Independent Bookstore Day will be upon us soon (Saturday, April 27th) and I have agreed to appear at Forster's Book Garden in Bolton, ON from 1-4pm. I may be called upon to read a passage from one of my books.
This brings back a memory from the beginning of my writing career where I was attending a book launch for my first published book, "Shark Assault: An Amazing Story of Survival". The local retailer said, "No readings". I was surprised, and disappointed, since I feel that reading part of a chapter – or all of one if it's short and you're good at it – can really galvanize the audience. So when I took her to task over this, she said, "Peter, my experience is that most authors are terrible readers. They speak with a monotone and put the audience to sleep. That does not sell books!" I explained that I was a former broadcaster, very comfortable in front of a crowd, knew how to "work" an audience and was well attuned to audience satisfaction. I asked if she'd relent. I must have been convincing since she agreed to let me read. Sure enough, I blew away the audience, the bookstore owner apologized and we sold lots of books.
OK, so I'm not recounting this story to rest on my laurels. Indeed, I mention it simply to set up passing along a couple of tips for you aspiring writers who may wish to take advantage of reading your work publicly. It's a great opportunity to connect with readers and build your profile.
How? Well, let's start with this: every audience deserves the best you’ve got. They've taken the time to show up and they might even share some of their largesse if you can convince them your book is worth purchasing. If you'll accept that, then you'll acknowledge the requirement to put in the time to practice and give your reading your best shot.
“Reading” does sound a little flat, doesn't it? And, in fairness, if that's all you think about this exercise, you're missing the point. The chance to share some of your work with others creates an opportunity for a performance and an occasion for selling yourself. So, if you think of a reading as performing your own work, you're more likely to act it out, giving it dimension that may not be there on the printed page. Audiences love this!
So, how do you do that? Prepare. Rehearse. Experiment. If it feels like going on stage, great, because that's just what you're doing. You certainly don't have to memorize your text the way actors commit lines to memory, but you do need to have practiced reading enough times so that you’re comfortable with it.
Another part of that performing thing: don't bury your head in the book. Look up. Make eye contact with the audience whenever you can. Why? This personalizes your approach and also allows you to connect with people. And it shows you're comfortable with what you're reading, making the audience feel that way too. Remember: it's more than words that you're selling: it's the power of you and your book!
Note my use of the word "selling" above. Don't lose sight of the fact that meeting with readers is a sales opportunity. First off, you're selling yourself as an interesting person. If the reader likes you or finds you intriguing, then they are far more likely to think your book will be intriguing too.
Back to performing. Here's something I learned from President Ronald Regan. You'll recall that Ronnie had been an actor before getting into politics, and he knew how to work a crowd. One of the tactics he used was to speak at a fairly quick pace. Keeps people on their toes. And that's the way I read aloud (and I've received a lot of praise for it). If you're slow, plodding along, people lose interest. But if you keep the pace going, you'll find them on the edge of their seats, wondering what's next.
Then there's the matter of what you're going to read... this can be tricky. You want to entertain your audience, so reading a segment that creates interest or fear or humour or whatever... is key. Length matters too. Don't go over 10 minutes. In fact, 6 or 7 minutes is just fine. "Always leave 'em wanting more" is a good adage to recall right about now.
I’ve seen people nodding off when authors read in a monotone with no drama. It's so easy to avoid this fate.
Practice. And make a partial chapter reading a real asset.
Bob Cole's recent retirement from hockey play-by-play broadcasting took me back to another Hockey Night in Canada icon, perhaps the most famous one of all. In fact, he was the man who really got the whole thing going: Foster Hewitt. Famed for his celebrated phrase "He shoots! He scores!", Foster Hewitt was also known for his sign-on at the beginning of each broadcast: "Hello, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland" (Newfoundland having been a separate Dominion within the British Empire before joining Canada in 1949).
Now, Foster had come by his renown honestly: his father, after all, was Sports Editor at the Toronto Daily Star newspaper. And while Foster Hewitt's reputation was built solidly from hockey, it was actually on May 24, 1925, that he and his father Bill made what was said to be the world's first broadcast of a horse race. But hockey called, and Foster went on to call the games for more than 40 years.
So, why am I writing about this hockey hero? Well, he was the uncle of John May, of course. And who the hell was John May? Why, none other than my good buddy at school. (Wonder where John is today?). John was a selfless kind of lad and had never mentioned his relationship with the great Hewitt family.
So it's the early 1960s and John says to me one day, "Hey Pete, wanna go the Leaf game on Saturday night?" It was known that John's family had outstanding seats, first row, center ice at Maple Leaf Gardens, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. So, I wasn't about to decline this rare opportunity.
Saturday arrives. John and I are ensconced watching the Leafs duel it out with the Chicago Black Hawks. I'm having the time of my life. But John had a plan that evening to up the ante.
"Why don't we go up and visit my uncle?" he said from out of nowhere.
"Your uncle!" I replied, somewhat startled that we'd want to leave these prime seats to say hello to some relation.
"C'mon," says John, not leaving it to me to agree or not. I shook my head in disbelief but followed my host.
Up, and up, and up into the "gods" we went. Clearly, this uncle must be pretty poor if he can only afford seats up here in the greys, I thought.
"OK, now the fun begins," says John. And he steps out onto a thin metal "alleyway" that for all the world seemed to be leading over to the specially-designed broadcast gondola from which the preeminent Foster Hewitt broadcast the Leaf games.
"What are you doing, Johnny!?" I asked.
"Shhhhh..." he said, "just be quiet and follow me."
John had obviously made this trek before since he seemed to walk the gangplank handily, a mere 54 feet above the ice. Me? Nurturing a lifelong fear of heights, this negotiation was scary at best. But something told me there was a bonus at the other end so I plucked up my courage and followed along, not daring to look down.
Eventually we arrived at the cramped gondola but John looked back at me, put his forefinger to his mouth in a shush sign, and we waited quietly, listening to Foster Hewitt inside calling the game for the folks at home, me wondering what the hell we were doing there. Soon enough, a commercial break came and John opened the door to announce his arrival. "Hi Uncle Foster. Let me introduce my pal Peter Jennings." Uncle Foster!? This was the relative we left our seats to say hello to!
The immortal Mr. Hewitt shook my hand and cautioned me not to speak while he was working. Quickly enough, the man received a cue from somewhere and without so much as a further warning to us, he was back on the air, commenting on the skirmish that had emerged before the break.
John and I stayed in the cramped gondola, me absolutely agog watching the master at work, until the end of that period. Saying our goodbyes and nice-to-meet-yous, we walked the plank again, made it back to terra firma and strode back down to ground level and our choice seats.
I can't begin to tell you the score of the game that night. Can't recall who got goals, or even who the Three Stars were. But sure as shootin' I remember meeting Foster Hewitt and spending time with the broadcast legend in the gondola that night.
It's a memory I'll cherish.
Music has always played such a key role in my life. I was talking with a singer friend recently and she asked me about pivotal songs or albums or musical moments that played a role in developing my music appreciation. Now, didn't that just take me back to some fine moments in time...
First was Henry Atac's class in elementary school. "Skinhead", as we called him behind his back, was a somewhat cautious stickler who would carefully wipe down each side of an LP (that's Long Playing Record for you newbies) with his handkerchief before putting it on the player. He'd then instruct us on what we were to listen for. That is, if we could keep awake: his choices of symphony put most of us into la-la land. But I will never forget one day when he said, "Today I am going to deviate slightly from our normal course of appreciating the work of the masters to hear something different. I do this in honour of composer George Gershwin's birthday. Mr. Gershwin composed music which seemed to blend elements of classical excellence with what is referred to as 'jazz'."
Something within me said, "Sit up and take notice" when I heard that descriptor. And then he added, "We'll now hear 'Rhapsody in Blue'." I was stunned. The usual "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major" was the bland expression we'd come to expect, but clearly, here was something new. "Rhapsody in Blue" – the name alone grabbed me, just as did that lonely, wailing clarinet glissando that gets it all going.
I left that class a changed lad. "The Rhapsody" is played regularly in my home to this day (just ask my kids).
The other moment that arose was hearing an album my father had bought. Dad liked music, always had a great hi-fi and purchased one of the first FM radios in Canada (it got only one channel!). Not sure why he bought this album, but I'm sure glad he did. It was called "The Columbia Album of Cole Porter", Columbia being the record label, and Cole Porter being... well, if you don't know who Cole Porter was, you shouldn't be reading this!
This is a big album: 24 tracks in all, across two discs, released in 1958. Legrand was 26 for heaven's sake he when he arranged these songs. 26! Give me a break!
(Mind you, he's come by his talent honestly, his father being a conductor and composer himself.)
The album kicks off with a symphonic start to "Begin The Beguine", but within seconds, bongos – that's right, bongo drums! – infuse the track. Next, the strings swell up and down, dancing across the senses in ways I'd never heard before. Then an accordion goes solo, assaulting the brain. I was stunned. This shouldn't be working... but it was! Then a trumpet, more strings, the bloody bongos return to keep the beat... it's extraordinary. And we're just on the first track!
Next up, "In The Still of the Night" features a choir! And a single violin. I'm sitting there, listening, astonished. Eventually brushes on a snare drum add a bit of jazz to the piece while the Grappelli-like glow of the violin takes it home. By the time track 3 arrives, perhaps one of Mr. Porter's best known tunes "Just One of Those Things", we're hearing swirling violins suddenly taken over by a full-up orchestra, then replaced by that damn accordion again, this time with the traps keeping the jazz motif around. A marvelous bass trombone solo (shares of what Nelson Riddle would go on to dine out on) arrives, and then...
"What Is This Thing Called Love" is raced up as a latin-influnenced jazz trio track, piano, drum and bass (Michel himself at the keyboard, perhaps?). You get the feeling the other 50 guys in the big orchestra are just standing by, ready to jump in, but the Maestro holds them back, keeping their powder dry for new adventures to come.
The "True Love" oboe beginning is ethereal. By the time the strings arrive, it's exquisite.
"Ridin High" is insane: it's a cacophony of bells being struck by mallets that should not have come anywhere close to working, but it does! (reminding me of the album Legrand would produce so many years later, "Twenty Songs of the Century" in which he actually mixed an intercut multi-times-sped-up bit of music echoing of phrases going back and forth in a manner that is absolutely stunning!).
"Too Darn Hot" gets underway with that bass trombone again. But suddenly the beat goes on, tout le gang taking over the whole moment. That is until an Oriental lilt comes in part way through. Encroyable!
"I Get A Kick Out Of You" starts with a pizzicato string ensemble that's interrupted by a Gershwin-like traffic arrangement.
Perhaps in tribute to Milt Berhart's legendary trombone solo on the Sinatra/Riddle 1956 version of Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin", M. Legrand allows his version of the tune to be played by the orchestra's trombonist. Ad what a wonderful job he does, complete with subtle alto sax riffs in the background.
All the while I'm thinking, "Who is this guy!!??"
Well, you get the idea.
I must tell you, each and every one of the 24 songs on this incredible session is unique, different, marching to its own beat. I had never heard anything like it. Still haven't. Legrand was quite apparently a genius in orchestrating these versions of Cole Porter's most famous songs. In solo parts he stretches almost every instrument to their top performance!
Guess you get the feeling I could go on about this. Yup, sure could. But I'll stop before I bore you (too late?). The point is, hearing this album in my tender youth awakened me to the wonders of what a gifted arranger could do. And what an arranger Michel Legrand was, complete with Oscars, Grammys and every kind of award for composing and arranging and playing you could imagine.
And that, mes amis, was yet another pivotal time in my musical awakening.
Some friends mentioned a magazine that asks questions of authors and now they want to direct the same queries at me. I'm a pretty private guy, but they're insisting. So OK... here goes. I'll keep this net:
What advice do you wish you'd given your 25-year-old self?
Don't worry about what other people think. Your parents did too much of this, and you know that. Do your own thing... and get on with it.
What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?
That's assuming I get there. Ummm... keep accepting "the new normal" as the way things are and the way it has to be.
What do you know for sure?
That loving and being loved are the most important parts of my life. (They're also the parts that are missing, but that's a whole other story.)
What have you learned?
Sounds like a broken record here (hmmm... does anyone use that expression anymore?) I've learned to accept my new normal as the way life now rolls. Not thrilled about it, mind you, but I've learned to stop fighting it. You can't be happy if you're fighting.
What will you never learn?
How people can abuse others by taking advantage of them. So sad.
Best piece of advice about writing?
Don't let artificial things like writer's block get in the way. Just write: you can always clean it up later.
Did it work?
What inspires you?
People inspire me. Really talented, capable, strong, unique, caring, non-self-serving people. Always.
The moment that changed everything?
When my son Jamie died suddenly on Christmas Eve, 2016. Life will never be the same.
Anything left you'd like to do?
Always wanted to see Italy. Never got there. I regret that. Oh well, can't have it all.
Anything you once had you'd like to re-capture?
Yup: confidence. The disasters in my recent life have robbed me of that. Having confidence is a game changer. But I guess it's easy come, easy go.
My puppies Molly and Macy. They love me. And I love them. We have a great time. (OK, they're not puppies any longer: Molly's 10 and Macy's 9. But they'll always be puppies to me! Is there something pathetic about a grown man whose dogs are his best friends?)
OK, can we stop this now?
If you live in Ontario, as I do, you know there's been much discussion about the government's funding for families dealing with autism. In writing my book "Pushing The Boundaries", I was privileged to meet with two individuals who had the guts to take on this unbearable condition, former Chair of NBC TV Bob Wright, and Anne Larcade. Let's meet Anne....
When I joined her for lunch, this dynamic lady wasted no time sharing her overall approach to life: finding solutions to challenges based on four filters:
a) How you can improve things for your situation?
b) How can you improve them for the long term and for others' benefit?
c) How can you try to change the world?
d) How can you maintain your own good health, mental outlook and attitude?"
Anne is President of Sequel Hotels and Resorts, a lodging consulting company. She cut her teeth in the hospitality industry working at a small summer resort, a family business built on passion and hard work. By day, she did the accounting and marketing; by evening she cooked with the chefs. It was a great training ground. "Oh yes," she adds, "on weekends, I ran the front desk."
She tells me her career has been based on strategy, execution, and measurement. "To be good at that, you need to have a genuine love of people and respect for all team members. And..." she adds, throwing her head back in laughter, "you also need to love a full bodied red wine!"
One of the personal passions in Anne's life is workplace diversity. Not surprisingly, she offers distinct perspectives to change and enhance women’s lives everywhere.
"You know, there are very few women in the 'c' suite in the hotel industry," she says. "So I'm definitely pushing the boundaries by working with men on an equal basis. And I'm pushing that even more, all the time. Being different. Being innovative. That, or you're just one of the pack... which is OK, by the way... it's just not for me. When you are one who pushes the boundaries – when the opportunity arises – you must grab it, not just talk about it."
Anne explains that because men and women think differently and have strengths and weaknesses, they can learn from each other. "Men are direct. Woman like to talk through problems. Men take more risks: women are reticent. There is such great learning we can access from each other."
OK, on to the key area of Anne's life that has nothing to do with business. It's dealing with her very special son Alexandre. Some of her most challenging moments have been times standing in a courtroom, fighting for the severely disabled child she loves dearly.
"It stared with me being a single mom with a big career raising two boys," she tells me. "But then, the unimaginable happened: my 8 year old Alexandre got abducted at school, taken to a boiler room by a pedophile and then handcuffed to a boiler pipe where he was sexually abused. Alex, who is autistic, regressed as a result. Post traumatic stress. I was told my son would never talk or read, but I said, 'No! We'll find a way.' And we did. Now he reads and talks very well. At the same time, Alex suffers from brain damage and a degenerative neurological condition that is causing him to slowly regress.
"In terms of dealing with an autistic child, I've had to push the boundaries to allow my son to live and to prosper," she continues.
After years of caring on her own for Alex (whose neurological disease makes him prone to violent rages), she had finally got him a coveted spot in a group home for special needs children, only to be informed that she would lose it unless she abandoned her 10-year-old son to the permanent care of the Children's Aid Society (CAS).
"By 1999, Alex needed predictability and a structure in order to thrive. But one day, out of the blue, I get a call from a worker who says, 'We're going to have to put your son under CAS care and you're going to have to abandon him or give us custody to allow him to stay in this great place we've found for him that's going well (hundreds of miles away from where Anne was living, by the way). Take it or leave it.'
"Peter, I was shocked!" she says.
First Anne cried. Then she got angry.
And then she said, "No, this is not right! After all, parents were abandoning careers and mortgaging their houses to look after children whose round-the-clock care is exhausting and extraordinarily expensive. With nowhere else to turn, many families were reluctantly surrendering their kids to the CAS to obtain care for them."
In the end, Anne could not bear to go through with it. She signed an affidavit opposing the wardship of her son. "Ms. Larcade," the judge told her, "you're a brave woman, and I wish you luck."
Between 2000-2008, Anne Larcade led a $500-million class action suit against the government. It included families of severely disabled children like Alexandre who had been denied funding and services that their lawyers said they were entitled to. It went all the way to the Supreme Court.
"For years, the government was arbitrary in paying expenses for families with disabled children," Anne told me. "Then, without warning, they abruptly stopped underwriting these agreements, and families without the financial and emotional reserves to care for difficult children landed at the doorsteps of the CAS."
Anne has become a well know advocate and speaker and has appeared on national television and in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world. She's also been named her generation's "Erin Brockovitch". And she's founded a charity, Special Needs Dreamworks: The Alexandre Foundation (specialneedsdreamworks.com).
In the end, changes in policies and procedures occurred as a direct result of her strenuous work.
"I consider this a huge win," Anne says. "Families no longer go through the trauma I experienced. Thousands of parents had lost custody or given up custody of their children and it became a class action suit in order to have placements and get therapy. And we won because regional disparity gaps were closed."
Looking back at this incredible time, she explains there are external influences in our lives that sometimes can be difficult. "I'm struck by the fact that I never felt I had limitations," she says. "You ask about coloring between the lines... well, I don't even see the lines. There are no lines. If you don't like your life, you change it. We have the potential in each of us to endure, to overcome, to change."
Interestingly, this intelligent lady told me, "The older I get, the less I know. If I had to do it all over again, I would do exactly the same thing. Live it, love it, learn from it, teach it. I feel blessed about my experiences and hope to do it in good health for many years to come."
Talk about pushing boundaries: Anne Larcade just blows 'em out of the way!
It's a double-page colour ad. The photo is captivating: a young lady swimming under water and smiling as a large shark passes by underneath. The headline: "I used to be scared but then I learned the facts". It's attributed to "Nina Dobrev, Actress and Ocean Advocate".
Sorry folks, I'm afraid I don't know who Nina Dobrev is. My friend Google tells me she's a Bulgarian-Canadian actress, born Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva, who's appeared in a bunch of films and TV shows that have never reached my screen and aren't likely to do so. Still, it's not her thespian career I'm keen about. It's the fact she's joined Oceana to help save sharks that grabs my attention. After all, Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. And in that, I'm interested.
You see, I wrote a book called "Shark Assault: An Amazing Story of Survival" (sharkassault.com), a true story about the life of Nicole Moore, a nurse from Orangeville ON who was attached twice by a bull shark in Cancun Mexico. She came very close to dying as a result. Doing research for a book like this means diving into the facts about sharks and I was very fortunate to have three world-respected tour guides who helped me understand sharks and how they don't like going after people. The attack against Nicole was very rare and occurred for a confluence of reasons I won't get into here.
But let me share three key facts.
1) Sharks are being killed at a rate of over 100 million per year (this stat from no less than National Geographic). They cannot reproduce fast enough to counter this atrocity. Why the slaughter? Mostly illegal ships worldwide attract sharks, pull them on board, hack off their fins and throw the animal back into the water where they suffocate, sinking to a brutal death below. Those fins are used to make shark fin soup, long consumed by the Asian population in a ritualistic manner. (The practice itself dates back to dynasties in China where shark fin soup was regarded as one of a few select delicacies to be served at important functions. Folklore imputes various claims about what the soup may do for you, but at the end of the day, it's really just a way of signaling you have sufficient dough to offer this rare fare at key events.) Check out the film "Shark Water" by the late producer Rob Stewart. It'll bring tears to your eyes (at least it did to mine). The award-winning documentary begins with debunking myths about 'bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters' and goes on to show the exploitation and corruption surrounding illegal poachers catching sharks, hacking off their fins and throwing the animals back into the ocean.
2) My friend Dr. Peter Sale, who is an acknowledged ocean reef expert, tells me that sharks are the "policemen" of the ocean. "They maintain control in our seas. If we lose them, we lose the seas."
3) I had the pleasure of interviewing Claudia Li for my book. Immigrating with her family from Hong Kong to Canada in the 1980s, Claudia was able to grow up appreciating the best of both cultures, Chinese and Canadian.
“Peter, I watched ‘Sharkwater’ alone and then couldn't get over it,” Claudia told me. “It was so profound. It convinced me that I had a mission: to find a way to reach members of my own Asian community and get them to abandon their ritualistic obsession with shark fin soup at important gatherings. You know, people don't even think about it. ‘Hey, you’re getting married, gotta have shark fin soup.’ Just like you have turkey at Christmas... you just do it without asking why. So I can’t really blame people, because it is pretty mindless...”
Claudia set about establishing Shark Truth (www.sharktruth.com) with a goal of changing customs, developing tactics like “Make A Vow To Go Fin Free At Your Wedding”. These programs encouraging the "Fin Free" movement have so far diverted 80,000 bowls of shark fin soup and saved 8,000 sharks.
But her work goes beyond promotions for weddings. “We need to support legislation that protects sharks by stopping the import, sale, possession and trade of shark fins,” she says. “Shark Truth encourages political leaders and activists to engage and consult with all stakeholders involved before introducing legislation.”
Well done Claudia! The world needs more gifted conservationists like you.
BTW, I did ask Claudia if she has ever swum with sharks. "Are you kidding?" she exclaimed, laughing, "I don't even swim. I hate the water!”
"OK then. How about shark fin soup: ever had it?" I inquired. “Of course!” she admitted freely. “Everyone in my culture who attends a wedding or other key event has. In fact, just a few weeks before founding Shark Truth, I innocently sat down to a bowl at a family banquet without even thinking twice about it.” Claudia looks away for a moment, thinking about the incredible last few years of her life. “Of course, that was before I got enlightened.”
You can get enlightened too. Visit oceana.org to learn how you can help protect our oceans.
Sad to learn that Stanley Donen has died at age 94. He was the last surviving notable director of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Stanley's recognized for helming such fine films as "On The Town", "Singin' In The Rain", "Charade" and so many others. But for my money, one of the best Donen outings is 1967's "Two For The Road" (which I touched on recently lamenting the death of Albert Finney).
The film's about a husband and wife who examine their twelve-year relationship while on a road trip to southern France. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as Joanna and Mark Wallace, it was considered somewhat experimental for its time. Why? Simply because the story is told featuring scenes from the latter stages of the couple's relationship intermixed with those from its beginning. This leaves the viewer to interpret what has intervened (horrors!! imagine having to think while watching an engrossing movie). Many sensational European locations are featured to show continuity throughout the twelve-year period.
To me, it is this travelling back and forth between the years that makes the film so engrossing. That, and fine acting from the two stars and a brilliant score by the legendary Henry Mancini (who wrote many notable theme songs for films, yet considered "Two for the Road" his favorite of all).
I actually gave a DVD of the film to my son and future daughter-in-law at the time of their engagement, telling them to learn from the movie how easy it can be to take a beautiful relationship for granted. Because that's what gets lost in all the hoopla about challenging time frames: Joanna and Mark have a relationship that's made in the stars, but they allow complacency to pull it part. The film also avoids a typical Hollywood happy ending, rather leaving it up to the viewer to decide what awaits the couple as they cross the border from France into Italy, representing a move into new grounds and perhaps a more sensible future.
Highly respected for his contribution to the evolution of the Hollywood musical – surely a most deserved recognition – Stanley Donen will remain on my list of top directors due to "Two For The Road".
Nope. And neither does Time Magazine.
The newsmagazine reported that the American Booksellers Association says the number of its member stores has actually been increasing. And you can’t even call this a fluke because it's the seventh straight year it’s happened. The numbers are growing because business is growing. Independent-bookstore sales have jumped by around 5% in recent times. Time goes on to say "The revival of the neighbourhood bookstore has a few different causes. Some are prosaic: new technology makes things like accounting and inventory management easier for small stores. The growth of social media makes it easier to promote events."
As much as I like my Kindle (because I'm usually reading 3 books at a time, it's nice to have this thin little guy in my pocket rather pack a separate suitcase for several hardbacks when I'm on the road), check this out: "After Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007, e-books began a relentless conquest of the book market, from 9% of unit sales in 2010 to 28% in 2013, at which point their eventual dominance began to feel like technological manifest destiny. But the paper book – a piece of information technology that has, after all, been tested and honed over the past 2,000 years – has declined to give way that easily. [In 2015], the share of e-books (at least the non-self-published kind) actually receded to 24%. The books market appears to have rebalanced itself into a complex mix of paper and digital, with neither format completely dominating, and plenty of room for brick-and-mortar retailers."
When I'm doing presentations on "Shark Assault" (sharkassault.com) or "Why Being Happy Maters" (whybeinghappymatters.com) at bookstores, the proprietors tell me a 'growth industry' is amongst the young: kids seem to opting for real books once again rather than e-books.
Frankly, for this author, as long as people are reading (and hopefully reading my books!), whether it's paper or digital, it's all good.
As a guy whose iconoclastic, cynical stance often has me on the outside looking in with popular opinion, I'm pleased to have received numerous messages from folks agreeing with my opinion on "Roma". (If you missed it, I opined that had I not been aware the film was up for countless Oscars, I would have bailed after the first 10 minutes. That opening sequence of water being sprayed on a tiled floor again... and again... and again... and again... left me scratching my head. And then watching some guy who we don’t even know spend an hour and a half trying to park his car - OK, it was likely a few minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime - I was left thinking this movie ain’t for me. Yes, Alfonso Cuarón figures it's his powerful personal story, and how swell of you to share it, Al. And sure, by the end, a plot had developed that was serviceable, but I was not deeply invested in the lives of most of those on camera because the director forbade me to get close. What's he got against close ups, the most powerful tool a director has? There, I’ve said it, and you can start heaping abuse on my philistine ways!)
Several messages praised my ability to stay with the flick when they couldn't ("we abandoned it after 10 minutes for the more exciting task of watching paint dry" was typical). And yes, I'm glad I did hang in, but I'm also happy the Academy did not fall prey to awarding the Best Picture Oscar to this second string effort. Disagreeable enough they gave Señor Cuarón Best Director when, in my opinion, Bradley Cooper should have received that accolade (although, when you realize that Hollywood directors make up much of the voting contingent in the Academy, it's not surprising the fix was in and they would not elect an "actor" to their hallowed shrine; only did that once with Kevin Costner because "Dances With Wolves" was such a fine effort that couldn't be overlooked, and he didn't have a whole bunch of competition that year). Several observers correctly identified the hoopla around Roma as a need to trounce back Trump's bashing of Mexico. But isn't that a sad realization when the Oscars ought to be about recognizing high style and great filmmaking, not redressing political incorrectness.
Oh well, onwards!
Time out for a personal touchstone. My mom turned 99 yesterday. I headed down to Toronto (a couple of hours away) to take her to lunch in the lovely main dining room at The Dunfield, the seniors' residence where she stays, now on the 4th floor with 24/7 care. She'd been on Floor 7 with a big suite on her own, but a few years back she suffered a stroke and became more needy of care. 24/7 care. So we moved her to the 4th. Cheap it ain't, but she's happy and very comfortable and she/we can afford it.
The staff are great, They appeared with dessert and candles, singing Happy Birthday. It brought a smile to her pretty face. The only thing she regretted was having missed her weekly beauty salon treatment: she's had a cold and coughed a lot, so they couldn't take her. This too will pass. What's a coif between friends? Or a cough?
Mom's doing pretty well for 99. Although she told me at lunch, "This is as far as I go. Don't want to celebrate more birthdays." Now, normally I go along with her wishes (hell, should she be right that I have her genes and will get to be that age, I'll demand some deference too!), but I decided to gently challenge this desire. "Mom, having made it all the way to 99, don't you think it's worth hangin' in for one more year until 100? I mean, you'll get telegrams from the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Premier..." I knew, of course, the Queen would get her right off, she being a staunch royalist. "Oh..." she said, likely in regard to Her Majesty, "I suppose I could try. Yes, I guess I could do that." While I remember a time this stalwart individualist would have argued stridently, I was pleased she caved.
Time will tell.
Hi there. I've written 5 books so far and am working on others. Feel free to comment