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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Tony Royster Jr.

This kid is awesome!

Chapter One

Speaking of books...I finished a first draft of Chapter One. It still needs some polishing, and I'm unsatisfied with certain parts of it, but it's only the first 4000 words and I have, oh, a 100,000 more to go, so I'm plowing forth with Chapter Two and I'll make it all perfect later.

So here it is, Chapter One.

(I still need a damn title...sheeeeeeeeeit.)

(UPDATED! It might have been helpful if I included the link, eh?)

Tattered Cover

I read this week that the famous Tattered Cover bookstore down in Cherry Creek is going to be closing up shop and moving down into the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It'll end up being closer to me, but it is still somewhat sad. I've been going to that store, that specific location, for twenty years. It's quite possible that without that store, I wouldn't be the book slut I am today.

One time, in 91 probably, I was there with my Mom and there was a book signing going on upstairs. I watched the author talk a little, but it was some guy I never heard of pushing some book about environmentalism that I was never going to read, so as an uninterested teenager, I wandered off to the horror section. Little did I know that the author would later become Vice President of the United States.

Clive Barker signed a stack of my books in the same space.

When I had my first car, I'd drive past a hundred Barnes and Noble bookstores to go there.

It was a great place, and now it's going to be gone. So since I was in the area last night, I decided to visit the store one last time before it closes. I got my Dad a book, since today's his birthday. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) And for old time's sake, I picked up Clive Barker's Abarat for myself

Thursday, February 02, 2006

It ain't the hair

Remember what I said about Troy Polamalu? He's gonna be a big star. Just you watch.

And no, it ain't the hair...it's his game.

(Uncle Jim says he's already a star, and after this season, I suppose he's right. Move over Ray Lewis. There's a new kid in town.)

Papa Boehner

The House GOP have a new leader. John Boehner of Ohio.

John Stewart has more here and here. Funny stuff.

Glenn Reynolds: Male Prostitute

The big name bloggers seem to have a gift for self-promotion that I simply don't possess. Look at this lame-ass shit. I thought I was going to get a discussion of the "most important book of the year." Instead I got a sales pitch.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thirsty for Blood

My favorite quote so far from Super Bowl Extra Large comes from Joey Porter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who felt the need to comment on remarks made by a Seahawks player.  Among other colorful things, Joey said, “I've got my first taste of blood and now I'm thirsty for more.”

What a great thing for a linebacker to say.

The Bullshit Meter

I didn’t watch the President’s State of the Union address last night.  It wasn’t anything personal.  I just don’t like being lied to my face.  

However, I did read Sen. Harry Reid’s rebuttal, posted on Huffington Post.  Okay, so I just attempted to read it, but I didn’t get very far before my bullshit meter starting going off.  

The first offending statement?  Here it is:

“But, there's also no honor in sending our troops to battle without the armor, intelligence and planning they need to keep them safe.”

Um, Harry, I’d agree that sending troops to battle with inadequate armor, inaccurate intelligence, and imaginary planning is a bad idea, and may even be dishonorable, but it’s not because it threatens the troops’ safety.  It’s just bad war-fighting.  The troops, by definition, have a very unsafe job and a “safety first” mentality has no place on the battlefield.

What you should have said is “There’s no honor in sending our troops to battle without the armor, intelligence, and planning they need to achieve victory.”  See?  Not so wimpy and ignorant of basic military realities.  

Then there was this:

“Democrats are unwavering in the fight against terrorism, but the Bush Administration has failed to propose real improvements to our policy in Iraq, while at the same time allowing Iran and North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.”

Good point about the Bush Administration’s inconsistent application of their own foreign policy, but Harry, this part?  “Democrats are unwavering in the fight against terrorism.”  Come on, bud.  We all know that’s not true.  When it comes to Iraq, the Democrats have wavered more than a rope bridge in a high wind.  They were for it before they were against it, and they have yet to find any solid ground to stand on.

Reading Sen. Reid’s misfired missive will tell you that.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chronic(what?!)les of Narnia

Over at the Corner, the group blog of conservative pundits from the National Review, you'll hear a lot of griping about the recently released Oscar nominations. They are, apparently, not impressed that Brokeback Mountain was nominated for the significant awards and Narnia was all but shut out.

First of all, this reveals a subtle disdain for "liberal Hollywood" and their gay cowboy movie. Secondly, it reveals a complete ignorance of what kind of movies win Oscars. The Oscar (which very few exceptions) usually goes to "important" movies, movies so serious that they almost forget that they're only a movie and not some life-changing culture-reflecting examination of an existential truth.

Brokeback Mountain would not have been made if it didn't have Oscar potential. Don't think Ang Lee doesn't think about these things when choosing projects. With the exception of The Hulk, all of his movies have been Oscar-bait, which means they were the type of movies the Academy swoons over.

Narnia, a big special-effects fantasy epic, is NOT the type of movie the Academy likes. Sure, they fell over themselves for the Lord of the Rings, but that was an exception to the rule. LOTR got out of the fantasy ghetto but didn't level it, and that had more to do with the quality of the films themselves than the genre or literary tradition.

Frankly, Narnia isn't nearly as good as the weakest of the LOTR films, nor was it anything remarkable when compared to many of the other good films made this year. When I saw it, I left the theater thinking that it was a good movie, but it wasn't great and it would never become a classic. (At least among discriminating movie-goers.) It had a no-name director, who is talented no doubt, but not the visionary that usually makes the Academy swoon. The main characters were all children portrayed by unknown actors, and the only "stars" are far from household names. Tilda Swinton and Jim Broadbent are undeniably talented, but in the Hollywood pecking order, they are little more than glorified character actors. And despite the beloved source material, I think the story itself, when you remove all the Christian imagery, just rings untrue.

Did anybody bother to ask why Narnia's hero lion Aslan would sacrifice his life to the Snow Queen in order to save that unlikeable traitor Edmund? If you view Aslan as a stand-in for Jesus, it makes complete sense because of the Christian message of sacrifice and forgiveness, but if we're talking about a struggle between good and evil, it's completely absurd. No general of any army would willingly give himself to be sacrificed by the enemy in the vain hope that he will be resurrected. It's a touching gesture, no doubt, but counter productive and illogical.

The bottom line is that Narnia was a good movie, but it wasn't Oscar caliber and I'm not surprised that it was passed over in the major categories.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Music Minute

I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard this song.  At the time I thought it was sounded like Geddy Lee from Rush and I wondered what he was doing in some new modern-sounding heavy band.  But then I realized it was a chick who was singing.  A chick!  (Poor Geddy must get that a lot.)  

Turns out the band is called Flyleaf, a new outfit from Texas.  I liked the song, which is called I’m So Sick, enough to grab it from iTunes, and after hearing one called Fully Alive on their website, I grabbed that one too.  If you were to ask me, I think Fully Alive is the better song.

The singer is named Lacey Mosley and she has an interesting vocal style, part Geddy Lee, part Alanis Morissette, part Kittie.  The guitars have a raw muddy sound, but the drummer is awesome.  

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Just a Big Ole Scam

If, in a few years, history judges the Iraq war a collossal failure, it won't be because Democrats lost their nerve or the American public lost their will. Incompetent leadership and shameless corruption, from the top on down, is a more likely culprit.

Exhibit A.

It's undeniable now. Iraq is a boondoggle.

Choice nugget of choice nuggets:
In some cases, auditors could find no trace of cash, much of which came from Iraqi oil revenues overseen by the occupation authority.

“Those deficiencies were so significant that we were precluded from accomplishing our stated objectives,” the auditors said of U.S. officials in Hillah being unable to account for $97 million of the $120 million in Iraqi oil revenues earmarked for rebuilding projects.

Wait...That requires a double take. They can only account for $23 million out of the $120 million??? What the fuck? They have no clue where the other 80% of that money went!!!

Let's review. The Coalition Provisional Authority squandered 80% of the oil revenue money. They squandered 80% of the oil money that was supposed to be used for reconstruction.

This isn't some innocent mistake. This was a scam.

And look at this:
Negligence proved deadly in at least one case. Three Iraqis plummeted to their deaths in an elevator in the Hillah General Hospital that was certified to have been replaced by a contractor who received $662,800.

I'm no elevator expert, but how much does replacing an elevator cost? Mucho dinero, I'm sure, but a half million dollars? I doubt it. And if you're going to spend $662,000 on an elevator, it better not be a death trap. It better be the elevator Jesus uses to rise into Heaven.

Still not convinced this wasn't a scam? Here's more:
In some cases, cash simply disappeared.

Two occupation authority field agents responsible for paying contractors left Iraq without accounting for more than $700,000 each. When auditors confronted their manager and asked where the money was, the manger tried to clear one of the agents through false paperwork.

So two guys absconded with $1.4 million bucks and their boss, who was obviously in on it, attempted to cover it up. These guys make the Sopranos look like wannabes.

The Dumbest Thing I Read Today

You ready for it? Here it is.

The first thing you should notice about this is the complete absurdity of the premise. Some criminals are getting quite sophisticated in covering their tracks, and some "experts" are blaming it on the CSI effect. Yeah, right. Murderers have been covering their tracks for millenia, and as law enforcement gets more sophisticated, so do the law breakers. Before there was bleach for DNA trace evidence, there was gloves for fingerprints. Before there was CSI, there was Sherlock Holmes.

So some guy cribbed a few ideas from CSI. This isn't evidence of a hidden danger in crime shows, nor is it evidence that there is an epidemic of TV-influenced criminal behavior. It's evidence of...a knucklehead who thought he could be outsmart the police. (Apparently, he's going down anyway, CSI or no CSI.)

If a little more thought had gone into this issue, someone might have realized that the writers of CSI, far from blazing a trail of criminal innovation themselves, employ tried and true methods of detection and evasion. Of course, CSI is a Hollywood-ized version of police work, but last I checked DNA evidence is admissable in a court of law and luminol is a real substance used in real flesh and blood crime scene investigations.

A TV show is an easy target, too easy. It's easier than admitting that with all this technology, we still haven't eliminated the evil side of human nature. Of course, a story on the darkside of the force isn't exactly news....

Another Rant

Bob Woodruff, the newly crowned co-anchor of ABCNews, was injured in an insurgent attack while reporting from Iraq. I've seen this bit on a lot of blogs, but they all announce it straight-faced without commentary, dripping of a reverence that stinks of fear and an inability to grasp what it all means.

In the short term, it means Elizabeth Vargas might be pulling solo duty for a while. While it seems Woodruff has survived, his head injury is most likely going to keep him out of commission for a while, if not permanently. Getting blown up is no small thing.

I wonder, though, how this would play out if it had been one of America's beloved anchors from yesteryear. What if it was Tom or Dan or Peter? It's one thing when the casualties are nameless and faceless numbers in a news report. It's different when the victims are the same people millions of Americans invite into their homes on a nightly basis.

Due to his short tenure as anchor, Woodruff hasn't amassed the cult of personality enjoyed by Brokaw or Rather, but he is still the anchor on the network nightly news, and while that's a diminished position these days, it's still highly visible. Is this going to result in networks being squeamish about sending their reporters to dangerous places? Or is it going to result in an "enough already" backlash from the war-weary? Who knows?

Also, I wanted to point out a related headline you will never see. BILL O'REILLY AND SEAN HANNITY INJURED IN INSURGENT AMBUSH.

Why? Because they are not journalists, nor are they soldiers. They are glib war-mongers, content to lob not-so-smart mouth bombs from their radio booth bomb shelters back in the States. While Woodruff went to Iraq to scratch the truth out of the mesopotamian dirt, O'Reilly and Hannity cower behind their microphones, seeing who can better drown out the horror with hollow rhetoric and simplistic slogans.

I guess they just can't handle the truth. Pussies.

Post script: Here's another headline you'll never see: JAMES PEARCE INJURED IN INSURGENT AMBUSH. Like Billy O and Sean-boy, I'm neither a journalist or a soldier, but I'm not about to sacrifice life or limb for a cause I don't believe in. I believe in freedom, democracy, and security, but I also don't believe that American involvement in Iraq has anything to do with those core values. It has more to do with...well, the Madness of King George.

Giving up America's hard-worn reputation and trillions of dollars, not to mention tens of thousands of lives, all for a Saddam-free Iraq....wow, I mean, that was nice. Say one thing for our President. He is generous.

Deep Thoughts By Jack Handey

Sunday is usually my day for big thoughts and marathon blogging, but unfortunately I don't feel capable of deep thoughts. I'm coming off a week of solid illness, fever, sore throat, cough, you name it. If it was the flu, I'm wondering about the futility of getting a flu shot, which I did back in October. If it wasn't the flu, what the hell was that fever?

Anyway, I wasn't capable of much during my sickness. Just sitting erect and trying to think was an exercise in pain endurance. Crushing boredom made me weary, though, and I did manage to scribble some words in a notepad, words which may in fact become the first chapter of that damn Max Beatty detective novel I've been wanting to write.

The idea behind Max Beatty, though multi-faceted, is this: I wanted to create a detective hero (ala Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Harry Bosch, Travis McGee, Easy Rawlins, etc) that I could use to write a series of books that 1) would ensure a lifetime of employment as a novelist and 2) would be an interesting addition to the long tradition of detective novels. Of course, there are a few tangental aims as well.

I want to do for Denver and the Colorado Rockies what Chandler did for LA with Marlowe, capture a time and place so perfectly that it resonates long after it becomes history. As far as I know, no major mysteries have been set in Denver. Yeah, okay, Perry Mason "moved" to Denver in LA when he had his TV show...mostly because shooting in Denver was cheaper. But when you think of Perry Mason, do you think of Denver? I hope not. Also some of the Father Dowling TV show was shot in Denver, too, but in the books, Father Dowling is a Chicago guy. I don't know if the show reflected that or not; never watched it.

There is, however, a Denver writer named Michael Stone who writes a hard-boiled series about a bounty hunter named Streeter, but I could never get into them. The sad thing is that the writing, while not dreadful, isn't even half as good as Chandler or Mosley. To digress a little, I think this is the problem: Michael Stone made a serious mistake when he chose to tell Streeter's stories in third person.

See, one of the biggest tools in a novelist's toolbox is a little thing called viewpoint. Viewpoint is as integral to storytelling as perspective is to drawing, and it's just as tricky. In a third person narrative, the narrator is often almost like the voice of God, all-knowing, all-seeing. In first person, which Chandler, Mosley, and my own Max Beatty uses, a character in the story serves as the narrator, restricting what we know and see to what passes through that character's brain. There are some drawbacks to this technique. For instance, it makes it difficult to relate scenes the main character did not participate in. In most stories, this wouldn't work. Imagine reading The Hunt for Red October solely from Jack Ryan's eyes. You wouldn't get the scenes with Ramius on the Red October, nor the scenes of the Dallas with Jonesy and Commander Mancuso. The intercutting between these individual viewpoints created a larger aggregate narrative that worked.

In some stories though, especially the detective story, this omniscient approach can be a disadvantage. Phillip Marlowe is rarely a witness to the crime, but he spends a couple hundred pages in each book trying to figure out whodunit. An omniscient narrator, by contrast, would know a red herring from a real clue and would have to engage in skillful manipulation to avoid divulging that to the reader. In a first person story, it's much different. As Marlowe discovers new aspects of the case, so does the reader. There is never a point where the audience knows something our narrator doesn't. We are, in a sense, vicariously experiencing the story along with our narrator. That is part of the fun of mystery novels. It works precisely because of the interplay between known and unknown, so an omniscient narrator who not only knows all but tells all does a mystery story no service.

And now back to Max Beatty...

Aside from contributing to the long tradition of first person narrator/hero PIs and vividly evoking Denver, another goal in the Max Beatty series is to add a personal element that's not quite autobiography, but still deeply rooted in my own experience and feelings. Of course, Max Beatty is not me, nor is he an idealized version of myself, but there's no reason that I can't use my own life to inform this fictional life I created. In a way, this personal material will serve a dual purpose, adding depth to the stories but also providing a form of authorial therapy for myself, getting my own demons out on paper, one of the side benefits of being a writer. Maybe that's a little self-indulgent, but the truth is any writer truly serious about the art and craft of writing needs to inject a fair dose of themselves in their work. It keeps things interesting.

Another thing I want to do with the Max Beatty books is to examine real crimes, adapting them in an almost "ripped from the headlines" Law and Order kind of way. My approach won't be so topical, nor will I have to come up with a new crime every week, but from the list of potential cases I have for Max Beatty, almost all of them are based on real crimes that happened here in CO, some more well known than others. For instance, the first book is loosely based on the crimes of Brent J. Brents, the pederast who terrorized Capitol Hill with a brutal rape spree not too long ago. Hopefully, adapting real crimes will lend a dose of authenticity to the plot lines, making it that much easier for the reader to lose themselves in Max Beatty's world.

So let's review...three main elements that I want to inform the whole Max Beatty series, some creative goals, if you will.

1) Vividly evoke life in the Mile High City, so much so that Max Beatty the detective and Denver the city are inextricably linked in the reader's mind.

2) Use locally-committed real crimes as the inspiration and thematic thrust for each book.

3) Inject Max's personality and life with elements of my own, careful not to make Max's character a faithful reflection of myself.

Once I post a draft of the first chapter, it will be easier to tell if I succeeded.