Stoking the star-making machinery.

With apologies to Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris” song about shilling for one’s art. It’s similar to promoting a new book. And I’m stoking that machinery myself with launch parties, book signings, media appearances, and social media postings.

This is all part of publishing a book these days. If you’re not John Grisham, then you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, regardless if the book is published by an established publisher or by yourself. Please don’t view this as a complaint, it isn’t. There is nothing like going out and meeting your potential audience face-to-face. It’s also not for the faint of heart. You’re out there, exposed. Your work is out there for all to see. What is this all about?

Norman Mailer once wrote and I paraphrase: A writer must have an enormous ego to believe anyone would want to read what he has to say.”

So, yes, it is about ego.

He also said the following: “Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” and When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.”

And about pain. And hopefully, acceptance. What do you think?

Now what?

That’s the question every author faces when his/her book is released upon the world. The endless hours of writing, rewriting, editing, and then editing some more are now over. What’s next?

If you’re someone like James Patterson who seems to write a new book before breakfast each day, that’s an easy question. If you’re like the rest of us, now comes the hard work – marketing your book, getting it into stores, getting media attention, and ultimately sales. None of this will make us rich though complaints on that would be far and few. That’s not what we’re in it for.

So, we do all of that. But then, if we’re lucky, a new idea bubbles up through the dark tar pit of our minds. And we’re off again, unless… it’s not a good idea. We start to write only to discover it fizzles out after a few chapters. There are very few writers who don’t have a plethora of book ideas that went nowhere. Maybe you think you’re devoid of new ideas, a possibility for sure, but not terminal. Ideas are like trains, there’s always another coming around the bend. It may not be on your time schedule, but you’re not driving that train…yet. Just be ready to board it when it does come.

The folly of red.

In what life does one admit to their own weaknesses in public? This one, I suppose.

I have an addiction to… red. Not in clothing, thankfully, but in things that matter more. My first girlfriend, if you can imagine a third grader capable of conducting such a relationship, was the red-haired Patty who sat next to me in homeroom. It was a foretelling of my future. As third grade “romances” go, it probably lasted all of a month. I realize in retrospect, the hook had been set and I was hopelessly attracted to “red.”

On purchasing my first car, it was a toss-up between a snortingly powerful, red Chevy Impala convertible and a small, red, come-hither MGA, it too a convertible. Either one would have been the perfect accomplice to my adolescent dreams of attracting someone of the opposite sex, preferably a red head, to me. I opted for the MGA.

Low slung, wire wheels, and a white canvas top, it was beautiful and vengeful. It rewarded me with a repair bill if taken anywhere further than the nearest gas station. After one particularly long trip to Boston and back, it stayed true to its mission and blew its engine. At least this relationship lasted longer than the one with Patty.

My next “red” relationship was with a Toyota sedan. Purchasing it under the assumption that since it was a Toyota, it was therefore indestructible. It was until one very wet and snowy day, it decided to, in front of my house, self-immolate due to a wet wiring harness. Was this confirmation that redheads are indeed fiery? It may be an inarguable point. However, it did last longer than Patty and my late-lamented MGA. But, I was missing the signs.

This particular curse is spoken about in the 1980 film, “Used Cars” starring Kurt Russell. Red cars are to be avoided at all costs as described in this piece of dialogue, “Rudy, what the hell is this? Rudy, this is a red car. Holy shit! A red chariot to take my ass straight to hell!” Stay away from red cars at all costs. It summed up what I had already discovered.

And yet, that wasn’t warning enough to prevent me from purchasing a lovely maroon red Saab. There wasn’t really anything wrong with that car except it had a penchant for magnetically attracting other vehicles. The first was when a honking big SUV backed into it (details are classified to protect the guilty); the second, and ultimately fatal to the car, was when an elderly person decided to displace my car on the road in favor of his, consequently totaling it. Maybe I should have known better.

But still, it’s a hard addiction to kick.

Have I owned any red cars since then? Hell, no. But I did marry a red head. And many things attributed to gingers are true. And I wouldn’t trade this model in for anything.

What is a friend?

It’s a word bandied about rather loosely without the true meaning attached to it. We receive “Friend” requests on Facebook, yet a “friend” on that site connotes something more than it actually is. Used that way, the word is becoming meaningless

The Oxford Language definition of friend is this: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Do we really have that bond with our social media friends? Ehhh, I don’t think so. Nor can we. We are too far removed because of social media to have a genuine connection.

While it’s true many us have lots of “friends”, how many of those could we rely on should the need arise? Do we need that many friends? And how many of them really share our values, ideologies, positions, even our taste in ice cream? How important is that? You decide.

We are too quick to make new “friends” that we miss the value in the real ones who don’t need or maybe even want to know where we had dinner last night. Or why they weren’t there with us. A true friend respects our needs and asks nothing more than the same from us.

Finally, are we true friends to others? Hopefully, yes. Otherwise, we’re just acquaintances.

He was fearful… and he was a coward.

Jacob Will was both, not the best combination for someone looking to destroy his former self in order to live a new and better life. Could he do it? Could he take that plunge (not a knife, but just as deadly in its own way) and come out on the other side?

Shakespeare may have put in best, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

#acowardsguidetoliving

Icarus and Hubris

That’s not the name of a pop group or a group of lawyers. It’s a mythology and an attitude. And in this case, they’re one and the same.

Hubris: excessive pride or self-confidence.

Icarus: In Greek mythology, Icarus is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth. Daedalus had been imprisoned by King Minos of Crete within the walls of his own invention, the very same Labyrinth. But the great craftsman’s genius would not suffer captivity and he devised a way of to get free.

Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father, Daedalus, constructed from feathers and wax. But Icarus, dared to fly too near the sun on wings of feathers and wax.  Naturally, the wax melted, the feathers came loose and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea. This perhaps was the first example of hubris – an over-weening pride in one’s own ability.

One can see it applied many ways. Certainly in sports. Back it up as Babe Ruth did when pointing to the outfield, he unloaded a home run to that very location. That wasn’t hubris. That was ability.

Today we see it in numerous forms, politics for certain, and most recently manifested in the Dunning-Kruger effect, a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. There’s no apparent ability displayed.

And like Icarus, their wax will melt and the inevitable plunge will occur. The question remains – when?  #bmeisterman.com

Schlock and awe!

Disclaimer: This is an updated post from a previous blog, The Two Bruces (of which I was one, the other being… Bruce. Really.) Courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

If you read the Sunday papers like I do, then you know the primary reason for that edition is to sell you garbage you don’t need. Get over it, there is no news on a Sunday. They print that sucker days in advance. The only thing remotely news worthy are the sports scores so you can see how much you now owe your bookie. And now the Internet has ’em, so screw Gannett.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s just to sell you stuff. Do you think all this “new” technology is making your life better? OK, altogether now, a big, emphatic NO! Of course not. It’s what keeps whatever is left of our economy moving until we can find another war. The sad part of it all is this stuff is made in China…as if we didn’t have enough issues with trade. Speaking of China… nah, that’s not fair right now, but…

Before long we’ll all be flying the flag of the United States of Walmart. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I have found a way to deal with this.

I’ve done some research and found that the new technology really isn’t any better than the old. Blu-Ray? Yeah, right – I gotcha Blu-Ray right here! That sucker’s nothing more than a DVD player with a tuning knob. And we fell for it. Not any damn longer! No! It’s just new paint on an old building. The old stuff was good and it worked, mostly.

I am proud to announce the Grand Opening of the new F’ed Up Freddie’s Antique Tech Emporium, or just Freddie’s for those with small. impressionable children. The premise is simple and based upon the notion that “They just don’t build ‘em like they used to.” And they’re right. They don’t. But, did you ever wonder what happened to all those new, unopened, still boxed, never used DVD players after the Blu-Ray player came out? I do. Through shrewd investments and an off-shore account (Staten Island!), I’ve been buying up all this “new” merchandise and now ready to pass on these incredible savings to you. It may not now be the newest technology, but hey, it works and it is new, so to speak.

Think about it. You’re not that old when you don’t want to hear some of those old scratchy 78RPM records you inherited when your great grandfather died. But the phonograph is dead. Not any more! Come on down to my Highway 36754N. warehouse in Newark and see the wide selection of RCA Victrolas. We got ‘em!

Portable radios and TV’s? All makes, all colors and all styles in stock now for immediate delivery! We know there are plenty of women out there just pining for a new 8 track player to play their tapes of “Neil Diamond Gold” again. Wait no more – we got home and car players ready for you.

And it doesn’t stop there. Relive the sixties (not your age) with a transistor radio. How about a stereo with a record changer? Yeah, those were cool, especially when you stacked the records with “Bolero” strategically placed for the big make-out scene you had planned. Good times, good times.

But while we’re all getting older, it doesn’t mean we have to grow up. We can hold on to those symbols of our youth, our innocence, our disposable cash.

Freddie’s stock is complete with Walkman’s, phonographs, laser disc players, Betamax players, VHS players, reel-to-reel tape decks (for snobby afficianadoes), Discmans, slide projectors, AM radios, B+W TV’s, digital audio tape decks, 8mm film projectors, radar ranges, box cameras, CD players, flip phones, and so much more it’ll give you a headache. But our prices won’t! All of this merchandise is new!

And buying from Freddie’s helps the economy. All of this stuff had been written off already, years ago. No tax deductions from retailers, just pure, sweet American profit. Let’s get this country moving again with F’ed Freddy!

Remember F’ed Up Freddie’s slogan, “It ain’t the latest, but it was the greatest!”

This message has not been approved by the Chamber of Commerce nor the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Does that surprise you?

 

It’s illegal, dangerous, and it still goes on.

Poaching eggs is one thing but poaching on the sea has been a long time problem in Newfoundland. There are air and sea patrols to monitor, prevent, and eventually arrest the violators. It is not something taken lightly. But and not surprisingly it is a global issue. Wherever money, however small, can be made, theft is sure to be right behind it. And as often as not, too many thieves get away with it at the cost of those trying to eke out a living.

This is an article from the May 15, 2014 New York Times about poaching off the coast of Spain.

 

Trading Danger for Delicacy

On Spain’s Galician coast, generations of licensed divers scrape gooseneck barnacles in roiling surf to serve eager gourmands who pay up to 100 euros a kilo for the cherished crustaceans. Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

 

A CORUÑA, Spain — Roberto Mahia, 44, was leaning against his car waiting for the sun to rise before pulling on the frayed wet suit at his feet when two vehicles pulled up not far away.

“Those are poachers,” Mr. Mahia declared, staring hard in the direction of their headlights. “We know those cars.”

On this morning, however, there would be no confrontation. The poachers soon moved on, apparently unwilling to tangle with Mr. Mahia and the other men gathered here who were trained and licensed to scramble among the crashing waves of the rocky Galician coastline in the country’s northwest corner, prying loose and collecting a rare prize for epicures — gooseneck barnacles.

The work has always been dangerous. All the men waiting for daybreak had scars to show. Avelino Mosteiro, 54, once got 36 stitches in his thigh. On another occasion, he got 18 stitches under his arm. But the work also used to be highly paid before the economic crisis, when restaurants clamored for the rare crustaceans.

These days, however, the men and women who do this for a living say it is hard to make ends meet. Certainly, there are fewer Europeans able to afford expensive treats of any kind.

But worse, there are the poachers, many of them out-of-work citizens, trying to make money any way they can. Their scavenging brings prices down further and depletes the area of barnacles, forcing the licensed collectors to work in more remote and difficult areas, often for a poorer haul.

“Fifteen days ago, we were on those rocks,” Mr. Mahia said, pointing out a jagged outcropping in the distance. “Two of us were legal collectors, and 11 were poachers.”

In the heady days before Spain’s economic crisis, barnacle collectors, many who learned the art of dodging waves from their parents, could earn more than $800 in a few hours. But on a recent morning the men here had collected only four or five pounds of barnacles each, most of them small and of less than ideal quality. Perhaps, they said, they could get $135 for them, maybe less.

In the past, the men said, they would not even have tried to go out on a day with such choppy seas. But lately, they could not afford to let any opportunity go by.

The barnacles, known as percebes in Spanish, can be collected only under certain conditions, including the point in the lunar cycle when tides are lowest.

Along the coast here, some restaurants offer barnacles for as much as $80 a serving. In Madrid, the price can be much higher. Cooking them is simple. They are generally boiled for just a few minutes. Aficionados compare them to oysters, not for their texture, which is chewier, but for their subtle sea taste.

Spanish officials agree that the unemployment rate has prompted more and more untrained people to take their chances in the rocky inlets here, occasionally paying with their lives.

“If from time to time you hear about someone dying doing this, it is almost always a poacher,” said Rosa Quintana Carballo, Galicia’s regional minister of the rural environment and the sea.

On Spain’s Galician Coast, the Hard Life of Barnacle Hunting

Lala Gonzalez, left, and her sister, Susana Gonzalez, collecting barnacles on the coast of Baiona, in the northern Spain region of Galicia. Considered a luxury seafood item, the barnacles, known as percebes, provide a livelihood for many families.  Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

In some areas, as in Baiona, a village farther down the coast, the licensed collectors have grown so frustrated that they are paying private security guards to patrol the area on land and on sea. The government splits the bill with them.

One morning, one of Baiona’s guards, Darío Freire, guided his S.U.V. up a hill so he could use binoculars to scan the coastline. He said confronting poachers was a dangerous business.

“I have been punched, threatened with a stick,” Mr. Freire said. “They have thrown things at the car and smashed the windows. It isn’t easy.”

Mostly, he said, he just alerts the police, who give the poachers summonses. But like José Do Val, 62, who readily admitted that he had been collecting barnacles that morning, most of the poachers are far too broke to pay the fines, so they are not a deterrent.

Mr. Do Val, who said he was once an executive in a food distribution company and dined regularly on barnacles, estimates that he has collected more than $135,000 in fines for poaching. “I’m not really sure how much it was,” he said. “It’s not something that really interests me.”

Galicia has struggled in the last few years with an unemployment rate of about 27 percent, one of the highest in the country. It once had a thriving shipping industry. But that is in shambles now, and there are few jobs that pay much for anyone. Police units assigned to stop the barnacle poachers are stretched thin and have perhaps more pressing business, keeping an eye on those who dig for clams in polluted areas, for instance, and then bleach them to make them look right.

“After what I have seen, I am finished with eating clams,” said Juan Da Rocha, who heads a regional police unit that concentrates on illegal fishing.

In Baiona, many of the barnacle collectors are women. Susana González works with her three sisters, who like her went to school for other professions, but ended up in wet suits instead. Though collecting barnacles is difficult, most of the people in this business find being up at dawn in the sea, without a boss, an attractive way of life. “You are free,” Mrs. González said. “I like that.”

After a successful morning collecting, the women gathered at the local auction house hoping that all the talk of economic recovery coming out of Madrid would mean higher prices. But that was not the case. Even the biggest barnacles sold for about $40 a pound, less than half the opening price.

“We really thought we would do better,” Mrs. González said with a sigh.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but…

This is from an article on the Discovery Channel’s website. It underscores what is a still growing problem in over-fishing already decimated fish stocks.

Tasty Fish Grow Smaller in Warming Ocean by Tim Wall

Fish sandwiches may be skimpier in the future as the planet’s oceans continue to warm.

Biologists measured progressively smaller average lengths of edible fish in the northern Atlantic Ocean between 1970 and 2008. Six economically-important fish species — haddock, herring, Norway pout and plaice — declined in length by an average of 23 percent.

The fish lived in different environments from bottom-dwelling plaice to surface-skimming herring. The range of habitats suggested that some common factor was altering the entire ocean community in the North Sea, a section of the Atlantic rimmed by Scandinavia, Great Britain and Germany.

ANALYSIS: Climate Change Could Shrink Animals

During those same 38 years, the average seafloor water temperature increased by 0.2–0.6 degrees Celsius per decade, for a total of one to two degrees C, in the North Sea. Besides the increasing water temperature, no other factor, such as commercial fishing, affected the fish universally, noted the authors of the study published in Global Change Biology. The biologists concluded that climate change may be shrinking economically important fish species.

“We would anticipate that synchronous reductions in length across species could be occurring in other regional seas experiencing a strong degree of warming,” study leader Alan Baudron of the University of Aberdeen, told the Guardian.

However, not every fish measured by the study declined. Sole and cod both approximately maintained their sizes. Haddock and whiting, on the other hand, decreased in length by approximately 29 percent in parts of their ranges.

ANALYSIS: Animals, Plants Shrinking as Climate Warms

North Sea fisherman’s commercial success may decrease along with the shrinking fish. The weights of individual fish caught declined by between three and 48 percent between 1978 and 1993, noted the biologists. Plaice and haddock suffered most serious declines in weight.

As the ocean warms, less oxygen dissolves into the water. Fish depend on that dissolved oxygen to breathe. Smaller fish in the North Atlantic may survive better in oxygen poor waters, wrote the study’s authors, since the animals need to intake less of the dissolved gas.

No shortage of…

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d be writing about some declining resources around us. Certain things will be harder to obtain and will now always be in short supply. But at this point I would rather focus on some other resources beyond the obvious.

As we wend our way through the obstacle course known as the holidays, it’s all too common to reflect back on the year just past. Were there heartbreaks? Of course. Were there joys? Oh, yes. And everything in between. Like in any other year past, there was no shortage of any of those in 2012. That is what some would call the texture of our lives. That’s accurate enough, but I think minimizes their import. The resources I’m thinking about right now come from what is I believe an inexhaustible source: the human spirit. With that in mind, here, in no particular order of importance, is what I hope for all of you – an unlimited amount of:

Laughter – may you laugh long and heartily every day; sunny days/rainy days – both are good for the soul; smiles – they cost nothing but are so powerful; hugs – for others and most importantly, you; kindness – no explanation needed other than don’t forget it; kisses – all types – give freely!; a warm hand on someone’s shoulder when they need it; understanding – it needn’t cost as much as we seem to “charge” for it; gentleness – this is where real strength resides; serenity; peace – both internally and externally; truth; and so on and so on.

Lest you think I left out the most important wish for you, no, I haven’t. I saved it ’til last; LOVE. From this, all the others will come. Be open, be tender, be gentle. Have a wonderful new year!

Bruce