Monthly Archives: May 2009

Celebrity hating: some quick do’s and don’ts.

After Friday’s post about Miss California and the whole gay marriage thing, someone sent me my first piece of real blog hate mail.

Now, working in radio and TV, you grow used to receiving horrible letters. So much so that you can start to lose faith in the goodness of your fellow man, it’s that ghastly.

In fact, I believe I still hold the record for the number of death threats received by any personality on American public radio, following an inappropriately upbeat report I did from Dublin some years ago about an ancient abandoned Irish jail.

For some reason, many irate listeners in the Irish community in Boston, Mass., thought my suggestions for brightening the place up with flower-beds and wallpaper insulted their history, and felt that the only reasonable response to such comments was to give me a good knee-capping, then leave me to bleed to death. Which is fair enough. As we know, and as history shows time and again, especially Irish history, violence solves everything.

Plus, of course, while my TV show was on the air, the network’s message-boards were filled with hateful comments. Luckily, these were countered by copious praise from viewers bright enough to understand the series, who not only loved it but engaged in a running ground battle with the haters, in the hope that the executives at the network were also bright enough to ignore the negative tirades of the minority and keep the show alive. Alas, as we know, the haters won. 

Plus, my books always receive their fair share of detractors.  If you look on Amazon right now, some creep from an obscure magazine I’ve never even heard of, called Booklist, has written a truly unjustified and quite mean-spirited editorial appraisal of my latest, Naked in Dangerous Places.

Only, here’s the thing. You can tell – or at least I as the author can – that it’s based on nothing. He’s barely read beyond the first chapter.

Quite bizarrely, the review appears to be a critique, not of the book  per se, but of my radio style, which he despises. Powerless, however, to get me taken off the air, he’s instead turned his ire on my literary work, hoping that this will teach me a lesson or two, and possibly curb sales. And hey, maybe it will, who knows? Why doesn’t he just go the whole way and suggest a sound knee-capping for my efforts? That would be just as rational.

As it is, every review of the book from people who’ve actually read it has been resoundingly positive, drowning out the reviewer’s voice of hate. 

Which brings me back to Friday and the  comment I received about the gay marriage piece. It came from a guy called Clint. Here’s what he wrote. It’s not pleasant.

“Ok go shoot yourself in the fucking head. That shit was way to long. You need to take yourself to church become a priest and touch little children you fuckin homo. Another thing whats up with the artsy gay ass abstract modern art pic of yourself at the top. I would wipe my ass with that pic and actually talk about gay from an angle that interests people cause your opinion is not doing it.”

Wow! In one short paragraph, and without meaning to, he managed to illustrate the very point I was making in ways I never could. As it happens, the piece probably was too long. And I honestly can’t justify or excuse my artsy gay ass abstract modern art pic. So maybe he’s right about that too. But the abuse about becoming a priest and touching little children? My God, that’s indefensible. Like something my own father might say.  Please, though, not a complete stranger.

Anyway, I have a way of dealing with this, which I’d like to pass on to you.

Long ago, I used to work for the British government. Every day for several hours I sat on a public desk, dealing with complaints from angry strangers with an axe to grind, who wanted someone’s head to grind it on. And I was that guy. The guy they ground their axes on. It was quite a horrendous time, but very character-building, and it taught me two important lessons about how to deal with angry, hate-filled people.

Lesson 1) When  they shout, don’t shout back. Rather, speak quietly.  They will soon realize they’re shouting and begin talking quietly too.

Lesson 2) Stay calm and agree with them. Agree there’s been an injustice. Agree they have a valid point. Agree that you may have made a mistake, and will do everything to correct it.

Follow these two lessons, and all anger magically dissipates, like angel dust in the opening sequence of Xanadu. The result is usually miraculous.

Most people just feel they’re not being heard, that’s all. That their opinion doesn’t matter, that they don’t have a voice. So listen to them, behave like they matter and that you’re interested, and most times they will immediately calm down.

That’s my trick.

Nowadays, based on that experience, when I receive genuine hate mail from people, I do the opposite of what’s expected. I don’t argue or take offense, I write back agreeing with them. More than that, I discuss their issues in a calm, rational way, hoping to learn something from their points, then make my point in return. Simple. And almost without fail I end up with a positive, harmonious result.

Which is what happened with Clint. 

I have no idea how old Clint is; he could be 15, he could be 85. But he’s angry and wants to be heard. So my reply to his hateful comment was placatory, kind, open, and non-aggressive.

Result: within a couple of hours, here’s what he wrote back:

“Wait who are you and what are you talking about and yes I mess with people. Its nothing to be taken seriously….why do you blog if you dont expect to catch some shit from people. Be truely astonished omg. Get a clue and if you can in any way learn from this experience take it to the head and realize thats life and how it truely works.”

Still aggressive, right? Barely comprehensible, actually. Written English is not Clint’s strong point. The gist seems to be, though – if you’d allow me to translate – that he’s tough and likes to screw with strangers, and if I’m going to post an opinion on the web, well, I should expect to be attacked for it by angry people like Clint.

Disagreeing somewhat with this premise, I wrote back.

“You have every right to say what you think about a blog or anything else. You happen to be on the money about it being too long. You may even be right about my gay-assed picture. But imagine how much more seriously your views would be taken if you aired them with respect and kindness, rather than abuse. It’s so easy to tear something down – it takes almost no effort at all. Making constructive comments is harder. But it gets you a lot more respect.  

“Next time you feel the urge to write an abusive comment, imagine that the person you’re writing to, instead of being a stranger, is your best friend. Someone you value and wouldn’t want to lose. I guarantee your approach will mellow.”

That was my two-penneth. Very fair, very balanced. But in the real meaning of the words, not the Fox News  “saying that, but doing something else” way.

And lo and behold, guess what happened! Almost immediately, Clint, having made a human connection now, and feeling appreciated and understood, wrote back, this time with an entirely different approach.

“Yeah you are right….I owe you an apology. Maybe your opinion do matter to some just not to me at the present moment. That is the way I am though I am rude crude and I wreck stuff. You can think I am an ass thats ok it doesnt bug me one bit. Im sure some one will eventually bag on my blog and I will simpally call it karma. Anyways happy trails and may God be with you.”

Obviously, his use of English isn’t any better when he’s calm, but his approach is entirely positive and kind, even, dare I say, loving in tone.

From hate to love in three moves. Not bad, eh?

And it works almost all the time.

I honestly recommend you all try this. From now on, try dealing with anger in a reasonable, quiet, calm way instead of rising to it and becoming angry too, and see what happens. Well, actually, you can already see what happens. Magic happens. Like the opening sequence of Xanadu.

Now, I have to stop. Once again, this is way too long.  Also, I have to see if I can change that  artsy gay ass modern art pic of mine before Clint sees it and writes to me again. I can only take so much.

TV Swami – he say YES to love, kindness, understanding, and being nice to people.

www.cashpeters.com

 

 

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“Damned homos! Why can’t they be miserable like the rest of us?”

Over the many years I’ve been staking out American television, and one corner of it especially – the lame hodgepodge of scares,  misinformation, and manipulation referred to as “the nightly news” – there’s a part of their coverage that’s given me cause to laugh like no other: same-sex marriage. 

And not for the reason you might think.

Nothing seems to get your average American all riled up, or to fuel divides, or create animosity and tension like the hot potato topic of gay marriage. Or gay anything,  for that matter, but mostly the marriage part. And TV producers know that.

Look at Miss California and what happened there. Having disgraced herself on the Miss USA Pageant by standing up and declaring openly that she’s a devout Christian and therefore, almost by definition, homophobic, supporting discrimination, division, hate and unkindness, a move that cost her the title, she’s evidently so dumb that she took away nothing at all from the brouhaha that followed, and is now out there making news again, by actively campaigning against gay marriage, because: “it’s what God wants, I know it in my heart.”

Oh yeah, really?

Within days, guess who called Miss California to lend her support? Another devout Christian – Sarah Palin. Of course. 

In truth, I’ve yet to meet an average American that cares if I’m gay or not. Indeed, outside of my bizarrely angry family members back home in England, I’ve yet to meet an average anyone at all in the entire world who has met me and cares if I’m gay or not. That’s just the way the world is: in my experience people have more pressing matters on their mind.

The ones who really do care, though, and care very, very deeply are fear-filled right-wing religious groups. Which is another oddity.

The more faith someone says they have in God, the more afraid they seem to be about life, I’ve noticed. When actually the reverse should be true.  And right now what religious people are really afraid of more than anything is those ghastly gays getting married.  

Afraid for the welfare and safety of children – because all gay people are sexual predators, of course. That’s not even up for debate. They just are.  

Afraid that gay marriage is a threat to the stability of all straight marriages – and one thing we know for sure is that straight marriages are incredibly stable. Otherwise there’d be separations and divorces, and there aren’t.

Afraid that gay marriage breaks God’s law. God loves families and intends marriage to be between a man and woman for the purposes of procreating children.  A valid point and one I must concede. Nothing else makes sense. And the kids born out of wedlock, or who hail from broken homes; the kids and wives that find themselves routinely abused by violent heterosexual dads; the dads who take a shotgun and kill their kids, their wife, and then themselves – well, how did they get into that mess? That’s not God’s doing. They must have turned their back on him and listened to the Devil instead. That’s what they did.    

Afraid that God will be offended. After all, he did NOT make Adam and Steve. Got that yet? God focuses on making only certain kinds of people, the ones he likes and approves of, much the same way Santa might choose to turn out only red toy trains one year, then Barbies the next. Lucifer takes care of everybody else. 

Afraid that, if you allow a man to marry a man, it won’t be long before  a man will be marrying his dog.  Again, very valid and I agree. Because in the part of the ceremony where  the dog has to give its legal consent to marriage and say “I do”, and later when the dog comes to sign the papers, and…oh hang on. I may have spotted a flaw in that one.

Bottom line: it’s all thoroughly laughable.

In the week that yet another domino fell, when Maine did the right thing by putting centuries of hate and fear behind it and making gay marriage legal – how many states is that now? I forget – the Rachel Maddow Show last night showed a clip from the 700 Club, Christian TV’s daily infusion of shameless moralizing bullshit dressed up as intelligent comment – in which a very straight, very frightened-looking, very offended – oh boy, was she offended! – woman urged President Barack Obama also to do the right thing and celebrate the National Day of Prayer at the White House by allowing Christian groups to hold a big party there, the way her hero George W. Bush did for the past eight years.

Luckily Obama didn’t agree with her. Instead, he honored the day in his own special way: he turned his back on the 700 Club  and got on with solving the country’s problems, which is what the rest of us non-fanatics and non-creepy, non-obsessed people would prefer him to do.  

Juxtaposed with this item was an interview with a soldier from the US military who’d just received his marching orders: a letter booting him out of the army under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, for announcing on TV a few months ago that he was gay. Not just on TV, though, he announced it on the Rachel Maddow Show. Making the host not only the reporter of the problem, but the actual cause of it. That doesn’t happen very often.

But Maddow, who’s a lesbian herself, excels at highlighting the nonsensical nature of sexual discrimination, and I love her for that. She leaves you feeling even more astonished than before at how ludicrous all of this is, how laughable.

That a guy who’s a brilliant soldier – more than that, he’s a precious gem: fluent in Arabic and willing to risk his life for his country in Iraq – is discharged simply because he prefers men to women.

That two people who love and care for each other can’t have that love validated by marriage like their heterosexual counterparts.

But most of all that we pay even a millisecond’s attention to the 700 Club and all those other religious nuts who would infuse our minds with the same muddle-headed Biblical claptrap that keeps them chained to lives of quiet, fear-filled despair – well, it’s beyond laughable, it borders on insane.

No wonder young people are shunning religion by the tens of millions. They’re suddenly realizing something the rest of us have known for a while: it’s all made up. Spirituality is real, but religion is an entirely human construct aimed at keeping the masses duped and in check, in order to rake in huge amounts of money for church leaders. That’s it. It’s very uncomplicated.

As it is – back to the topic – I have my own, less contentious theory of why right-wing straight people don’t want gays spoiling everything by getting married.

It’s because they’re jealous.

They’re secretly very jealous of our lifestyle, our taste in home furnishings, our open-mindedness, our ability to relate to men and women equally without barriers, our ability to whip up a musical in minutes, but most of all they’re jealous of the loose gypsy nature of gay sex and its preferences, and only wish they had it so good.  “They have all that, and now they want equal rights as well? Oh my gosh, then their lives would be perfect. And we can’t have that!” Irrational, of course, but that’s what it’s about. And why it’s such a huge topic.

And yet it’s not. It’s not huge at all. It’s the obsession of a blinkered, narrow-minded few, and we shouldn’t forget that. Enough people to make politicians think twice before committing positively to the issue, but still a few.

In fact, it’s my theory that most rational Americans, if you were to ask them, are privately on our side. Maybe for the wrong reason, but they are. Because what they really want to say is,  “Yeah, sure,  bring it on. Get married, you homos. Go for it. It’s about time you suffered like the rest of us.” 

Now, that’s an argument I can relate to!

 

TV Swami – he say NO to religious fervor, mindless prejudice, and hate. Natch.

www.cashpeters.com

While you’re here, why not watch the video for Cash’s new book, Naked in Dangerous Places?

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There’s something weird happening on the Moon.

Yesterday was the beginning of the End Times for the book industry.

I said it would come. In fact, I’ve been promising a revolution for years, I just didn’t know how soon or what form it would take when it got here. Only that the book industry as it’s been for the past few decades had to die a grisly, horrible, humiliating death and that this would begin the moment something better came along to replace it.

Well, yesterday that something came along. It’s called the Kindle DX.

Basically, it’s an ordinary Amazon Kindle, the flat-screen, glareless reading tablet that made its debut, I believe, in 2001. Not the year, the movie. And which lets you read books, magazines, flight-paths, and articles about mysterious happenings on the Moon all in one handy gadget. Only now they’ve DX’d it! And when you DX something, you make it bigger and slicker and suitable for reading newspapers, PDF files, and text books too.

Also, if you’re too lazy to read the stuff you’ve downloaded, the Kindle DX becomes all masterful and starts reading it to you in a spooky robot voice, like the one on the GPS in my car. Or Hal in 2001.

Another thing I predicted – I’m always predicting things, then conveniently forgetting the ones that don’t come true  – was that the moment the current younger generation found a gadget that would help them avoid lugging a stack of cumbersome text books around campus in a backpack, then the book industry as we know and despise it would be screwed and collapse like a faulty card table.

Well, bingo! That’s happening right now.  The Kindle DX, and the flood of  similar devices that will follow it, are the book industry’s Kryptonite.

Here’s why.

Bookstores will eventually disappear. They’ll have to. We won’t need them any more. Have you been inside one lately? They’re already like graveyards. I visited my local Borders recently and had trouble finding where the books actually were. Instead, the place seemed to be filled with DVDs – another technology that’s on the way out. So it’s only a matter of time – years, maybe, but not too many – before these stores are no more.

This follows a business model I like to call ‘The Music Industry’.

We used to have a giant Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard here in Hollywood. That’s now gone. Closely followed by the Virgin Megastore. Why did they close? Because we started bypassing their overpriced merchandise by downloading music instead of buying CDs.

And why did we prefer to do that? Because the music industry was exploiting us. It had become smug, inefficient, bloated, and more about business than artistry.

CDs were not only bad value, but they usually contained only one or two good tracks – the ones that became singles – while the rest were mediocre if you were lucky; utter crap if you weren’t.  Then along came Napster, illegal music-sharing, bands giving away whole albums for free, and finally, with iTunes, a new form of democracy where the consumer actually grabbed back control and only bought what he wanted to buy. As a result, we got to download the songs that were any good, while the crap ones got ignored (are you listening, Elton John?), which is how it should be. In consequence, the music “industry” is now bordering on extinction.

Yay!

The same will happen with book publishing. These days it’s become more about business than artistry, and someday soon, trust me, that’s going to cost the boring, scheming weasels in suits who run these ridiculously top-heavy enterprises their very livelihood.

I mean, have you tried to get a book published in the last few years if you’re not already famous or influential in some way, with a built-in audience? It’s beyond difficult, verging on impossible. I hear this all the time from writers.

Gone are the days when a brilliant, well-written manuscript would sell simply because it was good and deserved to be published. Now it’s become a labored committee process. Accountants are involved. Marketing people are involved. Publicity people are involved. Lawyers are involved. And a whole bunch of other faceless nobodies, none of whom could write a book themselves if their life depended on it.

I recall, when I put together my handwriting book Instant Insight a few years ago, I had to fly over from England to New York at my own expense and actually audition for a boardroom full of people in suits before I could even get a commission to write it. It’s nuts.

At our radio station in downtown LA. we have shelves and shelves filled with books. Books that flood in every day. Books that hold no interest for anyone. Tedious, badly-written, total-waste-of-paper books that publishers put out year after year in the hope that someone somewhere will open them – “Please? Somebody? Aw come on, see how glossy the cover is!” – and take a look inside. Books that sit there in our office until there’s no more room for them, then they get jammed in boxes and tossed out. What a waste.

The Kindle DX will do away with all of that nonsense. The new democracy that revolutionized music is heading for the book industry. Decades of apathy, bad judgements, smugness, and fatcattery are about to be washed away by a cleansing tsunami of consumer power. No more bookstores, no more libraries – they’ll become museums, or just continue to be places where the homeless can go to clean up and take a dump – and no more needless hassle for authors.

I told all of this to the publicist at my own publisher the other day, and she almost turned suicidal on me.  Apparently, none of this had ever crossed her mind. “But I’ll be out of a job!” she wailed down the phone.

Yup.

There’ll still be publishers in the future, of course, they won’t go away. But the emphasis will shift. In this new world, they’ll be there to help authors hone their manuscripts ready for direct download to the Kindle, or whatever other device comes along, instead of putting up roadblocks to prevent them getting their work to the public, which is what happens now.

In fact, most authors will publish their work directly themselves as glorified blogs without ever going through a publisher, and the emphasis will shift to marketing. Chapters will routinely be given away for free, books will come with video clips and maybe introductory talks by the author about his work – it’s going to be fantastic and fun and energizing and extremely liberating.

For us at least. Not for people currently working in the book industry.

Hah!

So there you go. We’re in the midst of something huge. To all those frustrated authors out there who can’t get their books in print – I say hang on. Help is on the way.

Speaking for myself, so far I’ve had seven books published. Some were good and still sell even now; some less so, and I wish they weren’t available on Amazon Old and Used.

The new book

The new book

The latest, Naked in Dangerous Places, is one of my very best. My editor and I, and a bunch of others, worked very hard on it for almost two years to make it as good as we could, and I’m extremely proud of it. It is, however, probably the last non-fiction book I’ll entrust to an old-fashioned publisher.

My next one, due out in the summer of 2011, will circumvent all the old ways, all the accountants and lawyers and PR people and faceless nobodies, and use new technology and internet marketing to reach its target audience. I won’t be asking anyone’s permission, I won’t be submitting proposals, there’ll be no committees or debate; it will just happen. Plus, it will be accompanied by a small film I’ll be making, which you’ll be able to download too, to enhance the experience. I mean, come on – how great is that?

I’m sorry? What did you say? What’s the book going to be about? Oh, I can’t possibly tell you. Not yet.

But here’s a clue: there’s something weird happening on the Moon. Astronauts have dug a pit and found a big black tall thing at the bottom of it that talks to monkeys and goes “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” when you touch it.

Go buy a Kindle DX – I’ll tell you more in the summer.

TV Swami – he say YES to democracy.

www.cashpeters.com

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“Screw you!” An exciting new approach to life.

When I started doing this blog thing, I remember promising that I’d write it in odd moments, whenever time allowed. Some days there’d be a post, some days there wouldn’t. It all depended on how I felt. Which is fair enough, right?

But then something weird started happening. On the days I was too busy and didn’t write a post, traffic on this site was as high as when I did, if not higher. I couldn’t believe it. More people wanted to read what I wasn’t saying than what I was.

In other words: a certain amount of effort on my part produced a certain result, but zero effort produced an even better result.

And I guess word got around:

A: “Did you hear, he didn’t write anything today?”

B: “Nooooo. You’re B.S.ing me.”

A: “I swear to God. Go see for yourself. It’s the same post he had up there the other day. He’s written nothing – no-thing – today.”

B: “Hang on – I’ll be right back. This I have to see.”

And the number of hits went through the roof.

Which is both funny and, at the same time, utterly baffling. It basically means that the less work we do, the more we get rewarded.

And that’s when I realized – it came to me in a loud, epiphanous blast like the crack of thunder you get when a casino collapses – that this is a theme of my life. And possibly of everyone else’s too. We’ve been doing this all wrong, and there’s a lesson to be learned.  

In college, for instance, I studied law. Studied the hell out of it, as a matter of fact. Actually, I’d go one step further: I’d say that no student in history has ever studied as much or worked harder to get his degree than I did in those days. Looking back, I think I may even have intimidated the law by studying it so hard. Seven days a week, all hours of the day and night, every free moment, pursuing knowledge with so much vigor and such a punishing zeal that it wanted to run away and hide, and ’til my eyes bled with the effort.

I was a perfectionist. I wanted to be the very best at studying law, and beat my friends, many of whom studied only half as hard as I did, preferring to mop up their free hours with heavy drinking, meaningless sex, and smuggling all my furniture and belongings out of my room onto the lawn the moment my back was turned. Slackers. 

So imagine my shock when, at the end of three laborious years, I emerged from university with only a mediocre degree, while my slacker friends all did unusually well. Way better than I did anyway. They shone. Where my overall marks weren’t that great and my relative understanding of the subject considered disappointing, especially given how hard I’d tried, theirs were top-notch, and every last one of them drifted – again, with almost no  effort – into top-paying legal jobs all over Britain.

Not that I’m bitter about their success or anything, but…grrrr.

Anyway, I learned two things from that particularly grim episode of my life: a) don’t trust your friends, they’ll steal your furniture; and b) hard work doesn’t pay off. 

In other words, slackers rule!

Isn’t that wild?

Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe by your parents and Anthony Robbins, keeping your eye on the ball, being diligent, and committing to a goal 100% – that’s the loser’s way. It virtually guarantees a poor outcome, leading to years of hardship, disappointment, and personal misery. 

I’m a living example. Looking back through my life, the harder I’ve tried to make something perfect, the more man-hours I’ve plowed into it, the more effort I’ve invested in a particular pre-determined outcome or goal, or in making something work out, the less likely it ever was to succeed. 

My TV show was the best example I can come up with right now. Unless, that is, you count my latest travel book.

Conversely, the more laid-back you are about what you’re doing, the more you don’t care about outcomes, the less you chase success, attention, approval, readers, or blog traffic, the more chance there is that you’ll get the very thing you don’t seem to care about.

This phenomenon doesn’t have a name right now, so let’s give it one.  As from today, it will be called The Peters Paradox.  A whole new system of not giving a rat’s ass.

In short, the message seems to be: back off. Work, by all means, but only up to a point. Do what you have to do, then stop. Don’t let it consume you. Fill your life with fun and distractions and enthusiasms and interests and whatever else catches your eye. Don’t make your job the be-all and end-all. And to hell with perfection. Getting it done is more important than getting it right. Trust me, I know.

So today, for instance, I was going to write 700-1000 words about Kirstie Alley’s weight issues, continuing the conversation we began last night on my BBC slot. But now, after mature consideration, and employing the full power of The Peters Paradox, I won’t be bothering.

All I’ll say is, when Kirstie starred in Cheers she was thin and gorgeous. Then she exploded to 200lbs. That’s when she became the Jenny Craig anti-obesity spokesperson for a while.  The moment she stopped being an anti-obesity spokesperson, however, she exploded back up to 200lbs or so again. Now she’s as big as a truck, and she went on Oprah this week to apologize for letting everyone down. 

Truth is, though: 1) we don’t care – be fat if you want to, Kirstie, just stop telling us about it; and 2) you were probably invited on the show to make Oprah look thin, because compared to you she is. And that doesn’t happen very often.   

There. Everything I wanted to say in a full article, but dashed off in a paragraph with absolutely the bare minimum of effort.

Now, with my new free time, I’m going to start drinking early and I might even have sex, if I can find someone to have it with. And once I’ve had sex I will be smuggling my partner’s furniture out of his room, and dumping it on the lawn. That’s the kind of guy I am nowadays. A slacker.

It’s a perfect example of The Peters Paradox in action.

 

TV Swami – he say NO to hard work and getting anything done – EVER.

www.cashpeters.com

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Dying, but having fun doing it.

Only profound excitement prevents me from writing a full blog entry today.  

Friends came to dinner last night. One of them’s a sound engineer, and he told me he’d been doing some recording at the Getty Museum in Malibu over the weekend. While he was there, he found my new travel book on sale in the bookstore and was able to report that every copy had sold out by yesterday. That’s huge.

Huge because book sales generally are declining. We’re in an important period of transition that happens occasionally, moving between an old, tired format – the printed word: books, newspapers, magazines – and a new, sparkly bright one, of Kindles, Sony Readers, and a whole slew of e-reading devices that are in the pipeline and which, in time, will revolutionize our reading habits.

For instance, it’s unlikely you’ll be buying my future books at the Getty or any other store – I’ll be emailing them to you. I may even call you before I write them, to make sure you’re interested in reading them, stuff like that. It’s a bright new world. 

From there, who knows? Some people, down the road, might actually develop a reading habit and start buying books again, where before they were content to waste whole evenings numbing their minds with mediocre television. As standards deteriorate and TV shows become steadily worse, to the point where most of them are just derivative mindless swill (a state known as being “utterly kardashian”), there’s a chance that quality prose, either in newspapers or books, might once again become attractive to a fickle general public looking for thrills.  

Better still, as the next generation emerges, kids will find they no longer have to carry around heavy bags with text-books in, but are able to download them all onto a single thin gadget, a flat tablet that can be tucked in a backpack, their pocket, or even behind their ear. At that stage, quality fiction and non-fiction could become sexy (and profitable) again and find a whole new audience.

Y’know how in history they had major ages, like the Industrial Revolution, when everything in society changed and the human race marched off in a different, unforeseen direction? Well we’re at the start of one of those now. In the future, history books will be written about us, marveling at the way we coped with such cataclysmic changes. History books that won’t be published, mind you; they’ll go straight to Kindle and be deleted almost immediately.  

Within the next five to ten years bookstores will become unviable and close down, newspapers and magazines will cease publication in print form, saving millions of trees and therefore the planet, and we’ll all resign ourselves, some not happily, to carrying around these zippy little flat-screen devices – there’s a new one from Apple on the way this year that will even support video and be in color – in much the same way we carry cellphones and Blackberrys.

Now, of course, when that happens, we’re as good as dead. We’ll be increasing tenfold our chances of contracting cancer from radiation. EMFs are already a major threat to our wellbeing. We each walk around in an invisible cloud of electromagnetic frequencies all day, and it’s only going to get worse. But hey, come on. We’re making history here! Dying horribly by being eaten from the inside is a small price to pay for the progress we now face. 

And anyway, look on the positive side, while we’re lying terminally ill in hospital, these little gadgets will be a godsend, helping us keep in touch with the world by bringing magazines and articles to our bedside. Or – here’s a suggestion – how about my latest book, Naked in Dangerous Places?  There’s a laugh on every page.

Did I tell you it sold out at the Getty this weekend?

By that point, the peculiar act of reading a fold-out tabloid newspaper or a single volume of fiction will seem as astonishing and antiquated as – oh, I dunno…listening to disco on a boombox, or finding something innovative and good to watch on the Travel Channel.   

 

TV Swami – he say YES to dying prematurely but  informed.

www.cashpeters.com

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Squeeze Joan Rivers and what comes out?

I think we may be done with Joan and Melissa Rivers. I’m speaking on behalf of all of us, I hope you don’t mind. But this pair of spoilt, attention-grabbing monsters, who last week contaminated Celebrity Apprentice in a way previously unimaginable, have mopped up the last few remaining drops of any goodwill I might have had for them, and now I wish they’d leave the stage. Turn, go. We’re done.

Melissa always seemed to me like an over-nurtured brat anyway, sheltering beneath the umbrella of her mother’s showmanship. Having apparently found that big-time comedic talent skipped a generation, she comes across as unnecessary, a superfluous human being, a celebrity we’ve squeezed onto the D-list as a temporary measure while we’re drawing up the E-list. She’s Joan Rivers’s daughter and crutch, and as such is favored and indulged by TV producers in ways she wouldn’t be if she’d just wandered in off the street – but isn’t that it? The sum total of the Melissa Rivers experience? 

Furthermore, the recent Apprentice episode in which she was fired showed a truly sour, unpleasant side to her character. A side I somehow knew would be there.

Things don’t go your way? Throw a tantrum. Outplayed by your opponents? Then storm off and curse and threaten and fuss and be thoroughly objectionable, so that all eyes are on you, milking the maximum amount of air-time out of your woes, simultaneously guaranteeing that viewers are going to like you even less than they did before.  

That said, her departure from the show was a highlight, for her outrageous display of childish petulance, but also, and mainly, because it made us realize that she’d finally gone. Phew. Quite a relief, that.

Joan, on the other hand – well, it’s hard to dismiss this woman so readily. If she is the tree-trunk of this relationship, then Melissa is a mere twig.

Joanie’s showbiz career has been nothing less than a  phenomenon. And she’s not done yet. By some miracle of determination she’s still going, still working, still creating, still selling, after…well, how old is she now? 200? I lose track. Of course she’s a laughing stock for all her ridiculous plastic surgery. Some genius with a scalpel has taken Joan Alexandra Molinsky, a rather ordinary woman from Brooklyn, born of Jewish Russian stock, and turned her Korean – that’s some feat. A Korean, moreover, who looks like she failed the audition for Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal.

And, oh sure, the scratchy voice sounds like it could give out any second, and the mind may not be as sharp as it used to be – I saw some of her later red carpet shows on E! and there were times when she appeared disoriented and hysterical. Though that could happen to any befuddled grandmother who wandered onto the set of a popular TV show and started assailing celebrities. Shortly after, she lost the E! show and moved to TV Guide Channel. Then this gig ended too. Honestly, I’m not surprised. If she could just shake off that albatross Melissa somehow, she’d do so much better, I think. 

However, all of this is entirely forgivable in my eyes when you’re an icon and still giving it everything you’ve got. 

What’s not forgivable is her “performance” on Celebrity Apprentice after Melissa got kicked off. That tarnished her image forever. On the one hand her brat of a daughter is darting about giving orders, rubbishing her fellow contestants, swearing, refusing to be interviewed, being a terribly bad sport. Meanwhile, on the other, her ma, a stiff-faced bullet with rigid hair, is lobbing mouth-grenades at poker player Annie Duke and Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick, the girls who dared defeat her daughter.

Voice almost breaking under the strain, she called Broderick a “stupid blonde” and yelled insults at Duke: “I’ve known your kind for 40 years in Las Vegas. You’re a Nazi and a piece of shit.” Or somesuch nonsense. Adding that, “poker players are trash.”

Then she quit the show altogether along with Melissa, though that may just be a display of trunk-twig unity for the cameras, a face-saver, mother hen protecting her wounded, disgruntled little chick, and we’ll see her return this coming week.

But how telling all of this is, and how much more we’ve learned about Joan and Melissa Rivers than we would from their resumes 0r any concocted PR blurb. In that sense, Donald Trump and producer Mark Burnett have done us a massive favor. They exposed mother and crutch for what they really are, stripping them down and laying them bare in ways that no amount of cosmetic tampering can ever hide or disguise. In so doing, by the way, they also secured a pick-up by NBC for the show which, having faced cancellation a while back, is now heading into its tenth season.

The spiritual guru Wayne Dyer asks: “What comes out of an orange when you squeeze it?” The answer of course is orange juice. Why? “Because it’s what’s inside.” Well, same goes for us. Anyone can be nice and cooperative and put on a decent front when things are going well. It’s when things go belly-up, when people are “squeezed”, that you really find out what’s inside. And so we witnessed with Joan and Melissa Rivers last week.

So much effort goes into the presentation with those two. Joan especially. But truthfully what’s the point? What is the point of striving so hard to be beautiful on the outside if all the while you’re ugly on the inside?

 

Celebrity Apprentice gets four magic carpets out of five.

TV Swami – he say YES.

www.cashpeters.com

Naked in Dangerous Places video. Click here.

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