Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

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My Beatles Top 10

By on Apr 24, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Is it just me or we in the midst of a Beatles Renaissance? Each month of this decade offers a 50th anniversary of something surrounding The Beatles. I’ve already attended the 50th anniversary of The Beatles concert at Dodger Stadium. I’ve enjoyed a screening of Ron Howard’s documentary Eight Days a Week featuring the band’s live tours of the U.S. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their final stadium appearance. I’ve bought the live performance audio CD with reengineered recordings from the new film. I’ve subscribed to the new Beatles Channel on SiriusXM. I’ve marveled at multiple “Deconstructing The Beatles” lectures by my friend Scott Freiman, whose live presentations are now memorialized on DVD. Okay, maybe it’s just me. Then again, with my new novel coming about how the soundtrack of our lives is inescapable in charting our life paths, The Beatles have never been more in the forefront of my mind. For many years I have wanted to suggest my own Beatles Top 10 song list, but I have resisted for multiple reasons. First, because it does seem to change from year to year, depending on what’s consuming my attention or memory. Second, because I have been strictly advised by most Beatles luminaries that this is a fool’s errand—to rate The Beatles catalogue is akin to publicly stating the order in which you love your family and friends (a 2017 noble but flawed attempt to force-rank all 213 songs is strong evidence of this). Third, because a single omission or overstated opinion might start an argument far more volatile than any around religion or politics, again putting the goodwill of colleagues at high risk. And fourth, because for all these reasons and more, I would undoubtedly be on course to a retraction, apology, restatement, or mass deleting of this post from the digital world, which is of course impossible. Lists have a sad tendency to become permanent, even if deemed ephemeral. Well, too bad, I’m doing it, if for no other reason than to defy my own fears, which I am certain John, Paul, George, and Ringo would applaud. I’ve restricted the list to songs written and recorded by The Beatles in their organic whole, without covers or selections from their...

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Is Facebook the Next AOL?

By on Apr 9, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

I used to like AOL. Back in the day we called it by its full name, America Online. Prior to the broad penetration of the Internet, it was how we connected with each other. It was the company we paid on a subscription basis for both access to digital connectivity and content. For the ownership of AOL, it was a very, very good business, so explosive that it frightened the old guard in media and was merged into an even bigger entity, AOL Time Warner. If you were born after that wildly failed merger, it is difficult to convey just how powerful and influential AOL had become. Truth be told, I still have an active AOL account and get teased about that by friends. I wound it so tightly into my life it is still hard to completely unwind despite its deterioration. I also like Facebook. As an individual enamored with words, I find it an irresistible way to communicate with a circle of acquaintances on everything from politics and social causes to MLB, The Beatles, wine, and business opportunities. As an author of fiction, I find it an essential tool to communicate with readers, let them know a new book is coming, tie that book into news of the day, and connect all of that with the monthly postings on my blog. Another confession: I was one of the earliest adopters of Facebook over the age of 40, invited for business reasons to create an account back when it required a .edu email to become a member. Companies I’ve led have been active buyers of advertising on Facebook at every stage of its evolution. Yet even with all that passion, I have been an ardent critic of Facebook. It reminds me of AOL. I hope it won’t suffer the same fate. Is it alarmist to think that Facebook could collapse at the level of AOL simply because of its latest data breaches? Yes, I think that would be overstating the calamity of its current situation, and if Facebook does implode, it will likely be a slow and painful process much like AOL with a long-tail legacy business lingering into the digital future. I am not predicting that will...

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Movies That Most Influenced My Life (So Far)

By on Mar 9, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Shortly before the 90th Annual Academy Awards aired this past weekend, I took an online quiz asking how many of the 89 previous Best Pictures I had seen. Somewhat to my shock, the answer was 70. While many of these were late-night film society screenings during college when I was a projectionist, that’s still a lot of wasted youth. Or was it? With this year’s Oscars behind us, I thought it an apt time to confess the 10 (actually 20) most significant commercial motion pictures that have impacted my thinking and creative process. You probably know I read a lot of books, but I wanted to share with you some of the filmed stories that have most shaped me as a writer. Although a few of those 70 Best Pictures are noted below, many of my choices are further off the ranch. Should you agree or disagree, I hope you might share your own favorites with me privately or publicly, particularly as they have influenced your creative thinking. These are not in specific order, although they are directionally stacked. They all matter to me, and while my reasons are kept deliberately brief, I hope some of the influences come through in my own writing as you may experience it. No apologies, this aesthetic is a bit of who I am! 1. Apocalypse Now (1979) It’s based on Joseph Conrad’s forever-haunting Heart of Darkness. It was supposed to be Marlon Brando’s crown achievement, but that honor went to Martin Sheen. This Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece breathes the existential and freezes in time the horror of the Vietnam War with natural metaphor and nuance. “The End” by The Doors is the glue in its arc, and Robert Duvall demonstrates in a few brief lines that insanity is a product of subjectivity. The movie poster has been in my home office for over 30 years. It means that much to me. 2. All That Jazz (1979) Bob Fosse’s unforgettably dark self-portrait took his kinetic style of dance and nonlinear storytelling from stage to screen. When I first saw Roy Scheider smoking in the shower it strangely gave me solace to know I wasn’t the only person who did that. I gave up smoking...

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Your War to End

By on Feb 22, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

Dear Teenage America: Your outrage is well founded. All your lives you’ve known gun violence as a norm. It was not a norm when we were in school. It should not be a norm. This is your Vietnam. It is a corrupt war hijacked for purposefully obscured reasons. It is your war to end. Vietnam was a war abroad challenged at home. This war is solely on our land. The names of schools suffering premeditated surprise attacks of destruction ring out like the battles of any prior global conflict: Columbine (1999). Virginia Tech (2007). Sandy Hook (2012). Parkland (2018). Add to these battle monikers the neighborhood mass shootings near your campuses: Aurora (2012). San Bernardino (2015). Orlando (2016). Las Vegas (2017). These don’t even include the lessor acts of weekly gun violence that no longer seem to warrant national news coverage. The assaults are frequent and terrorizing, yet somehow they have become numbing. With these numbers and the vast unpredictability of some 300 million guns in American civilian hands, no public space can be declared protected, fortified, or safe. Not schools. Not churches. Not theaters or clubs. Not government office buildings. How is this not a war? We hear your cry. Enough already. Make it end here. Make it end now. Eliminate assault weapons from the American civilian landscape and you will have changed our nation for the generations to come. You have risen with spontaneity, passion, and authenticity to oppose injustice. You can no longer tolerate the breach of trust perpetuated on the places you come in order to learn, share, trade ideas, grow, and ready yourselves for the future. Your immediate impact and opportunity have not gone unnoticed. Here is what one writer, Emily Witt, wrote about you in The New Yorker: By Sunday, only four days after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, the activist movement that emerged in its aftermath had a name (Never Again), a policy goal (stricter background checks for gun buyers), and a plan for a nationwide protest (a March for Our Lives, scheduled for March 24th). It also had a panel of luminary teens who were reminding America that the shooting was not a freak accident or...

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The Emergent Miracle of 50

By on Feb 8, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Were popular songs from 1918 played widely in 1968? How about songs from 1928 in 1978? Or songs from 1938 in 1988? So how come songs from 1968 are still widely played in 2018? Want to know why? Here are ten songs from the top of the charts in 1968, from the Billboard Hot 100 of that year: “Hey Jude” by The Beatles (#1). “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream (#6). “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel (#9). “Mony Mony” by Tommy James and the Shondells (#13). “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone (#20). “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (#31). “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones (#50). “Light My Fire” by Jose Feliciano (#52). “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (#57). “I Say a Little Prayer for You” by Aretha Franklin (#93). I don’t think I need to write any more words today. The point proves itself. We don’t need to know why. The songs speak for themselves. They sing for themselves. Our attachment is primal, mystical, enduring. Given the fifty years between the 1960s and the 2010s, not a day goes by that we don’t celebrate the 50th anniversary of something, for many of us our own time on the earth. Last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This year it’s The White Album. The Rolling Stones already have a 50 and Counting tour on their resume. Last year Fleetwood Mac hit 50 and headlined The Classic West and East stadium tours alongside iconic peers the Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Journey, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Paul McCartney will likely tour until he can no longer stand on the stage. Ringo is still regularly on the road with his All-Starr Band.  You’ll remember that The Beatles led The British Invasion shortly after the Kennedy assassination. Yes, “all those years ago!” So what is the endurance factor of what we now call classic rock? Is it simply that the baby boomers who shepherded these bands in youthful acts of defiance are living a lot longer? There might be something to that, but it doesn’t explain why so many millennials are...

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My Third Book: From Nothing

By on Jan 16, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Writers by affliction are an idiosyncratic lot. Other than a willingness to spend an enormous amount of time alone and a preternatural love of language construction, we don’t have all that much in common. We write about different things, from the historic lives of dead people to the ponderous calculations of romance that could never live up to its description. Some of us have enviable discipline in reserving hours for our craft day in and day out. Others are beasts of procrastination who binge occasionally in overnight typing sessions while devoting daylight hours to cleaning out pencil-stuffed drawers and ceiling fan lint. An author on tour may enjoy speaking publicly, while another cowers at facing readership in the form of human flesh. We may share a passion for literary achievement, but we are in few ways the same. One bit of sameness has occurred to me exactly three times, each when I’ve finished one of my novels. When the final copy-edit has put the book to bed and readied it for your consumption, I’ve invariably asked myself the same simple question: “Why did I do that?” The existential query is unavoidable. Why does a writer remain dedicated to the challenge of completing a book? I am guessing I am not alone in that meditation. It is impossible to think that most of my colleagues and the legions of our predecessors have not asked themselves the same thing. It’s a heck of an endeavor, for most not particularly lucrative. It disarms the writer to a battalion of transparent critics, and the incomplete satisfaction is resolved only in the reborn commitment to attempt it yet again. So I ask you, as you are likely to ask me: Why bother? To say that we are without choice in the matter may sound glib, but I am afraid that is the only reasonable answer I can muster. We do it because we can’t not do it. We do it because there is something inside of us that needs to ferment and emerge, to escape the confines of a sole mind and become part of a shared consciousness. If we could avoid or redirect this need many of us would, but we cannot, and...

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