Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Take Notes, Miley

The buzz on my social media feed today is all about Miley Cyrus and her “spectacle” during the 2013 Video Music Awards ceremony. What did I think about it? I kept getting asked. My initial reaction was, “Miley who?”

I relented and hit “The Google”.  Aha, a child actress on the Disney children’s show, Hannah Montana. That explains my unfamiliarity with Miley, as I don’t watch many kids’ shows these days. She went on to become a 20-year-old singer with an unimpressive voice but a famous country music singer father and her own Disney-enhanced celebrity. (These days, talent always take a back seat to celebrity). Through the time machine known as YouTube, I was able to view the astonishing half-life regression of  Miley Cyrus’ brief musical career, from wholesome teen to punk slut.

Then, I viewed the infamous six-minute VMA clip. Miley enters a stage filled with giant Teddy bears, dressed in a skimpy mouseketeer T-shirt (the mouse ears double as her bra) and spandex shorts. She vies with Gene Simmons for the title of most active tongue in a music video; simulates sex with her partner (not to mention with a foam finger); and strips down to her underwear for gyrations that would make any pole dancer proud.

Was it any more inappropriate than what passes for entertainment in hip hop videos or even the shot of Lady Gaga’s bare posterior viewers were treated to in the opening of the same VMA show? Not that two wrongs make a right, but it is rather hypocritical to criticize Miley for doing what others have done, merely because she did it more effectively. Let’s face it, her goal was to create a buzz, and that’s exactly what she did. Love it or hate it, Miley got a million dollars of publicity in six minutes. We’re talking about her — she won.

Not that I mind watching a 20-year-old strip to her underwear and give me a lascivious  lap dance in my living room. Every man I know is agreeing with his wife or girlfriend how awful the video was… right before they replay it. But I must admit to professional jealousy: as a creator of entertainment attempting to market my own work, I realize Miley managed to get more people to view her work in six minutes than will ever view mine in my entire lifetime. Which I find rather sad.

I lied. I do watch some children’s shows, on occasion. This week, I've been fortunate enough to be introduced to The Sarah Jane Adventures. Up until a month ago, I had never seen an episode of Doctor Who, so I didn't know Elisabeth Sladen had played the Doctor’s sexy companion when she was in her late 20s. My first exposure to her came as she reprised her role as Sarah Jane Smith, reporter and intrepid heroine, 30 years later. She was the eponymous star of The Sarah Jane Adventures, playing a warm-hearted, brilliant, and adventurous older woman. Not merely a role model for girls, Elisabeth Sladen portrayed her character with such grace and class that Sarah Jane Smith became more relevant and independent with age. At 65, Elisabeth Sladen was nonetheless sexy and vivacious; arguably she became more attractive with age, like a fine wine.

Elisabeth Sladen died last year. Cancer. She worked up until the end, leaving behind two generations of fans, old and young. Her performances were marked by grace and class. Her character showed girls they could grow up to be smart, self sufficient, and remain attractive as they age. Elisabeth Sladen proved true Eleanor Roosevelt’s adage: "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” Take notes, Miley.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Have A Cigar! It's A Book!

At last! I'm pleased to announce The Witches' Cauldron (Book 4 in the Halos & Horns saga) is now available in paperback on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble's Websites. The e-book edition came out in April, and now you can get a dead tree copy you can hold in your hands! I think it's the best book yet and I hope you'll take this opportunity to pick up the entire series -- all four books -- and let me know what you think. The links to purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble are below, toward the bottom of the page.

I want to thank those of you who have supported Halos & Horns these past four years. As you know, I've published a new volume in the series every April for the past four years. I've been especially encouraged, and delightfully surprised, by the overseas sales in the UK, and to a lesser extent, in Germany and Italy. It's been a labor of love and, looking back, I'm amazed how much better each volume reads over its predecessor. I take that to mean I've experienced some real growth as a writer during each of the past four years on the series. I hope my writing continues to evolve in the years to come.

To celebrate the conclusion of the first Halos & Horns story arc, the price of the first three paperbacks will drop from $14.95 to $9.95 in September. I hope this encourages you to purchase the whole set. While I feel The Witches' Cauldron is one of the best books I've written, I can't recommend readers start with the fourth book of a 4-book series; that would be like coming into the last 20 minutes of a movie and trying to make sense of the plot and characters. So get the set! The series is also available on Kindle.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It's the Real Thing

Coca-Cola doesn’t like me.

Granted, our relationship ended years ago, after I gave up sugared drinks. I could never warm to Diet Coke. Still, it hurts when an ex snubs you.

The soft drink company has come up with its greatest marketing idea since New Coke, and the backlash is drowning out the echoes from the thud of that disaster. Coca-Cola has created the brilliant plan to offer limited editions of its iconic bottle personalized with consumers’ names in its signature font. Yes, you can buy a Coke bottle with your name on it, in red Coca-Cola lettering! Or not.

The hitch, you see, is your name must be one of the 250 “most popular names” selected by the soda giant. Complaints have poured in on Facebook from carbonated consumers miffed they were left off the list. It’s like a high school popularity contest with bubbles and caramel coloring. Totally silly; people will get upset over anything, I thought, as I scrolled down the list. Kayleigh, Kelly, Kevin… wait, back up. Maybe they misspelled Keith, I pondered.

Unpopular, forgotten… How could you treat me this way, Coke? After all we shared, for so many years. High school. The movie theater. Pizza and Coke dates. And now, I didn’t even make your list! Who did, I wondered. Whose names could possibly be more popular than mine? I scanned the list and a few names popped out at me: Abdul, Amandeep, Ashleigh, Chantelle, Danielle, Inga, Jade, Jemima, Kataryana, Kofi, Kyle, Lindsey, Marc, Nicholas, Nicole, Pooja, Tomas, Zoe. Really, Coke? Amandeep is more popular than Keith? Oops. Never mind. You bitch!

Ringggg. “Hello, Pepsi? Remember me?”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

These Days, Anyone Can Write A Book

I guess anyone can write a book, these days. The man who posted a photo of his murdered wife on Facebook also wrote a self-help book about marriage. Not sure if I want to skip ahead to the last chapter of that one. In case you missed the news, 31-year-old Derek Medina started the morning with a shout-out to all his Facebook friends: “I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys, miss you guys take care Facebook people you will see me in the news.” He followed up by posting a photo of his 26-year-old wife slumped on the kitchen floor like a rag doll, bloodied and lifeless. Jennifer Alfonso, a waitress at Denny’s and mother to the 10-year-old girl left alone in their home with her corpse, had made at least one mistake in her life… his name was Derek Medina.

The bizarre crime took place, where else, but in Florida, of course. Since it was America, the weapon of choice was, naturally, a gun. Interviewed on CNN, Dr. Drew Pinsky, the modern-day answer to Dr. Joyce Brothers, opined as to why anyone would post a murder confession on Facebook and then photograph the crime scene and post it, as well. The TV doc blamed it on narcissism exacerbated by social media.

Narcissism is defined as an exceptional interest in and admiration for one’s self. Social Media, like Facebook, excel at promoting narcissism among the “Look at Me!” Generation. Christopher Lasch wrote in "The Culture of Narcissism": “Not withstanding his occasional illusions of omnipotence, the narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem.” I recalled my blog post last month, in which I wrote: “It occurred to me, everyone needs validation. We need it from another person – a lover, a friend, an employer. We need it from society. And finally, it  explains why people post all those inane or pithy posts on Facebook and wait for the ‘likes’ or comments to appear underneath: they need, and receive, validation online via the Internet.”

Welcome to the Age of Social Media, where an entire generation has conflated shame with fame. What the hell, they sound alike, so they must be synonymous. In an era when teenager Giovanna Plowman can become an Internet sensation by sucking her bloody tampon on YouTube, can we really be surprised by Derek Medina’s Facebook post? After all, it’s getting harder and harder to earn one’s 15-minutes of fame amid such fierce competition. But a true narcissist will find a way to place the spotlight on himself and one-up the competition. Medina’s grisly Facebook post garnered 80 shares in the five hours it was up before Facebook removed it.

Narcissism? Dr. Drew should know. After all, he wrote the book on narcissism. Or at least a book on narcissism -- “The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America.” Hmm… irony? As I said, these days, anyone can write a book. In fact, I’ve written several. You should buy one today.