Friday, April 28, 2017

FOOTPRINTS IN WET CEMENT, flash fiction by Peter Wortsman defines a slippery form with a wild variety of selections

Flash fiction may be "still as slippery as footprints in wet cement", as Peter Wortsman writes in his foreward to FOOTPRINTS IN WET CEMENT (Pelekinesis) But in this impressive collection, he defines an ephemeral form with a wild variety of selections in an entertaining array of categories. There are "True Confessions," "True Encounters," "Wise Cracks," "Delphic Telegrams" and here-- "Stories on the Run."

These are audacious stories which puncture our assumptions. Among my favorites are Girl on a Train (Intelligence?), Let there be Lies  (Deity's shortcomings?)  I Am Not Myself (Metaphysical identity theft?), After the Storm (Alive?) and many others. Here is a comment about an earlier non fiction work of Wortsman by a master of the short story and another on his fiction by a novelist.

“The behavior of the people [in ‘Snapshots and Souvenirs’]
was wonderfully human and moving—the sort of thing
even the best writers find it almost impossible to invent.
The unexpected in human behavior is difficult to take
out of the air, as opposed to the usual, which anyone can
invent. So that it is precisely these unforeseen details which
establish the authenticity of the text, and which give it its
literary value…excellent.”
–Paul Bowles, author of The Sheltering Sky

"A Modern Way to Die is a fantastic book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have never read anything quite like this, but my enjoyment was due to more than just novelty, it was a response to marvelous writing, wonderful craft, and the breath of imagination... [Wortsman] succeeded so well in his craft and art that it reads 'artless' and 'spontaneous,' which to me is the highest of compliments."
Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn

Here are three selections from FOOTPRINTS IN WET CEMENT that I found funny and moving. Don't take my word for it. I am including as a "taste," since readers will probably have other choices, among the variety of moments and moods. I also think the illustrations are terrific.  (


The Disease of Self
What the doctor can’t cure is a point of pride,
a condition inscribed in DNA and nonsense.
There are over-the-counter remedies you could take but
they just hold off the inevitable. If only you were a worm,
which, when cut in two, could grow a new head and
tail, or didn’t even bother, but just kept wiggling along,
taking things in stride. At the border between night and
day even the shadows evaporate. Dreams scatter like
vampires afraid of the light. The sleepless are compelled
to embrace the disease of self.

Girl on Train
Her hands got to me first, as if they were knitting,
not a common scarf, but a cloth to cover the secrets
of the heart. The long graceful fingers might just as well
have been playing the keys of an arcane instrument,
a harpsichord or hurdy-gurdy, now softly, now with a
sudden fury, or else engaged in intimate touch—as they
looped and dipped with wild abandon on the seat next to
mine. Magic wands, not ordinary knitting needles, the
sharp points pricked and pierced the twilight and made
it bleed in astounding spurts of purple, red and black.

“That’s so beautiful!” I whispered, seeking an excuse to
look up.
“You like it?”

 She swept back a veil of long black hair,
revealing a fine olive complexion and full lips parted with
surprise, the startled look of an Italian Madonna just told
of the miracle. In a curious kind of harmony with her
hands, her black eyes and ruffled brows knitted an ornate
tapestry of their own, dazzling and puzzling, purple, red
and black.

“Who are you making it for?” I asked with a flirtatious
hint, not really wanting to know, picturing the scarf
wrapped round my own neck and the fingers entwined
with mine.
“For me,” she said, “for when it gets cold.”

The fingers never stopped knitting and the scarf grew as
she spoke, the fringes of its finished end grazing my knee.

“Are you in college?” I asked.
“Oh no,” she said, “I’m not smart like that.”
“Your color scheme is brilliant!” I insisted.
Whereupon she blushed. “I go to a special school.”
—“For slow people.”

I choked back a barely audible: “Oh!”
The fingers kept dancing and the train rattled on as
daylight faded fast and the scarf spilled deep purple all
over my lap.
“But I’m learning,” she said, “making progress, my
teacher tells me. Last week I took a test and you know
what? I used to think I was slow, but now,”—like a last
splash of sunlight before dusk, a proud smile of radiant
beauty lit up her dark eyes and licked the crescent moon
of her lips—“now I know I’m average!”

I covered my face with my hands to hide the tears,
pretending to muffle a sneeze.
We rolled on in silence, her fingers fondling the dark,
the soft woolen shawl of night falling over me.
“This is where I get out,” she whispered, drawing back
the scarf as the train pulled into the station somewhere in
New Jersey, “pleased to have met you, Mister.”

Static electricity made my leg hairs stand on end
and I trembled, feeling naked. The pleasure was all
mine!, I wanted to say, or something to that effect.
Too slow to react, I couldn’t find the words in time
and pressed my eyes shut tight to retrieve the fleeting
purple, red and black impression as the train pitched
forward into the darkness.

I’m Not Myself
My feet, stomach and forehead are inherited from
my father, my dark curly hair from my mother,
my voice from my maternal grandfather. My walk is his
too, I’m told. Only my worries are my own.
This morning, a woman I’ve never met, a perfect
stranger, walks up to me as I am about to descend the
steps at my regular subway station on my way to work and
whips out the wallet-size snapshot of a child.—“That’s
her!” she half-howls half-hisses with a strangely insinuating

I don’t know what to say, feeling the eyes of the morning
rush of passers-by upon me, and fearing that I am about to
be wrongfully and publicly accused of paternity, kidnapping,
rape or worse.

The woman keeps staring. “Don’t you recognize her?!”
she insists with considerable emotion. “You finally delivered
her after five miscarriages. You are Dr....!”

“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, ma’am!” I shake my head
with a half-hearted shrug, all choked up for reasons I
cannot rightly explain, then and there doubting my own
identity, her tone of assurance overpowering my own
wavering doubt.

Her piercing gaze cuts me like a scalpel. “But you look
so much like him!” She keeps staring, clearly hoping to
break down my stubborn resistance and make me recant,
even as I race down the subway steps, shaken to the core.
And though I adamantly maintain that the woman and
the child in the picture are complete strangers, there is
little doubt that had I been hauled off for interrogation, I
would have failed a lie detector test.
But that is only the beginning.

Arriving at work, I find a curt message left on my
answering machine by a collection agency located in
Arizona, on behalf of their client company in Virginia,
assuring me that, if I act immediately I will not face prosecution,
but reminding me of my outstanding debt.
What debt?

A call to the collection agency reveals that I, or
someone pretending to be me, has apparently purchased
a cell phone and proceeded to ring up a telephone bill of
$10,000 at last count.

“But I don’t even know how to use a cell phone!” I
protest, which, in this day and age, the collection agency
agent in Arizona finds hard to believe. My options, she
says, are to pay up immediately or file a police report
and attempt to clear my record with three credit bureaus
located in Georgia, California and Texas, who never
answer their phone.

Whereupon I hasten to the local precinct.
“You may or may not,” says the detective on duty, eying
me suspiciously, “be the victim of identity theft.”
—“What’s that?”
—“Someone out there pretending to be you!”
—“How is that possible?”
“The imposter,” he says, “might have apprehended your
name and digital data (social security number, date of birth
etc.) from a garbage bag, a hospital record or a conversation
fragment overheard in passing–especially from a cell
—“But I don’t own a cell phone!”
“My advice to you,” he says, “is to exercise extreme
caution in all future interactions, shred your garbage, filter
your calls.”

My upset exceeds the strictly financial.
I have stopped answering the phone and suspect every
stranger in the crowd.

It’s an outmoded metaphysical dilemma, very
19th-century, very Poe-like, I admit. Contemporary
consumer society has no modern recourse or remedy for
the Doppelgänger syndrome.

If the culprit was shrewd enough to tap into my vital
codes, could he not just as easily break into the private
precincts of my life? Mimic my manner? Sign my name
to restaurant checks, contracts, love letters and bylines?
Charm my children? Woo my wife?

And may he not at this very minute be dwelling on me
as I am on him, reading this very text as a way to read my
mind, predict my next move and beat me to it? Chances are
he’s a smoother, and I suspect, far more polished version of
me than myself.

My bank, until recently a low-key neighborhood operation
geared to financial simpletons such as myself, was
taken over by a foreign-based international conglomerate
with an intimidating acronym. When I stop by at
lunchtime to deposit a check and verify the status of my
accounts, the teller almost pushes me to tears. All the
account numbers and modes of transaction, which it has
taken me years to memorize and master, have been altered.

I am obliged to fill out three complete sets of withdrawal
and deposit slips before getting it right, all the while
enduring a barely suppressed snicker from behind the
bullet-proof window and the smoldering protest of the
growing line of customers behind.

“Tell me,” I ask the teller, “has anyone else tried to
access my money?”
“No one,” he sneers, “other than you!”
And when I get home, the children glance up from
their perch at the TV set as if I were a total stranger,
clearly more in tune with the people on screen.
“It’s me!” I cry.

My wife flashes me a quizzical look. “You’re not yourself
today, honey!” she says, confirming my worst suspicions.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Escape from New York? Read Cat Seto's IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS: An Artist's Sketchbook. It sparkles with wit, insight and beauty.

Cat Seto's IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS: An Artist's Sketchbook (Harper Design, April) is precious in the sense of rare and valuable, a jewel of a book that sparkles with wit, insight, and beauty.  This artist's book is organized around themes; color, pattern, perspective and rhythm. As Seto meanders curiously through Paris neighborhoods, local wonders take shape under her sure paint brush--whimsical, striking and often good enough to eat.

The book begins with Monet's quote about color as .."my day-long obsession, joy and torment"
and begins her journey at BERTHILLON.  Seto is in agreement with Monet, but with the addition of ice cream. As she said, "when you lay down a good oil or or watercolor that you can literally feel the purity of the color wash onto the canvas, The artful glaces did just that to my mouth." And of course she visually deconstructs the colors of the glace.

Pattern takes us to JARDINS DES PLANTES, where she "spiraled up a stone dome to look down upon black water and a group of golden dappled fish." and she treats us to sketches of  "endless numbers of plant species on the grounds which turned into a series of botanical patterns." Floor tiles on cafes, galleries, and even the "striated rain and muddled walks" of a rainy market are wondrous in her deft and delicate drawings. Seto also noticed the patterns of oversized fur coats women wore, chevrons and green and apricot abstractions.

Perspective did take us to The Eifel Tower, but not as I've seen it. "...from the park, on a picnic,in between rafters, and from the windows of many apartments. The tower is perfectly, if not dramatically, framed by the city every day." Here it's a landmark in the Tour de France race.

Rhythm took us to artists studios at 59 Rivoli, sketched below. I loved the dragon painted on the walls of a staircase. "I climbed up six flights of stairs, following the tail of this serpentine creation. Every inch of the walls were covered with its scales and the minutiae of etched drawings, monograms, and layered patterns."

While Cat Seto's lovely images make this a book to be SEEN, her accompanying words make this a book to be savored. Unfortunately, I am not going to Paris any time soon. But I loved visiting Seto's version of the city--aesthetic, wryly funny and delicious.

There's a long tradition of artist's sketchbooks, watercolors of places. I've seen pages from Turner, Sargeant, Cassatt.  They are ideas on the fly, a conversation between the person's sensibility, what they see, and the mood of the moment--person and place as one. Below is a view on Canal St.Martin
with a burst of color.

“From the book: IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS by Cat Seto. Copyright © 2017 by Cat Seto. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.”

I hope Cat Seto does a similar book about San Francisco, another aesthetic city of eccentric and various perfection.



I got an angry comment about this post. The objection was that art was elitest, as was Paris and New York. Art is not elitest, any more than beauty.  They are there for those that can see, as are major
cities that value them. As a visual artist and writer, I appreciate the fact that people who do creative work spend years developing their talent. Many are employed at other jobs and raise families, while pursuing their work. Arts add meaning to existence and reverence for being alive on this planet. While the profit motive exists, so do motivations such as transcendence or seeking truth.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

5/5 launch eprentise's TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW by Helene Abrams, problems of growing biz w/IT

Today, 5/5, is the launch of this fun and astute ebook based on an idea by eprentise's  Helene Abrams with limericks by Josh Greenbaum to tell the story of a growing business, stymied by IT problems and solutions...

A big bang, they told me,
IT transformation,
Was needed to stave off
complete devastation.
The old stuff was tired,
and needed replacing,
The new stuff would do it,
the results would be bracing.

MAY 2nd Published!

So what's the real deal?  Why do many growing businesses founder when dealing with IT? Read this interview.
An Interview with Josh Greenbaum, author, and Helene Abrams, originator of TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW (eprentise, May 2017)

Q.  What inspired your new book/video To Think That I Thought My Business Might Grow?
HA.  Throughout my career, I have been involved with hundreds of large organizations who have been influenced by the media, executive sponsors, or large consulting organizations to use technology to embark on huge, multi-million dollar projects to “reengineer” their business processes with promises of lower costs, faster response, better customer service, large returns on their investment, being more competitive, etc. More often than not, these projects were not successful; they took longer, cost much more than they were budgeted for, and most importantly, they did not get the results they wanted.  Also, by the time the projects were “finished,” the business or organization had changed, and the technology and the processes no longer represented the current requirements or allowed flexibility for newer initiatives.

JG.  The problems in To Think That I Thought My Business Might Grow are common ones businesses report time and again. I was inspired by the opportunity to tell this age-old story in an accessible way. Besides being an industry analyst and consultant in enterprise software, I have published lyrics and written short stories. When Helene explained her idea of a humorous book to explain these problems, I was thrilled to give it a try.

Q.  Is this a parable for business?
HA.  I’m not sure how much of a moral lesson this is, but it is definitely a story that businesses need to understand in order to succeed.
JG.  Things happen, such as mergers and acquisitions, launching a new line of business or opening a new subsidiary to go after an opportunity, that necessitate IT change. It's usually difficult to make business changes inside packaged software systems like Oracle®, one of the software products many companies use. In too many cases, problems develop because businesses put too much faith in technology without considering the ramifications for their business.

Q.  What are the common problems with IT that can make a growing business "a mess"? 
HA.  These problems are not just for a “growing” business, but for any business. 1) Not documenting the decisions made and the rationale for those decisions including the business reason, the impact of the decision, the configuration, or the customization involved. 2) Making IT decisions without getting the business involved early or training the business users before the implementation. 3) IT is attracted by new technologies and implementing the latest and greatest. This can be for their own personal career growth, because they think they understand the business better than the users, or just part of their personalities to try new technologies, bells or whistles.

Q. What happens when business users don’t understand the new technology or new system?
HA. Their energy is focused on the technology rather than on what they need to do to make their business better. They may extensively customize an out-of-the-box system to replicate what the users had before, rather than understanding the differences in how the new system works. Many times, the business wants to replicate the old system because they are comfortable with it, and they don’t thoroughly understand the features and functions of the new system before making their decisions.

Q. How could this be avoided?
HA. There's a lack of standard definitions and processes before implementing a new system - i.e., standard definitions of items, a standard chart of accounts, a standard calendar, a common organization structure, etc. Too often in the past, each division, location, or part of the organization did things their own way. That meant that in order to report or to implement a data warehouse or a business intelligence system, data needed to be extracted and manually transformed. It resulted in a “Tower of Babel.”

Q.  How does the solution to implement a new IT system often compound the problems?
HA.  Making the business better is more often a data issue than a technology issue. When there is a focus on the new or different technology, often the perception is that the data problems will go away. However, if the data is not consistent, complete, or correct in the old system, just moving it to a new system isn’t going to fix the problem. 
JG.  Business people struggle to understand how business intersects with technology and how the changes in their business intersect with the new technology. Tech people struggle to understand the impact their work has on business changes. This leaves a gap in knowledge that makes it difficult to fit the new system to the business, and without that knowledge, technology cannot serve the business appropriately.

Q. What's needed?
HA.  Consistency – a single source of data with a common definition throughout the application. Completeness – all the relevant data is in one place and is not pieced together, aggregated, or integrated from several different places. Correctness – the summary data is derived from an original source or transactions. The ability to cleanly roll up from the transactions to the summary and drill down to the detail, without manipulating the data.
JG.  Teamwork between IT and the business side is essential. This is an important way to ensure that the right data is being used in the right way for the right reasons.

Q. Why is manipulating data a problem?
HA. The process of manually extracting, transforming, and loading data (used for data migration) is custom code, and can introduce coding errors and inconsistencies. It also doesn’t “fix” the bad data in the source system. It is resource intensive, and impossible to see the results until all the coding is done (often months or years). Governance is not put in place to make sure that the users are not creating their own silos or duplicating data that is already there. 

Q.  Who do you consider the audience for this book?
HA. Anyone who runs an IT department, budgets for one, or for whom technology decisions are driving the business decisions (or who thinks that new technology adoption will improve their business).

Q.  What do you mean by "finished but not done"?
HA.  When you first implement a system, you base the setups or configurations on the current state of the business. No one has a crystal ball to know what the next five years will bring in terms of business or technology changes. 

Q.  How does this occur?
HA.   I was Oracle’s first Apps consultant in 1988. After Oracle, I went to Deloitte & TouchĂ© and E&Y (large system integrators – SIs). We would implement many huge Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) projects, sometimes for customers who had 100+ sites. We would implement at the first site, go live, and then go to the second site to implement. By the time we got to the third or fourth site, something had changed in the business – either there was a merger, acquisition, or divestiture, or they had to comply with new statutory or regulatory requirements in a new market, or the technology changed (i.e., at some point, there was the bandwidth for a company to operate globally).

Q. What did these customers do?
HA. Their only choice was to do a full reimplementation. That means that they had to hire an army of consultants, rethink every decision, and start from scratch configuring the system. Then they had to manually migrate the data from the old environment to the new one which involved writing extensive extract, transform, and load scripts, leave behind most of their history, and spend huge amounts of money all over again – sometimes the cost was the same or more than the original implementation.

Q. What's the solution to your mantra "finished, but not done"?
HA.   The original implementation was finished and working, but the organization was not ever done, because the system (Oracle EBS in this case, but it was true for all other ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] systems as well) did not align with the business. I thought that there must be a way to allow for ongoing changes in the business without starting over again, so I came up with this software.
JG.  (Joking) Technology is always perfect, the problem is the people who have to use it. When the implementation of new software has been undertaken without bringing the right people into to process, project “mediocrity” or outright failure is the norm. Tech has to be matched with what the business needs. This is difficult and honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Q.  In what ways might companies use your book/video to enable managers to make better decisions?
JG. One of the biggest problems is stakeholders on both sides who fail to understand what the other side needs and wants. This lack of communication and empathy is at root of many of the problems that companies face when their IT projects go south. I think this book shows what happens when that communication doesn’t exist, and what happens when it does.

Q.  Do you think communication is often lacking between departments and managers?
 JG.: There is a reflex to throw tech at a problem and SIs make good money on it. SIs, by rote, are following a script from 25 years ago that mandates that tech can solve all problems, and if you just work harder and put in more hours you can solve anything. But more technology cannot guarantee success if IT isn’t working with other teams in these projects.

Q.  How can a company resolve essential problems, and embody concepts such as "Agile," "Responsive," and "Hyperconvergence"?
JG.  Agile is being able to iterate change rapidly in order to meet changing conditions. A business seeks out and tests new opportunities, finds what could help it recover from failure, and moves on. The pace has of business has increased exponentially, and responsiveness, knowing or anticipating the next new thing customers will want, is essential to business success; this is as much about adopting a new mindset as it is about adopting new technology. But when new technologies – and new business processes – are implemented, they need to work in sync together. This is what hyperconvergence is all about.

Q.  What's the take away from the experience of your book and video?
JG.  IT doesn't have to be implemented the way we always have done it. It’s essential to build consensus across the silos inherent in any business. If technology and business don’t work well together, neither can be successful.

For Further Information
Contact: Susan Weinstein
Publicist, To Think That I Thought That My Business Would Grow

So I signed a big contract, for a new IT system, and a new set of apps, no boss could resist ‘em.
eprentise ebook and video coming 5/2.

IT Parable eprentise (May 2nd debut)

When I set out to change things, my business was dropping, my customers leaving,my stock price was flopping...

If you, like many,
have started to wonder,
is your IT just right,
or just a big blunder?

Was that reimplementation
a mistake to avoid?
Has your chart of accounts
gotten lost in the void?

Are you drowning in data

that’s too hard to use?

Is it messy and fickle

and often abstruse

TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW How New Technology Leaves Evolving Businesses Finished But Not Done® - An eprentise® Parable about IT
eprentise's Helene Abrams had heard the same story over and over: Large companies are by their very nature continually changing, and yet they often find that their business needs outstrip their IT – causing them to go into a fatal tailspin. She and author Joshua Greenbaum join forces to tell this critical business story, TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW  w/illustrations by Peter Babakitis (May) in book and video.

In a direct and amusing style, this eBook and video explain the chain of unexpected consequences that develop when a major company decides to jump on the “latest and greatest” technologies and trends without focusing on the best decisions for the business itself. As the head of IT nears a deadline vital to the business, he finds himself in a series of predicaments. Yet the solution was hiding right "in plain sight." While the drowning company fights for survival, "Finished But Not Done" takes on a deeper meaning.

Video on FB page: