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Friday, December 27, 2013

Writing With Horsepower

I've been making a conscious effort to work on the more creative writing, as opposed to blogging, that I consider my specialty.  I've got a good four or five projects swimming around in my head in various stages of development and the sad fact is that is where they will stay unless I make the effort the write them down.

After reading that god-awful story I blogged about the other week, I looked back on a story I've been working on for what seems like years, and I don't want to say I was impressed with myself, but it was pretty clear to me that what I had in my first draft was better written than what was published in that's story's final draft version.

Here's an example of the (pedestrian) writing from the unnamed author's awful story:
There had come a time when Margaret became sick of dieting and sick of being plain.  Once she'd made quite a success of herself in the advertising business, she could afford to give her entire body, from face to feet, a complete workover.  And she did.  Plastic surgery, liposuction, tucks here and there;  her lips were injected with collagen, her eyes were improved, her chin and cheekbones were enhanced and her breasts were enlarged.  

Et cetera.  You may have read that and thought to yourself, "I don't know what you're talking about, dude.  Maybe you're being too critical.  That's not too awful."

Maybe.  But this is why I think that's weak writing:  It's redundantly wordy and artless.  Just in case you were unsure of what the author meant when he wrote "her entire body," he's there to clarify that he means "from face to feet."  And yes, it's true if you give your "entire" body a workover "from face to feet" of course it's going to be "complete." 

And to make matters worse, the author knows his vague adjectives are not pulling the weight, which is why he goes into specifics about the plastic surgery, lipo, and other procedures, descriptions of which are no less vague or artless.  "Tucks here and there," somewhere on her "entire body" I'm guessing.  "Her eyes were improved."  What the fuck does that mean?  And you mean to tell me that when she got her breast enlargement surgery, "her breasts were enlarged?"  Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Anyway, in my own writing, I try very hard to make every word count.  I don't like using unnecessary, non-descriptive adjectives, and I don't like pointing out the obvious.  Excessive detail is not always a good thing.  Sometimes it's just excessive. 

At any rate, below is an excerpt from my current work-in-progress, tentatively titled The Losing End.  It's a crime story about a gang of con artists unraveling at the seams as they learn the true price of betrayal.  After the jump, I'll post a somewhat lengthy excerpt.  It's still in draft form and rough in some places, but one thing I hope you'll notice is that, despite being almost 500 words long, it's rather lean and efficient, at least compared to the example I cited above.

So click below to read it:

A Brave New World

Data mining can be a little scary.  Witness the brouhaha over NSA spying.  But it can also be useful, as can be seen in these new e-reading services that track reading habits.

Check this out:
Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. Some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.
 The whole point, of course, is to help publishers give people what they want, which --and this is only my opinion-- they kind of suck at now.   Publishers seems content trying to squeeze more and more money out of fewer and fewer readers, not even trying to make some kind of sustainable reading culture that cuts a wide swath.  Publishers are slaves to trends, never leading, always following.   They operate as if the whole point of their enterprise is to make books look impressive on store shelves.  The reading part....ah, who cares as long as book sells?


"Paranormal romance" may just be a buzz word for a horror novel that is not scary, but it now has it's own section at Barnes and Noble.  The old horror section, on the other hand, no longer exists. 

And "young adult novels?"  What a joke.  Absent the the bogus marketing distinction, most "young adult novels" would just be considered genre novels with broad all-ages appeal.  These books are just shorter, more tightly written versions of the "adult-adult" crap almost no one reads.

Where does a guy go if he wants to read an adventure story that's around 200 pages?  You go to the "young adult" section and hope you find one that's not too dumbed down or you troll thrift stores and used bookshops looking for old paperbacks from the 50s and 60s.  You go looking for Louis L'Amour, John D. Macdonald, Alister Maclean. 


Or you can read the poorly written 400 page monstrosities puked up by a guy with two more books left on his contract.  John D. Macdonald wrote two books a year.  He didn't take two months off to fly to Hong Kong for "research" and he didn't fluff up his word count rehashing that "research."  He wrote books that were meant to be read.

I can think of no better improvement to the book biz than if they spent more energy publishing books that are meant to be read.  This Scribd service may help them do that.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bukowski and Lansdale

Got an Amazon gift card for Christmas and first thing I got was the new story collection from Joe R. Lansdale, Bleeding Shadows.  Looking through the Table of Contents, I have read precisely none of these.

Included, for the first time ever, are some poems.  Champion Joe explains:
And then I went to my Charles Bukowski collection.  I had his prose, and I really enjoyed his novels and short stories.  I think Bukowski was a bit of a bullshitter and the kind of guy I wouldn't have liked much in person, but I did enjoy his work.  He wrote simply and clearly and about things a lot of writers would be afraid to touch.  I had a book that had his poetry mixed in with some prose, and I started reading.  Something clicked.  I liked his poetry.  A lot.
So he wrote a few himself.  I can't really judge the Lansdale poems.  Some are funny, and one about writer's block I identify with, but I'm not a poetry guy.

I have, however, had this same experience with Bukowski's poems.  He makes it look easy.

Remember this Levi's commercial?  Watch it now as a short film:



The Laughing Heart
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.
I've always liked this one, too:

Five Reasons Why "Miami Vice" Is Not a Good Movie

1)  The cast.  Jamie Foxx as Tubbs was smart.  Naomie Harris, a criminally underemployed actress from England, is excellent as Trudy.  But Colin Farrell as Sonny?  To hide his Irish accent, he lowered his voice an octave or two.  It doesn't work.  And then there's the unfortunate hair decisions:  the droopy Morgan Spurlock mustache, the mullet.  He looks, and sounds, out of place.  But he comes off way better than Gong Li, a beautiful woman and excellent actress who nevertheless does not speak English

The producers would have been wise to hire an English-speaking actress to overdub her dialogue.  I'm guessing few people would have noticed.  Or, here's a revolutionary idea, allow her to speak Chinese.  Subtitles are not the deal breaker they used to be, and that could have been used for dramatic effect.

Since Sonny can drive Go-Fast boats, fly planes, engage in tactical operations, surely it wouldn't stretch the imagination too far if he also speak Chinese, which would have given him reason to hook up with Gong Li's character --they speak the same language-- much more than the one that director Michael Mann gave them:  These are my leads and I need a romantic sub-plot.

Yes, a goofy lifeless one in which your male lead looks and sounds ridiculous and your female lead speaks in an unintelligble phonetic pidgin.

2)  The plot.  I've seen this movie more than five times now, and I still don't think I can summarize what's going on.  There's the Aryan Brotherhood.  There's Columbian drug dealers operating out of Cuba.  (Maybe they're Cuban?)  There's an FBI taskforce teaming up with city cops that apparently have unlimited budget resources.  Yes, I realize it's a bit silly to watch a crime movie and wonder about who's doing the accounting for all the smuggling boats and the jets, but it's hard not to when you have undercover Miami cops who have the equipment and permission (!) to engage in major Sealand battles.

3)  Michael Mann.  Don't get me wrong.  I thoroughly enjoy Michael Mann movies, but I've seen enough of them to also thoroughly not enjoy his weaknesses.  He's got a keen eye for the visually striking image.  His subject matter --cops and killers-- is always interesting.  I've always liked his penchant for realistic gun violence. 

But he always has to work in some lukewarm romantic subplot, almost like he's chasing the success of The Last of the Mohicans, whose romantic subplot worked so well precisely because it wasn't lukewarm.  You cried when Daniel Day Lewis saved Madeline Stowe from the evil Indians in Mohicans.  Bet you didn't do anything but blink when Colin Farrell said goodbye to a weeping Gong Li in Miami Vice.

4)  The lack of humor.  This has been a problem for Michael Mann during his entire career.  I mean, I really enjoyed Ali, but Michael Mann had Will Smith (!) playing Muhammad Ali (!) and it's never funny?  What a wasted opportunity.  Ali was a great boxer and an inspiration, but he was also a very funny man.  You don't have to make the damn thing a comedy to have some lightness to it.

Just look at Schindler's List.  It's perhaps the most gut-wrenching movie about the Holocaust ever made, but sprinkled in all that monochrome organized murder are some funny moments.  The humor enhances the drama. 

I think the last funny moment in a Michael Mann movie was when Al Pacino talked about Ashley Judd's "GREAT ass!" in Heat, and that was not only improvised by Pacino, it was almost twenty years ago.

5)  Style over Substance.  Yes, Mann pioneered using HD digital cameras to "see into the night."  Yes, he's great at finding exotic locations.  I really do have a soft spot for those magic hour shots of someone staring out onto a body of water.  Really beautiful.

But I've watched less-beautiful movies with more heart.  I've watched dumber movies with more heart.  But the only movies I've seen that are so slick, so well-made and so emotionally cold are movies made by Michael Mann.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Raid: Redemption

It's Christmas, so I'm automatically thinking of Die Hard.  But instead of rehashing what I love about that movie, I'd like to introduce you to another action flick set in a high-rise that has nothing to do with Christmas or Bruce Willis.

That movie is The Raid: Redemption, a brutal cops versus gangsters story from Indonesia.  There's not much to it: a SWAT team raids a high-rise occupied by a gang that's not afraid to fight back.  There's a whiff of a subplot about corrupt officials, but it's mostly just fighting.

Gun fights, knife fights, hand to hand battles.  Guys jumping out of windows and improvising explosives.  A kind of Indonesian Die Hard.

This scene gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.  Warning:  Not for the faint of heart.

These guys took it to another level. My favorite part is when he smashes a guy's skull down the wall, breaking the light and all the tiles.  Just boom, boom, boom, BAM.

This movie belongs in the canon of cinematic ultraviolence and will probably show up on "Top Ten Fight Scenes in Movies" lists until they stop making fight scenes in movies.



And that...is my Christmas gift to you.  Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hippie Punching - Hopi Edition

My liberal nemesis Alyssa Rosenberg highlighted a heartwarming story of how the Annenberg Foundation secretly bought up a trove of Hopi artifacts in order to return them to the Hopi instead of ending up in the hands of private or institutional collectors.

And hey, good for the Annenberg Foundation and good for the Hopi.  There is a long and storied history of First Nations cultures literally being pillaged for their artifacts in this country, so I can certainly understand the Hopi desire to get that stuff back and the desire on behalf of Annenberg to help out.

But there is a downside.  Giving this stuff back virtually guarantees that it will never be seen again by non-Hopi eyes.  Indeed, I think the only thing the Hopi will do with these artifacts is to either destroy them outright or bury them in some hole to slowly rot into dust.

A couple things bug me about Alyssa's report. 

She, and everyone else associated with it, take the Hopi religious claims at face value.  "These masks are living spirits."  And hey, I'm not saying that the Hopi don't believe the masks are living spirits, what I'm saying is that whatever the Hopi believe about these masks, they're not going to tell you.


They have such an inscrutably different culture than us that we literally cannot comprehend it.  The "living spirits" thing is the English translation, and it leaves out all the little nuances and complications that only someone raised Hopi would understand.

But what really bugs is that she first accepts, again at face value, the religious interpretation of these objects, she starts referring to them later as "art."

The Hopi don't consider this to be "art."  Don't talk to them about "art."  These are tools they use in their own spiritual reality, not "art" works.  They serve (or served, since they were later expropriated by relic hunters) a religious purpose.  Decorations they ain't. 


Indeed, I suspect the main reason the Hopi wanted these objects back is so they would not end up on somebody's wall as "art."  Hate to say it, they're kind of weird that way.

They've been living up on their mesas since the 14th century, long before any bearded European stepped foot in the New World, and have endured the Spanish Empire, the Mexican Empire, as well as the American empire.  Before that, they lived in the Four Corners area, building huge monumental buildings, including the ones at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.  They started doing that in the 9th century.

They're an impressive lot, the Hopi, but they're not a group that a well-meaning liberal should jump to defend.  For one, they're kind of racist.  And hey, I understand.  Racism is taught, and the white man has been giving free lessons since 1492. 

A non-Hopi entering a Hopi village essentially has no rights, a policy that would make liberal hairs curl if it was implemented in the South.





The Hopi are squeamish about photographs, and video recordings, and tape recordings.  They don't want to be Disneyland, so they don't let you take them. 


New Age creepsters have imitated them and distorted their mythologies for so long, now they don't want their stuff to show up at department stores stamped Made in China.  Lucky for them, they're a sovereign nation.

They can do that kind of thing if they want to.  That doesn't mean you have to give them a high five.

Friday, December 20, 2013

America...Fuck Yeah

This joke is not mine, but on the occasion of Utah (Utah!) being the 18th state in the union to recognize gay marriages, someone posted this:
Gay marriage is now legal in every state where Mitt Romney owns a home.
Speaking of Mitt Romney, Netflix will be releasing a behind the scenes documentary of the Romney campaign.


As a political junkie who also likes (well-made) documentaries, I can't wait to see it.

Busted

This hipster dude is a hero.

I can't believe that the robber would be so brazen as to walk up to a guy, put a gun in his face, and just expect to be accommodated.  Serves him right.

He plead not guilty, by the way.  Good luck with that.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Writing Advice Ever

Irish author Paul Lynch provides the cliff notes version on how to be a writer.  It came in paragraph form, but I'm breaking it up into bullet points:
  • That reading is more important than writing. That reading the classics matters. That if reading for you is not narcotic, quit now while you are ahead. (Why would you want to write a book when you don’t read them?)
  • That you should write the novel you want to read, not the one you think you can write.  Write the book you think you can’t write—for writing is the act of pushing past yourself.
  • Do not care for what the establishment wants because the establishment is built of writers who once set out to dismantle it. Learn that if your writing sounds establishment, it is already dead.
  • Write dangerously. Write for the deepest part of yourself. Never write looking over your shoulder.
  • Accept failure as the essence of process and rewrite your way through it.
  • Learn discipline. Learn self-reliance.
  • Write past your limits—that every draft is more intelligent than its predecessor. You will be a smarter writer when you finish your first draft. By the time you finish your tenth draft, your writing will be smarter than you.
  • Learn to read your writing objectively.
  • Learn to read your writing aloud, for it allows you to hear your writing as if another wrote it.
  • Learn that tone is everything. Spend however long it takes finding the song for your book. And then keep going back to those perfected early pages to remind yourself how your book is supposed to sound.
  • Learn to get closer to what you are writing about. Learn to get closer to truth. Ask yourself all the time, am I close enough? Can I get it tighter?
  • Learn to cut. Learn to cut what’s left. Learn to get your writing to the point at which you cannot better it. That is the time to show it to somebody else.
  • Learn to trust your opinion and know what you want. But know there is a time for good counsel.
  • Learn to be kind to yourself, because writing is hard and it will bash you up.
  • Learn that you are not in competition with other writers. That your only competition is time, which is the truest judge.
Some of these I follow instinctively and naturally.  Others take more effort. 

I'm a merciless cutter, which I suspect is a struggle for many writers, but this same merciless quality shows up when it's time to be kind to myself, which I rarely am. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reading Bad Short Stories

I've been reading this story, just a short story, and it's awful.  I mean, really bad.  I could skip it but then I would never know just how truly awful it is.

So a lady is driving across the desert to visit her cancer-inflicted sister in the hospice. Along the way, she has a close encounter with a UFO, "almond-shaped eyes" and everything.  The weird thing is that we get pages and pages of setup and backstory, all this internal monologue and excessively detailed description, and then when we get to the aliens, it's just a few paragraphs of alien contact, then bloop...cut to the next scene at the hospital.

Now maybe I'm just impatient, but I don't think it's really cool to make your reader sit through pages of nonsense before you get to the interesting part of your story, not that an alien encounter is all that interesting.  I mean, I hope to God all that stuff about how she was fat in high school is going to come back into play later.  Otherwise, why did I just read it?

Leave that shit in the notebook, man. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Invictus

Nelson Mandela died.  Nearly everything I know about him came from the movie Invictus, where this poem sustained him through his long years of imprisonment.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
I want to tattoo that on my eye-lids so I can read it in my sleep.  
Out of the night th
Out of the night th
Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

Commuting in the Cold

The train was crowded this morning.  I stood the whole way from Dry Creek all the way downtown.  No one was getting off.  They were just getting on, every stop a new face in the crowd.

I was relieved to get off, but by the time I walked the two blocks to my bus transfer, I wanted to get moving again.  It was cold.  Cooooold.

I'm wearing my trench coat and my parka.  I've got my babushka hat and my gloves, faux fur and cotton.   I was pretty bundled up, but I was COLD.

The bus driver made me sick, of course.  I was still a couple of miles away from my block and I just had to close my eyes, hang my head, and focus on breathing.  The faux fur in my babushka hat started to grow damp with sweat.  Real fur would have wicked it away.


I think I'm going to drive tonight.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Broncos - For the Win

I wasn't too disappointed when the Broncos lost to the Patriots in overtime last week.  If it was a play-off game, it would have been a debacle:  the blown lead, being clipped off by a field goal in OT.

But as one of two losses on the season, I could handle it.

This week was the real test, though.  We handed Kansas City their first loss earlier this year and this time going into Arrowhead, both teams licking their paws but eyeing that division title?  Out of all the match-ups this year, this one would be the most significant.

And the Broncos tore it up.  I can't call Eric Decker "Drop" anymore.  My doubts about Knowshon Moreno's character or talent have dried up.

At the end of this game, we not only say perched atop the AFC West, but atop the AFC generally.  We have scored the most points for by far than any other team in the league.  Our points against are average.  We have more touchdowns than anyone, a perfect record at home, and the second-best record in the NFL.

That, and we have a Hall of Fame quarterback.  I'm not making any predictions, any given Sunday and all that, but the Super Bowl is only going to be interesting if we're playing in it.

Oh, and on Mike Tomlin -

I always thought he was a pretty straight-up, competent dude.  When I first saw the footage of his little sideline move, I thought it was completely innocent. 

Having seen other angles, I'm not so sure.  You have him stepping towards the field, yes, but the key for me is that little look over his shoulder.  That indicates he knew exactly where he was in relation to the play, even if he didn't realize his foot was actually on the field.

He was trying to interfere with the play, so this stuff about it being unintentional is bunk.  It's too bad, really.  I used to respect the guy.

Khaaan!

This is going to hurt my geek street cred, but I'm not totally enamored with everything J.J. Abrams related, and indeed, when I read he "made a mistake" on Star Trek 2, I was curious to hear what that he thought that was.

While I was able to enjoy the movie on the second time I saw it, I would have to agree:  Mistakes were made.

The mistake he thinks he made:  Not revealing that Khan was the villain.

Says Abrams:
"The truth is I think it probably would have been smarter just to say upfront 'This is who it is.' It was only trying to preserve the fun of it, and it might have given more time to acclimate and accept that’s what the thing was," Abrams said."
Actually, Mr Abrams, it would have been smarter not to use Khan at all.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Common Sense

I highly recommend former Romney voters to read this piece:
Entrepreneurs and investors like me actually don't create the jobs—not sustainable ones, anyway. Yes, we can create jobs temporarily, by starting companies and funding losses for a while. And, yes, we are a necessary part of the economy's job-creation engine. But to suggest that we alone are responsible for the jobs that sustain the other 300 million Americans is the height of self-importance and delusion.

So, if rich people do not create the jobs, what does? A healthy economic ecosystem —one in which most participants (the middle class) have plenty of money to spend.
Also this:

With the more than $9 million a year Hanauer keeps, he buys lots of stuff. But, importantly, he doesn't buy as much stuff as would be bought if his $9 million were instead earned by 9,000 Americans each taking home an extra $1,000 a year. Why not? Because, despite Hanauer's impressive lifestyle—his family owns a plane—most of the $9 million just goes straight into the bank (where it either sits and earns interest or gets invested in companies that ultimately need strong demand to sell products and create jobs). For example, Hanauer points out that his family owns only three cars, not the 3,000 cars that might be bought if his $9 million were spread out over a few thousand families.
Something to think about.

More Walmart Stuff

Walmart has gotten a lot of attention this holiday season not for their great Black Friday sales but for their exploitative business practices.

Yesterday, the CEO of Wal-Mart went on CNN to talk about Black Friday. It was a fairly hostile interview, with Don Lemon (I believe) asking him questions about the protests, about opening on Thanksgiving, about worker pay, etc.

The CEO acquitted himself honorably and made several decent points. He justified opening on Thanksgiving as a service to the public. Understandable. He said they paid holiday pay. He said the Walmart leadership were on the job too, not just the proles. (I bet the stores with C-level execs on site were on their A game.)

But he also said some things that, upon reflection, justified the tough questions. He said something like, "50% of our workforce are full-time employees."

Um, if you wanted to dispel the notion that working at Walmart cannot provide you with a living, pointing out that half your workforce are part-timers is not helping. You run a full-time business with a half-time workforce? It's an implicit admission that you're embracing the whole McJob concept.

Which is why it's funny I saw this commercial:


The funniest thing is that it directs you to a website called theREALwalmart.com, that doesn't mention all the stock-buybacks that have enriched the Walton family heirs, doesn't mention the tax breaks and eminent domain rulings that have fueled their aggressive expansion plans, doesn't mention that half their work-force are part-timers making peanuts.

 Instead, they provide us with heart-warming stories like Kevin's:
I started at Walmart as a cart-pusher with a high school education. I've worked my way up to store manager, and through the Lifelong Learning Program, I got my bachelors degree in management in 2012.
That's just crying out for a "results not typical" disclaimer.

Truth is, companies that are stocked with talented people duly rewarded for their efforts, they don't need to run PR campaigns like this. Their employment policies speak for themselves.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Really?

So apparently the waitress who was allegedly denied a tip because she's a lesbian made the whole thing up. That's me, being a sucker. I still think restaurants should stop accepting tips, though. Not only will it prevent the asshole tip commentary, it will also prevent dishonest liars from hoaxing everyone on the internet.

The Weird Wild World of Pro Sports

Try as I might, I cannot fully hate pro sports, even though deep down, I really want to. As a business, it's mostly a scam. But as a cultural institution, I think pro sports are not only desirable but also kind of necessary.

But this is absurd. The headline says it all:
Andrew Wiggins would’ve been the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Instead he’s working for free while NBA teams lose on purpose to get him.
But I think this unpacks it a bit better:
His draft position cannot improve, nor can his negotiating power, since the NBA’s rookie salary structure mandates the terms of his contract. Some will argue that a year of exposure at Kansas will increase his star power, but hop on over to the KU online store and you can already buy an official NCAA-licensed Andrew Wiggins replica jersey for $55; his name’s not on the back and he won’t see a cent from the sales, but his star power is doing just fine. Adidas is reportedly preparing a $100 million-plus endorsement contract for him, and Nike is ready to match it—but not quite yet, not until he declares himself a pro.

In the meantime, we’ll attentively track the “riggin’ for Wiggins” derby and smirk knowingly every time some guy in an expensive suit with a team logo behind him holds forth on “rebuilding” and “the long term.” And all the while we’ll do our best to ignore the fact that an 18-year-old kid has one billion-dollar business dining off his unpaid labor while another billion-dollar business deliberately sabotages its product on his (and our) behalf.
Wouldn't it be nice if a sportsfan doesn't have to do so much "ignoring of the facts?" I think so.

Finally Someone Who Gets It

Too bad, though, that it's a stranger on the internet:

For many of us, our workweeks are Monday through Friday. We have weeknights and weekends off, and so do most of the people we know. That makes it significantly easier to see one another, and to have gatherings of family and friends.

But if you work retail or other jobs that involve regular weekends and nights — and many of your friends and family do — it’s tougher to get everyone together. It’s hard to find a day when everyone is off and can gather together.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ode to Joy Flash Mob

What does it say about me that I hear Beethoven's Ode to Joy and instantly think of Die Hard?



Friday, November 22, 2013

Oswald Did It

Fifty years ago today, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots into the back of JFK's head from the book "suppository" building overlooking Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

He was a lone gunman who committed the crime alone.  The day before the assassination, he read in the newspaper that the president's motorcade was going to be passing outside his workplace and either at that moment or shortly thereafter decided he was going to shoot Kennedy.  He was a committed communist in a volatile marriage and on that day, politics and mental illness converged.

There was no conspiracy.  Oliver Stone's film is probably the most cerebral thriller ever made, but it's factually bunk.  My favorite novel, American Tabloid, immerses you in a dense and not implausible conspiracy to kill the president, but it is and remains a complete fiction.

Here are a couple photos my Uncle Jim took the last time I was at Dealey Plaza.
The window on the end, above the tree line, was Oswald's sniper nest.
The legendary grassy knoll.  Just a grassy knoll.
My brother demonstrating the angle the "second shooter" didn't take.
My Uncle Jim demonstrating the approximate spot where Oswald's shots connected with Kennedy's head.
And finally...the jump off.

Walmart Stuff

I've posted before about how abjectly awful the Walmart near my house is.  I have, on at least two occasions, been so discouraged by the long lines that I pushed a full cart into a dark corner and walked out without purchasing a damn thing.


That's why it amused me to read this article in the paper last week about my hated Walmart.
Walmart officials told police this year that the store at 7800 E. Smith Road loses $1.5 million each year to theft, putting it among the top 5 percent of the chain's locations nationwide for shoplifting. The store is far and away the city's leading destination for shoplifters, with 283 offenses reported in the past year — 179 more than the second-highest location, a Rite Aid on the 16th Street Mall.
The article talks about how the lack of door-greeters and Walmart's reluctance to prosecute first-time offenders may be a factor.  From bitter personal experience, I have a different take.

This Walmart is poorly managed.  They skimp on staffing, causing the long lines and the messy shelves and have several basically non-functioning departments.  I mean, good luck finding someone to help you in the paint department..... 

This dude from Slate, who has never been to the Stapleton Walmart, figured it out by looking at Yelp reviews. 
How does all this relate to shoplifting? Research has shown that shoplifters seek out cluttered stores with indifferent employees.
The Denver Post article hints to as much when it talks about how susceptible the Stapleton Walmart is to scams:

The Smith Road store saw some improvements after police counseled managers on dealing with what Perry called "resurrection cases," in which thieves try to return items they never purchased in the first place to earn store credit.

The shoplifter who tried to take the futon and pillows on Nov. 8 produced an old receipt for the items and tried to "return" them to get money for bus fare, according to police reports. The next day, a suspect attempted a "no-receipt return" of $47.92 at the customer service counter then left without paying for other items in a cart.
I mean, we're not talking about people sticking merchandise up their shirts and walking out.  We're talking about employees doing a piss poor job of "minding the store." What this does is create a situation where the paying customer must tolerate the poor service while the scammers actually rely on it.  This should kind of scenario should put any store out of business, but of course, Walmart's size inures it to that kind of market discipline.

The cause --and the solution-- to this problem seems obvious to me.  This Walmart already has the best employees their low wages can attract. 

If they want better labor quality, they'll have to pay better wages.

Beating a Dead Horse - Game of Thrones Edition

I know, I know.  Why do I punish myself?

But it's always a surprise to see how consistenly wrong Alyssa Rosenberg gets things because of her liberal feminist views.  The latest example:
After all, I’m an enormously dedicated fan of Game of Thrones, which has as one of its major subjects how omnipresent violence against women poisons all aspects of a society.
 I'm bolding that part, because I think if you watch Game of Thrones and come away with the conclusion that "one of its major subjects" is "how omnipresent violence against women poisons all aspects of a society," then you should put down the book you've been reading, close the laptop, hit rewind and re-watch the show.

Now I shall not deny that Game of Thrones has depicted violence against women.  That is true.  But it has also depicted violence against men and children and beast.  Indeed, some of the most violent and frightening characters on the show are women.

Cersei had no problems with throwing an innocent kid out a window.  Lady Arryn had no problems ordering Tyrion's execution for a crime he didn't actually commit.  The Khaleesi with her dragons and dreams of conquest, or Melisandre, with her magic and evil plots?   These are not bloodthirsty, violent women

And who was it that shot Jon Snow full of arrows?  That's right.  It was his wildling girlfriend Ygritte. 

Ned Stark was decapitated, Jaime Lannister lost his hand, and Theon Greyjoy his nuts.  But Catelyn Stark gets it at the Red Wedding and Joffrey tortures a hooker and the show becomes about "violence against women?"


Way to miss the point....

Monday, November 18, 2013

Amazon\Audible Pro-Tip

I've been a loyal customer of both Amazon and Audible for years, and even more so since I got my Kindle.  (It's like it was all part of some kind of plan...)

But having a membership at Audible can be tricky.

As a Gold member, I pay $14.95 a month for 1 credit.  I also get a 30% discount on all other purchases.  That right there is worth the price of admission, especially considering that for my $14.95 credit, I can download a book that costs much more than $14.95.

Example:  Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, which is worth 1 credit, is normally priced at $34.99 (although members can buy it for $24.49).  I paid:  $14.95.

Now here's where it gets tricky.

The pricing is such that not all audiobooks cost $14.95.

Example:  James Ellroy's Hollywood Nocturnes, also worth 1 credit, is in my wish-list.  The non-member price is $13.21 while I can pick it up with my membership for $9.25.

If I were to use my monthly credit to pick that one up, I would have paid $14.95 for something that would otherwise cost me $9.25.  That's kind of why that one is still in my wish-list rather than my library.

Here's another trick, although at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Since Audible is an Amazon company, they are able to offer combined deals that could result in getting more for less:  Literally.

Example:  If I were to buy the ebook version of Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling for my Kindle, it would cost me $4.74 and I would have the opportunity to buy the "professional narration" (ie, the Audible audiobook) for an additional $2.99.  Total cost for both ebook and audiobook:  $7.73.

Just buying the audiobook from Audible would cost $18.11 with my membership or, if I used my monthly credit, $14.95, and with that option I wouldn't get the ebook version with it. 

Buying both would save me seven to ten bucks!

Long story short:

A)  Don't waste your credit on anything that costs less than $14.95.

and

B)  If the ebook/audiobook combo is cheaper than $14.95, buy that instead.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stuff

I think more restaurants should implement no-tipping policies or include a gratuity surcharge on every ticket.  The reason:  People are assholes.   They can't do basic math to get the percentage right.  Or they can do the math, but think 10% is plenty.  Or they take the opportunity to comment on everything but the service.  I don't care if you're religious, political, or just a jerk:  cough up your buck or cook your own damn meals.

The Fish and Wildlife Service crushed 6 tons of ivory not too far from my house the other day.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I'm not particularly hostile to elephants or the ivory trade.  But looking at these photos, I can't help but feel saddened at the loss of all this art.  Many of these pieces look hand-carved and frankly, quite amazing.  Sure, let's not kill elephants, but do we really have to destroy the products of all this human effort and expression?  What's next?  We're going to start burning leather-bound books?

And seriously....they invited stars of True Blood, Sex and the City and Ellen's old show to come?  That kinda indicates just how much of a showy, ineffective, self-aggrandizing move this is.  I'm with Matt Yglesias on this one:
By destroying the ivory, you create even more ivory scarcity and increase the incentives for future poaching. It seems like the more reasonable approach would be to arrest and punish human beings who are committing crimes, and then sell the seized ivory and use the proceeds to finance more anti-poaching efforts. 
I'm sure we could get some famous people to go to the auction, don't you?

Also:

This commercial for Volvo is pretty cool....but it's also pretty obviously fake.

(Updated...and it seems I forgot to embed the vid.  So here it is.)


There's no way a production company could get this kind of shoot insured without a whole bunch of (invisible?) safety equipment.  And he would agree to something so obviously dangerous?

Curious to see how it was done, I watched a behind the scenes video.  This guy is describing the stunt to Jean-Claude right there on the road way.  (This wasn't discussed in an office beforehand?)  And then Jean-Claude, who has never been a great actor, says, "And we're going to be driving forward, of course?" If that wasn't in the script, that's a question no one would ask.

Nope, you're going to be on a green screen.  Sorry, JC.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

War On Christmas

Sarah Palin has written another book just in time for Christmas.  It's called Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas and of course, it's a polemic against "Happy Holidays" and moaning about nativity scenes. 

First thought was...."Wow, how frivolous." 

Here she is a half-term governor and former Vice Presidential candidate, moaning that some people are not celebrating Christmas "properly."  Even if I thought that was true, I'm not sure I could go on about the subject for 256 pages about it.

But then again, I have an actual job and zero desire to separate suckers from their money.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Utter Uselessness of Libertarian Philosophy

The FDA is about to ban trans fats, and of course the Libertarians are going nuts about it.  They say, "If people want to eat trans fats, well, by golly, then they should be able to eat trans fats."

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:
And, in the end, if people make what some expert thinks is the “wrong” choice, then that choice ought to be accepted. Because that’s what you do when you let adults in a free society decide things for themselves.
The problem with this is that very few people choose to consume trans fats.  They chose to consume french fries or coffee creamer or frozen pies or microwave popcorn, and they get trans fats with it, not by default, not because trans fats are a necessary ingredients in any of these foods, but as a bonus of a food manufacturer's choice to use trans fats in place of more natural (and healthy) fats.

Ironically enough, many of these manufacturers have chosen to give up on trans fat on their own, without the FDA's intervention.  (Even McDonald's!)  Being actual rational actors in the business world, as opposed to ideological computers, they recognized that A) there is no real market for foods loaded with trans fats and B) health concerns justify switching to the alternative.

Libertarians,  on the other hand, are so stuck in ideological mode that they're creating out of the ether a choice that does not exist (choosing to eat trans fats), obscuring the choice that's actually been made (that is, by the food manufacturers), and moaning on and on about the Nanny State, asking themselves (as Doug Mataconis did):
If the FDA can ban trans fats, what’s next? Sugar and salt content? Caffeine content?
I don't know, but if you pull your head out of your ass, you might come up with a better question, like "Why should I be mad about this?" But instead, they're saying, "You can take my partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil from my cold, dead hands."

Okay.  If you insist....

Ruining Thanksgiving

My Mom asked me what time would be a good time to celebrate Thanksgiving and there was at least some acknowledgement that there is no good time for me.  Unlike most of the country, I'll be working ten hour shifts the night before and the night of Thanksgiving. 

That's right.  From the time I get off Thursday morning, I have exactly 14 hours before I must return.  Account for my commute, and that's 12 hours of free time.  Account for sleep, it's only about 4, maybe 5, hours.  And that's on a normal day.

Throw a Thanksgiving dinner in there --almost always when I should be sleeping-- and it becomes rather, um, inconvenient for me personally.  My Mom offered to change the time we're supposed to eat, but it doesn't matter.  If it doesn't start at 8AM and end by noon, it's going to be a hardship on me no matter how you cut it.

I mention this because we approach not just Thanksgiving, but also Black Friday, that ignoble time of year when retailers hoard their deep discounts and inventory overstocks, and then unleash them upon a gullible public eager to snap up "once-in-a-year" deals.

Now I personally won't be doing any Black Friday shopping. I'll probably be spending the day making up for all the sleep I missed on Thanksgiving, blissfully indifferent to all the deals other people are getting.

So I'm sympathetic to the people howling in rage that Wal-Mart and a lot of other big retailers are starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving.  But I have to ask....what did you expect?

We have spent my entire life worshiping at the altar of unfettered capitalism.  During that time, income inequality has expanded to absurd proportions, and often in absurd ways.  (Example:  How many profitable sports teams have gotten taxpayers to build their stadiums?) 

Gone are the days when labor unions forced the wealthy to hoard less and share more.  The only protection workers have now is to change jobs, which --let's be honest-- is a fine solution in an always-booming economy, but is drastically inadequate if your economy has, you know, a business cycle.

I've tried "changing jobs" at a time of high unemployment and very little net job creation, and let me tell you.....it's not just difficult.  It's not even possible.

I have very little faith this will change anytime soon, or even in my lifetime.  In a world where you can get a good deal on a TV any day of the year, no one would need to stampede the Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day.  We do not live in that world.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Libertarians are Useless...A New Chapter

Regarding the doomed "51st State" movement that's been occupying some of the least populated areas of Colorado, Reason magazine, a Libertarian mouthpiece, offers this advice:
A wise move for the secessionists would be to forge an alliance with the D.C. statehood movement...
No, no, no.

A wise move for the secessionists would be to grow the fuck up.

According to this Denver Post story, there were 37,765 votes in favor of forming a new state. Assuming these beliefs are sincere and not some kind of childish protest (not a safe assumption, if you ask me), that is a comically small number of people.

Indeed, take all 37,765 of these voters and throw them in Sports Authority Field, you'd still need another 40,000 people to get a capacity crowd for a Bronco game.

These people feel outnumbered, and they should. They are. There are over two million people in the Denver metro area. According to the Post, 57 people in Yuma county supported secession. In the whole county. 57 people.

There are more than 57 people that live on my block.

We are literally talking about a few cranks whose fealty to democracy is tentative at best. (Yeah, it sucks, but sometimes in a democracy, you lose a vote. Deal with it.)  But hey, that's the secessionists.  No one should expect them to be reasonable.

What's Reason's excuse?

The "DC Statehood" movement at least has a legitimate grievance.  Unlike residents of the states, the residents of DC have no representatives in Congress and no way to get them.  

The residents of northern Colorado, to the contrary, do have representatives in both the House and the Senate.  They may not like the Senators we're sending to Washington, but they should --in theory-- like the representative they sent to the House. After all, no one in Denver is voting for the 4th district candidate. 

Same thing for the State legislature.  The folks in these counties not only have representatives, they picked them themselves.  How is this analogous to the DC situation at all?

It's not.  But I can see how Libertarians are confused about this one.  They're confused about a lot of things....

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Cis-Gendered Hetero Stupidity

We all know that I'm a pretty progressive dude.  I voted for Obama twice.  Full tolerance of gays is non-negotiable with me.  I don't hate labor unions or welfare or black people.  I'm a liberal and I make no apology for it.

But I can't get on board with this nonsense.
I haven’t seen Ender’s Game. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m going to because I’m still trying to process how I feel about seeing a movie based on a book I loved that benefits a notorious bigot, no matter how indirectly.
...and I'm off the bus.

As we have seen so many times over the years, refusing to yield to the limits of your political ideology can cause problems. That's how we got the government shutdown, and that's how we get well-meaning liberals conflicting themselves over stupid shit like this.

So, Well-Meaning (but stupid) Liberal, you loved the book...but you can't figure out "how you feel" when it comes to the movie. Not because of any particular quality of the movie --you haven't even seen it yet-- but because you haven't figured out to properly separate the artist from the art. And hey, I get it.

That can seem confusing, especially in a world where graffiti is instantly considered "fine art" if Banksy was the one holding the spray cans, but it's quite easy if you follow this one simple rule: Focus on the art.

Card is not the first reprehensible human being who wrote a good book. That list is long and goes back centuries. But even then...

What kind of moral quagmire have you created for yourself where you are able to read and enjoy the book, every word written by Card himself, but are unsure of how you feel about the movie he had no involvement in?

Seems like this is a dilemma that can be easily fixed by clicking your heels three times and admitting to yourself that there is no actual dilemma. Go watch the movie. See if it's as good as the book. If it is, feel free to enjoy it. If not, feel free to pan it.

But don't judge a book based on the politics of its author. That's not very smart.

Also.....in regards to the piece I'm quoting from, I'm glad I encountered this sentence towards this end:
I feel obligated to observe that it’s easy for me, a cis-gendered hetero male, to talk about this.
If this guy lead with that, I'm not sure I would have made it to the end.

You're not a "cis-gendered hetero male." You're a straight dude. And you seem to kind of feel bad about it, like you're hetero-maleness makes you less of a person, like you're not entitled to form an opinion.

This I cannot abide. My version of "equality" means never having to worry that you might be a member of the wrong demographic.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

More Melvins

Here's an interview with King Buzzo from the Melvins.  Bonus points for an acoustic performance of Revolve.



I was listening to an interview with Stewart Copeland the other day and he said he never gets tired of playing the old songs over and over because they take on a kind of ritual quality.

Having that thought in my mind, this live set from the Melvins --especially the intro-- made much more sense.  The first few minutes reminded me a bit of a drum circle with guitars.


And seriously...two drummers!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

That's The End of You Lot

I will never get tired of the British propensity for foul language.

Especially when it comes from grannies blowing off steam over her heating bills by playing GTA V.

No Herb Is Safe

This was the funniest thing I've seen in a while:

The apartment manager of a Southeast Portland apartment complex says he can't get employees from local restaurants to stop climbing his fence and picking wild weeds from his property.
But this is the hilarious part:
"In some neighborhoods there's coyotes, some have skunks – here, it's just sous-chefs and all the things that come with that," Connolly says.

He's seen them in the area before and has picked up their leftovers.

"You can always tell they’ve been here: There's beard nets. I found this recipe lying back here the other day," he says.
Renegade sou-chefs stealing weeds, with beard nets and recipes falling out of their pockets.

A Note On Halloween

If you're planning on spending your day offended that somewhere, someone is wearing a costume that's too sexy or too racist, you should consider getting a life.

Seriously, let it go.....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Green Boots

If you die while trying to ascend Mount Everest, where you fell will become your grave.  Your body will not be retrieved.  It will lay exposed to the Himalayan elements, sun beaten and frost bitten for the next century or longer.

No predators will defile your corpse.  If you're not completely exposed, the temperatures may end up preserving you better than any embalmer.  Your name will be known.


Even if it is a new name, like Green Boots, so called for the distinctive green climbing boots he's wearing.  He died outside a cave nearly twenty years ago and there he still lies.  His identity is uncertain, but his status as a landmark is status quo near the summit.

"Go to Green Boots and make a left."

He is not alone.  In 2006, David Sharp froze to death inside Green Boots Cave, and there he remains, his back against the rock, arms cradled around his knees.

When aliens discover Earth, they will find Mount Everest strewn with dead bodies and empty oxygen cannisters.

The Free Market In Action

Lawsuits have been filed in the Great Gaylord Giveaway.  Roll the tape:

The tit-for-tat legal action is something that economic-development officials have long feared — a public battle over incentives and future development.

In one corner are backers of the 1,500-room Gaylord, which in May 2012 received approval for an $81.4 million subsidy under the state's Regional Tourism Act. The hotel, near Denver International Airport, would create 10,000 construction and 2,500 permanent jobs and draw more than 450,000 outside visitors each year, backers say.

In the other corner are a group of hotels concerned that the Gaylord, with its massive public subsidies, will glut the market and cannibalize their business.
I, of course, hope the hotels prevail in their suit.  The Gaylord project has been a boondoggle from the beginning.  Not only has it been a testament to how scammy our nation's capitalists have become, but it's an ode to political ego. 

Aurora's mayor Steve Hogan desperately wants to say he brought jobs to the city, and he's willing to squander tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to do it.

I can think of nothing so useless as a big honking hotel in Aurora, the stinking asshole of this state, out by the airport. 

You're a business traveler, probably going to the tech center.  Here's a rental car, your room, and an hour long commute to the office

You're a tourist, come to see the wonders of Denver.  First thing you notice, once you land out in the prairie, is that the mountains are far, far away.  The city skyline is way off in the distance.  None of the things you are going to want to do will be near your hotel.  Sure, they may have a great buffet and a wonderful convention hall, but who gives a shit when everything in your Frommers book is a day-trip away.

Either way, business traveler or tourist, you're going to get a worse experience, and I'm gonna be paying for it

If there was a real desire, an economic need, to build a huge hotel like this out by the airport, an enterprising firm would seize it without delay.

In this case, no one but the Gaylord contingent wants this project.  They've run the numbers and discovered it's not economically feasible without the subsidies.  It will cost too much and may not result in a profit.

Getting the subsidies changes this uncomfortable fact not one bit.  It just means that the costs will be more distributed and the profits will be taken anyway.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Police

I'm not sure why lately I've been drawn to post-punk new-wavey music of the late 70s and early 80s these days.  A few months ago, it was Joy Division all the time.

The last few weeks, it's been The Police.  Admittedly, that started by having a sad and listening to King of Pain.  But then a funny thing happened.

I had my player queued up to their box set and after playing through the later MTV-friendly stuff, when they were the biggest band in the world, it switched over to their early stuff, when they were just a couple of young blokes trying to do something new and interesting.

I got stuck listening to Next To You on a loop for about a week.  No joke.  A week.

If you haven't heard it in a while, give it a listen and marvel that this is the same band that did Every Breath You Take.


This morning (tonight?) I woke up one of their earliest songs stuck in my head, one that never even appeared on any of their albums.

It's called Nothing Achieving.   Check it out:


My Daddy's boots don't fit me....cuz I'm bigger than him.
The interesting thing about this song is that it reminds me more of, say, Judas Priest than the band that would eventually make Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.

There's even a pretty ripping guitar solo.

Misreading Sons of Anarchy

I imagine that Alyssa Rosenberg can type very fast.  The sentences flow down to her fingers and spill out on the screen, paragraphs of them.  She is a good writer, that much cannot be denied.

But, to me, she's one of those critics you love to hate.  We have similar tastes, but totally opposite approaches.  She's of the feminist school, whereas I embrace my dudeness.  She looks for the polemical angle, whereas I'm more concerned with the aesthetic.

Lately she's been mad at Sons of Anarchy, mostly because they used an early season school shooting as a plot point rather than a thematic statement.  Me, I'm fine with it.

I don't watch Sons of Anarchy to get some after-school special about how gun violence affects the community.  I watch it because I love the characters and I want to see them go to war with each other.

And I think that's why she misreads BIG TIME a scene from this week's episode.

The set-up:  The Sons are helping a tranny named Venus, played by Boyd Crowder Walton Goggins.  Not only does Venus have huge tits and pokey nipples, back when she was named Vincent, she had a son, now a teenager in the custody of his vindictive pervert mother.  Mom's a hard one.  Not only is she mean, but she's also a child pornographer.

A child pornographer is no match for a biker gang and the Sons rescue the kid, beat everybody up, and are ready to call it good.  But Mom goes off on a huge rant against Venus, cutting deep with the words, and Jax just shoots her.  Bam, blows her head all across the wall.

It's a pretty shocking moment.  I mean, scene-wise.  It's not that shocking that Jax, supposedly "the biker with a conscience," would snap like that.  After all, he's earned that Men of Mayhem patch.

It's not shocking if you watch the show and actually listened to Mom's diatribe.  Alyssa transcribed it so I don't have to:
“You don’t deserve a son,” she spits at Venus. “I had a son once, and he forgot who he was. Deserted his family. Turned into a freak of the fringe. You go ahead. You tell that sweet boy all about his daddy. How much you love him. Want the best for him. It won’t matter. Because when he finds out who you are, he’s going to grow up hating you. Hating your lies. Hating the lie you forced him into.”
If you're familiar with the show's arc, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine Jax's mother saying something like this to him, if he ever mans up and quits the club to raise his family in peace.  Gemma knows how to wield the long knives.


That's why he pulled the trigger.  It had nothing to do with Venus, nothing to do with child porn, nothing to do with any of that.  It was all due to his family dynamic and inner turmoil.

Alyssa thinks this is Jax's motive:
...the viciousness of her hatred of trans people, which has literally become something that Jax wants to shut up forever.
I think that's a drastic misunderstanding of what the show's about.  Jax cares about the plight of the transgendered about as much as you would expect "the biker with a conscience" to:  not much.

Not enough to commit a cold-blooded murder anyway.

I mean, I'm sure harbors them no ill-will, but he doesn't sit by his son's crib scribbling in his journal about trannies, now does he?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

And the Hits Keep on Coming....

This morning (tonight?) I woke up to discover that two out of the three outlets in my kitchen are not producing juice.  The fridge, the coffee maker, the microwave, the stove....all non-functioning.

The toaster, which I hardly ever use, is fine.

No breakers are tripped.  I plug my circuit-tester in and it tells me I have a "hot/ground reverse" which doesn't necessarily mean the hot and the ground are actually reversed but does indicate a problem.

I don't have the time, energy, or temperament to deal with this particular problem myself, so I called the handyman who put in my door.

The earliest he can be out:  Next Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dr. Sleep - The Verdict

I hate to say it....but the sequel to The Shining is quite dull.  The characters are vividly drawn, some of the ideas have merit, and the writing is strong as always, but the plot leaves much to be desired.  It all seems so...contrived.

King had a significant problem when he set down to write this book.  He had some ideas about what he wanted to do with character and theme, but it's quite clear he was making it up as he went along.

It seems like there are several places where he wrote himself into a hole and then cheated by using the magical powers of the Shining to get him out of it.  There are three threads to the book:  1)  Dan Torrance and his struggles with sobriety and finding redemption working at a hospice, 2) a girl named Abra who has the Shining times ten, and 3) a group of traveling monsters who torture and kill kids with the Shining to drink of their powers.

Normally what you would do with these elements is come up with an interesting way for them to collide, the collision creating tension, the tension creates catharsis, and so on.  You know, basic storytelling technique.


But King doesn't bother with any of that.  One day, Abra just started sending Dan psychic messages.  Why?  Because they have the Shining.

One day Abra becomes aware of Rose the Hat, the main villain in the troop of travelers, and in so doing, Rose the Hat becomes aware of Abra.  Why?  Because Abra has the Shining and Rose eats kids who have the Shining.

None of this stuff happens organically.  It's all contrived to happen because if it doesn't happen, there's no book.  And then to make matters worse, it's revealed that --unknown to both of them-- Abra is actually Dan's niece.

Consider:  Back before Jack Torrance took the job at the Overlook and moved his family to Colorado, he had an affair with a woman who turned out to be Abra's grandmother.  Abra's mother is actually Dan's half-sister that he --or his mother Wendy-- never knew about. 

This is not as bad a notion as it ends up being in the book.  In the book, it just seems tacked on and unnecessary, a way to explain Abra and Dan's seemingly inscrutable psychic connection.  But hell, man, why not lead with that?

What if it was revealed after the events of the first novel that Wendy was pregnant with Dan's sister, who grew up never knowing her father or experiencing the horrors of the Overlook?  What if Dan knew Abra was his blood from birth?  Would that have made their story less interesting?

I don't think so.  It would have eliminated the whole "How am I going to get them together" problem, eliminated all the fretting about how inappropriate it is for a grown man to be sending psychic instant messages to a teenage girl, and given Dan a rock-solid reason to want to protect Abra besides the fact that he's an alright dude.

If it sounds like I'm second-guessing the Master, I am.  The more I read of this book, the more it dawned on me that it's writer didn't outline the plot, wrote himself in a corner more than once, and rather than fixing the problem with editing just patched over it with more words.  If he wasn't the Master, someone probably would have pointed this out before the book was published.

And in case you were wondering, the ending seemed rushed and inevitable.  In other words, I didn't care what happened and when it was all over, I was left going, "That's it?" 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Melvins

The other day I got stuck in a Youtube loop watching live music.  I started looking for early live performances from the Police but soon I was watching Metallica covers before finally settling on a full-length concert from the Melvins. 

I was never a huge Melvins fan, despite having and enjoying (most of) their Stoner Witch album, but wow...

The first thing I noticed was two drummers.  Technically, a band doesn't need two drummers, especially if they're basically just going to be mirroring each other.  It's not like one guy has the toms and the other guy hits the snare.  No, they're both playing the same thing, but in time.  So while it's not necessary, it is amazing.

The other thing that caught my attention, and not for the first time, is Buzz Osbourne's devotion to nonsense lyrics.  A lot of songwriters come up with the melody first and add the words later, but they do at least try to make the words make sense.  King Buzzo dispenses with all that.

Take this stanza from Revolve:
They might try to hide
They have to have some more dead sense
You might be rye like a ball in the wind
Poison dandy lifeforms crime
Mix both down cross sticky pedal the line
It's not exactly a random assemblage of words stripped of all context, but it doesn't make any kind of sense.   And really, does it have to?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Libertarians Are Useless: Part Infinity

Says Conor Friedersdorf:
Pursuing a liberty-minded, small-government agenda need not involve reckless standoffs that risk America's credit, but you'd never know that from the last few weeks. It's frustrating as hell for those of us hungering for a credible Republican alternative to K Street, warmongering, and a liberty-destroying national-security state.
I just cannot understand how, if K Street lobbying, warmongering, and a "liberty-destroying national-security state" are your big issues, you'd look for help from the Republican Party.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Royals

I'm an ignorant rube when it comes to pop music.  But I did hear this song yesterday and I liked it. It sounded nice and the lyrics are brilliant.



But every song's like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody's like Crystal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.
I heard that and thought, "Yeah, that's why I usually just listen to the old stuff."  Because I don't care about Crystal or diamond watches.

So it's kind of funny how I just heard this song, dug its message, and this morning, I read this:
An international war of words has broken out over a New Zealand pop star's chart-topping single, after an American blogger labeled the track racist.
Racist?  Let's hear this.
"While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist," wrote Bayetti Flores. "Because we all know who she's thinking when we're talking gold teeth, Cristal (champagne) and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers?"
Now this is where one could explain that hip-hop culture is multi-racial and global.  To equate "rappers" with "black folk" is not only wrong on the merits, it's actually kind of racist in itself.  So let's just dispense with that altogether.

Why shit on rappers?  For the very same reason that all of the stuff Lorde is talking about is so obviously about rappers.  In this day and age, rappers who talk about Cristal and jet planes are tired cliches.  If you were a baby when Biggie Smalls died (as Lorde was) then this stuff just isn't going to speak to you.  It's your parents' aspiration, not yours.

To make it about race is missing the point.  Big time.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Broncos on a ROLL!

This is what happens when you have the best QB in football. 

For a while there, I thought the Cowboys had our number...and then this.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

RP's PR and JP's Line By Line Takedown

Just how bad is it for the GOP these days?  It's baaaaad.

Rand Paul placed an op-ed with CNN that starts out with this:

This week, we saw the outrageous spectacle of World War II veterans being told by our government that they couldn't visit their own memorial. These former service members, who stared down the Japanese and the Nazis, were told that they couldn't step through barricades arbitrarily placed in front of their memorial because the government has shut down. Some have speculated that it might have cost more to place the barricades there than to have done nothing at all.
 Regardless, these WWII heroes busted through the barricades and gathered at the memorial anyway. Good for them.

The "vets at monuments" stuff has become the go-to horror story among the right wing about the shutdown, which is understandable to a certain extent.  Let me be the first to say that barricading open-air monuments is ridiculous.

But there are larger issues at stake here.  The government is not functioning and we're talking about barricaded memorials?  That just seems petty in the face of almost a million people thrown out of work just because the Republicans are both weak and obstinate.

Adding to his weak case, Paul continues:
While all of this was happening, millions of Americans got their first taste of just how problematic Obamacare is. The healthcare.gov website crashed. When the complaints came, President Barack Obama said that it was just like when Apple unveils a new product -- there are bound to be glitches. I don't recall ever being forced by the government to buy Apple products. I don't recall Apple ever being tone deaf to the complaints of their customers either.
Talk about "Apples" and Oranges!  Being a network engineer, I can tell you right now that technical glitches does not mean the product is "problematic."  The truth is that the healthcare.gov website crashed because of high demand, demand that was increased by all the Republican-led states who refused to set-up their own exchanges, pawning it off on the Feds.

And that "forced by the government" stuff?  That went up to the Supreme Court already.  Get over it.

There's more:

Despite popular belief, all members of Congress will be forced to get Obamacare. All Congress and their staff will have to buy their insurance on the Obamacare health exchanges.
 In researching the Obamacare exchanges in Kentucky, I learned that I now had a choice between just two insurance companies, whereas previously I had more than 30 choices.
This is straight up bullshit, people.  No one "will be forced to get Obamacare." You know why?  Because Obamacare isn't a thing.  It's a set of laws.  Yes, there is now a mandate saying that you have to get health insurance.  That's true.  But the exchanges weren't set up to "force" people into Obamacare.  They were set-up to provide health insurance to people who don't have it.

If you can't afford to buy insurance on the open market or don't get it from your employer, then you join the exchange and get it that way.  What Paul is crying about here is that his employer --the House of Representatives-- gets their insurance from one of the exchanges.  There's a good reason for that.  People in Congress have a long and storied history of carving out convenient exemptions for themselves.  They would have no qualms at all about giving themselves gold-plated medical plans and the rest of us the rusty version.

This rule actually prevents that.  Sorry, Rand, that you have to get the same healthplan that everyone else gets, but hey....if you don't like it, resign your seat.  Buy your insurance on the open market and quit bitching.

But my Obamacare problems were small compared to what most Americans faced -- worries about keeping their current plans, the new law itself, what it entails, potential fines, personal privacy and in many cases, even keeping their jobs.
Did you catch that?  Senator Paul starts off his sentence talking about "Obamacare problems" but notice how by the end of it, he's not actually talking about "problems," he's talking about "worries."  These are not the same thing.


That's not to say there won't be problems with Obamacare.  It's just to say that Paul has not identified them.
Like the shutdown itself, Obamacare makes no sense.
Well, you're right about the shutdown, Senator.....

No one wanted a government shutdown. Republicans have continued to offer multiple compromises that would keep the government open. I offered an amendment to keep the government open an additional week while negotiations continued. My proposal was rejected. In fact, all of our proposals were rejected.
 No one wanted a government shutdown?  Dude, do you think we're stupidOf course someone wanted the shutdown, that someone being the Republican party, and it's absolutely amusing to hear all these Republicans politicians and right wing pundits suddenly be conflated with "no one."

As for the "compromises" the Republicans have proposed, they cannot fairly be called "compromises."  Ted Cruz, ringleader of this clown circus, is running around Washington saying, "I wanted a full repeal, so this defund stuff is a compromise."  That's like Al Qaeda saying "I wanted to destroy New York City completely, but I'll 'compromise' and just blow up the Twin Towers."


It defies logic, good faith, established norms, and he's shocked....shocked, I tell you...that these proposals are rejected.  As they should be.
Every attempt to bargain, negotiate or compromise has been rejected by the Democrats. Obama seems to have a "my way or the highway" attitude toward Obamacare. But as the new health care system frustrates nearly everyone, the president insists we must stay the course.
There should be no bargain, Senator.  Obamacare passed both houses of Congress, was signed into law by the president, was found to be Constitutional by the Supreme Court and more than that:  Mitt Romney lost the election last year.

Forget bargaining.  Skip right to the acceptance stage.  Paul and his Republican cohorts are not asking for a compromise.  They are asking to subvert the democratic process itself.  Next time, try this:

Win a fucking election.
Pundits like to talk about dysfunctional government in Washington. This week demonstrated how right they are. Our government is too big, inefficient and incompetent to possibly handle American health care effectively.
Says the Senator whose Daddy was in the House for three decades...Trust him on this.  As a lifelong insider, he knows all about Washington dysfunction.
Why can't this administration get its act together?
Or in other words, Squirrel!
No matter what happens with the budget battle, at some point Washington is going to have to respond to the people and address the monstrous failings of Obamacare.
Maybe so...but as has been ably demonstrated by your colleagues, Senator, Republicans are incapable of this.  I support reforming and fixing any of Obamacare's failings.  The Republicans do not.

Let's just be clear about that, okay?  The Republicans do not support fixing Obamacare.  Rather, they support shutting down the government, ruining the economy, all in service of a symbolic hissy fit.
What Americans were reminded of this week was that Washington is indeed dysfunctional because it tries to take on too many functions. We were reminded that at the highest levels, such as national health care, or smallest, such as overseeing a war memorial, government gets just about everything wrong as a matter of habit.
Oh, here we go...the standard Libertarian liturgy.   (It just hasn't been the same since they stopped doing it in Latin.)
And what do we have to show for this largely dysfunctional government? Annual trillion dollar deficits and a $17 trillion debt than keeps climbing.
So bleak, Senator!  We have a pretty cool country, if you ask me...indeed, one I'd say is worth every penny.
There's no excuse for government shutting down.
You're the one who has refused to vote for a clean budget bill.  What's your excuse?
There's no excuse for this president to reject any and every attempt at compromise.
There's that word again....compromise.  As Inigo Montoya once said, "I do not think it means what you think it means."
Still, perhaps the only thing worse than a temporary government shutdown is a more lasting meltdown and bankruptcy because of politicians who refuse to live within practical means.
Now we're talking about living within our means?  Just got whiplash there...I thought we were talking about website glitches and WWII memorials, but nope, it's back to the old Libertarian liturgy.
What Americans were reminded of this week -- more than anything else -- is that big government doesn't work.
Oh, get off it.  It works just fine.  Well, as long as we elect people who are committed to making it work.  The people of Kentucky did not do that when they elected Rand Paul to the Senate.

Thanks, Kentucky.

On the Shutdown

Some politics to go with all my whining....

“Dealing with terrorists has taught us some things,” said Washington Rep. Jim McDermott after voting no on one of Thursday’s GOP bills. “You can’t deal with ’em. This mess was created by the Republicans for one purpose, and they lost. People in my district are calling in for Obamacare—affordable health care—in large numbers. These guys have lost, and they can’t figure out how to admit it.” Why would House Democrats give away what the Supreme Court and the 2012 electorate didn’t? “You can’t say, OK, you get half of Obamacare—this isn’t a Solomonic decision,” McDermott said. “So we sit here until they figure out they fuckin’ lost.
 That's right, Tea Baggers.  You lost.

You lost when Obamacare passed both houses of Congress.  You lost when Obama signed it into law.  You lost when it was challenged in court and found constitutional by John Roberts himself.  You lost the last election.  And you're going to lose this fight as well.

Friday, October 04, 2013

More Rain

I cannot catch a break*, I swear.

Right now, I have a prehung door propped up against the rough opening that used to be my backdoor.  It has been like that for two days as I have been too exhausted --having stayed up all night working 10 hour shifts-- to actually install the fucking thing.

And now it's raining, with possible snow to follow.

*  Did I mention my identity was stolen last week?  Did I mention I had to cancel a long delayed trip that should have occurred MONTHS ago but was finally set to occur this weekend?   (The less that's said about that debacle, the better;  it was a mild annoyance for the first six months of the year, and has been a source of seething rage ever since.)  I know I mentioned that my house was almost destroyed....

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Dr. Sleep

When I heard Stephen King was writing a sequel to The Shining, I was skeptical.  It seemed unnecessary and almost sacrilegious.  The original stands on its own as one of the great horror novels. 

But I read an excerpt online and to my shock, it was quite good.  So I did something I haven't done in probably ten years:  I bought a brand-new hardcover at retail prices. And then I saw that Audible had the audiobook version and it was read by...wait for it....Will Patton.  I used my monthly credit immediately.

An eagerly anticipated book written by one of my favorite authors read by one of my favorite readers?  SCORE!

It almost makes up for all the shit I've had to deal with this last month.