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Saturday, June 11, 2005

I've been working on my Max Beatty project some more and it's starting to take shape. I already have outlines for the first five "chapters" or sections so far, and I think it might go somewhere. But I can't go thinking ahead too far. There still needs to be some life to it that comes from the writing. So I've been delving into the opening chapter, just to get a feel for the music, so to speak. Here's a short sample:

     It was a wet morning, gray skies, barely cold enough for ice to form. I stood under the awning so water wouldn’t drip on my head and leaned into the buzzer outside Abby’s building. A few seconds later there was a crackle and Abby’s tinny voice came through the intercom speaker. “Yeah?”
     “Abby, it’s me. Let me up.”


The "I" is Max, since the series will be told in first person, like Chandler and Mosley and a hundred other detective stories. Abby is one of the main characters, what you could call the victim in this tale I'm about to weave. She's a bartender who fronts a rock band on weekends, a modern girl, lives alone, is no stranger to the rock n roll lifestyle but isn't a mess. But she does have a problem.

She calls her problem the Creep, a disturbing man whose face has become more familiar recently, so much so that Abby fears that she is being stalked. She hires Max to find out who it is and to get him to stop. Protection is also implied in the arrangement, and Max doesn't hesitate to call the dogs out on this one. In this case, that consists of Chuck Minney, another character who will appear throughout the series.

Chuck Minney is a fortyish guy, somewhat squat, bald, overweight and unkempt. He lives with Mom and has never really had a place of his own. He's a dork, a techno-nerd, and he's also good at surveillance, which is a talent Max needs from time to time in his detective work. He works cheap and doesn't mind sitting in his van with a bag of potato chips keeping an eye on someone. He loves it. It gets him out of the house and out from under Mom. Chuck may sound somewhat stereotypical now, but he will be fleshed out in the actual narrative.

That damn narrative. I've been working on it, and it's not coming to me. Maybe I'm just out of practice in writing fictional prose, or maybe I just need to get it out and fuck with it later. I'm leaning towards the latter, but I find myself repeating myself, and losing focus. Chapter one is where the whole set-up is established. You have to get a sense of who Max is, who Abby is, what they're doing together, AND you have to add some plot elements to keep it moving, to hook the reader (and coincidentally, the writer). It's dicey stuff.

Not to mention the fact that in chapter one, Abby and Max find an attraction so strong that they make love right there on the futon in her apartment. You'll see in a moment why this isn't just gratuitous sex inserted at the beginning to titilate the reader. It's a delicate scene. They have to go from discussing business and the Creep, two very unsexy subjects, to making out and stripping their clothes off. The scene is further complicated by the fact that Max is married (hmm, maybe that's why the sex is importan). It can't just be a spur of the moment thing because that's simply not believable. There has to be some sort of (off-screen) build-up which makes the moment where they couple inevitable, in a tragic drama kind of way.

Of course, this is a telling moment for our main character and narrator. He is a married man, getting a little action on the side, from a client no less. He genuinely cares for Abby and naturally because of that feels very protective, and almost territorial. This is important. The affair can't just be about sex, because I have something else planned for Max and Abby. It's not wham bam thank ya ma'am. There's something there that's strong enough to make Max go for it.

His wife, on the other hand, is none the wiser until some suspicious things Max does clues her in on it. The subplot of this book, I decided, will be the crumbling of Max's marriage. Who ever heard of a married PI anyway?

His wife, by the way, is a cop, er, she works for the police force in an administrative capacity. She doesn't do actual police work, but she oversees it and has juice within the department. That should give you some idea of what kind of woman she is. She's no desperate housewife. She's smart, ambitious, and tough. So how do you think she's going to take her husband's infidelity once it's discovered?

Friday, June 10, 2005

It's gotta be hard to be a Republican these days. Being in power, and apparently powerless to do anything, they are getting all the flack, well, most of it, and absolutely nothing of value is being done. The war rages. We still have no energy policy. Social security, blah blah blah, put me to sleep. But gays still can't get married and George Bush is president, so the Republican party has accomplished some of its recent goals. Of course, one issue denotes a lack of freedom and the other a foolhardy election, so much can't be said about these "accomplishments," except congratulations. Now what?

Speaking of some of the difficulties Republicans face, check out what Dan Froomkin says about the aforementioned Mr. Bush:

"When is it time to start referring to Bush as an unpopular president? When his approval ratings are solidly below 50 percent for at least three months? Check. When his approval ratings on his signature issues are in the red? Check. When a clear majority of Americans say he is ignoring the public's concerns and instead has become distracted by issues that most people say they care little about? Check."

Ouch. Bush, an unpopular President? What gave you that idea?

This might give you some idea why. Of course, Bush wasn't there, had nothing to do with Sensenbrenner's outburst, but as president, his policy pervades every facet of political life, and it's those policies that are being blamed for the debacle in Gitmo. On another note, how is treatment of detainees in the war on terror irrelevant to the renewal of a sweeping renewal of anti-terror laws? Oh that's right, it's completely relevant. Sensenbrenner is a cocksucker.

Here's some bullshit about the Minutemen, the vigilante border patrol. Believe it or not, but I have a solution for the whole border/immigration problem we have now. Don't give these people citizenship, but give them some kind of legal status. Yes, that's right, make em register, under their real names, and let them come in and do as they please. Of course, there would have to be a whole new set of laws drawn up to regulate this, which is why this will never happen. (Unless I take over the world and do it myself! I'm considering it!) I base this principle on my experience with the underground Mexican emigre community (of which, I'm well acquainted), but also on the simple premise, that if you give them incentives to live good, legal lives, they will do so. Heap on the draconian penalties and you just create a black market, this one dealing in lives. It results in the almost viral spread of lawlessness and serves no one except those who profit from circumventing the system. What these anti-immigration people must understand is that these Mexicans can help us. They can contribute to the success of America, and have already for decades. We should welcome them as fellow human beings, not force them to get a fake identity and live in fear. They will come anyway. Until recently, everyone wanted to come to America. The Mexicans still do, perhaps because their proximity reassures them that we're not soulless monsters who rape and torture our enemies, perhaps because our prosperity inspires them to lead better, more productive lives, perhaps there are a million reasons. That has to count for something.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

It's back to the drawing board for the marijuana lobby. I have to say I voted for Colorado's medical marijuana iniative, not out of some principled stance on patient's rights, but because I support pot legalization overall. Unlike the not-so-sincere people who insist this is about medicine and helping sick people, I acknowledge that the whole medical marijuana debate is really part of an effort to enact a larger decriminalization move. The Supreme Court has roundly struck down that method, although I'm sure there are some "experts" in the legalization movement who still think "medical marijauna" is a good peg on which to hang their hat. I'll acknowledge that the "medical marijuana" platform served its purpose, but it now must be refined. It provided a reason why pot should be legal, but now the legalization movement must demand a reason why it should remain illegal. The Supreme Court, in their findings, found no reason why the issue shouldn't be taken up again in Congress, and yet there is little hope of that happening. That's like saying "Well, I could give you a ride, but I have a flat tire." Expecting Congress to address anything of any real substance is expecting too much. They are too concerned with filibusters and steroids in pro sports.

Speaking of filibusters, Glenn Reynolds ties them in with the recent pot ruling. I also cribbed this link, from which I got this little nugget by Sandra Day O'Connor (in dissent):

"It will not do to say that Congress may regulate noncommercial activity simply because it may have an effect on the demand for commercial goods, or because the noncommercial endeavor can, in some sense, substitute for commercial activity. Most commercial goods or services have some sort of privately producible analogue.Home care substitutes for daycare. Charades games substitute for movie tickets. Backyard or windowsill gardening substitutes for going to the supermarket. To draw the line wherever private activity affects the demand for market goods is to draw no line at all, and to declare everything economic."

That reminds me of countless arguments I had with a friend over whether money had First Amendment protections as free speech. I'm with O'Connor on this one. Let's not take this capitalism thing so far that everything becomes economic, including our voice.