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November 24th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics, History & Media

No “‘Etch-a-Sketch’ Moment” for Donald Trump

Despite Donald Trump’s continuing defiance of political gravity, with poll numbers that continue making him the clear front-runner, I believe that even if he wins the REPUB nomination—which does seem increasingly possible—the kind of extreme primary campaign he’s running, which seems likely to go all the way to the convention, will in the end next November 8 lead to a victory for the DEM nominee. Winning the REPUB nomination this year, after this ratcheting cascade of race-baiting, hate and belligerence, augurs a general election campaign in which DEMs will be able to once more successfully motivate and activate voter turnout among the wide and deep coalition that elected Pres Obama twice. It’s still possible, I guess, that all the norms of American politics are in the process of being reset by the mega-wattage of Trump’s celebrity, and there could be external events that influence the outcome, but consider that this will not be a mid-term electorate, when DEMs do fail to motivate its base. Also, despite Trump’s feints toward populism, like his disapproval of trade deals, which suggests he will try to poach on DEM voters, on a key pocketbook issue, he opposes raising the minimum wage, and even said in a debate that he thinks wages are too high now.

To borrow a phrase from the 2012 campaign, if Mitt Romney was unable to execute an ‘etch-a-sketch’** moment, in which positions he took in the primary were not erased before the general election, as he and his campaign aides had hoped they would be—then Donald Trump, who makes Mitt Romney seem like Adlai Stevenson, sure as hell won’t be able to do this, either. No, if Trump’s at the top of the ticket, or Ted Cruz—who blogger Paul Waldman today suggests may, ironically, become the last hope of the futile REPUB establishment—I believe DEMs will turn out in sufficiently huge numbers in the key states to deny the crazies the White House. It will definitely be an anxiety-producing year, but after all the noise, bluster, and severe social disruption, with media often failing to cover the stories and issues well, I believe that as the REPUB candidates continue to plumb the basest parts of the American psyche, and worse ugliness, a DEM will ultimately be elected president.

I must add two things before closing this post, the first of what’s likely to be many.

1) I think all the above means that the V-P selection by the DEM nominee will be extremely important, more so than most presidential years. Particularly if Trump is the opponent, the running mate will be the one tasked with parrying the daily insults, barbs, and baseless allegations made by him and his campaign. If Hillary is the nominee, for instance, we can anticipate the fulminations and barrage of accusations that would be uttered in stump speeches, high-profile convention moments, and in advertising. The same for Bernie Sanders, whose embrace of democratic socialism is sure to elicit emphasis on the second word, more than the first. I don’t want to begin naming possible picks for the candidates, as it’s premature, but will return to the topic later on this blog.

2) I know that you, dear reader, may think I am off-base in my analysis, or am overlooking important factors. I’ll add I know these issues have many facets. As the campaign continues, I may well alter my view of the essential dynamics prevailing in the race.

“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch,” [Eric] Fehrnstrom [Mitt Romney campaign manager] told CNN’s John Fugelsang. “You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.” Source, ABC News March 12, 2012

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November 21st, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; News, Politics, History & Media

Helping People Feel Better During a Lousy Week

A Facebook post of mine that I published this past Thursday night, Nov 19, is having a very wide popularity, more than I anticipated when I put it up. I was inspired to share by Farzin Yousefian and Samantha Jackson, the Toronto couple pictured here who, before their recent marriage, decided to donate to a charity the money they’d up till then been planning to spend on a big wedding reception—enough money to sponsor a family of four Syrian refugees in Canada for one year. It’s had more than 800 1000 people ‘like’ it on Facebook, with 150 shares, from among my Facebook friends, of course, but also by people I don’t know. That’s because I choose to label my posts as ‘Public’ on Facebook, and not just for ‘Friends.’ Meantime, a link I’d created from the News article about their generosity, which I used to make the post, has been passed along nearly 1,500 more than 2,000 times Friday as of Sunday night. It’s elicited many kind comments, and one bigoted hater, whom we as a group rebutted and rebuffed. I see the reception for the post as a good-news story about a truly feel-good story, amid a week when so much malevolent violence and xenophobia was coursing through tmany countries, including the US and Canada.

I should add I label my posts as ‘Public’ on Facebook, because I don’t fear what other people may say, and I enjoy engaging with the occasional stranger who makes a comment about something I’ve shared, and quite often gain new followers this way. Only rarely does somebody like the hater today crop up. I had an internal debate, and a public one with a few friends on the thread about the bigot, as to whether I would leave up his vile pronouncements, or delete them. In the end, I blocked him, because it became clear he just wanted to fight with me and others on the thread, but I did leave up his remarks, and our rebuttals, as a record of one person’s mindset, and our collective response, in dedication and memoriam to all people suffering in war, especially civilians, non-combatants, who are suffering right now so much, fleeing perilous devastation at home. Thanks to all friends and new people who read the original Facebook post, and this blog post, which is sort of meta to the first. The funny thing is, had I thought of it Thursday night, I might’ve blogged about the couple, and drawn a lot of that traffic to my sites, but I seized on it for Facebook, and am really very glad I did.

Also, please note that friends and readers who want to, may donate to a fund organized by the couple. The money they donated of their own, plus funds from friends and family who followed their directive and contributed have mustered more than $17,000, when $27,000 is needed to settle and shelter a family of four in Toronto for one year. You may follow this link, then look for the drop down menu where it says, “Select a designation for your gift,” and look for “Samantha Jackson & Farzin Yousefian.” I just donated.

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November 4th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Philip Turner Book Productions

Publishers Weekly Raves about ‘Enjoyable’ and ‘Fun’ Mystery, “The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe”

Orenduff_PotThiefOKeeffeAs readers of this blog may recall from earlier posts, I represent J. Michael Orenduff, author of the POT THIEF mystery series, which in 2009 became an indie- and self-publishing success. In 2013, we licensed the six-book series to Open Road Integrated Media for new ebook and trade paperback editions, and Open Road began publishing the books—The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, The Pot Thief Who Studied EscoffierThe Pot Thief Who Studied D. H. Lawrence, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid—in 2014. The seventh book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe, will be published in January 2016, and in recent weeks we’ve been receiving blurbs for the new book, and today we got the first advance review, a strong, selling notice from Publishers Weekly, pasted in below.

One of the endorsements came from Anne Hillerman—daughter of the late mystery master Tony Hillerman, a personal favorite—who’s renewed the bestsellerdom of her father with new novels featuring Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito, and longtime series characters Lt Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee in Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock With Wings. Hillerman said this about the latest POT THIEF book:

“The newest installment in J. Michael Orenduff’s smartly funny series is filled with wild situations, clever word play, and a good helping of fast-paced action. I loved every twist and turn.”

Here’s that Publishers Weekly review:










As soon as we have a final cover I’ll post it here. Congrats to the author and Open Road on the excellent review. This link connects to Open Road’s ordering page for the books.

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November 2nd, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Media, Blogging, Internet

Editing, Once an Upstart, Now a Stalwart

Nicholas Thompson PLCI was glad my friend Mildred Marmur asked me to be her guest today for a meeting of the Publishers Lunch Club, held each month at the Yale Club near Grand Central Terminal, on Vanderbilt Ave, one of Manhattan’s shortest avenues. Today’s featured speaker was Nicholas Thompson, the editor of He took that job in 2012, after several years as an editor on the print side of The New Yorker. He spoke for about fifteen minutes on the evolution of Web culture at the magazine, followed by a Q&A of about the same duration. Covering what he wittily dubbed the ‘five stages’ in the evolution of the Web at the magazine, Thompson outlined a chronology that began before the magazine even had a website, when many there would rather have not bothered having one, to the point where they slowly began developing a site that didn’t have significant editorial or financial resources assigned to it, and which was publishing a different group of writers than the print side was—contributors who were freelance, not on staff, whose work was not at the same level as the print publication. However, like so much on the Internet, it has grown rapidly, to traffic of 10 million visitors a month, numbers even greater than the number of subscribers to the print magazine, with a budget appropriate to a full-fledged mission, generating lots of revenue for Conde Nast. Now they’re able to foster a unique space on the Web, retaining many of the virtues of the magazine—which still has stories that take many weeks, months, and years to write and edit—and more rapid-response coverage of events in the moment, in Internet posts that may take mere hours, days, and weeks to write and edit.

During the Q&A, I asked whether on they choose to link out to the sites of other publications, something I do freely on my blogs, including in this post. Though not totally predominant on the Web, it is more common than not, in an environment where it often seems that generosity, or a willingness to share, is pretty much the default mode. Thompson explained that linking like this is being discussed at the magazine, but there is reticence due to the fact that The New Yorker‘s standards for fact-checking, both on the print and the Web, are more robust than at other outlets. This accounts for a constituency that believes, since they can’t vouch for the accuracy of the linked material, they should refrain from linking readers to it; moreover, readers who click on links like that do leave the host’s site, and may not return to it, at least for a while. Still, Thompson seemed convinced that should link freely, saying that readers are not apt to blame The New Yorker for inferior vetting or copyediting of a story published elsewhere. He said at some point they will probably begin doing it, with an appetite for more dynamic SEO being a key reason. He added that now, after several years of The New Yorker publishing on the Web, readers on the site don’t know, and in a focus group that he described amusingly, couldn’t reliably say what started out as a print story, and migrated to, and what was purely a Web original.

I piped up a second time, asking about what he reads on the Web when he’s not working on the magazine’s site. He immediately lamented the loss of Grantland, a favorite sports site that was shuttered over the weekend, just as the baseball season was ending with the Mets loss in the World Series, a double death for more than a few New York fans in the dining room. Thompson added he reads a lot on Politico, the Washington Post, New York Times, especially in politics and world affairs—subjects that describe a lot of the pieces he personally line-edits, also the subject area I concentrate in most—and about the war in Syria. He seeks out the Twitter hashtag #longreads, the books sub-Reddit, and Longform.

Midway through his talk, Thompson said he had to put in a plug for a new initiative at—which in front of this book business group qualified as having buried the lede: The website will soon begin publishing book excerpts, this even though, he explained, the print magazine has long mostly eschewed running many of them. He even named the two editors there to whom publishers should submit their candidates for excerpting, so it’s a go, beginning soon. Upon leaving the Yale Club, I quickly put that info in to a tweet (found near the top of this post), as I know many book publicists will be excited about this development. Thompson also spoke briefly about The Atavist, an online-only magazine that publishes longform, interactive journalism, which he helped found. His initial reference to it was brief, so I prompted him to say more, since it’s a site I have enjoyed and recommended since their beginnings around five years ago. He explained that while a book imprint they had for a time was shuttered in 2014, when Barry Diller’s IAC, the main investor in it, pulled out of the venture, the magazine itself is going strong, continuing to publish about one story per month, while a CMS they created, similar to the one they use to publish their own articles, is widely licensed to other Web publishers.

As a writer and publisher of two Wordpress blogs of my own, I find the Web to be a fascinating domain to inhabit professionally. I’m glad I can be a book editor, and a Web editor, somewhat congruous with The New Yorker‘s evolution in to magazine and website. The New Yorker’s embrace of the Web, reluctant at first, but soon all-in, made for an excellent, thought-provoking discussion. Glad I could join many publishing colleagues there. I’ll continue keeping my eye on, for enjoyment of good up-to-the-moment writing.

*I began The Great Gray Bridge: Spanning urban life, books, music, culture, current events in October 2011 and Honourary Canadian: Seeing Canada from Away in September 2013.

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November 1st, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Discovering The Pines at Mercury Lounge, Opening for Israel Nash

I delighted in that most welcome of live music-going experiences on Oct 22. Going to hear roots rocker Israel Nash for the first time—an artist whose recordings I’d heard and enjoyed for several months—I encountered an opening act whose sound instantly captivated me, which I immediately adored. They are called The Pines. I urge you to listen to them, and go hear them live if they’re playing in your area on their current tour, which will take them to Winnipeg, Canada, as well as to North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Iowa, the latter two being their home states. I was fortunate to arrive an hour early for Nash’s set, and so walked in to the Mercury Lounge just as The Pines were beginning their first song. Playing keys, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar, the trio had a gentle and disarming stage presence that was somehow emphasized by the fact they were all seated. My ears quickened to a lush and ravishing interplay of voices and instruments. I was evidently not the only stunned listener, nor the only person new to their sound, as, unusual at this venue, no one in the darkened music room spoke while they performed. It was easily the most hushed and attentive crowd I’ve ever been a part of at this usually noisy club. Their songs sounded as if they were either traditional ballads reworked by them, or originals that sounded like they emerged from the soil of the upper Midwest. One song, “Are You Ready for the Fair?”, reminded me of Greg Brown, a folksinger I’ve enjoyed for years.  Later, I got a copy of their CD “Pasture” and saw that that song is indeed written by Brown. And on The Pines’ website, I see that Benson Ramsey, who often takes lead vocals, while playing lead and slide guitar, and Alex Ramsey, who plays piano and organ, are sons of Bo Ramsey, Brown’s longtime producer and sideman. Greg Brown, it should be noted, is married to the great country singer Iris Dement.

Click here to see a video of their song “Cry, Cry, Crow” from their album “Dark So Gold.”

After The Pines finished their set, and before Israel Nash and his band took the stage, I introduced myself to Benson Ramsey, and his bandmate Dave Huckfelt. I told them how much I’d enjoyed discovering their music, and that I would be eager to write about them, and let others know of their music. Here are pictures from the show, including some of Israel Nash, who also played a great set, and who I appreciated for having invited The Pines to open for him. I was glad I had the chance to hear both of these bands, and that I had a meet up at Mercury Lounge with a new friend, Garrett Johnson, a Canadian music lover who like me is a member of the CBCRadio 3 music community. I’m glad he was in town and could join me to hear Israel Nash.

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October 21st, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Publishing & Bookselling; Urban Life & New York City

“Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York,” from Blog to Book

Hooray for NYC writer Jeremiah Moss, proprietor of the blog “Vanishing New York,” who will be writing a book inspired by his blog for a HarperCollins imprint. H/t to for reporting the news in their daily deals email. Subscription is required for viewing the book industry site, but here’s a quick screenshot of the item.  

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October 12th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Personal history, Family, Friends

Though Weary, the Search for Justice Never Faltered in Argentina, More than Thirty Years after the Dirty War

This is a powerful Retro Report​ video, “Where Is My Grandchild?”, coupled with a NY Times story by Clyde Haberman, “Children of Argentina’s ‘Disappeared’ Reclaim Past, with Help,” about Argentina in the thirty years since that country’s Dirty War, when babies were taken from their parents, who were then ‘disappeared’ and later murdered. The article explains that those children, more than 500 of them, in turn were illegally adopted and became Argentina’s ‘living disappeared.’ Ever since, brave Argentine grandmothers have been seeking their grandchildren and justice. The video includes an interview with an Argentine geneticist named Dr. Vincent Penchaszadeh who fled the country during the junta—and whom my wife and I coincidentally consulted when in the 1990s we were trying to have a child. He’s since returned to Argentina and is applying his sophisticated understanding of genetics and forensics to help the grandmothers find their grandchildren, 117 of whom have now been connected with one another. Here’s a still of the doctor from the video, which is viewable at this link:Dr. Victor Penchaszadeh

Though I have never been to Argentina, I am connected to this tragic history, not only because we found Dr. Penchaszadeh to be an extremely compassionate caregiver, but because of a charismatic rabbi, Marshall T. Meyer, who led a NYC congregation that I was a member of from 1985 through most of the 1990s, whom we learned the good doctor also knew. In a 2012 blog post about Marshall, I wrote:

“I met Marshall in 1985, shortly after he returned to the United States from Argentina following a lengthy sojourn as a rabbi there, during which time he became an outspoken critic of the military junta that imprisoned, tortured, and ‘disappeared’ thousands of people they deemed opponents in the country’s “dirty war.” The dedication of the searing 1981 book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, by Argentine activist and former prisoner Jacobo Timerman, reads,

To Marshall Meyer

A rabbi who brought comfort

to Jewish, Christian, and atheist prisoners in

Argentine jails.

After the murderous generals fell from power, Marshall served on the national commission that investigated and chronicled the full range of crimes and abuses they had committed, the only non-Argentine to do so. He told me in sadness that after his service on that body he found he could no longer be an honest pastoral counselor to victims’ families, having learned disturbing details of the torture prisoners endured; he felt torn between sharing what he knew when grieving survivors asked him about their relatives’ last days, and the desire to spare them more agony. However, they sensed he knew more than he could say. Marshall—who as a rabbinical student worked with spiritual giant Abraham Joshua Heschel, typing several of his book manuscripts prior to publication—had a big personality and was unflinchingly vulnerable. He gave and received a lot of hugs. When he returned to the States from Argentina, he soon became rabbi of B’Nai Jeshurun, then a moribund Manhattan congregation, and within a short time had made it one of the most vital synagogues in New York City. It even gained a nickname, ‘BJ.’ During his tenure, Marshall recruited two younger rabbis to serve alongside him there, Roly Matalon and Marcelo Bronstein–from Argentina and Chile, respectively–who fully took the helm after his wrenching death, at only age 63. Though I’m not much involved with the congregation these days, I still consider myself a sort of lay disciple of Marshall’s, and a friend to Roly and Marcelo and to the congregation.”

Below is the NY Times obit of Marshall that ran after his death in 1993, when he was only 63 years old. I am very happy that these adult children of murdered parents are finding their grandmothers. I find this all extremely moving, and think that you may, too. 


October 5th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Art, Photography, Design; Books & Writing

Celebrating with Ruth Gruber on her 104th Birthday

The 104th birthday of my longtime author—the storied photojournalist Ruth Gruber, with whom I’ve published six books—was last Wednesday, so yesterday Kyle and I joined Ruth and her daughter Celia to celebrate the latest milestone in Ruth’s remarkable and event-filled life—from meeting Virginia Woolf in the 1930s to journeying through the Soviet Arctic later that decade to working in Alaska as a representative of the FDR administration to chronicling the voyage of the real-life Exodus ship in 1947 to being honored by the International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2012, aspects of her life I’ve chronicled several times on this blog. Photos from our birthday celebration are below, but first note that the ICP’s exhibit of Ruth’s work is now at Brooklyn College where it will be up until February 12, 2016, with an opening this Thursday, October 8. NB: Five of the six books I published w/Ruth in the 1990s and 2000s, including her two remarkable memoirs Ahead of Time and Inside of Time, as well as her book on Virginia Woolf, are available from Open Road Media.

Ruth birthday cake 2Ruth birthday cake