Archive for April, 2012

FIFTEEN SECONDS

In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian university professor, theorized that in the new television age, everyone would enjoy 15 minutes of fame. The artist Andy Warhol took up that theory. After all, TV was fast becoming a global phenomenon. I remember the coverage of the first manned lunar landing in July 1969 and Richard Nixon visiting China in 1972—a nation that seemed as remote as the moon.

In the digital age, everyone will have 15 seconds of fame what with websites, social networks, YouTube and—gasp—blogs. Not to mention Twitter. My 15 seconds involve my novel Slick! (What? You haven’t bought a copy yet? And read it? And encouraged family and friends?)

Truth be told, I had a previous 15 seconds—maybe even 60—in 1998. Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, brought out Solo Success: 100 Tips for Becoming a $100,000-a-Year Freelancer. KCBS NewsRadio interviewed me. I was quoted in a few magazines freelancers read—which spiked sales. And I spoke at a few marketing-group lunches. I wrote a column for a company’s web site. For which they paid me! Alas, that did not make me a national figure.

Now, Slick! has given me another small taste. Kirkus Reviews gave it a Star as a book of “remarkable merit.” They also ran a Q&A with me in the April 15 edition. But let’s put it all in perspective. No one is anyone unless they’ve been on TV. So I recorded a segment of “Mosaic” for CBS-5 San Francisco. Then again, it runs this Sunday, April 22, at 5 am. But people watch, they tell me. And you can record it. But don’t think I have a swelled head. A profile of me is scheduled to run in the May edition of the Richmond Review, a neighborhood monthly. It’s free. They toss it onto your doorstep.

Where will all this lead? Hopefully, to an agent or editor, who will inquire about what I’m writing next. Which happens to be a follow-up to Slick! titled San Café, set in Central America. Not to mention a new and very different novel, The Boy Walker. It’s about a father and adult son who are estranged but live in the same house right here in the Richmond District. Death and stand-up comedy play major roles—among other surprises.

Can I live without achieving a full 15 minutes of fame? Sure. The Kirkus review helped reinforced my belief that I write well. Just as important, my wife, Carolyn, and a lot of other people have been supportive. And bottom line, the approval and commendation that really count come from the people we love and work with and know through our various interests.

So here’s a thought. While you’re waiting to collect your 15 seconds—or another 15—give a little appreciation and encouragement to someone else. As a wise man told me years ago, “We all want a little applause.” It’s easy to put your hands together, and it doesn’t cost a dime. Yet it makes the world a better place.

I’ll be taking a break for the next four weeks and put up a new post on May 25. Feel free to browse through some old posts. Today’s is #80. And now for the usual (but important) post-post doggerel:

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

INVISIBLE

What if you looked in a mirror but couldn’t see yourself? That’s standard for Dracula. Also for Jews. We’re recognizable as one of the nation’s most accomplished ethnic groups and yet so easy to overlook. Three recent experiences illustrate what I mean.

The April 9 issue of Newsweek featured a cover-story headline bristling with imperatives (italics mine): “Forget the Church: Follow Jesus.” Inside, the article’s headline started with a more journalistic approach: “The Forgotten Jesus.” Cool. I love reading about religion. The subhead continued: “Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists.” There’s a point of view here. Okay. But then comes another imperative: “Ignore them, writes Andrew Sullivan, and embrace Him.” Who, me?

Sullivan told readers, “Christianity itself is in a crisis” and delineated where it has gone wrong. Many evangelical leaders, he stated, have hijacked Jesus for their own purposes. Interesting. But Sullivan didn’t cite Catholic or Protestant leaders or academics. He was his own source (with help from Thomas Jefferson, who rejected most of the wording in the Christian Bible).

Suddenly, Newsweek wasn’t reporting on religion. Instead, it provided a soapbox for a preacher with no clue I subscribe. Sullivan revealed, “I’ve pondered the Incarnation my whole life. I’ve read theology and history. I think I grasp what it means to be both God and human—but I don’t think my understanding is any richer than my Irish grandmother’s.” I’ve read theology and history—and I have no clue how anyone could be both God and human. But I’m a Jew. So I guess Newsweek screwed up and sent me its Christian edition—unless the magazine is now a blog. Perhaps in late May—at Shavuot, marking the giving of the Torah at Sinai—I’ll see a cover head reading, “Forget Your Rabbi: Follow Moses.” But I doubt it will roll out nationally.

Ross Douthat also had something important to say in his April 7 column in The New York Times. In “Divided by God,” he referred to the varied theologies of Barak Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, writing, “These divergences reflect America as it actually is: We’re neither traditionally Christian nor straightforwardly secular. Instead, we’re a nation of heretics in which most people still associate themselves with Christianity but revise its doctrines as they see fit, and nobody can agree on even the most basic definitions of what Christian faith should mean.” I don’t propose that Ross Douthat has it in for Jews. But we’re just not in the conversation. America remains a “Christian nation.”

Finally, Carolyn and I shopped at the Marina Safeway. The last two items scanned by our smiling checker were Passover matzoh and Shabbat candles. He handed Carolyn the receipt and wished us both, “Happy Easter.”

At least the cartoonist Hilary B. Price (Jewish) offered a Passover-themed strip in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The media mention for the week. And Wednesday night, when we declined bread at the Clement Street Bar & Grill, our waitress, Baseball Mary, asked if we’d like matzoh then brought us some.

This morning, I thought I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. But I suspect I’m delusional.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

THIRTEEN THOUSAND

A line piled up at the ATM yesterday afternoon, and I stood behind a man my age wearing a Raiders cap—a rarity in San Francisco. He turned. “Damn banks,” he muttered. “And I’ll tell you what’s worse. Wall Street.” I nodded. He had a point, although the Dow closed above 13000 going into the Easter (the stock market closes for Good Friday) weekend.

“Bunch of thieves,” he said. “The subprime mortgage meltdown?” I asked. His cheeks reddened. “All of it… a sucker’s game. You’ll never see me in the market again.” I cocked my head in puzzlement. He continued: “Like how the Dow dropped ten thousand points in 2006…” I smiled. “That was 2007. Something like eighty-six hundred points to about 6550 in March 2009.”

My companion’s face suggested a shade of purple. “I wised up and got out before the market hit bottom, and I’m staying out.” I scratched my head. “But if the Dow goes up just ten percent over the next twelve months, it’ll hit a new all-time high.”

He scowled. “It’s all an illusion. The insiders, they just want to suck people’s money into the market. Drive share prices up. When everything looks rosy, they’ll sell off and walk away with huge profits just before the market collapses, and Main Street’ll take it in the chops. Again.” I gave a semi-nod. “Well, the market had a losing week, and the March jobs report was disappointing. And I grant, some people have been predicting a correction for a while…” My companion waved a finger in front of my nose. “A correction. That’s a ten percent drop in share prices. See? I know what I’m talking about.” I smiled. “Then you also know that the market never goes up or down in a straight line. There are always corrections ahead. It’s not a matter of if but when. But that goes for rallies, too.”

My companion shook his head. “You know what’s going down in a straight line? The American economy.” I shook my head. “Mark Twain once wrote, ‘Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’” He displayed a quizzical look. I shrugged. “The thing is,” I said, “our economy’s not as dominant as in the ‘fifties, but that was really an historical blip, what with the damage other countries suffered during World War Two. Over the last year, though, the economic data has been pretty positive. Heck, Ford had its best March in five years, and Chrysler set a new March sales record.”

“Government interference!” my companion harrumphed. “The marketplace should have been left alone to kill off Detroit. That’s what free markets are about.” I bit and released my lips. “But Washington saved a couple hundred thousand jobs in all.“ My companion frowned. “Don’t be naïve. Washington… and I’m talking Obama here… throws our money around then twists economic data any way it wants.” I scratched my chin. “So that’s what Rick Santorum meant last month when he said he didn’t care about the unemployment numbers. By definition, the economy can’t improve with a Democrat in the White House.”

The two ATMs cleared. We each stepped forward. My companion inserted his card into the slot, turned to me and grinned. “There’s hope for you yet.”

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.