La Conquista de un ISBN 1

La mayoría de los libros llevan lo que se llama un ISBN, o International Something Book Number.  Así no se llama de verdad.  Puse “something” porque no me acordaba de la palabra para la “S” cuando escribí la frase.  Quiere decir “standard”, así que empecemos de nuevo: La mayoría de los libros llevan lo que se llama un ISBN, o International Standard Book Number.  Esencialmente es el número identificador del libro y es tuyo mientras lo quieres.  Ser dueño de ese número te da un poder absoluto sobre tu obra.  Me gusta cómo suena eso.

            Solo hace falta sacarlo.  Me puse a investigar el tema.  El número se concede a través de una agencia autorizada.  En algunos lugares te cobran por gestionarlo, y como tienen un monopolio total sobre el servicio, te pueden cobrar mucho.  En USA la agencia se llama Bowker’s.  La empresa fue fundada en el siglo XIX por un alemán, Frederick Leypoldt, que pronto se dio cuenta de que hacía falta un sistema de clasificación eficaz en el mundo de los libros…una observación sumamente propia de un germano.   No creó el sistema en sí, pero sí sentó la idea de que es necesario estandarizar las publicaciones.  Su compañía, posteriormente comprado por un socio llamado R.R. Bowker, se convertiría en agencia oficial de ISBNs en ese país y el más famoso del mundo. 

            Conseguir un ISBN a través de ellos te sale por unos $280 (gracias a Dios, gano euros), pero después de eso, el libro es tuyo.  A mi modo de ver las cosas, la tarifa es tremendamente cara, sobre todo que ahora se puede obtener electrónicamente.  De hecho, según su página web, te asignan un número inmediatamente (después de realizar el pago, por supuesto), así exactamente qué porcentaje de esos 300 pavos es realmente destinado al servicio personalizado se me escapa.  Pero te tienen arrinconado, que es justo como les gusta tenerte. 

            ¿Era así en todas partes del mundo?  ¿Llegaría el brazo largo de Bowker’s al territorio español también?   El asunto no estaba claro.  Había leído un artículo que decía que otros países, como Canadá, ofrecían este servicio gratis.  Me pareció propio de los canadienses porque son gente enrollada y me gusta estar con ella, siempre cuando no estoy en Vancouver después de una derrota en la final de la Copa Stanley de hockey sobre hielo.  Pero a parte de ese comentario bajo, he de reconocer que hacen las cosas de una manera humana y socializada, por tanto no me extrañó para nada que te proporcionaran el número por el precio de una apretón de la mano y una sonrisa. 

            El artículo decía que en casi todos los países es así.  Es decir, sin cobrar.  Yo, después de 20 años aquí, tenía mis dudas.  Hay que recordar que estamos en un país donde solo sacar un carnet te sale por unos mil euros mínimos, y que la relación entre las costosas clases de conducir obligatorias y aprobar el examen ha sido bajo sospecha desde hace muchos años.   Pero era solo un ejemplo.  He tenido que pagar por prácticamente todo servicio oficial aquí, ¿por qué iba a ser diferente conseguir un ISBN?

          Lo fue.

         Se continuará.

There is an ISBN god after all

The next morning I woke and did a few things around the house, like clean it…thereby removing a direct health threat to the city.  Then I decided it was time to address the ISBN issue and prepared to head out to the agency.  Just to amuse myself, I actually called the place to see if they would pick up and field my questions on the phone, but it just rang endlessly.  Everything was as good as it could be in the best of all possible worlds, as they say.

         So, I wandered up to the metro to go over to the offices. Madrid was beginning to come back to life little by little from the lull of August vacation time.  It had been a long month because Aug. 1 came on a Monday, so you were able to tack on the weekend before if you wanted.  And it’s not over for some.  If you use up 21 of your 22 vacation days and take off Thursday and Friday of this week, you can turn a measly little month into a 37-day break…with one to spare between now and December.  It’s the beauty of living inEurope.

       There was movement on the public transport system but it wasn’t swamped.  That meant for easy riding.  The Madrid metro is one of the best subway systems in the world.  I won’t go into details because I have got that lined up for some idea down the road.  Lately it has decided to offer added services like TV screens on the tracks between lines that distract the traveler with news reports, for the most part.  This looks like an import from the U.S. where you can watch the tube even in grocery store lines.  But who cares.  I don’t necessarily find this to be such a bad thing, since commuting can be such a drag and it’s nice to have a break from staring catatonically at the tiled wall on the other side of the tracks.    What are we supposed to do otherwise…think? 

        I got off at the metro station Guszmán el Bueno and walked over to a little known street called Santiago Rusiñol which would probably never be visited by my persona if it weren’t for this place.  But its location did help me understand why, on the website, they rather politely ask academics and scholars to stop sending their books and articles to them for an ISBN if they had no intention of selling them.  The agency is just a stone’s throw away from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, this city’s largest public university with some 50 million students enrolled.  I don’t have the exact figure, but you get what I mean.  Suffice it to say that a lot of professors are bogging down a service meant for greedy profit-seeking writers like me…and I kind of resent that.

       In any event, after a little searching, the building is set back from the street somewhat, I came to the place.  Security was available but not tight.  The metal detector was there for symbolic reasons as it was not on, and the guard was talking to the woman at the desk.  This was a book agency, after all.  

       Once I got the guard’s attention, I asked him where the offices were.  He looked at me, then upwards, then put his finger to his mouth in pensive pause and replied after about seven seconds, “It’s the first door on the left.”  

         I’m really hoping it was his first day because otherwise I can’t quite explain his reaction. 

        Since I didn’t believe him, I decisively took the first door on the right and, as a result, broke into the cleaning staff’s closet.  That’s when I gave the guard a chance to think the same about me.  He approached with a shake of the head (the kind that suggested I needed to be heavily medicated) and repeated which way I was supposed to go.  I looked across the hall and saw there were two doors, neither of which said anything about the ISBN.  So I chose one just to see what would happen, but determined not to resort to the guard’s help.

        Well, there I was in a big open office, full of office workers, doing lots of office working stuff.  I entered sheepishly as not to disturb anyone, but it was pointless because it was clear from the very beginning that I had picked the wrong entrance.  All twelve people at their desks raised their heads and stared at me in silence.  Incomprehensible silence…the way my daughters’ guinea pigs gaze at me when I speak to them. 

       The last and only time I had captured the attention of an entire room of strangers just by appearing was when my friend Mateo and I waltzed into an all-black latenight bar in a basically all-black neighborhood of Washington,D.C. twenty-five years ago.  That wasn’t a common thing to do back then; and the clientele’s reaction proved our point.  But we had no choice.  We had drunk all the beer available in the predominately white bars and weren’t finished with the night yet.  So there you have it.  Even the guy at the door suggested we move somewhere else…like Wales.  But we insisted, got in, had a few beers, a good time and left…and we certainly gave everyone there something to talk about for the next couple of days.

      Something to that effect happened yesterday.  Except this time they were all librarians (or looked like them) and I wasn’t looking for beer.  Librarians tend to be very orderly people, and it was obvious I had breached the harmony of their world.

      I said good morning and told them the purpose of my visit.  A young woman from her desk nicely called back, “Oh, you must go to the desk.  It’s to your left.”

        The desk was visible to me.  It was a large and long wooden U-shaped piece designed to provide service to the customer.  That was me.  But I had inadvertently slipped behind the lines and was on the other side.  “Oh.  I see.  Excuse me.  See you in a second.”

        I literally had to walk out the door (didn’t look up in case the guard was looking in my direction) and entered the one next to it.  It was the same room with the same librarians, but this time I was on the proper side.  The workers had gone back to their screens satisfied I had returned to my place and everything was as good as it could be in the best of all possible worlds.

        I approached the desk and the same young woman assisted me.  She was very pleasant and helpful.  She managed to answer all my questions including the one about the fees, which was the biggest surprise of all.  “They haven’t published them yet.  Probably in September.  So the service is still free, and you still have a few days.”  It was August 29th

       Unbelievable.  Bowker and friends were laughing at writers and publishers acroos the ocean all the way to the bank, and Spain still had a heart for the impoverished artist like me.  In ten minutes I was out the door and racing home, trying to beat the deadline. 

Any more of that ISBNing, and you can forget it

 It was, I said.  It was different.

       At least in the sense I couldn’t find the website at all, other than the part where they have lists upon lists of cataloged titles, which interested me zero, because what I wanted was to become a part of those lists, not peruse through them.  Other than that, there was nothing.  I went back to the POD’s. 

        Several online publish-on-demand sites offer to do the paperwork for you, but for a small fee, or even free.  What’s the catch?  Because you know there is one, oh yeah.  They register their company as your official publisher and thus control all the commercial rights and decisions. That includes distribution.  The book would be yours, as would be the copyright and you would get royalties.  You just couldn’t sell it where you wanted.  Essentially, that would be the case if you went through the traditional route of publishing through a publisher.  This may be a bonus for some who would like someone else to do the work for them, but I always fear I am giving away my soul. 

        For example, let’s just say I sell a 100,000 copies (that’s not going to happen but I am having a little fun with this here) and instead of spending the rest of my days as a literary star attending all the big celebrity events around the world, I would end up on one of those History Channel documentaries of “Whatever happened to Brian Murdock?” when the world learns how my agents and publishers swindled me of 99.97% of my earnings because I had my head up my ass when it came to signing my contracts.  I wasn’t going to let that happen. 

         To be fair, these websites have all the options available to you, so you can pick; they just make the more advantageous ones for them sound the most advantageous ones for you as a writer…which is what companies do so well.  I wouldn’t expect any less from them.  But I don’t mind that, as long as I am aware of it.

        Word was also out that in order for me to have my own ISBN, I needed to have my own publishing house, which would require yet another application and, in turn, more paperwork…and more time.  And I was getting sick of shoveling out more time. 

        So I checked outMadrid’s publisher’s guild and started shivering.  Guilds depress me.  They unnerve me.  The website was harmless enough, but I couldn’t help getting the feeling it was a disguise for a society of literary thugs who don’t appreciate unknown authors like me butting in on their business.  I kept thinking that one day they would grab me by the collar and throw me into an alley, crush my fingers with a laser printer and grunt, “That’ll keep you from writing for a while.  He-he.”

          So, for simplicity’s sake, I pretended not to read publisher requirements and went on hoping it wouldn’t matter in the end. 

         Now, the reason I couldn’t find what I needed was that the ISBN agency stopped being a part of the Ministry of Culture in 2010 and has now become its own entity.  Well, according to the agency, the ministry still has the rights to them, but the agency itself is separate.  Or something to that effect.  It really made no sense to me, so I stopped paying attention. 

         Once at the site, I was led through the right channels until you can get an online form which I could and must fill out and send back via email.  I felt I cold field things like putting my name and address without any problem, but when I got to other issues like the book size, price (without IVA) and number of copies, I was at a loss.  I had no idea.  I hadn’t reached that stage.  The publishers asked for the ISBN before working out the specifics, and the agency asked for the specifics before handing out the ISBN.  See what I mean when I mention Kafka? 

         Then I finally got to the fees.  There was a section that indicated the cost.  I knew it!  I told you we weren’t inToronto.  But then came the twist.  No prices were listed.  All it said was that obtaining an ISBN used to be courtesy of the government but that there would now be a charge to cover administrative expenses.  I interpreted it as: our colleagues inAmericaare making a killing, why the hell shouldn’t we do the same?  

          The thing was…no fee was listed.  The costs would be published on the website in some unspecified time in the future.  Hmm.  So, now I had to guess what they were going to take me for.  That was going to be interesting.

         There were too many variables and too many unanswered questions for me to proceed, plus I felt like watching a video (yes, I am from that generation), so I decided I would pay them a personal visit next day…personally. 

        As a precautionary measure, I expected the worse.

You’ve gotta be ISBN-ing me!

Most books have what is called an ISBN, or an International Something Book Number.  The “something” is not true obviously.  I just couldn’t remember what it stood for when I wrote the sentence.  It actually represents “Standard”, so once again: MOst books have what is called an ISBN number, or an International Standard Book Number.  This is essentially the book’s ID, and it’s yours to keep as long as you want it.  Owning it gives you full power over your work.  I liked the sound of it.

        The problem is, in the United States, there is an agency called Bowker, which somehow has got an absolute monopoly on the ISBN service in that country.  The company was founded back in the 19th Century by a German immigrant named Frederick Leypoldt.  He was the one who decided there was a need for a more efficient classification system in the book world, which is something you would expect from a German.  So he started up the ISBN way of doing things.  And it worked.  Today it is the universal identity tag for publications.

       Getting one costs you about $280 (thank God I make euros) but, after that, the book is all yours.  Still, the administrative fee seems a bit steep, more so these days now that it’s all done electronically.  In fact, according to their website, your number is assigned to you immediately via email (after purchase, naturally), so just how much personalized service is needed in those 300 bucks is beyond me.  But they’ve got you cornered, which is exactly the way monopolies like things.  It may, however,  just be one investment worth, well, investing in.

     Was it like that around the world?  Did the long arm of the Bowker reach Spanish territory too?  Apparently not that much.  But I didn’t know that at first.  I had read in this article that other countries, like Canada, provided this service for free.  That seemed typical the Canadians because they are such nice people, except when you are in Vancouver after a Stanley Cup Finals loss.  But aside from that uncalled for comment, they do things in a socialized human manner, and it made perfect sense you could get one there for little more than a smile and a handshake.  According to the same contributor of the article, most other countries were equally generous in handing out numbers.  I had my doubts.  This was just the kind of thing the Spanish would know how to pinch our pockets with.  I mean, in this country, getting your driver’s license drains you of about $1500, and the blatant relationship between overpriced compulsory Driver’s Education classes and passing the exam has been remarked upon and recognized for some time.  I’ve had to pay for pretty much everything official here…why should this be any different?

      It was.  TBC

La fuente de la Plaza de Colón

Una nueva curiosidad para aquellos que disfruten de paseos nocturnos.  En la Plaza de Colón, un lugar que siempre me ha parecido algo desaprovechado y caótico como concepto, había una fuente donde caía el agua como si fuera una pequeña catarata.  Pues han hecho algo nuevo.  Hubo una época en la dejaron de contar con esa idea que a mí me gustaba.  No sé cuales fueron las razones, pero lo eliminaron y pusieron en su lugar una especie de plástico duro horroroso que cubría el hueco.  La otra noche bajaba Génova andando y vi a lo lejos unas luces suaves de color violeta que navegaban de izquierda a derecha justo en ese lugar.  Luego aparecía un cartel de luz también anunciando el centro cultural y el teatro Fernán Gómez.  Desde esa distancia parecía que había una luz atravesando el agua.  ¡Por fin! Me dije.  Le han dado una nueva vida.  Pero al acercarme, vi que el sistema es aún más chulo.  No es una capa de agua por la que pasan unos focos.  Es la mismísima agua que crea todo lo que ves.  Se cae desde arriba en chorros programados para proyectar imágenes y palabras.  Lo mismo no es ninguna novedad pero yo desde luego nunca lo había visto. 

      Os recomiendo que le echéis un vistazo algún día.  No hace falta hacer un viaje especial para verlo, pero si estáis en la zona merece la pena…creo yo.   Y si no, ya lo veréis la próxima vez que vayais al teatro Fernán Gómez que tiene, a mi modo de ver, las butacas más cómodas de Madrid.

Mi amigo el español: Cómo decir “thank you”. Lesson 1

Justo ayer estaba dando un paseo por el centro.  Cuando lo hago mantengo la vista, el olfato y los oídos muy alertas para absorber lo que estoy viendo y viviendo.  Me viene bien.  Así que, estaba cruzando la calle cuando oí a un compatriota preguntar a otro: “How do you say “thank you” in Spanish?”

            A este jovencito le felicito por su curiosidad intelectual y seguro se habrá acostado contento de haber aprendido algo nuevo, si no se ha emborrachado tanto que ya no se acuerda, pero tengo que ser sincero, a mí me extrañó mucho que no lo supiera porque me gusta pensar que hay palabras extranjeras que forman parte de la base de datos básica de cualquier estadounidense, y “gracias” entra allí. Vamos, ni siquiera estamos pidiendo la oferta Premium de pago.  Todo el mundo sabe decir “gracias” en castellano, sobre todotas generaciones más jóvenes.  Además el español es la segunda idioma de los Estados Unidos, y cuenta con unos 40 millones de hispanoparlantes.  Así es, casi la población de España.  Y hay más estudiantes que estudian vuestra idioma que cualquier otra…pero vamos, con diferencia…por goleada.  De cada 100, algo así como 60 estudian el castellano, y en segundo lugar, el francés con 15.  ¡Toma ya!

            Y eso por no hablar de los demás que están familiarizados con algo de vocabulario.  Así que, no me lo explico.  ¿Dónde coño ha estado este tío toda su vida?  Tengo ganas enseñarle esa pregunta como Día 1 de su nuevas clases de español.  “A ver, repite chaval.  ‘¿Dónde coño has estado?’  Venga.  Te toca.”

            Pobre.  Tendrá su explicación.  Lo mismo le coge el gusto al idioma y acaba escribiendo artículos en español en su blog.  No sería el primero.  Vamos a darle tiempo. 

A quick walk around Madrid yesterday evening: Turkish Food and Fountain

Yesterday, as I said, I went for a walk around the center of town, just to see how things were going. It wasn’t an exhaustive investigation so I don’t have much new to report on what I saw other than that I am lucky to be alive.  I had a potato salad at a bar near Alonso Martínez.  It’s one of those tradtional 1970s cafeterias you pass by dozen times and never bother to go into, but something told me it was just what I was looking for. I came to the conclusion later one that my instincts were a bit obtuse at the time.  It was one of those big bright cafeterias with staff dressed in those almost navy uniform outfits, and they refer to everyone as “usted” in a mildly officious manner.  I ordered a half-portion of ensaladilla rusa, or russian salad, a classic in Spanish cuisine which. It’s apparently translated as “salade olivier” and really was invented in that country, but since I am sure most of my readers have never heard of it, let’s just call it a potato salad with mayonnaise, potatoes, peas, beans, peppers, boiled eggs and tuna fish…more or less.  These dishes tend to vary in ingredients.  In summertime, it can be kind of risqué to dive into a plate of ensaladilla because you just don’t know what state the mayo is in.  On the other hand, it is served chilled, so the temperature goes well with the weather. Mine looked decent enough, no gelled mayo on the edges that warn of a night on the toilet, but the waitress could have put off sticking her bandaged finger in her ear until after she finished dumping the salad in the tray into my plate. In Madrid, it is still common for many of these dishes to be displayed in cool glass chambers for us to be enticed by.  I guess I could have passed it up but I was so hungry I went for it…and it lived.  It was all right, but nothing to write home about.  Needed more tuna and salt.  Mine’s better.  What nearly killed me was the price.  I mean this was a plate so small that in some places could have constituted an actual tapa.  Let me remind you that in Madrid, a tapa is morsel that is served with your drink and is given for free.  Anyway, this plate cost me 6 euros.  If it had been four, I guess that would have been acceptable, three even better, but six was out of control. I won’t be going back there again, even if I get a hankering for earwax.

        I walked over to San Bernado area and, in need of just your basic filler, moseyed into a Turkish kebab joint; the greasy spoon kind that have cropped up all over the city over the past ten years…all over Europe, come to think of it.  They have become a kind of European fast food market.  I don’t go to these places I care about my veins.  I go because they are tasty and greasy and cheap.  Plus, I have to admit, many of the guys who work at these places, and for some reason they always seem to be men, are generally very nice and funny. The one up the street from my home is a perfect example.  I like to patronize when I can.  The problem here was that it was about 100º inside and I could just hear the bacteria crackling in the background. Feeling foolhardy, I ordered salmonella sandwich on pita bread with tomato, lettuce and that yoghurt sauce they serve with it, said a big prayer and munched it down.  I asked for a bottle of beer as an antidote.

          Then I continued to wander the streets and wait for the first bolts of tremors, cold sweats and retching, but somehow they never came. Maybe I am just immune to this stuff after all these years.

         I headed home (I already mentioned the Spanish lesson in the previous post) and went by Colón, which as some may already know by now, is not always one of my favorite squares.  In any event, they seem to have made an improvement: the new cascade right in front of the Teatro Fernán Gómez underneath the square.  It’s cool to look at when it’s night.  All the words and images that you see are not formed by light projecting through a wall of water, but actually shots of water being dropped from some tube running along the top of the cascade in what seems to me to be a computer controlled system.  It was the first time I had seen it.  If you are in the neighborhood, give it a shot…and also check out whatever might be showing that evening in the theater, which might just have the most comfortable seats of any in Madrid.

My Good Friend Spanish 1: How to say “thank you”

Last night I was walking up Fuencarral Street, making my way home after a casual walk and a bite to eat and.  Of course, as I do this I like to keep my eyes, nose and ears open to take in everything I can.  So, there I was crossing the street when I heard one college-looking American asking another, “Now, how do you say ‘thank you’ in Spanish?”

            I will commend the young man on his intellectual curiosity and I can assure you he will go to bed satisfied he has learned something new that day, as long as he doesn’t get too drunk to remember the word in the morning, but I gotta tell ya, I was taken aback because I like to think there are certain foreign words that are so universal they enter the basic database package of any American.  I mean this isn’t even the premium pay version common knowledge.  Everyone seems to know how to say that, especially when you come from a country where Spanish is the second language and spoken by some 40 million people (yes, that’s nearly the population ofSpain) and it is by far the most studied language by Americans.  But that’s because for some reason we think Spanish is easier to learn than other languages…yeah, right!  I’ll tell you about that some other day. 

        But maybe I am wrong.  Maybe it’s a start for this man.  Maybe he’ll end up writing books in Spanish one day.  He’s just off to a slow start. 

        By the way, you say, “gracias”.   Just in case!


PODs: Pain-in-the-butt On Demand

I know I tried to avoid it but I just couldn’t help it.  I did my best to keep off the subject and move on to something else more worthwhile; something that will be engraved in the universal mind of universal literature, or maybe the universal literature of the universal mind.  Let me give some thought to that.  But I don’t think so.  I just had to get it out of me and myself. 

         I wanted to be a rock star as a young man, still do.  That’s all I wanted to do.  I wanted to learn how to play the guitar and perform Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird solo, and blast it from a balcony looking over some city street, even if it wereBucharest.  Now I can’t even qualify as an old rocker because I never was a young one.   Which is partly why I write and publish books.  Or at least try to.

         I’m going through my first self-published job, and it shows.  I shout at my family, ignore my friends and am generally just in a pissy mood day and night.  I’m hoping to get it out as soon as possible, but as I move along in this process (move is not really the right verb, actually), I realize it is not going to happen over night.  I now see that when Kafka wrote The Castle what he was really describing was the publishing world. 

         Let me explain.

        When it came to churning my books out onto paper, there were a number of options to consider.  One was getting a publisher to do it for you.  And without a literary agent.  Ha!  And in this day and age!  Yeah, right!  La crisis! La crisis!  And any future crises too.  They told me about meetings they’d be having months down the road to discuss their new projects, but I know what that means.    

          Until recently, publishing was horrible.  You were at the mercy of a handful of companies…and, as I said, you often needed an agent to help get your work through, if you ever did.  You still need all of these to make it to the big time, but thank God modern technology has allowed for the meek and cheap like us to sidestep it and test our luck without getting someone’s approval.  It’s not about necessarily making it big.  It’s about saying you’ve got a published work, because you think it deserves it.  And it doesn’t necessarily mean that what you have done is good.  But at least you don’t have to rely on someone else’s criteria.  If you’re satisfied, that should be a good start.

       I’ve already got two books out there, but I was lucky; but that wasn’t enough to ensure eternity.  Being a total no-name, you still have to go through the works every time.  It’s like starting over from the beginning.  I could resort to more extreme methods, I guess, like committing suicide, but only as a marketing strategy, mind you.  But I have my reservations.  First of all, it may not work; that is, I may not succeed in killing myself.  Secondly, even if I do, that doesn’t guarantee post-mortem achievement.  And, finally, if I did, who was going to place all those publish-on-demand orders for me?

         Now I’m lying in bed next to half a dozen Chilean flags (don’t ask) and wondering just when I’ll get this off the ground.  I’ve joined a dozen publish-yourself sites, downloaded so many programs the damn laptop is bloated with software.  I’ve PDFed this story and PDFed that article, I’ve ePUBbed every and anything that can be ePUBbed.  I’ve uploaded, downloaded, streamed, run, installed, upgraded, downgraded, confiscated, eliminated, and just plain denigrated the sanctity of this art in the hopes of holding in my hand a volume of my latest work.

        I’ve investigated as far as a human should possibly do.  Research, research and research.  That’s the kind of advice I read about on the internet.  You could literally spend the rest of your life reading up on the subject without ever getting up from your bed.   Nurses would have to come in and bathe you, and cure the sores and scabs off your back and butt.  And the only conclusion you would come to is that it’s an endless waste of time; the minute you think you’ve found the right support for you, there comes some smart-ass website trashing your choice inside and out and promoting a better, more cost-efficient service than yours.  And it’s backed by dozens of fellow readers…each giving their particular vision, approach and strategies on how to self-publish.  It boggles the mind how few will coincide in their opinions.  It’s madness.  It’s vomitous (and yes I know that’s not a word…how’s barf-inducing as an alternative?).  That is why you have to stop, step back and change your perspective.  Maybe committing suicide isn’t that bad after all…please don’t take me seriously on this point!

      I think I’ll go watch Hurricane Irene on NOAA and cool off. 


Be back. 

Great Traditions in Madrid: Combatting Boredom with Good Movies 2

Then word gets out I am desperately bored…some good souls who are taking me too seriously…being bored in Madrid in August is part of the natural yearly cycle…it’s a part of being in Madrid in August…but it is also what makes it so seductively quiet and purposeful for my needs…if I were a bored serial killer, that might be cause for alarm…so let’s focus on hurricane Irene, a name which will spark conversation in close circles, and see just how close she comes to slamming into Connecticut.  It’s been a while since that last happened; a long time.  I remember as a kid a couple roared through.  I especially remember the cat sitting still in the front hall, sitting immobile and making a constant groaning sound for a couple of hours.  The poor thing didn’t really take a liking to those things.  Irene will begin to peter out as it crawls up north, but it should still pack enough punch to keep Greenwich on its toes.

            Meanwhile, I’m over in Madrid enjoy late summer warmth and cool evening. Think I’ll have to wander into the center and see what’s happening there.  I was over in Lavapiés last night seeing some friends.  Lavapiés is an old blue-collar neighborhood in Madrid which has recently ceased to be Spanish territory.  Now it is run and owned or owned and run (depending) by an international conglomerate of cultures looking for something that will make what they had seem less.  It’s become a multinational without the executives, the suites and the board rooms.  We had dinner at a Senagalese restaurant.  Boy, you couldn’t have done that ten years ago.  I’d recommend Lavapiés to anyone looking for a new a different side of Madrid.

            Meanwhile, I’m over in Madridin my living room (why hasn’t that become a compound noun by now?…it should) working on my upcoming books and enjoying my very local film festival.  This week’s fare seems to be cine noir, because last night featured Orson Welles Touch of Evil.  Watching Charlton Heston as a Mexican detective was interesting to say the least.  Welles was outstanding.  And his movie was a visual masterpiece.  Now of course Welles was one director who I had heard of before I came over, in part because he was the fat bearded guy who told us to buy Ernest & Julio Gallo wines back in the 70s (I haven’t seen a wine commercial for ages, come to think of it) and partly because in 8th grade we were subjected to Citizen Kane and told about how wonderfully incredible it was.  The problem was it bored us stiff.  It was definitely one of those films that you had to watch again at a later age before you really started to appreciate all of its qualities.  I still think it drags…but now I know why it’s wonderfully incredible.  Except for maybe The Third Man (another classic which a Stars Wars generation kid like me was not going to necessarily get any kicks out of), just about everything else Welles did had gone to oblivion in most of our minds. 

       Ironically, when it came to directors, it was the European ones we tended to all know about; Fellini, Truffaut, Hitchcock, Bergman…even Almodovar.  Can you believe that I had heard of Almodovar and not Billy Wilder?  Nor George Cukor?  There must be an explanation and there is, but that is a long subject which has been covered extensively by people far more knowledgeable than me.