Monthly Archives: December 2009

Fair and Balanced?

Every morning when I go to the gym and do a 30-minute cardio workout, I either listen to music on my iPod or watch the news on the TV monitor. I have no control over what station is tuned in, and it seems that more often than not the particular TV in front of the system I use is generally tuned to Fox News. I’ve never been a fan of this station, but in an effort to remain objective, I endure.

The Fox News credo is the claim that their programming is fair and balanced, which in my mind means there’s no bias and that they try to represent both the conservative and liberal points of view. May I be candid here by saying that Fox News is about as fair and balanced as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity & Rush Limbaugh combined?

From what I observe on a daily basis, Fox News has one primary agenda: to discredit everything that President Obama does or did. Now mind you, I’m not a big Obama fan. I do support him but my enthusiasm has cooled down considerably now that I’ve had a chance to compare his campaign promises with his actions as president. For the most part, the changes he promised are nothing more than faint memories. But to his credit, he took office while two wars raged, the economy was gripped by recession, and we faced a total financial meltdown. Although I don’t agree with the blank-check-method used to bail out the financial markets, he should at least be applauded for taking positive measures to stabilize the economy.

But Fox News rarely has anything positive to say about President Obama; they second-guess and Monday-morning-quarterback everything he says and does. This man walked into the oval office after 8 years of fiscal madness and perhaps the most secretive, corrupt administration in history. Whether you supported Bush’s policies or not, no one can argue with the compelling facts that this administration was a total disaster. Yet while Bush was in office, Fox News represented him as a great president. If that’s fair and balanced, my name is Ernest Hemingway.

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Totally Stoked

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that Amazon Encore, a publishing division of Amazon.com, will launch my novel, They Never Die Quietly, on February 16, 2010. To say I’m ecstatic is an understatement. I’ve been writing fiction for 15+ years with virtually no recognition, and now Amazon will début my novel with the power of their global marketing behind it.

If you know anything at all about marketing and promotion, you know that “buzz” is everything. With any product, book, or movie, marketing either makes or breaks it. Some pretty awful novels have made it to the NY Times Bestseller list totally based on promotion and hype. On the other hand, several magnificent books have gone unnoticed without fanfare simply because the book was never successfully promoted.

I spent most of my working career in sales and marketing, and the first thing I learned was that no matter what you’re trying to market, you have to sell the “sizzle” and not the steak. Sizzle gets you more sales than the steak itself. If you stir up enough interest and mystique, you can sell just about anything.

Knowing this, I am not only working closely with the Senior Marketing Manager from Amazon Encore to promote my novel, but I also hired a top-notch publicist to support the marketing efforts. My hope, of course, is to create so much buzz about my novel that it takes off. But there is a downside to this whole marketing business. Make no mistake about it; I want my book to be successful. In fact, it wouldn’t bother me at all if it hit #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list. Is there any author anywhere in the universe who wouldn’t want this? But here’s the caveat.

In my heart of hearts, I want my book to be successful because of its literary value; not because of some savvy marketing plan. I want people to buy my book and love it. I want my readers to impatiently wait for my next book. And my next. And my next. I want to hear comments like, “I couldn’t put it down”, and “A true page turner.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want my readers to love the steak and to hell with the sizzle.

I am encouraged by the reader reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon thus far, giving me hope that my novel is more steak than sizzle. In fact, the latest review was written by a member of the Amazon Vine Program, a select group of readers carefully chosen by Amazon to receive advanced copies of books and to write objective reviews. 30 members of the Amazon Vine Program are currently reading my novel and I am anxiously awaiting their comments. The first review is great. I can only hope that the other 29 are equally as positive.

If you’re interested in reading this review, here is the LINK.

Thanks!

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The Best Laid Plans

Since moving from Upstate New York to San Diego in 1993, my wife and I are pretty much orphans. That’s not to say we don’t have close friends. However, all of my family and lifelong friends live in Rochester, NY, and my wife, Brooklyn born, has family that spans from New York City to Jersey to Florida to Brazil. 

Because my wife and I don’t visit our hometowns for the holidays, Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. In fact, it’s hard to get excited about a holiday that’s focused on family when you’re nearest relative is 3,000 miles away. Talking on the telephone just isn’t the same as sitting next to one of your grandsons and showing him how to build a skyscraper with a box of Legos. Of course we do have the option to travel east for the holidays, but have you ever been in Upstate New York in the dead of winter? It’s like Siberia. Freezing cold. Snow up to your butt. And dreary, unfriendly skies. 

To compensate for not having family in San Diego, my wife and I either enjoy an intimate dinner at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or once in a while, we’ll go out to dinner. We haven’t had great luck with restaurants here in San Diego. You can call us New-York-snobs  if you like, but I’m here to tell you that for the most part, the restaurants in San Diego don’t even come close to those in New York. We can count on one hand the number of restaurants that we really like here on the west coast. 

In constant search for a new restaurant my wife and I would enjoy, I recently had lunch with some of my friends at a place in Fashion Valley Mall called Bing Crosby’s. I thought the food was great and the atmosphere charming. So this year, I decided to surprise my wife on Christmas Eve and take her to this new restaurant. Neither my wife nor I eat meat—except for chicken and turkey—so I checked out Bing Crosby’s menu on line to be sure their fare worked for us. 

When we arrived, the hostess cheerfully greeted us, wished us a Merry Christmas and promptly seated us. When we studied the menu, I noticed that it was different than what was posted on line, offering fewer choices than I expected. Although limited, there were still a few entrées that fit our dietary needs. We ordered two appetizers—broiled scallops and an ahi tuna trio. The scallops were tasty but the ahi didn’t excite either of us. After careful consideration, we both ordered the sea bass. 

When our waiter delivered the entrées, the portion seemed small but the presentation was very appealing. My wife dug in first and tasting the first bite she nearly spit it out. So salty, it was virtually inedible. I tried a piece and although mine wasn’t as salty as my wife’s, I felt certain that my blood pressure medication wouldn’t appreciate competing with this sodium-rich meal. The waiter apologized profusely and promised to return quickly with a freshly prepared meal for my wife. I decided to rough it and didn’t ask for my entrée to be redone. 

A few minutes later, our waiter set a freshly made plate of sea bass in front of my wife. Her second bite into the fish, she discovered that the center was raw. Not cooked rare. Raw. We both love sushi and sashimi, but sea bass is not meant to be eaten uncooked. By now, we had both lost our appetites. We motioned for our waiter and expressed our concern. He again apologized and said he would speak with the restaurant manager. A few minutes later, a well-dressed woman appeared and she, too, couldn’t apologize enough. She handed us a $50 gift card and said she would only charge us for the appetizers. Fair enough, we thought. Even Julia Child must have screwed up a meal now and then. The manager almost redeemed the chef until she said that Bing Crosby’s generally cooks their fish entrées rare. Now I eat a lot of fish but don’t pretend to be a fish authority. But I do know that some fish—like ahi tuna—should only be eaten seared and rare. But sea bass? Sorry, but no self-respecting chef would ever undercook sea bass. 

So, where am I going with this boring chapter and verse recap of my dubious Christmas Eve? Just trying to illustrate that the Christmas holiday should be spent with family and friends and home cooked meals—not in a restaurant that doesn’t know how to cook fish. Next year, if we’re not with family—and we expect to be—we’re cooking at home. And we won’t be serving salty or raw sea bass.

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December Curse

I don’t have a superstitious bone in my body, but as I live and breathe, I’m telling you that the month of December is a curse for my family. Over the years, far too many tragedies have occurred in December for it to be a mere coincidence. It’s hard for me to remember each and every disaster, but here are just a few that come to mind. 

  • My maternal grandfather died.
  • My favorite aunt died.
  • My ex-wife ruptured a disc in her lower back.
  • I survived a head-on collision.
  • My mother had a heart attack.
  • I spent 5 hours in emergency with atrial fibrillation. 

There are more, but my memory isn’t what it used to be. And today I can add another incident to the list: no matter what I do, I can’t seem to control my blood pressure. For no particular reason, it just spikes. I can be sitting on the sofa, sleeping, scratching the back of my head—just breathing, and I suddenly feel my heart pounding. So, of course, I do the dumbest thing and take my blood pressure to confirm beyond a doubt that it is indeed elevated. And it always is. 

I’ve been on BP medication for a few years, and after a period of trial and error, I finally found a medication with few side effects that manages my BP. I try to watch my weight and sodium intake, and I limit myself to one glass of wine. For the last few weeks I’ve gone to the gym every-single-day and worked out for 30 minutes on a cardio machine. To make it even more unbelievable, after my A-Fib incident, my doctor doubled the dosage of my BP medication. Now you’d think that this would lower my BP, right? Well, it hasn’t done a damn thing. Well, actually it has. It’s made it worse. 

As every man, woman and child in the free world knows, stress heavily contributes to hypertension. But I’ve reduced the stress in my life. I’m going to retire on March 31, 2010 and until then I’m working a 3-day workweek and getting paid for 5! So, I get a full paycheck for working 24 hours, and every week I enjoy a four-day weekend. Where’s the stress in that? And just to sweeten the deal, my novel will be released in February and lots of people associated with the publishing business think my book is going to do very well. Retirement. 3-day workweek. Novel. It’s all good. 

So what the hell is going on?

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Getting Old

Okay, I’ve got to let off a little steam. I’m really growing weary of my doctor blaming every ache and pain and hiccup on age. Yes, as we get older, body functions slow down or fail, and certain ailments get the best of us. But can we blame everything on age? My doctor seems to think you can. Whenever I bring up any health issue (even an ingrown toenail), she gets that annoying grin, shakes her head and says, “It’s just an age thing.” Well, I for one am not quite ready to buy into this theory. At least not completely. 

My cardiologist subscribes to an interesting premise. He believes that when “Mother Nature” created humans (I don’t think he believes in God), it was her intent that we live no more than 40 years; long enough to proliferate the species and nurture our offspring. His claim is that the reason we suffer from so many ailments as we get older is because we weren’t supposed to live to be 80 or 90. 

Apparently, Mother Nature in all her wisdom, didn’t factor in medical technology. She never predicted that medical advancements would extend our lives; double them actually. So if this theory holds water, why haven’t we found a way for us to maintain a youthful quality of life even when we’re old plow horses? If medical technology has doubled our lives, why can’t it produce a fountain of youth? 

I’d like to write more, but the prune cake I ate for breakfast is kicking into high gear.

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Living the Dream

Well, I began my three-day workweek on Monday and I must tell you that it felt great. No Sunday evening blues. No alarm clock (although I did get my butt out of bed at 6:30 and went to the gym). And no early morning traffic. I really think I’m going to love working Tuesday through Thursday. Who the hell wouldn’t? 

Of course as is the case with most silver linings, there are always a few flies in the ointment. For me, I have to cram five-days’ productivity into three days. The nature of my job is such that the floodgates remain open even when I’m not in the office. The customers I serve are still going to call and send e-mails on Mondays and Fridays, and they expect a timely response. Most really don’t give a hoot about my situation. They want what they want when they want it. But that’s okay. As a compromise, and as part of negotiating the three-day deal, I agreed to turn on my work cell phone on Mondays and Fridays just in case something critical comes up. But what I consider critical may be significantly different than what my customers perceive. Hope I didn’t shoot myself in the foot.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

Well, it’s Sunday morning, just got home from the gym and I’m going to veg-out for the rest of the day. As always is the case on Autumn Sundays, I’m looking forward to watching the San Diego Chargers kick the Dallas Cowboys’ butts. We’re playing in Dallas, which obviously gives the Cowboys an edge, but nevertheless, I’m cocky-confident we will have our way with them. The Chargers have had some hapless seasons, but they definitely have a shot at winning the division, and who knows, maybe even the Super Bowl. Win or lose; I’m a loyal fan.

I’ve always been a bit confused about sports and fans and their loyalties. I can understand why one would be loyal to their city by supporting their local teams. That just makes sense. I live in San Diego, hence, I’m a Chargers and Padres fan. But if you live in New York and are a loyal Oakland Raiders fan, what’s that all about? If you once lived in Oakland, or your favorite aunt lives there, or you were born and raised there, I’m cool with that. But city loyalty due to some relationship doesn’t seem to be the driving force.

When I was a kid, living in Upstate New York, I absolutely loved the Yankees. But I loved them because of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and other Hall-of-Famers. But just as soon as the Yankees became a big money team, buying and selling players as if they were chattel, I suddenly found myself a Boston Red Sox fan by default. If you hate the Yankees, naturally you love their archrival. No?

So, what’s the deal with supporting a sports team when you have no association or relationship to the team or the city whatsoever? Players and coaches come and go, so it can’t be the team itself. And suppose there’s a player you absolutely hate and that player is traded to your favorite team? Then what?

I guess the only thing that makes sense is that if you support a team, win or lose, and remain a diehard fan through thick and thin, then it must be that you like the teams’ uniforms. Of course, over the years even uniforms change so I guess I’m back to square one. By the way, even if I move back to New York, I’ll always be a San Diego Chargers and Padres fan. But I will always hate them damn Yankees.

 

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