Monday, December 31, 2007

I don't make resolutions.

I make jokes. The cheaper the better.

So here, my friends, is the last joke I'll post in 2007.

People bring in all sorts of snacks to work to share with us, fattening up their colleagues. It's nice.

This morning, some kind person brought in Bourbon Balls. That's right Bourbon Balls.

The last time I had Bourbon Balls, I was New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all year, tell your friends.

OK, I didn't say it was a good joke, just the last joke.

See you in '08.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh, look, honey. Look at the pretty kitty. ARRRGGGHHHH!

Oh, great.

A 300-pound female tiger named Tatiana ate a man on Christmas day.

In San Francisco.

Tatiana chewed up another two men before police shot her.

If this story doesn't reflect the harsh vagaries of life, I don't know what does. You're spending a lovely holiday at the zoo and suddenly, wham! you're being eaten by a 300-pound tiger.

Or, conversely, you finally escape whatever it is that's holding you back and you're having a quiet Christmas nosh when several men shoot you dead. Damn.

Here's hoping there are fewer 300-pound tigers in your life (or men with guns) in the new year.

On a brighter note, I got an alarm clock for Christmas and I'm happy.

The little things. Learn to love the little things.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday cards. pt. 2

Trains...must have trains.....urrrrr.

Yes, this year the Terrenoire household came up with two Christmas cards, both involving Santa in distress.

Here's hoping that 2008 is a lot less terrifying than 2007.

Merry Christmas, Planeteers. See you next week.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This year's holiday card, part 1.

I usually Photoshop something or add a caption to a picture I stole or do a straight up cartoon. This is the first time I've done all three.

The story: Molly and I were driving home one night and we saw people decorating their house for Christmas. A man was stringing lights in the bushes and another was in an upstairs window, trying to shove an inflated Santa out a second story window.

The novelist in me said, "Looks like Santa's got some bad debt."

Molly delivered the punchline: "I can pay you in cookies on the 26th, man. I promise."

It made me laugh. I hope it made you laugh, too.

Where are you in the geek-o-meter?

This from the NY Times, which is now free, all of it, for everyone. Yay!

I confess, it took one viewing of Lord of the Rings for me to realize that whatever geek there was in me (and there was never much), is now deader than barbershop harmonies.

It was during the circle at the castle, when all the various Trolls, Elves, Dwarves, Masons, Elks, Moose and Squirrel pledged their sword and claw to Fredo's quest. I watched the scene play out and said, "What a lot of hokum."

A lot of my friends are seriously into this stuff but I just can't get as excited about a Marmulan with a photon speculum as I can about a hooker with a gun.

When we were out in Phoenix for Thrillerfest, I was surprised by the number of former D&D players who are now writing crime fiction, but maybe I shouldn't be. After all, stories are stories, and there are some great SF writers, just as there are great crime writers.

So, tell me, how healthy is your inner geek and where on the chart do you fall?

I think if I had to choose, I'd be somewhere down there with the Erotic Furries.

With a gun.

Now there's a story.

America's problems are solved, part 2.

This Modern World asks the question, "Is CNN still a news organization?"

That's yesterday's CNN poll up there, asking the question that all Americans want to know: Can prayer save Britney from flashing her cooter at the cameras again?

I sure want to know.

I'm always amused when I hear wingers complain about "the liberal media." The lame-ass media, yes. The irrelevant media, no question. But liberal? Like Exxon is liberal.

For instance, last night I heard a business report about a spa in LA that caters strictly to children. As one indulgent mom put it, the little tykes get a manicure and a pedicure, and then "they feel good about themselves."

Really? They feel good about themselves how? I know things have changed, but when I was a kid we actually had to, you know, do something to feel good about ourselves.

How quaint that sounds now, like Grandma putting up preserves for the winter.

And, according to the report, market research shows that the luxury spa treatment is particularly attractive to tweens. Now there's a shocker. Who could have guessed that a preteen girl would want to drop a few hundred bucks of Dad's money so she can be treated like a princess by underpaid, undocumented workers.

That, my friend, is news. And who can we thank for this hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism?

NPR. That's right. Liberal NPR.

All I can add is, Good night and good luck.

Tomorrow: The holiday card is back! Just in time for the holiday! Watch for it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stuff blows up real good.

I don't have access to fancy cameras and editing equipment like Jeff Shelby or Jim Born, but I do have friends like Chris who sent me this very cool video of stuff getting shot.

The water bottle is my favorite.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Now we know how Hermione keeps her healthy glow.

I thought someone made this up until I read that the Concerned Women for America were focusing their tight-ass concern on this toy.

Why? Because little Susie has apparently discovered true magic riding a broom that, uh, vibrates.

That's right. Girls can imagine they're at Hogwarts, straddle their vibrating Nimbus 2000, and take off for places they've never been before.

According to the news, Mattel, who didn't think this thing through, has pulled the toy from the shelves and Amazon has stopped selling it on their site, but not before people posted reviews like this one:

When my 12 year old daughter asked for this for her birthday, I kind of wondered if she was too old for it, but she seems to LOVE it. Her friends love it too! They play for hours in her bedroom with this great toy. They really seem to like the special effects it offers (the sound effects and vibrating). My oldest daughter (17) really likes it too!

I don't know. The reviews are more than suspicious, but still, it's weird enough to be true.

If anyone knows for sure, please don't tell me. This Christmas, I want to believe.

Now here's a guy I can get behind.

Although snarky reporters call him the 1% candidate because he doesn't get them into celebrity-studded parties like Hillary or Obama, Chris Dodd actually did something the other Democratic candidates only talk about - he stood up to George Bush.

What? A Democrat with spine? Impossible, you say.

But Dodd threatened to filibuster the FISA bill, a stinking pile of legislative ordure that would retroactively excuse criminal activity, and Harry Reid took his lips off George Bush's ass long enough to withdraw the bill from the floor.

Some smart guy in Dodd's campaign said, "He understands that he should probably be in Iowa campaigning, but the Constitution and the rule of law are Dodd's passion."

Wow. A politician who believes in the Constitution and the rule of law. No wonder the media ignores the guy. What a snore.

Hey! Look over there! Isn't that Oprah?!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Time goes by in a blink.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my dad's death. On December 14th, 1995, he planted a tree for my mother and moments later, grasped his head, fell into Mom's lap and was gone. Hit by a celestial bus, we said. Good for him, as he went quickly, but hard on us.

He never lived to see me publish a novel. He never heard Molly sing in front of an audience. Yet there's not a day that I don't think of him, sometimes briefly, but he's there. Just this week I told the story of how he taught the finer points of nine ball to the Orlando chapter of an outlaw motorcycle club. It was a sight to see.

It's been two years since Olen Steinhauer inadvertently pushed me into writing this blog. In that time I've threatened to quit a few times, but that never stuck. And in that time I've let some pretty raw emotions darken this Dark Planet.

It is what it is.

I don't have a counter on this thing so I have no idea how many people stop by to see what shiny object has attracted my attention this day. But I hear from people. They tell me they enjoy this place and I'm always surprised because really, most of my posts are blather. Amusing blather, at best, but still blather.

Most recently I heard from Gary Myers, the man who painted the painting Jenny and I bought last year. I was flattered that he reads this blog, and surprised, as usual. But whatever keeps bringing you back here, Gary, I'm grateful. And maybe soon I'll be able to afford another one of your paintings.

There have been other readers, people whom I greatly admire, first for their generous humanity, second for their skill at this scribbling craft. Again, I'm grateful.

I have no plans on quitting, and as long as you're enjoying yourselves, I hope you'll keep coming back and dropping me a line every now and then when something strikes you.

In the coming months there will be more politics, you can bet on that and there will be more news that remind us of our innate absurdity, along with more uncensored communiques from the abyss, and more cheap jokes made at others' expense.

There will be news of the film's slow crawl toward the light, more word counts on this novel that won't die, more quick notes slipped in between meetings at work. More notes on our collective progress, when there is progress.

There will be music, if I can figure out how to imbed an MP3 into this thing and there will good news, too, when it brightens this spot. For instance, on January 11th, in Chapel Hill, Molly's band will perform. It will be their third gig. That's Molly from her second gig up there, and down there is Molly's poster. If you're in town, stop by. I'll buy you a beer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

And now a word from Officer Friendly.

One of the greatest literary critiques I've seen and some damn fine shooting, both courtesy of our friend Jim Born.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jackie Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town.

Are you an Achiever? Are you looking for a cash machine? Can you get me a toe?

In other words, are you a Lebowski? Of course you are.

My nephew recently inaugurated his new home theater with TBL, and why not? It's got to be one of the best movies ever made.

I recently bought I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski. Buy a copy for the Achiever on your list.

If you're a fan of the film (and who isn't?), you might wonder just how they can run it on television, what with all the F-bombs. Thankfully, the book gives us a look inside the televised Big Lebowski.

Here is a short list of some of the lines they had to change to protect the children:

Original: They peed on my fucking rug.
TV Version: They peed on my valued rug.

Original: Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?
TV Version: Am I the only one around here who gives a stick about the rules?

Original: I'll suck your cock for a thousand dollars.
TV Version: I'll slurp your Coke for a thousand dollars.

Original: This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass.
TV version: This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.

I used some pretty rough language in Beneath A Panamanian Moon. I thought it was appropriate, but Mom was a little uncomfortable. Ah, well.

Every writer I know gets hit with the language question sooner or later so, this is for you. Let's imagine one of your books gets made into a feature film and when it goes to TV they have to dub G-rated, politically-correct language in to make up for your original potty-mouthed dialogue.

For instance, in BAPM:

Original: "Goddamn taco-bending goat fucker."
TV Version: "Gosh darn tempo-friendly coat fluffer."

So try this, Planeteers. Pick one from your own (or your favorite) nasty manuscript and give it the kid-friendly treatment.

Did you know they make Nihilist gum and it has no flavor? Really.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How lame do you have to be to wear this hat?

I had to buy genuine Acco brand brass brads (#5) last year to hold together my screenplay because Hollywood can't read scripts held together with anything less. Staples only carries the bullshit brads which meant I had to order mine through The Writer's Store.

That put me on The Writer's Store mailing list. Yesterday I got their catalog chock full of writerly stuff. For instance, I considered spending $400 for software that will finish this damn book until I realized I'd still have to finish this damn book.

But it's nice to fantasize that Final Draft will really make my next screenplay better, or The Writer's Guide to Character Traits will make my people leap off the page with all sorts of loveable quirks and idiosyncrasies.

But, I'm guessing that if you need a book of traits to give your characters life then maybe you should try another line of work.

Perhaps I'm being harsh.

Or maybe there are more people making more money selling crap to aspiring writers than there are writers actually making enough money to justify dropping $250 on Truby's Blockbuster 5.0 or 20 bucks on Great Dialogue which promises to help you write great dialogue. But again, if you need a book to help you capture the music of your characters' speech, maybe you should stay in school and get that accounting degree after all.

You can probably tell that I'm not a big fan of these things. I read Donald Maas' book, Writing the Breakthrough Novel, and I liked it well enough to recommend it recently. Although looking at the Amazon Reviews, perhaps I'm as big a patsy as anyone else.

Still, I'm not such a schmuck that I'd wear a goddamn hat that says "Writer" on it.

There's a great line from the criminally overlooked movie, Hearts of the West. In it, veteran screen writer Andy Griffith tells a struggling young Jeff Bridges that "You're not a writer until someone else calls you a writer."

And you're certainly not a writer because you spent 10 bucks on a fucking hat. You might as well wear one that says "Turd."

Now that I think about it, I'd probably wear that hat.

I'm not talking about books like King's On Writing or Lamott's Bird by Bird. I'm talking about books that promise to make you a better writer. Do you think they work? Do you think people actually benefit from writing software, books and stupid fucking hats?

Talk to me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Run little guy! Here comes Judith Giuliani!

I don't normally go to Rupert Murdoch for news, but I found this story in the New York Post:

Rudy Giuliani's third wife, Judith "Don't Call Me Judy" Giuliani, kills puppies. It doesn't say whether she eats the puppies or just skins them for their fur, but this can't be a good image for a potential First Lady.

Rudy already has a lot of questions about his cross dressing, his estranged children, his support for abortion and homosexuals, his criminal friends, his first marriage to his cousin, and his moving on to another babe before he's tossed the present trouble and strife out on her keister. (Say what you will, but our Rudy's a man of action. )

So this puppy thing could really come back to bite him on the ass.

Or maybe not. Maybe we can spin this to Rudy's advantage.

Rudy and Judy! Keeping you safe from poodles!

Rudy and Judy! Cleaning up the country's crap!

Rudy and Judy! If they'll kill puppies, just think what they'll do to Osama!

Yeah, this whole puppy thing could work out. Show the world that this is one couple you don't want to mess with.

So here's your chance to play presidential spinmeister. Tell us how you'd reposition Judy's puppy-killing. You might even win a spot in Rudy's West Wing.

And really, how much money have puppies contributed to Rudy's campaign? Bupkis, that's what. I say, fuck 'em.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I need some time off. Not from the blog. Not even from work. But from life.

Where I used to decompress on weekends, that's not happening lately. We're exhausted and even the dogs are feeling stressed.

So, if you run into me and I look dazed, unaware of the day or even where I am, you'll know why.

I'm thinking of growing a mustache, changing my name to Raul and moving to Guadalajara where I'll give guided tours to rich American dowagers.

Short of that, I'm open to suggestion.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's a deceased world after all.

You've just died and your family has reduced your remains to the contents of an Oreck upright! Where do you want to go?

I'm going to Disneyland!

Not content with buying $5 bottles of water and standing in lines so long Disney could market them as Goofy's Bataan Death Adventure, people are choosing the Happiest Place on Earth as just the spot to dump Grandma.

ABC News says it's not true. That's the same ABC News that is Disney's wholly-owned bitch so I'll let you decide how reliable they are.

Other sources say that dusty clumps of leftover loved ones litter the rides, from the Teacups to the Pirates of the Caribbean. But the favorites are The Haunted Mansion, which makes sense if Grandpa had an eerie sense of humor, and It's a Small World, perfect for that overly-friendly uncle because hearing that song for an eternity would be Hell on a scale of evil that would shame the devil.

For this Friday, I want you to assume you're dead. There's no mantle space left for an urn. Where do you want to be scattered?

Talk to me Dead Planeteers. Even if it's from the Carousel of Progress.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Movie News.

This is a great time to be a movie lover. You have Gone Baby Gone, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, No Country For Old Men and Sweeney Todd, with Johnny Depp as the Demon Barber and all that grand operatic madness from Stephen Sonheim's dark side, which is very dark indeed.

Then you have this. It's Ang Lee's latest, Lust, Caution.

I love period pieces, especially films set in the 30's and 40's. And I think I'm really going to like this. Why? Because doctors in China are warning people not to try imitating the sexual positions because they could hurt themselves.

As one doctor said, "Most of the sexual maneuvers are in abnormal body positions. Only women who have gymnastic or yoga experience are able to perform them."

I'm so there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Repressed Republicans, Part 273

Did you know that Wikipedia is a Godless repository of unAmerican propoganda?

No? Well, neither did I.

But I have been set straight, so to speak. Thanks to Andy Schlafly, son of noted woman with too much time on her hands, Phyllis Schlafly.*

Andy Schlafly has created Conservapedia, an alternative to Wikipedia so that those who believe in the rightness of the right don't have to read anything that might challenge those beliefs and make their heads explode. This is the Fox News of encyclopedias. Their articles cover everything from Creationism (they're for it!) to Homosexuality (they're against it!).

In fact, they are so against Homosexuality that 9 out of the top 10 most read pages are about homosexuals and homosexual sex.

I'm on record as saying that right-wingers think more about gay sex than anyone other than gay men, and that's a lot, and this is yet another piece of evidence. I mean, when was the last time you were curious about "Gay Bowel Syndrome?"

Ted Haggard (who's not gay), Larry Craig (who never has been gay), Mark Foley (OK, he's gay), and that leader of the Young Republicans who woke up his roommate by fellating him (I'm too lazy to look him up but I'm pretty sure that's gay) are all part of this great closeted wing of the GOP. What the hell is going on here?

There's something about the religious right that attracts people who seem to be incredibly confused about their sexuality. It would be funny, in a sad kind of way, if they weren't doing so much damage to themselves, their families and young people struggling with what they've been told is an abomination to God. Why God would create an abomination is beyond me, but much of Christian dogma is beyond me.

I don't have an answer for this. If you do, enlighten me. Or maybe I'll just look it up in Wikipedia and see what the Godless Commies think.

*On a related note: Why are so many right wing opionators the children of the rich and well-connected? From doughy Jonah Goldberg of the National Review to Tucker! of MSNBC, these coddled scions of conservatives contribute nothing more than methane and CO2 to the atmosphere. Can't they hold real jobs? Couldn't they enlist?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Monday!

Yes, the fam and I took in this cheerful little holiday film by those madcap boys, Joel and Ethan Coen. Full of nods to the classic film makers like Frank Capra, you'll leave this flick with a jaunty step, a winning smile and a happy song in your heart.

Then you'll step in front of a truck.

I would watch the Coen Brothers shoot the phone book and this is one I'll go back to again and again, once the scars have healed. The male stars - Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem - will suck up all the acting accolades but I want to point out the performance that simply blew me away. That's Kelly Macdonald's portrayal of Brolin's West Texas wife. Amazing work. Simply amazing.

And what would the holidays be without zombies? If you missed the theatrical release of Fido, here's the chance to rent the DVD.

Here's the log line: Shaun of the Dead meets Pleasantville meets Lassie Come Home.

It stars Billy Connolly and the incomparable Tim Blake Nelson. It's not great, but it's damn good. And a good zombie movie is just what we all need at this time of year, right?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving.

This is my favorite holiday of the year. My wife's family comes to town with kids and dogs and a rotating cast of boyfriends and girlfriends, and it's all great chaotic fun.

We have a lot to be thankful for. Jenny and I are doing well. Our old dog, Boomer keeps hanging in there. Molly is with us and doing better than I would have expected just a few weeks ago. I've written 1500 words in the past four days and the people where I work seem to appreciate what I do.

And you, my friends, I can't say enough about the love and support you've shown us this year.

I am immensely grateful.

I know it's sentimental, but I don't care.

Thank you. Have a good holiday and we'll see you back here next week when, if the stars align, there will be pictures! and music!

(The picture by 10-year-old Yarlize, is an award winner. Yay! Yarlize!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Apparently, all America's other problems have been solved.

By now you've heard about the US bridge team in hot water for pulling a Dixie Chicks move in Shanghai. They were so tired of bridge players from other countries asking how in God's name Americans could vote for George Bush twice that they decided to go public with this hastily scribbled sign.

The association that organizes this international bridge team, its knickers in a serious twist, has threatened these players with suspension, fines and day old cheese and Triscuits.

I think everyone who didn't vote for Bush should be given medals for prescience, but even I think this impromptu display was stupid. But if stupid was a punishable offense I can think of thousands of people who should be dunned before these card-slinging ladies.

I don't even have to watch Fox News to hear the umbrage. Yes, they dissed the prez on foreign soil. My God, how will the Republic stand? How will this card game ever recover its once vaunted position in American sporting life!

Think of the children!

So, OK, the US Association of Tight-Assed Bridge Honchos are within their right to suspend these women. I won't argue that. Just as Clear Channel is within its right to ban Dixie Chicks and Springsteen songs from their airwaves (except that they're really our airwaves, but let's not get into that right now). And those newspapers were within their right to fire those two columnists who had the affrontery to question Bush's skedaddle on 9/11. And that lawyer was within his right to fire an employee for having a John Kerry sticker on her car.

Yes, they are all within their rights.

But just because it's legal to be a flaming ass doesn't mean it's right to be a flaming ass.

What has happened to this country? Is the president so fragile that he needs corporations, newspapers, and bridge associations to protect him from seeing something that's not complimentary? Are the few remaining Bush supporters so insecure that they have to crush any form of dissent, no matter how fleeting and stupid?

I remember when columnists, pundits, sports figures, comedians, singers and strangers on the street said horrible things about Clinton, and this was before the blow job, and I don't remember anyone getting fired or banned from the airwaves because of it. I never heard of a single person getting fired for sporting those "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Bush" bumper stickers in the 90's.

So, why do people on Team Bush feel so threatened? Are their beliefs so shaky that a hand-scribbled note by a bridge player throws them into paroxysms of outrage? All it said was "We did not vote for Bush."

Oh no! How will we ever prevail in the War on Terror if our enemies are continually encouraged by a bridge team's voting patterns.

No, it's not censorship.

But it is petty.

I don't like it any more when private citizens pick up the cudgel to silence political speech than I do when my government does it. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right.

Bottom line? People shouldn't say stupid things about Bush, especially overseas because it only gives Fox something to bluster about for a news cycle. But when people do say stupid things, and they will, the president should get a thicker hide and his supporters should get a life.

I guess all the other problems in America have been solved, huh? Otherwise, we wouldn't be wasting our time on a non-event.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm sticking to the union.

There's been a lot of writing about the writers' strike, which seems to be a bit of an oxymoron (or is it a paradox?) but no matter. The writers of the WGA, having been burnt in the past because they didn't negotiate with an eye to new media, want a piece of whatever new venues might trundle down the road in the near future. Their thinking is simply this: If in ten years somebody is making a buck by screening the fruit of their labors onto the back of your retinas, the writers want their cut. It's only fair.

This has given me a new excuse for not working on my novel. See, it's not that I'm lazy or uninspired, I'm supporting the union. We don't cross picket lines in my family, even imaginary ones like the line stretched before my keyboard.

My father was management. He liked nothing better than busting the union in one of his stores. Although he never said so, I think he hated unions because he saw organization as a personal insult.

My father was one of the most decent and honorable men I've ever known. He taught us that our word was everything and all men deserved to be treated fairly. So if a union tried to organize his store, that meant his employees were saying they couldn't trust him and I don't think he could work with people who didn't trust him.

I became a union man through the United Mine Workers. They're probably a little different than the writers walking the picket line in LA.

But the mine workers organized over their fair share of the pie. Until the UMW got some muscle, coal companies held miners in virtual bondage, paying them in company scrip that was worthless anywhere other than the company store and the company made sure that no matter how hard you worked, you always fell a little behind every month. Remember the Line from "Sixteen Tons?"

"St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go.
I owe my soul to the company store."

I heard Studs Turkel yesterday. The old bastard is 95 years old and still kicking capitalist ass. He told a story about a well-dressed man and woman who sneered that they hated unions and Studs asked the guy if he worked a 40-hour week. The guy said he did. Studs told him he could thank the three men who were hanged after the Haymarket Strike. Work five days instead of six? Thank the strikers who were shot in the 20's.

I'd use that line more often except I don't know anyone who works a 40-hour week. But then, I don't know anyone who is in a union, other than screen writers. And I think more of us should organize. God knows I could have used a little leverage when I negotiated my last raise. That is, if you could call Oliver Twist asking for more gruel a negotiation.

So, if you have a paid vacation, sick days and weekends at home, hug a union man or woman today. We've owed them so much for so long we've forgotten just how much of the American Dream was paid for with strikers' blood.

Dusty Rhoades has a video you should see at his place today and Paul Levine wrote about this over at Naked Authors. Take a look and then join me in that old Woodie Guthrie song,

"Oh, you can't scare me
I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union."

Now go rent Matewan.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This is the National Defense Medal.

Every soldier, sailor and marine gets one for serving during a time of war. It's as generic a medal as you can wear. It's so generic, even I have one.

To me, this is the perfect symbol of the citizen soldier, the guy who goes when he's called, the guy who would rather be doing anything else, but steps up when his country needs him. And I'm afraid that guy is going the way of the honest man.

We're celebrating Veterans Day today, even though it was yesterday, the 11th day of the 11th month, the day in 1918 that the insanity we call World War I ended. Veteran's Day. The day when old soldiers squeeze into old uniforms and accept thanks from people who notice.

Recently, a co-worker's son was killed in Iraq. She and I had a long talk and she said something that started me thinking. She said that people who don't come from a military background don't understand why men and women enlist and serve proudly. Having come from a military family, I had never really thought about that.

This is a particularly tough time. The nation is divided on this war and this president and our troops are in an ugly spot doing dangerous work, wondering if the country is behind them. On this Veteran's Day, it's important to ask the question, can you be for the troops and against this war? This is how Michael Jernigan answered it in yesterday's NYT:
"To people who support the troops but not the war — that is your right. But remember there was someone holding a gun who fought so you can have that right. It is tough for me to smile when someone tells me that they support our troops but feel the war is wrong. I stand there and smile and say, “Thank you for sharing your feelings.” I think people say that because it makes them feel better to say it, but they really mean, “Thank you for your service, but really you are an idiot for following that insane president.” It makes me feel belittled. I do not want to hear it. I was a corporal in the United States Marine Corps and I do not make policy so save it for your congressman."

Why does he think that? Why does he think that those of us who have served and are serving now may be against the war and still support him and his comrades? I think it goes back to what my co-worker said. In this time of a volunteer army, there is a growing chasm between those who feel that the life of a soldier is a calling and those who don't understand why anyone would choose that life voluntarily. They say it's because there are no jobs for him, or he's been denied other opportunities and they never understand that many men and women like the military life. It is their life.

But as the chasm grows, the military people don't understand civilians, either. I once told a young officer that my daughter was a singer living in New York. He was sorry and sympathetic. "We had a cousin like that," he said.

He didn't get it. He didn't know that along with a military tradition, we also had a tradition of entertainers that went back generations. Writers, singers, performers. I told him that the next time he heard a great song on the radio or saw a good movie, he should thank all those young people who sacrificed a secure life to pursue a dream every bit as honored, in our family, as military service.

He didn't get it. Just as members of my co-worker's family didn't understand her son's dream of being a soldier, this soldier couldn't grasp why anyone would dream of being a performer.
Those people are crazy!

And as we continue with our volunteer military, and fewer civilians are touched by that life, the less we'll understand one another. And that is a dangerous thing.

The more Michael Jernigans we have who don't believe we can honor the soldier and not buy into his mission, and the more civilians we have who have no understanding of how anyone could give their lives in service to their country, the more we'll be forever divided.

Something to think about.

But maybe for another day. Today, I salute all those who wore that gold and scarlett ribbon. Whether you were a cook or a clerk, a transportation officer, supply sergeant or a grunt. You didn't let others take your place on the line. For that, regardless of politics, you will always be my brother.

Welcome home.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Lazarus Amp

Remember when I backed over my amplifier?

Remember how it came all apart and I, heartbroken and unable to look at the destruction of such a fine old instrument, handed all the pieces to my friend and drummer, CH?

Well, CH has breathed the breath of life into the old cabinet and tubes and here it is, whole again, hardly any more beat up than it was when I bought it. And it works.

But late at night, when everyone else is asleep in bed, the speaker rumbles with staticky transmissions from the Other Side.

Apparently, they play the blues there, too. Who knew?

Thanks CH. I owe you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bad news for Naomi Campbell.

That woman up there in the Warhol pants is Linda Stein. Ms. Stein was murdered last week.

The pants were not the motive.

Ms. Stein was the former manager of the Ramones, and a pioneer in the punk revolution before she turned real estate agent to stars like Billy Joel and Madonna. No, that wasn't the motive, either.

Today's New York Times reports that Ms. Stein was bludgeoned by her personal assistant because Ms. Stein “just kept yelling at her,” according to a law enforcement official.

I'm betting that personal assistants everywhere will be excused from this jury.

Elton John is going to play a memorial concert. What a surprise. I get the feeling that a dog could be struck down by a speeding cab and Elton John would be there, standing over the gutter singing Candle in the Wind before the body cooled.

Ah well.

Happy Friday. Let's hope this weekend is better than the last.

And whatever you do, don't piss off your personal assistant.

Next Week! The Return of The Lazarus Amp and my comatose film career flickers its eyelids prompting Dr. Bill Frist to proclaim It's Alive! It's Alive!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stealing from the Dead.

Things are dark at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Thousands of the Gipper's personal artifacts are missing. That's Nancy keeping a watchful eye on that attractive pillow up there, just in case someone tries to snag that baby too.

You can read more here.

An amusing side note to this bizarre story is how different news orgs are covering this. Most headlines had some version of "artifacts missing" or "libarary can't account for artifacts" but Fox News takes a different approach. Their headline reads "Ronald Reagan Library Misplaces More Than 80,000 Artifacts."

As in, "Those things have to be around here somewhere. Did you look behind the filing cabinet?"

When in the story itself they report:

Part of the problem has to do with a lack of supervision and a "near universal" security breakdown that may have left the mementos vulnerable to pilfering, "the scope of which will likely never be known," the audit found.

When auditors tried to locate a sample of 21 items from a larger list of "high-value objects," one vase was missing even though library records indicated it was accounted for.

They also found that nine of 26 items in two unpacked boxes had gone missing. The missing items included a hand-crocheted American flag and an elephant figurine.

Mmm, a crocheted flag. Who the hell could resist that?

But we all know what's going on here, don't we? The Reagan loyalists just can't keep their fingers off things St. Ron might have actually touched. They're slipping those ash trays and elephants into their shorts to add them to their enormous home shrines to RR, just like the Disciples rifled Jesus' desk for pens and ashtrays after He'd done that ascension thing.

I was talking to a co-worker this morning about this and she concluded, "People are weird."

Indeed they are. Thank God.

Or should I thank St. Ron?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More reason to be very afraid.

No matter how rough things get, the world will step up to make you laugh. And this time we're laughing at someone else's near-tragedy, so that makes it all the more satisfying.

In a Twilight Zone part of Washington state, Charles and Linda Everson were driving along, minding their own business, when God struck their minivan with a falling cow. The Eversons were unhurt but the cow, which had fallen off a 200-foot cliff was quoted as saying it was "not his best day" before joining the choir invisible. The hood of the couple's minivan took a major hit.

I immediately thought of Mr. Everson, after changing his shorts, calling his insurance agent.

INSURANCE WEASEL: So, Mr. Everson, you say you hit a cow?

EVERSON: No, a cow hit us. Fell on us, actually.

WEASEL: Fell on you.

EVERSON: From a great height.

WEASEL: Uh-huh. And was there alcohol involved, Mr. Everson?

EVERSON: I don't know. What do cows usually drink, White Russians?

WEASEL: I don't think your policy covers flying bovines, Mr. Everson.

EVERSON: No, I didn't think so.

WEASEL: Nor sarcasm.

EVERSON: My rates will be going up, won't they?

WEASEL: Oh yes, of course, Mr. Everson. Way up.

EVERSON: Of course.

You know, sometimes, when you least expect it, the news is a gift. Let's hope your day is free of falling cows.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Once again, we turn to music.

I'm amazed that anyone still reads this blog as it's often as entertaining as an open wound, but if you're here, thanks.

As for why I continue to do this, airing our grief like a Times Square crazy hectoring skittish schools of horrified tourists, I don't know and I'd rather not explore it too deeply. But it helps.

Then there's the practical side. My family always knows what's going on, which is not always a good thing.

But for all those who do read this and have sent words of kindness and support, I am indebted.

I'm also indebted to the Durham County Public Library. I dropped by yesterday to pick up a book and while browsing found a box set of Atlantic Records. That's the house band up there - Duck Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Al Jackson - and they're the guys you hear backing up everyone from Aretha to Otis Redding.

Last night I drove to the hospital listening to these guys. This morning I drove to work listening to these guys. Those big horns, that bass line, Aretha demanding just a little bit, well, it helped. Helped? It's a fucking miracle is what it is.

And it's enough to get me through this morning.

Music and friends.

I know that in the months ahead, I'll be turning to both.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

The last one here, please turn off the lights.

I was so angry on Friday.

It looks like we are now a nation that has legalized a practice we once prosecuted as a war crime.

It looks like our new Attorney General believes that the law applies to everyone but the president.

It looks like a war with Iran depends on which side of the bed the VP gets out of, because the Congress can't stop it, the people can't stop it and the media needs something bigger to cover than Britney.

But by Saturday, none of that made any difference. Fuck it. They'll do what they do, regardless of what I think.

Molly is back in the hospital. Each time is worse than the time before. She can't work. She has cut off her friends. She has quit the band. She's given up ever feeling right again.

My wife is a rock, but she is tired. I've lost hope. I am resigned to the family being broken, bankrupt and, in the end, I believe we'll still lose her.

In the meantime, we drive to work, we go to meetings, we write for pharmaceuticals that don't seem able to help any of us, we make meals we don't eat and we sleep without dreams.

We're going dark here for a few days. Maybe longer.

I knew you'd understand.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Most excellent news.

I'm a little late congratulating our friend, Olen Steinhauer, on his recent good news. For those who missed it, Olen's new book, The Tourist, has been optioned by Warner Brothers and some fella named George Clooney.

I don't know who this Clooney character is, but Olen's book just might make the guy a star.

And if you want to know whom to blame for this blog, it's Olen. So all you Bush apologists can send your hate mail and death threats to him. My box is full.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This doesn't look good.

Here is an actual video of the Iraqi Army in training.

Anyone else get the feeling their hearts just aren't in this?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Thanks to Mr. Banks for this amazingly great video. How did he know I loved zombies?

Scared yet?

This lovely lady, dressed to impress, is Debra Cagan. She works for Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in charge of Coalition Affairs concerning Iraq and Iran.

This past September she met with six British Members of Parliament visiting the states and told them that she hates Iranians.

That's right. According to the UK's Daily Mail, Cagan told the MPs that "I hate all Iranians."

As one MP reported, "She seemed more keen on saying she didn't like Iranians than that the US had no plans to attack Iran."

Another MP said: "I formed the impression that some in America are looking for an excuse to attack Iran. It was very alarming."

And this: "It was very sobering to hear from the horse's mouth how the US sees the situation."

Of course, if they had met with George Bush they could have heard it from the horse's ass.

War with Iran.

Happy Halloween, bitches.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Liberal Media

If you don't know Fred Hiatt, he's the editor who turned the Washington Post's editorial page into a vocal supporter of the Bush administration with editorials and right-wing columnists like Charles Krauthammer and Robert Novak.

If you don't know Rick Kaplan, he's the guy who turned CNN into Fox News Lite and then moved on to MSNBC and filled that cable channel with conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough. This was the same time MSNBC fired Phil Donahue, the guy with the highest ratings.

Yes, in a time when the New York Times trumpets the war with Judith Miller and her sole source, Curveball, and when two columnists, one in Texas and one in Oregon, get fired for criticizing George Bush's no-show on 9/11, Dan Rather gets the heave-ho, and General Batiste loses his CBS job because he dares to say bad things about our uber-sensitive petit dauphin, some idiots talk about "the liberal media" as if it's 1974 and Rupert Murdoch is still just a soft-porn purveyor from Oz.

I do think our media is biased. Toward the stupid. Latest case in point is 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl. Watch the video up there as she does the American journalist thing and asks the president of France about his marital difficulties, as if it's anyone's goddamn business but Sarkozy and le squeeze primer.

Now ask yourself what other questions you'd like to ask the president of France. I can think of plenty.

What the fuck has happened to our media? Has America become so infantilized that the only thing that holds our interest is gossip? Have we really become this stupid? Or is it that news departments and their corporate overseers just think we're stupid?

Next time you watch some journalist cover the day's news, think of this: It costs next to nothing to cover events like fires, bombings, press conferences and celebrity fallout. It costs money to investigate ideas, like public policy.

For instance, do you believe, as Kennedy famously said, that you owe something to your country or do you believe, as Milton Friedman and his Republican acolytes do, that we owe nothing to our nation except our success?

Are you your brother's keeper? Or do you say I got mine, now let him get his?

Now there's a question I'd like Leslie Stahl to ask. Unfortunately, she'd probably ask Paris Hilton.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

But Is It Enough?

Have you noticed that no matter what you do, if you're a liberal, it's never enough?

Conservatives are never satisfied. The same people who can make excuses for every one of George Bush's disastrous screw-ups, find fault with everyone else because it's just not enough.

Sure, Valerie Plame was a CIA operative, and the administration leaked her name to the press in order to discredit her husband, but was she secret enough for it to be a crime? I think so, but the Bushies don't.

Yes, Al Gore went to Vietnam when Dick Cheney had "other priorities," but Al wasn't in the infantry so he, according to right wingers, was never in enough danger for his service to count. So he should have just stayed home like George Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and those other rough-tough guys.

And John Kerry went to Vietnam, lead men in combat, saved a man's life while under fire and was wounded, but did he bleed enough to get a Purple Heart? Apparently not.

Max Cleland went to Vietnam too, fought the enemy and was horribly wounded in service to his country, but according to many on the right, Max just wasn't tough enough to serve in Congress along with all those GOP chickenhawks.

Now we have this 12-year-old kid, Graeme Frost, who the Democrats made the poster boy for the benefits of the SCHIP program. But, people like Michelle Malkin ask, are his parents poor enough for help, especially when the lampreys who make up our insurance industry have refused him coverage?

No, I guess not. But Michelle sure is crazy enough. Yow.

So here we are, on the cusp of an election and what is it the Republican candidates are asking each other? Are you conservative enough? John McCain, another veteran, was criticized for not being loyal enough to George Bush, so I guess he's out.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough.

In fact, I'm full up.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Livin' On Tulsa Time.

While we're waiting for Molly and her band to give me the official decision (and some tracks I can post) let's take a look at what's happening in Tulsa, where my sister and mother live.

We ventured to Tulsa for my mother's birthday a few weeks ago. I'd never been to Oklahoma except to whiz through on Rt. 66, where I got my kicks in places other than Oklahoma and that great waste of planetary space, the panhandle of Texas which is bigger than the moon and a lot less interesting.

Tulsa was built on oil money and Christain fundamentalism, two things you might not put together, given that whole earth being six thousand years old conundrum. It's the home of Oral Roberts University, where God ran a protection racket a few years ago when the Reverend Oral told his congregants that if they didn't pony up a few million bucks, God was going to whack him.

They ponied up and God called off his goons. Hallelujah.

If you've never seen the good reverend in action, watch him explain hhow sex works in this truly miraculous video clip.

Amazing, isn't it? I've gone on record about the Family Values crowd and their freaky bedroom behavior making me, a guy who once thought of himself as a libertine, look like a cloistered monk in comparison.

So you can imagine my surprise when we learned that, not surprisingly, the sexual hijinx continues. Allegedly. See, Oral retired as head of Oral Roberts University and passed his throbbing scepter to his son, Dick, and I'm not making that up. This is Dick's wife, Lindsay.

From this picture, Lindsay is an attractive child of God, preaching the Word. Lindsay has written several books, but my favorite title is this: Dear God, I Love To Eat, But I Sure Do Hate To Cook cookbook.

She is a member of the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents and is quoted as saying, “I am dedicated to God and willing to do whatever He calls me to do.” That, allegedly, includes sleeping with one of the local fraternity boys.

Wonkette has more here.

My personal relationship with God was strenthened in Tulsa when we went to pick my mom up for breakfast Sunday morning. There on the corner, a local church had turned out to protest abortion. Now, I'm no fan of abortion. I don't know anyone who is. And I am a fan of the First Amendment, so I applauded the vigorous exercise of that freedom by this local church even while I was wondering how many abortions take place outside a church in Tulsa.

We went to breakfast at an IHOP where they have discounts for large people, or so it seems. When we returned to my mother's place I saw that the abortion protesters were gone. They, apparently, had been heartily rained upon while we were just a few miles away, in sunshine, eating our flapjacks.

That's right. God rained on the protesters while sparing the heathens skipping church.

I think I'm beginning to like Tulsa.

More as work calms down to a small tsunami and I get caught up from the trifecta of traveling, vacation and sickness.