Thursday, November 30, 2006

Santa comes early this year.

Because I've been a very good boy; I've been paid for the ghost novel and the screenplay; I've held down this job for seven months without showing up drunk or without pants, not once; I'm married to a wonderful woman; and this and a new bedside clock were the only things in my letter to Santa ...

... I'm getting this painting for Christmas. It's by GC Myers, a painter from upstate New York. You can see more of his work here.

Did I mention that I'm married to a wonderful woman?

Olfactory hits.

We were walking the dogs this morning and there on the breeze was the aroma of frying bacon and eggs. Instantly I was back at Fort Bragg, 37 years ago, on my way to the mess hall in the dark. Amazing how that happens. The same thing with deisel fumes. I catch the back end of a bus and do I think of all that exhaust I inhaled in New York? No, I think of working in the jungle, downwind of a noisy generator.

It's such a powerful trigger that I try to work in smells when I write (insert stinking prose joke here) as well as sights and sounds.
How about you? Any smells that instantly take you back to some place else, some place years ago?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blue Murder Christmas from the Grave.

I posted the Blue Murder Martini recipe simply because I was busy and wanted to give you Planeteers something to keep you off the street, but it got me all nostalgic, thinking about Blue Murder and what a pioneering web magazine it was.

In those days, way back in '98, web publishing was looked on as the retarded cousin of print mags. There was something not quite legit about pixels. But David Firks (that's him up there with the mustache) started Blue Murder and soon they had their own stable of very dark writers and even a woman of mystery on the cover, naked breast and all. The lovely Elise Lyons, the gatekeeper who decided who made the cut and who didn't, never fessed up to the ID of the Blue Lady, even when offered bribes. We all fantasized that it was Elise herself.

There was never much money in Blue Murder. Less than even the pulps of the 30's and 40's. The most I ever got was $50 for the contest winners and $40 for submitted stories. But it beat free.

And there were some great writers, including a guy named Kevin Smith who published his first piece in '98, issue #2. That year Firks published short stories by Gary Lovisi and J Michael Blue. By '99 Andrew Vachss sold a piece and Gina Gallo, the great ex-Chicago cop and tough as a rubber biscuit, made her debut with Live From a Dead End Street.

That was the same year Kevin Smith became Kevin Burton Smith, writing terrific columns about PIs for every issue that followed.

In 2000 we read a story called No Sin Is Final by a guy named Victor Gischler. I wonder whatever became of him.

By 2001 the magazine was publishing Lee Goldberg, Gischler, Jack Bludis, Anthony Neil Smith, Keith Snyder, Tim Curran, Louise Guardino, Michael Bracken and some guy with an improbable French last name.

Then it ended.


Blue Murder folded like a cheap suit.

There was to be a second volume of Blue Murder stories, and a Best Of, but they never drew breath. I have the first 14 issues and if you'd like a copy, I'm going to be giving one or two away, as soon as I come up with a good contest.

UPDATE: Who has time for a contest? Fuck it. If you want a copy of the first 14 issues of Blue Murder, send me an SASE big enough to hold a disk (padded is preferred) and I'll send you a copy for free. It's my Christmas present to all the Planeteers just to say thanks for sticking with me this year. To get my address, drop me a line at

*By the way, that cover up there is from Tribe's archives. If he hadn't saved it, I would have had to put up a picture of these guys.

For the holidays - the Blue Murder Martini.

For those who remember the late great Blue Murder magazine, this was the martini recipe that won your humble editor $50 and a T-shirt. As it turns out, I was one of the last people to get a Blue Murder check that didn't bounce.

The mandatories: We had to use a garnish and we had to use Blue Curacao (to make the martini blue, you see) but if you've never tasted Blue Curacao, it's an ultra-sweet syrupy stuff that is muy nasty.

To sully a decent vodka with this crap is criminal, so I had to figure out how to use the BC without really adding it to the martini. Here, then, is the winning recipe for The Blue Murder Martini (vodka division):

2 martini glasses
1 bottle and 1 saucer of Blue Curacao
1 bottle of chilled Grey Goose
1 copy of Raymond Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder, the pulpier the better
1 policeman's flashlight

Using a sharp knife, cut the word murder from Chandler's classic. Repeat.
Place the cut-out words in the saucer of BC so they absorb the blue.
While the murders are soaking up the BC, make 2 chilled vodka martinis.
Float one blue murder on the surface of each martini.
Turn off lights.
Shine the policeman's flashlight through the bottle of Blue Curacao onto the vodka, turning the vodka blue.
Turn off flashlight.
Repeat as necessary.

There, Planeteers, is the Blue Murder Martini (vodka division). Enjoy.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pushing away from the table.

The family has beed fed and gone. The drinking is down to pre-holiday levels. The pounds added have been roundly ignored and the house is fragrant with simmering turkey stock that will be frozen against the coming winter.

And while the stock is on the back burner, the writing is once again on the front. This novel may be bigger than I can successfully wrestle, but we'll see. I haven't written as many words as I wanted to this weekend, and I'm afraid that after the tryptophan wears off I'll see that those words I have written suck. These things never really get easier, do they?

So, while I'm not as happy as Bryon Quertermous is with quantity, or Stuart MacBride is with quality, I am happy that I'm writing again.

How is your WIP? Going as well or as quickly as you'd hoped?

Talk to me.

Oh, and do you like the new Planetary look? It seemed to fit my 1940's frame of mind.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for my wife, my daughter, the boys and blah blah blah. You know the list.

But I'm also thankful for the people who stop by here and read the often odd thoughts that fall out of my head and onto the keyboard.

Have a good day today and try not to bring up politics.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Just don't ask to see their vacation photos.

You think you've had bad family vacations? You ain't seen shit.

Now the Stokes family of Ohio, they've seen shit. Lots of it. In fact, they're suing the Greyhound bus company over a carload of the stuff that was unceremoniously dumped on them during a family trip in their Ford Explorer.

They were stuck behind a bus on I-75 when the Greyhound, like some vomiting demon from the dankest pit, spewed forth the entire contents of its sanitary tank onto the Stokes vehicle, which had its windows and sunroof inconveniently open. The Stokes family, including three children were drenched in "a mixture of urine, feces, and toilet paper."

"My client was driving in heavy traffic," their lawyer said. "They had nowhere to go. What can you do?''

According to the news, they're seeking $280K in damages, and in my opinion that's a mightly paltry sum for being drenched in ordure.

The Stokes' Ford Explorer was declared a total loss because the interior smelled like Michael Richards' career, even after being steam-cleaned several times.

Greyhound declined to comment.

I've got a comment: Yikes.

A word of advice to Planeteers traveling this holiday week. Roll up your windows.

My head's in 1941, but my ass is in '06.

It's happening. The novel is pouring out. Every unclaimed thought, conscious or unconscious, seems to circle back to 1941 and this story about a murdered singer.

And yet, on the way to work this morning, I started thinking about the next book. Here I am, so deep into this pre-war world that I'm reading novels published in 1941, and the beginning of a new book jumps into my head.

When does this happen to you? When, in the process, do you start thinking about what's next?

As an aside, how big of a turd pariah do you have to be to be shunned by Rupert Murdoch? OJ Simpson is apparently so loathsome that Rupert has loosened his grasp on sacks of cash in order to distance himself from The Juice. I never thought I'd live to see the day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Go ahead, pick one.

According to Tom Ricks, the author of Fiasco, the Pentagon's 3-card Monte plan for Iraq has been leaked and you'll never guess what our options are. According to this plan, which I'm guessing cost a pantload of money and required the mighty brain-bending abilities of the Pentagon's top thinkers, we have three choices:

1. Add more troops.

2. Stay with the same number of troops.

3. Withdraw the troops.

These are our options folks. So go ahead, choose one.

Just like on the street, everyone's a winner. We just hope you haven't bet more than you can afford to lose.

Let's talk about sax.

My nephew Ted and his patient wife, Jen, were in town this weekend to see their friend Connie Frigo perform with the New Century Sax Quartet. That's her up there, the smallest member of the group with the biggest horn.
Connie plays the baritone sax, a big bottom horn in swing and jump horn sections. The bari is also the horn that gave the Squirrel Nut Zippers that funky bottom honk.
But these players don't do jump. I'm certain they can, but they don't. They played three sets - one classical, one Christmas and one very intricate jazz-influenced set. Their musicianship is impeccable and you can tell they're having a great time playing. Check 'em out.
Because life is not all REO Speedwagon, my friends.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm tired, Pt. 2.

How do you guys do it? Granted, I'm a bit older (OK, a lot older) than most of you, but how do you hold a day job, take care of the family and write?
Here's my day: Up at 6 to walk the dogs. Write until it's time for work. Work. Home by 6. Write until 8. Eat dinner. Read or watch a little TV. Let the dogs out. Bed. On the weekends I write until noon, take the afternoon off and write in the evening.
Add to this housekeeping stuff, saying hello to the wife, and one or two nights of playing music and I'm exhausted. I want a day off, but I also want to finish this novel by the new year.
So how do you do it? How do you squeeze work, family, writing and social life into a very short 24 hours?
Because I'm tired. I need a nap.
Annoyance update: What the hell is it with blogger and no spaces? I want my white space.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Can they do anything right?

George Bush is going to Vietnam (insert your own joke here) and will be the first president to visit Hanoi. Every person who has been to Vietnam since the war remarks on the warmth the people hold for Americans, even after we bombed the crap out of them and poisoned their fields. So, how does this administration show its respect for the Hanoi government?

I don't want to make too much of this because my guess is it's some Republican contributor's kid in charge of the web site and that person has as much interest in history as the CINC.
But still, can't these people do anything right?
Back in the day we'd say this is beaucoup dinky dau.

An excellent prognosis.

I don't want to violate a family member's privacy, I'll just say that we got good medical news yesterday and the Terrenoire family has dodged another bullet.


More joys of research.

I ran across this little bit of interesting information while researching this novel. In the week before Pearl Harbor, one of the winners at Charlestown Race Track, the place where all the DC swells went to lay down a bet on a horse, was a long shot named War Smoke.

I thought of working that into the book somehow, but didn't. Research is best left as a seasoning rather than the main course.

But still, War Smoke, that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The joys of research.

I'm working on this 1941 novel and need to keep dates and days right, right?
So I Google a 1941 calendar and this is what I get. Gives you a new appreciation for that dusty old generation, doesn't it?

Just back the fuck off.

Bear with me. I'm going to do something I normally don't do and that's comment on a movie I haven't seen. In this case it's Borat and I want to use this movie I haven't seen so I can make a point about writing that I haven't read.

I understand the movie is very funny and if it's as good as the Borat segments of Da Ali Gi Show, then I know I'll like it.

And if anything is funny, there's going to be a line of people tut-tutting, their butt cheeks clenched tighter than a vise, wagging a finger at comedy that dares to be, quel horreur, impolite.

John Tierney, the conservative columnist at the Times, weighed in with his usual pithy analysis of things he's too blinkered to understand. He says, "Borat is more like the class bully picking on the nerds. The hip urbanite ventures into flyover country disguised as a Kazakh yokel to see how the American yokels respond. Are the rednecks just as barbaric?"

Well, gee, John, I think that's kind of the point, isn't it? When a bunch of Arizona goat ropers sing the Kazahk pop standard, Throw The Jew Down The Well, they join in the chorus with more enthusiasm than Tierney can write off as just Americans being polite to the amusing foreigner.

Which is professional drunk Christopher Hitchins' point when he says that Borat takes advantage of Americans' innate decency.

To which I ask, "Did you laugh?"

Because that's what's so great about comedy. If you find your diaphragm convulsing and you're making involuntary barking noises until your sides hurt, it's working.

And if you're the target of lawsuits by a celebrity wannabe from Turkey, an entire Romanian village, and two misogynist bigots from South Carolina, that's proof that you're not only making people laugh, you're also making a pantload of money.

So, without seeing this movie, I can guarantee it's funny because it's making a lot of people like John Tierney unhappy. Which makes me happy.

And does this have anything to do with writing? You bet it does. I'll leave you with this wisdom from Chris Rock: "If no one is uncomfortable with your act, you’re probably not digging really deep into yourself."

Amen. Now go forth and make someone uncomfortable.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For entertainment purposes only. No wagering.

The new issue of Demolition Magazine is up with new fiction by:

Russell D. McLean
Jordan Harper
Patricia Abbott
Tim Wohlforth
David White
John Weagly
Chris Everheart
Colin C. Conway

and some guy with an impossibly long and foreign name that is not Swierczynski.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

Every now and then you need to get slapped upside the head and this week I got slapped in a big way. I had lost faith in Americans and given up. They showed me how truly stupid I can be. I've never been so happy to be wrong.

And now we have this confluence of Election Day with Veterans Day, tying one to the other, inseparable in a way that should give each of us pause to consider the people who serve. Yesterday the Times ran a terrific article about a Marine unit getting the news about their boss, Rumsfeld's, retirement. Here's an excerpt:

The marines had been on a continuous foot patrol for several days, hunting for insurgents. They were lost in the hard and isolating rhythms of infantry life. They knew nothing of the week’s news.

Now they were being told by an Iraqi whose house they occupied that Rumsfeld had resigned.

“Rumsfeld is gone?” the sergeant asked. “Really?”

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines. “Rumsfeld’s out,” he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. “Who’s Rumsfeld?”

I love that. Who's Rumsfeld? No bullshit. Just a young Marine doing a nasty job. He's not doing it for Republicans or Democrats, and he sure as hell isn't doing it for the money. So why is he doing it? Here's more:

Another marine, Lance Cpl. Patrick S. Maguire, said the decisions that mattered here...were much more important to them than those made in the Pentagon back home...

When to go on patrol, when to come back, which route to take down a road, which weapon to carry, and, at this moment, which watch each marine would stand, crouched up on the roof, in the cold wind, exposed to sniper fire...

His grandfather fought at Iwo Jima, he said, and his father was a marine in Vietnam. This was his second tour in Iraq.

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Someone points a finger at you, and you go.”
Someone points a finger at you, and you go. I've never heard it said so concisely.

So to all those who went when they were called, I thank you, and hope you've enjoyed this Veterans Day. We wouldn't have had Election Day without you.

Oh, and welcome home.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I need your opinion.

I know, you're shy, and would never stick your nose into another person's work without an invitation. So consider this an invitation.

I got notes back from the producers of this very bad film yesterday. Most of them were OK. Some were so bone-headed as to boggle the mind. (Really, if they wanted to shoot porn, they should just shoot porn.)

But there's a line they want me to change, a line they say is "too much."

Here's the scene: A southern woman is in a terrible marriage to an English philanderer. He's been involved in a murder, blackmailed, threatened, and generally had a very bad time of it. He smells, he hasn't changed his clothes and he's on his third Bloody Mary. When his wife sees him on the morning after she says, "You look like something that's been run through a dog."

He responds with "Spare me your earthy aphorisms."

They want me to change her line to "Peter, you stink."

OK, so that's not so good, and I could change it to something better, but I like the line as it is. I asked Jenny about it and she said she'd never heard "run through a dog" before and I told her it's because I made it up. She was underwhelmed. So here's what I need from you.

A. Should I keep the line?
B. Should I rewrite the line something like this - "You look like something that's been run through a dog and left on the lawn."
C. Should I find another line?
D. Should I write, "Peter, you stink," cash the check and get back to writing my novel?
E. Or do you have a better line? I'm open here.

Talk to me. Right now I feel like it's the script that's been run through a dog.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Semi-automatic history.

After plumbing the depth of my crazy this week, it probably isn't a good time to tell you about my new acquisition, a fine piece of history in 30 caliber, an M1 Garand, the rifle that Patton called "the greatest battle implement ever devised."

Several years ago my nephew asked me if I wanted an M1 and being half tanked I said sure. It's been at my brother-in-law's place until last weekend when I picked it up and brought it home. Now I need to find a rifle range and in this part of North Carolina, that's not easy. For some reason, people are a bit queasy about semi-automatic firearms with an effective range of 400 yards.

I've never fired an M1. I shot my father's bolt action deer rifle when I was a kid, a variety of shotguns, and trained on the M14 and M16, but this is my first M1 and I'm looking forward to sighting in this 65-year-old rifle and seeing just how good we two old bastards are on the long range. Fred Rea understands, I'm sure.

I find it a good omen that I have this rifle in my office as I bury deeper into the 1941 novel, which is going well, by the way - up to 7000 words and I solved a major plot problem. As is usally the case, the fix was so simple it had eluded me for two years.

So, until I find a range, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with this old firearm, except put it over the mantle in my new office. But there it is, a 14 pound (try carrying that around all damn day) piece of military history.

And yes, my wife is so thrilled.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One step ahead of the devil.

My plan worked.

Allow me to explain. When my wife and I bought our first house, hoping to get a share of the great American Dream, the bottom fell out of the real estate market and we lost our shirts.

When the stock market was doing well and everyone was making money just by breathing, my wife said it was time we stepped up to the investor class. I told her we would have better success if we took all of our money and bought a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal promising NOT to invest in the stock market if everyone would send us five dollars. For some reason she thought I was being negative. We invested our money and the market tanked.

Fucking great.

I worked for 12 years to get a book published just as readership dropped to a low not seen since illiteracy and bad teeth swept medieval Europe.

So I decided not to vote for the first time in decades. I lull the demons and for once, some decent candidates win and the evil Karl Rove is spanked in public.

Yes, my plan worked.

That does not change my ultimate goal, which is to quit politics just as I did cigarettes, because both addictions are unhealthy. I just hope this new boss can govern better than the old boss, which shouldn't be hard.

If later on today we discover that the fat-headed, racist, football-playing frat boy whose only accomplishment in life was being born to a famous father has eeked out a victory over the decorated combat veteran, former Sec. of the Navy and acclaimed novelist, then you'll know that my demons have figured out my plan and stepped in at the last minute to fuck things up.

Trust me. When you see a pattern in your life, you learn to cope.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

OK, just to be clear.

I don't want my previous post to stop anyone from voting. Vote.

I could be wrong. We could still have a representative democracy and not a hopelessly corrupt oligarchy. I've been wrong before.

We'll see.

So if you think voting is important, by all means, go vote. I'll be here when you get back.

Now I'm going back to bed. I'm tired.

And thanks to Patriot Boy for the fine image up above.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I'm not voting.

This election is important.

That's what they tell me.

Me, I don't believe it.

First, let me say to those who don't know me that I care about all the shit I'm supposed to care about. I've cared since 1964 when I went to a kid's convention as a Goldwater Republican. By 1968 I was Clean for Gene, but cautiously optimistic that Nixon meant what said about the war, even though at 18 I was old enough to get my ass drafted, but not old enough to vote.

In 1972, my first election as an eligible voter, and an angry veteran, I worked hard for McGovern. That Wednesday morning I awoke to a real nightmare, a landslide for Nixon. I felt like I'd been kicked in the balls. I swore I'd never do that again.

But I did. I cared, and I argued, and I learned history and policy and I got energized every election and do you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get excited about Walter Mondale?

Now, years have gone by and I've cast my vote in all but a tiny handful of elections. Unlike most Americans, I know my Congressional representative. I know his name. I know his record. I know votes he's cast that I've agreed with and votes that have pissed me off. Last year it was for the bankruptcy bill written largely by the credit card shysters. I wrote a letter and called his office to express my disappointment. It didn't matter. It's still law, and a lousy law at that.

So what am I going to do in protest? Vote Republican? I'd rather slam my pecker in the car door.

Now, here we are, with a chance to take the House and have subpeona power so we can finally find out just what the hell is going on over at that fuck-up factory they call the White House.

So why am I not voting?

It helps that my district is safely Democratic. But I don't think it matters. Because I don't think our votes count.

The touch screen machines, the voter suppression, the dirty tricks and ugly smears make me question why a supposedly smart man has wasted so much of his life, money and cranial real estate on politics.

You might as well vote on the weather. Yes, I'd like a nice warm day on Saturday, please, because I'm moving. No, you'll get cold fucking rain and like it.

Oh, you say, if I don't vote for the weather, I can't bitch about it?

The fuck I can't.

I'll still read and I'll still care and I'll still complain like the enlisted man I am and in the end I'll be just another old man yelling at the TV. Because our democratic republic is dead. The experiment was interesting, and lasted for a good long while as these things go. But we've lived through a quiet coup sponsored by people we can't see. We've become a banana republic and we can't even buy a decent banana.

That's what I believe.

So fuck them all. Every last one. I don't know who will win tomorrow, but I know who won't - you and me.

The game is rigged and only suckers play a game they can't win. They tell you that your vote counts just to keep you quiet and make you think you have some influence on things. You don't.

That's why, for the first time in my memory, I'm staying away from the polls. Let them find another rube. I'm tired.

Let someone else drive the old women to the polls. Let someone else walk the hinky neighborhoods trying to flush out that last Democrat who hasn't cast her vote. Let someone else write the checks and post the flyers and poll the neighbors and work the phone banks.

Because tomorrow night I'll do what I do every election. I'll get drunk and listen to Mick sing "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The only difference is, I won't have that "I Voted" sticker to throw away on Wednesday.

It's someone else's turn. I quit.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


No, I haven't found Jesus, much to the relief of Republicans, little boys and male escorts everywhere.

No, I have rediscovered the absolute joy of writing.

As most of you know, I had a hard row there for a while. After Panamanian Moon came out, I froze up for 18 months. Couldn't write a post card. Then I had to finish a ghost novel for hire, a story not my own and characters I had not invented. Then I had to write this screenplay based on a really awful book, again, not my story and not my characters. It was work.

This morning I wrote 1000 words on the new novel. My novel. And God, it felt good. Like playing music or making love to my wife. Yes, that good.

Now I remember why I got into this fekakta business. It can be painful. It's never easy. But when it flows like it did this morning, there are few things on earth that feel this good.

I know, let me enjoy the moment. That long second act will come soon enough.

You gotta see this.

With the patient help of loyal Planeteers Jeff and Dusty, I have learned something new today.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All done.

I sent the screenplay off today, only three days past deadline. Not bad.

Now, for the first time in more than three years I can concentrate on my novel.

That's if you don't count the ten hours I spend on the job every day.

Hey, if this was easy, everybody would be doing it.

The hell with king...

It's good to be Bill Murray.

According to a story in this weekly news magazine, cleverly titled The Week, Bill Murray crashed a party of young Norwegians in Scotland. He drank vodka, posed for pictures and even helped clean up the dishes. A young man is quoted as saying, "He couldn't fail to have a good time. The party was overflowing with stunning Scandinavian blondes."

Bill Murray has had a great career. He was one of my favorite SNL players (The Lounge Singer, Todd) and he's carried a few of my favorite movies - Groundhog Day, What About Bob, Rushmore, and Lost in Translation.

Recently, another blogger asked if we could be anyone else, who would it be, and I drew a blank. Now I think if I had a choice, It would be Bill Murray.

A great career, vodka, and stunning Scandinavian women. Life could be worse.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

We've been here before.

Iraq isn't like Vietnam, except when it is.

Recently the Times reported on American weapons coming up missing in Iraq and then being resold on the black market so militias can kill one another when they're not busy killing us.

That's just fucking great.

The story tells us that the Pentagon, brilliantly run by Mr. Rumsfeld, has once again screwed the pooch in the worst way. For years our military command has ignored standard Pentagon regulations for registering weapons transfers.

Ignoring the rules to disastrous effect, yeah, that sounds familiar. In fact I think it's our new national motto.

Of more than half a million rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and sniper rifles turned over to Iraq, we've only tracked 12,000 of them.

So how is this like Vietnam? As reported by Neil Sheehan in A Bright Shining Lie, when we first got involved in that nasty business, the Viet Cong were fighting with weapons dating back to WWI and WWII. Old bolt-action rifles and crap machine guns left behind by the retreating Japanese.

The Pentagon fixed that in a hurry. They started funneling modern American weapons to village defense forces who quickly turned around and sold them to the Viet Cong.

Now it's happening in Iraq. Deja vu, Jack.

And for the nuoc mam-flavored icing on top of this stinking crap cake? We got ourselves a nice Orwellian name. It's called the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.

But wait, before we talk about how this administration's ineptitude and hubris are arming our enemies and sending American boys home in boxes, let's take a few news cycles to focus on John Kerry's mangling of a joke.

Yeah, that's how to honor the troops.

Jesus. We are so fucked.

Radio girl speaks, but Houdini does not.

Harry Houdini is still dead. The New York Times reported that a bunch of magicians and Houdiniphiles got together yesterday, the anniversary of Harry's demise, and tried to contact him. He's still not talking.

They placed an empty chair on the stage for Harry. A woman named Anna Crankshaw, with the emphasis on crank, brought the chair because she's the great-granddaughter of a medium who had issues with the great Houdini, like that makes sense. But hey, maybe she knows something about spirit bums that I don't.

William Kalush, hawking his new book "The Secret Life of Houdini" tossed in some much needed sex by hinting at Houdini's philandering ways. Seems like the women were just wild about Harry. Maybe it was the handcuffs.

My favorite member of the 13 magicians and Houdini experts was Dorothy Young, who in spite of her name was 99 years old. Dorothy was in Houdini’s show in the 20's. She was “the radio girl,” which meant that she never ate before a performance because “I had to fit in the radio.” I'm assuming a radio in 1925 was bigger than an Ipod. She said she had talked with Houdini about this returning-from-the-dead stuff and “He told me, ‘It’s humanly impossible,’" which is what made him so great. No bullshit.

I don't share America's fascination with Houdini and I don't know why. Maybe it's the escape tricks and the Mystery Cabinet stuff. I like small magic, sleight of hand, but the big things like making the Statue of Liberty disappear is just tawdry show biz and if Doug Henning is a star, you know it's gimcrackery.

But Harry, if you're out there, how about answering the one question that has plagued humankind for years: How in God's name did David Copperfield bag Claudia Schiffer?

We want to know. And if it exists, we want the video.