Just got back tonight from watching a panel discussion that was a part of the New York Television Festival. The panel I saw was sponsored by TV Land and featured a group of writer/producers: Mike Scully (The Simpsons), Phil Rosenthal (Everybody Loves Raymond), Diane English (Murphy Brown), Stan Lathan (Def Comedy Jam), and Bill Perksy (The Dick Van Dyke Show, That Girl). While it was a treat to see the great and funny minds behind so many great and funny shows, listening to Persky was amazing. The man was involved with one of the funniest shows in the history of television and is as sharp today as he was when he was writing scripts with Carl Reiner.
Persky had some great advice for all the aspiring writers in the audience looking to get into the industry: there's so much mediocrity out there that all you have to be is good to succeed. Just be good, he said, and someone will find you. It's probably not the practical advice that some people were looking for - one guy said he would have preferred a phone number to get an agent - but I really appreciated it.
The festival aims to do for TV what events like Sundance have done for film. It was founded by a friend and former coworker of mine from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. There are lots of screenings over the weekend and more panel discussions with some very big names. If you're in New York and are interested in TV, I recommend checking it out.
My book isn't even out yet and the backlash against involved grooms seems to have begun.
This week's Time magazine has an article entitled Metrosexual Matrimony, which warns of the impending arrival of a new breed of men: groomzillas.
The article highlights men who have gone to great lengths - and spent great fortunes - to make everything about their weddings perfect. From the man who spent $1,800 on a custom suit and paid for his groomsmen to not only get manicures but eyebrow waxings to the guy who spent $15,000 on the proposal alone, it seems that not even men are immune to getting carried away when it comes to wedding planning. (A note to my friends: I love you all, but not enough to get my eyebrows waxed for your wedding.)
These men are not the Engaged Grooms of which I write about in my book, but rather seem to represent a larger problem in today's world: rampant materialism and the commercialization of every last inch of people's lives. How long will it be before executives at The Home Depot realize they can provide the shovels for funerals in exchange for some free publicity?
There's no question that the man who spends money to have himself delivered to his wife's classroom in a box for the proposal will have a memorable story to tell for the rest of his life, but will he have a happy marriage?
The New York Times published my letter to the editor today. It's in response to a ridiculous column by David Brooks who was himself responding to speeches given last week by John Edwards and John Kerry.
How many branches of the government does one party have to control and for how long do they have to control them for government failures to be their responsibility? Conservatives believe in an ownership society, but apparently blame is not something some of them are willing to own at all.
Today is like Christmas Day, Hannukah and my birthday all rolled into one. (If, of course, on each of those days I received prototypes of the gifts I would receive at a later date.)
The galleys arrived today. Thirteen bound copies of my book in promotional form. The inside of the book will look mostly as it will when it is published, although it is still an uncorrected proof, meaning that the copyeditor's changes and other design fixes have not yet been incorporated. The cover is black and white with no illustration and a list of marketing information for promotional partners and media contacts.
Things are really starting to pick up. I spoke to my publicist yesterday to brainstorm a few ideas and to get an idea of what I'm in for when the book is released. I'll send a few of these copies to media contacts who write for long-lead magazines; many of them are planning their January and February articles now.
Oprah, if you are reading, I'd be happy to send you a copy.
I'm not one to usually comment about random TV shows - I'll leave that to the boob tube bloggers - but, man, did you see the season premiere of Lost last night?
I have a strong feeling that this season will be even bigger than the last one for the show, so in an effort to ride the wave of the show's popularity I published an iMix of all of the music from Season 2. Enjoy.
You must have iTunes on your computer for the link to work.
The book is now up for advance order on one of my favorite bookstores, Powells.com, the online concern of the Portland, Oregon independent store. (If you've ever been there, you'll know it makes New York's Strand look like a newsstand.)
They are not offering the discount available at Amazon.com, but if you like supporting independently owned businesses while still enjoying the convenience of online shopping, Powell's is a great place to do it.
If non-Amazon corporate giants are your bag, the book is also up at Barnes & Noble's online store, but something struck me as curious. If you do a search for my book on the main page, the search results do not list my book first even if you use the exact title. In fact, my book comes up sixth, after three other wedding books, Kate Spade's book Style, and a mystery book called A Groom with a View.
The number one book in BN.com's search results is another groom's wedding guide, published by Barnes & Noble Books. I'm not saying the word conspiracy, but it struck me as odd that using the exact title of a book in a search would not yield that very book as the first result.
Here's the design for the back cover and spine of the book. (Click on the image for a larger version.)
The picture is from my wedding day. It's a good thing the picture is so small; otherwise you'd see my red, puffy eyes from a morning of crying. (Happy tears, of course.)
There will be a few minor changes to the copy, but this is more or less what you'll see when you pick up the book this winter. However, there is one change that is not so minor. We are adding "...with his wife Leora Kaye" to the last line of my bio.
Actress Renee Zellweger is splitting from country star Kenny Chesney, her husband of only four months. They are seeking to have their marriage annulled. Clearly, the religious right and other defenders of marriage will be calling for a Constitutional ban on celebrity weddings.
If only I had found this space before I wrote my book. I would have been right in the thick of Union Square, one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city, and I wouldn't have gone home every day smelling like espresso.
Paragraph costs a little more than a gym membership and a lot less than renting an office. If I ever have another project that requires a lot of time and attention, it's absolutely the kind of thing I would consider. The commute from our bedroom to my home office is something I dread more than a rush-hour subway ride.
The New York Times reports on a survey showing that the average digital music player user stores only 375 songs on his device. Half of the people surveyed carry fewer than 100 songs. iPod owners have slightly higher song counts, averaging 504 songs per player. That's a leaves a lot of empty space on even the 1000-song capacity iPod minis or the new nano Advancements in storage, it seems, are outpacing the demand.
I could be one of the typical users described in the survey. I have a 60-gigabyte iPod - given to me by Apple after I exchanged a new-but-broken 30-gigabyte model for another 30-gigabyte iPod only to have the replacement give me more trouble than the first; the squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease - but am so far using just 11.07 gigabytes to carry about 2,300 songs. As a subscriber to various podcasts, the space I use fluctuates, but so far I have not broken the 13-gigabyte mark.
A lot of bloggers have jumped at the chance to use the study as an example of white earbud snobbery.
People use them mostly not to fulfil a utilitarian function -- i.e. to play music -- but rather to broadcast a message that they are true music aficionados. To walk around with the aery white earbuds jammed in your skull is to insist that you are the sort of person who not only needs to have music around you -- but needs to have 10,000 songs at your beck and call every second of the day, because nothing less would satisfy the subtle nuances of your all-encompassing taste: Cutting-edge German techno? Early Lomax folk blues recordings? Mozart? Your soul is on permanent shuffle. Mere labels cannot define you.
I do not necessarily disagree that many iPod users like to show off their status as members of the digerati, but why single them out? Overneed, which is not really a word but is the best term I can think of to describe this trend in American consumerism, is rampant in our society. Carrying a 60-gigabyte MP3 player to carry only 100 songs is no different than driving a Range Rover to a strip mall. Plenty of studies have shown that those who buy pricey SUVs with four-wheel drive, tinted windows and grille guards aren't just buying a car but are buying a statement; they are saying that although they might mostly drive to work and back they could, at any moment, pull the car off the road and drive off into the wilderness. Even smaller items project images beyond function. I know plenty of people in New York who own high-performance Patagonia jackets suited for climbs of Mt. Everest even though they only walk from home to the nearest subway station. How many people use carabiners capable of holding a 300-pound man as keychains or to carry a Nalgene bottle to work? There's little correlation between the ability to purchase a Viking stove and cooking skill. Those $300 Burberry umbrellas I often see in Manhattan don't keep people any less wet than those picked up for eight bucks on a streetcorner.
If Americans were satisfied with what works or simply what they needed, our giant economy would grind to a halt. The ire that many people seem to have for iPod users seems misplaced, even if those little white earbuds are worn more for the status they convey than the music they play.
For those of you wondering what the galleys of my book look like, here are a couple of pages:
The title page:
The first page of the introduction:
It's basically a giant, printed-out PDF. I've gone through and made a few changes, but not to content. At this point, all I can change is the occasional formatting or spelling error; basically this is just a big copyediting job. I have found a few mistakes, but so far there hasn't been anything that won't be easily fixed.
So, not including the actual writing, this is now the fifth time I've read through the book. I could practically record an audio version of it from memory.
From a December 18, 2004 Fall Commencement Address at the Florida Institute of Technology University delivered by (then) FEMA under secretary Michael D. Brown.
Yes, I believe that each of you has the world at your beckoning call, but I also believe that you should take advantage of the “scenic route” when the opportunity arises. In fact, there may be times when the “scenic route” is what we are faced with. We are human and life offers us lots of fruits. There is an old saying that goes something like this ‘…if life deals you lemons, then you should make lemonade…’ Well, today I am going to chat about those ingredients.
A word of advice: don't take the scenic route when on your way to managing the worst natural disaster in 100 years.
I’ll bet many of you are saying, “…I am getting my degree in chemical engineering or chemistry or space science or aviation or psychology…I’ve interned at NASA and I have a job at the Jet Propulsion Lab…Who is Michael Brown to tell me about the scenic route in life…just who is this guy who works hard leading the nation’s premier emergency response agency in assisting victims across the world?”
I bet these students are wondering the very same thing right now.
Just as natural disasters occur in our communities, so too do they occur in our personal lives. Very few graduation speakers will say this in their speeches -
You should expect to make mistakes.
You should expect to fall down.
You should even expect to fail at a few things.
If everything in life were perfect, then you would never have been an infant, a toddler, a little kid, a teenager and now an adult.
If everything in life was perfect, you would have been born an adult, wearing a business suit, holding a briefcase and heading for work every day, contributing to the financial fabric of this nation, commonly referred to as paying taxes.
But everything in life is not perfect, so expect to make those mistakes, expect to fall down every now and then, and expect to occasionally fail at something. There will always be someone along the way who is willing to help pick you up.
I wonder if there will be someone willing to pick Brown up this time? They'd never fire Rummy for mismanaging Iraq and they went as far to pin medals on Tenet for his "slam dunk" intelligence, but they'll be hard-pressed to keep a former nobody like Brown around after this screw-up.
Crazy. The sales rank for The Engaged Groom, which has fallen from around 250,000 to over 1,000,000, is now at 177,271. I expect it to fall again soon, but my research into Amazon sales ranks has taught me that it only takes a few sales to propel a book higher in the ranking. I'm addicted to this sort of stuff, so I'm looking forward to watching the number go up and down. (Hopefully just up as the release date draws closer.)
If you have ordered the book - chances are the orders are coming from readers of this site since I've done no publicity - send me an e-mail so I can thank you for getting the ball rolling.
Ah, the week after Labor Day. It's as if the nature knows how to read the calendar. The first week of September brings with it cooler temperatures, clearer skies and a few hints that fall will be here before we know it. One way to tell? Starbucks is once again offering its Pumpkin Spiced Latte.
I was at the coffee giant's Park Slope location again today, this time reviewing the galleys of my book. This will be the last step I'm involved in before the book goes to print. While the book has already been proofed by a copyeditor, this is my final chance to catch any minor mistakes or changes that only I would see.
It's been a lot of fun seeing the book in this form; previously I had only seen my marked up manuscript which looked not unlike an extra-long term paper that had been graded by a red-pencil-yielding teacher. The galleys are essentially the book as it will look when it is published. All illustrations are in place, as are special fonts. Each chapter is layed out and page numbers are set. All that's missing is the index and the back and front cover designs.
I have to hand the proofed galleys back by September 13th. I'll probably be done tomorrow. It's hard to believe that this phase of the book project is almost over. Not that the last few months haven't been fun, but I will be excited to move on to other aspects of not only the book - such as publcity and marketing - but also my own professional career. No matter what happens, I'll always have Starbucks.
I'll close out my rants about the Gulf Coast disaster with one announcement. To supplement the donations L and I have made to Katrina relief efforts, 100% of the profits from PlanetGordon.com's T shirt sales for the rest of the year will be donated to the American Red Cross.
I'll have more to report about the book this week, so we should return to our normally scheduled posting soon enough. Thanks for your patience.
Here's a question: where is Dick Cheney?
All joking about who is really running the country aside, after 9/11 one could understand the reasons for keeping the president and vice president separated and even hidden at times, for fear of what might happen if another terrorist attack happened shortly after the first.
But surely there isn't some second hurricane secretly going around the country in search of the vice president to disrupt the chain of command and line of succession. Why have we not even seen images of the vice president in his office or on the phone from his home making calls to state officials?
It's beginning to feel as if this country is little more than a rudderless ship, a Titanic-like vessel without even someone standing on the bridge to yell "iceberg ahead."
I wonder if Donald Rumsfeld still believes that looting is still caused by "pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression."
I think the crisis in New Orleans should be the final death blow to the president's plan to privatize Social Security. If anything, it has underscored the need for entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and the type of protection that Social Security provides.
I've heard stories of families running out of money after spending three days in a fifty-dollar-a-night hotel. Three days! Can you imagine spending $150 and having it wipe out your savings? One woman, speaking on the BBC, said that after being unemployed for three years - she had worked for the state of Louisiana for twenty years and then lost her job - she let her insurance go; she is now convinced that she will have nothing to return to and no way to replace what she has lost. Some might say that discontinuing one's insurance is a stupid choice, but I wonder how many people would still keep sending checks to Allstate if they couldn't also pay for rent and food.
Social Security is an insurance program, and Katrina should be exhibit A in proving its importance. It protects people against the unknowns of retirement and what could be more unknown than a natural disaster? Having a personal savings account would do little to help these people now. Even if such accounts existed, I doubt the family that couldn't afford $150 for a hotel during a major flood would have much in the way of retirement savings. Many of the victims would probably have to dip into at least part of it to pay for extended hotel stays, rebuilding homes, replacing vital possessions and other costs associated with a disrupted life.
Katrina might also force politicians to rethink the president's tax breaks. The elimination of the estate tax, something Congress was to consider upon resuming its session this month, could off the table at least for now. If a war in a distant land could not convince our leaders to stop giving more money to the wealthy, then perhaps the billions of dollars it will take to secure, clean up and rebuild just one American city might. It's hard to argue that the wealthy are paying too much money to the goverment when the poor are stuck with gas costing more than four dollars a gallon. (Although if anyone can argue why rich people need still more tax breaks, it's the Bush clan.)
Whether you agree with government entitlement programs or not, all of the people who have been left homeless and jobless by the flooding will be receiving public assistance in the form of money from FEMA and other federal agencies. Taxpayers will be taking care of these people for a long time, as well we should. People have lost their pasts; the entire history of some families have been wiped out in flooded and collapsed homes. Wouldn't everyone be able to breathe a little eaiser if they knew that their futures were more secure?
I'm sorry to keep harping on the hurricane and floods, but it's hard to not think about something so tragic happening in a city so recognizable. One question has been nagging my brain all week: what if instead of having been flooded, a major U.S. city had been hit by a dirty bomb which contaminated drinking water, killed hundreds of people and rendered 80% of the city unlivable and virtually inaccessible? If this is how the government responds to a crisis that was the predictable result of a category 4 hurricane striking a city that lies below sea level, how would it respond to a terrorist attack that gives no warning whatsoever? As far as I know, Al Qaeda doesn't usually phone in reports to the Weather Channel.
What have all of the cabinet-level departments been doing in the four years since 9/11? Could no one have conceived that even with many warnings to evacuate, those without cars or access to extended family networks - mainly the poor and black - would not be able to flee? Sure, some people were just idiots and ignored the warnings, but even the smartest person isn't going to get very far without a car and some cash. Our government, on both the local and federal level, should have prepared better.
Many people on the right say that criticizing the White House emboldens terrorists and gives comfort to those who would do us harm, but I'd argue that the chaos we're seeing in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast is doing more to convince our enemies that we're vulnerable than anything Michael Moore or the Air America crowd could ever dish out.
It takes a special kind of jerk to want to profit from one of the worst national disasters in this country's history, especially as people are still wading through fetid flood water and entering their third or fourth day without food, water, and medicine.
Still, I was not surprised to see people using the hurricane as a selling point for their eBay auctions. (Note: some people are using eBay to raise money for relief efforts; this post is not a criticism of them, only of those seeking to line their own pockets while the area is still reeling from the effects of the storm.)
Take, for example, this "We Surived Hurricane Katrina" magnet. If you survived the hurricane, I'm sure the first thing you're thinking about as you survey your wrecked house is, "Gee, I really could use a magnet right now."
Bragging about one's survivor status is a common theme among items on eBay. Once victims put on some dry clothes, I'm sure they'll also want to use this "Hurricane Katrina Survivor 2005" embroidery pattern. No word on how survivors, most of whom lack basic electricity even if they have things like laptops and PDAs, are supposed to download the emailed file after paying the $5.99 "Buy It Now" price.
Also very sensitive is this "Evacuation Route" sign which does not have the words "New Orleans" or even "Louisiana" printed on it, although that did not stop the seller from listing the item as "Hurricane Katrina EVACUATION ROUTE Tiki Bar Decor." Because nothing livens up a rec room like a reminder of a storm that killed thousands of people.
Then there is this cryptically described auction: item destroyed by hurricane in new orleans. No picture or description is given, but the starting bid is fifteen dollars.
There are no doubt hundreds more, most of which have nothing to do with raising money for victims and relief effort. With all the looting going on it's probably only a matter of time before New Orleans street signs and pieces of cobblestone are offered for sale.
If you do buy something from eBay to support relief efforts, make sure you read the post carefully. Most legitimate posts are marked with ribbons and will have clear descriptions of and links to the charities they support.