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Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Problem With the FCC

Whatever happened to Don Bluth? You don’t hear much anymore about the guy behind such animated classics as The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail. After wondering why, I went to his website and found the answer: Anastasia, Thumbelina, Bartok, and Titan AE, among others. If you churn out money-losing crap (Bartok, Titan AE) more often than you do the eternal gems (NIMH, Tail), you’re not going to stay in business very long. Sorry, Don. It’s just one of those things.

How would you like the be the guy who gets his ass kicked by Tommy Hilfiger? Yes, yes, I know. Fashion designers are tough guys, way more tougher than guys in rock bands. But still….I could take Tommy hopping on one foot with one hand tied behind my back. Do you know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re going to diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie.

I don’t usually read the Wall Street Journal, but I found a link somewhere to this story about FCC overreaching when it comes to indecency fines. It seems the networks aren’t taking the record fines dished out by the FCC laying down. Good! Who made the FCC the public arbiter of taste?

The interesting thing to me is that it’s blatantly clear that the FCC is in the pocket of a very small group of people who get their panties in a wad over….Bono saying the F-word. (I do agree with them on one point, though….the silicone monstrosity claiming to be Janet Jackson’s breast was indeed quite scary.) And who is this group, you ask? The Parent’s Television Council, which has been directing their members (Fans? Parents? Council members?) to send e-mail complaints to the FCC. And it’s quite a campaign, too.

The WSJ says:
“Last year, the FCC received 233,531 complaints about indecent broadcasts, compared with 346 in 2001.”
Yep, in 2001, they got less than one complaint a day. It was almost as if the entire fifth grade class of Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Pocatello, ID rose up and demanded a boob-free boob tube. (Okay, I made up the school….but I do believe Pocatello, ID is a real place.) When you compare the 346 complaints with the millions of viewers who watch television in any hourly bloc, it’s statistically clear that they are a minority so small they don’t even deserve to be called a minority. For instance, in November of last year, the top-rated network show was CSI, an hour long drama shown on one channel, with an estimated 29,456,000 viewers. (Here’s the chart.)

According to my math, the 346 complaints the FCC received for the entire 2001 calendar year works out to be about 0.001174633351439435% of the viewing audience of a single ONE-HOUR SHOW!!!

Maybe I’m just comparing apples and oranges (the viewing audience of one show in 05 compared to total complaints in 01), but even if you take last year’s total of complaints (233, 531) and compare it to that same hour (out of the 8,760 hours in 2005), it’s STILL less than one percent. (According to my calculations, the FCC whiners make up exactly 0.7928130092341119% of the viewing audience for a single show.)

Of course, I realize it’s somewhat insensitive to say to these people “GROW UP AND CHANGE THE FUCKING CHANNEL” but that’s what they need to hear. They are too statistically infinitesimal to have this much influence on the rest of us.

And just in case you don’t think they have influence, consider this:
PTC complaints were behind the record $3.6 million fine proposed in March against CBS affiliates for an episode of "Without a Trace," which featured a brief scene of a teen sex orgy. Of about 6,500 complaints filed against stations that received fines, all but three appeared to originate as computer-generated form letters, a Wall Street Journal review of the complaints found.
During the same November 05 week, Without A Trace hit number 4 on the Neilsen charts with a viewership of 20,784,000. The PTC’s 6500 robotic complaints represent about 0.03127405696689761% of Without A Trace’s audience (less than one percent!). And yet they were successful in getting the FCC to lobby a $3.6 million fine on CBS. Is that fair? I think not. Are they familiar with the concept of a remote control? Apparently not.

You’ve heard of tyranny of the majority. Welcome to the tyranny of the minority. (Hell, tyranny of the one percenters!)

Updated:

Perusing the PTC site, I found the handy-dandy link to make a complaint. Interestingly, it also provides the criteria for what the FCC considers to obscene. Check it:

The Courts have said that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time. To be considered obscene, material must meet a 3-prong test:

  1. An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient (arousing lustful feelings) interest;

  2. The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and

  3. The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

And here is a list of the shows that aroused "lustful feelings" and lacked "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value:"

The usual suspects:
That 70s Show
CSI
Without a Trace

And the stretches:
Father of the Pride (You've got problems if you're aroused by a cartoon)
Live 8 (You gotta be kidding me? No artistic or political value? Not even a little?)
The Billboard Music Awards
The VIBE Awards


And these are the clowns the FCC is beholden to?

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Problem With Books

Jeff Jarvis has some interesting thoughts on the future of books here. According to him, the book is dead. I disagree with that point, as I happen to have an unfortunate swooning love affair with books and I don’t see a future without them, but Jarvis does have quite a list of reasons to make that declaration:
The problems with books are many: They are frozen in time without the means of being updated and corrected. They have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources. They create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader. They try to teach readers but don’t teach authors. They tend to be too damned long because they have to be long enough to be books. As David Weinberger taught me, they limit how knowledge can be found because they have to sit on a shelf under one address; there’s only way way to get to it. They are expensive to produce. They depend on scarce shelf space. They depend on blockbuster economics. They can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches. They are subject to gatekeepers’ whims. They aren’t searchable. They aren’t linkable. They have no metadata. They carry no conversation. They are thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore. Print is where words go to die.
That’s scary news to someone like me who aspires to actually sell a book, not only to a publisher but also to multitudes of readers.

To be fair, I think Jarvis is talking about a certain type of book, presumably nonfiction books. If you look at some of the criticisms above, they simply don’t carry weight for the best of fiction. (Is it such a bad thing that The Sun Also Rises is “frozen in time?” Is the fact that the Harry Potter series isn’t searchable detrimental to its worth as literature? No.)

As for the publishing economy…no shit, that’s in trouble. It’s true, the publishing industry suffers under its “blockbuster economics” modus operandi, which relies on a few “hits” to justify all the other crap, but it’s not the only problem. Part of the problem, I think, is also price.

Book prices, like pretty much anything except for DVDs, have gotten out of hand. You know why I, a book lover who has thousands of books, don’t buy new hardcovers? Because they are expensive. I don’t buy too many new paperbacks either. They used to be in the $4 or $5 range, but now they’re more like $7 and $8. For the money, the many hours you will spend with a book may justify the cost, but we don’t live in a vacuum.

You can walk into any thrift store or used bookstore in the country two months after the latest John Grisham thriller is published and get a copy for half off or more. The same goes for Michael Chrichton and Stephen King, among many others. And for a guy with thousands of books, there’s not much urgency to rush out and get the latest hardcover. If nothing else, I can wait for the paperback, and even better, I’ll wait for the paperback to show up in the used book section of the local D.A.V.

Maybe I’m just a cheap bastard who wants to cut the publishers and the authors out of my reading economy. Or maybe I just get a better value from picking it up secondhand.

And that, my friends, is what I think is wrong with the book industry. If I was the publishing czar, this is what I would do:

  1. Immediately sign myself to a ten book, multi-million dollar publishing contract, complete with medical/dental plan and 401k. This will make sure that I have nothing to complain about for the rest of my life.

  2. Force publishers to immediately lower the price of all of their books by at least 25%, if not more. Yes, I recognize that this is a huge intrusion on the “free market” but I’m the publishing czar, which means I’m the boss, so I make the rules. To most consumers, books, frankly, cost too much. Who has $30 to spring on the newest hardcover? And if that book cost $29.95 to produce, let’s work on getting those costs down, huh? Use cheaper paper, smaller print, something. If the airlines can figure out a way to save millions by eliminating a single olive from their salads, publishers can figure out a way to make cheaper books. And if not, let this forced price reduction sink into their profit for a little while, see how it long it takes them to come up with some solutions.

  3. Advise all publishers to abandon the hardcover first, paperback next model in favor of simultaneous publication, allowing consumers to buy either edition on the day a book is released. I know this is revolutionary. This is going to change publishing as we know it. The Da Vinci Code is still in hardcover because it’s been atop the bestseller list for years. Why print a (cheaper) paperback version? It makes business sense to sell your product on a higher profit margin. But what about us, man? Some of us don’t want to pay $29.95 to read it. What, we have to wait until you have the house in Malibu AND the condo on Oahu before we get the $8 version? Publishers do this because they think it makes them more money, and it does…if you have a bunch of Da Vinci Codes. And let’s face it, most books simply aren’t going to have those kind of legs. Why not give the other books a chance? To put it in football terms, sometimes the Hail Mary works, but most coaches would recommend relying on a balanced offense, a running attack that opens the passing game. Right now, it’s all long balls.

  4. Quit paying famous people millions to write books. Do we really need a cookbook by Bobby Bacala? Or a novel by Nicole Ritchie? Whoever greenlighted those books surely had some idea that they would end up in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble, or worse, being returned unsold to the publisher. Those books might appear on the bestseller list for a while, but after a while they’re just like Kaiser Soze. Poof, and they’re gone. And I mean gone. Out of print and forgotten. I think it’s great that sports stars, TV personalities, movie stars, and comedians all write books. But I’m not too thrilled that publishers line up the big advances for books that have all the shelf life of sliced bread. In this new era in which I’m the boss, we’ll spread the wealth a little bit. Celebrity authors can sell pictures of their weddings and/or their babies to the tabloids if they need extra scratch. (I have long suspected many celebrities have the ability to conjure money out of thin air, but that’s beside the point.) From now on, the bulk of our payrolls will go towards paying actual writers. We’ll save millions and no celebrities will be harmed, I promise.

I don’t know if that will help the ailing publishing industry, but if the first thing on my list is implemented, well, I won’t be sad.

Rip Me Good

Again with the blog picture controversy.  My friend the dog lover asked me why I looked so angry in my new pic.  Maybe I do look angry, with the pursed lips and the intense look in my eye.  At least I don’t look like I got kicked in the nuts.

The Cat had me rolling with his post about the Bitches of Italktoomuch, a site that apparently specializes in snarky blog criticism.  His request was simple.  “Rip me good.”  I might have to submit my blog and see what punishment – if any – they can lay on me.

Rip me good, baby.

The Onion is always good for a laugh, too, and this week’s brief includes this hilarious piece:Ah, yes, I’m guilty of this too.  I cringe every time I write a shrug, but dammit, nonverbal communication is hard to describe.  Like most things, it’s best used in moderation.

In my boredom yesterday, I pounded out about thousand words of  Chapter Six.  That’s about two single spaced pages for those of you who care about these things, and I have to say, it was fun.  I ended Chapter Five with a cliff-hanger, and picked up right where I left off for the first scene of Chapter Six.  It’s taken a few days for my subconscious to organize what happens in the scene, so when I sat down to write it, it came out pretty easily.  The next part…well, I haven’t even thought of that yet.

One of the challenges that I’m dealing with as I write this book, and plot it out in my head, is balancing the two stories that I’m trying to tell.  One is the traditional story of private investigator/client, where some kind of crime has been committed and the PI follows the clues to get to the bottom of it.  But Poets Row is not your usual mystery, and it doesn’t follow that format.  In this story (can’t make any promises for later Max Beatty stories), there are no dead bodies, no big conspiracies, none of the things you would normally see in detective fiction.  So far, there hasn’t even been a crime.

That’s all by design, believe it or not, as the heart of the story isn’t the “crime” that so far hasn’t happened yet (which, all things considered, just might be a MacGuffin anyway).  The “real” story, what is supposed to be the emotional crux of the book, is the story of a disintegrating marriage.  The early chapters just hint at this theme, but it will become more and more important as the book develops, as the “crime story” and “the marriage story” intertwine in unique and unpredictable ways.  Making them fit together, though, is the hard part.  I could patch them together any ole way, employing George Lucas like plot hole epoxy, but I’d prefer to do it organically, so that these two very different stories end up being two halves of the same one.  

Whew…I just hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew with that one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

If you believe in love at first sight, which I hate to admit that I kind of do, then it's not all that unusual to fall in love with someone famous you've never met before. It happens to me all the time. Rosario, Sanaa, Natalie, Eva, and more, oh how I have loved you in my dreams!

Well, famous ladies, you have some competition. Today, I have a new amor. Her name, Lara Logan, intrepid CBS News reporter who has been making a name for herself because of her reporting from Iraq, some of which you can read here. There's a ten minute video of Lara, in flak jacket talking about conditions in Ramadi, that is worth watching, not only because she's absolutely mesmerizing, but because it's good reporting. Listen for the automatic gunfire in the background. It's chilling.

The Wash Post's Howie Kurtz has a fawning biographical profile here.

There's just something incredibly sexy to me about her passion and her guts. She's not just another pretty face. She's going out on patrol with the soldiers, reporting even as the bullets fly. And she looks good doing it! (Grandstanding for the cameras? Ha! You wanna see grandstanding? When the president flies onto an aircraft carrier and declares Mission Accomplished, now that's grandstanding.)

So, Lara darling, keep doing what you do, but keep your head down and come back safe.

Long Whip/Big America

I’ve been a fan of Corrosion of Conformity ever since I bought their 1991 album Blind on cassette for $3 at Don’s Discs (the mystical record store of my youth). I immediately fell in love with the whole record, and the band, and I haven’t let up since.

Included in the liner notes of the Blind record is a little paragraph on politics that has always stayed with me, and in some ways, probably informed my interest (obsession?) with politics.

It read:
“Politics is the control of wealth and power. You are being conditioned to condemn politics as petty and boring, thus granting all the more control to the powers that be. You are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. The choice is yours.”
After I read that, I viewed the world a little differently.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post. The other day, when I had to pick my car up from the shop, I had to take the bus…which meant of course I had to dig up my trusty Walkman. (I haven’t graduated into the iPod era yet.) I popped in one of my favorite COC tapes, Wiseblood, and started listening.

The song Long Whip/Big America came on, and while I marveled at how good it sounded (even on tape!) through my ear buds, it also occurred to me that the lyrics, even though they date back to 96, were wholly relevant to today. Some things never change…

So without further ado, here is Long Whip/Big America by Corrosion of Conformity. Listen to it, love it.
Long Whip/Big America

Saw the news today, some D.C. suit
Try to break away, said he lost another million
Just another old man trying to pass a buck
With his dirty hand, good thing he knows his bible

Stick his ass in hell
Even better in this tiny cell
Make him understand the meaning
Of these words they try to preach
Just to keep them out of the nation's reach
I guess it's all for the better

Take it all away, take me
Won't you take me far away
Hey, hey, hey, what's that game you play
Will it make me richer
'Cause I do not have a dime and I hate to waste your time
Maybe I'm wrong but I think this whip is too long

Now I was barely 21 laying in a ditch
With a lonely gun so I gave my heart away
But I got it back today in a velvet box stamped USA
Now all the neighbors call me hero, hero

I'm gonna lose my mind so I buckled down
And did some crime, but it wasn't when they taught me
Hit the road in high pursuit, now I'm on the run
Just like the suit, didn't know it was this easy

Take it all away, take me
Won't you take me far away
Hey, hey, hey what's this game you play
Will it make me a poor man
'Cause I got an extra dime but I lose it every time
Maybe I'm wrong but I think this whip is too long

Hey, hey, hey, what's that game you play
Will it make me richer
'Cause I do not have a dime and I hate to waste your time
Maybe I'm wrong but I think this whip is too long

No more, no more,
See I can't seem to find the time to crawl across the line
But I can't stay here till I die

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The End of Jonah Goldberg

Fucking Jonah Goldberg. If only we could all be as ignorant and well-paid. In his latest absurdity, Goldberg oversimplifies and deliberately distorts the views of Sam Harris, author of a hot-topic book called The End of Faith. You see, Harris “believes in the value of mystical experiences,” which Jonah equates with a belief in the “healing power of crystals.”

What poor Jonah doesn’t understand is the “mystical experience” is common to all humanity, in all cultures throughout time, and some scientists believe we are genetically hardwired to have them. Whether it’s genetics, or just the consequence of having an incomplete knowledge of the universe and its ways, I think it’s this “mystical” experience, the God experience, that religion owes its development. I can imagine the first man looking into the sky and realizing the awesome force that placed the stars there. He may have called that force by a name or anthropomorphized it into a more recognizable symbol, but he sensed it.

Believing in the value of mystical experiences doesn’t mean that you believe in reincarnation or Gaia theory. It just means you recognize one of the things that makes us human: the notion of divinity.

Which is why Goldberg’s knee-jerk defense of “traditional” religion in the face of these weird “mystical experiences” is really quite funny. Where does he think that “tradition” comes from? And another thing, what makes it so “traditional” in the first place? I assume he’s talking about Christianity (since he mentioned, and capitalized, the Resurrection of Jesus), rather than say, a more ancient faith like Buddhism or, god forbid, paganism.

Let us not forget, Jonah, that Western Civilization was started by people who believed in the Olympian gods.

Our Unlegally Documented AG

One of the reasons that I can’t really get my panties in a bunch over this illegal immigration thing is this: These people come to the country, and maybe they don’t learn the language and maybe they just clean toilets for the rest of their lives, but they have children, and those children grow up integrated into America, one foot in each culture, and they even go on to do great things, become doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and maybe even become the Attorney General of the United States.

When asked by Wolf Blitzer about his family history, Alberto Gonzalez could neither confirm nor deny whether his grandparents immigrated from Mexico legally. Here’s the video of the exchange, (courtesy of Think Progress) and you just gotta love the transcript. Unlegally? The American Dream?

If this was in a screenplay, the movie would never get made. You just couldn’t make this shit up.
Wolf: Were they legally documented? Were they unlegally documented?
Gonzalez: You know, it’s unclear. It’s unclear. I’ve looked at this issue. I’ve talked to my parents about it and it’s just not clear. But in any event, my mother had a 2nd grade education, my father had a 2nd grade education, my mother had a sixth grade education. My father worked construction, and so for me, my life represents the American dream.

Dispatches in the War on Terror

Georgia10 from Daily Kos argues that we may have already lost the War on Terror, not militarily, but spiritually.
This is post-9/11 America: a nation that asserts the unquestionable authority to torture detainees, to launch a pre-emptive war, to keep humans locked up for years without trial, to force citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights in "free speech zones" the size of postage stamps, to ignore 750 laws, to ignore the civil liberty protections enacted in the wake of Watergate, to conduct surveillance on Americans without a warrant, to eternally preserve a record of every domestic call, to pry into the privacy of a free press, and to gag the mouths of whistleblowers with threats of reprisal.
Dude has a point. Still, I don’t buy all this “War on Terror” bullshit. To me, it’s a nebulous meaningless conflict that was lost as soon as it was declared.

Dan Simmons, one of my favorite writers, who doesn’t have a blog but does write a monthly “message,” has some interesting thoughts on the subject. Last month’s message raised a few eyebrows, mine included, when Simmons envisioned a world where Al Qaeda had won and the United States had been Islamicized. The thing that struck me about it was how implausible it all sounded. The United States, Islamicized? Yeah, right.

But in this month’s message, Simmons explains that this was his intent all along. He points out, quite wisely I think, how implausible WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and all the rest would have been to someone in, say, 1906. Who can say if the world won’t end up like the nightmare vision in Dan’s tale of the Time Traveler? However the 21st Century turns out, it will have been completely unpredictable to those of us living today.

Here’s how Simmons dissects 9-11.
Not enough commentaries have been written about the absolute stupidity and uselessness of the 9/11 attacks—specifically about them being absolutely stupid and useless even from a sane global jihadist’s point of view. While an attack on the Pentagon might be rationalized in military or Clausewitzean terms, the more successful attack on the World Trade Center was totally devoid of real military or strategic value. There were no follow-up attacks. The attacks were part of no greater plan. The slaughter of 3,000 American civilians did absolutely nothing to further any jihadist "goals"—whether it be the removal of American troops from "sacred Muslim soil" or the weakening of the Arab regimes that were the jihadists’ real enemies.
This is where the dissembling starts. I think every rational person can look at the attacks and say they accomplished nothing but unnecessary death and destruction, and rational beings assume there must be some rational reason for it, that they “hate our freedom” or want to destroy America. But Simmons recognizes that there is something else at work behind the 9-11 attacks, something less dependent on our juiciness as a target. He calls it the power of “transformative beliefs,” that is, that if you give your life in the jihad, you will be rewarded as a martyr.

He writes:
The innocents who must die mean nothing—literally nothing [not even targets, Ed.]—to the 9/11 hijackers or to the suicide bombers in Palestine or in Iraq or to the Al Qaeda operatives planning the next bombing in Madrid or London or elsewhere. It is their martyrdom—their magical transformation and their immediate ascendance into paradise—that is first and last in their minds, even unto the moment of impact or detonation, and if the Caliphate just happens to be restored through the transformative magic of their martyrdom or the Cause of destroying and supplanting Israel incidentally furthered, so much the better.
In essence, these terrorists are essentially self-deluded sociopaths slave to a hateful ideology. Here’s more:
How hard it was after 9/11 (and 7/7 in London) for anyone in the non-Islamic West—either the decriers or the apologists for these acts of barbarism—to understand that the goal of the attacks was not the destruction of the World Trade Center towers or of the Pentagon or the London Underground, but was the transformative acts of the suicides themselves. The ensuing destruction and death—including what bin Laden later acknowledged was the surprising collapse of the Twin Towers themselves—amounted to a bonus.
Read the whole thing. It’s very interesting. It reminded me, as it’s easy to forget, that this “War on Terror” thing isn’t one of those “invade and occupy” type operations. It’s going to take a lot more brainpower than firepower, and it’s not going to be won by tapping phones and torturing people.

Of course, leave it to the novelist to put it all in perspective.

Daily Sermon

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dumb Idea of the Day

I had a vision of the future, ladies and gentleman, and if somehow this idea could be harnessed, it will change our world forever.  Worker productivity would triple, costs would go down, wages would rise, and we would live in a true utopia.

You’ve heard of a GUI, right?  They come in handy when you don’t know a lot of complicated computer code, but for the most part they’re pretty boring.  If you ever had a job where your main application was a GUI, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s the system.  You type stuff into it and it does stuff.  Yawn.

Let’s say your job is provisioning telecom circuits.  You sit at a computer all day, pushing buttons on your boring GUI, but you don’t actually go anywhere or touch anything.  You’re just manipulating bits of information.  This circuit goes here, this circuit goes there.

What if someone was smart enough to design a game, like say World of Warcraft, that would allow you to manipulate that same information, but instead of being some drone typing into dialog boxes and scrolling through drop-down menus, you become a knight, fighting off dragons and picking up gold?  What if your boring mundane job could be made exciting by using pre-programmed avatars in virtual world of imagination?

I don’t see why it couldn’t be done in theory.  It would depend on your job, of course, but if someone was humane enough to try it, I think it just might work.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Chapter Five

My apologies for the delay, but Chapter Five of Poets Row is now up.  Aside from devoting my time to other endeavors (some of which have been recorded on the blog), I also had a bit of a story…uh, issue.  Actually, it was more of an opportunity.

As I write Poets Row, I have a general idea of where I’m going and certain things that will happen, but in a sense, I’m discovering the story as I go.  Everything is pliable.  About halfway through the writing of Chapter Five, I had an idea which was too good to discard, and well…I won’t spoil it for you.

And in case you don’t want to read in complete silence, I have conveniently provided a “soundtrack” below.

Shout at the Devil
Ain’t Talkin Bout Love
Fascination Street

Enjoy.

Car Repairs and a Mother's Love

So last night I’m driving home from Mom’s house and my car takes a stutter.  It freaked me out, not only because the prospect of walking home seemed grim, but because of the cost of a tow and expensive repairs.  Thankfully, I was able to get home…but today, the car’s in the shop.

There’s a list of a few things that I need to get fixed.  My trunk wouldn’t lock after my golf outing the other week, which made using my bike rack an inconvenience, not to mention making me the dumbass on the road with a flapping trunk.  The CV joint has been going out since the last time I brought it in, so I’m getting that fixed too.  I’ve also been worried about a possible leak in the cooling system, spurred by curious smells and the occasional puddle on the driveway.  

The guy at the shop said that the problem I encountered last night could have just been bad gas (is there any other kind?), and I hope he’s right.  Bad gas is better than say, a bad tranny, or a bad fuel injector, or any number of other expensive, scary things.

Big props to Mom for offering to pay for it all…She also brought me her old lawn mower since mine was broken.  And this doesn’t count the bookshelves, the food, or the other sundries she's given me recently.  What have I done to be a son to an angel?

And now onto the larger world outside my spoiled mama’s boy existence:  

Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post consistently cracks me up.  Even I can laugh at myself.

I spent a good portion of the morning reading a short online book called The Conservative Nanny State:  How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer by Dean Baker.  I skimmed some part and read through other parts more carefully.  I wish I could say it coherently puts forth Baker’s case, but I’m not sure “coherent” would be the right adjective.  I found myself agreeing with a lot of it, especially the parts about CEO pay and copyright/patent monopolies, but Dean needs an editor or something.  He’s not very quotable.  Still, it’s a good skim.

In sports news, here’s a headline you don’t see every day.  It’s not the “Doug Flutie Retires” part either.  Athletes retire every year, but not too many do it after two decades in their sport.  That kind of longevity is admirable, especially from a little guy like Flutie.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Flash Fiction Friday - On Sunday, Even

FFF#36 – Elizabethan Edition

A cool breeze licked the back of her neck and Kate turned to slap it across the cheek. It was best not to get fresh with Kate. She had a low tolerance for such tasteless public displays of affection, even from cool nor’easters blowing in from the Atlantic.

Today was a particularly trying day for Kate as today was the day of her betrothal, an event that would send most women of Kate’s age scurrying about excitedly like rats in a well stocked cellar, but was sending Kate into a furious depression. For Kate, this was going to be an excruciating ordeal, not least because her suitors seemed more intent on wooing her father’s fortune than her own affection.

Her reputation proceeded her like a foul smell. Her moods were known to be tempests so furious that the only thing left in her wake were emotional shipwrecks, and yet suitor after suitor approached, only to shrink away like violets in the hot sun after spending a few precious minutes in her presence. Not even the promise of land and title, nor that of a generous purse, was enough to convince them to tolerate Kate’s caustic personality.

But then one man rose to the challenge, a guy named Pete who bore a striking resemblance to a young Richard Burton. With his barrel chest, intoxicating wit, and steel-toed determination, Pete proved to the one man capable of enjoying his time with Kate. Before long (in less than an hour, actually) Pete had not only tolerated Kate’s bold attitude, he had completely reshaped it, transforming a stormy enfant terrible into a compliant lapdog.

They got married, and everyone else got drunk.

On the Same Page

So I’m reading some blogs this morning and I came across this graph on Digby’s blog:
This is why the establishment is becoming irrelevant. It isn't a game to us hicks out here in America. This is our lives these people are talking about.
It reminded me of something I wrote on the blog not too long ago:
Personal ambition and political glory can be good things. But we’re talking about our lives here, our very society, not some overachiever’s personal playground.
This is just another case of something I’ve written about showing up in the larger media. For instance, I wrote this post about the Dukestir, where I made this joke:
When you spend all day whoring out your public office, it’s only natural that some of that’s going to bleed into your private life. You know what they say: It’s hard out here for a pimp.
Later that week, I watched Bill Maher’s show and he used the same “hard out here for a pimp” joke in his opening monologue.

Coincidence? Or are media elites cribbing content from my blog?

Okay, okay, that’s more like a Fox News type rhetorical question. “Are illegal immigrants hurting America? Here’s Bill O’Reilly with more.” I already know the answer.

The truth is that it’s a major coincidence. Our shared culture has resulted in independent, yet similar, thoughts. Who else immediately thought of “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” when they heard about Duke Cunningham being involved in hookers? Surely myself and Bill Maher aren’t the only ones. That’s, dare I say, an obvious joke.

It’s also obvious to point out that politics is not a game, although it is often played like one, as myself and Digby mentioned. Yes, there are winners and losers, but more is at stake than bragging rights and the championship trophy.

I’d hate to live in world where I was the only one who felt that way.