Posts Tagged ‘Slick!’

PASSION

Long ago, a client asked me a difficult question: “What’s your passion?” His was the piano. The question stunned me. I loved spending time with my family, and my work kept me busy and fulfilled, but I had no answer. Things have changed.

I’m proud that my family is filled with passion. Carolyn loves acting, takes classes and auditions for film, TV and commercials in San Francisco and Los Angeles. She loves singing, too, and takes lessons. She has a lovely voice and really knows how to sell a song. I know. I hear her in the house every day.

My oldest, Seth, is passionate for science fiction in movies and on TV. He also loves video games. Seth is an incredible Star Wars aficionado. That’s why Carolyn and I, with Aaron and his husband Jeremy, flew to Los Angeles for a traditional Jewish Christmas Eve. We joined Seth to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Sharing Seth’s excitement and observations—about the story and the technology—made the event special.

My middle son, Yosi, loves music. You expect that from the fiddler for the band Hurray for the Riff Raff. (They play Carnegie Hall on January 29.) A percussionist at San Francisco’s School of the Arts, Yosi taught himself to play violin then followed up with lessons by outstanding professionals—lessons he still takes when he has time. You know the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.” Passion can make things happen.

My youngest, Aaron, developed a passion for modern dance at Humboldt State. He took a dance course as a freshman theater tech major wanting to better understand how to light dancers on stage. Everything changed. He majored in dance and became an accomplished professional, touring all over the United States as well as Europe and Southeast Asia. He holds a B.A. in dance from St. Mary’s College.

Me? I started writing fiction over forty years ago. That “after hours” career went nowhere. With a young family and a growing business, I stopped. Yet I wrote a nonfiction book about the business side of freelancing, Solo Success, which Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, published in 1998. Then I discovered a passion for the Hebrew Bible and independently published God’s Others: Non-Israelites’ Encounters With God in the Hebrew Bible in 2009.

A decade later, transitioning to retirement, I returned to fiction on a whim. That produced Slick! Passion grew. I love telling stories. Just as important, fiction helps me make sense of the world. Of course, when a reader tells me he or she enjoyed one of my books, I’m thrilled.

What’s new? Reed, the literary/arts annual of San Jose State University, recently accepted my short story “Beautiful!” about a retired astronaut on his eightieth birthday. It will appear in May. And I completed my second—but hardly the last—draft of a new novel. I have more novels—and stories—waiting in the wings.

What your passion is doesn’t matter. Cats? Running? Baking? Sailing? Fixing old toasters? The Warriors? Carpentry? Knitting? Collecting souvenir spoons? They’re all good. To be passionate about something is to be fully human. Today, I’m passionate about being passionate.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

 

THERAPY TIMES FOUR

Self-reflection represents a blessing and a curse. The thinking, aware mind uncovers new possibilities. Yet seemingly intractable problems—a violent world, personal failings—stagger that mind. Four therapies guide me towards positive territory.

FRIENDS. My friend Jim and I do lunch every two or three weeks. We meet in Mill Valley. Revealing what’s on our minds, we share achievements and failures. Tomorrow, I’ll meet several friends at Torah Study as I do each Saturday morning. Then we’ll go for coffee. We’ll talk. We’ll bitch. We’ll laugh. We’ll laugh a lot. Other friends I’ll see for dinner and/or a movie. We’ll enjoy each other’s company and feel uplifted after. A therapist can charge $200 an hour or more. Friends listen for free. And they accept you as you are.

WALKING. As kids, my friends and I walked a lot because so much in our Queens neighborhood was in walking distance. To go to Manhattan, we’d take the subway. A token—this was before Metro cards—cost 15¢ as did a slice of pizza. Then we’d walk. In San Francisco, I walk from my house to the Pacific Ocean, Baker Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park and Mountain Lake, just two blocks away. I walk to my synagogue, Sherith Israel. That’s over two miles. Occasionally when I’m downtown, I walk home, covering as much as five miles (some up hills). Using your legs offers an opportunity to think, weigh challenges and, occasionally, find solutions. Walking with friends? Fabulous.

WRITING. Few authors make big money. The majority—publishing traditionally or independently—keeps their day jobs. Many target the commercial market. Most, I suspect, write novels or stories to work out what roils within them. I do. The only book on which I “made money” was my non-fiction work, Solo Success. A labor of love—I wanted to share what I’d learned about the business side of freelancing—it brought in less than a single ho-hum work month. (Disclosure: My ho-hum months were quite good.) Writing fiction helps me deal with the world. I observed the idiocy of America in Iraq and the ongoing dysfunction of the Arab world. Slick! I detest the hypocrisy both of right-wing hyper-capitalism and left-wing revolutionary movements. San Café. Fathers and sons spawned The Boy Walker. A range of issues produced Flight of the Spumonis. I just finished the first draft of a new novel. It deals with superficiality in American culture. I probably won’t make a dime. Still, I feel better exploring something that disturbs me.

SHABBAT. Shabbat arrives every Friday night. It serves as a focal point in time for considering what’s really important and connecting with what is greater than ourselves and ultimately unknowable—often translated as God. Observing Shabbat offers release from a world that’s always challenging, often painful. Each week, I get to call time out. For an introvert, that’s invaluable.

Who’d have thought therapy could be so cheap? Or that it might take so many forms? True, these four therapies don’t guarantee perfect results. But they nudge the scales towards a sense of balance. Often that’s the best we can expect. I’ll take it.

The blog will take a rest next week and return on September 18. To all who are observing and celebrating the Jewish New Year (5776), Shanah Tovah!

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

TRUMPING THE DONALD

I don’t support saying negative things about people. The Rabbis consider lashon hara—evil speech—one of humanity’s great sins. But let’s get real. Negativity can be part of a grand strategy to achieve something necessary. Something great. That’s why American political life revolves around attack ads. So I’m adding my own wisdom to the political scene: Donald Trump is a schmuck.

Before you condemn me for engaging in evil speech, let me offer sound reasons for such a statement. I’ll begin with evidence—something politicians tend to avoid.

The Donald slammed Mexicans as rapists and murderers. Mexican immigrants anyway. Well, illegal Mexican immigrants if you’re picky. Lots of people come here from Mexico illegally. That’s wrong. But they come to work—and they work hard. Yet a number of recent mass murders in this nation were perpetrated not by Mexicans but by white American citizens.

Then the Donald attacked John McCain’s war record. “He’s not a hero,” said the Donald. Why? McCain, a Navy fighter pilot, was shot down over Vietnam and held captive for 5-1/2 years. POWs, according to the Donald, can’t be heroes. As it happens, McCain’s father was Admiral John McCain, Jr. The North Vietnamese offered to release the current senator from Arizona during the war—without his captive brothers. McCain refused special treatment. Of course, capturing the Donald would have been impossible. In college, he received student deferments then a 4-F medical deferment before getting a high draft lottery number. In fairness though, he did spend his high school years at a military school.

Campaigning for all he’s worth (“I’m really rich,” he boasts proudly), the Donald flew to Laredo, Texas to speak about immigration. He claimed great personal risk. Bravely, he eschewed body armor and a helmet—if he could find one large enough to cover his comb-over. Still, no one else in attendance appeared worried. The Donald also attacked former Texas governor Rick Perry for wearing glasses, supposedly to make him look intelligent. (I might give him a pass there.) And The Des Moines Register claimed that the Donald denied their reporters press credentials for an event in Osklaoosa, Iowa because the paper urged him to drop out of the Republican primaries, calling him a “feckless blowhard.”

Now let’s move to a better reason for me to castigate the Donald. I’m hoping he gets so riled up that to spite me, he buys 100 copies each of my novels—Slick!, San Café, The Boy Walker and Flight of the Spumonis—and burns them publicly. Nothing spurs an author’s sales like a good-old-fashioned book burning. Those bright orange embers are dollar signs. Trust me, you can’t buy that kind of media exposure and excitement. In fact, I’ll cut the Donald in for one-third of my royalties. It’s the least I can do; we’re both from Queens.

But wait. Could the Donald be playing me? Has he been waiting for me to call him a schmuck so he can burn books so my sales can soar so he can direct yet another revenue stream towards his bottom line? Suddenly, I’m feeling anxious. Out of control. Maybe I should have titled this post “Trumping the David.”

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

COMIC STRIP WISDOM

I read comic strips. As a kid, my favorites included “Dick Tracy” and “Li’l Abner” (Daisy Mae, yes!). Today, it’s “The Knight Life,” “Rhymes With Orange,” “Zits” and “Garfield.” Occasionally, I read “Sally Forth.” A few weeks ago, a particular “Sally” inspired me.

In a fantasy sequence, it’s 2025. The dad, Ted, counsels his adult daughter Hilary (12 or so in the present) about her music. She’s having a tough time. A musician’s life constitutes hard work and exhausting travel. I get it. My son Yosi plays fiddle for Hurray for the Riff Raff. Fortunately, they keep moving up through will, effort and, of course, talent.

Ted’s advice—in the present he’s rather childlike, but he’s matured—resonated. My novel Flight of the Spumonis just became available at Amazon as I began a new and very different book. Ted asks rhetorically if Hil knows why musicians make music or writers write or actors act. Then he answers, “It’s about having a voice. And if you don’t pursue your art, you may lose that great opportunity to have your say.”

It’s not about money. I know. Many years ago, I hoped to break through as a writer of fiction. I had a few stories published in small magazines. Won third-place in a contest. I wrote a novel and found an agent. Editors were complimentary but didn’t buy. I wrote a few more novels, including the first version of Spumonis. Nada. No more agent, either. I stopped writing. I had a growing family and a growing business. I chose not to feed Carolyn and the kids scraps so I could pamper my ego as a struggling artist. I figured I could always write later in life. It all worked out.

I wrote two non-fiction books. Solo Success found a home at Crown Publishers (Random House). I had my 15 minutes—okay, seconds—of fame. The money wasn’t much, but I loved the emails and letters I received from freelancers around the world. I published God’s Others myself. Close to 65, I got back into fiction after telling a wild story to my friends Dan and Ira over coffee. Dan said, “That would make a good novel.” It became Slick!

I’ve always been a storyteller, and fiction gives me a voice. Slick! mocked corruption and hypocrisy—Middle Eastern and American. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 25 Best Indie Books of 2012. I followed up with San Café, set in Central America. Then I switched gears. The Boy Walker examined the impact on a father and son of losing a wife/mother and daughter/sister. My research included both oncology and stand-up comedy. Now, Flight of the Spumonis looks at 1980 America struggling with a damaged economy and geopolitical frustration. We see a time much like ours through the eyes of a 13-year-old trapeze artist who runs away from the circus and journeys across the continent.

It’s not easy making sense of life, but fiction offers readers a uniquely empathetic look at other people—and themselves. In doing so, it helps bring people and cultures closer. So in “Sally Forth,” Ted rightly tells Hil that through their art, artists can interpret the world. Which demonstrates that comic strips can be very serious.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—$20 plus $3 postage if required—or go to Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

THE BEYONCÉ FACTOR

Posted Feb 8 2013 by with 3 Comments

The superstar singer Beyoncé is popping up everywhere. She sang (okay, lip-synced) at President Obama’s inaugural. She starred in the halftime show at last Sunday’s Super Bowl. And she is mentioned and seen but not given thoughts or dialog—in Ben Fountain’s novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a National Book Award finalist. That’s something to think about.

In an interview, Beyoncé once stated that her sexy performance character (seasoned by girlfriend-sister smiles) isn’t her. She sells an image. Like an actress who plays Lady Macbeth but who may be a tenderhearted polar opposite. Or a raunchy comedian who may be good-natured and mild-mannered offstage.

As a novelist, I get it. My characters reflect diverse aspects of human nature, not necessarily me. I’m not as greedy as Sheik Yusuf and the Ambassador in Slick! Nor as egocentric as Jesús Garcia-Vega and Adella Rozen in San Café. (Not that that’s saying all that much for me.) The Beyoncé factor—the adoption of a persona to meet specific objectives—comes into play.

Alas, Americans—as the rest of the world, because this is a human phenomenon—tend to mash up reality and fantasy. Politicians, artists, CEOs, athletes—anyone in the spotlight—profess the highest ideals then mock them by word and deed.

Mass shootings take place with horrible regularity? Let’s arm ourselves to the teeth—no weapon left behind. Abortions kill the innocent? Let’s kill people who perform them and muzzle those who counsel women to make their own decisions. Democracy’s threatened overseas? Let’s send American military forces anywhere, anytime—multiple deployments are just a fact of life—and run the table on our national budget. Congress is deadlocked? Let’s keep poor and minority Americans away from the polls. They vote for the wrong candidates.

As to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: The Army brings home from Iraq the survivors of a heroic squad. They engage in a two-week tour of the U.S. to be lauded and applauded. And raise support for the war. The tour concludes—and this constitutes the novel’s setting and time frame—at the Dallas Cowboys’ old Texas Stadium for a Thanksgiving Day game against the Chicago Bears.

Admiration drenches the squad like the sleet penetrating the opening in the stadium’s roof. Team officials, their guests and fans continually ask, “We’re winning, aren’t we?” But these young kids—their squad leader is twenty-two—have no strategic view. All they know is blood, death and lingering fear. They’re being sent back to Iraq.

Beyoncé’s appearance represents a cultural reference as do the Barbie Doll-style Cowboys cheerleaders—controlled sexual imagery in a repressed, evangelical milieu. Fountain peels away the Beyoncé factor from the big shots and ordinary folks surrounding his confused protagonists, unmasking the pretensions with which we seek to disguise ourselves.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is serious stuff. That’s why Pleasant utilizes satire loaded with humor. And doubtless why he includes references to Beyoncé—whoever she may be.

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

Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

SAHARA DRY

When it comes to humor, there’s dry and there’s Sahara dry. A writer can craft a piece so tongue-in-cheek it flies over readers’ heads. I plead—maybe—guilty.  Several readers thought “An Affront to Humanity” (November 23) concerned a real woman’s real experience on a San Francisco Muni bus. Nope. As I wrote in a postscript last week, it was all about Israel and Hamas.

True, dry humor can be rewarding. The novelist Claudia Long wrote about my first novel, a geopolitical satire set in the Persian Gulf: “SLICK! is filled with action and atmosphere so deftly drawn that we don’t realize until a moment later that David Perlstein is pulling our leg.” (No cash changed hands.) Claudia must be right. Kirkus Reviews gave SLICK! a star as a “book of remarkable merit” and featured me in a column in their April 15 issue. (More big news in two weeks.)

So will readers “get” my new novel, SAN CAFÉ? Set—except for two scenes in the Bay Area—in the fictional Central American nation of San Cristo, SAN CAFÉ is anything but dry. When the novel begins, it’s raining like hell. Moreover, SAN CAFÉ has lots of dark moments. Kirkus—bless ‘em—cites “a no-holds-barred willingness to examine some considerably dark terrain.” (Let’s also not forget Kirkus’ comment about the “whip-smart prose.”) Yet the satire often is broader than in SLICK! To be on the safe side, I offer an author’s guide to understanding several of the main characters.

Jesús Garcia-Vega is an ardent leftist. His name combines the obvious with that of a brand of cigars my father smoked when I was a kid—Garcia y Vega (four for a quarter). Silly? Heck no. Garcia-Vega admires Fidel Castro. Fidel’s nickname? The Big Cigar.

Capitán Enrique Hauptmann-Hall is a Cristano but doesn’t have a Spanish name. No, his grandparents weren’t Nazis who fled the Allies’ wrath. Like many of the wealthy in Latin America, his family descended from powerful European colonialists who, in their Christian-mercantilist fervor, took the natives to the cleaners. No wonder he has an attitude. He also flips out. See chapter one.
Whitman Scharq is founder, chairman and CEO of Mobys Inc., the world’s largest coffee retailer. And yes, he’s left a lot of blood in the water. But what can you expect from the head of a company pioneering Yo Mobys! And ¡Mobys Aquí¡ pushcarts to keep people in America’s ghettos and barrios alert while generating extra corporate revenue?

Maria Skavronsky is an exotic beauty, half Cristano (mom) and half Russian (dad). An alumna of Stanford and of Harvard Law, she’s also a former modern dancer and a devoted single mom. No wonder she’s so damned dangerous.

Easy, right? Although we haven’t even discussed the Italian media diva Adella Rozen (what’s wrong with purple hair?) and Bobby Gatling, my hero—kind of—with nerves of steel, a heart of gold and a right knee resembling papier maché.

As a former hockey-mom vice-residential candidate from the state with the nation’s largest landmass likes to say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Or am I being Sahara dry?

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

Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available in soft cover and digital format at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

TWO HUNDRED PAGES

Nothing turns a writer’s thoughts to what constitutes a good novel than launching a new novel of his own. This weekend I’m launching San Café—about revolution, murder, betrayal and a great cup of coffee. As to how novels are judged—and misjudged—a recent conversation proved revealing.

A friend, who knows literature well, showed me a novel she was reading. It had achieved critical success and doubtless earned the author reasonable financial reward. So I was surprised when my friend revealed, “It took me two hundred pages to get into it. But that’s just me. I have a friend who only needed a hundred pages.”

How, I asked myself, can novelists and publishers succeed when they often dare their readers to become engaged? The literary marketplace seems continually to be flooded with critically acclaimed books that leave me wondering about an “emperor’s new clothes” syndrome. Over the last several months, three novels had me wondering indeed.

A woman long deemed one of America’s great contemporary writers authored the first. My wife liked it, although she said it took a long time to get into it. I failed to take the hint. I started reading. Great opening—for four or five pages. After that, nothing much happened. The story petered out. After slogging through fifty pages, I put it away.

I started another novel, this by a woman hailed as one of today’s great young American writers. The book was nominated for prestigious awards and made the New York Times bestseller list. I began with high hopes. I discovered a distinctive voice, clever language and quirky characters. But where was the conflict? After sixty pages waiting for something to actually happen, I abandoned ship. (My wife didn’t get as far as I did.)

So I started a novel by a man with a solid literary reputation built over more than three decades. Terrific opening. And then…

Aristotle wrote, “Plot is character revealed by action.” Scott Fitzgerald followed up with, “Character is plot, plot is character.” They got it. So, by the way, did Karl Marlantes, author of the justifiably acclaimed Vietnam War novel Matterhorn, which I mentioned last week in “Snake Eyes.”

I hope that with San Café I got it, too. I write satire—San Café is geopolitical satire set in Central America—because I love humor and puncturing pretentions. I also love quirky characters. But most of all, I love telling stories. So I filled San Café, like Slick! before it (same protagonist but set in the Persian Gulf) with interesting twists and turns and lots of surprises.

I invite you to read the first three chapters of San Café at davidperlstein.com. It’s free. Should you want your very own soft-cover or digital copy—this is my blog; I can flog my books all I want—just go to iUniverse.com, Amazon.com or bn.com. You can even see me.

This I promise. You won’t need two hundred pages to get into San Café. And you’ll only have to read 252 pages to get out.

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

I AM MY MOTHER—KIND OF

In mid-June, I wrote about having become my father, Morris. Yet we all have two genetic parents. As it happens, my mother, Blanche Finkle Perlstein, died thirteen years ago on August 1, 1999. I’ll say Kaddish for her tonight. And I’ll carry some of her with me—only not as much as I’d like.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m glad to resemble my father. Yet I’m also different, which I attribute to my mother. She was a woman of incredible emotional intelligence with an uncanny ability to charm even strangers—and even under challenging circumstances. Yet she never dominated a conversation. She asked questions and let others speak while sharing her own experiences and feelings with uncommon tact and diplomacy.

What fascinates me is that my mother was as much an extrovert as my father was an introvert. Yet they not only had a forty-seven-year marriage but also a good one. Which adds to the lore that opposites attract—unless we’re talking about genes with opposite traits that tend to do battle on the field of your personality. As they do on mine.

Take cocktail parties. My mother would have a great time. My father? I imagine he felt as I do in such settings—uncomfortable, often miserable. Like my father, I am not a chit-chatter. My mother’s genes try to ease my way. I cheer them on. More often than not, they fail. I remain an introvert.

But here’s the thing: Introverts aren’t necessarily anti-social. In the March 2003 Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch—himself an introvert—wrote an article that offered me great comfort. Rauch pointed out that introverts value and require time alone. Lots of it. But they also can be very social—in small groups (say a dinner party for six) or one-on-one (or -two or -three). Introverts, in fact, can be great conversationalists—when a conversation is focused and specific.

Moreover, introverts can enjoy large events if that same focus exists. Public speaking? I love it. The larger the audience, the more the fun. But remember, I’m focused. I enjoy hosting a big celebration, too. Not simply because I know the guests but because the event focuses (there’s that word again) on the reason for the celebration. When I hosted my launch party for Slick! last November, a crowd filled the house. It was easy to speak with people because the subject was writing in general and my book in particular.

Admittedly, I suffer at most big occasions even when surrounded by people I know. To be honest, I avoid them when possible. I don’t mean to offend. I’m not snubbing anyone. I’m just freeing myself from terrible discomfort.

So at the end of this analysis, I can say that I am like my mother—kind of. She gave me enough of her extroversion to manage—even shine—during certain occasions. Which is why, among many other reasons, I saw the bright flame of her personality in the yarzheit (memorial) candle I lit Wednesday night. And why I will carry my mother with me through the rest of my days not only with love but also with enduring gratitude.

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.

IRRELEVANCE

In Slick! Russia’s ambassador to the Persian-Gulf sultanate of Moq’tar points out to Bobby Gatling that while Moq’tar is 3,700 kilometers from Moscow it is 11,000 kilometers distant from Washington. The message: Russia, too, has legitimate geopolitical interests. But today, those interests seem to matter very little. And Russia’s demise as a world power offers a valuable lesson for the United States.

Russia has always been concerned with its “near abroad.” But the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991 left Russia in disarray. Since 1999 when Vladimir Putin became president following Boris Yeltsin’s resignation—a position Putin still holds with time out for one term as prime minister during which power was transferred to that office—Russia has sought to regain power and prestige. Plentiful oil money boosted its economy. Oligarchs and mafia chieftains made billions in the new private-enterprise environment. An upper class emerged with incredible wealth. But economies built on commodities suffer inherent weaknesses. And those with autocratic governments stifle many of their best and brightest along with possibilities for an economy and a society that are more diverse, inclusionary and sustainable.

As to Putin: Although he won a five-year presidential term last March and can run for another in 2017—which would make him Russia’s most powerful man for 23 years—Putin’ has been poutin’. It seems that the rest of the world, observing Russia’s political, military, economic and health problems along with a population shrunk to 143 million—less than half that of the U.S.—doesn’t take the Russian bear seriously.

About the only authority Russia now exercises on the world stage is its veto in the United Nations Security Council. It regularly blocks positions against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and condemnations of the Assad government’s brutalization of the Syrian people. And why not? If the UN supports change in clerical Iran and dictatorial Syria, why not in authoritative Russia where dissidents are beaten and jailed, and journalists routinely killed?

Putin’s body language tells the story. He seeks to project the image of a man’s man symbolic of Russian might, walking with his arms held out from his sides like a muscle pumping schoolyard bully. Or think of the blowfish, which defends itself by inflating to three times its size. Photos show him riding horses shirtless, swimming with dolphins and firing weapons. Russia, he wants us to know, is still a player.

Not so, according to Ian Bremmer, president of The Eurasia Group and author of Every Nation for Itself. He points out that U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul openly sides with Russian dissidents. This angers Putin. But Washington doesn’t care. Yet the White House, Bremmer claims, would never let our ambassador to China speak that way. Russia, he asserts, has simply become irrelevant.

The lesson for us? The world changes. Power shifts. And we must adapt. I’m not suggesting that the U.S. is about to become irrelevant. But we have lost some power and influence, which we may never regain. We can accept our limitations and remain relevant. Or we can posture like Vladimir Putin and risk confrontations we may come to regret.

I’ll appear in the second half of CBS-5 TV’s “Mosaic” this Sunday morning (June 24) at 5 am. Talking about writing, of course. Easy to record for playback at a more convenient hour.

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.

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.