Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Short of story ideas? May I suggest an evening in Brooklyn?

So you're trying to break into the sweet neo-noir racket and rake in the major plata, huh sparky? But no matter how many times you read The Killer Inside Me, your stories come out filled with puppies that don't get shot, girls who wear underwear and fresh-baked brownies with a hashish content of nada.

That's what happens when you hang out at CinnaBun.

To get the grit, you got to go where you can see neon sparkle off the day-old glitter on a stripper's thigh, smell the erotically desperate john on his way to a swift beating, hear the coke dealers, the lost sailors and the young girl coughing up blood, trying to convince the bar owner she's old enough to dance. You want that kind of atmosphere, sport, you have to go where the action is, and the action appears to be in Brooklyn.

According to the NY Times, one club in particular is the latest sure-fire muse of the budding hardboiled. So stick that Glock in your sock, Pally, and come with me to Sweet Cherry.

"Sweet Cherry is a great champion, brazen and near untouchable. The authorities have documented an in-house narcotics trade, pronounced the club a brothel and charged the manager with rape. (He has pleaded not guilty.) Once, patrons repeatedly stabbed an off-duty police officer, who lost partial use of his right hand. Once, a manager of bouncers for Sweet Cherry was shot dead in his apartment.

But despite two civil actions by the Police Department, voluminous criminal charges and neighborhood protests, the club has been closed for a total of just six days this year. Eleven days after its latest reopening, two dancers were charged with breaking a beer bottle over somebody's head."

Hmm, that last bit sounds like something someone stole from a novel. Yeah. In fact, I think it was MY novel. And I think someone owes me some money. So, I'm going down to that skeeze nest and demand those skanks make with the royalties or somebody's going to get smacked around.

But first, I've got puppies to pet, and they better not lick me, not if they know what's good for 'em.

She's doing her part for the troops.

Very busy this morning so I'll leave you with a tribute to Fleet Week, as reported by Overheard In New York:

Girl 1: What's with all the little white men?

Girl 2: The Navy guys?

Girl 1: White, Jesus.

Girl 2: What?

Girl 1: In those little costumes...don't you just want to jump them?

Overheard on 34th and Lex

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lunchtime Survival Tip.

This from my Worst-Case Scenario desk calendar. The Tip of the Week, which you should copy and keep close at hand in case you forget, is this:

"If you find yourself in the line of gunfire, and you are the primary target, get as far away as possible."

Don't thank me, that's what I'm here for, to pass along these helpful hints you may not think of yourself.

In Iraq, things are looking up.

Unfortunately, they're looking up your shorts.

Back in the days of Saddam Hussein, his son Uday was president of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee. Uday tortured athletes for losing games, tossing ball-bobbling jocks into jail where he beat them, chained them to walls, urinated on their shaved heads, and basically give them the Abu Ghraib ESPN II treatment just to, you know, motivate them.

Think Bobby Knight on a bad day.

But Uday's playing bocce in hell right now and I say good riddance, because today's athletes can now perform at the top of their game, free from fear and intimidation, unless they're wearing shorts.

That's right. Wearing shorts. This weekend gunmen killed the coach of Iraq's national tennis team and two of his players for showing their bare legs in public.

Now, if they had targeted Richard Simmons, that's something most right-thinking Americans could get behind. But not Iraq's tennis players. Not unless they were showing their naked legs in say, Kansas.

Leg flashers aren't the only athletes having a hard time in this new, free, turned-the-corner, mission-accomplished Iraq. Gunmen have abducted tae kwondo experts near Ramadi and Iraq's Olympic Committee Director-General was kidnapped north of Baghdad just last year.

These killings are on top of the 30+ bombings we had this weekend, including the one that killed a camera man and sound tech for CBS and seriously wounded Kimberly Dozier, the CBS reporter.

Laura Ingraham, right-wing radio skank who said reporters aren't getting the good news because they stay in the comfort of their cushy suites and report from "hotel balconies," should take note and consider apologizing for being such a fucking cunt.

But that would mean she'd have to admit being wrong. Sheesh, what dream world am I living in?

So this is for you, Laura, some good news. Thanks to us, Iraqi gunmen are now free to kill people wearing shorts. This story just gets better and better.

Is it too early for a vodka tonic?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Someone to remember this weekend.

When I was a kid, my father taught us boys that military service was the price we paid for living in a free country. No one was asking us to make it a career, but we were expected to do our duty. It's not that my father didn't understand the realities of putting on a uniform. He was a WWII vet. His only brother was killed on Iwo Jima. But he expected his sons to put in their time and we did. Ironically, it was my sister who chose the Army as a career, retiring a few years ago as a Major.

When I enlisted in 1969, America was already turning against the war and young men were finding ways to avoid active duty. This meant college deferments, medical deferments, or if you couldn't find a friendly physician, you joined the Reserves or the National Guard.

Those of us who signed up or were drafted were those who had no pull, no contacts or who, like me, were raised with a sense of obligation. When I woke up and looked around, I saw that we were serving alone. We weren't America's fortunate sons. We were, as we called ourselves, "niggers, hicks and spics."

At best, these sentiments of service, sacrifice, honor, and duty are dangerous, and quaintly old-fashioned. At worst, they're the mark of a sucker. It depends on the day you catch me which way I lean. But either way, some young men went in place of those who ducked their obligation, and some of those young men didn't come home.

One of those men was Steve Bednar. Steve was a small kid, with pale skin, blond hair, and bones as thin as a bird's. He was a medic with the 101st and he died in Binh Dinh in 1971. He was 21 at the time, just old enough to vote. Steve was funny, kind, and smart.

This weekend, as you're enjoying the time off, take a moment and think about those who made this sacrifice for us. And if you have no one else to remember, take a moment to think of Steve. I would appreciate it.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Here she is, a Hannibabe who uses exclamation points!

My friend, patriotboy, told me of this joyful alternate universe where fans of the giant-headed Sean Hannity can find one another and live together in right wing romantic bliss.

We looked at the American Ninja, the guy with the numchucks, a few weeks ago. Now we turn to the distaff side and offer up one for the boys. Careful, guys, this one's smokin'.

She was born on the Fourth of July, so no doubt she's a real firecracker. She has 3 children, is a social drinker and, this has got to be a major turn-on, she chews tobacco. Mmmm, nice.

Her favorite food is barbecue and she's fluent in English and speaks minimal Hebrew, as in shiksa.

She loves the arts, I'm guessing velvet Elvis, billiards and gospel. She describes her body type as "I'll tell you later."

But let's let our Hannibabe speak for herself:

What can I say- I look HOT in my stars 'n' stripes bikini! [If you squint and it's kinda dark, and you've left your glasses in the Camaro] I also love to slip into my favorite pair of pumps and lowcut evening gown for a night out with the gals! [videos available]

My husband recently died on a mission trip in Africa. I worried about him going over there, but as it turns out he died of natural causes [?] so it wouldn't have mattered if he was saving some uncivilized [Negro] soul or not! He did what he loved and I will never forget him! [which means I'll be shouting his name when we have sex] God bless you Troy!

Although I LOVE chocolate and SINFUL desserts, I maintain a sexy bod by playing in the community softball league. Many men around my office often comment on my gorgeous figure!
[Can you say "hostile work environment?"]

I want a man with values and morals, like my idol, President George W. Bush. A good Christian man, someone my kids can call "DADDY!" Someone who will curl up on the couch with me and just soak in the genius of Bill O'Reilly and the man himself, SEAN HANNITY! Someone who won't back down to the sinful liberal left! I want a man who is dedicated to his country and religion! Someone who is willing to come with me to an anti-abortion rally! Someone who is willing to come with me to an anti-Mexican immigrant rally! GO USA!

Someone who knows how to use exclamation points!

But, if you're a guy between 25 and 65, and no I'm not kidding, that's what she's looking for, this is the woman for you. Softball, barbecue and anti-Mexican rallies. What could be more romantic?

Ai, chingau! Elle esta muy caliente, si?

What's the difference between a whore and a screenwriter?

Not everyone thinks they can be a whore.

I've cashed the check for the treatment, which qualifies me for both positions. The producers are meeting with the money guy tonight, asking for more money. This is the guy who also wrote the novel for this steaming heap of ordure, extending the concept of vanity press to new heights of hubris and self-regard.

And what's worse, the money man sees himself in the character of the good guy, a character who lives a life of golden ease, no worries, no obstacles to his life's goal which is to play golf and exchange dewey glances with his chaste girlfriend.

The problem is, this sun-dappled plotline wouldn't even make a decent porn flick (there are obstacles in porn, right? Like who's going to pay for the pizza?) But if you take the bad guy's story, and make this a dark comedy with a rogue at its center, then you've got a damn good plotline. But that's not going to fly, not when the money guy sees himself as our golf star.

Wrestling with this has been tough. I've pushed a friend's script back a few weeks (sorry Ken - I'll get to it this weekend, I promise), I've completely abandoned my novel and I've encroached on the sanctity of my day job with long calls from the producer/director, a guy who calls me so often that my daughter refers to him as my boyfriend.

This morning, on my way to the day job, I think I it figured out. I'll rework the treatment at lunch, just in time for the meeting. I know, it's taken me five or six weeks to figure this out. Unlike real whores, writers can't satisfy clients with a few minutes of squeeze and tickle, can we?

But we can dream.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lunchtime with Overheard in New York

Little boy to duck:

"Eh, what the fuck, dude? "

Overheard by robin b. Harlem Meer, Central Park

I feel something, but it's not groovy.

It was a late night playing blues and I have so much work to do that I feel like an air traffic controller with planes stacking up over Long Island City.

So, instead of me searching out some news story of minimal interest and dressing it up with smart-ass remarks, let's see how willing you are to show us your dark side.

Tell us about the most embarassing album you've ever owned. I'll start. I owned an album by this band, Harper's Bizarre. Get it? it's like the magazine Harper's Bazaar, but it's spelled all weird and trippy. Far out, I'm sure. They were part of the 60’s™ no one ever talks about, like the time grandpa was found wandering naked in the Walmart. Harper's Bizarre sang innocuous pop along the lines of the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Bobby Goldsboro and I owned a freakin' copy. Jesus, I'm surprised it didn't make me gay.

I was torn between confessing to this or to my love for Claudine Longet, Andy Williams' ex, the French gamine who sang breathy little numbers in that sexy French accent. She later went on to shoot her ski champion squeeze (Rusty Sabich?) with a .22, adding a frisson of danger to my one-sided fantasy romance. Oh, Claudine, couldn't you find it in your heart to love a geeky, glasses-wearing high school boy?

So, if you don't mind holding yourself up to unrelenting ridicule, like the time Quertermous said You've Got Mail was a better movie than Chinatown, tell us what album you're embarassed you owned. Or, if that's too personal, what was the first record or CD you ever bought?

Mine was Meet the Beatles in 1964. Yeah yeah yeah.

Fuck I'm old.

Observational Update: Look at the pants on those guys. What? Were they recording in a flood zone?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bill O'Reilly explains to David Brooks why he's such a loud-mouthed jerk.

Here's something I never knew existed - Google Trends. With it, you can enter anything and see which cities are looking up what phrases.

As regular readers know, I've talked about David Brooks, the columnist for the NYT and his obsession for Heartland Values. David believes that Red State America is a more moral place than the two Blue coasts where out-of-touch lefties live a Godless lifestyle that makes the baby Jesus drink himself to sleep.

Well, let's see who Googles phrases like anal sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, porn, and vibrator more than any other city on the planet. Why it's little Elmhurst, Illinois, population 43,000, smack dab in the middle of David Brooks' Heartland.

And what is it the Sodom-like cities of San Francisco and Portland, Oregon are Googling? Impeach Bush. That's right. They're thinking about assholes, but not the kind that turn on those perverts in Elmhurst.

Tampa was busy looking up dildo while in Fort Worth, Googlers were Googling for Viagra, which seems to validate what the rest of the country always suspected about Texans.

But for anal sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, vibrators and porn, nobody beats little Elmhurst.

Someone tell Bill O'Reilly we found him a new home.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What did you make for your eigth grade project?

The kid up there with the kayak is my neighbor, Benjamin, a great kid, greatly admired by all who know him, except for the poor bastards like these girls who share a class with him.

Benjamin and his brother Joseph will run the world some day. We might as well just hand over the keys.

These boys are the ones who fuck up the curve and consign your kids to fighting over who's in charge of the deep fryer. Benjamin is not only building this kayak, he's also put together a PowerPoint presentation illustrating every phase of construction. He's young, so I won't hold the PowerPoint against him (what? was there no film in the 16mm?), but imagine, for a moment, having your avocado sprout suspended by toothpicks on the rim of the glass, your foam-core and construction paper presentation accordioned behind it, scrawled with all the facts about photosynthesis you cadged from Brittanica, and you look over and there's Benjamin with his fucking kayak.

This is why they don't allow firearms in school.

When I was in school I cut the bottom from a jar, suspended two tiny balloons inside, closed up the bottom of the jar with a balloon membrane so that when you pulled it down, the small balloons expanded. See! That's how your diaphragm inflates your lungs! Isn't that exciting? See, you pull down on this and inside your chest...hey, what's that? Is that Benjamin? Is that a fucking kayak?

Just shoot me. Really, just shoot me now.

Congratulations, Benjamin. This is amazing.

When he grows up, maybe he'll lend me a few bucks.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I spy, with my little eye...

General Hayden, former head of the NSA (known around Washington as No Such Agency) faces tough questions about domestic snooping before being made chief spy guy at the CIA. I think this little exchange was interesting:

REPORTER: ... my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search ...

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.

REPORTER: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

REPORTER: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN . . . Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable."

There you have it. General Hayden, head of the NSA, knows the 4th Amendment like most of us know the Gilligan's Island theme. If he says it doesn't say probable cause, then we can probably take that to the bank, huh? That's not only reasonable, it's reassuring.

Until we read the 4th Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

General Hayden must be reading an advance copy of the new Bill of Rights, you know, the one that doesn't mention probable cause. Or the people. Or rights.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Let's talk about sex.

Good news! Abstinence-only sex education works!

Well, it doesn't really work, but the good news is, people believe it works. That, at least, is the big story in the Washington Times.

And if you close your eyes and wish real hard, things will be better in Iraq, too.

Here's what had the Moonie-owned paper in a swoon of self-congratulation:

"Critics of abstinence-only sex-education programs may be too hasty in judgment. There is support for the method among age groups that count -- the young. According to a new Harris Poll, 56 percent of people ages 18 to 24, and 60 percent of those 25 to 29 think abstinence programs effectively reduce or prevent the occurrence of HIV/AIDS."

See, it doesn't matter that, according to the LA Times, 52% of teenagers who signed an abstinence pledge did the nasty within a year and, according to The American Journal of Sociology, these teens were far more likely to ride bareback when they did discover the joys of the horizontal hula. No, what matters is that people believe abstinence works, so there, you liberal sex pervs. Suck on that.

Given this impeccable logic, if I believe I can fly, I can leap from this tree. Because, according to the Times, belief trumps everything, especially those pesky scientific facts like gravity.

The Reverend Moon's minions go on to crow:

"Among six age groups and three political groups, younger respondents showed the strongest support for abstinence over safe-sex programs."

And even younger respondents professed a belief in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and George Bush's competence.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what passes for good news on the Right. Teaching ignorance is fine, as long as you believe. Faith over facts. Hope over science.

I got something you can believe in right here: When we start teaching kids based on what we'd like to be true, you can bet someone's going to get fucked, but it won't be in a good way.

Some days.

Do you ever feel like catching a bus to Teguc and luring tourist money with a tethered sloth?

Yeah, that's the way I feel, too.

It's like Deja Vu all over again, only this time with crappy music.

I'm trying to not burst into flames. I'm trying not to break into tears. I'm going to quote a lot of the original story because I can't put a funny twist on any of this.

It looks like the war has taken a dark and all-too-familiar turn. The Pentagon said that U.S. Marines killed 15 innocent civilians, including seven women and three children.

A young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”

On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right. Another official said, “This one is ugly."

No shit.

I have seen the future of fiction.

This new job is like nothing I've ever done before. I've written ad copy for almost 30 years and this is a different critter from the paws up. Instead of talking to millions, these people have carved out a niche by talking to one person at a time.

Here's how it works. You fill out a survey. You check the block that says you like to run. So I write:

"Bob ran into the topless bar."

Your neighbor checks I am in a wheelchair, and he would get:

"Bob wheeled his crippled ass into the topless bar."

Or something like that. I'm still working on my style.

Now, we've all whined about the death of the novel, how people just don't read the way they used to, blah blah blah, and I think it's time we shut the fuck up and start looking for new ways to connect. It's time we gave our tired old tits a lift with the help of targeted marketing.

Here's how this new new technology could work in crime fiction. You have readers fill out preference surveys. Everyone who checked Loves firearms, would read:

"Adam whipped out his Colt 1911A1, the famous .45 caliber semiauto designed by John Browning, a pistol that fires slugs the size of a small car at a subsonic 840 feet per second and hits bad guys with a force of seven tons per square inch."

Everyone who checked Loves fruit, would read:

"Adam whipped out his banana."

And for those who checked Loves porn, the line would read:

"Adam whipped out his schvantz."

That was for those who checked Yiddish porn.

Like I said, I'm still working on my style.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

In Praise of Shame

When I was a boy, my mother used to say, "Never do anything you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the New York Times.

My how the times (not to mention the Times) have changed.

Think Paris Hilton. Think Monica Lewinsky. Think Ann Coulter. Two of these women are famous for little more than fellating powerful men. The other is a hotel heiress.

Am I just getting old, or have we really entered into an age where shame is an outmoded concept? I see it every day. I'm sure you see it too. Think Ken Lay. Think John Gibson. Think Rush Limbaugh. No shame at all.

One of my favorites is Paul Wolfowitz, the guy who went on TV and said the Iraq War would be free. Not cost us a dime. Zilch for the taxpayer. He was wrong by a few hundred billion and counting. Did he slink away in shame? Nah, don't be a chump. Now he's head of the World Bank. Think about that. The guy writes a rubber check for 300 BILLION dollars and he's put in charge of a bank. Shameless.

But the best example in this time of daily outrage came a few years ago when the Bush administration sent our men and women off to war and then suggested we cut their pay. Not just any pay. Combat pay. Or, that's what we called it when I was a young GI. Now they call it imminent danger pay, which doesn't make getting shot at any less startling. Trust me. Churchill said that getting shot at and missed has a particular way of focusing the mind. Indeed. For that you should get a raise.

Don't believe it? Don't believe anyone would be that shameless? Check out this editorial from the radical left Army Times. Here's the scoop: GIs thrown in harm's way (another interesting euphemism) got their combat pay raised from $150 a month to $225. Along with that, the family separation allowance, which goes to help military families pay rent, child care or other expenses while soldiers are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250.

The Bush administration complained that the extra $225 monthly for the two pay categories was costing about $25 million more a month, or $300 million a year. The administration wanted to return to the old, lower rates.

Now, to put that into perspective, the pay raise for all combat soldiers and their families would cost about $800K a day. And what's the Iraq War costing us? The war Wolfowitz, the head of the FUCKING WORLD BANK, said would cost nothing?

$177 million A DAY.

To look at it another way, Lee Raymond, the outgoing CEO of Exxon, earned $400,000 a day, the poor fat bastard. How did he manage to squeak by on 400K a day?

When news got out about the cut in combat pay, the Bushies immediately backpedaled on this proposal, but still, it was shameless when it happened.

But that's not what I want to talk about today.

I want to talk about Shame a truly great song by Randy Newman. I consider Randy a guy who can write a novel in a 4-minute song and this is a perfect example. Let's take a look at the lyrics:

Pretty little baby, how ‘come you never come around?
Pretty little baby, how come you never come around?
I send you all them pretty flowers,
Now you’re nowhere to be found.

He sets the story, in first person, of a man spurned and heart broken. Classic.

‘call you up at midnight sometimes,
I must admit, when I find you’re not at home.
My head heats up like a furnace,
My heart grows colder than a stone.
So what’s the good of all this money I got, girl?
If every night, I’m left here all alone?
It’s a gun that I need.

The threat of violence. The stakes are raised. The master at work.

Here's the chorus, sung by a trio of women.

Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.

Randy answers:
I ain’t shamed of nothing. I don’t know what you talking about.

Denial. Now, our hero is ready to negotiate.

All right, let’s talk a little business.
You know what I’m saying?
A man of my experience of life,
don’t expect a beautiful young woman like yourself
to come on over here everyday.
Have some old dude bangin’ on her
like a gypsy on a tambourine.

That’s not what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.
That’s not what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.
That’s not what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.

Ah, we discover he's an older man, perhaps much older, and sex enters the picture in one of the best damn lines I've ever heard anywhere.

But I will say this.
I’ve been all over the world.
I’ve seen some wonderful things.
I haven’t been well lately,
I have no one to share my plans,my dreams, my hopes, my schemes, my…

The women come back:

Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.

The character plays on our sense of pity. He says:

‘could be right.
I’ve sunk pretty low this time.
These are truly desperate times.

Saw your little sandals, baby, out behind the wishing well.
Down here in the cool depths of the Quarter,
where the rich folk dwell.
They picture you in diamonds, satins and pearls.
Come on back to Daddy!Daddy miss his baby girl.

A sense of place, New Orleans, a telling detail, the sandals, and now Randy goes off about his father being an angry man, and how he's different, but comes back to more threats of violence making us glimpse just why this particular relationship fell apart.

Do you know what it feels like,
to have to beg a little bum like you for love?
Goddamn you, you little bitch!
I’d kill you, if I didn’t love you so much!

Shame, shame, shame, shame…


Then he tries to undo the damage.

Oh, forgive me.…my unfocused words.
I was flyin’ blind, I, I lost my mind.
If ya find it in your heart, if you got one,to forgive me.
Be ever so grateful...
You know, I have a Lexus now.
I don’t get out much.
You know what I’m saying.
Come on home.

Shame. That's today's word, Planeteers. If you want to play, name a few of the songs you admire for their stories, or give me an example of this world being know.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What day is it?

The Planet's been spinning too fast lately, what with the new day job, crunch time on a few deadlines, a sticky second act in this film treatment, and the ongoing saga with my computer. Now I can't get the new guy to find my scanner. It's RIGHT THERE! Next to the printer. I can touch the damn thing so why can't you see it?

As usual, I digress. Or maybe it's not a digression as I have nothing to post about. I don't have time to go into Bush's speech, but I could write for days about the National Guard on the border. I've stood guard in the high desert when it was freezing goddam cold, two hours on, two hours off, until I began to hallucinate and nearly lit up a cactus I'd just watched low crawl fifty feet.

I know they enlisted, but I feel sorry for the poor fuckers who joined the guard to play cards once a month. First they get extended tours of Iraq with hajis trying to blow their huevos off with IEDs and now they get to stand alone in Bush country, watching the flora walk and wondering just where it all went so fucking wrong.

Ear worm update - I woke up with this POS rolling around in my head:

I am strong,
I am invincible,
I am wooomunnnn

I don't know why. But I told Jenny and she started singing a much better song, "It's a Man's World" by the man himself, James Brown.

That made me think of Manfred Mann (Do Wah Ditty) and When A Man Loves A Woman and Candyman and there have to be thousands of songs with man or woman in the title.

So play around with that Planeteers, while I get ready for work. Give me some Man/Woman song titles. Or talk about the immigrant issue if you want to. Or serving in the Guard. Whatever you want to talk about is fine with me.

Now wish me luck on these deadlines and getting my new computer to shake fucking hands with my goddam scanner. I mean, it's RIGHT THERE!

Jumping Jesus.

I'm tired.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Zoe says:

I don't care if you got a new camera. Get it out of my face or I'll smother you in your sleep.

Duncan is camera-shy.

Unlike Boomer, Duncan does not like his picture taken. He believes the camera will steal his soul but he's wrong. No camera has that much memory.

New computer, new camera, same old writer.

The new computer is up and running.

To reward myself for getting this new job, I also got a new camera. Here's my first picture. This is Boomer, the elder of our two boys. He's a happy dog and loves having his picture taken.

Friday, May 12, 2006

My wife insists I'm a freak.

Yes, Jenny has her reasons. There's the lunchmeat thing, of course, and Elvis, and there was that time in Detroit when I came home from a party at Rom's Rancho Relaxo stinking of cordite and in need of an alibi.

But besides those things, Jenny thinks I'm a freak because I wake up every morning with a song in my head. This is not to be confused with a song in my heart because that's just disturbed. Sometimes the songs in my head are good and sometimes they make me want to shoot myself, like the time Disco Inferno got stuck on repeat

Burn, Baby, Burn

but there's always something, even if it's only a jingle.

This morning it's a song from House of Blue Leaves, the play by John Guare.

For those who don't know this play, it's about an aspiring song writer named Artie who is married to Bananas but having an affair with his downstairs neighbor, Bunny Flingus. His songs are spectacularly bad, like this one:

Back together again,
Back together again,
Since we split up,
The skies we lit up,
Look all bit up,
Like Fido chewed 'em...

I love this play. If you have a chance to see it, go. Jenny and I were in a production of this back when we were both doing a lot of theater. Yes, that might surprise some of you, the shy retiring introvert that I am, on stage.

But I digress.

Back to this ear worm thing, I'm not a fan of musicals, in general. Andrew Lloyd Weber, in particular, should be strung up for the puerile pap he's foisted on the American stage. But then there's Sweeney Todd. I woke up to Pretty Women in my head one morning, and that was better than all right. More than made up for the morning I woke up to Mandy.

What I want to know is, am I a freak? I can't believe I'm the only person in the world who wakes up with songs running in his head. Anyone else? And are they good songs? Can you control them, or is your brain like mine, someone else's Ipod stuck on shuffle?

I need to know I'm not alone in this. Sing to me.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I looked on all the labor I had labored to do and behold, all was vanity.

One of the diversions of sitting in commuter traffic is trying to figure out just what the fuck those vanity plates mean. Take the plate up there. Sure, I bet the guy thought, "'Hot Car One', that's like so righteous, dude" or however they talk in New Hampshire. But to me, at a distance, it looks more like Hot Carl, which is closely related to a Cleveland Steamer or a Rusty Trombone, activities we hesitate to mention this close to Mother's Day.

(Mom, DO NOT Google Cleveland Steamer. Trust me.)

My daughter tells this story about a girl she knew. The girl had a vanity plate that read:


A friend looked at it, puzzled, and said, "Anus tart? What the hell is an anus tart?"

The girl, near tears, said, "It's 'A NEW START.'"

So be careful what you put on the back of your cars, ladies and gentlemen. Or do like me and let the guys in Central Prison decide what your plate will say. There's much less chance you'll sport an unintentional


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oh, the things you'll learn.

What's the biggest piece of crap writing advice handed out by every idiot with an opinion?

Write what you know.

What bullshit. If you follow that raggedy-assed advice you'll write one book, over and over, like Sue Grafton.

Sorry, that was a cheap shot. I'm a little crabby this morning.

One of the joys of writing is learning a bunch of stuff that you never knew before. I've learned how to suture wounds, book a felon, sail a boat, make C4 from household ingredients, hotwire a car, pick a lock, survive a fall, play piano, process a crime scene, and kill a man.

OK, my wife taught me how to kill a man, but the other skills are all things I learned from writing books. If I only wrote what I knew, there would be mayhem with the lawn mower, murder in the snack room, and blood behind the bar, all good things, don't get me wrong, but they would lose their luster after six or seven books.

For this screenplay I'm writing, I have to learn about golf (you were wondering how this tied into the picture, weren't you?) and, as someone who hasn't swung a mashie since LBJ was in office, I'll have to become familiar with the lingo of the links. Yes, I'd rather study blood spatter, but learning about golf has one distinct advantage: I'm getting paid.

What about you? What new and fascinating thing have you learned in your publishing career?

Besides patience.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gumshoes are in.

Mystery Ink has announced the winners of this year's Gumshoe Awards and there are a few people who will be drinking early tonight. Duane Swierczynski has already delivered an eloquent concession speech to the winner of Best Mystery, the lovely and gracious Laura Lippman.

Joseph Finder, a gentleman David Montgomery introduced me to last year, won Best Thriller.

And in the competition for Best First Novel, Randall Hicks, author of The Baby Game takes home the prize, shutting out one of The Planet's favorites, Karen Olson, and another writer who wrote a rather silly book about monkeys.

Congratulations to all the winners. Now I know who to hit up for a drink in Phoenix.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The things that haunt a ghost writer.

They're never your books, no matter how much sweat you put into them. The person you're writing for always has a cast of characters and a set-up. To call what they give you a plot would be kind. Ego is always involved, although I've been very lucky so far, but I have a feeling I'm going to have trouble with this new client. He's written a novel, self-published, and he wants to turn it into a movie.

So, this isn't exactly a ghost assignment, but it's close. The producers have hired me to adapt this vanity-press potboiler into a screenplay for a run and gun, six actors and two locations blockbuster that used to be called a Drive-In movie but is now Direct-to-DVD.

But before I could write the screenplay, I had to read the novel, which was hard, because there is no story. None. Not a story to be found in all of the 300+ pages. Whenever I thought I saw a story coming down the road, it turned off into a rutted path of digression over golf, Arizona flora or a character we'd never hear from again, but for some reason, we had to know about their car and, if he was a tough guy, we would endure a penis joke. And no, they were never good penis jokes.

So it's up to me to come up with penis jokes that are, you know, actually jokes. Not to mention a plot, motivations for characters that are are more complex than convenient, and most important, a plausible reason for a young woman to take off her shirt in the first three minutes.

That I can do.

People always ask about this kind of work for hire and wonder how I'd feel if the thing became a huge hit, making millions for my client while I was paid a Burger King wage. Ladies and gentlemen, I could be wrong, but I don't think this will be the Da Vinci Code. There's not enough lipstick in the world to brighten up this pig.

More as the production moves forward.

It's Monday. Time for work.

Friday, May 05, 2006

You may begin the celebration.

The ghost novel has been saved.

It looks like I've lost everything else, but the one thing I absolutely had to have, the one document that I could not reconstruct, is here and whole and thank you, Jesus.

A new computer should arrive next week, just in time to write a film treatment and a short script and, of course, get back to blogging about shiny objects.

Thanks to all of you for your positive energy, kind thoughts, helpful suggestions, and encouraging words.

If this has inspired you to back up your work, than there really was a pony in this pile of manure.

Next week, the Planet will resume its regular programming.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Heavy breathing.

OK, time to take a moment from my computer angst and give you an update on work.

I'm writing medical stuff for medical people and that's all I'm going to confess to without that free trip to Cuba. Right now I'm working on asthma medication and reading about mucus and alveoli, inflammation and hacking up bits of lung. I'm all up in that respiratory thing.

The writing is fine, so far, but I have one complaint.

I can't fucking breathe.

This is like taking Psych 101 in college, the class where you discovered you really were mentally ill, psychotic in fact, and just one small step away from baby-eating and voting Republican.

My chest hurts. My trachea burns. I can't catch my breath. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was on the pipe. But no, it's all in my head, up there with the closets full of insecurity, creaky stairs, and Rickards' clowns.

Jesus, I hope they don't assign me to any erectile dysfunction drugs.

I can live without breathing.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Always look on the bright side of life.

Yes, I have lost a lot - a good two and a half novels plus so many other things I was storing, from old web sites, to band photos, articles and short stories, all my freelance files including invoices, and cartoons of mine I'd scanned, all of it is history.

But, let's look at the up side. A new computer will be faster. Yeah! And this time I promise to keep all my files organized like I should.

If my client still has the first 75% of the novel I sent to him, all I have to re-do is the last 20K. And, I have a hard copy of the work I'd done on my next novel, so this will give me a chance to rewrite as I go, a hard edit if you will.

See, things aren't so bad.

Could be worse.

It might even be a good thing, in the long run. A blessing. A clean slate. A chance to start over. A brand new day. A tabula rasa just waiting for my shiny new brilliance.

Yes, that's it. A blessing.

Now, pardon me while I load a single bullet into this pistol.

The news is not good.

I just talked to the computer doc and it looks terminal. The're going to try to retrieve the two novels, but they're not optimistic. Everything else is gone.

Back up your work, Planeteers.

If I didn't have this job I'd be drinking myself to sleep.

How do people do it?

Every afternoon for the past twelve years, I've slipped into what some people might call a nap, but is more like a coma. I've learned from Boomer and Duncan, the masters of the nap, my sleep sensei, to relax after lunch, lie down and chase a few dream bunnies.

This, however, is not a practice embraced by corporate America. We're go-getters. We have coffee. We have meetings. We have journal articles to digest along with the tuna sandwich. No time for shut-eye. Chase those bunnies on your own time, fella. We got worlds to shake.

My body still thinks it's nap time, not work time, which makes those hours between 1:30 and 3:00 brutal. I stand in my cubicle, reading on my feet, or staring at spots on paper would be more accurate, and pray I don't fall down in front of anyone. I also worry about getting the rep as the old man who nods off after lunch. Not good.

My wife tells me I'll get used to this, but I think back to the civilized people of Central America who know when it's time to stop, lie down with the dogs, and sleep. This way of the Norteamericano is positively barbaric. The world would be a better place if more people spent more time sleeping.

Update: No news on the computer yet, but I appreciate everyone's words of sympathy and support. If this inspires you to back up your work, I'll feel like some good came from my stupidity.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Word for the day: Backup

In a novelistic turn of events, the day I started working, my computer stopped.

And before you ask, no, I had nothing saved. We'll see what the computer monkey can retrieve, but as of now I stand to lose:

89K words on this ghost assignment.

65K words on my next novel.

1 half-finished screenplay.

Photoshop files.

A fistful of short stories, pictures, plus all the other effluvia we save to our hard drives.

In my long life I've learned that clever people learn from their mistakes, smart people learn from others'.

As they say, it only has to happen once.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Workers of the World, Let's Do Lunch.

It's fitting that my first day back at a real job begins on May 1st.

The Planet will be quieter, until I can figure out how to write fiction, blog on ephemera, and actually make a living.

Stay tuned for Cubicle News!