Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Most astonishing book promo ever: "The President's Therapist"

A book site as engrossing as a TV thriller? If you clicked on a Web ad on the AlterNet site entitled, "The President's Therapist," you know what I mean.

There are two videos on the page, the first of which is a "Washington Watch Special Report" featuring interview snippets from Malachy McCourt (Frank's brother), a lit professor, the author (John Wareham), and another author. They talk about the characteristics of alcoholism, the character tics of George W. Bush, and the intrigue of the book, a novel with facts at its foundation.

The second video is a "Lost"-like, apparently self-made, video of the fictional therapist of George W. Bush, identified as having been posted "20 minutes ago." (I was disappointed the clock didn't keep running as I read. That would have been a neat trick.) "Dr. Mark Alter" reveals that, since his revelation of the content of his sessions with Bush, he is afraid for his life. Copy tells you Dr. Alter has been missing since May 2007. Hmmm.

There's plenty of copy, too. Headline: "As Obama Takes Command President's Therapist Discloses Secret 'W' Oval Office Sessions" Subhead: "Details George W. Bush Relapse and Treatment for Alcoholism." The "story" is a description of the hyper-fictional book.

A couple of years ago, there was a book called "Bush on the Couch," written by a psychotherapist (who, by the way, had never treated Bush), which described W. essentially as a "dry drunk," a person who had stopped drinking but had never gone through recovery. This novel evidently takes this diagnosis as the starting point for a story of intrigue involving all those White House characters we've come to know, if not love, during the past eight years.

"The President's Therapist" sounds like a novel worth reading. And certainly, the promo page is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shamed for speaking English

In this country, we bemoan the mis-speaking of English. In France, they decry the speaking of it at all.
New lingua franca upsets French
BBC News - January 23, 2009

That the French resent the global supremacy of the English language is nothing new, but as Hugh Schofield finds out, a newly evolved business-speak version is taking over.

They were giving out the annual Prix de la Carpette Anglaise the other day. Literally it means the English Rug Prize, but doormat would be the better translation.

As the citation explains, the award goes to the French person or institution who has given the best display of "fawning servility" to further the insinuation into France of the accursed English language.

Among the runners-up this year: the supermarket company Carrefour ­which changed the name of its Champion chain of stores to Carrefour Market, not using the French word "marche".

Also the provocatively-named Paris band Nelson (it is the Admiral, not Mr Mandela, that they have in mind) whose frontman J.B. sings in English because, he says, French does not have the right cadences for true rock.

[Read more.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chief Justice Roberts' "Oaf of Office"

Good grief!

How in the world could the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court have faltered when administering the oath of office to the next President of the United States last Tuesday?

Well, one might suggest Justice Roberts exhibited unwarranted self-confidence by not consulting a cheat sheet. Or one might suggest he intentionally fouled up the inauguration of a Democrat. However, the explanation may be much simpler: that the Chief Justice is a stickler for words, and he apparently thought he could improve the word order found in the Constitution's version.

Roberts' "improvement" left some people wondering if the thing had been done quite correctly (though the new Prez takes office at noon, whether he's been sworn in or not). So, to quell any doubts or fears about the legitimacy of the oath's administration, I thought I heard on the radio in the other room that Roberts and Obama had re-done the oath in the bathroom. Which sounded funny and secretive. But of course, they did it in the Map Room, which isn't as funny at all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Ideas Take Time to Be Accepted

The Greatest Product Demo Ever and What to Learn from It

Today, the mouse, the hyperlink and lots of other computer-related conveniences are essential to efficient use of the latest technology. But would you believe they were introduced decades ago and only won acceptance in the last 20 to 40 years?

The problem isn't that we're stupid. It's that ideas "travel through cultures at much slower rates than we realize," according to the article linked below. Especially if the idea requires change -- e.g., throwing something away and replacing it with something else; or re-learning skills; or co-ordination by large independent organizations.

For fun, imagine you invent a device to replace QWERTY keyboards. You know it's fantastic and you have endorsements from the brightest minds in the world. How would you convince people to stop typing the normal way and use your new idea? How would you convince manufacturers to take a risk? Consumers? How long would it take?

Well, don't ask Engelbart [Ed: inventor of the mouse, the hyperlink, hierarchical lists, user testing and other innovations]. One of the ideas he demoed on the same day was the chording keyboard (in the video watch his left hand) -- a small device with five piano-like keys designed to replace the keyboard. 40-plus years later, his idea is generally unknown.

So, will we still be using the same, or very similar technology to that which we use today in 2019? If not, it will be small, nimble companies, not the big guys (if any are left after the current economic crash), who will show the rest of the world how to evolve with technology. May I suggest that the ability to evolve rapidly may be the survival secret of this decade.

A friend of mine told me a maxim I believe originated with an economist: Everything that succeeds will get big; everything that gets big will fail. We have corporate Pac-Man times, then corporate split-up times -- the business gets fat and slim in an attempt to survive in changing economic times.

Small and nimble is the style today. Smart and psychic is probably the best combination of survival skills. If you need copywriting on somewhat less than a regular basis, have you thought of hiring an experienced, award-winning freelance copywriter/Web writer/Direct mail writer when the workload gets overwhelming and the deadlines loom ever closer?

Think about it. Think about me. Go to my LinkedIn profile to see samples and all that other stuff. I'd enjoy meeting and getting work for you. My work has won business and awards for local, regional and international companies -- business-to-business to consumer products. Let me work wonders for you and your products.

[Read article.]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some business people don't write so good.

Back in the day, people called "secretaries" were responsible for translating their bosses' mangled dictations into decent business letters. Thus did these English language experts prevent the general public from knowing the boss couldn't talk or write his or her way out of a wet paper bag.

But today, without a language expert in sight, execs writing their own e-mails are exposed to the world as ghastly communicators (Unfortunately, SpellCheck only helps with spelling, not poor vocabulary, thinking and organization.).

A recent survey of 120 blue-chip American companies found that a third of employees wrote poorly, a problem businesses spend more than $3 billion a year to correct.

If you know, or if you are, a business person who communicates in a way that does not reflect your true intelligence, don't despair. For a mere $19.95, it is possible to either download or obtain a printed copy of "The Harvard Business School Publishing Guide to Better Business Writing."

If you ever have used the words, "impact" and "dialogue" as verbs, please order the book. You'll be the better for it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Americans reading fiction than at any time since 1982

Could it be that reality is so bad these days, readers are fleeing to the realm of fiction for relief of depression and anxiety? Seems reasonable. Or could it be that movie tickets are too expensive?

Whatever the reason, more reading is a good thing. You can experience other lives, other times in history, other countries, even other solar systems, from the comfort of your easy chair. So turn off the news and settle in with a good book. If you don't have one in mind, go here to find the NY Times list of fiction and nonfiction best-sellers.

The Daily Beast - January 12, 2009

Amidst book publishers’ struggles, the National Endowment for the Arts has a surprise finding: Fiction reading is on the rise. For the first time since 1982, when the NEA began collecting such data, the percentage of adults who have read at least one novel, short story, play, or poem in the past year has risen to 50.2 percent from 46.7 percent in 2002. The increase was most dramatic among 18 to 24 year old, among whom the decline was previously most pronounced. The exact reasons for the rise are unknown, but Dana Gioia, the chairman of the NEA, speculates that community-based book clubs, Oprah Winfrey, and series like Twilight and Harry Potter all played a role.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Where'd that slogan come from?

Tonight at 6:30, Jan R. Van Meter will speak on his new book, "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History" at the downtown Kansas City library. He'll reveal the origins of many famous slogans and expressions in the American lexicon. Go here to learn more about his book and see more books exploring the fascinating world of American expressions.