Book Report

Here is a quick book report on Daniel Torday’s novel Boomer1.

IMG_20181211_205509This novel explores the battle between boomers and millennials from the perspective of three people, Mark Brumfeld, his mother Julia, and Mark’s ex Cassie. In the beginning Mark has it all-a great career in media, a stellar education (he’s getting his PhD), a place in a bluegrass band, and Cassie. And then Mark loses it all and moves back in with his parents. Bitter, Mark dons a disguise, calls himself Boomer1 and uploads videos to YouTube solely blaming baby boomers for his lot in life. His videos go viral setting off a revolution and Cassie’s attention. Meanwhile Julia is dealing with her own issues.

Boomer1 seemed so promising, but Torday’s writing is pretentious and moves at a snail’s pace. Mark and Cassie are unlikable. And Julia is just meh.

Grade D

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Brag Book (Not About Me)

Tari Jordan!!!

Readers of this blog are quite familiar with Tari. She’s written several guest posts at The Book Self. She also wrote a review of the movie 68 Kill for my other blog Popcorn In My Bra featuring her favorite actor, the multi-talented Matthew Gray Gubler. Tari is a huge fan of the television show Criminal Minds featuring Mr. Gubler as resident genius of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) Dr. Spencer Reid. Ms. Jordan is the resident genius of her blog Criminal Minds Fans, where she has written about the show for several years now.

Recently Tari got treated to an amazing adventure.

She and her friend Ryka got to visit the Criminal Minds set and learned about the blood, sweat and tears that makes Criminal Minds happen!

But don’t take my word for it. Be a lamb and learn about Tari and Ryka’s excellent journey at Criminal Minds Fans.

(Squeals up in 30 milliseconds)

Once again, congratulations Tari. No matter, what you’re always a winner is my book!

Book Review: Startup-A Novel by Doree Shafrir

The workplace always has a way to inspire a good book, and it definitely inspires author Doree Shafrir in her spot-on satirical release Start Up: A Novel.

Startup is about a collection of driven and talented millennials and how they are making their way in the world of social media, work culture, and high tech in the world of startups in New York City, a culture where often you’re only as good as your last tweet and a text read by the wrong person can ruin people’s careers. However, it is also a novel that examines the complex relationships between men and women, both professionally and personally, and all too relatable no matter what generation you got slid into (FYI-I’m a card-carrying member of Generation X).

The world of startups is one that both baffles me and intrigues me even though I’ve spent some time in newly formed entrepreneurial organizations. Sometimes I hear the word “startup” and I feel my blood turn into icy cold rivers. A lot of the startup culture seems to be about making something out of nothing valuable or meaningful to our society. Yet, at the same time one of my favorite shows is Startup on PBS, which examines new companies and entrepreneurs who are creating products and/or services that are creative, useful, and add value to their communities.

Sadly, the latter doesn’t seem to be the startup in Shafrir’s novel, but does it make for a fun and witty read.

Startup focuses on several characters, who are both infuriating and intriguing. There is Mack McAllister, the CEO of the startup Slack who is having an affair with Isabel Taylor, one of his employees. There is Katya Pasternack, a tough reporter for a high tech media publication and her boss, managing editor Dan Blum. And then there is Dan’s wife, Sabrina Choe Blum, back to work at the startup, trying to fit in and get back to speed after several years as a stay at home mom.

Mack may seem to be on the top of the world as CEO, but in reality he is lonely so he hooks up with Isabel. Isabel is initially fine with the casual hook ups she has with Mack but is now at the point where she wants their sexy time to stop and get back on track to focusing on her career.

Katya, sees several texts sent from Mack to Isabel on Isabel’s phone at a networking party. Three of these texts feature Mack’s fully-engorged member saying, “don’t tell me u don’t miss this.” Katya wonders if she should she ignore the texts or should she publish the photos and write an exposé that could blow up the entire world of Slack, not to mention the careers of both Mack and Isabel. Gee, which option do you think she’ll pick? I bet you can figure that out.

Meanwhile, Dan is at this tether at both the tech magazine and with his marriage and home life. He just figures he is worth of more respect by both his colleagues, especially Katya and his wife Sabrina.

And poor Sabrina feels in over her head at her new job; she feels a bit out of the loop when it comes to her tech savvy, eternally smart phone watching and social media updating co-workers and questions how she measures up.

Furthermore, she’s got a shopping addiction and the credit card bills to show for it. She tries to hide this addiction (not to mention the bills) from her hubby Dan. To pay for her bills, Sabrina starts selling her dirty undies on-line and actually gets a nice cash flow coming in. Yes, it sounds disgusting but everybody has their kinks and Sabrina is just providing a product some people are willing to buy.

From the opening line of Startup to the last closing line, I found myself caught up in the whirlwind of these characters’ lives both professionally and personally. Though a lot of them made some bad decisions, I truly had their best interests at heart. I wanted things to work out for all involved, and I could relate to a lot of their problems. Yes, even Sabrina selling her unmentionables. Nope, I’m not going to sell my dirty dainties on Craigslist, but I have been told more than once I should make extra money via phone sex due to having a “hot and sexy” speaking voice.

But I digress…

In the hands of a lesser writer, these characters could be written in broad non-dimensional strokes, the men all douchebro cads, the women all overly ambitious shrews or weak milquetoasts. But all are fully-dimensional. You both root for them while at the same time shake your head in disgust.

Plus, I could totally relate to this novel even though I’m a generation older than the characters and live in Milwaukee, not the Big Apple. I’ve worked in the world of media and newly formed organizations. But I also dealt with these issues while working in older companies and retail establishments. It seems like the more things change , the more they stay the same. From Mad Men to the mad world of startups, Startup: A Novel is both timely and timeless.

Book Review: Under the Affluence-Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America by Tim Wise

under the affluenceEvery once in while there comes a book that makes me want to shout from the roof tops, “Everybody, please read this book if you truly care about humanity and society!” Tim Wise’s book Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America, is one such book. And though it may sound melodramatic, I truly think Mr. Wise’s book is an excellent primer on exactly why our nation seems so skewed, confused and messed-up, especially during one of our most scary, yet important presidential election years ever.

Scholar, activist and writer, the aptly named Tim Wise, has focused on societal issues since college and one of his first jobs was working against former KKK grand wizard, David Duke’s presidential bid. Since then Wise has worked on behalf of many progressive causes and has written several books, Under the Affluence being his latest.

In 2016 Wise wonders why do we (as a nation and a society) shame the poor (and let’s face it, anyone who isn’t mega wealthy) while praising the super-rich? And what does that say about us and what impact is this having on society?

Wise calls this detestable movement “Scroogism,” and, yes, based on Ebenezer Scrooge from the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. And it is a theme that has shaped our thinking about the haves vs. the have-nots and have-lessers, much of it encouraged by big business, Wall Street, billionaires and millionaires, CEOs, the radical right political pundits, the current state of the GOP, conservative Christianity, mainstream media and often, ourselves. And yes, that includes the have-nots and have-lessers. And Wise offers evidence through nearly 40 pages of end notes to give gravitas to Under the Affluence.

Under the Affluence and its theme of Scroogism is divided into three well-researched, scholarly, yet audience friendly, maddening, heartbreaking and in the end, cautiously hopeful chapters. These chapters include:

  1. Pulling Apart-The State of Disunited America
  2. Resurrecting Scrooge-Rhetoric and Policy in a Culture of Cruelty
  3. Redeeming Scrooge-Fostering a Culture of CompassionIn Resurrecting Scrooge,

Wise carefully researches how in the 21st century the United States is a society that bashes the poor, blames victims, the unemployed and underemployed, embraces a serious lack of compassion and celebrates cruelty while putting the wealthy and the powerful on a pedestal. And Wise examines the origins of class and cruelty in the United States, the ideas of the Social Gospel and FDR’s New Deal, the myths and realities of the War on Poverty from its inception to Reaganism (and how liberals responded), and the concept how culture of cruelty affects who receives justice and who receives nothing at all except horrifically de-humanizing insults, both in rhetoric and reality. It is probably these two chapters that truly stirred my rage, and at times, I had to put Under the Affluence down and take a few deep breaths.But just as I was about to chuck Under the Affluence across the room and spend a week in the corner rocking back and forth, I read the final chapter, and felt a bit of hope. Perhaps, as nation things aren’t as bleak as they seem. In this chapter, Wise reminds us to look for possible roadblocks on the way of redemption. He also mentions that besides facts, use storytelling because behind every fact there is a very human face with a story that must be heard. He behooves us to create “a vision of a culture of a compassion” and how we can help communities to control their destiny.

Now, I am a realist. I know for the most part Under the Affluence is a book that preaches to the choir, especially in 2016. But maybe, just maybe, Under the Affluence will open minds, soften hearts and act an agent for, as Elvis Costello so aptly put it, “peace, love and understanding.” Under the Affluence is not only one of the most important books to come out in 2016; it is one of the most important books to come out in the 21st century.

Wise also takes a look at the world of the working poor and the non-working rich, the myth of meritocracy, horribly mean-spirited remarks, much of it coming from the radical right, including pundits and politicians, excessive CEO and big business pay, the devaluing of work that truly benefits all of society-nursing, teaching social work, protecting the public, improving our infrastructure, creating art, taking care of the elderly and disabled, and so on. And let’s not forget the very valuable work that doesn’t pay-parenting, eldercare, volunteering, etc.

In Pulling Apart, Wise takes a hardcore look at our current state of joblessness, wage stagnation, underemployment and how they affect us in this stage of “post-recession recovering” America. He investigates today’s realities and the long-term effects of income and wealth inequality. Wise contemplates who and what caused these problems and how race, class and economics are involved.

Book Review: Trust Me, PR is Dead by Robert Phillips

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PR is Dead; long live PR could be an alternative title to Robert Phillips’ book. Trust Me, PR is Dead is a book I felt compelled to read because I have spent some time in the trenches of public relations. But as someone who has also done some time in the journalistic trenches, I also look at PR with some very jaded baby blues.

And apparently Phillips is also a bit jaded when it comes to PR because he has been a PR professional for most of his working life, most notably with the PR powerhouse, Edelman. He knows the world of PR—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute! Phillips worked in PR and is now telling us PR is dead? Is he biting the hand that fed him (and fed him very well)? Or has he learned a few things on his PR journey and now realizes PR is dead (or at least on life support), and seriously needs to change…or else?”

Well, after reading Trust Me, PR is Dead, I can safely say Phillips’ is definitely in the latter camp; and his book is a treasure trove on how PR has made major missteps and how it can change in a time where people are developing finely tuned BS detectors when it comes to media, politics, business and entertainment.

In other words, PR peeps—You can’t crap on a cone and expect people to call it ice cream.

In Trust Me, PR is Dead each chapter is dedicated on how  PR has to change as society changes, using key components of evidence such as quotes from PR professionals, business leaders, advertisements, journalists, social media and various PR tools of the trade like press releases, professional profiles and interviews. Some of the names of various parties Phillips uses in this book have been redacted using heavy black bars. Phillips probably did this to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. And perhaps to cover his bum so he doesn’t get pulled into court for possible “libel” charges.

For the longest time PR has been about making an organization look good to outside parties. In theory, this sounds good so—put your best foot forward, stamp out a great impression, and make the most of what you got. We often do this as individuals when we do our very own personal PR, right? But often organizations slip up. Instead of traditional PR owning up and taking responsibility for an organization’s missteps and misdeeds, some which are harmful and often lead to death and destruction, PR ignores them or tries to cover them up with a lot of PR glitter and gloss. This glitter and gloss does nothing to rectify the situation. And this is in a time where the public is becoming more educated on organizational BS (or at least should) and wants solutions and carefully chosen actions, not meaningless words.

Today’s PR professionals must realize the most important component in PR is trust. The public wants to trust a company or organization and the products and/or services they provide. Not only does the public require trust, the public also requires authenticity, engagement and honesty. Or what Phillips calls public leadership.

Now how have we come to this point? Simple, in the past few years we have experienced an economic meltdown, the worst since the Great Depression, one that still affects us today. We have dealt with Wall Street greed, corporate malfeasance in the forms of Lehman Brothers, Worldcom and Enron, political misbehavior and other forms of detestable conduct. People are fed up! And many of them are learning about this not just through traditional media, but also through social and alternative media and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

To rectify this PR professionals must now employ several key strategies to gain the public’s trust. Among them include the following.

1) Embrace data and specialists
2) Focus on different skillsets and talents to better serve clients and the public
3) Look at the general public as citizens, not merely as consumers
4) Strive for excellence and eschew bureaucracy
5) Advertising is one thing; it is not the whole thing

Trust Me, PR is dead is well-written in an audience-friendly way that even non-PR types will find valuable. I hope it finds a wide audience and is embraced in a time when politics, media, business, entertainment, sports, charities and other organizations need to keep it real. Believe me, we as a society not only want this; we demand it!

I have to give a shout out to Jeff Abraham, a wonderful PR professional from Jonas PR. Jeff has been instrumental in sending me galleys and advanced copies of books for me to review including In the Company of Legends by award-winning documentary filmmakers Joan Kramer and David Heeley and Kelly Carlin’s memoir A Carlin Home Companion-Life With George. Jeff’s work has always been professional and without hype. He respects my work and never pressures me to write positive reviews. He truly values my input. Jeff is a total mensch and is what PR should be. Thanks Jeff!

Book Review: A Night in With Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday

A Night in With Audrey HepburnWhat girl, raised on fairy tales and classic movies, hasn’t dreamed of having her own fairy godmother? Jeepers, I’m a grown woman and I could use a fairy godmother. And I can’t think of a better fairy godmother than Audrey Hepburn. She would advise me on fashion, love, work and making our world a better place. And now that I think of it, Miss Hepburn did guide me on those things. I just wish I could have met her.

Fortunately, Libby Lomax is going to do just that—meet Audrey Hepburn. And not does she meet Audrey Hepburn; Libby meets her as one of the most iconic film roles ever—Holly Golightly, in the novel A Night in With Audrey Hepburn by British author Lucy Holliday.

To say struggling actress Libby Lomax is having a bad day is an understatement. After years being an extra on TV shows and movies, Libby finally gets her big break saying a smattering of lines in a science fiction TV series. While wearing her TV character’s alien costume, Libby accidentally lights herself on fire, singeing off some of her hair. And if this workplace faux pas isn’t humiliating enough, she lights her hair on fire in front of the shows bad boy star, Dillon O’Hara.

The powers that be sack Libby at once, and she goes home to her tiny apartment to shed a few tears and lick her wounds. While contemplating her sad state of affairs while sitting on an ugly couch given to her by her best bud Olly (more on him later) Libby pops in the classic movie Breakfast Tiffany featuring the wonderful Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly.

Well, guess how pops up next to Libby outfitted in her best Holly Golightly chic? Yes, Audrey Hepburn!

Is Libby going mad? Is she hallucinating?

Well, does it matter? The wonderful Audrey Hepburn is sitting right next our flummoxed heroine. So shouldn’t Libby converse with her and get some finely-honed insight on men, mothers and making a career?

Did I mention mother? Oh, yes, Libby’s mother, a stage mother to end all stage mothers and one who puts the P in pushy. Libby’s very own Mama Rose has been pushing both her daughters, Libby and Cass, to become huge stars. Whereas, Libby has her struggles and can barely get past the extra stage, high maintenance Cass is getting more parts and more success. This doesn’t do much for Libby’s self-esteem.

As for Libby’s father, the sperm donor? Well, he ran out ages ago, fancies himself as a notable writer, and ignores his daddy duties to Libby and Cass. Sadly, enough, Audrey’s own father ran out on her when she was very young.

To keep herself busy, Libby is making a necklace for her friend’s upcoming wedding. This particular necklace has been inspired by a beautiful necklace Audrey wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey finds this necklace and is positively enchanted with Libby’s talent. Audrey also discovers Libby’s iPad, which she charmingly calls a “lovely padlet” (note to self, adopt the phrase “lovely padlet”). Audrey also discovers the Internet, most notably Twitter.

Before you can sing a bar from “Moon River” Audrey starts a Twitter account for Libby to showcase her jewelry making skills (unbeknownst to Libby). It isn’t long before Libby’s Twitter is gaining many followers. And many followers want to buy this talented lady’s work.

At first Libby is confused. Audrey let’s the honey-colored Cat out of the bag, and tells Libby she has set up the Twitter account and encourages her to embrace her skills and talents and start a career as a jewelry designer. Battered and bruised from her non-existent acting career, Libby is initially hesitant. But thanks to Audrey’s loving guidance, encouragement and savvy, Libby begins to believe in herself and treasure her talents.

She also learns to stand up for herself when it comes to her mother, sister, father and other jerk who might come in her path.

But wait? Am I missing something? A certain Dillon O’Hara, the A-list hottie Libby tried to flirt with to fire-fried results? Seems Dillon is actually quite smitten with Libby, which is quite a shock considering the gossip pages show mostly himsquiring models with pneumatic breasts. Will Libby and Dillon hook up? Well, that is a secret that I have up my Givenchy (okay, H & M) sleeve.

Libby goes from strength to strength, but also faces some hurdles (including a truly mortifying moment at a high-end spa), which shows up on YouTube. Is this humiliation one she can survive and ultimately thrive?

Initially, A Night in With Audrey Hepburn started a bit slow, but soon it gained steam. Lucy Holliday writes with a down-to-earth, appealing, and warm voice. And you can tell she’s a big fan of Audrey Hepburn fan, which as a huge Audrey fan myself, I greatly appreciated.

What I also liked was a hint of mystery at the end. Though Libby is over the moon when it comes to Dillon, I detected a bit of a spark between her and Olly even though they are in the friendzone. Perhaps we’ll find out in the sequel to A Night in With Marilyn Monroe what happens with both of these fellows and how they relate to Libby. Yes. Lucy Holliday has a whole series of Libby Lomax bonding with the best of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and I hope they are just as fun to read as A Night in With Audrey Hepburn.

In Audrey Hepburn’s other classic film Sabrina, she states, “Paris is always a good idea.” I’d like to say “Audrey Hepburn is always a good idea.”

 

Reading to Reels: Desk Set (Special Libraries Week Post)

Librarians of all kinds aren’t just found in public libraries; they are also found in schools, universities, corporations and other organizations. This post is in honor of reference librarians-the human versions of Google. Enjoy!

Human beings being replaced by high tech is something many American workers worry about, and it’s not a recent phenomenon as Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn show us in the 1957 comedy Desk Set.

Desk Set takes place at the Federal Broadcasting Company, a fictional television network. Katharine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of FBC’s huge reference library. Bunny can recite facts faster than you can say, “Google it!” She and her brainy staff, played by Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill and Sue Randall, are kept quite busy with staffers calling up looking for the 411 on a multitude of topics, both the mundane and the serious.

However, there seems to be trouble on the horizon. The network is in talks to merge with another company, but at the moment it seems to be on the down low. FBC brings in an efficiency expert named Richard Sumner played by Spencer Tracy. Richard has also invented a computer system called EMERAC, an “electronic brain” that is supposed to help the workers with the merger. However, many of the workers think these computers will replace them, and they wonder when they’ll get fired.

Richard and Bunny soon meet when he comes into her department taking measurements for the computers. Richard begins to question Bunny, wondering if she can answer as quickly as a computer. One smart cookie, Bunny has no problem answering the questions and proves to quite the foil to Richard’s efficiency expertise.

Instead of being turned off by Bunny’s brains, Richard is actually quite charmed. And despite her hesitation, Bunny can’t help but be drawn towards Richard. She’s been with her boyfriend, Mike (Gig Young), for seven years with no promise of marriage in sight. Hey, Bunny isn’t getting any younger. Bunny and Richard spar and flirt the way only Hepburn and Tracy can.

Towards the end of the film, a giant computer is placed in Bunny’s department to help everyone field questions more efficiently. However, despite the “advanced” technology, the computer is no match for Bunny and her fearless staff. The computer has a near “meltdown” but Bunny and her crew proves to be up to the task. And another computer messes up and mistakenly fires everyone via pink slips placed in their paychecks.

Desk Set is the eighth film Hepburn and Tracy did together (their final film was Who’s Coming to Dinner?), and it’s effortlessly charming. Based on William Marchant’s play with a script by Phoebe and Harry Ephron (yep, the late Nora’s parents), Desk Set is directed with a light touch by Walter Lang. Sure, there are parts that look dated. I had to laugh when I saw the huge computer that took up half of Bunny’s department, and how the answers were spit out on old-school perforated paper.

But despite being made in 1957, Desk Set’s premise looks quite modern.These days, everyone seems to be addicted their tablets, smart phones Googling, Tweeting and updating their Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages. But there is truly no replacing our human brains and our need to connect with one another without the use of technology. Desk Set shows this in a fun and entertaining way.