Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's so easy, anyone can do it.

Write fiction, that is.

As I was looking for a visual to puncutate this post, I ran across this book cover. There's just so much wrong with this, from the warped notion that a complete idiot should be encouraged to write anything, to the blurb with the cheesy, self-promoting pun by Jerry B. Jenkins.

And Christian fiction? Isn't that the New Testament?

Sorry. That was gratuitous. But as Sam Goldwyn said, if you want to send a message, call Western Union.

Today, everyone wants to write a book. And yet, few people know how hard it is to write something really good.

Every celebrity wants to be known as a serious author, and if you have a famous name, then your book doesn't even have to be good. You can just pull something out of your ass. For instance, here's the noted novelist, Ivana Trump:

"Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything."

Yes, you can. And it helps if someone writes the book for you. I've ghosted a couple novels and neither of the guys whose names appeared on the covers had a bit of trouble with the second act. But if they did, there are lots of places they could have turned to for advice.

Character quirks. Here's a whole catalog of behaviors you can slap on your character and make him seem almost human. Call me crazy, or quirky, but I believe character quirks grow out of the, you know, character. They're not something you put on your protagonist like a fucking hat.

And to really understand your character, you have to have a strong sense of empathy. Like Mariah Carey, for example:

"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean, I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."

That is one quirky broad.
Now here's a novel idea. I can see the pitch now.

"But Charlie," says his agent, "there are a million books out there about writing fiction. Hell, there's even a Complete Idiot's Guide to writing Christian Fiction, for fuck sake. How is your book going to be different? What's your hook?"

Charlie leans in and whispers, "I'm writing this one for profit."

"Brilliant," says the agent. "Why didn't we think of that sooner?"

And all the while, the otherwise smart Matthew Yglesias is telling his readers that everything out there is shit anyway, so why even bother.

"Meanwhile, contemporary fiction is pretty sharply divided between crappy genre fiction and literary fiction that often seems very artsy-fartsy. For a well-crafted, but basically straight-forward story of people doing things and interacting with each other in a moderately realistic way, you need to turn to narrative non-fiction."

And fuck you, too, Matt.

Why do we bother? I mean, it takes me years to write one book, and then there's no guarantee it'll get published, and if it gets published, the chances are slim it'll sell enough copies to make anyone happy. But every night I go home and try to clock another 500 words on this piece, without ever resorting to a book that will tell me how to add quirks to my characters or how to make money.

Christ, I must be a complete idiot.

Hey, that gives me a great idea.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's Mardi Gras! Let the Good Times Roll!

Hey! Where is everybody?




You mean today isn't Tuesday?

You mean I missed it again?

What the hell am I going to do with all these goddam beads?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A rare post about sports.

OK, maybe not so much about sports as it is about the HBO documentary called The Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke vs. Carolina.

I love living in North Carolina, and even though I'm not a sports fan, I love the passion of this rivalry. My wife, an employee of Duke, is a Carolina alum and bleeds Tar Heel blue. She watches every game and spends hours on line reading about the players and the program.

A few months ago we were eating in a great pizza joint on West Franklin. My back was to the door. I heard someone come in and I saw Jenny's eyes go wide. "It's Tyler Hansbrough," she whispered, in the same awe-struck voice I'd use if Martin Scorsese walked in. All I saw was a really big guy. She saw a star.

I don't have any allegiance to Carolina, except marital. And I don't have anything against Duke. I like the positive influence it has on my home town. I've done research in Perkins Library, open to the public, thank you. I've been to the Nasher Museum of Art, free to those who live in the city. I've taken visitors to Duke Chapel, a truly amazing place. I met my wife doing Duke Summer Theater. And I've been probed in places all over Duke Hospital.

Duke is part of my life and a great part of Durham. Thank you, Duke.

But this rivalry? Well, it's part of the three B's of NC. The holy trinity of basketball, barbecue and the Baptist Church. And even the Baptists cuss when you mention Krzyzewski.

Before I tell you what I thought about the documentary, here's a quote from the director/producer, George Roy.

“Hopefully ... we will have completed a film that not only chronicles the great rivalry ... but give folks the idea of the psyche and culture and passion that exists around the importance of what this game means to people in your neck of the woods, which is pretty unique.”

After watching the doc last night in my "neck of the woods," I had two reactions:

1. It leaned heavily in favor of Carolina, the way Fox News leans heavily in favor of the GOP. The only difference is, Carolina isn't the nexus of evil.

2. George Roy is a condescending ass who thinks all roads below the Mason Dixon are draped in Spanish moss and the air is thick with plaintive fiddle music. The music, in particular, got under my skin. It was that pseudo folksy cornpone crap that strangers think is the Sound of the South.


At one point, the narrator talked about the 8-miles between Durham and Chapel Hill and the film showed a two lane country road (with requisite Spanish moss) with nary a pickup or tractor or barefoot boy with bamboo pole plying the sunstruck asphalt. In reality, the main artery between Chapel Hill and Durham looks more like this.

So, watch the movie if you care about this basketball rivalry, especially if you're a Carolina fan, but don't think we all live in shacks, wear bib overalls and play the fucking banjo.

And if you are a Carolina fan, I suggest you pick up this book by Will Blythe. "To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever." The title is perfect.

But, as has become an obsession of late, I had to read the 1-star Amazon review. Jesus, people are stupid. OK, look at the title again. Got that? Here is Blythe's opening, there on the Amazon page for everyone to see:

"I am a sick, sick man. Not only am I consumed by hatred, I am delighted by it. I have done some checking into the matter and have discovered that the world's great religions and wisdom traditions tend to frown upon this."

Now read this 1-star review:

"Too much of the book is just Blythe taking an opportunity to spew vitriol about Duke--not just the team, but everything from its campus to its students. His attempt to look at the rivalry with detachment falls short, and the overall effect is that he's simply immature."

Did you get that? This knucklehead read the title and then picked up this book expecting a "...look at the rivalry with detachment..." Do they let these people out where others can point at them and laugh? Because that would just be cruel.

The only thing I can think is, the guy must have gone to Dook.

Go Carolina.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wreck This Monday.

My friend, Emily, gave me this journal last year. Inside, each page has some prompt to do something anarchical to the book. I admit, it took me some time to get over my natural reverence for a book, but I'm easing into it, doing some things and not doing others and still treating it like a notebook where I jot down ideas for how this novel should play out.

I've also been doing a lot of drawing in it. I chewed a page. I crumpled a page. I tore out a page and threw it away. But nothing I've done can match what some of the Amazon readers have done. So I can see I have to step up.

Here are a few pages submitted by others:

This makes my attempt look positively constipated.

I'm OCD-ish about making a mess, so I've stayed away from putting food and other gunk in the book, but obviously this person had no such qualms. I can see I need to lose some inhibitions here.

Nice circles.

I have not burned my page, but that's just because they don't let me play near open flames.

The author, if Ms. Smith can be described as such, has a web site for this project. I hesitated reading any of it because I suspected she would take this whole fun thing a bit too seriously. When I did scan the opening page, I sadly discovered that I was right to be suspicious. Here's a line from her site:

That we will all come up against some kinds of blocks or impasses (some pages are harder for us than others), based on our own personal relationship with destruction and our own perfectionistic tendencies.

Blah blah blah. Thank you Dr. Freud.

If you go to Amazon, read some of the reviews. Most people have the right attitude. But, of course, there's always one person who just doesn't get it. Here's marie antoinette (I'm guessing that's not her real name) doing a bad impersonation of a tight-assed e e cummings:

"i thought this was an actual journal, but it is more of a crafting project, a bad crafting project at that. i would have given it 0 stars, but that was not an option."

Uh, marie, you know the pages are mostly blank, right? And there are no journal police out there who can force you to chew on a page, right? And you can use those blank pages for anything you want, including as an actual journal? You get that, right?

Apparently not.

So, in the spirit of this journal, and in an effort to bring a little light to your Monday, I'm inviting all my readers to wreck this blog. Throw it out the window. Cover it in tomato sauce. Set it on fire. Press your backside against the screen.

You'll feel better once you've shed those pesky "perfectionist tendencies." I promise.

My brain is asking WTF? Isn't it nap time?

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Jenn (who married a lucky guy known here as The Nephew), I will soon be in possession of the latest Creative Suite from Adobe. This means I'll have Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks, Dreamweaver and other toys to play with.

Now I just have to learn how to use them.

I've worked in Photoshop and Dreamweaver before but the others are strangers of mine. So I'm taking online classes. So far, the hardest one is Illustrator, with Flash coming in a close second.

Why am I doing this?

Hell, why not?

This is on top of my daily Italian, which is slow going, time on the guitar, this novel (also slow going) and work, which eats up an unreasonable amount of time.

All of this frantic learning stuff reminds me of Gulliver's Travels. In one of his adventures he hears about a race of people who live forever. What a joy, he thinks. He would spend one lifetime learning music, one art, one devoted to science, etc. Then he finds out that the people indeed live forever, but they never stop aging, eventually becoming wrinkled lumps of barely sentient flesh living their eternity in jars. That Swift had one wicked sense of humor.

So, as I approach my 59th birthday, I'm trying to cram in as much information as I can before my brain activity is reduced to complaints about my health; the senior discount at Denny's; and buying one banana at the grocery store, with an expired coupon, counting out exact change while the line stacks up behind me.

They say learning new stuff is a way to stay young. If I keep going at this pace, I'll go through puberty again. And believe me, no one wants that.

If you could learn something new, what would it be? And what is it that's stopping you?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Scout - an update

You might remember Scout, the orphan girl who came to live with us a few weeks ago. Here's how she's doing.

Scout has energy. When she sleeps, which is rare, you can hear the spring winding. She knows she's not supposed to jump up on someone she likes, and she likes everyone, but she gets so excited she can't help herself.

These pictures were taken after I'd told her to sit and stay.

We have work to do.

Duncan, the old boy, resisted her charms for the first few days, but now seems to like wrestling and playing tug of war. But he wears out sooner. Hell, everyone wears out sooner.

They like to race around the yard, knocking over patio furniture and the grill. It's like having two five-year-old boys living in oour house.

Scout's quirks have surfaced. She's terrified of traffic. While walking her last week, a car approached, she tore the leash out of my hand and raced all the way home, going so fast that when the leash's handle wedged under a car tire, she snapped the line.

Yesterday we found out that she hates rain. I can't wait to see how she does with thunder.

But, all in all, these are minor problems. Aside from chewing the cord off the mouse, pulling everything out of the recycle bin, waking us up at five, eating charcoal and then throwing it up on the bed, she's been great.

She likes to nip at my fingers with a clomp clomp. That's earned her the name Gator Girl. I think she likes it.

And we like her. When she's sweet, she's sugar sweet.

I'm taking care of a sick Jenny today and Scout follows me around the house, happy that I'm home on a weekday.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Texting while stupid.

In Wisconsin comes the news that there's a new class of criminal threatening the peace and stability of America's heartland. It's the incorrigible texter, polluting polite society with her thumb-typed OMGs! and LOLs!

Of course, this reprobate did deserve a good slap upside the head. But arresting her? Wow. Back in the stone age, when I was a kid, this type of Teen Girl Revolt (sounds like a great movie title) was dealt with in-house by an assistant principal who trained for the job by keeping cons straight on the Rock. Later, the eye-roller would face parents who would administer some appropriate punishment, like no sitting by the cave's fire for a week.

Today, they call the cops. Book 'em, Danno.

Here's the facts, just the facts:

The 14-year-old was texting in class. The teacher told her to stop. The teen continued. The teacher dropped a dime. The cop demanded the cell phone and "the teen hid it down her pants and denied having a cell phone."

Nice. She was busted for disorderly conduct, disrupting the class and giving her male classmates instant wood. When a reporter spoke to the teen's father, the poor bastard, already broken by life with a teenage girl said, "They were more than fair. They gave her a few chances, but for some reason she didn't abide by that." Of course, Dad had to pony up $300 for bail. The teen was suspended for a week.

Again, her father, contemplating a stiff drink, a sharp blade and a warm bath said, "It's very disturbing and upsetting..."

And after she was suspended, the girl was caught sneaking back into school. Twice. She was ticketed for trespassing, costing her father more money and several more years off his already bleak, futile and pointless life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

George Bush is NOT the worst president ever.

He's the SIXTH worst president ever, according to a bunch of historians who rated all the US presidents on stupid stuff like honesty and competence.

I was curious as to who could have possibly fucked things up worse than George Bush, so I took a stroll through the biggest boneheads in presidential history.

Coming in FIFTH is Warren G. Harding. He's best known for having one of the most scandal-ridden administrations in US history and was saved from impeachment by having the good fortune to die in office.

FOURTH in the worst presidential pile-up is William Harrison whose main distinction was serving between two terms of Grover Cleveland, making him the meat of a Cleveland Sandwich, not to be confused with the slightly less appealing Cleveland Steamer.
Number THREE in our cavalcade of less than stellar executive lights is Franklin Pierce, who is best remembered for his hair.

Holding down the NUMBER TWO SLOT in CINC stinkeroos is Andrew Johnson, a guy who came to the office after Lincoln was shot. Lincoln is, admittedly, a tough act to follow. But Johnson is best known for letting crazy Republicans (we had them then, too) toss out Lincoln's appeal to our better natures. Instead, they passed the repressive Reconstruction act on the Southern states, pissing off a lot of people and building up a heap of resentment that, ironically, feeds the Republican base today.
Johnson was the only president to be impeached without the benefit of a BJ.

And FIRST of the worst, the one that all the historians love to hate, is James Buchanan. He came right before Lincoln, which made Lincoln's job of looking capable easier, no doubt, but he also handed the incoming Abe a long-standing squabble that blew up into the Civil War. You might have heard of it. It was in all the papers.

Not all historians agree with this list, of course. Some rank President Bush much higher. They say he's not the SIXTH worst president. He's the SEVENTH, right after Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore is another guy who stank up the oval office just before Lincoln. But he is not to be confused with Mallard Fillmore, easily the worst political cartoon ever. And I don't think we need any historians to weigh in on that.

So I apologize for ever suggesting Bush was the worst president ever. He's just the worst of the last 80 years.
Something to argue over on a cold, gray, rainy Wednesday in February.

The Angry Right.

Republicans are angry. This past Sunday you could flip around the bobble-heads and hear GOPers fuming about the stimulus bill and how the House Democrats wouldn't play with them and the Senate Democrats didn't pass a bill they liked, never asking themselves why anyone would listen to the economic advice from the party responsible for running up ten trillion dollars worth of debt.

That's like taking advice on marriage from Rush Limbaugh.

Come to think of it, that's like taking any advice on anything from Rush Limbaugh. As he's a darling of the right and, according to that giant Georgia pussy, Phil Gingrey, the voice of conservatism, let's look at Rush's record.

Back in '92, Rush swore that if Congress passed Bill Clinton's budget, including "the largest tax increases in history" (they weren't), that it would be an economic disaster. The budget passed, the economy boomed, and by the end of Clinton's second term we were in surplus.

When California was suffering their summer of brownouts and power failure, Rush blamed it all on the dirty hippies forcing their environmental extremism on the power industry. Then we learned how Enron caused the power shortages, gamed the system, extorted money from Grandma Millie and laughed about it all the way to bankruptcy.

Rush claimed that GIs who favored getting out of Iraq were "phony soldiers." This from a guy who dodged the draft with a cyst on his ass. "Phony soldiers." Wrong again.

Rush was all for a balanced budget amendment until he wasn't.

Rush swears that climate change is a myth. He's wrong. Again.

Rush always points out that the rabid segregationists of the past were Democrats, and while, technically, he's right, what he doesn't say is that those Democrats turned Republican after Johnson passed the Civil Rights act. You remember, heroes of the right like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond.

But enough about Rush.

Let's look at those angry Republicans in the heartland, those who listen to Rush and claim he's always right, even when he's wrong. Alexandra Pelosi, the speaker's daughter who came to fame by documenting W's cowboy charm in 2000, has a new film for HBO, following hard on the heels of her sympathetic doc about the deeply closeted crystal Methodist Ted Haggard. This new film is "Right America: Feeling Wronged."

I'll watch this, just as I've watched Pelosi's other docs, but I expect I'll come away just as mystified as I am now. Why are these people so angry? Why, after being in charge for the better part of the past 30 years, why do they feel that liberals like me are somehow cheating them? Even Pelosi echoes some of their bullshit.

"Well, more than 58 million people voted for John McCain, and I know that everyone on the coasts is on an Obama honeymoon right now, and they seem to forget that more than 58 million people did not want Barack Obama to be their president. And when I was traveling over the summer and I would go to rallies and 20,000 people would be there ... They had huge crowds, and I felt they were really underrepresented in the media. I didn’t feel like I saw these people on TV."

Is it just me or was that line about "people on the coasts" a tad dismissive? I live in North Carolina, home to Jesse Helms, and hardly a bastion of effete liberal thinking.

And she thinks these red state Americans were underrepresented in the media? Really? Can you say Joe the Fucking Plumber? Can you say hockey mom? Can you say Fox News? Underrepresented? Jesus, Alexandra, get your nose of the that elephant's ass for a moment and take a look at how many red states, with real people, turned blue this past November. Don't we count as real people, or are we just people who, as you describe your friends, "drank the Kool Aid."

It's this kind of attitude the feeds the Right's anger. They feel like we stole something from them. They don't look at their party and see how their leaders failed them. They play the victim. It's all about those people "on the coasts" who don't have any real values. It's all about men and women who serve in the military, unless you disagree with the GOP and then you're a "phony soldier." It's all about fear and lies like Obama's a socialist, and Obama's a muslim, and it's all fed to them daily by people like Rush.

I'll watch Pelosi's movie, but I doubt if it will get us any closer to the truth about why so many people have let themselves be manipulated and lied to for so long, just for the enrichment of a small number of people who think they're "sheep and should be treated as such."

That's a line from Richard Nixon, by the way. A Republican.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

There's a story in the Times about smokers snuffing their vile habit out of concern for the health of their pets. It made me think about cigarettes and how much I liked smoking.

I was a smoker. Kools for a long time, then Camels, then Marlboros. I always owned a Zippo made, as all Zippos are, in Bradford, Pennsylvania in the factory with the giant neon flame on the roof. Some of my lighters were engraved. The one I had in the Army, the one decorated with my unit patch, I lost somewhere in Guatemala, I think. Or maybe it was Honduras.

I loved the click of the lid, the rasp of the wheel, even the smell of the lighter fluid catching fire. In high school, I used to put a few drops of English leather, the manly scent of the day, in my lighter, hoping to make the flame more fragrant. It never did.

There was nothing I didn't like about the whole ritual of smoking cigarettes. Tamping the pack, sharing a light, tapping the ash, all of it.

Until I didn't. Then I quit. It was some time around '94 or '95, and I haven't wanted a cigarette since. I still dream about smoking and when I do I think, "Damn, now I have to quit all over again." I'm always relieved when I wake up.

Now I realize just how unpleasant cigarettes are to people who don't smoke. Because I play music in smoky bars, I've learned to live with it until I get home and find I stink like an ashtray, but the music makes it all worthwhile. This morning I walked past a guy smoking a cigarette and the smell instantly put me in a bar, drinking vodka and playing blues. I could even taste the tonic on my tongue.

Just as deisel fumes put me back in the jungle, downwind of a generator, cigarettes have become the smell of a distinct place.

As I write this 1941 novel, I have to keep in mind that everyone smoked. Everyone. Everywhere. Looking back from our proscripted times, it's amazing to think of lighting up in a movie theater or post office.

I worked on a few RJR accounts in the early 90's, back in the heyday of Joe Camel, and when you went to the RJR headquarters in Winston-Salem, you could snag a free pack in the lobby. The meetings were always held in a haze of tobacco smoke, and God help you if you were packing anything other than an RJR cigarette.

So, I don't smoke any more, although I often find myself hanging out with the smokers at a party. They're almost always more entertaining than the nonsmokers inside.

What's my point? I don't know, just rambling on a Monday morning. Maybe it's this: If you smoke, smoke downwind of your non-smoking friends. And if you don't smoke, STFU about it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Support the Troops.

That fun bunch up there are people who willingly identify themselves as Freepers, which is a lot like announcing to the world that you're mentally ill and proud of it.

Freepers, for those of you who have a life, are people who inhabit a blog known as the Free Republic, a site that, of all the wingnut sites, is the nuttiest. It's a place where people can gather and gain some comfort in sharing anger and snide remarks aimed at liberals, communists, RINOs, mud people and the list goes on and on.

The tone of the Freepers range from smug certainty that they do indeed have a clue, and a misplaced sense of victimhood. It's the kind of place where you're likely to meet someone who says, "I've never made more than $40K in my life because society has it in for straight white males!"

The one value, besides anger, that holds this group together, is rabid-weasel patriotism. You can tell because they put magnet ribbons on their SUVs. Hoo-uh. And no one supports the troops like the Freepers, no sir.

Except when the troops are fucking losers, like those pussies who come back from Iraq with PTSD.

Tommy T over at First Draft dips a ladle into the slime of the Free Republic every week and lays out excerpts so the rest of us don't have to have our heads explode. The comments in Freepland are almost universally whacked, but this thread in particular was despicable beyond even my imagining. They usually start with a news story like this:

The Army is investigating a stunning number of suicides in January - a count that could surpass all combat deaths on America's two warfronts last month. According to figures obtained by The Associated Press, there were 24 suspected suicides in January, compared to five in January of 2008, six in January of 2007 and 10 in January of 2006. Yearly suicides have been rising steadily since 2004 amid increasing stress on the force from long and repeated tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And then the fun begins. Here's the Freeper response to soldiers commiting suicide after their combat tours.

January? Couldn’t have anything to do with the new Commander in Chief, could

Probably because they realize their new CIC is going to throw them under the
And when one of their own tries to bitch slap some humanity into the thread, watch what happens.

Please don’t trivialise other people’s tragedy by appropriating it for
political spin.
To: Romulus
Who made you the posting police?

I usually provide a link to other sites, but I'm going to spare you one to the Free Republic. Trust me, it's not a place you want to visit if you have a weak stomach.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

America, land of the free.

America isn't anything like Cuba. For one thing, Cuba has universal health care.

Cuba is also a regime that bans anything that contradicts its repressive ideology. Which, it turns out, is also the practice in South Florida. I figure they caught the censorship bug through geographic proximity, like catching crabs.

See that book up there? According to the news, it's a travelogue written for little kids about Cuba's climate and culture. But the kids won't get to read about Cuba's culture because the schools of Miami-Dade have to throw away their copies (burning is optional) because it's bad. And it's bad because it's good.

In his opinion, Judge Ed Carnes of the 11th Circuit suggests that it's the lack of disturbing content that makes this such a dangerous book.

"There is a difference between not including graphic detail about adult subjects on the one hand and falsely representing that everything is hunky dory on the other," Judge Ed Carnes wrote.

Did you get that? It almost sounds like he wants "graphic detail about adult subjects." Instead, the book presents a sunny picture of happy Cuban children. Too happy for the judge. If you write about Cuba, you have to show sad people in abject misery. It's now the law in South Florida.

In case you were wondering, Judge Ed is one of the fine jurists appointed to the federal bench by the first Bush cartel.

The little book has been snatched from school libraries because one parent complained. His name's Juan Amador and he has an understandable grudge against Castro. He was a political prisoner. That would kick the joie out of anyone's vivre.

In his written complaint, Mr. Amador said that the book did not give a complete picture of Castro's Cuba. He said he "was outraged that the book made no mention of ... political indoctrination of school children..."

Yes, I edited, but did not change, Mr. Amador's complaint for maximum irony.

The Supreme Court may look at this case because of that whole whacky Constitutional thingy. What they decide is, sadly, anyone's guess.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Too much crap.

I've wanted to blog, at length, about the bankers who can't fathom how they'll squeak by on $500K a year, the holy smokes reaction to Michael Phelps taking a bong hit for Jesus, the annual celebration of musical manure that is the Grammys and, on a positive note, how I dreamed the solution to a vexing problem with the novel.

But lo, there is no time.

Because right now my life is full of crap. Crap by the bucket. Crap by the truckload. Crap by the steaming ton.

If you had a job that was a Mardi Gras of Craparama, you might describe it this way, as a blogger we know recently did:

...the weirdness, the electric angst, the illogic and madness, the paranoia, the group fistfuck meetings, the shifting alliances, the Sisyphean chores day after stinking day, the synapse sizzling WTF moments when a job comes back the 13th and then a 14th and then a 15th time, the misdirection, redirection and no direction, the fragile egos compensating for the swirlies they endured in high school and the complete, mind-blowing, monkey fuck ass-pucker...

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful to be employed. No one wants a 58-year-old writer out there sucking up unemployment, least of all me. And when work is good, it's very good. But when it's bad?

Well, you know.

Lately I haven't had the time to give you my take on events large and small. For that I apologize and promise to try harder.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Look out! We're getting reckless.

Americans live recklessly, poll finds.

I saw this headline in this morning's N&O and thought, "Cool." Americans are finally tossing away those dorky bicycle helmets and eating butter again. They're thankfully letting their kids go outside to participate in that unscheduled, unsupervised activity known as play. Have we, I wondered, finally shed this bubble-wrapped fantasy that life should be without risk?

Then I read the story.

Jesus wept. What a bunch of wusses we've become. Want to know what the N&O calls living recklessly? It means eating raw cookie dough, putting cotton swabs in your ears and having a beer while using a cordless screwdriver.

Is this the country that carved a railroad through the Rockies? Are we the same people who built the Panama Canal, explored the oceans and went to the moon? No, we're the people who think showering without a rubber mat is on par with leaping over Snake River on a motorcycle.

Reckless? Buddy, you don't know reckless. Reckless is discovering you have no brakes and still riding around the city for an hour, timing the traffic just right before you hit an intersection.

Reckless is seeing your brand new business partner is carrying a gun and still going up to the hotel room.

Reckless is sleeping with your wife's bipolar best friend.

I suddenly have the urge to go outside without sunscreen. Later I may just run with scissors.

If you're so inclined, tell us about the most reckless thing you've ever done. But if you'd rather keep that to yourself, we'll understand. There's a fine line between truly reckless and just plain stupid.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Meet Miss Scout

Yesterday, Scout came to live with us. This is Scout with Duncan. She tormented him, as little sisters will, all day yesterday. This morning she stalked our cat around the house, unaware that Zoe is a cold-blooded killer, armed and dangerous. I expect she'll learn.

She'll never win a beauty contest. She's got a long, hound dog tail that whips about and she's a little wall-eyed. An all-American brown mutt, part shepherd, part hound, part mystery and all heart. She's smart, wants to please, and listens when you speak.

She's got enough energy to light the house if we could figure out how to plug her in. When we first met Scout, she liked to jump up, but she's gotten better about that in just one day. She learned not to jump on the couch, at least while we're home. We'll see. Her foster mom says she likes to move shoes around the house. She doesn't chew them, just rearranges things for some reason only Scout knows.

She was a stray for a long time and then taken in by a family who starved and abused her. In spite of that, Scout is remarkably free of the hesitation and suspicion you might expect in a dog who has known hard times.

We walked her this morning and she did well on the leash. Jenny's wondering what we got ourselves into, but I suspect that Scout will work her way into the family in no time.

Now, if we can get her to let old Duncan nap in peace, this should work out fine.