Sunday, June 24, 2012

earworm and brainworm

Today's earworm is not really an earworm - it's that I taught the word to Adnan Sami today and Twitter. Cool beans.

The brainworm is not so cool. I am having some weird memory losses. This past Thursday, Susan Gerritt (from work) and I were supposed to take last summer's intern, Sarah, to lunch. I can't seem to remember the lunch. I can't remember seeing her at all. I'm pretty sure it happened, because I do remember paying for it (it was the first time I'd ever paid in a restaurant with the PPSC card - got permission from Judy, of course). But I can't remember anything else.

I'm also fishing, at times, for some older memories, and I am known for remembering things very well. I also have the short-term blips which are perfectly normal for someone my age. My typing has also gotten a notch worse. And I've noticed occasional tremors in my hands.

I guess the next thing to do is have my primary doctor recommend a neurologist, in a couple of weeks when I have the money. Something is less-than-right upstairs, I think. (The answer is yes, scared shitless.)

Love my new primary doctor. Most of the lab tests are done in his office, which is very efficient, and he spend a lot of time with me. Tweaked my meds a little and explained everything. And by the way, I dropped 13 pounds in a month. (Answer: salad, lean protein, Greek yogurt, a little fruit, and just plain eating smaller amounts.)

Volunteering at the Mermaid Parade was a bust. I was supposed to sell merchandise - there were going to be three booths with four people each. Was sent to an area to wait and waited for an hour and a half with two other merchandise volunteers. No one knew anything - staff members radioed in but got no answers. Finally, someone said they thought they weren't doing merchandise after all. This was after months of emails and a meeting on Friday night. So I walked the ten blocks back to the volunteer registration area, and they kind of said, oops, there was a problem, and that was it. Of course, by that time it was too late to get a good spot to watch the Parade. I tried to watch some, but was pretty beat after sitting in the heat all that time. Bummer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

earworm & a flirt

Current earworm:

I hope this is a decent version; can't listen where I am now.

For some reason, when I try to upload a video to Blogger and select "My YouTube Videos," it says that I don't have any. Now, my Blogger sign-in is my Goggle sign-in, same as YouTube, so I don't understand at all why "My YouTube Videos" in Blogger doesn't bring up "My Favorites" or "Recently Watched" in YouTube. What's the point of connectivity if it doesn't connect?

I've been a mite flirty with someone lately, but it's online only and he's not in the US. I consider it about 90% not-wrong. He's either flirting back or just friendly; either is fine. It amounts to something like 4 or 5 tweet replies over about a week. It's his fault for being so magnetic.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

reading and writing and publishing and publicity

Roger Ebert tweeted today with a link to a little piece on Ray Bradbury by Junot Diaz. It is well-known that I'm crazy about movies and music, but I think writers are my real rock stars. (And let's remember that my all time favorite rock musician, Elvis Costello, writes some of the finest lyrics on the planet.)

I come from a family of bookworms. My dad was a journalism major and aspired to be an old-school Broadway lyricist. My uncle Howard is easily the most serious bookworm among us. From when he was in college, he only ever worked in bookstores and libraries, and his last two jobs before he retired was as head librarian in a couple of nice, small New Jersey communities. When it became clear that I was also a mad reader and reading way above my grade level, Howard fed me books, even though he lived in Philadelphia. I would say that I was reading what is now called "young adult" books when I was six or seven (they were a little cleaner back then), and started reading adult books at eight or nine.

So get this: I'm around nine, in the school library, reading Black Boy by Richard Wright, which was a gift from Howard. I pretty much understood it, but there was a word I didn't know and could figure out. The drill was to ask the school librarian, who flatly refused to tell me what "whore" meant. (I pronounced the "w.")

Howard probably gave me my first Ray Bradbury book around that time. I adored him, and read his books over and over. I wasn't and didn't become a huge sci-fi fan; I had about half a dozen authors I liked and read extensively. I never read sci-fi outside that group until I was past 40; I had a very close friend (broke with her some years back) who was a publisher of sci-fi and (shudder!) fantasy.

I loathe fantasy; it's one of the genres I truly hate. Any book or movie, once there's magic or a wizard or an elf or any of that shit, that's it for me. I am proud to say that I saw "Lord of the Rings" in a theater and fell asleep.

However, after getting by for a few years with never reading any of my friend's books, she pressed me very gently. I had to. And the first thing she recommended very highly was a fantasy series of five thick books (I just checked two of them on Amazon: one was 600+ pages and the other was 900+). They were not too wizardy and awful, and the guy writes well, but after a while, it was more of a task than a pleasure. I read all five, and a few of her other authors who were more sci-fi.

So what I mostly loved about Bradbury was the way he wrote. I haven't reread him in many years, but I remember the feeling of welcome about his writing, a warmth and simplicity and clarity.

The other sci-fi-writers I enjoyed: Robert Silverberg, Robert Shockley, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven & Dave Pournell. Robert Heinlein.

And: when I was, I believe, in middle school, in 1971...and I don't tell this to a lot of people...I attended the first-ever Star Trek convention. I was devoted to the original series, and I went with a bunch of my friends. Back then, kiddies, it was a huge big deal to watch the uncut episodes on a big screen with no commercials, since mostly what we had all seen were the edited reruns on WPIX. But the really big deal was that I met Himself, Isaac Asimov, and he signed my copy of I, Robot. (No, I no longer have it, another fucking heartbreaking loss of a material possession.) He made all of the girls give him a kiss on the cheek before he would sign a book. I took a photo of him. (I may still have one of my Star Trek Con pictures, but the Asimov pictures are also no longer with me.)

When I worked at Penguin, it was very exciting to me to meet or even see some very famous and wonderful authors, and I acquired quite a few signed books and personally signed books. (Some I still have, some not.) I'm not much of one for autographs - Barry likes them much more than I do - but I love a signed book.)

I'm the same way about mysteries as I am about sci-fi: I'm not wild about the genre, but I have certain authors I like. I swallowed by timidity and barged in on the late, great Robert D. Parker, who was sitting in a conference room signing stock, turned into (as V. used to put it) a gushing fangirl, and asked him to sign a book to me. It was kind of uncool to bug another imprint's authors (he wrote for Putnam), although sometimes an imprint will set up an in-house signing. But I simply could not miss the chance to shake hands with Robert Parker. Putnam had a lot of those bestselling authors like Tom Clancy and John Sandford and Sue Grafton.

Other mystery writers I like: George S. Chesbro, Lawrence Block (he was very big with the AA set), Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, and a few others I'm not remembering. Elmore Leonard. Do not like British mysteries at all.

Other authors from whom I had personally signed books at Penguin: Paul Rusesbagina  (the "Hotel Rwanda" guy), Kim Edwards (The Memory Keeper's Daughter). I spotted a few celebrity authors when I worked there and said hi: Lorraine Bracco (Doctor Bronx herself!), Ellen Burstyn, Morgan Spurlock, the Rev. T.D. Jakes.

And a couple of authors I represented; I've probably mentioned David Lynch a million times already, but there was also Daniel Pinchbeck, who wrote 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. This was really the first big 2012 book (non-fiction), and my first-ever author. (My boss actually passed him onto me when I was still a temp, although I was in the process of trying to get hired full-time for the job.) I have to say that Daniel's two biggest publicity hits were his own doing: The Colbert Report and Rolling Stone, but I knew exactly who and where his audience was, toured him the right cities, and the book did amazingly, unexpectedly well in the mind-body-spirit category (The Genre Formerly Known As New Age). It made the very bottom of the New York Times' extended bestseller list one week. (The extended portion, which I think is positions 20-35, is not published and your are not permitted to call the book "a New York Times bestseller. But still.) It charted in San Francisco and Portland and Seattle.

It made my imprint, Tarcher, very happy to have hired me. I was brought on by the wonderful editor and publicist and writer Ken Siman. Ken taught me and trusted me. I was the most junior of three publicists, and of course least likely to get the most important authors; but when I heard we were doing a book by David Lynch (I will stop dropping that name some day), I ran into his office and said "ooh, ooh ooh!" and he gave me the book. Ken figured out very early on that when I got excited about a book, I got right into the zone.

When he left and his successor came on, she didn't like me one bit, and kept all of the good-looking books for herself. Once I had one that was small but I was very excited about, and she horned in, put herself on the team with me, and flat-out wrecked it. She was the anti-Ken. At the time she started, the Lynch book was about to come out in paperback, and if a publicist had the hardcover, they had the paperback, period. It simply killed her that I had the Lynch book, especially since it was about TM (transcendental meditation), and she grew up TM in a TM family in Fairfield, Iowa, which is TM Central, where the TM university was. The best part was when she came with me to the first NYC Lynch event, and David came right over to me and kissed me on the mouth. (This was nothing flirty or improper; we had just had a really nice working relationship on the book.) I believe that this was when she knew that I absolutely could not be taken off the paperback, and probably nothing she could do to improve the publicity campaign.

Of course, David generated his own publicity, layering project over project. During the book publicity, he was also promoting the David Lynch Foundation (funding TM training for at-risk kids), his own brand of coffee, and his movie Inland Empire. David got publicity just for being David Lynch. All I really had to do was to point the book at the right audience.

If you twisted my arm for my all-time favorite fiction author, I would have to go with John Irving, with Marge Piercy close behind. Favorite non-fiction is probably the classic essays of E.B. White. When I studied writing in the early 80s, my favorite professor, Bill Decker, taught me how to write more simply and clearly by pointing me to White.

I'm a washout as a fiction writer; I am no damned good at writing outside my own experience. I wrote one good short story and a handful of shitty ones, a few of which were published in what they used to call "little-literary" magazines, which generally pay in copies. I had more success in similar publications with my poetry, but I don't think I've written one in 20 years now. (And I no longer have a copy of any sort of the best one I ever wrote, which was published in a little-literary, called palm sunday, coney island, which I wrote on the subway.) I've never written a theater or film script. But I can write.

I learned to write by keeping a journal (and later, of course, blogs) since I was eight, and reading voraciously for my entire life. Being self-taught, I took my first writing class when I was about 25 because I had absolutely no idea if I wrote well or not. I had zero training in the rules of grammar, punctuation and the like; I pretty much had it all right, but never knew the names for any of it. (This is what happens when you go to a progressive, avant-garde, experimental school for gifted children: you read Moliere in French at 12, BUT YOU NEVER LEARN THE RULES OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR.) Bill shaped and directed me a bit (one course in writing, one in editing, and an independent study), and this is where I ended up. I'm very, very happy with my level of writing and editing skills, and they help me immensely every day of my life.

OK, after the long way around, we're coming home.

My cubicle at Tarcher was right in front of Ken's office, which was right next to the office of a publicist for the literary imprint Riverhead. A bookcase of our books was right next to the Riverhead publicist's office. One day, a damned good-looking young dude was waiting to see the Riverhead publicist, looking at our books, a grinning. I said, "Are you laughing at our mind-body-spirit books?" And he said, "No, I just had no idea there were books about some of this stuff."

The next time I saw the handsome guy, I kow-towed, because I had read his book, The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and the handsome guy was Junot Diaz.

That's Junot bein' handsome. Not shown: that he is one of the finest, most amazing authors of our time, genius. And he loved Ray Bradbury too.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

bad fingers and Bol Bachchan

Amitabh shows how it's done, in the title song from Bol Bachchan. The young man with the mustache is Ajay Devyn and the cleanshaven young man is Junior Bachchan, Abhishek.

I have a bad trigger finger and a not-so-bad trigger finger, and it's back to Dr. Patel for me on Monday. If you weren't around for last year's trigger finger here's what it's all about. So it's either going to be a shot of cortisone. or what I had done last year:

"Percutaneous trigger finger release:  Trigger finger release can be performed in the office under local anesthesia using a percutaneous technique.  Numbing medicine is injected in the hand near the base of the finger.  A larger needle is then placed through the numb area and is used to divide the pulley that is causing the triggering.  Advantages of this procedure include that it can be done in the office and does not require an incision.  The main disadvantage is that the surgeon cannot see the pulley or nearby nerve and there is a possible higher risk of injury to the nerves or an incomplete release.  While these complications are unlikely, patient should take them into account when choosing to have a procedure."

It's gonna hurt like hell if he has to do this again, especially on two fingers. I remember being in howling pain the day after. The bad one is the right-hand pinkie, and PTFR is usually done one the middle three fingers. The not-yet-as-bad one is the left-hand ring finger, so it may be a wait-and-see, or a PTFR. And if I have the surgery, there's physical therapy after, for maybe six weeks.

So I may be very limited as far as using the computer, although of course I'll have to at work.  Send good thoughts for a nice needle full of cortisone.

Recent reading: The Leftovers by Tom Perotta. Surburban folks try to get along after a Rapture-like event. Love the way he writes, and the post-Cheever look at surburbia. See also, his Little Children.

Somehow, I hopped into another post-apocalyptic novel right after, Stephen King's Cell. Just started it, and it's pretty much as un-put-down-able as most King books. I am an unabashed fan.

Too much to write about with hurting fingers: out in Yardley with Jannah last weekend, Saturday night party on her boat (six boats all tied up together), and then slept on the boat. The whole deal was kind of like camping but less grubby. Relaxing by the pool on Sunday, parade on Monday. I dearly love the Memorial Day parade in Yardley...I hate to use the word "quaint," which it isn't, quite, hut it very old-fashioned and I look forward to it every day - I've been going there for Memorial Day the past 4-5 years.

Very hard, busy season at work, what with classes ending, getting evaluations from teacher, updating transcripts, trying to get a second summer intern, overseeing registration, orienting new faculty, etc. If I must say so myself, I've been coming through like a champ, but I'm seriously exhausted. Part of me (no lie) is kind of hoping to spend Tuesday in bed, on painkillers.

I'm having a really good time on Twitter, especially when I get replies from (can't deny it) well-known people. This past week: Raghu Dixit and Adnan Sami. Both good dudes, and Raghu is supposed to come to the US in the fall. I also have a little joke-topping thing with @Disalmanic, who is a damn funny guy.