Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Into the heart of Winter

I shiver and look upon a frozen vista
twisted and tortured
by air so cold life itself stops …
for a moment.

Between death and me is a thin pane of glass.
It divides this sheltered life from the cold.
A cold not so unspeakable that if that pane of glass broke
I could not save myself by walking to a neighbor
but cold enough that if I didn’t walk to a neighbor
I would die.

In our winter quarters, suspicious, careful,
sequestered in our chrysalis
we peer out our windows at our neighbors
and hope that they too understand
the tenuous hold we have on life.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My second good idea

On the use of a lock and key-like interface to determine characteristics of power distribution on a direct current power bus.

I don’t think I’m unique. Every once in a while I get a good idea and sometimes I get a really great idea. We all do. Who hasn’t had a “Eureka!” experience? You find yourself doing something you always done but the process or the device annoys you, just a little. Then you think to yourself, “Why don’t they make it this way or do it that way?” Eureka! You’ve just an invented something.

We usually don’t do anything about ideas like that. It simmers, stews in our brain, and then goes away, filed in that “someday I’ll do something about it” box. Once in a while we discover that someone has patented a device that works just the way you imagined it would years before and we kick ourselves. We never kick ourselves very hard, never hard enough to do anything about it. If we had patented the idea or even talked about the idea publicly then we might be able to get the patent invalidated because our idea is considered prior art but who has time, who has an economic incentive? Not me.

I’ve had two ideas good enough (so far) to file patents on. The first one would have improved the performance of the Internet cheaply by “caching” content in nearby locations. Companies like Akamai do it today but more expensively than I would have. Some “Venture Capitalists” were interested but then the dot com bubble burst and I abandoned the patent. Anyone can use it now if they want to. You can pay me to show you how.

Last summer I had another great idea. I have lots of computers here and a network befitting a small company as well as lots of gadgets requiring lots of AC power strips. I buy power strips in bulk. Staples once had a sale where you paid $5 for a power strip and you mailed in a rebate form for $5. The power strips were free. I bought about 20 of them. I used them all very quickly. Power strips are like socks in a dryer – they disappear. I had to buy more.

The reason I need more and more power strips is because every electronic “thingie” I have won’t just plug into a plain old 115 volt, 15 amp, 60 Hertz AC, 3 pronged plug. All my electronic devices run on 3 to 12 Volt DC power and have a power supply that plugs into a 115 Volt AC power receptacle. These power supplies reduce the voltage with a small transformer and “rectify” the power, turn it from alternating current into direct current with a diode bridge. Going any further is a technological rat hole from which I might not escape so let it suffice to say that a power supply is one of those brick like devices with prongs that plug into your 115 Volt AC wall socket that accompany your cell phones, etc. The problem with these bricks is that only one or two of them fit onto a standard power strip. If you’ve got five or six of these bricks then you may need two or three power strips “daisy chained” together. Each of those bricks burn energy even when the device isn’t on or being charged.

Eureka! Instead of an AC power bus why not a DC power bus where all the devices can plug in directly without needing a power brick? Brilliant! Except for the fact that each of those devices require a different voltage and current. Eureka! Why not have a plug that acts like a key describing the voltage to be supplied and the current to be allowed.
Oddly enough this revelation occurred at 3:40 a.m. I remember because it woke me up and I lay in bed wondering if I would remember it in the morning. I decided that I probably couldn’t so I got up and wrote most of my patent application before 6 a.m.

I let the idea sit for a couple of weeks, made some lousy drawings, filed the provisional patent application, waited, and waited and when the application acknowledgement arrived from the US Patent Office I rejoiced. Now I had a chance to get rich just like the fellow that invented the safety pin or safety razor.

Then, nothing happened. The world didn’t beat a path to my door. Somehow I always thought there were vultures that hung out at the patent office looking for inventions to mass-produce. If there are they missed my filing. Ok, if the world won’t beat a path to my door I’ll knock on some doors myself. There are a limited number of major corporations in the business of producing consumer power supplies and power strips. They are not hard to find so I created a package and send one to the legal/licensing department of every major corporation offering to license my invention. The only reply I got was a very defensive letter from a major Japanese electronics manufacturer stating flatly that nothing they manufactured violated my patent. Apparently their lawyers cannot read any better than their tech-writers can write manuals.

So ends, for now, the saga of my second good idea. It sits molding in a file draw at the United States Patent and Trademark office. To pursue a real, full patent would cost thousands of dollars or so they tell me. Which means that all those major corporations need only wait out the year a provisional patent offers protection before being free to use anything they want. At least I can say with pride, “Patent applied for.”

You can pick up a copy of the patent application here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The boys of summer on the way home

It’s not often that I get a scoop but by being at the end a chain of emails from person or persons unknown I have three of the most revealing pictures of just who the members of our beloved Boston Red Sox team really are. No further comment is needed. I wish I knew who took the pictures. I’ll probably find out sooner or later – in the mean time enjoy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Washoe, first of a new species to experience original sin, experiences death.

The news report said:

(AP) SPOKANE, Wash. - October 31, 2007 - Washoe, a female chimpanzee believed to be the first non-human to acquire human language, has died of natural causes at a research institute.

Washoe, who learned American Sign Language in a research project in Nevada, died Tuesday night at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University's Ellensburg campus, said institute co-founders Roger and Deborah Fouts. She was born in Africa about 1965.

A memorial is planned for Nov. 12.

May god bless.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nothing like tooting ones own horn

Wilderness House Literary Review and ISCSPress editors and authors are named Cambridge Massachusetts Poet Populist finalists.

The editors of ISCSpress would like to extend their congratulations to members of our community who have been named Cambridge Poet Populist finalists. The Cambridge Poet Populist is an informal office for a local poet, chosen by the people to represent poetry for the City of Cambridge.

The Poet Populist will facilitate the creation and appreciation of poetry throughout the city for all residents of Cambridge. The Poet Populist will maintain a schedule of public appearances throughout their one-year term in the position. The Cambridge City Council will award $1,000 for the first year.

Our finalists friends are:

Irene Koronas, is the poetry editor of Wilderness House Literary Review (whlreview.com) and author of “self portrait drawn from many,” Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville MA, 2007, http://www.lulu.com/content/929148. ISCSPress had the pleasure of designing this book.

Molly Lynn Watt, is the editor of the annual “Bagel Bard Anthology,” designed and published by ISCSpress, Volume 1, http://www.lulu.com/content/261048; Volume 2, http://www.lulu.com/content/729666. Molly is also the author of “Shadow People,” Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville MA, 2007, http://www.lulu.com/content/596300. ISCSpress designed this book.

Philip Burnham, Jr., is the author of “A Careful Scattering,” Červená Barva Press, Somerville MA, 2007, http://www.lulu.com/content/1214473. ISCSpress designed this book.

Deborah Priestly designed the cover of the Bagel Bard Anthology # 1, edited by Molly Lynn Watt and published by ISCSpress.

Wilderness House Literary Review has published Diana DerHovanessian, another finalist. Kudos goes to the remaining finalists as well, Richard Cambridge, Denise Bergman and Jean Dany Joachim. We will make an endeavor to include them in future editions of the Wilderness House Literary Review.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Wilderness House Literary Review Volume 2, number three released online

LITTLETON, MA – October 8 2007 – The Wilderness House Literary Review committee is pleased to announce that Volume 2 number 3 has been released on the Web. This edition of WHLReview.com includes works of fiction by novelist Anne Brudevold as well as short fiction by Andrew Bertaina, Brett Yates, Jim Woods, John Hildebidle, Randall Brown, Ruth Jespersen, Shannon O’Connor, Susan Tepper, Sylvia Holt and Terry Sanville. As well as essays by Lloyd Hudson Frye and Tom Sheehan and poetry by Anne Brudevold, Abbott Ikeler,Alan Britt, Bonnie Marie,Carolyn Gregory, Chad Parenteau, Chris Crittenden, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Duane Locke, Eleanor Goodman, Felino Soriano, Gloria Mindock, Howard Lee Kilby, Irene Koronas, Irisha Pomerantzeff, John Hildebidle, Jon Ballard, Judy L Brekke, Julia Carlson, Michael Amado, Patrick Carrington, Shannon O’Connor and Tino Villanueva, Tom Sheehan.

Wilderness House Literary Review has compared favorably by Boston Globe to Ploughshares, the literary magazine from Emerson College. WHLR is a result of the collaboration between a group of poets and writers who call themselves the Bagel Bards, Industrial Myth and the Wilderness House Literary Retreat. The Wilderness House Literary Retreat is supported by the Rotary Club of Littleton Massachusetts.

WHLReview.com is sponsored by Industrial Myth and Magic. Industrial Myth is a Public Relations firm based in Littleton Massachusetts. Industrial Myth maintains a practice specializing in literary properties. It’s not good enough to just have a better mousetrap--you need a more compelling story. It’s not just advertising, it’s not just marketing, it’s not just product design … it’s everything. It’s an industrial myth and that’s magic. See www.industrialmyth.com.

Contact Steve Glines, sglines@industrialmyth.com, 978-633-3460

Monday, September 24, 2007

Guaranteed Overnight Theater

GOT at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.

This past weekend I participated in Guaranteed Overnight Theater or GOT. I haven’t had so much fun in years. We survived in spite of my mistakes. Silly me saying the event would start at 5 P.M. on a Friday – what was I thinking … that theater and writer types live on the same schedule I do? Twelve people showed up and two promptly left. I think I must look scary. One gentleman came in very late with a rather morose short story he wanted converted into a script. When it was clear that wasn’t going to happen he left. We lost another overnight – an email stating that she would rather work on her own plays and did not wish to collaborate further. Well la de da, that left 8 of us.

By 10 PM we had the outline of 7 mini scripts and a framework that would tie them all together. By 10 AM we had reassembled and disassembled to work on our various scripts. By 1 PM we were ready to rehearse. We managed to do about 3 walkthroughs before the show.

Four Bagel Bards participated, Gloria Mendock (I designed her first book), Anne Brudevold (we’re serializing her novel “Hunter Moon” in WHLReview.com), Jacques the Haitian Firefly (no comment) and me.

We played to a packed house of twelve. The work was titled “The Open Mike” (or “Modern Vaudeville”) and began with your typical open mike poetry by Wilhelmina Shakespeare followed by Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemmingway. This was for warm-up. Then we did "The Pig and the Wolf," how theatrical types would have changed "the three little pigs" and "Little Red Riding Hood." The next playlette was titled, “Dating through the Decades,” in three acts. Following up on a theme that worked we did, “Internet Speed Dating in Person.” This was very funny with Jacques delivering the punch line flawlessly. Jacques also started in “The Dance Class,” where he believably seduced his way through a dance class leaving a student dazed and confused which lead to “The Shrink.” In “The Shrink” a traumatized dance student explains why he’s fallen in love with a sex addict. Another punch line delivered perfectly. “Brra dump dump,” says the imaginary drum. The last act had Anne Brudevold tormenting Jacques as a sadistic massage therapist in “The Last Gas.” Throughout the open mike Gloria Mindock and I played “the audience” sitting with a table between us on stage dripping sarcastic battery acid lines between playletts.

Enjoying himself in the audience was David Bertolino, former proprietor of “spooky World” and now an aspiring playwright and theatrical producer. His next work will be opening in Boston next May – Oh, how can we possibly wait? – is called “Deep Throat, the play.” Seriously, see www.deepthroattheplay.com.

We had a blast and hope to repeat our stunt in January when we can next have access to the little theater at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (or sooner should another theater materialize).

Top - Jacques & Sophya in "Dating through the decades"
Middle: Sophya, Jim, Jacques and Mary Ann (standing) in "Speed Dating"
Bottom left: Lynn in "The Pig and the Wolf"
Bottom right: Jim finishes the script of "The Shrink"

Friday, September 14, 2007

Glittering literati to honor famed poet Jack Powers

The glittering literati of Boston will be gathered this weekend to honor the acclaimed poet Jack Powers on the occasion of his 70th birthday. If you have never heard of Jack Powers then you have not been part of the literary scene in Boston for any of the last 40 years. Jack founded “Stone Soup Poetry,” the oldest continuous open mike venue in Boston bringing the likes of Laurence Ferlenghetti, Gregory Corso and many more to the scene. Stonesoup also published over 20 poetry anthologies and dozens of individual poetry chapbooks. Jack was also on the founding board of FIRST NIGHT.

The event is a potluck dinner this Saturday Sept 15, 2007 at 5 P.M. at the International Community Church in Allston, 30 Gordon Street. Expect to see the pick of Boston’s glamorous and not so glamorous literati there. Music by the "Blue Dust Drifters" and Jennifer Matthews.

The small press scene (is there any other literary scene in Boston?) is very incestuous. Gloria Mindock, proprietress of Červená Barva Press, has just published a collection of poems titled “Blood Soaked Dresses” with Ibbetson Street Press. While Ibbetson Street’s proprietor Doug Holder’s latest book “No One Dies at the Au BonPain,” published by another small press, Sunnyoutside is received glowing reviews from Ibbetson Street author and small press bad boy Hugh Fox and in Small Press Review. ISCSpress, as usual managed the production of “Blood Soaked Dresses” and Hugh Fox’s latest, “Way, Way Off the Road.”

Rumor has it that bagel bard, Simmons professor and all round nice guy, Affa Michael Weaver is preparing a new volume of poetry to be published by one of the big boys (a brand name NYC publisher) and after a front page interview in Poet & Writer and an upcoming splash in Poetry magazine his national and international fame is beginning to spread beyond Boston, Baltimore and Taipei. I smell major literary prize.

In other news “Guaranteed Overnight Theater” or GOT is coming to Boston (Cambridge actually) next weekend, September 21 and 22. GOT has been a perennial favorite in Philadelphia for the last 10 years. GOT is unlike any other theatrical experience. Halfway between improvisation and tag-team writing GOT puts writers, directors and actors together for 24 hours of creativity. Starting Friday evening the team writes a play or series of plays, Saturday afternoon they rehearse and Saturday night a performance is given. It should be exciting. GOT will be at the theater at the Cambridge Center for Adult education.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pale imitation of a poem

Pale imitation of a poem
for Jack Powers

Inspiration on the back, side,
inside flap of an old utility bill
three poems to be read once
then placed in a filing system
only a fireman could love:

“Old man rises
for Madonna with child
noisy, smelly, subway car
modern manger, god bless,
god bless”

“Screams to the Almighty
murder the infidel
pox upon your house
… all your houses ….
And we wonder why God is silent?”

travelers in common
a conversation stricken
at our destination when
we become fearful, alone again.
Why? When we had
so much in common?”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On the first day of school

Remembering your first day of school

The First day of school
was the best day of my life.

It was the start of a new year,
the next incarnation, reinvention of me.

Not beige and sullen as I left it in June
but tan, strong and muscular - energized.

Voices deeper,
horseplay harder.

I showoff what I’ve learned this summer,
that I too can be strong and, oh, I read a book.

It said that your first day of school
was the best day of your life.

That your redesign of yourself,
your, my, our act of renewal brought us closer.

Exciting thoughts to keep us warm this winter
if darkness spoil or obscure our vision.

Remember the first day of school
you wore petticoats and I was so proud.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Musings on a long weekend

Last Monday I was at the Out of the Blue Gallery to hear Anne Brudevold read poetry at the Stone Soup poetry venue. Stone Soup is the oldest poetry venue in Boston at 35 plus years. I wanted to hear Anne read. I love her prose but hever heard her poetry. Her novel “Hunter Moon” is being serialized by Wilderness House Literary Review (whlreview.com) expect another couple of chapters in the next issue available about October 1. I’ve been editing the novel for Anne over the last year or so as part of my job at ISCSpress (iscspress.com). Some literary agents we know are now reviewing it. Expect it to be published next year sometime. Thom August’s mystery novel “Nine Fingers,” another editing job by yours truly, has been picked up by Dorchester Press and will be out in January.

Chad Parenteau, the current moderator at Stone Soup said from the podium that I was in the “office, I mean the audience.” It’s beginning to feel that way since we are producing, editing and designing so many books for the small press community in Boston.

Speaking of Wilderness House Literary Review, Gloria Mindock of Červená Barva Press has finished editing an anthology of Volume 1 of WHLreview. ISCSpress is publishing it and it should be available in a week or so.

We’ve also just finished doing layout for three; yup count em, three books for noted Boston poet and playwright Don DiVecchio. The books include a volume of poetry titled “Circle of Crows,” a collection of plays, poetry and stories titled “Voices from the Invisible” and a wonderful broadside titled “Eleven Ways to Change the World.”

An upcoming releases also created by ISCSpress and to be published by Červená Barva Press is Phillip Burnham’s touching poetic tribute to his wife titled “A Careful Scattering.” Phillip’s book is a collection of the Christmas cards he created with wife over a 40-year period. Phil wrote the poems while his wife, Louise (who died of cancer in 2002) and their daughter Elizabeth created the visual art. It’s beautiful and I’m sure will be a hit for Christmas this year.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Irene Koronas's poetry collection "Self Portrait Drawn From Many" is a pick of the month in the Small Press Review

Our own Irene Koronas (a bagel bard) has received the kudos of the Small Press Review for her book of poetry. Irene Koronas is not only an ISCSpress editor, she is the poetry editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review. We are doubly pleased because her wonderful volume of poetry was designed by ISCSpress and published by our partners at Ibbetson Street Press . Can a Pulitzer nomination be far behind?

Click here if you'd like to buy the book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why is it so expensive to market a book?

With publishing on demand the act of publishing a book is very inexpensive but if a book is printed and no one knows about it so no one buys it … does it count? Selling books requires marketing and selling the book. Marketing is the act of making a potential reader aware of the book you are trying to sell. Marketing is expensive. The author, substituting time for some of the cost, can do most of these steps. When major publisher promotes a book they pay for everything, this is what they pay for:

  1. Well before publication: A review in Kirkus Review, the Library Journal, BookSense, Publishers Weekly, specialty reviews, regional reviews, etc. Most of these outlets require a fee of between $100 and $350 for a review with no guarantee that you’ll like what the review says. Of course every venue for your review needs a galley, which must be printed, prepared, mailed with followed up. Pre-publication marketing can easily top $3000.
  2. Press releases. During the commercial life of your book the publisher and the authors publicist will send out many press releases. The first one will announce that the book will be published with a very short synopsis. Every event in the life of the book should be announced. In general the first press release takes the most work. The public relations team needs to learn all about you, the author (what makes the YOU so newsworthy) and about the book (what makes it special: why, on earth, should I read this book instead of other book). A publicity campaign involving just 5 press releases can easily cost $2000.
  3. Web site. Press releases are pointless if they don’t direct the reader someplace. Today a website is a necessity. Creating a simple website can cost $500 - $1500. Remember there is a professional photograph to be taken, professional copy to be written and a designers time all of which cost money, plus hosting and domain name. Creating a unique website requires obtaining a domain, contracting for a web site, designing a simple web site that should contains the following information:
    1. The authors biography
    2. Photograph of the author and book cover
    3. The Authors list of other books (if any)
    4. A synopsis of the book you’re selling today
    5. The book tour – signings, sightings and readings
    6. Publication information for bookstores, libraries and teachers
    7. A way for the public to buy the book directly via
      i. POD printer
      ii. Amazon
      iii. Paypal button
      iv. Link to your publishers e-commerce site

A professional e-commerce enabled web site designed from scratch (with recycled copy from press releases) may cost, when all is said and done, $1500 or more.

  1. Post publication reviews & interviews. Targeting secondary reviewers in Newspapers, magazines, specialized book review venues including literary journals and radio and television. Find a select number of reviewers, contact them, ship books to them and follow up. Generating 5 reviews (again no guarantee they’ll like the book) requires contacting 20 – 30 potential reviewers. Cost: roughly $1500 plus books and shipping.
  2. Marketing Collateral is the stuff they give away in pursuit of product recognition: business cards, bookmarks, postcards, posters, fliers, brochures and everything else needed to get peoples attention. A small collection of business cards, bookmarks and postcards can cost $500. A full-blown direct mail campaign to 3000 bookstores could cost $15,000 to $20,000.
  3. Bookstore marketing. To sell books you can either sell directly to the end user (that’s what your web site is for) or you can sell through a middleman. A middleman can be a distributor, a bookstore, a grocery store, a drug store or any other organization that sells books. You’d be surprised who sells books, look around. In the long run you want your book to be in bookstores. Promoting your book to the chain stores is best accomplished by generating buzz and demand. If people ask for your book, they’ll carry it. The independent bookstores are different. You want to market to the independent bookstores because they will give you the widest opportunity for book signings and local publicity. For a book signing tour you’ll need to first contact all your local bookstores within some distance of a zip code by sending them a flier telling about your book, all about your planned marketing blitz in the area, and your book tour schedule (when you would like to schedule a book signing), a mail-back postcard and some bookmarks and a poster. The cost of contacting 100 independent book stores is roughly $2000. The costs of a bookstore marketing campaign could include:
    1. collateral design & packaging
    2. collateral printing
    3. mailing list rental
    4. fulfillment (labeling and mailing the kit)
    5. Follow up phone calls
  4. Book clubs, reading clubs, open mike venues, specialized distributors, or any specialized marketing. Every book is unique. Every book has a unique collection of possible sales and marketing venues. Exploring each venue takes time and money. The big-boys are both adept and efficient at this kind of marketing.

This is what a major publisher would do for a book in the middle of their list. They would spend a lot more on a Harry Potter book. If you self-publish or are published by a smaller publisher without a marketing budget you may still be able to reap sizable rewards simply by creating a website and issuing a press releases.

HINT: One of the missions of ISCSpress is to provide marketing services for self-published authors and smaller publishers. We can’t make it any less expensive but we do the work so you don’t have to. You just have to write.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sorry for killing, eating your priests

For those of you who have read my book "Seven days in Fiji," I had to laugh when I saw this in todays issue of Fiji Times. It's about a long overdue reconciliation. Just click on the headline above.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bookswim – a library for the rich and lazy

Every once in a while an idea comes along that takes advantage of Americans propensity to be incredibly lazy. First there were fast foods. Then there was pizza delivery, then Netflix DVD delivery and PeaPod grocery delivery, and so on. I get the impression from TV commercials that that most Americans are beer guzzling or bon-bon eating creatures far to fat to get out of their Barcaloungers.

This vision of America doesn’t include a high level of literacy. Indeed I would guess that the average household today doesn’t have more than 2 or 3 books, gifts probably. I’ve been in houses where no books were in evidence. Five hundred years ago Shakespeare made a go of live performances because books were so expensive and the populous illiterate. One hundred years ago books were cheep and authors made the rounds of Vaudeville halls as Pop superstars. Those days are gone and the mind numbing effects of TV have created a population that views the production of the daily tabloid as a literary achievement.

Into this dubious world enters an online company called bookswim.com that claims, “what netflix did for movies bookswim will do for books.” It’s a Netflix for books. Bookswim is a cross between a book club and an online library. Yes, the business model has you renting books. Of course they have all the most popular books, novels, non-fiction, hardcovers and paperbacks. They don’t have any of my books (I looked) but they do have books written by my cousin (http://tinyurl.com/22agx8) with a handy pointer to Amazon.com if you’d rather buy the book than rent it. You can probably ask for books to be included. I’ll ask them to stock everything I ever wrote. That ought to double my sales.

For $20 (actually $19.99 but who’s counting) you get to order three out of a library of 150,000 titles and if it’s in stock they will mail it to you immediately with a postage paid mail-back envelope … just like Netflix. You get to keep the books as long as you want and for $20 a month they would love you to keep them forever. Mail back a book and they’ll mail you another.

What a wonderfully clever idea you might be saying until I remind you that the public library is FREE and mine delivers.

Monday, July 30, 2007

ISCSpress to servicice small publishers and independent authors

Doug Holder and I announce the creation of ISCSpress as a service bureau and subsidized publisher for authors and small publishers. Click on the title (above) for the press release.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Poets Corner is a 30 minute local access TV show in Littleton MA My first time on TV - It didn't make me look to bad, just fat.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The New Wilderness House Literary Review is out

Wilderness House Literary Review Volume 2, number two released online

LITTLETON, MA – July 5 2007 – The Wilderness House Literary Review committee is pleased to announce that Volume 2 number 2 has been released on the Web. This edition of www.WHLReview.com includes works of fiction by novelist Anne Brudevold as well as short fiction by G Emil Reutter, Tom Sheehan, John Hildebidle, Jim Woods, Marc Simon and Susan Tepper. As well as essays by Lloyd Hudson Frye and Tom Sheehan and poetry by Micheal Amado, Barbara Bialick, Bob Boston, Brian Foley, John Hildebidle, George Jack, Bonnie Pignatiello Leer, Corey Mesler, Christopher Mulrooney, Rita Catinella Orrell, Chad Parenteau, Pam Rosenblatt, Sara Satterlee, James Whitley and Ernest Williamson III.

Wilderness House Literary Review has compared favorably by Boston Globe to Ploughshares, the literary magazine from Emerson College. WHLR is a result of the collaboration between a group of poets and writers who call themselves the Bagel Bards, Industrial Myth and the Wilderness House Literary Retreat. The Wilderness House Literary Retreat is supported by the Rotary Club of Littleton Massachusetts.

Industrial Myth is a Public Relations firm based in Littleton Massachusetts. Industrial Myth maintains a practice specializing in literary properties. It’s not good enough to just have a better mousetrap--you need a more compelling story. It’s not just advertising, it’s not just marketing, it’s not just product design … it’s everything. It’s an industrial myth and that’s magic. See www.industrialmyth.com.

I hope no one objects to my ad at the end. :)

Monday, June 25, 2007


It’s a rare event here in Massachusetts that we get to choose a new Congressman. Once elected most congressmen run more or less unopposed and the general public spends years grumbling about the lack of choices. This year there are five Democrats and two Republicans running for congress from the fifth district, an embarrassment of political riches. Yet few people are excited, few people show up at political events and fewer still participate in the local political process at any level.

Politicians are not sprung fully formed from fissures opened from Hades for the sole purpose of delivering tormentors and oppressors to the ballot box, as many would seem to believe. All politicians start out as concerned citizens who run for local office with a sincere desire to help fix things. If they are successful they may run for higher office and eventually they show up on a ballot that really counts. This is the point where most of the electorate discovers the candidates and pronounce them all wanting and wish for additional choices.

The new majority of the “un-enrolled” electorate has deliberately, if unintentionally, disenfranchised themselves by placing the two major political parties at arms length. Almost all political opinions fall into the camps traditionally called “Liberal” or “Conservative” and the two major political parties do, for the most part, represent those two views. If the Republicans have become the party of the lunatic right or the Democrats, the lunatic left it’s because the “un-enrolled” center have chosen to abrogate their responsibilities to participate in the political process. You have no one to blame but yourselves.

As Tip O’Neil said, “all politics is local,” and between the races for Selectman the races for Congress is an entire spectrum of political action denied to those who remain un-enrolled, un-engaged and un-aware. Every town in the Commonwealth has a Democratic and a Republican town committee. It’s at the Town Committee level that candidates for state office first make themselves known. By the time someone runs for State Representative or State Senator it’s likely that they have been active in a Town Committee for years, it’s likely that they have worked for some other politician of their political persuasion and it’s likely that they know or have personally met most of the political leadership of their party from the town committee chairman up through Governor, Congressman, Senator or beyond.

The sad truth is that most Town Committees (both Republican and Democratic) find it hard to recruit active members. The result is that a small group of political activists of one extreme or the other determine who will be viable candidates for state government and as a result who will supply the feedstock for higher office.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seven Years to Seven Figures

Seven Years to Seven Figures,
the fast-track plan to becoming a millionaire
© 2007 Michael Masterson; $24.95;
John Wyley & Sons, Hoboken NJ

Review by Steve Glines

I’ve been doing everything right so how come I’m not rich. I’m a perpetual entrepreneur, I love to write and I have a million good ideas. That’s the gist of this book. There are dozens of great rags to riches stories in this little inspirational volume. There is the guy that was a fantastic salesman who quit his job, went into the import/export business only to fail, declare bankruptcy and resurrect himself as a copywriter and is, of course, now a multi-millionaire. There is also the tireless want-a-be writer-housewife who eventually buys a mail-order copywriting course (conveniently written by the same author) and ends up a millionaire.

What is never mentioned is the luck, blind ability to sell anything and friends with lots of cash that always accompanies the successful stories. There are people who can sell sand to the Saudis or ice to the Eskimos. Occasionally those people fail for one reason or another but if they do they pick themselves up and sell something else. There is such a thing as a natural talent in sales just as there is such a thing as a natural talent in sports, writing and every other occupation. It’s not news that a natural salesman succeeds nor is it news when someone succeeds by being in the right place at the right time. As Woody Allen once said, “90% of life is just showing up.”

An acquaintance of mine was a computer salesman in the early 1980’s. There were lots of small computer companies around then most of which went broke. He had been working for one small computer company that was faltering so he looked for another, similar job. As luck would have it the only job that was offered to him was as the second salesman for a startup that went on to become the third largest computer manufacturer, a name brand and a darling on Wall St. He retired when his sales commissions exceeded $10 million dollars and the company decided that the customers should be house accounts. We all wish we were that lucky but most of us are not.

Most entrepreneurs fail, not because they don’t have a good idea, not because they aren’t willing to work hard enough but usually because it takes longer to sell whatever it is that they are selling than they thought or the items cost more to manufacturer, store, support and ship then they thought. You never see these stories in the “jack-em-up-and-gloss-em-over” style of success books. Success is more often than not a combination of persistence and luck.

I went to a lecture by the founder of a large supermarket chain. He was honest enough to admit that luck played an enormous part in his success. His first venture was a produce stand, which quickly went broke. His second venture was in a small “mom and pop” grocery store. It too went broke. Then he launched his mega-chain supermarket by accident. Someone in the audience asked what was the difference between venture #2 and the successful one was. His answer surprised everyone. He said he got so far in debt that his bank and his suppliers couldn’t afford to let him go broke and that as long as he kept opening up new stores both his bank and his suppliers thought, hoped, wished for his success. Eventually he was successful but he admitted that his suppliers and his bank were foolish to give him the credit and that his experience taught both his suppliers and his bank never to do that again. He was very lucky, and very rich.

I will confess that reading “Seven Years to Seven Figures” got me excited. After all most of the success stories were build around copywriting, which is what I do. Of course, to become a better copywriter I need to subscribe to a be-a-better-copywriter website which, how convenient, also happens to be owned by the author. The more I read the more I realized that this is one large advertisement for books, courses and counseling by Michael Masterson and his colleagues.

Much of the advice is useful though obvious while other advice interesting but “easier said than done.” For example in a chapter about becoming an expert the author lists how to become an expert:

1. Narrow down your field of expertise
2. Master your subject
3. Promote yourself

How you promote yourself is equally simple:
1. Develop your own newsletter
2. Get articles published in trade journals
3. Get invited to shows and seminars
4. Write books
5. Take advantage of Public Relations

There is nothing in this book I can argue with. All of the advice offered, the tips, tricks and techniques are all right on. The stories offered are insightful and inspirational and the fact that I’m a baby boomer without a retirement plan or income was not lost on this thick skull. What is missing, however, is the fact that for every 10 great ideas that should succeed, and would under the right circumstances nine will fail. If you have the tenacity to survive nine or more successive failures then there is hope and if you are one of them you don’t need this book.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The race for the 5th.

I love history. It’s what defines us, shapes our decisions and molds our future. I love politics because politics is the feedstock of history. You could say it’s history’s cutting edge. I’ve participated in every election since 1968, one-way or another. It’s been interesting and I can honestly say I’ve never met a politician I disliked.

I may despise their politics but I can’t bring myself to dislike anyone who is willing to strip naked before us in public and offer to do what most of us just want taken care of. Some of the politicians I’ve met may be corrupt, I don’t know, but they sure aren’t getting rich. If we complain about the quality of the candidates then just look at what we are willing to pay them. A state representative in Massachusetts only gets $48,000 a year so don’t expect many people to run for that job. Any kid out of law school is going to make more.

If politicians have large egos so what? If you aren’t going to pay your politicians a decent wage but expect them to be Mormon clean then ego is about the only motivation besides doing-good (which I always find suspect – I don’t think I would have liked Gandhi) and martyrdom (equally suspect) that’s available besides corruption. I never met the Mayor of Providence RI.

This quiet rant brings me to the current race for Congressman in the 5th district here in Massachusetts. Congressman Marty Meehan got tired of waiting for Ted Kennedy to retire or John Kerry to win the Presidency so he could run for the U.S. Senate so he quit his job in mid term to take the job of the President of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which gave him a significant pay raise over his congressional salary. This is the first “big” political opening in years so there is a lot of interest among local ambitious politicians.

I have a personal interest in this race. Paul Tsongas was a genuine good guy. I like to think I talked him into running for President of the U.S. when no other Democrats had the courage to run – we had an hour-long chat on Easter Sunday 1991. His widow is one of the candidates running for congressman. On an appeal to emotion she should be a shoe in but she doesn’t even live in the district not that it’s ever stopped a Kennedy but she’s not a Kennedy. Hillary Clinton aside I don’t count being married to a politician the same thing as political experience; riding in a car is not the same thing as driving a car.

My personal favorite in this race is Jamie Eldridge. He’s a live at home, 30 something, state representative from the town next door, Acton Massachusetts. He too is a genuine good guy if I am any judge of character. His politics is about as far left as you can get in a very left leaning state without falling out of the local mainstream. It’s easy to guess where he stands on every issue. He’s still idealistic which is charming. If he wins I hope he doesn’t become too cynical to soon.

What sparked this outburst is a new technology. We have all seen polls taken every day and published in the local newspapers. These are just abstract numbers that often don’t mean much to us; we have no vested interest in the results. Of course we are thrilled when our boy (or girl) is on top and we deride polls when our favorite is out of favor but still a poll is an abstract concept. Enter inklingmarkets.com. When you sign up on inklingmarkets.com you are given a virtual bank account of $5000 to bet on “stocks” anyway you want. You get a daily account of how much you have earned or lost. In the case of a political race the dollar value of your candidate is equal to the percent of the vote he will get on Election Day, the total value of the race is $100. You can buy puts and calls; bet that a particular “stock” will go up or down.

Here is the current “market” for the Congressional race for the Massachusetts 5th district:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagen was a master poet and visionary astronomer. This is an inspiration.

Profit from Uranium

Investment University’s Profit from Uranium
Copyright 2007, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken NJ
$29.95, 38 pages.

Trying to review a technical investors manual as a work of literature is an experiment. I’m not sure how one is expected to evaluate such a book. At roughly one dollar per page it’s an expensive and dull read. As a book in the “how to make a million” genre I find it a little thin and not particularly deep or insightful. However when taken as a book on who to invest in if you’ve already made up your mind about Uranium as a good investment then it’s probably OK if you’ve never heard of Google.

I grew up in the “duck and cover” era. Uranium was both the savior and nightmare of the Utopian society we were promised. We had to be prepared, at any moment the Great Bear of the North would send his vast fleets of bombers (and later missiles) hurling down upon us. Although we were 40 miles outside New York City we had to be prepared to duck under our desks as soon as we saw the flash. That was kindergarten. By first grade they realized that we would have several hours or at least several minutes warning so we practiced marching into the purpose built shelter designed to withstand (or so they told us) the explosion of multiple atomic bombs a few miles away and protect us from the insidious poison that was radioactive fallout for weeks if necessary. There was talk that our parents would not be allowed to pick us up if the sirens went off and that the Police had machine guns to mow our parents down if they tried. No one believed it and my parents had a basement fully stocked with water and canned goods.

It was a scary time to grow up in. We knew that when we were 18 we would be drafted and if we were very lucky get to see an atomic bomb go off in the desert of the American Southwest. There were communists hiding in closets and under beds and it paid to be vigilant. The Uranium mines of Canada and the far west were in full production and if you were a coal miner you headed west where the yellowcake was as sweet as the gold was a hundred years earlier. Atoms for peace promised a never-ending supply of almost free electricity. Uranium was king. Utopia died a slow death.

The cold war gave way to the Vietnam War and the threat of mutually assured destruction stabilized all but our third world proxies and we found out that all those miners were dying of Uranium poisoning. Our unlimited free electricity suddenly had a price to pay in decayed waste, poisonous for thousands of years into the future. Uranium suddenly wasn’t so pretty any more. The US called a halt to building new atomic power plants but this didn’t stop the French or the Japanese who embraced atomic power with gusto. Largely because of atomic power Europe has some of the cleanest air on the planet. An American traveling in Europe can’t help but notice it.

America’s aversion to new Nukes survived the gas crisis of the 1970’s, the rampant inflation of the 1980’s and the Gulf war of the 1990’s. A petroleum engineer we know once said, “there’s no shortage of oil, there’s lots of it, it’s just a matter of what you’re willing to pay for it.” Adjusted for inflation we’ve been paying just about the same amount we always have for oil. What changed?

China and 911! Since 1949 mainland China has had a series of “Great leap forwards” that mostly resulted in economic belly flops while Taiwan and Hong Kong exploded economically. China finally got a clue about the same time Great Britain relinquished control over Hong Kong. Since then the Chinese economy has exploded. Whatever excess capacity existed in 2000 is gone, absorbed by the demands of China and India where economic growth marches on in double-digit percentages year after year. An unfortunate confluence of events have finally led us, in the U.S., to realize that without a drastic change in the way we do business our way of life is near an end. This has created a renewed interest in nuclear energy and alternative, preferably, “green” sources of energy.

America has a habit of waiting until the last moment before acting and when we act it’s often in an unreasoned, almost desperate fashion. Suddenly every town wants a wind farm, every house needs to be a source of solar energy every field of grain a source of ethanol for our cars. Suddenly nuclear energy looks “green” as we realize that it’s the America of the 1950’s with out the terror but with the promise that we secretly hope for.

So what does an investment portfolio look like in the new world order? If we want windmills GE reminds us that they are in the business with their series of eco-ads. I’m sure there are other vendors of windmills … in Holland perhaps? If it’s ethanol you want then Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) would like you to think that they’ve been on top of it for decades. I’m not sure if there are any publicly traded moonshiners out there to invest in. No one is touting the conversion of coal into liquid fuel or the burning of the Alberta tar sands yet so if you are a fad investor do your own google search. If you believe that Uranium is the future and want to forget that the associated problems of radioactive waste have not been solved then do a google search or buy this book.

Without giving away the plot, which consists mostly of naming the characters, let me give you a hint: Australia, Canada and a publicly traded company created by the U.S. Government. Keep in mind that there is a risk to investing in Uranium that is not mentioned in the book. In the U.S. at least, the promise of fusion has been just around the corner for decades. If a breakthrough occurs and fusion can be captured, bottled and commercialized then Uranium will resume its place as a source of very destructive weaponry and not of joy. Not a very “green” investment.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Wine, Women and Shoes

That defines every woman I know. I’m not sure why so many women have an obsession with their collection of uncomfortable shoes. I own six pairs of shoes and two pairs qualify as boots and one as sneakers. I have a pair of deck shoes, one pair of brown everyday shoes, a pair of black shoes, hiking boots, a pair of Wellington boots I put on when I have to shovel snow and some sneakers I got for Christmas that I’ve never worn because they are too white to wear in public; I’ll have to get them fashionably dirty in the back yard first.

A woman I know is an aspiring Imelda Marcos. Imelda Marcos was the wife of the former President of the Philippines whose proclivity for shoes was legendary. She had tens of thousands of shoes. My shoe-loving friend has a much smaller collection of shoes but with a room of their own. Each shoe is kept in the original box with a color photograph glued to the box end and arranged alphabetically by color. There are separate sections organized by heal height with a special section devoted to sneakers, yes sneaker.

Apparently the operating philosophy of the women I know is to buy the accessory first then find the item it will accessorize. This philosophy applies to jewelry as well as shoes. My daughter’s corollary to this rule (pronounced when she was still in college and still economically sensible) was that the price of an accessory should never exceed the item it accessorizes. Women have little apparent guilt when buying the little things like shoes and, after all, expensive jewelry can go with almost anything or so we are told until we discover that she has absolutely nothing to wear. Which is every time she needs to put on clothing. We have to pay to get them naked and again to get them clothed. Who knew?

All of this prater was inspired by a very shi-shi event I was dragged to called, oddly enough, “Wine, Women and Shoes.” The facts are that proceeds of the event help support The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard Massachusetts, which is almost a hospice for women with breast cancer. It is a noble and beautiful place I have been assured, worthy of financial support.

I don’t go to many shi-shi events for a lot of reasons; I’m not invited for one but chiefly because I’m not known to be embarrassedly rich. To be shi-shi you have to be rich enough to throw money at problems with panache. The more panache the more assuredly “in” you will be. Donald Trump, known for perpetual bad hair and kitchey bad taste is “in” by virtue of showing up at every shi-shi event in Manhattan and throwing chump change around like confetti. Or so I’m told, I’ve never been to a shi-shi event in Manhattan and it’s unlikely I will be invited any time soon.

There is good news and there is bad news: There are no Donald Trumps in Boston. I can say this with some assurance since the shi-shi event I attended was “the only event in town” and if there were glamorous people there I didn’t see any. This is not to say that there weren’t hundreds of very nice and even some very wealthy people there. I didn’t know or recognize anyone famous except, perhaps (and I say this in generosity), for a local news anchor for a TV station I don’t watch. It took me an hour to remember her name. I said hello to her and she immediately mentioned an absentee husband – a newly wed or I was leering more than I remember. What struck me the most was how old and wrinkled the glamoratti of Boston are. Contrary to our opinion of us Boston is really a small backwater when it comes to the higher arts. Anyone seriously glamorous, talented or otherwise notable has long since moved to New York or LA. Plays don’t open in Boston anymore and what “serious” publishers remain are only petty rumps of international media conglomerates.

I don’t volunteer for these things but I’ve got an “other” who would love to be on everyone’s “A” list if we could afford it. She volunteered me to be a photographer. I’m not sure if that was our price of entry or a reason to keep me occupied since otherwise I would have been bored out of my skull. Do I really have an interest in Wine, Women and Shoes, well wine and women perhaps? I was dressed like most of the men at the event, suite and tie, no big deal, my camera couched in my left arm like a newborn baby.

“I want a picture of them,” she said pointing to a couple we know. After a glass or two of very delicious wine I was compliant. A funny think happens when you point an expensive camera at people at a shi-shi event: They pose automatically. Another glass of wine and I was into it. Someone asked me what magazine I was from, “Famous Magazine” I could say with a mild tone of distain. People love it when you’re slightly rude to them. I learned that lesson when I was a very proper waiter in college. The more “correct” the better the tip.

Photographing people poising has its limits, however, and it eventually gets boring and I had hours to kill. Shooting the cleavage of women far older than I am has little appeal so I had to find some theme that might challenge the tedium of the evening. I decided to photograph only men wearing pink or purple ties. It takes a modicum of courage to wear a gay tie when you’re not and while Boston may fancy itself a sophisticated city there are few who would consider themselves to be metro-sexual. Clearly anyone wearing pink or purple were either colorblind or had wives dressing them. I was wearing a pink and purple-stripped tie.

Shooting purple ties made the evening fun but my crap-shooting approach to photography made the evening worthwhile. A good friend of mine taught me the U.S. Navy approach to photography, which put bluntly, is there will be one good shot in each roll of film. The rest will be crap. Here is the one good shot:

OK so lots of people had a good time and most of us went home fatter. Anyone who wants to look at men with purple ties can look here: http://industrialmyth.photoreflect.com - you can also buy any photo you see.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Rose Café: Love and War in Corsica
By John Hanson Mitchell
Shoemaker & Hoard, $25.00, 243 pages
ISBN 978-1-59376-095-3

Review by Steve Glines

John Hanson Mitchell is a man on a permanent quest.

Go out to the wilderness and find out what you are made of. There is always seminal event that forms the body of a great man (or woman’s) character. For men it has often meant going off to war where the soul is stripped of the possessions of youth and reformed on the anvil of Thor. For most of us this transformation, if we have it at all, takes the form of a quest and there is a time-honored tradition of quest literature dating to antiquity.

For urbanized Americans youth this quest often involves Europe or another exotic location and if you are lucky, both. My daughter’s quest was orchestrated by her college, about the only thing about the place for which I am grateful. She was dropped in Aix en Provence in France with 24 classmates and instructed to walk, which they did for 4 months, camping by the side of the road as they went. She left America an angry, lost teenager and returned a driven adult determined to find her place in the universe. After 2 months on the road she called me from Syracuse in Sicily to announce her epiphany: She could be 30 and wish she had her architects license or she could be 30 and have her architects license but she was going to be 30 anyway. She came home and made the deans list.

My own quest took me to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Canada where I hiked and hitchhiked for almost five months after High School. I slept in a fish-packing shed on the northern tip of Cape Breton Island where I cleaned fish and shoveled ice for a month for beer and food. When I grew restless I moved on to Newfoundland.

The harbor a small fishing port named Fortune was filled with half a dozen tramp steamers, Liberty Ships, left over from WWII. In the bar of the only restaurant in Fortune I met the captain of a ship that continuously made the circuit from Fortune to Iceland, Ireland, England, France, Africa, Bermuda, New York City, Halifax and back to Fortune. His ship and its predecessors had been making the run, with obvious interruptions, for almost 100 years. It was a three-month journey. I needed a passport. Did I know how to cook? Would I like the adventure? It paid Canadian minimum wage. It has bothered me ever since that I said no.

Later I was hitchhiking to another small port to catch a boat ride back to civilization. It was 9 pm. I looked at the map and realized my destination for the night was 25 miles down the dirt road in front of me. I walked all night through the fog, my flashlight useful only for illuminating the edge of the ditch. About 4 am the fog lifted and the first hint of daylight appeared in the sky. I walked up a steep hill, a switchback, climbing out of a deep dark valley. As I walked over the crest I saw the most beautiful sight I have ever seen: a ship, perhaps 300 feet long, with multi-colored lights draped from bow to stern, passing up through the rigging of the tramps crane and mast. The town itself was smaller, just ten or fifteen small pastel colored shacks. I walked onboard, found myself a bench and went to sleep. An hour after the boat left port the bursar found me. I paid for a ticket to Port-aux-Basque and went back to sleep.

For the next two days we drifted along the south shore of Newfoundland stopping at one village after another. At one village I got off to explore while the ship exchanged cargo. An entire town had moved from one side of a river to another to accommodate a larger pier. I asked a local what the cost of a house was there. He blinked at me in disbelief then said, “We have lots of houses here, pick one. We’ll outfit it for ya!” A foghorn lament announced the departure of the tramp so I hopped back onboard and watched the little village that would have welcomed me slide slowly into the mist. So many “what ifs.”

John Hanson Mitchell’s new book “The Rose Café” is the tale of a quest. He is a young student studying in Paris in the early 1960’s. He is bored and uninspired, in other words, a typical French student filled with ennui. He is both unable and uninterested in writing although he carries an empty notebook with him wherever he goes. A chance offer takes him to Corsica where he ingratiated himself with the owner of “The Rose Café” who offers him a job for the season cleaning fish and sweeping up for room and board. What follows is a wonderfully charming account of the local characters. Mitchell’s ability to delve into the characters of the local town is reminiscent of Dickens. The collection of characters is wonderful and we get a small town full: There is Le Baron, the aristocratic patron with a very shady background, the agonizingly French tease Marie and classic French lovers Jean-Paul and Micheline to name just a few.

Mitchell has always been adept at describing Place. His “Ceremonial Time” covers the details of one square mile of land in Littleton Massachusetts where living characters provide an anthropomorphic dimension to the geography. With “Living at the End of Time” he explores both eccentric people and the detail of his environment in a Waldenesque shack. We dig deeper into the quest experience with “Walking Towards Walden: A Pilgrimage in Search of Place” where “Place” still takes prominence. In Mitchell’s book “Looking for Mr. Gilbert: The Reimagined Life of an African American” we finally see what he can do with character development. Place is replaced by Character.

“The Rose Café” is the crescendo of Mitchell’s quest. While we get his usual treatment of the geography in intimate detail where necessary, it never overwhelms the characters that bring light to the scenery. The description of a dilapidated farmhouse surrounded by semi-wild donkeys is just enough to illuminate the eccentricities of the farmer/donkey herder who tells us fantastical stories about the locals. We get to know the people of Corsica and the arid scrub they inhabit through Mitchell’s eyes.

At the end of the tourist season Mitchell leaves Corsica and returns to school. In a final brilliant tease, Mitchell’s last sentence says more about Corsica, its society and his characters than all the rest of the book. It’s marvelous and you’ll put the book down after a good knee-slapping laugh.

When Mitchell left Corsica he began to write. His quest had only begun and we hope will never be over. A very charming book recommended to all.

Monday, March 26, 2007

How to start a Viral Marketing campaign

© 2007 By Steve Glines

Creative Director, Industrial Myth and Magic

Viral marketing is the latest magic marketing bullet that promises to transform a sow’s ear into a silk purse, a dud into a winner. It’s the dream of every marketer to create a marketing environment that is self-perpetuating and inexpensive, a viral marketing campaign. There are companies that will go out and hire hordes of teenage girls to shill some new product in the hope that it will take off through simple word of mouth. “Oh Buffy, look at my new toy, squeal, squeal.” Campaigns like this rarely work for teenage centric products and not at all for industrial or commercial goods.

Viral marketing does work! Here’s how to do it:

  1. A good story: You need a compelling story. Without a good story there is nothing to repeat.
  2. A web site: You need an attractive, easy to load and navigate web site that’s been optimized for search engines. People use the web the way we once used the yellow pages. If it doesn’t show up on the web it might as well not exist. Right now Google is the only search engine that counts.
  3. Drive them to your web site: You need to drive people to your web site; you need to give them a reason to go there.
    1. Articles: Magazines and newspapers (both on and offline) pay writers very little so the quality of independent articles (even in major newspapers) is very low. The majority of quality articles (specially in trade journals) are “planted” by writers hired to make a point. Make sure you’re one of them and make sure that your web site’s URL is mentioned so that that Google’s web crawling robots find the reference.
    2. Press releases: Targeted articles are expensive and time consuming. An easier way (and more effective from a web crawler’s perspective) is the press release. A press release serves the same purpose as a ghost written story and can be broadcast to many outlets. Remember what we said about newspapers and magazines, they exist to sell advertising not pay writers yet it’s the writing that attracts the readers that advertisers crave. When the media need content to carry advertising (no one is going to willingly go to a page with nothing but ads on it) they turn to the pool of press releases. If yours is written well there is a good chance it will be reproduced as written.
  4. Advertise: Finally, to reinforce the message and the story it does pay to advertise. Advertising is most effective when it’s used as a way of reinforcing an existing message, when the reader (or viewer) is expected to already know the story.

Once you have a web site the most effective thing to do is send out lots of press releases. The chances are that multiple “news services” will pick up your press release and that Google will scan your press release multiple times within a day or two. Each time it scans a press release it will register your web site. A good portion of Google’s page rank system is based on how many times your site is referenced by other unrelated sites. A well-written press release might well show up in hundreds of sources, that’s hundreds of Google references to your web site.

Anatomy of a Press Release

Is it news? If you do a Google search on the phrase “anatomy of a press release” you‘ll be told over and over “make sure it’s really newsworthy.” Good, that discourages your competition from sending out press releases. Pay no attention to that. You’d be surprised what can be made newsworthy. The annual arrival of Spring is not news but the emergence of the first Crocus of the season is and could be used to your advantage. Indeed the emergence of the first Crocus could be the occasion of several press releases. For example, you announce that you are going to have some event contingent upon the emergence of the first crocus. Then you announce a contest for spotting the first crocus, then you announce (with pictures) the first crocus, then you announce the results of the event contingent the emergence of the first crocus. There is no such thing as a slow news day in the mind of a good publicist.

So you obviously need “news” in a press release or there is no reason for anyone to carry your press release but the “news” portion of your press release is really irrelevant except to the harried editor who needs filler to wrap paying ads around. What’s important is the viral payload.

Crafting the payload

If news is the vehicle for getting your story into the media then the payload is what you really want repeated. Since you are in control of the story, this payload should reflect the story as you wish it to be told and retold. Before writing the payload, before writing press releases clarify what your goals are. Is the goal to sell a product or service, or the company or even an executive within the company? The story, the payload should have the following elements:

  1. The name, the buzzword, the hook, the logo that can be used to trigger a memory later on through advertising, word of mouth or planted stories.
  2. A story that separates you from your competition. It doesn’t have to be much but it does have to be there. This is what you want people to remember and the simpler the better.
  3. A way to get in touch with you and (most importantly) a pointer to your web site. This is what Google will see and use to point back to your web site. This is what you want Googles web crawler to see.

The story you convey in your payload should reflect the end point of your marketing campaign. If you’re a little one man (or woman) shop but plan to become Gigantic Humongous Corporation (GHC) then write your payload from the perspective of the Chairman of the Board of GHC. Using the hook of “news” you want to repeat the payload as often as you can. Repeat it over and over again and eventually it will become “fact.” Everyone will know the story of Gigantic Humongous Corporation because they have seen it over and over again. That’s how you create a viral marketing campaign, that’s how you create an industrial myth and that’s magic.

Industrial Myth & Magic is a cooperative amalgam of poets, playwrights, novelists, freelance journalists and a frustrated assortment of fine and commercial artists who make it a point of thinking outside the box. At Industrial Myth & Magic it’s our mission to tell an intriguing story that will resonate with your customers and draw them to you, your company and your products. It’s not good enough to build a better mousetrap you need a more compelling story. You need a story that will be told and retold. It’s not just advertising, it’s not just marketing, it’s not just corporate design … it’s everything. Its an industrial myth and that’s magic. 145 Foster Street, Littleton MA, 617-549-7274, www.industrialmyth.com

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Letting Go Poems - a review

Letting Go Poems
© 2006 by Robert Collet Tricaro

ISBN 0-89002-385-9 ($16.95)

Northwoods Press

Reviewed by Steve Glines

Most of the poems in this book are not thematically connected to letting go, at least not that I could tell, but there were just enough hints of the catharsis of “letting go” that forced me to read this volume from that point of view. Letting go includes morning past loves as well as past loved ones. The title and the first few poems got me thinking about the nature of immortality.

Our collective conscience knows everyone alive today and we remember many of what could be loosely called the last generation. We no longer have a collective memory that includes what it was like to be at the battle of Gettysburg, to pick a spot at random. Out collective conscious let go of those memories with the passing of the last Civil War veteran. We do have descriptions of events, many poetic, of the people and places of that era. The catharsis of letting go involves the emotional draining of the swamp of past relationships. For a writer with the talent of Robert Collet Tricaro, letting go creates the immortalitzation of places, people and events. That is what I take to be the meaning and purpose of this little volume.

The book opens with a commentary on life:


Faro seems bigger than the others,
harness and reins bejeweled with ruby
and sapphire glass, mane dusted
with gold. His eyes are
the wildest of all.

Children stand in his stirrups flailing
the air, shouting to a crown struck
by Faro’s glitter, as this magic carpet
whirls to the tune of the Wurlitzer.

Faro travels at great speed going
nowhere. Perhaps the wildness
in his eyes is really terror, having
learned that no rider can pull him out
from the centripetal rut he is in, as
he is rushed toward
an open distance he’ll never reach.

To immortalize someone gives them life beyond the grave. Plato gave immortal life to an otherwise miscreant character named Socrates. So to Tricaro gives life to an otherwise unnamed Irish cleaning lady:

The Irish Cleaning lady

Eyes gray as industry.
She’d boarded a ship in Cork
a city on her beloved isle,

but where living was hard,
to seek a better life.
Now she wears the starched

pink uniform that her school
kitchen job requires, which
passes for maid’s garb

when she cleans houses
late into the night. This lady
who speaks the brogue

of broad a’s
has work to do,
and a clean house it will be.

Poor in the sense that cars, rings
and fashions are of no
interest to her. Rich

in that cards, rings and fashons
are of no interest to her.
Resourceful in that she can

sew a silk purse from a sow’s ear,
but there’s be nothing in it
a friend, beggar, or thief could want.

Weak tea with a half slice
of marmalade toast for breakfast, thin
Mulligan stew with soda bread

for supper, perhaps
a pear, suit her well.
Her husband has but a small pension,

so she cleans houses.
With no child
of her own, she nevertheless

puts her deceased sister’s children
into their callings – white
turned-around collar for the boy,

nurse’s pin for the girl.
For decades, crouched
under the lash of moral obligation,

could her life have been more
spare, less giving had she

not left her emerald star
in its sky of sea?

We have all known them the little old ladies with a sad story to tell but a story largely kept to themselves so as not to trouble the grandchildren. We secretly wish for divine intervention, a lightning bolt of luck that transforms that losing lottery scratch ticket we all know to be in her purse into a winner capable of transforming her life into “Queen for a day,” a week, a month, just long enough to make her forget her past and smile the broad grin of someone inhaling life for the first time with the appetite of a hungry child. Alas life rarely works out that way and the poet is left with immortalizing a life that would otherwise be forgotten, a life that, without the poet, would cease with its passing.

Mrs. Dory’s Teacups

When her husband was alive a porch was called veranda, Later,
the New York Times became her seat on the stoop
of a four-story, run down walk-up.

Lines in her heavily rouged face, if placed end to end
could mark distance greater then the dimensions of her world –
the stoop and one room just inside the building’s front door.
The closest thing she came to activity was watching
UPS deliveries and girls playing hopscotch near the curb.

Her neighbor Todd ran errands for her. She’s offer him
coca in one of twelve teacups she and Mr. Dory brought
from their native England. Matching plates were sold
to pay for her husband’s cremation,
so she used saucers to serve her home-made scones.
Todd would run his fingers along the cup’s
fourteen-carat rose petals and smile.

She’s sip tea, her little finger extended, speak with clipped
eloquence about children she couldn’t have, her favorite nephew,
slightly older than Todd, who roomed in Greenwich Village
with a friend. She’d ask Todd why he blinked his eyes
so often.
Why at almost eighteen, he’d never dated.

When Mrs. Dory died some months later, her building super
gave Todd a box and a note. Ten teacups were exchanged for
scattering her ashes over Sleepy Hollow.

Two cups were for Todd. The note
included her nephew’s number.

And so it goes. This is a beautiful book of poetry. I recommend it to all.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bohemian Bongo Poetry

Bohemian Bongo Poetry
by Timothy Carl
T.S. Productions

Review by Steve Glines

Fear and Loathing in Greenwich Village

As soon as I read the title, “Bohemian Bongo Poetry” I started having flashbacks (I wonder if that bottle of Thorozine I had in 1973 is out of date? I wonder where I put it?) . When you get one of these flashbacks you just got to let it go and … it’s like having a migraine headache, nothing will stop it except time.

It was the summer of 1968 and I was emancipated, free and in Greenwich Village grooving to the hip things that were happening, happening right before my eyes. It was a movement, The Movement. It was The Movement and I was hip to it. (Have another hit.) The smoke was so think in Tompkins Sq. Park you could smell it a half dozen blocks and a couple of subway stations away. It was incense mostly, mostly incense so the stoned out cops wouldn’t know what was legal smoke and what was illegal smoke but it was smoke just the same. The same was true but less so in Washington Sq. But there, yes there, in a corner of the park was the poet’s corner and man it was the hippest thing in the known Universe. It was the rhythm; it was the song of The Movement. (Want another hit?)

Now I was cool and hip but some of these cats, man, they were so far out I couldn’t tell if they were the new vanguard of The Movement or just plain goofing on me. I mean you take Maynard G. Krebs put long hair on him, give him a set of bongos and couple of stoned out poems and you got something. Man, You got something. Yah!

The hip chick next to me started grooving and swaying back and forth to the beat and, man that halter top with nothing but skin underneath was sweet and when I got into the groove with her (Want a hit man?) …. I woke up in her apartment someplace in the Lower East Side with a couple of junkies in the corner shooting smack. I don’t think they saw me or cared. She made breakfast, rolled a joint and said she had to go to work. “My old man will be back here tonight,” she said very casually, “He’s a roadie with The Fish.” “Heavy,” I said nodding while trying to hold my breath. I stumbled and drifted back to the commuter train that took me to my safe and catatonic suburb.

I stopped going to New York City in the 1970’s. I’m not sure why, I guess I always had a love/hate relationship with the place. It wasn’t till after September 11th that I had the chance to spend anything but transit time in “The City.” It’s a different time and place. New Yorkers are actually friendly and helpful and not just because I’m a harmless middle-aged man now instead of an angry long haired hippy. I stayed in a hotel that bragged that it was in SOHO but actually it was a block from “The Bowery,” that once wino infested warehouse district that smelled as much of urine in 1968 as “The Village” smelled of pot. The Bowery is gone, squeezed between SOHO and the Lower East Side. I walked the five or six blocks from the hotel to Tompkins Square Park for old times sake. It smelled different. Gone were the incense and hashish, gone too were the “head shops” replaced with respectable French and Japanese bistros. I ate sushi. It was 9:00 P.M. In Boston you’d be heading home. I walked to Washington Square Park.

Where the poets and bongos used to grove there was a good retro street band collecting money from tourists and lost businessmen like me. It was fun and nostalgic, they played “Country Joe and The Fish.” I stood next to a woman about my age that was grooving to the music too but all I could do was smile at her and laugh at myself. I still like the poetry of the era. Lots of it survived as did some of the best minds of that generation who made it out of rehab alive and productive; but The Movement, if it ever existed, at all is gone, ephemera in a smoke filled memory safely compartmentalized and labeled “youthful indiscretions.”

Bummer. Those times were fun but over, way over. Timothy Carl’s little book of bongo poems brings those rhythms back, the feelings back, the fog back. Get those bongos going. Can you feel the rhythm?

02 20 20 05
No one is left alive

Who remembers the sixties,
Who fought in the eighties,

To help it stay alive,
Into the night we now drive,

The lantern is extinguished,
The fight relinquished,

Not a draw, but a win,
For the side, opposite him.
-Timothy Carl, 2007

That poem is on page 2. That might also be the title, the number 2. I’m not sure. But for sure what ever it was it’s over and we didn’t win. That poem sounds familiar though:

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, --
A cry of defiance, and not of fear, --
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1860.

It was a different war, different tone, viewpoint and effect. We were “The generation” that was going to change the world. We didn’t and poems that trigger flashbacks that tear at the soul like a migraine headache aren’t a way into my heart. I’ve moved on, I look forward, there is still some fight left in me and I still hope my life is not in vain.

For those born in the 1970’s and beyond this book of retro beatnik poetry may be fun in a theme park sort of way. Picture yourselves listening to jazz (You do listen to Jazz don’t you? Coltrain beats Brittany Spears by a country mile), shades down, fingers snapping to the beat. The music stops and the bongo player begins and you hear:

Cars sit at a tollgate,
Can’t wait to go ninety-eight.

City streets fry an egg,
Bums can’t stand to beg.

Beaches packed with cattle,
Children learn to dogpaddle.

Air-conditioned apartment dweller,
Locked inside a root cellar.

Sits around to complain,
Listing causes to distain.

Moving up a tax bracket,
Hopelessly lost in the racket.

What’s next in this show,
Viking ships on the row?
-Timothy Carl, 2007

Throw in someone who chants rather than sings and you get Dylan Revisited. Welcome kiddies to the Happy Hippy theme park.

Get your “Ripple” here, “speed, smack, acid, Mescaline.”
Where’s my bottle of Thorozine.

Oh look I made a poem.