Monday, December 20, 2010


I have done a lot of good things over the last ten days but apparently blogging hasn’t been one of them.

Life at present is dominated by the fact that my friend Jo is dying. Her cancer is progressing at any alarming rate so it’s now not a matter of weeks or months, as we thought until recently, but of days. For all that, and despite being in great pain, heavily drugged and physically very constrained, her mind, and her sense of humor, seem to be as sharp as ever.

Remarkable people tend to have remarkable friends. so through Jo I have met some terrific people recently. Strange to think of the business of dying being a social occasion but there it is. And from the beginning, we all share one common interest: To do the best for Jo. The star in that respect is her daughter Penny who is proving to be about as devoted a care-giver as one is likely to find.

This whole business has made me think a great deal about death and the manner of it and it’s something I hope to write about in the months ahead. And it’s destination we all have in common. If we all handle the manner of it as well as Jo, it will be a fine thing.

Jo, who has essentially been a world class traveler and tour guide for most of her life has managed to explore all of the nearly all 360 degrees of the this Earth of ours in the course of a fascinating life, but has missed out on two. If that puts you in mind of a female version of Indiana Jones, you should know that even before her illness she was a slight little thing; attractive too, both physically and intellectually – and with a compelling personality.

The French have a word for such a package: Formidable!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, G...Image via Wikipedia
"I've got to get back to feed my cat."

Department of Adequate Angst
I normally try and work out what I’m going to write about before opening my eyes in the morning so that after I have commuted to the computer, I can go straight to work.

It’s also a neat way of avoiding writer’s block – if that is something you suffer from. I’m largely spared that particular form of angst although I have adequate supplies of angst about other issues so still qualify as a real author. 

Angst is de rigeur as far as we creative types are concerned. It is as adrenaline. Or so they say.

Currently my angst is being dissipated by Charlie (Charlotte to strangers) a three legged white cat of singular personality and an ulta-loud purr, whose presence is so calming that I’m wondering what history would have been like if Hitler had had a cat.

But I’m glad to report that even with my angst meter temporarily set at low, I still seem able to write.

This morning I woke up with a new and better beginning to THE BOOK-LOVER’S MOVE in my mind. The story has been gestating since I drove across the U.S. back in April but now it seems determined to emerge regardless of my personal priorities.

Writing is less a vocation than a compulsion; and, for many of us, it is even more soothing than a cat.

Hitler, of course, was a writer too - so maybe Charlie wouldn’t have succeeded with him after all.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.

You’re going to be in a book.

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Monday, December 6, 2010


Take Pride Spokesman Clint EastwoodImage via Wikipedia
It's amazing who one can find on the front covers
of one's books.
Clint Eastwood made one of the Russian editions.

Department of Inadequate Brainpower
It’s interesting to write against one’s own strengths. I have spent much of my life trying to develop the skills required to write what used to be known as Big Thrillers (satisfying reads of over 400 pages in length – perhaps 150,000 words) and now I’m battling to write short pieces of perhaps 500 words in length.

My brain is creaking at the strain.  

I seem to be able to do it though I’m still too slow. However, my respect for the masters of the art of blogging grows by the day. My favorites are Jim Fallows' blog in The Atlantic Monthly and The Big Picture which is awesomely good.  

Ministry of Culture & Movie Stars
On Saturday, I attended a highly enjoyable dinner party but didn’t get to bed until 3.00 am. Among those attending were a delightful pair of Bulgarians, a physicist and chemist respectively, who are effortlessly familiar with half a dozen languages, have travelled much of the world, and manage to personify both the strengths of European culture and the American Dream; and are charming into the bargain.

As if to rub salt into my sense of inferiority – I only have school French and speak virtually no Irish – Stan, the physicist, had read one of my books, GAMES OF THE HANGMAN, in both Bulgarian and English.

The whole experience was a reminder to think more globally.

It’s fun being translated into foreign languages but mildly frustrating when one is unable to read the translation to see how faithful the translator was. According to Stan, my Bulgarian counterpart did an impeccable job so now I am minded to track him down.

The Russians put Clint Eastwood on one of my covers. I’m far from sure they asked him first.

Anyway, now you know why the post I wrote yesterday that was destined for my TITANIC NATION blog – the site devoted primarily to U.S. economic issues – ended up on this blog. It had to do with what I shall discretely call “a heavy head.”

But the evening was a great success.

I am reminded that one of the attributes of being a cultured human being is having a reasonable working knowledge of the world, and, in particular, the nations that one’s friends come from; and the fact that I know remarkably about Bulgaria.

Time to remedy that situation.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Share of financial sector in gross domestic pr...Image via Wikipedia
The Financialization of the U.S. Economy
has gone hand in hand with this country's
economic decline. It is not a coincidence.

When I first started writing TITANIC NATION back in 2007, I was far from sure that America was in decline; although I was certainly aware of the possibility. Three years later, I am now entirely sure of the fact despite the official pronouncements that we are now officially out of recession, and that the numbers indicate that the economy is actually growing.

A country that cannot - or chooses not to - care adequately for the wellbeing of ALL its citizens cannot be deemed to be in a satisfactory state.

Growth, at least as expressed primarily in terms of GDP – Gross Domestic Product – is a false god. In the United States of America today it means an unparalleled concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few, an army of careerists who serve them, and the steady erosion of the economic stability of much of the rest of the population. It makes a nonsense of democracy. It turns the Constitution into a legal instrument of oppression to be wielded by the privileged few. Above all, even if you don’t have an atom of compassion in your body and believe that un-regulated capitalism is the way things should be, it palpably isn’t working. The U.S. economy is losing ground – and jobs - under nearly every heading.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


William Butler YeatsCover of William Butler Yeats
Department of Concern About Ireland and Wild Geese
It appears that the Irish economy has been tossed a lifeline but on terms which are harsh in the extreme. 

I feel that other solutions could, and should, have been found, and that this standard government reflex – as implemented in quite a number of countries from the U.S. to the U.K - of saving banks at the expense of the population is a fundamentally flawed approach. 

The financial community should not be immune from the normal fate which results from insolvency.

I look forward to writing about that subject in the future, but my main focus right now has been to wonder what, if anything, the Irish diaspora can do to help. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that this disaster may be turned into an opportunity. Ireland was headed into becoming a singularly unpleasant place. 

With luck, new leadership and application, it may now head in a sounder direction.

Marshall Aurerback – wrote a fine column on the Irish tragedy on November 29 2010 and finished it off with some poetry from W.B. Yeats. Let me quote:

“As always, leave it to the Irish to come up with the most poetic response to the crisis. True, W.B. Yeats did not live to see this disaster, but his passionate “September 1913” does evoke the tragedy of today’s Ireland and the futility of the current policy responses for their people (and beyond):

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Graves that might soon include not only the O’Learys, but also the Garcias, Texeiras, Moreaus, and Schmidts if a more rational course of action throughout the euro zone is not adopted soon.

Marshall Auerback is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and a market analyst and commentator.”

Department of Amazingly Interesting Websites
Junta42 are all about content and they practice what they preach.  Here is an example from founder Joe Pollizi’s blog on that site. Junta42 are all about linking those who need content with the talent that can provide it – and they seem to know exactly what they are doing.


“The following is compliments from my friend Sage Lewis. A good reminder for everyone in marketing.
  • 80% of all Internet users go immediately to a search engine when online. 
  • 30-40% of users click on the first organic listing. 
  • 62% of search users click a link on the first page of search engine results.
  • Years to reach 50 millions users: Radio, 38 years; TV, 13 years; Internet, 4 years; iPod, 3 years. Facebook added 100 million users in less than nine months; iPhone applications hit 1 billion in nine months.  
  • 77% of search users choose organic over paid listings when searching, 67% choose organic search when purchasing. 
  • 40% of SEO campaigns aware of their ROI achieve returns in excess of 500%, while only 22% of PPC campaigns were able to achieve this value. 
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world's fourth largest, between the United States and Indonesia. 
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55- to 65-year-old females. 
  • Social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the Web.
What makes all this work? Consistent and compelling content marketing.”

End of extract.

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