his new Boxster.” But it has to be something physical and concrete, or you’re no closer to getting your car. And if you identify a goal but do nothing to achieve it, all you have done is create another mental “Kick Me” sign, something else to regret. But if you’ve identified and taken an action, you’re on the way.

Hence my hesitation to slap a bunch of airy goals onto a Life List. I’m taking it slowly, examining the options and making sure these are “Must Do” items. Why? Because once I commit to them, I’ve got to identify steps and start following through, or sink into guilt and declining self-esteem.

So, with all those cautions in mind, here are a few preliminary candidates for the LL, in no order of priority.

1. Write a book under my own name.  (I’ve ghosted and co-authored several books,  but this would be my own.)

2. Attend a World Series game–any teams will do; I’m not that much of a partisan.

3. Read all of George Orwell, one of my literary heroes.  I’ve read the popular novels Animal Farm and 1984, most of the nonfiction books and the major essays. I have not read his early novels or much of his journalism and letters collected in four big volumes some years ago, though I have some of those books on hand.

4. Increase my walking from the current 1.5 miles 3-4 times a week to 3 miles at least 3 times a week.

5. Go one solid month without eating meat, just to see the effects on mind and body. If it’s mostly good, I may lengthen the time. 

I’ll see if these pass final muster, then sketch out some Active Steps toward achieving them in future posts.

Orwell Was Right, Part 2,587

 Here in the midst of  the Endless Campaign, still  more than a year from Election Day, the candidates are still smiling, sometimes joking, even answering those “what I like about Bob” questions. Alas,  the honeymoon can’t last; even now, the attack-ad dogs are drooling and straining at the leash. Experience tells us they’ll tear many a throat before the voting’s done.

Here’s a sobering analysis from David Brooks of The New York Times regarding the take-no-prisoners tactics that candidates too often use to get elected. Bottom Line: He interviews a pol who’s ashamed of what she did–and she won. ( here)

 So often, it seems like the news is just a footnote to what Orwell wrote more than 50 years ago in “Politics and the English Language”:

In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.

(Now wait a minute, George. I don’t know about that “schizophrenia” part.)

PS–with the glorious State Fair of Texas drawing to a close, I thought it was time to change the photo header. I’ll use a few pics from the New York trip in the coming weeks.

Halloween Treat: Garrison Keillor Reads “The Raven”

Here’s some Halloween fun that doesn’t require chain saws or teenagers who decide to swim in murky lakes at midnight:  Garrison Keillor reading Poe’s “The Raven.” It’s a yearly feature on his show. I heard him read the poem yesterday and it’s a real show-stopper, maybe the best single performance I’ve ever heard on radio.

That version isn’t online yet, so here  is  his 2004 rendition of the poem. It’s around 9 minutes of increasingly unbalanced fervor.

Enjoy. . . if you dare. (Maniacal laughter.)

Amazing Gold Mine for Political Junkies

A normal person is someone who can get enough of politics, and quickly does, but for the strange tribe of Political Junkies, there can never be enough discussion of Inside the Beltway minutia. And get this–the Stage 4 PolJu not only watches today’s TV campaign ads, he savors the televised remnants of past campaigns as well. 

Remember John Anderson? Ed Muskie?  Now they live again in this gallery of TV ads from all the campaigns.

Note to those born after 1970: You won’t believe this, kids, but they used to run ads 3-4 minutes long in which nobody insulted anyone or spent time on adolescent taunts and Tedious Arguments of Insidious Intent (see next post).

You doubt that? Click on 1956, then click the lower right video box. Watch in amazement as Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy actually talk about issues without tearing anyone down. Gape in disbelief   here .

T. S. Eliot, the Four Seasons, and Politics Today

If you’re ever bored and have nothing to do (as if), just sit there and ask how what is in your mind at this moment got there.

As you know from previous posts, I love doing these psycho-archeological brain digs, trying to figure out how the mind makes all the curious associations and fuzzy-logic links that make up our everyday consciousness.

Here’s one.  For weeks, something was bothering me about the tone of so much political discussion. I’d be listening to a caller on the Diane Rehm show, or a guest on Bill O’Reilly, or reading a columnist in the Dallas Morning News or the New York Times, and I would just pick up this unpleasant, corrosive, disuniting vibe.

So what else is new? Well, tickling the edges of my mind, just outside of conscious control,  was this foggy half-thought: There is some line of poetry from some famous poet that sums up  much of our political catfighting today….But what is it?  For weeks I just couldn’t call it up.

Then, on the 20th Anniversary trip to New York last week, it came to me. We were sitting in the theater watching Jersey Boys, which is a ton of fun if you ever cared even a little about the Four Seasons. Early in the show, the budding band has just met Bob Gaudio, the young songwriter who would go on to pen most of their big hits: Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry, etc. Gaudio, who was the only one of the streetwise Seasons to get any kind of formal education, is sitting in a bar trying to explain one of his songs to a Joisey gal. She asks something about the song, and he explains: “It’s what T. S. Eliot called the objective correlative.” As the crowd breaks up, the girl says, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Then, as the band launched into the next big hit, there it was: Eliot. Bang. The line instantly sprang to mind: “A tedious argument of insidious intent.” That sums up so many political comments today: Tedious and boring, and at the same time insidious, malevolent. A potent combo.

The line comes from Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Here’s the stanza:

Let us go  then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats         
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …         
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And so on. So there it is: a “Tedious Argument of Insidious Intent,” or TAOII. Listen, and you’ll hear them everywhere.

Bonus trivia: Gaudio also wrote (at age 15) “Who Wears Short Shorts” and, later, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” for the Walker Brothers.

Night of the Living Republicans

You know the YouTube revolution is in full swing when the Democratic National Committee cranks up a Halloween-themed video barrage against the Repubs.

 Fellini this ain’t, but  recall Mark Twain’s line about the dog walking on its hind legs: It’s not that he does it well, but that he does it  at all. The evidence is here.