Category: AM – Autobiography or Memoir


How About Never Is Never Good For You? by Bob Mankoff

November 10th, 2014 — 6:06pm

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 11.11.11 PMHow About Never Is Never Good For You: My Life in Cartoon by Bob Mankoff- I have always enjoyed cartoons, especially those in The New Yorker Magazine. Although I must admit that for some reason we haven’t subscribed to it for the past few years. However, I try to catch up in a visit to doctor or dentist’s office. When I learned about the weekly cartoon caption contest that the New Yorker magazine holds each week, I started entering it online most weeks. In fact I must have been very close to being a finalist a few times as my caption was almost the same as one of the top three, differing by just a word or two. This introduction leads up to why my wife bought me this book as a present.

Bob Mankoff is the current cartoon editor of the New Yorker Magazine and the guy in charge of the caption contest as well. In this book he traces his growing up up in New York and the development of his interest in humor and cartoons. As a psychiatrist I do appreciate his insight into himself as best summed up in this paragraph:

My mother wasn’t logical or knowledable. What she was, was intuitive. She wasn’t really an audience for my jokes, she was a target. And, as my therapist would tell you, still is. Yet I’ve gotten a lot from her, including a mother lode of material, some of which I’m unloading here. Although my relationshiship with my mother was less than ideal from a relationship standpoint, from a development of humor standpoint it worked very well. Humor thrives in conflict

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 4.09.59 PMHe attended high school in New York at “Music and Art’ which is known for attracting creative and talented students. He then went to Syracuse University, which in my day was very strong in journalism. He went on to a couple of graduate schools and came up just short of a PhD in psychology. Humor and cartooning was his clear goal. It appears that he put his sights on becoming a cartoonist for New Yorker Magazine.

This book is filled with his cartoons and  those of some of the great cartoonists whom he admired. We learn all about various styles of cartoons as Mankofff develops his own. Should it be dots, block style or whatever? Mankoff’s story is really a lesson in fortitude and persistence, You certainly have to be able to handle rejection if you want to be a cartoonist because it does seem that you would be able to paper your walls with rejection slips. Mankoff does succeed.  Not only does he get published in the New Yorker numerous times but he eventually becomes the prestigious cartoon editor of this magazine. Now he supervises the handing out of rejection slips and the process of choosing cartoons for publication. He is also in charge of the Cartoon Bank which offers cartoons for sale.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 4.08.18 PMThen there was the book chapter that I was waiting for, Chapter 13, How to Win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.  I learn that Mankoff’s trusted assistant does the first screening of all the entries. He looks at thousands of submissions and makes a short list of 50 of the best of them broken down into categories representing different comic themes. Now the New Yorker Cartoon Editor (currently Mr. Mankoff) chooses what he believes are the ten best. He then shows these to the various New Yorker editors and staff members asking them to rate each one as either, Unfunny, Somewhat Funny or Funny. Then the best three cartoons are chosen and the following week, the readership of the magazine will vote and chose the best one.

Mankoff gives suggestion how to approach the caption contest, advising the contestants to “free associate” and then “verbalize”, “conceptualize”, “topicalize” and finally “socialize”. Putting all these approaches together, he believes will help you come up with a caption for the cartoon that week. Still, I like just free-associating and trying to have an emotional reaction to the cartoon. Maybe his advice to be as brief as possible, novel and occasionally topical will help me. So while I didn’t learn too much about how to do well in the contest, I did enjoy seeing the different styles and appreciating the creativity of both the amateurs and the professionals in putting together the various cartoons that Mankoff showed in his book.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 4.56.15 PMI thought that occasionally the cartoons and some of the print size of the illustrations was a little too small to comfortably read all the details (It may be my age but a younger reader did agree with me). The overall journey through this book was worth the ride. I always look forward to the cartoons that have been chosen to be shown in the magazine and I can’t wait to try my luck in the next cartoon caption contest.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, H - Humor

Power Concedes Nothing by Connie RIce

July 20th, 2014 — 12:58am

Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in American, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones by Connie RiceScreen Shot 2014-07-19 at 6.40.49 PM

I seldom go around telling certain people that they must read a particular book. I did find myself dong just that in regard to this book. If you have been interested in the battle for social justice, especially in regard to Los Angeles, you will definitely find this book quite fascinating.

Connie Rice (who by the way is a distant cousin of former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice) grew up as the daughter of Air Force officer who was the great grandson of a slave and a mother who was a high school teacher who happened to be the great granddaughter of a slave owner. Her family moved several times before she completed high school. Her parents valued education and she also was quite bright and ended up attending college at Radcliff/Harvard and then going to N.Y.U. Law School. After clerking for some important judges, she could have worked in a prestigious law firm and have a very respectable corporate or white-collar law career. She certainly went on to achieve an extremely respectable career but she chose to do it confronting civil rights and gang violence. The journey that she has taken, the fights that she has undertaken, the forces that she has confronted, the allies that she has worked with and the accomplishments that she has achieved thus far in her still vibrant career are remarkable and are chronicled in this memoir.

Early in her career, she became a part of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (known as the LDF). It was originally pioneered by Thurgood Marshall, before he became the first black Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I thought I knew something about justice, particularly how capital punishment, was unfairly administered in the U.S. “I didn’t know jack.” The inside stories Ms. Rice reveals in this fight for justice, were eye opening. However, this phase of her career was tame compared to what was to come next when circumstances brought her out to the West Coast to open the Los Angeles branch of the LDF.

Ms. Rice became squarely involved in the battles for social justice in Los Anglees. She takes us through the Rodney King incident where a black construction worker was stopped by the police and  beaten for no cause. Subsequently there were riots in Los Angeles when the police involved in these beatings were exonerated by a trial, which had been moved to Simi Valley, which was a known area where many police families live. Ms. Rice was in many subsequent legal cases where she sued the police and represented victims of police violence. She also tells about the almost impossible to describe gang violence that existed in certain areas of Los Angeles that became known as the “kill zones.” She was known as the “ lady lawyer” as she was introduced to gang activities by a few former gang member who were trying (with mostly futile attempts) to make changes and were trusted within the gangs. Ms. Rice captures the horrible circumstances inside the gangs where there existed a culture dominated by frequent murder of opposing gang members. Two vignettes that she told will illustrate how bad things were and how vividly she was able to describe them.

#1 A teenage boy was approached by the leader of one gang and asked to become a gang member The boy stated that that his family didn’t want him to join and he was involved in schoolwork. After he politely declined a second time, he was asked to view a DVD. In it was shown his younger sister being brutally raped by gang members. He was then told if he didn’t join the gang, his sister would be raped again and murdered. He joined the gang.

#2 A ten-year-old boy was introduced to Ms. Rice by some gang members. She asked the child how he was involved in the gang. He proudly told her that he “shoots people.” When the gang wanted to murder someone, they lured this person to a street where the young boy was unobtrusively stationed. He pulled out the gun that he was trained to use and shot the victim and ran way.

These were just two of the many stories of how the gangs had taken away the lives of young people in more than one way.

The murder rate in Los Angeles was very high and the philosophy of the Los Angeles Police Department at this time was to “contain” the violence rather than try to eliminate it. There was also a certain amount of violence and corruption coming from the police department itself. Connie Rice was one of the soldiers in the battle to change this situation. She used her legal skills as well as her interpersonal ability to begin a sea change that is still going on in Los Angeles. She worked side by side with gang members, gang interventionists, enlightened members of the police department, politicians and other dedicated lawyers. She told of her experience with people from the gangs to others in the trenches with her. She names names, good and bad, from Mayors, police officers and attorneys. Among others, she developed a close alliance with Police Chief Bratton and up and coming Charlie Beck who subsequently became Police Chief when Bratton retired. One of the heroes of the book was Harry Bellafonte and it wasn’t for his singing. Rather it was for the emotional support he played as a father figure for many gang members as well as for his financial support for various programs. Ms. Rice has been an ongoing witness and a participant to bringing about changes in the kill zones that actually significantly reduced the murder rate there. She documented how each murder that did not occur saved close to a million dollars for society as well as the human savings.

Ms. Rice feels that the battle is not over yet. She champions the ideology of Martin Luther King who predicted that significant change wouldn’t occur until there was a “ radical restructuring of society itself and revolution of values.” If you care about the changes that have occurred in Los Angeles in the past few decades and those that need to occur in the future, I suggest that you should read this book.

 

 

 

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, P - Political

Mandela Was Late by Peter Mehlman

January 19th, 2014 — 10:45pm

Mandela Was Late by Peter Mehlman my2YeQJRiyXnTugd66nUe09SJ4QLb1iPjsZ-Ktv1HKGyuotNLsOQkWDGM1dAaoPDR13k=s85– I picked this book up while in the middle of the quite long although certainly not tedious Bully Pulpit – soon to be reviewed here. The goal was to read something humorous and light during breaks from the other book. Well, it is certainly light and the chapters are conveniently succinct, sometimes just a few pages. Maybe his chapters are short because that is the way you have to write when you make a pitch for a TV program, which is what this guy does for a living. In fact, I chose the book because the author is proclaimed as a writer and Executive Producer of Seinfeld for nearly all of its nine-year run and is noted as the person coining such terns as “spongeworthy” and “yada yada.” Early in the book I learn that not only was he a key writer for one of my favorite TV shows but he is a New Yorker transplanted to Los Angeles but always appreciating New York as a native when he visits there. I thought I might be able to identify with that state of mind or even the names of all the Los Angeles streets and restaurants which he mentions, most of which I know as a New Yorker transplanted to LA myself.  However, I didn’t find the book particularly humorous or enlightening. The author seems to be writing about his life but as far as I can see all he does is pick up checks for residuals from the Seinfeld Show, write scripts for new sitcoms that sometimes get bought but hardly ever get made or if they get made they barely last. Not that there is anything wrong with that. He is single and we really don’t see any meaningful relationships in his life. Not that there is anything wrong with that either. Nevertheless I tried to relate to his youth in Queens in NYC (I am from Brooklyn but that should be close enough) when he tried to figure out the meaning of the number “69”). Maybe I have aged out of the demographic for this book. It may be a fortyish thing.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, H - Humor

Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal

November 1st, 2013 — 10:39am

Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal  q35Xu60IwXgYYRwmyWkr1AJ00yZyaB8YCr_CHc856Bw_UQedYkqe9h-RyJWxmEn8ZAelUA=s85March 14, 2013, Billy Crystal was 65 years old. He now lives in Los Angeles and has been married to the same woman and has two daughters and 4 grandchildren. He is a very popular comedian as well as an actor and director. He is best known for the movies When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers and Analyze This. He has hosted the Oscars on TV nine times, has won several Emmys and has starred on Broadway and around the country with his Tony award winning one man shows 700 Sundays in which he relives his childhood where his father died when he was 15 years old.

This book is his reflections on his life as he reaches this milestone of 65 years. It is personal, funny, revealing and an inside view of show business life in New York and Los Angeles. He shares personal stories about his family and friends. The latter include Mohammad Ali, Rob Reiner, Mickey Mantle, Dick Schaap, Bob Costas, Richards Lewis to name just a few and hundreds of other very well know persons with whom be came very close as they worked together including Sophia Loren who he mainly knew in his fantasy life.

This book is far from superficial. He goes into great detail on subjects from the making of When Harry Met Sally, his meticulous preparation for the Oscar TV shows and the rituals before each performance of 700 Sundays. He also is quite elaborate about the dying and death of his beloved Uncle Bern. He even devotes an entire chapter to going to buy a cemetery plot for himself and his wife. Crystal shares an event which is the contender for the highlight of his life (along with the birth of his children and grandchildren and some other events) and that is the day he was made a member of the New York Yankees so he could get one time at bat in a game against a major league pitcher. (He fouled off one pitch with a line drive down the right field line and than ran the count to 3 and 2…) Baseball was a very important part of his life.

There is no false modesty in this book. Crystal shares the details of a very successful career. If you have enjoyed seeing him perform over the years you will love this book.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

Over The Waterfall by Marilyn Martone

September 24th, 2013 — 6:52pm

OverTheWaterfall_SlateImage._SX300_SY257_-1Over the Waterfall by Marilyn Martone- This book was given to me by my cousin who is a rehabilitation counselor and social worker case manager and is mentioned in the book  as being some assistance to the author and her daughter. The book is brought about because of a tragic accident in which Michelle, the 21-year-old daughter of the author, was hit by a car and suffered a terrible traumatic brain injury. In one split second a vibrant, brilliant college student was put into a coma, which lasted for months, which would be followed by a very slow and gradual improvement which meant that her life and the life of her family would never be the same. The author and mother brought a unique perspective to this life-changing event , in that she has a master’s degree in health-care ethics and a PhD in moral theology. She had taught classes concerning how to deal with people and their families who had loved ones in coma and had been faced with making critical decisions. Despite this background she was not prepared for how this would impact upon her. She never imagined the role she would play by being at her daughter’s bedside frequently for the most of the day and night for months at a time and of the admissions to several different hospitals. She had to deal with a range of problems and decisions which included having to sign consents without knowing if it were really the best thing for her daughter, seeing doctors , nurses and hospitals make mistakes which she was able to catch, knowing the best nursing techniques that the staff would frequently not know, figuring out how to navigate the desire of the hospital to discharge her daughter to lower level of care for economic reasons etc. Most important to her was her mission to make sure the hospital staff viewed her daughter as the person she was rather than the case with the specific injuries. I am no stranger to medical and surgical settings in a hospital, which ranged from critical care to rehabilitation. For many years I was a psychiatric consultant to a large hospital , which was also a trauma and burn center. While I have seen many of the issues that are discussed in this book in a variety of different patients, I have never had the opportunity to appreciate how it could impact one person over a considerable period of time. This soft covered, self published book is 203 pages and it flows easily. In the end we don’t know the extent of the residual damage to her daughter but do know that she is on a path of constantly improving. We do know something about the human spirit, faith and the dedication of the mother and family of Michelle. Having shared part of this major journey with the author, we also have much more insight into what is involved for the family and how their lives were changed. If we are healthcare workers , we certainly are the richer for the insight provided to us. We all will come away from this book with greater empathy for anyone who must go through this ordeal.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, M - Medical

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

June 2nd, 2013 — 5:38pm

Let's Explore Diabetes With OwlsLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (2013) – As far as I can recall there was nothing in this book about diabetes and just a tidbit about owls. David Sedaris is a 56 year old American humorist, comedian and writer who has written numerous autobiographical books like this latest one which have made him a best selling author. He lives mostly in Europe with his partner Hugh Hamrick and travels around the world including the United States where he reads his material frequently before it is published to test it on audiences before putting it in final form in his books.  To me he comes across as an interesting, mildly humorous guy who tells good stories, in the form of narrative essays, about his life and people that he has met. He related that he has been keeping a diary for at least 30 years starting when he was in his 20s. He will jot down notes during the day and then later diligently write up his diary entries. He did admit that that there probably is some truth to accusation that he is so busy recording his observations that he doesn’t so much live in the moment. An example how he will turn a conversation or an observation into a “piece” for his book is when he heard someone remark that today there is someone alive who will live to be 200 years old. This led him to reflect on what kind of condition would that person be in. He then concluded that it would be his father who would live that long…and he would have to take care of him for more than 100 years. In a related piece he reviewed how his father had been nagging him for 25 years to get a colonoscopy. He then went into detail about how he finally got one and what that experience was like. (It was funny of course). As far as I can tell he doesn’t have a compelling narrative  and is not a hilarious comedian. His reflections are interesting and usually bring about a good feeling or a smile. Taken all together his writing is probably a decent social commentary of our time but at least, this book is on the light side. He would probably be someone you want to read when you are in-between heavy books or genres or just want a pleasant read.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, H - Humor

Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar

May 13th, 2013 — 11:08am

Ido in AutismlandIdo in Autismland by Ido Kedar – Although I am not an expert in this area, I believe that this will be a landmark book for families, educators and any professionals who work with young people with autism. It is a book of short essays written by a 15 year old about his experience with his condition starting with some pieces written when he was 12 years old.

What is unusual, unique and very important about this author is that he cannot speak and only when he was about 11 years old did he begin to communicate by pointing to letters on a letter board. Up to that point no one had any idea that he was an above average intelligent kid who began to read when he was about three years old.He was terribly frustrated by being treated by well meaning experts in autism and education by drilling him on simple exercises meant for a three year old child who was having trouble learning. He was asked to point to his nose which he often could not do and was judged accordingly.  Even when he began to point to letters and make intelligent sentences, just about everyone thought that his mother was guiding his hand since she had to steady it for him to point. It took his father, who is a scientist, two more years before he was convinced that his son was truly communicating fully formed intelligent sentences. The problem would seem to be that he could not control his body. He often would have great difficulty even signaling that he could make even  simple calculations or understood basic concepts.  This was further complicated by his arm flapping which would occur when he was anxious which he referred to as “stims“ . Other times he would do unexplainable pieces of behavior such as pulling his Mom’s hair or that of beloved aide when he was frustrated or embarrassed. This pattern of behavior is common in many children who fall under the rubric of autism except they are usually not recognized to understand things and mainly have trouble in controlling their bodies to communicate. Instead they are often deemed “retarded” and/or  “developmentally handicapped.”

Ido believes that he is not “one in a million” and that he has had indication that many of his friends with non verbal autism are as frustrated as he used to be. Once Ido proved he could communicate with a letter board and then on the keys of a computer, a new world opened up to him. He was put in mainstream classes which he would attend with an aide and has entered high school with the aspiration to go to college. It is a constant uphill battle, as while the administrators of his middle school were very supportive, he found that was not the case of the first high school which he entered. Obviously, it did takes a great deal of resources and some special accommodation to allow him to function in a regular high school environment. After transferring to a second high school he seemed to be quite adjusted as he continues forth.

This book traces his progress as well as clarifying many of his characteristics and experiences. For example he sees people in different colors such as red blue, yellow etc. which are related to their emotional state perhaps in relationship to himself. He is also  is very sensitive to sound and appears to have very keen hearing . He therefore at times gets overwhelmed by loud noises, certain music. being in the presence of multiple people talking . These and other situations can cause him to have what would appear to be overwhelming panic attacks. This is not only experienced as severe anxiety but it intensifies uncontrolled movements of his body. Over the years he has found that various types of physical training and exercise actually improved his self control, something that was not initially recognized as it was neglected in any attempts to assist him.

I found it interesting, as a psychiatrist,  that he did not mention whether or not he was given a trial on any anti-anxiety and anti-panic medications which are believed to directly  effect various pathways in the brain which are involved when people have such overwhelming emotions. I would imagine that the medical experts in this field have evaluated the  effect of such drugs as an adjunct to his treatment program but if they have not, it certainly should be done.

Ido frequently mentions that he knows that he has an illness that places many limitations on him but he prefers to focus on what he can do and what he hopes to be able to do in the future. He also is dedicated to teaching the public as well as families of children with autism and experts about the potential of people like himself.   Ido would probably say “ so called experts” since he has a sense of humor and he is keenly aware of how so many experts have misinterpreted his abilities). Not only is he becoming an advocate but he must be also considered to be a hero for so many people who are locked in the land of autism.

For a view of brief video clip of Ido at a meeting as one of his speeches is read go to:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4VR1KYRX8s

2 comments » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, M - Medical, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry, T - Recommended for Teenagers

The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH by Shawn Green with Gordon McAlpine

April 5th, 2013 — 12:17am

The Way of BaseballThe Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH by Shawn Green with Gordon McAlpine – About 10 days ago this book arrived in the mail from Amazon addressed to me but without any information who sent to me. Perhaps my benefactor thought I would enjoy it because it is written by an outstanding baseball player who happened to be Jewish (and at one point compared himself to Sandy Koufax) or because the author has written about his own psychology of baseball and living. In any case I read the book and thought it was somewhat interesting although quite repetitive. It is a relatively small book about 5×8 inches  a little more than 200 pages. I did learn something from the author’s experience and philosophy but it might been more efficiently packaged in magazine article or a ½ hour interview of the author  by Charlie Rose or maybe even better by Bob Costas. When Green hit the big leagues as a young man and ran into a batting slump, he figured out the secret to being a successful hitter and according to him this approach was also the secret to living life. He found out how to “ bring stillness into the flow of life” He mastered the ability to focus on the moment and allow all other thoughts especially those involved with his “ ego “, competitiveness, narcissism etc to fade into the background and ultimately disappear. Any one who has dabbled in or has mastered meditation or the  art of Zen will know very well what this is about. Green started with just hitting balls on a batting tee over and over again with no concern about his usual opponent – that major league pitcher who would be  facing him down. He often would do this exercise to near exhaustion with hitting the ball off the tee or what he would call just “chopping wood. ” He then would take this mind set to the real game and deemphasize the dual of out guessing this opponent on the mound but only concentrate on hitting the ball. Obviously, he had great skill and coordination to start with but he claimed that when he was able to put himself in this zone, he was clearly at his best. Conversely when he allowed himself to be caught up with what was expected of him because of his mulit million dollar contract, how many homeruns he hit that day or week, whether his batting average was trending up or down,  how badly he was hitting that month, what the press said or didn’t say about him,  his chances of making the All Star team etc. etc, he never was at his best and at times he would be at his worst. The ability to concentrate on the moment whether you are working out or enjoying your children’s or grandchildren’s school play may be a skill that has to be cultivated.  That certainly is the lesson of this book. As a bonus in addition to his advice about how to approach baseball and life, Green also shares a few of his inside baseball stories such as when he met Ted Williams, memorable things that his coaches said to him, life traveling on the plane with the team etc. There was nothing very revealing as this was certainly not a “ tell all book “ but rather it told us how to find stillness when facing speeding baseballs coming at you or just about anything else that life might throw at you.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, O - Other - Specify

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

January 7th, 2013 — 12:31am

Heads in BedsHeads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky.

The book is subtitled on the cover “ A reckless memoir of hotels hustles and so called hospitality.” I would add that it includes everything a hotel guest should know if the you  want to get the most out of your stay and more than you really want to know about what goes on behind the scenes. I have often proclaimed that suitcase rollers are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. I never really appreciated that when this occurred (circa 1970) it almost ruined the lives of hotel bellmen throughout the world since it greatly cut down their tips for carrying your luggage. It is tidbits such as this which Mr. Tomsky provides as he traces his journey from a college philosophy major to a hotel car valet in New Orleans, to a  hotel housekeeping assistant manager and most recently as behind the desk ace check in  guy at a New York City hotel. When the car valet delivers your auto with radio music playing, air conditioner or heater humming away and gently opens the door for you, do you imagine for a minute that he was zooming around on the top floor of the garage squealing your tires and checking out your CDs and whatever else is available for his perusal. Whatever secrets are concealed in the rooms behind closed doors of the hotel (and there are lots of clandestine activities) the chances are, the hotel staff gets wind of them. Word spreads quickly among the hotel staff, whether it is reports of how you tip, what turned up in your room or on the many security cameras throughout the hotel. Speaking of tips, did you ever ask for an upgrade, a room with a view, a late check out, extra pair of slippers or whatever? Passing a $20 when you check in increases your chances a great deal and word does get around. Similarly, if you obnoxiously complain or even persistently complain about things that are beyond the ability of the staff to easily fix, (especially if you establish yourself as a low or non tipper) be prepared for bad things to happen to you.  You’ll have to read the book to see what some of those things can be. Overall, Mr. Tomsky combines, being a good writer (his college degree has come in handy) and really knowing his subject quite well. If your hotel stay is important to you, this is the chance to get to know the ins and outs before you put your head in their bed. (2012)

 

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

September 11th, 2012 — 5:38pm

Trust Me I ‘m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator- By Ryan Holiday 

This book completely changed the way I view news and information that I get online from the Internet , especially from blogs but basically from any source.

The author shows  clearly show how modern day blogs on the Internet will make up news stories, exaggerate and suggest things are may not be true at all. He shows how stories on small local blogs will be picked up by medium size blogs  which will be linked to by bigger well known and seemingly reputable blogs. The writers are financially motivated to get page views.  Writers and editors get sucked into believing they are getting exclusive stories and will run them without fact checking. It is easy to imply or suggest something that is only a possibility and it can be put into a headline and carried forth to be  read by many thousands of people. This has the potential to give false information about products, people or any endeavor. Reputations are made and ruined by the spread of information which may have little or nothing to do with the truth .

There are numerous examples how stories spread like wildfire on the Internet. Photo shopped  pictures  or edited videos “ go viral” with all sorts of consequences from making or breaking a new product, planting disparaging information about someone or  making  them a celebrity overnite. If the information is not true and is repudiated the next day that often goes at the end of a rerun of the same story which keeps the information spinning around the world. The author sites several of his own experiences as a consultant for a company named  “American Apparel.” He tells how he created such hype and how he has been the victim of it created by others.  He  also reviews the more well known situations where there was a story that spread that one Toyota  car model had a stuck accelerator problem which turned out not to be true. There was the well knows situation of the  resignation of Shirley Sherrod. a high ranking Obama appointee . A video of speech she made  was edited out of context. She was  made to look like racists when she was quite the opposite. However the video went viral and was magnified by various news commentators. She resigned her position although later it was offered back to her when the truth was ultimately revealed to the Obama administration.

The book gives the impression that such situations easily get out  of control and the “new journalism” is one without very much ethics and is a major force in how we think today. There are market forces which lead us away  from traditional forms of communication which in the past were obligated to check  facts and at least avoid editorializing  the news.

The author Ryan Holiday  claims that he wrote this book because of the guilt that he has for what he has done as he manipulated people with false stories and created opinions and ideas that have no or little basis. There is the vague suggestion that perhaps this knowledge will make a difference and change the situation. The book is a good advertisement for hiring the author to manipulate your interests or products on the Internet or try to defend them against adverse opinions that are being created by others.

The book is repetitious but in the end you will have more information than you ever wanted to know how “news” is spread and opinions are molded by the Internet.  Unfortunately it is a blueprint of how to do this dastardly work and maybe even make a lot of money doing it. Despite the authors stated intention to change the way things go down, there is little indication that the book will make a difference. It may make a big change in how the readers understand what they read everyday on their computer or i-pad.

Maybe, on second thought that is the first step toward evolving to some kind of  a change.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

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