Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You Don’t Say: Dr. Rae Psychoanalyzes V.S. Naipaul

V.S. requires treatment
for a serious word disorder.
To be blunt,
he doesn't know when
to shut up.

Welcome, Mr. V.S. Naipaul. Please make yourself comfortable. I see that you are in the habit of removing your shoes. This is good.

You have the right idea. Just sit back and relax on my virtual Word Couch. Here is where I muck around in my client’s gibberish, looking for telltale psychology.

One wouldn’t think so, with your Nobel Prize for literature and what we assume is a talent with words, but you are up to your neck in a very funky word hole.

Do you remember saying these things about women writers last week?

“I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

Ah ha! You, too, use words as a way into a person’s psychology.

Women’s writing, you say, reveals “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world.” And you don’t stop there, Mr. Naipaul. “Inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.”

Hold everything! Do you have a license to practice? Or perhaps you think the Nobel Prize gives you liberties?

About your publisher, Mr. Naipaul, you say this: “My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”

We are all at the mercy of our words and you have blathered yourself silly. Thank god for Dr. Rae.

Permit me one digression: When is “feminine tosh” not unkind?

“Tosh” means “nonsense,” you know, and could easily be construed here as synonymous with “female.” Not good.

Preliminary diagnosis: Muddle brain.

No problema! Dr. Rae to the rescue of V.S. Naipaul because Nobel laureates get sick sometimes, too.

Let us get on with your evaluation. Please answer the following questions with a yes or no:

  • Do you and Arnold Schwarzenegger share any forebears?
  • Do you identify with Popeye the Sailor Man?
  • Do you dress in a phone booth?
  • Do you covet John Edwards’s barber?
  • Are you wearing a crown as we speak?
  • What are your thoughts on virgins?

Stop it, Mr. Naipual. You may not channel Schwarzenegger’s swagger. Look what you’ve done. You’ve made an unholy mess of my Word Couch.

You suffer from a form of dementia called I am Man, Hear Me Roar. And you’ve roared yourself hoarse, I’m afraid. You are in extremis.

Treatment Options:

Lobotomy: A procedure that involves a sharp instrument and a malfunctioning frontal lobe. This pretty much neutralizes that roar of yours. Don’t give me that look, Mr. Naipaul. You’ve brought this on yourself.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (a k a Shock Treatments or ECT): There’s some loss of memory but Paul Theroux has offered to refresh you on the past. He’s written a book, in fact, that gives the details of how you used to be.

Since I’m handier with electrodes than I am with an ice pick, ECT it is.

Bite down on this tongue depressor, please.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You Don’t Say: Intervention required with Anthony Weiner

The Weiner Intervention . . .

. . . we can help Weiner get well and it won't cost him a dime.

So much for my day of rest. I must call an emergency session to perform an intervention with Congressman Anthony Weiner.

A NY Times news bulletin tells us that Rep. Weiner has decided to go silent. No more tweets or salacious admissions. He has entered into a treatment program.

No way! Mr. Weiner, come back! Do not throw yourself on the sword of tedious group therapy sessions, communal meals of stovetop macaroni and cheese, weeks of wearing that unpleasant hangdog face and those rounded shoulders of contrition — just so you can escape the wrath of Pelosi et al.

Come to Dr. Rae.

I won’t charge you a dime, you can still have your power protein smoothies, and my psychoanalysis will only take another two minutes. Here’s what we know about the developments thus far from the NY Times:

“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” said his spokeswoman, Risa Heller. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.”

Dr. Rae to Rep. Weiner:

There’s no need to pay good money to get evaluated. Just call your wife and ask her what’s wrong with you. This is free and fast and you will be surprised at just how right on she is.

If you don’t want to do that, and who would blame you, simply ask her to hand the phone to Hillary Clinton, with whom your wife is traveling right now. Hillary knows a good deal about such matters. She is, in fact, the all-time expert on the over-exposure of the married male penis. I am sure she will have some very fine thoughts to share.

As for the goal of becoming a better husband, the solution is again short and simple. Reread your marriage vows and do what they say.

Note to universe:

I must at this point congratulate the universe for once again surprising us with an amazing coincidence. That Hillary Clinton and Weiner’s wife are traveling together at this time would seem unbelievable. Yet there we have it — two of our culture's most "betrayed" women setting aside personal issues to serve their country. Meanwhile many of the rest of us suck in breaths of astonishment and on the exhale, whistle the refrain from “Twilight Zone.”

Session over.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

You Don’t Say: Psychoanalyzing Alec Baldwin

Reclining on my virtual Word Couch

today is Alec Baldwin, a celebrity blogger

on Huffington Post. He wrote a piece

about Anthony Weiner, whom he says is

a very busy modern man employing tools

that make instant gratification easier

than trying to get your out-of-sorts wife to have sex.

Alec, welcome to my couch. I’ll tell you right now that I see your column as defensively positioned, asking us to see things from Weiner’s point of view.

Why, for god’s sake? Haven’t we seen enough from his POV?

Let’s get started.

Alec says:

“Weiner is the modern, high functioning man. The fact that he is married is just one, albeit a huge, factor. I know many people who divorce over such issues of online betrayal. Appointment sex with your spouse doesn’t always arrive when you need it most. A modern cell phone, loaded with contacts of willing fellow players, has a table with a red checkered table cloth ready for you at virtually any time.”

Dr. Rae says:

Aye. This dated male point of view — I need sex and I need it now or else I’ll implode — is right out of Mad Men. Back then, men used this dire possibility as a threat to get women to have sex. Sadly, I’ve heard it myself as a young teenager. I envisioned an exploding penis and seminal debris mixed with body parts splattered all over my miniskirt.

Alec, are you in silverback mode here — attempting to resurrect and re-deploy this old canard and link it to the “modern man”? And since when was Weiner desperately looking for sexual relief? What he was doing was showing off and flirting.

As for modern and high-functioning, try putting yourself in the heels of a working mom with a breast pump. Now, that’s high functioning.

Alec says:

“We tell ourselves that these devices help us communicate more effectively. What they actually do is allow us to bypass the person lying right next to us, across the room from us or at an airport heading home to us, in order to meet our immediate, even inconvenient, needs. To bypass their moods, their current view of us and their own desires, or lack thereof.

“Weiner is a modern human being. So he ensnared himself in things that modern humans do. When I first heard about his problems, I snickered and made jokes, too. Now, I'm sad for him, his family, his district and his colleagues.

Let he who is without sin.....”

Dr Rae says:

Alec! Besides the fact that I’m hearing some licking of old wounds here (and, really, it’s actual slurping I’m hearing), whether we, those in a position to judge, have sinned or not is beside the point. Do you want your mate behaving like this, Alec? How about your legislator? How about your mayor? I’m guessing the answer is no. And the reason the answer is no is because seeing your mate’s naked parts texted to others behind your back is not going to help those sour moods and rejections you rued earlier.

In conclusion, Alec, you’ve misplaced your loyalties. And that says something about your own psychology right now. I suggest a follow-up visit before you attempt a run for mayor of NYC.

End of session.

Friday, June 10, 2011

You Don’t Say! Psychoanalyzing Eliot Spitzer

In virtual repose on my Word Couch this morning is Eliot Spitzer, former NY attorney general and employer of expensive prostitutes. He’s just spoken with Dan Abrams about Anthony Weiner, the NY congressman whose sexual Tweets have gone viral. Spitzer made a few revelatory remarks that, like the Tweets that started all this, are symptomatic of a psychology begging for analysis.

So let us begin!

Eliot Spitzer says

“I sympathize with Anthony Weiner. I know he is going through torment like virtually no other, but his greatest sin from the perspective of the public was not being truthful at the moment of crisis.”

Here we go….

“I sympathize with Anthony Weiner.”

That’s easy. Spitzer identifies with Anthony Weiner. He feels the man’s pain. It’s nice that somebody does, I suppose. But we must not languish in the foggy aromatics of sympathy. Sympathy is (1) all about you, (2) a way to bask in soothing feel-good sounds, (3) a tactic to appear sympathetic yourself, (4) sleight of hand to divert attention from the real issue. If Spitzer weren’t sympathetic, he might simply have said: “Look! That man has gone and tweeted his penis! What’s wrong with him?”

“I know he is going through torment …”

What Spitzer ‘knows’ is the torment he himself endured. He’s referencing his own pain of loss — loss of job, loss of trust, loss of face. He must stop enabling torment and urge Weiner to move on. Weiner has work to do. He must quit his post and find a job, for starters.

…like virtually no other….

It’s probably true — there is no torment like having to see tweets of your penis in virtually every nook and cranny of daily life.

“but his greatest sin from the perspective of the public was not being truthful at the moment of crisis.”

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Why does Spitzer reference the ‘public perspective’ unless he agrees? But here, at last, is mention of the ‘greatest sin’ and Spitzer does not take the opportunity to state the true nature of the sin.

Here’s what an enlightened Spitzer might have said:

Weiner’s ‘greatest sin’ was agreeing to marry and becoming a congressman when he knew he was incapable of behaving responsibly. He broadened his sin by impregnating his wife while flirting online. To do this he photographed his impregnation device and tweeted it. The lies that followed are beside the point. Lying is what happens when you suddenly get a sense of your deed and realize it’s way too ugly to contemplate much less articulate.

Dr. Rae says: Between the words are the spaces where the self leaks through.

Session over!

Monday, June 6, 2011

How to make good video clips, the biting woman and bad air — all at this year’s BookExpo

If you love books, then imagine being at the annual BookExpo at the Javits Center where books are hauled in by the truckload, where a nonstop lineup of authors speak and sign their new books, where fascinating panel discussions run in several conference rooms concurrently throughout all four days, where editors and publishers and publicists stand by displays of their books and try to maintain a brave smile hour after noisy hour.

On the down side, it’s pretty overwhelming. Attendance this year (the end of May) was 21,664 people. And…it’s at the Javits Center in NYC, a seedy, dysfunctional building that feels like a subterranean bunker.

As an author and book reviewer, I get the most from the panel discussions and educational sessions that run throughout the annual BookExpo. Leaders in the book business, like Otis Chandler, founder of GoodReads, serve on these panels.

And sometimes it’s uplifting to spend time with others who are passionate about books and who work, in one way or another, on behalf of books. The mantra these days: There will always be books!

But passion has its perils. I heard about one woman who bit the woman in line ahead of her when she saw there was only one free book left on the table. I believe this story because I find the most dangerous place to be in New York City is a line. Line abuse happens all the time and can involve more than verbal haranguing.

At the educational sessions, however, things were a lot less combative. Topics included everything from advanced Twitter and Facebook practices to the latest data on who’s buying e-books.

We learned that the top e-book readers are female fans of romance novels who average 44 years of age. Teenagers and young adults are the least likely to purchase e-books because they are so wired they have e-fatigue. Textbooks, therefore, are among the least purchased type of e-books.

And GoodReads’ founder Otis Chandler spoke about what gets the most attention at GoodReads. Note to authors and publicists: Giveaways are very popular among Chandler’s website users.

Good advice about making video

Another speaker was Hollywood filmmaker Steve Stockman. Stockman has a new book (published by Workman) about making video titled “Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.” Everyone who has a video recorder (nowadays, that’s almost anyone with a cell phone) can — and probably should — pay attention to what Stockman has to say. His argument is this: We all know what makes good video because most of us watch TV and see movies. However almost no one makes good video, so that means most of what’s posted never gets seen. Close to 100 percent of the top-viewed videos on YouTube were made by professionals.

Here are a few easy tips that will make a big difference in the quality of your video:

  • Humans, says Stockman, are like animals. We key into motion and emotion.
  • Think in shots. Instead of running the camera nonstop, break the shots into 20-second segments. Point, pause, frame your subject matter and shoot, then move on to the next shot.
  • Don’t start shooting till you see the whites of your subject’s eyes.
  • Use an external microphone. They cost as little as $25 at BestBuy.
  • Your videos should be short. Promotional videos, such as book trailers, should run about 2.5 minutes. Ten minutes is a tedious lifetime.
  • Video is a language that all of us have grown up with and understand. We know good video but most of us don’t speak it well. Pay experts, train yourself or ask for help rather than make something bad. People don’t watch bad video.
  • Take your video work seriously but have fun with it.
  • Tell a story with your video piece. Video doesn’t do facts well. Take a series of deliberately aimed shots. Keep them short and dramatic. Miss the eyes and you miss the story.
  • For more info and a 3-minute how-to video, visit www.stevestockman.com.

Now, for the rant...

I mentioned that the BookExpo was at the Javits Center in NYC. The center bucks the expectation that business will be conducted within its confines. For instance, conference rooms are so deadly drab that they make better sleeping potions than they do arenas for heady discussion. But there are more serious failings:

  • The center is no incubator of the kind of break-through interactions and discussions you want to see happening at an expensive trade conference. The air is poor and the lighting is bad and the noise from abutting speakers and construction work combine to thwart discussion and sap the energy. There are times when you can’t even hear the speaker.
  • After a certain point in the afternoons, coffee is unavailable.
  • Food lines are long. Expect waits of 15 or 20 minutes and do not expect to find a single empty chair in the dining area when you finally do have food in hand.
  • Food is expensive. Vitamin Water costs $4.50 and it’s hard to find anything to eat under $10 or $12. Forget healthy eating.
  • There seemed to be an arctic wind blowing.
  • WiFi costs $30 a day. And don’t expect to be able to receive phone calls or email even if you have a smartphone.
  • At a book expo, where attendance is predominately female, there are few women’s restrooms.
  • Many people complained of feeling sick and exhausted. This situation may be due to poor air circulation.
  • If you decide to attend one of the $40 breakfasts featuring celebrity author speakers, eat first. The orange juice looked orange but tasted like water. The bagels were the feel and consistency of Wonder Bread. Coffee wasn’t good either but many wouldn’t know that because the wait staff didn’t refill coffee, juice or water pitchers.
  • There’s no logical or centrally positioned space that works as an organizing location for incoming participants. You must know a lot about what you intend to do or see in advance and then follow signs to get there.