Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Steenking Rose

A ramble about my favorite food:
You know what I miss? The Gilroy Garlic Festival. Yeah, sure, people like to yak about the chocolate-covered garlic, garlic ice cream, and garlic chardonnay (AKA garlic juice with a hint of oak), but the Festival has plenty of food for non-addicts, too. I remember terrific bouillabaisse, gumbo, and pale pestos -- pale because you wouldn't want to obscure your garlic with too much basil. We ate our bouillabaisse at a picnic table with a couple in their fifties. I recall kvetching that I had to put more and more garlic in my red sauces to taste it. What was happening to garlic? Was it getting weaker? "Guess what," said the husband. "We have to eat it raw. It's the only way we can taste it nowadays." Garlic has modest antiplatelet and lipid-lowering effects. There's even some weak evidence that a diet rich in garlic lowers the risk of colon and stomach cancers. You know what? I don't give a damn. I like garlic because it tastes good and it gets me high. Yeah, you heard me. I get a buzz off garlic. I've tried to find a web reference to back me up on this, but all I can find is this quote from Tantrik Vegetarianism: By now the reader might ask: "Why are onion, garlic and mushrooms bad?" As a matter of fact, onion and garlic are good for the body. They are bad for the mind. All three irritate and heat lower chakras (psychospiritual centers) and, thus, tend to make a person more irritable, distracted and sexually indiscriminant. It's true, too. After eating a head of raw garlic, I'll shag anything that moves. More: Garlic is a good medicine: its antibacterial and blood purifying qualities have been known for centuries. Ginger has similar qualities without the negative mental effects (and bad smell) of garlic. I'm sorry. Ginger cheese bread doesn't do it for me. Which reminds me:
Garlic Cheese Bread
My apologies for not giving precise measurements. You'll have to wing it. Combine softened butter with freshly grated parmesan cheese (Reggiano, puhlease!) and paprika. Mash together. Dried basil is a nice addition, too. Slice a loaf of good quality French bread lengthwise. Toast it under the broiler until golden. Take raw, peeled garlic cloves and 'sand' them against the toasted French bread. Rub them against the crust as well as the toasted cut surface of the loaf. Spread the butter/cheese/herb mixture on the loaf's cut surface and return it to the broiler. Watch it carefully. Once the cheese has melted and browned slightly, you're done. Remember: you can get the garlic smell off your fingers by rubbing them on a stainless steel spoon or butter knife held under running water.
That married couple was right. By the time I hit thirty, I couldn't taste cooked garlic anymore. Nowadays, if I load a red sauce with a dozen crushed cloves I might detect a hint, but it's subtle, not satisfying, and it won't give me that delightful garlic buzz. By the way, this isn't an [insert your favorite illegal drug's name here] kind of high, but an "I feel so good about the world and all the creatures in it!" sort of feeling. Dosage recommendation: you need to consume enough that you ooze the garlic smell from your pores and your breath withers cacti. Here's another fine recipe for saturating yourself in garlic:
Bagna Cauda ("hot bath")
This simple sauce can be used on vegetables (cooked or raw), bread, fish, you name it. Be sure you soak your anchovies in milk first to de-salt them a bit. One stick of butter One can of anchovies (2 ounces) Bunches and bunches of garlic cloves, crushed (start with 6 and add more to taste) Melt the butter over low heat. Add crushed garlic and anchovies. The garlic should sizzle very little or not at all. Press the anchovies with a spoon; as the melted butter heats up, the anchovies will fall apart and seem to melt. Heat thoroughly. The more you heat this, the milder the garlic flavor will become. If you're feeling health conscious, substitute a mixture of canola oil and olive oil for the butter. Heathen.
Jake has decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird first. My fingers are crossed. D.

Thanks for the tips, folks

I appreciate all the input you've given me regarding Jake's curriculum. I knew I could count on you. I had a longer day in the OR than I thought, so I'm going to fall back on this little snippet of fluff I wrote last night. More later, maybe. I must exercise.
*** Who am I channeling?
Since I'm in the OR today, this is all you get for the morning. Bare Rump took her test last night. Check it out. Interestingly, I had an easier time answering for Bare Rump than I did for myself. What the hell does that mean? D.
Clark Gable You scored 9% Tough, 28% Roguish, 38% Friendly, and 23% Charming!
You're a pretty interesting guy, all man but approachable and friendly. You like the lovely ladies, but you're also a real stand up guy with a true sense of honor and duty. You're respected by most men, although they probably wouldn't trust you alone with their girlfriends and even wives. Women find you intriguing, drawn to your playful sense of fun and true-blue core. You think most women are rather silly, but strong dames with smarts really turn you on, and you tend to marry them. Leading ladies include Claudette Colbert and Vivien Leigh, women who find you somewhat charming but a little dangerous.

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the Classic Dames Test.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


We homeschool our son Jake, not for religious reasons, but by necessity. He tests out past the twelfth grade in math and English. Homeschooling is the only way we can keep him interested in learning. He's almost ten and has the emotional maturity of a ten-year-old. Keep that in mind when I come kvetching for advice (below). This year, I'd like to have him read some of the classics of 20th century literature. To help me generate ideas, I found this list of 'great' works of the 20th century, courtesy of Random House. Try to ignore the righthand column (Ayn Rand for the number one and two slots? L. Ron Hubbard for number three? Come on!) Here's my pick. I'm open to advice from y'all. The Great Gatsby Brave New World As I Lay Dying (lower on the list than Sound & Fury, but I think it would be easier for Jake) Animal Farm Slaughterhouse Five Lord of the Flies The Maltese Falcon The Postman Always Rings Twice To Kill a Mockingbird I'm leaving out a lot of books I dearly love because I don't think Jake is ready for them yet (Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, for example). As it is, I'm not sure he's ready for Gatsby yet. Thanks, everyone. D.

Dancing with Snoopy

Someone over at Miss Snark used the phrase Snoopy dance as an alternative to the more contemporary Homer Simpsonesque woo-hoo! I suppose Eric Cartman's Sweeeet would be even more hip. Whatever. Point is, Miss Snark liked my snippet. In fact, she used that other L word, the one you want so desperately to hear from your agent/editor/publisher. Here's the link. Aside from giving me a goofy smile for the morning, this also persuades me to rethink my plans. I'd gotten it into my head that I would have to sell my first story to a publisher before an agent would ever take me seriously. Hmm. Maybe not so.
I have a meeting tonight. Not one of those 'pull out my wisdom teeth with rusty pliers' hospital meetings, but a board meeting for the North Coast Nature Center. I wonder how Ray is doing with her moon jellyfish exhibit. She's been having a devil of a time keeping them alive. You lurkers who have known Karen and me forever (hi Kira!) are familiar with our creepy crawly love affair*. Our house is, as always, a menagerie. Unfortunately, we have way too many mammals for my liking: three cats, one ferret, and four degus. What? Never heard of a degu?
Think big gerbil, but don't think about it too hard. Our cold-blooded collection, ignoring for the moment Karen's tarantula mania, consists only of a Madagascar hissing cockroach colony, some freshwater fish, and a water dragon. For us, this is a mighty low census. That's enough for the morning. One Snoopy dance and one cute furry rodent. You'd get sugar toxic if I gave you any more than that. D. *Take that however you like.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Morning quickie

Check out Miss Snark. She's a literary agent, and she's currently analyzing opening pages (the first three hundred words of novels). Mine hasn't come under her snarky knife yet, but I'm going to go on record before she savages me by saying this has been educational. Y'all are burying your leads (paraphrase?) was one of many gems. I hadn't thought to look at my novel as a journalist would, which is foolish, since the damned thing is about a journalist. D.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

T-lady is back

Karen finished reading my book and she has gone back to blogging. Bone up on your Proto-Elamite script, everyone. D.

Stylistic tics

In the best writing, the author disappears. Not everyone would agree with this. The success and critical acclaim of authors like M. John Harrison, China Mieville, and Neil Gaiman would seem to argue otherwise. I appreciate what these authors achieve with their pyrotechnics, and I enjoy them (especially Gaiman) if I'm in the mood, but this is not the kind of writer I want to be. I want my readers to forget I exist. Martin Cruz Smith is my role model, along with a slew of hardboiled novelists who put the story first and themselves last. I'm thinking about James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss), Jim Thompson, Harry Crews (A Feast of Snakes). Yeah, I could go on. Invisible writing requires a vicious internal editor to seek out and eradicate all stylistic tics. You know about tics, right?
They'll suck the blood out of your writing so fast it'll make your head swoon. And then where will you be? As I trudge through this monstrous manuscript, I'm learning to find and destroy my worst tics:
  • Anemic sentences, thanks to dependence on 'was', 'was (verb)ing', and other abuses of the verb to be.
  • Overuse of em dashes, semicolons, and ellipses.
  • Poorly handled speaker attributions. I'm a saidist (my characters will occasionally shout, murmur, or whisper, but they usually just say things, and never ever ever do they aver, proclaim, hiss, or growl their sentences). Nevertheless, my attributions often suck.
Those are my primary tics. Have you found yours yet? D.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A dose of mindless fun

From the Infinite Cat, this video, which might be subtitled, "What women really want." While you're at it, check out this cat fight. (I found this at Killer's Place.) Okay. Back to editing. D.

Jump for joy

After the Game, by Kenney Mencher You know what I love best about this one? The expression on the cheerleader's face. What is she thinking? I fell in love with this painting and almost bought it. Instead, we bought one we could hang in our office without fear of giving elderly men angina.
A different sort of exercise
It's fun following the comment thread to PBW's latest writing exercise. Check it out. In brief, the idea is to summarize your current writing project in 25 words or less. Several writers are working on multiple projects. This blows me away. I feel daunted by my ONE project, and here are folks with three, four, or more pans in the fire. Meanwhile, I'm thinking editing doesn't feel like the best word for this activity. Crawling is a better word. Crawling through molasses studded with fire ants.
Buffalo burgers tonight
Why? Because no one freaks out over mad buffalo disease. Here's the recipe: 1 lb ground buffalo 1 package Lipton's onion soup mix 1 egg Several turns of freshly ground black pepper Combine thoroughly. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator at least one hour. Cook 'em over coals. No, not under the oven broiler, you heathen. Some people. D.

Friday, August 26, 2005

It's a classic

I'm fixing a Chicken Kiev*, and Jake's watching The Amanda Show on Nick. The Amanda Show is a comedy-variety show for kids featuring Amanda Bynes. Here's the skit. Amanda sits on a porch with her date, a geeky young boy with a pimple in the middle of his forehead. She can't take her eyes off the pimple. Before long, she's fantasizing that she knocks the pimple off his forehead, the pimple takes on a life of its own, and Amanda falls in love with it. Yeah, that's right -- the pimple. I laugh. Right away, Jake wants to know why I'm laughing. (Since age 3, he's learned that if he pesters us long enough, we'll explain even the dirtiest jokes to him.) "It was unexpected," I tell him. Humor, whether it be one-liners, sight gags, or Jon Stewart's routines for The Daily Show, has an element of the unexpected. The bigger the surprise, the bigger the laugh. I've been trying to teach this to Jake since toddlerhood, mostly so he wouldn't repeat jokes over and over and OVER again, but also because it's my parental duty to teach him how to be funny. Anyway: Amanda falls in love with a sentient, autonomous pimple. I laugh, then I tell Jake why I'm laughing. "Oh, they always do that," he says. "Whenever there's a pimple in a skit, Amanda falls in love with it. It's a classic." It's a classic? Elmer Fudd falling in love with Bugs Bunny in What's Opera, Doc? is a classic (the gender confusion goes back to Shakespeare, and undoubtedly farther than that). Groucho Marx's "Go, and never darken my towels again," is a classic. (And if you have any doubt as to my premise that surprise is the life blood of humor, check out this page of Marxisms.) Since twenty years has passed, I'll even grant classic status to Spinal Tap's Christopher Guest for "This goes to eleven." But I'm sorry -- Amanda Bynes falling in love with a pimple can't be a classic. What are your favorite classics? D.
*Chicken Kiev
Very simple. Take a pounded chicken breast, the thinner the better. Place a heaping teaspoon of a butter/herb mixture at one end of the breast, roll it up jelly roll-fashion, and run it through a bowl of beaten egg white. Salt, pepper, bread crumbs, a pat of butter on top. Place several such rolls side by side in a buttered baking dish. Bake at 400 F until golden brown and bubbly. The butter/herb mixture: chives/parsley/salt/pepper/lemon juice/butter is the old standby. You can do whatever you like. For today, I used butter, chopped green onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and chili oil. Coming soon: high time I blogged on garlic.

Truth is stranger than . . . well, you know

In my on-again off-again fun blog, Bare Rump's Diary, I paired off no-talent pretty-boy Keanu Reeves with Martha Stewart. Well, he's not quite Keanu Reeves, but a close facsimile thereof. Here's the proof:
What do I find in my morning Huffington Post but this link to a story about Keanu's latest love, Diane Keaton?
And people talk about Jules Verne's ability to predict the future. In your face, Jules! Did I call it, or what? (*does little victory dance*) D.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Say what?

During my second year of ear, nose, and throat residency at LA County Hospital, one of our chiefs (call him el Jefe) did a study on ear foreign bodies. Very simple study: he reported on the first one hundred ear foreign body patients to walk in our clinical door. It took el Jefe only three months to rack up 100 cases. If you're easily grossed out or still have nightmares of the Night Gallery earwig episode, skip the next paragraph. The number one foreign body? Not earwigs, but Blatella germanica, the German cockroach. But don't freak out. LA County Hospital's patient population can't be generalized to the world at large. Here's my favorite ear foreign body story. No bugs.
No Elmos, either. 10 PM on a Saturday night. I trotted out my broken Spanish on a 28-year-old guy who had just told me he'd put a piedrito in his ear. Piedrito? A little rock? "Why are you putting rocks in your ears?" I said in my not-half-bad Spanish. "Little children put rocks in their ears. You're an adult. What's the matter with you?" What is this damned thing? I thought as I looked at his ear under the binocular microscope. White. Hard. Wedged in pretty tight. "I can't believe it," I said, still in Spanglish. "A grown man putting a rock in his ear. What were you thinking?" My patient started talking a mile a minute to my nurse's aide, and he started laughing. "No, Dr. Hoffman. Not a rock. A rock of cocaine." Aha. Well, that explained it. (In case you're thinking Huh? These folks stuff the rock in their ear when they think they might get busted.) This solved my problem, though. I irrigated his ear with alcohol, dissolving the rock. My patient was not a happy camper. He'd expected to get the rock back.
That's not my favorite mangled Spanish story, though. This one is. I told this one to Michelle not long ago, but I don't think I've shared it with the rest of you. Let's backtrack a few years to my last month in medical school, when I did an Emergency Medicine rotation at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Like LA County Hospital, SCVMC served a poor, largely Spanish-speaking population. As we go back in time, we also go downhill in the quality of my Spanish.
My attending physician asked me to do a pelvic exam on a sixteen-year-old girl with vaginal discharge. "It's her first pelvic," my boss said, "but don't worry. From the sound of it, she's been very active." So what if she's sexually active, I thought. This is her very first pelvic exam . . . it's bound to be stressful. I vowed to put her at ease by speaking slowly and calmly, doing my best to reassure her and let her know this was all very routine, nothing to be afraid of. I'd tell her in great detail what I was about to do before I did it. After explaining to her the general idea of what we needed to do, I held up my gloved and lubed hand, my index and middle fingers standing at attention like proud little soldiers, and said, "Voy a poner dos piernas en su vajina." To save you from having to Babelfish that one: "I'm going to put two legs in your vagina." Ever hear the expression bug eyes? We somehow managed to sort out the misunderstanding, and to her credit, she let me go ahead with the exam. And, yes, I used my fingers. D.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Couldn't help myself.

I've added nine more links to my 'Favorites' list. What can we learn from this?
  1. I'm overly fond of my own writing.
  2. I'm obsessed with love, sex, and Jacqueline Kim.
  3. Yeah, that's about it.

Curses, Tarantula Lady!

My lovely wife, Tarantula Lady, has made it 2/3 of the way through my manuscript. I'm still shy of the 1/3 mark. Last night, she announced I had major problems. Sul, the main female protagonist, has motivation issues. As written, the story has her traipsing off into the wilderness to find someone who may or may not exist (and, even if he does exist, there's no guarantee he can help Sul) when three of her children are missing. Her ostensible reason for doing this: it's her only way to get leverage on the bad guys and thereby help her family -- MAYBE. Karen took issue with this. We brainstormed for over an hour and succeeded in fixing the problem. I'm going to (1) take care of one of those missing kids right off the bat; (2) give a much better explanation why she can't go after the other two; and (3) give her a far stronger reason for seeking out that fellow in the wilderness. Better yet, these changes will take care of what I've felt all along to be one of the weakest aspects of the climax: I pulled all my major characters back to one location for the big showdown. Thanks to the changes above, Sul and Tui (my male lead) now have a far better reason for converging on the same location. Bottom line, though: I have scenes to axe, others to modify, and others to create from scratch. I'm looking forward to it, though, because I know the end result will be a much stronger climax. Have I mentioned my vow to write a better outline, next time around? D. PS: Surgery today and surgery committee meeting this evening, so this be all my bloggin' for today, my droogs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hateful Heroes and Heroines

I thought it might be fun to bring the rest of you in on my discussion with Pat regarding unsympathetic protagonists. (See comments to this post.) It's not tough making your protag likable and sympathetic. Long ago, I read some advice on this: when you introduce your protag, either (A) have him tell a joke, or (B) put him in an embarrassing or humiliating situation. The joke. It had damn well better be funny, and not annoying-funny, either. You want your reader to like your protag, okay? Also, by 'tell a joke', I don't mean, "So a rabbi, a priest, and a bowl of guacamole walk into a bar." 'A joke' in this context means anything that will make the reader smile. Chandler's introduction of Phillip Marlowe in the beginning of The Big Sleep is a good example. In first person POV, Marlowe describes what he's wearing, and if you have any imagination you'll be grinning by the end of that description. Also, think about how rapidly Mark Twain establishes rapport between the reader and Huck in the beginning of Huck Finn. Embarrassment. Preferably, this should be a situation a reader can easily relate to. The first example which comes to my mind: from the Analog issue I recently reviewed, Richard Lovett's "Zero Tolerance". Lovett opens the story by having his middle-aged protag dressed in a Harry Potter outfit for a Halloween costume party. He's turned away at the door because he doesn't have ID and can't prove his age (even though he's old enough to pass for Dumbledore -- and that's Lovett's joke, not mine. He's using both techniques to build empathy). Now he has to roam the city in a silly Harry Potter outfit. I'll add more examples of this in the Comments, when I remember 'em. I'd also add (C) put your protag in a situation which highlights one or more of her better traits. Here's how Lizzy is introduced in Pride and Prejudice. Lizzy's mom is talking to Lizzy's dad : "... Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference."

"They have none of them much to recommend them,'' replied he; "they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters."

Sure, this is thinly veiled 'telling', but it succeeds nonetheless in building sympathy for all the Bennett sisters (What do you mean, 'none of them much to recommend them' -- what kind of father is that?) and Lizzy in particular. We're also told that Lizzy is 'quick'. Soon enough, we see that quick wit in action.

To cross genres (big time), think about the 'Deliverator' opening in Snowcrash. (Amazon has their 'look inside' function enabled, in case you're interested.) Stephenson introduces Hiro Protagonist as a determined man of action with a sense of humor to burn. Hiro's focus on delivering his pizza before the deadline tells us all we need to know.

That said, I confess I never felt too much empathy or sympathy for Hiro. His smugness put me off. The female lead, YT, had a lot more going for her in the empathy department.

One last point. (D) You can get a lot of mileage if your character appears full of mystery. Here, I'm thinking about the opening to Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Here's how Conrad introduces Marlow:

Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol.

What's the first thing out of his mouth?

“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

They're on the Thames, for cryin' out loud. The last thing the stodgy Brits on the boat with Marlow want to hear is a comparison of London to the Congo -- yet that's the whole point. What the hell is Marlow thinking? What's on his mind? Out with it, already!

Okay, I've blathered on too long. (I haven't even gotten to Janet Evanovich's introduction of Stephanie Plum in One for the Money.) Now it's your turn.


Review of Analog, October 2005

Here's the link to my review of Analog, October 2005. If that glitches for some reason, you can always go straight to Tangent. D.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Why I won't be sleeping tonight

"The fudge is the life." Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931) En route from the bedroom to the dishwasher, Karen's not-quite-finished dessert became a bit lighter. In eight or nine paces, I, Diet Boy, managed to polish off several teaspoons of molten Dreyer's Chocolate Ice Cream and a heaping congealed teaspoon of Mrs. Richardson's Hot Fudge.
If I don't drug up on Benadryl, I'll be up until 3 or 4. The culprit? Theobromine, a close relative of caffeine. Like caffeine, theobromine is a mild stimulant. Also like caffeine, it has a whoppingly long half-life (6 to 10 hours). So if like me you are sensitive to it, eat your chocolate early. Let's take a closer look at theobromine.
And you thought you'd never have to see one of those again, huh? It gets more interesting. Here's the structure of guanine, a key component of DNA (it's the G that always pairs with C, cytosine):
Do ya see it yet? Do ya? The structures are awfully similar. One could, with little effort, imagine a genetic code in which caffeine and theobromine are key players. Imagine further that we were incapable of synthesizing these compounds (which is, in fact, true: our bodies don't make caffeine or theobromine, more's the pity). Do you see where I'm headed with this? Theobromine and caffeine would be vitamins -- essential nutrients we cannot synthesize for ourselves. Chocolate and coffee would be the bottom tier of the food pyramid. One could live on One-a-Day Vitamins and tiramisu. Perhaps I had more of a point when I first got rolling, but isn't that point enough? D.

On a sharper note,

I tracked down the submission guidelines for Tor Books, and I happily note that they'll accept unagented submissions. They also give a 4 to 6 month turnaround on such submissions. I'm tempted to send in my 'first three chapters plus synopsis' even though I am still editing, but I just know this sort of amateurish move would bite me in the ass. Patience . . . patience . . . Why Tor? Cuz they published John C. Wright's The Golden Age, another MEGA novel that they had to divide up into three books. So they shouldn't cringe at my 300K-word tome, right? D.

The Top 100

Your morning throwaway. If you skip this blog, all you'll miss are a handful of so-so jokes.
I saw this over at THIS!Christine's blog, and it looks like fun. Here are AFI's Top 100 films. I've bold-faced the ones I've seen, with comments as the mood strikes me. Here we go!

1. CITIZEN KANE (1941) I first saw this in college because I thought it would help me get into Wendy's pants. No go. So: does it deserve the number one spot? Naw. It's an interesting experience, and I did base one of my characters off Kane, so I guess I don't totally hate the movie.

2. CASABLANCA (1942) I based a whole book off this one (Karakoram, which may never see the light of day). That should tell you something.

3. THE GODFATHER (1972) Leave the gun. Take the canoli. (Oh, how I love that line.)

4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) Watch it, as I first did, with a room full of lesbians. You'll never want to see it any other way.

5. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) Seven Pillars of Wisdom without the homosexuality. On a serious note, this is one of my favorites. This is Peter O'Toole's best performance ever.

6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) A film to see for cultural literacy's sake only. I can't see any other redeeming features.

7. THE GRADUATE (1967) Why couldn't I have had a Mrs. Robinson?



10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)

11. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) Saw it. Don't remember it.

12. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) This one is FUN from the first scene.

13. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957) Easily one of my favorite war movies.

14. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

15. STAR WARS (1977) You already know how I feel about this one.

16. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) Didn't make a big impression.

17. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) Ditto.

18. PSYCHO (1960) Tritto. Boring, actually.

19. CHINATOWN (1974) I love so much about this movie it ain't funny. Let's start with Nicholson's line, "I cut myself shaving."

20. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975) Saw it with GF v1.0 in high school, and I've never watched it since. Neither one of us was impressed.


22. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) Oh, don't get me fighting with my wife again over this. I thought it was a snore.

23. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) Own it and love it. Hey, I subscribe to the Rara Avis list serve, so that oughta tell you something.

24. RAGING BULL (1980) Saw it once, never again.

25. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) I liked it when I first saw it. That was before I developed an allergy to Steven Spielberg.

26. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) OH YEAH! Put this one on my top 5 list.

27. BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) Feh. Like I'm interested in some hood's sexual problems?

28. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) Saw it with GF v1.0 in high school. At the time (and now), I felt it compared unfavorably with Heart of Darkness. Judging it on its own merits, it's not bad.


30. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948) I don't need to show you no steenking badges. (I love this movie, but I probably just misquoted it.)

31. ANNIE HALL (1977) Hmm. I think I saw this one with GF v1.0, too. I liked Christopher Walken's schtick, and I loved the bit where the kids in 1st grade are telling what they did when they grew up. Surreal. Since 1980-something, I've been allergic to Woody Allen.

32. THE GODFATHER PART II (1974) Great stuff. You broke my heart, Fredo! And don't miss the fan fic-turned-movie, The Freshman, with Brando playing Don Corleone yet again.

33. HIGH NOON (1952)

34. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) Strangely, this made little impression on me.


36. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969) I've only seen bits of this.


38. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) Read the book.

39. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) Chick flick. I don't get it.

40. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) Not bad, as Hitchcock goes.

41. WEST SIDE STORY (1961)

42. REAR WINDOW (1954) One of my favorite Hitchcock films.

43. KING KONG (1933)

44. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) And this is on the list why?


46. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) See it, as I did for the first time, with a half dozen feminists. Remember to rave about it afterwards in front of them. (I love this movie, can you tell?)

47. TAXI DRIVER (1976) Clinically interesting flick. Travis Bickle descends into paranoid schizophrenia. Why doesn't anyone ever point that out?

48. JAWS (1975) A hateful, silly movie.


50. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) Hey, I stole a scene from this for my novel-in-progress. I love this movie.


52. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) Sand does not make a great lubricant. Nuff said.

53. AMADEUS (1984) Silly laugh, silly movie.


55. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) Aw, shut your von Trapp.

56. M*A*S*H (1970) I barely remember this.

57. THE THIRD MAN (1949)

58. FANTASIA (1940) Only worthwhile so you can better appreciate the jokes in Allegro non Troppo.

59. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) I like the Griffith Park scenes. Reminds me of my childhood. I also enjoy seeing Mr. Howell in a frilly apron. How much more obvious can you get?

60. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) I liked it pre-Spielberg allergy.

61. VERTIGO (1958) Feh. As an ear, nose, and throat doctor, I object.

62. TOOTSIE (1982) Double feh. Good concept, lousy result.

63. STAGECOACH (1939)

64. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) Major league FEH! The worst first contact story ever.

65. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) If you haven't seen the original Lecktor movie, Manhunter, see it. (Yes, that's the original spelling.) Brian Cox is 100 times creepier than that scenery-bulimic, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Noonan's Frances Dollarhyde achieves levels of poignancy unmatched by any villain in any movie EVER. Name me someone who even comes close.

66. NETWORK (1976) Not very memorable.

67. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) I have to admit, Angela Lansbury's character inspired my novel's #1 baddy. Even Frank Sinatra couldn't bring this movie down. The movie that inspired about a dozen Outer Limits teleplays.


69. SHANE (1953)

70. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) A highly overrated chase scene. Feh. Hackman has done much better movies. Why is this movie on the list?

71. FORREST GUMP (1994) And why is this movie on the list? A film about an idiot?

72. BEN-HUR (1959)


74. THE GOLD RUSH (1925)


76. CITY LIGHTS (1931)

77. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) Cool movie, but I remember Lords of Flatbush better.

78. ROCKY (1976) I can't believe I saw this.

79. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)

80. THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

81. MODERN TIMES (1936)

82. GIANT (1956)

83. PLATOON (1986)

84. FARGO (1996) I love William Macy in this.

85. DUCK SOUP (1933) Why aren't there more comedies on this list?


87. FRANKENSTEIN (1931) More brains! Fine movie, but Young Frankenstein is better.

88. EASY RIDER (1969)

89. PATTON (1970) Dove that I am, I still find this flick compelling. My dad took me to see it when I was eight!

90. THE JAZZ SINGER (1927)

91. MY FAIR LADY (1964)

92. A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

93. THE APARTMENT (1960) I have a dim memory of this one.

94. GOODFELLAS (1990) Ditto.

95. PULP FICTION (1994) Every generation needs its Deliverance. This is ours. Squeal like a pig!

96. THE SEARCHERS (1956) One of my favorite Westerns, but there have been better ones. Why isn't Sergio Leone represented on this list? Once Upon a Time in America. Need I say more? Okay: High Plains Drifter.


98. UNFORGIVEN (1992) See my comment to #96. Not a bad film, but not on my top 100 list.

99. GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967) What's up with Sydney Poitier's girlfriend in this movie? Is she brain dead? Aside from that, I've always considered this movie a guilty pleasure.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Gorjun is Free

I imagine that one of the coolest things about being an editor is the power to rename another author's work. Not that I liked the story's original title, "All Change," but I kept hoping we would find a title that would make me do a little dance. Oh, well. I can live with "The Gorjun is Free", and I really have nothing better to suggest to Continuum's editor, Bill Rupp. I'm just tickled that things are finally moving forward. TBC update: first pass 25% complete. Here, too, things are moving forward. (Karen's recommendations: The Marx brothers skit gets dropped. Butch and Sundance stay. Sul's near-rape by beak-builder Biff Bols gets dropped. And that's a shame, since I dearly loved it when she kneed him in the crotch. Still, it does nothing to further the story, and that whole sequence takes a LONG time to play out.) Sorry today's post is so incoherent. I worked hard on my Analog review for Tangent and had no time left for creative blogging. Or, for that matter, cooking dinner. Hey Debi: remember Bare Rump's last will and testament? Oh, how I love that bit. That, of course, stays. More tomorrow. D.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Editing update, and a snippet

6 Reasons for my present brain-fry:
  1. I've begun line-editing my manuscript. Status: 12.5% done.
  2. Four loads of laundry.
  3. Two loads for the dishwasher.
  4. Cooked a ham, candied yams, and eggplant parmigiano.
  5. Went to the gym. Thanks to the summer cold, I'm out of shape again, but I still managed a 25-minute workout.
  6. Trip to the grocery store and drug store.
Here's my editing strategy. Never having edited a novel before, I can't tell you if these are bright ideas or not.
  1. Run through the text, correcting all major errors and omissions I've thought of during the writing process. DONE.
  2. First hard copy edit. Catch all the little shit, and the big shit, too. (Such as Karen's comment from a few minutes ago: "Why don't the Kirbys just return to their lander when the mugwasps fly in?" Um . . . because I really, really want them to head down into the spider caves?) 12.5% complete.
  3. Second run-through on the text, this time making the changes in computero which I've penciled in at step 2. That's when I'll be adding and deleting scenes.
Since I do much of the coarse editing with the very first writing, the manuscript is already in pretty good shape. Mostly, I need to fix consistency issues. For example: Brakans are birds (sort of). They do not sleep in beds. They do not use pillows. That sort of thing. And now, because you've been good, here's your snippet for the day. This comes at the end of Chapter Six, when Commander Brek has successfully recruited all forty Colonel Kirbys from the master-creator of synthetic humans, Whizzer Ugh. (Colonel Kirby was John Wayne's character in The Green Berets.) Jeannie is another synthetic human modeled after Barbara Eden, circa I Dream of Jeannie. Thirty-nine Kirbys filed into the choppers while one remained behind, lingering in Jeannie’s embrace. The two lovers’ eyes were locked, and he rubbed the small of her back forcefully with both hands, as if he might join her forever to him. When the lieutenant blew his whistle, this last Kirby pulled himself from Jeannie’s arms and marched to the nearest chopper. She crumpled to her knees, her anguished cries muted by the choppers’ mounting roar. Campy melodrama ;o) D. PS: Beth has something on her mind. Please, for the love of God, don't tell her where I live.

Friday, August 19, 2005

SF love triangles

Smart Bitch Sarah wrote a cool post on love triangles today. I encourage you all to read about the misadventures of Aragorn/Arwen/Eowyn, Archie/Veronica/Jughead, and a bunch of others. I can't let a good joke drop, not when it has much more cherry mileage. Here, then, are a few additional triangles for your discussion, from a world closer to home. Captain Kirk/Mr. Spock/Nurse Chapel Sure, Christine digs the Vulcan cervical neck pinch, but ol' J. Tiberius has that power thing going for him. How frustrating it must have been for Christine to watch Kirk cavort with one snatch-o'-the-week after another; I'll bet she and Yeoman Rand used to have whopping grand bitch sessions over a couple pints of Romulan ale, ending in declarations of, "MEN! What do we need them for, anyway? Come on, Christine, it may not be a Vulcan pinch, but I have fingers, too, and I know how to use them." But Kirk's cavortings were all for cover. The Federation's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy doesn't cover Starship Captains -- or first officers -- openly out of the transporter. What was it Spock said to Kirk on the point of death? "You are, and always have been, my special friend." Deckard/Rachael/Pris (Blade Runner) I know what you're thinking: he's artificially manufacturing a triangle which did not exist in the movie -- for comic effect! But you're wrong. When Deckard (Harrison Ford) meets up with Pris (Daryl Hannah), the sparks fly right from the get-go. So she beats the crap out of him. So what? Is it so wrong for a woman to be assertive? She's a replicant. She was programmed to be assertive. Do you get it, yet? Kicking Deckard in the nads is the only way she has of showing her love. The only reason she keeps on clobbering him is that Deckard is too dense to figure things out. Remember when she jumps him and rides him piggy-back? I'll bet you thought she wanted to break his neck between her creamy thighs. But, actually, all she wanted was for him to turn around. Stupid human. As for Rachael: egads, how boring. I'll bet she cries after sex. I'll bet she cries during sex. Luke/Han Solo/Princess Leia Organa I know Leia and Luke are twin siblings, but anyone who has seen Joe Dirt can tell you this just heightens the sexual tension. Twincest is hot these days. So toss that objection right out the X-wing window, 'kay? It makes more sense to worry about the Luke/Han Solo dynamic, particularly given the fact that Chewbacca is willing to couple with anything that growls. (Wookies as a rule are orally obsessed; they don't call him Chewie for nothing. Watch those incisors!) But let's assume for the sake of argument that carnal hijinks aboard the Millennium Falcon were of the sort manly men get up to when there are no available vaginas. You know, the same sort of thing T. E. Lawrence got up to with those swarthy Arabian boys. After all, we're talking love triangles here, not circle jerks. That said, I'd have to side with Han-Leia, just as Lucas did. In 1977, Harrison Ford was a hottie, and Leia would qualify for that adjective, too, if only she'd unleash her hair from those sadistic buns. Luke had all the sex appeal of a human Jar Jar Binks. And besides, his true attentions were elsewhere. I can see it now, a la Joe Dirt: "Luke, I am your father." "Say it again!" "I'm your father." "Say it!" "I'm your father. I'm your father." Oh, yeah. D.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The place to be

Humans are meme* sponges, and none are spongier than children. In first grade, I got infected by the fame meme. I vanted to be a star. If only Cintra Wilson had been a playmate on my street; she might have inoculated me against the fame virus. As it was, I fell under Hollywood's spell. I saw a want ad in the TV guide for child actors and I bit. When I was four or five, I spontaneously broke into song at our local pizza parlor, where they had a real live piano man. I belted out "Home on the Range"; I was the original karaoke maven. (My wife would call it budding exhibitionism, and she'd be right. Hmm. Exhibitionism. Isn't that what blogging is all about?) Bottom line, I loved having an audience. As I recall, I got a job from my first casting call, a major role in James Whitmore's upcoming TV series, My Friend Tony (January to September, 1969). If you follow that link, you'll learn the following: When he was in Italy shortly after the end of World War II, John Woodruff was almost pick-pocketed by a very young street hood named Tony. Years later, a fully grown Tony arrived in America to join John as half of a private-investigation team. I was that very young street hood! See? I'll bet you always wondered where you'd seen me before. I only had to do one thing for this role: pick James Whitmore's pocket. I recall that Whitmore was a royal creep who couldn't be bothered to learn my name (I was 'the kid'). I also recall that in the story boards for my scene, everything appeared in silhouette. I figured the drawings had to be in silhouette because the director hadn't met me yet and didn't know what I looked like. When the show finally aired, the whole family watched it. There I was in the opening credits -- where I would be week after week for the show's whole run -- a tiny silhouette in the uppermost fifth of the screen trying to pickpocket a slightly larger silhouette. Fame. But it got better. Before long, I would find myself sitting nearly naked in Eva Gabor's lap.
Unfortunately, unlike other eight-year-olds, I wasn't that into blondes. But you're probably wondering about Eva's thing for younger guys.
You know, I've always wondered why I can't ever manage to catch MY episode of Green Acres on television. The answer is easy: six seasons, 170 episodes. As best I can tell, mine is episode 145, "The City Kids". Here's my Green Acres insider FAQ. Since the kids at school only ever asked me two questions, this will be short. Q: Did you meet Arnold the Pig? A: No, I did not get to meet Mr. the Pig. Q: So I bet you think you're pretty cool, huh? A: Well, yes, actually -- Q: Dontcha, punk, ya little shit -- A: Okay, the Q&A is over now . . . For Green Acres, my role required that I run around the Douglases' living room with a giant candle holder and get myself stuck up the Douglases' chimney. (Is there something oddly phallic about that, or is it just me?) Once I'm stuck up the chimney, the other kids tug on my legs to pull me out, and they pull off my pants by accident. When they finally get me out, my face is all smudged with soot. Hmm. Are you laughing yet? After the director got himself a satisfying take, I ran off the set. My main thought was to get my pants back, but Eva Gabor intercepted me, plopped me on her lap, cooed madly at me, and tried to wipe my face clean. My mother was no help at all. She was so ecstatic to find me giving Eva Gabor a lap dance that she hung about, basking in Eva's starlight, gushing how much she loved her in Gigi. I'd really, really like to say I grabbed myself a bit of stellar action, a fistful of Hooterville Hooters, as it were, but sadly, I was embarrassed as hell sitting half-naked in some strange woman's lap. Yet another example of me passing up an opportunity to score. So: did I go on to become the youngest Brady? Did I get to play Eddie's father's son, or the littlest Munster? No, although I could have become a model for the star of MTV's The Head:
Yup, I became a nine-year-old creep, a genuine prick. Couldn't understand why the other kids weren't as impressed with me as I was. I may be misremembering this, but I think the camel-back-breaking straw came the day our teacher announced that a boy in one of the other first grade classes had died in a dune buggy accident. I waved my hand, and when the teacher pointed to me, I said, "Well, at least he'll get his name in the newspaper." Based on that, my parents decided that this fame thing had gone a bit too far. That was the end of my acting career, except for my starring role in our first grade class's production of Chicken Little. Weird thing is, I never really missed it. D. *"Memes are the basic building blocks of our minds and culture, in the same way that genes are the basic building blocks of biological life." - from Meme Central. Better definition: memes are infectious thoughts or ideas. "Blueberries are blue" is not a meme. "M-m-m-my-Sharona" is (if you hum it and get other folks to hum it, too). Courage is not a meme, but a code of chivalry is. Religion is the Typhoid Mary of memes.
P.S.: Bare Rump is back. I thought about having her meet up with Seymore Butts on his casting couch (what -- you don't think Seymore would be interested in a hot new actress named Bare Rump?) but Karen says Bare Rump has too much integrity to appear in a porno. Ergo, Bare Rump's Diary remains PG-13 (weeeell, occasionally R) for the time being.

I got me a guest map.

Why? Because it's cool. Does there need to be another reason? Go ahead, put yourself on the map. You know you want to. And while you're at it, scroll down this blog to the Bloghop gizmo and give me a NICE, BIG, FAT, GREEN smiley face*. Put me back on the top-ranked page with that hunky Xavier -- I know you can do it! My ego thanks you. D. *Assuming you haven't already voted, of course.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I'm still a bit under the weather (note to self: bad idea to blow off blood pressure meds for a week), so here's a quickie. What's up with all my links? Over at Ishbadiddle, there's a link debunking the Christopher Walken presidency bid. Bunch of kill joys; next thing you know, they'll be saying that the John Cusack for President campaign is phony, too. More political commentary: Jeff Huber updates us (More Dubya Talk) on the latest Rovewellian Newspeak, and Jurassic Pork contemplates the future of the Red vs. Blue fracas in Crawford, Texas ("So we have in the red corner . . . trailer park white trash whose wives and kids go to the same pediatrician" -- hee hee). At HuffPost, Cindy Sheehan responds to the latest right wing smears and reports on the right's cross-and-flag desecration yesterday. What are my new romance buddies up to? The Bitches and friends are having an interesting discussion on how to sustain unresolved sexual tension in a novel. (I solved it thus: my giant spider, Bare Rump, keeps kicking the shit out of my giant fly, Argh, in order to save his life. At one point, Argh tries to repay the favor. He clobbers Bare Rump on the head with a heavy stone, hoping to knock her out so he can climb on top of her to protect her from flying vermin. Bare Rump's response: "Ow." Guess ya had to be there.) My future harem queen Kate Rothwell is having a vagina monologue over at her blog, and Beth has been holding forth on scones, phones, and answering machines. My exceptionally tall pal Debi wonders which words drive traffic to your blog. Guess what, Deb: tantric sex doesn't do it. And Maureen, where the heck on your blog is your tantric sex reference? Oh, great, that's three tantric sex references in one paragraph! Anyway, Maureen, I added myself to your cool world map. Where can I get one? Elsewhere, my favorite dominatrix Gabriele is having a bad hair day, and Demented Michelle proves yet again that she's one of my psychic twins by blogging on Dunkin Donuts on the very day I went off my diet with (cue Outer Limits theremin music) DONUTS! In case you're wondering if I only hang out with girls, Pat is cooking beef stew while listening to Rob Zombie, and Wenlock is haunting the moors. Last but not least, Paperback Writer is back in business! I've undoubtedly overlooked a number of you. Feel free to promote yourselves shamelessly in the comments. Tomorrow, if I'm up to it: my dark history as a child actor. D.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lester's Tantric Sex Guide for Teens

Lester Wormfriend here, guest blogging for Dr. Doug. He mentioned that Maureen requested a blog on tantric sex. Skilled as he is in the tao of chakra alignment, you'd think he would have jumped at the chance. But no. "Some of my patients might read this blog," Dr. Doug explained. "And some of them might lack a sense of humor. And some of them might write letters to the editor." "Oh," I said. "I see." Anyway, since my sexual history is rather more cosmopolitan than his, I happily agreed.
". . . when MTV surveyed 14- to 25-year-olds to find out what subjects they'd like to learn about most, tantric sex topped the list." -- From Teenagers often say to me, "I don't understand Dr. Doug's success. How is it that a 3' 6" hobbit like him has women vying to have his hairy hobbity babies?" "It's simple," I say. "In high school, he mastered the subtle secrets of tantric sex. Women sense this about him. They know he can bring them to the cusp of sexual enlightenment and beyond." "But, Mr. Wormfriend. I've read that tantric sex requires many long hours of meditation, ritual dance, and tandem breathing exercises. How can I get my boyfriend to do any of that, when he spends less than five minutes talking to me?" "Oh, ho, ho," I laughed heartily. "You may not realize it, Tiffini, but you and your boyfriend are already skilled practitioners of tantra." "We are?" she squealed. "Sure. Think about it. The essence of tantra is that you stimulate one another, sometimes for hours on end, without ever reaching climax. You've done that, haven't you?" "Well, necking in Otis's Ford pick-up, but . . . " "See? And after a while, don't you feel a certain tension rising up your spine towards your head?" "No. Mostly I feel sore as hell from Otis mashing my boobs like he was juicing lemons." "How about Otis? Doesn't he feel a certain tension rising --" "Well, duh. He keeps rubbing it against my leg all night long, and then he bitches about how much he's hurting, and how he needs relief." "And there you have it. Tantric enlightenment, the culmination of hours of less-than-satisfying stimulation." "Um . . . Mr. Wormfriend? That's not enlightenment. Otis calls it blue balls." "Blue balls, stone ache -- enlightenment by any other name." "Gee. I never really looked at it that way." She looked thoughtful for a long moment, then sighed. "Thanks, Mr. Wormfriend. I think." "And remember, Tiffini. The essence of tantra is that you prolong the stimulation indefinitely. The best way to do that is to keep your clothes on. Many, many layers of clothes." L.W.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Dad's Eightieth

My father's eightieth birthday is tomorrow. I can't go to Vegas to help him celebrate because
  • any temperature over 75F feels unbearably hot to me,
  • my patients threaten me if I use any syllables in the word 'vacation', and
  • have I mentioned recently how far overbudget we are on our remodel?
So, instead, I offer this short bio of my dad's formative years. (Don't worry. He got a card and a gift certificate, and he'll get a phone call, too.) He was born in Boston, at the west end of Bowdoin Square near Scollay Square. Here's an image of a post card showing Scollay Square circa 1900:
I really wanted to scan in some photos from my album, but Karen's had a devil of a time getting either of our scanners to work. Just as well; my dad has seen all of those photos anyway. Maybe he'll have more fun with these. His father was a grocer -- one of those small stores that predated chain supermarkets (predated, but not by much, as you'll soon hear). Little Arthur waited on his first customer at age 3. Probably sold someone a pack of playing cards, if I know my dad. His pop's name was Hyman, which (if I remember correctly) was Ellis Island's way of spelling Chaim. Hyman moved around a lot in those days. By the mid-30s, he'd moved the grocery store to Roxbury, across the street from the synagogue.
I found this while surfing for "Roxbury" images. It's a picture of Boston Latin School. Recognize this one, Mom? My dad went to Roxbury Memorial High, but I couldn't find any pictures of Roxbury High. Back to Hyman and his war with the rabbi. He kept his store open on Saturdays (for you heathens, that's the Jewish sabbath) and his clients were, you guessed it, primarily other Orthodox Jews from the neighborhood . . . thus proving that my issues with organized religion go back at least two generations. Hyman must have thought this all great fun; in the late 30s, he moved to Dorchester, right across from another synagogue.
You understand, I'm winging it. Maybe this was the synagogue Hyman locked horns with; maybe not. Maybe my father had his Bar Mitzvah here. A life, reconstructed through Google Images. By the late 30s, the big supermarket chains moved into town, grinding small businessmen like my grandfather into the dust. Damn you, A&P! Hyman moved on and became a soda pop wholesaler. Meanwhile, the now not-so-little Arthur found work as a supermarket stock boy and mechanic's helper. He was a big kid so he hung out with older boys. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, many of his friends went to Canada to fight with the British. Arthur was still too young (14). Come 1941, he'd graduated high school and moved on to Iowa State. I imagine he had a blast that year. Not only was he big; he looked more mature than others his age. His older friends got carded at the bars, but not him. Hyman had taught him well, so Arthur also scored big playing pinochle with these suckers. They were his financial aid plan. If you try, you can guess the rest. When America got into WWII, my father's friends enlisted, and he followed suit. No one bothered to ask him for proof of his age. Two blinks later he found himself in boot camp in Fort Benning, Georgia. He managed to hit many of the high points (low points?) of the European theater of action: first in Africa, at Kasserine Pass,
then the Allied Invasion of Sicily (that's my dad in the helmet*),
and the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach,
In Aachen, some German soldier got in a lucky shot and clipped my dad in the knee. That gave him some primo rehab time in a Paris hospital, where they pumped him full of toxic levels of penicillin and buffed him into shape in time for the Battle of the Bulge,
Woops! This Battle of the Bulge:
The Army kept Arthur around for the German occupation, too, and discharged him in January 1946. One of my dad's favorite war stories was the time a shell dropped into the foxhole right next to him and blew him clean out of the hole. He sustained no injuries (save for some noise-induced hearing loss. Sorry, had to work that in -- occupational hazard), but the shell killed a friend of his who had been a great deal farther from the blast. This, and doubtless countless other experiences like it, turned him into a Calvinist Jew. Well, he's not much of either, but he does seem to have a belief in predestination. Something must happen to you when you see all your friends dying around you day after day, month after month. Survive that, and the rest of your life must seem like a gift. Gravy. Frosting. Borrowed time. One of those must surely fit the bill. My dad's other war stories tend to fit one of two patterns: 1. Green lieutenant arrives. He's too arrogant (and/or stupid) to listen to the voice of experience, and promptly does his best to get himself and the rest of the guys killed. 2. They try to promote my dad, but he won't put up with the brass's BS and always manages to get busted down to sergeant again. He got back to the States and found himself in the "52-20" club: all vets received an unemployment wage of $20 a month for 52 weeks. By June of '46, he was doubtlessly bored silly, and went back to school at Iowa State. He took a degree in statistics. Later, he married my mom in January of '48, and they moved to California shortly after he graduated. He worked in banks for a while. Eventually, he became a high school math teacher, and kept that up for MANY years. I suspect his students had the same impression of him as I did, growing up.
(In case you can't read the upper bubble, it says: "Did you clean your room???") I'll save early memories of my dad to a later birthday. Did I leave much out, Daddy? Anyway . . .
Happy Birthday, Daddy, and many happy returns!
D. *Just kidding. That's Patton!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Walken in 2008

Yippee! It's more than a Technorati rumor. It's true: Christopher Walken will run for president in 2008. Let's examine his credentials, shall we? But first, some background on how America chooses its leaders. Ronald Reagan rose to the highest post in the land thanks to the fact he looked so good playing opposite a chimp. Arnold Schwarzenegger did about as good as a non-native born citizen can do because he showed his naked tush in Terminator. Fred Grandy played Gopher on the Love Boat. How can you not vote for a guy named Gopher? Sonny Bono used to be married to Cher. How can you not vote for a guy bright enough to divorce Cher? The list goes on and on. Fred Thompson parlayed a Hollywood acting career into a Senate seat. He then parlayed an acting career in the Senate into an even bigger role, D.A. on monster hit Law and Order. Next pole vault, the Oval Office, but Fred hasn't announced yet. Don't forget Sheila Kuehl (from Dobie Gillis) and Clint Eastwood (who debuted as the uncredited 'lab assistant' in the 1955 chick flick, Revenge of the Creature). And don't ignore Bill Clinton, best known as the Cigar Smoker in Devil in a Blue Dress, and Dubya, who is such a fine actor no one seems to realize he isn't a Texan. Back to Christopher Walken. I love this guy. I really do. And I'm not being sarcastic, either. Wherever and whenever he shows up, he's riveting. He played Diane Keaton's suicidal brother in Annie Hall, and a nut job in Deer Hunter. See? Already, he has a more credible military record than Dubya. My all time favorite Christopher Walken role: not Max Shreck in Batman Returns, but the Angel Gabriel in The Prophecy and its sequels. If you haven't seen this movie, see it. The Prophecy has a screenplay to die for. Two great quotes, which I've borrowed from IMDB:
I'm an angel. I kill newborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. And occasionally, when I feel like it, I tear little girls apart. And from now till kingdom come... the only thing you can count on... in your existence... is never understanding why.
Catherine: Go to Hell! Gabriel: Heaven. Only Heaven. At least get the zip code right. Catherine: It's all the same to you, isn't it? Gabriel: No. In Heaven, we believe in love. Catherine: What do you love, Gabriel? Gabriel: Cracking your skull.
And if that exchange doesn't get your vote, nothing will. Disclaimer: over at the Huffington Post, they're still trying to figure out if this is a hoax. D.

Here's a snippet for you

I've been working on Chapter 23 today, which is roughly halfway through the novel. I had thought this chapter would be ripe for paring (and at 300,000 words, one could argue this novel needs paring). Now that I'm rereading it, I'm loving it more than ever. Bear in mind that I wrote a novel that I would enjoy reading. That has always been my first goal. So if I gush over my own work, you'll understand why. Here's that snippet. Sul, my female protagonist, is taking an elevator to see my eeevil villainess, Madame Isen (think Tammy Faye Bakker crossed with Laura Bush). That's all you need to know. The left and right elevator walls were adorned with Church posters. Sul recognized one from last year’s Supra-Tithe Pledge Drive. Holding hands, Madame Isen and the Arch-pastor sat together on a marble bench in the green promenade fronting the Timbrel Cathedral. They leaned in towards one another, beaming at the camera. In flowing script, set against a blue sky, were the words,
You are one of Ki-Ni’s nest, and our nest, too! Your “love offerings” make it possible to broadcast Ki-Ni’s glorious message to the world! We love you more than you can know! Thank you for everything!!
The other poster featured Madame Isen seated at her desk, the Arch-pastor standing behind her. His talons rested lightly on her shoulders. She wore a gold tiara and a flowing white gown; he wore his traditional black three-piece suit. This poster wasn’t familiar, and when Sul read the caption, she understood why.
Thanks to the miracle of “singularities” and Benevolent Satellite technology, we can spread the love of Ki-Ni throughout the Galaxy faster than the speed of light! But we can’t do it without your help! Send us your “love offerings” today!!
Well, thought Sul, the Church certainly seems confident in the negotiations’ outcome. She remembered the Arch-pastor’s announcement at the prayer breakfast. Their very own Satellite station . . . nonstop Kinist evangelism for the Silk Road’s many hungry ears and other sensory appendages. Was that what this was all about? But the Satellite station would be free, and heaven knew the Church already had a firm handle on the business of network television. Why would they use the station as a ploy for more donations? Why wouldn’t they? D.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sex, but not the good kind

I woke up with a headache this morning, then made it worse by working on my NiP for four hours. I'm deep in editing hell (fixing plot holes, setting up deus so they ain't ex machina in the last fifty pages, that sort of thing). Fortunately, the manuscript will, by tomorrow afternoon, be up to snuff. No, that does not mean I'm sending it out. It means I'm willing to print it out so I can begin my hard copy edit. Yippee! Bottom line, I had serious literary brain freeze a moment ago trying to come up with a topic for today's blog. My best idea was to take the top ten search topics at Technorati and use them in my own version of the Aristrocrats Joke*. The trouble with that idea is (1) I really don't want to exploit Cindy Sheehan, and (2) the Aristrocrats Joke is filthy enough that I would surely alienate half my readership or more. (I think I'd be down to Maureen and Gabriele ;o) Instead, I asked Karen, "What old story of mine haven't I told yet?" Without one second's pause: "Male pelvic exams in medical school." God I love her.
Rummy Exaggerating
If you're in the mood for edification, Karen will soon be posting the first installment of her capsule history of Afghanistan. Has everyone left who is going to leave? Good. I'm assuming the rest of you want to hear about the teaching of male pelvic exams to naive medical students. First, let me assure you that we did not practice on one another. Heavens, no. We'd never be able to look at each other afterwards. Homophobia is rampant among male medical students, as my tale of Fred has previously demonstrated. Instead, the school enlisted the assistance of a corps of seasoned men, doubtless gathered by trolling Polk Street with a bullhorn. Heterosexuals do not volunteer for this job. Undoubtedly, this boosted the anxiety of Fred and a few of my other friends, but they sucked it up (so to speak). Like other medical students, they well understood the meaning of the phrase "requirement for graduation." We divided up into mixed-sex groups of four and met privately with our volunteers in small classrooms. One by one, we pulled on our gloves and practiced palpating our volunteer's penis and testicles. ("That's my epididymis. That's normal. If you feel any other bumps down there, that would be bad.") We each finished our round-the-world journey with a visit to Mr. Prostate. Our volunteer was great; Fred Rogers was never this patient. Afterwards, we compared notes. Fierce howling and gnashing of teeth from Fred's group told me that something special had happened there. I approached and heard the story retold for everyone's benefit. "He . . ." "Yes?" "He . . ." "Go on!" "He said . . . he said, 'Oh, my. Look at that. I have a little drip.'" Yes, we all recovered from the trauma. D. *If you simply must here a version of this joke, follow the link, and download the South Park version. As I understand it, this is one of the least offensive versions of the joke, but you will still be offended. You've been warned.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Pulpy Goodness

Check out the first chapter of Smart Bitch Candy's serialized novel, The Book of Angels. Candy is only a few thousand words into this, but she has already given us a ball-busting heroine, an eldritch book used for summoning the elder gods, one dwarf-snuffing, and one ninja demon-killer, with the promise of some serious demon foo soon to come. Who needs literature?!

How to Avoid Spiders

Hi, Tarantula Lady here. In defense of spiders, I've got to say, they're not as bad as you might think. No spider is interested in attacking a human; they just want to get away. If you learn a little bit about them, you can avoid most problems. 1) Black widows and brown recluse spiders can be dangerous but they are very reluctant to bite you; they'd rather escape. In order to be bitten, you have to corner them somehow and then press your skin against them. NEVER kill them by crushing them against your skin. You'll drive their fangs in and envenomate yourself. It's like jabbing yourself with a poisonous needle. If they get on you, brush them off and then nail them with something like a flyswatter if you want to kill them. 2) If you see a spider wandering around your house, it's a male looking for a mate. I don't have a big problem with someone killing it, since the critter doesn't have much longer to live, probably a few months at best. However, he isn't interested in attacking you; he just wants to meet up with a female. 3) Spiders don't live in your toilet. There are no documented cases of someone being bitten on the ass while sitting on the toilet. 4) Spiders don't bite you in the exact center of your forehead while you're sleeping at night. There have been reports of people developing ulcers in the middle of their foreheads which are blamed on house spiders. It's way too suspicious that the "bite" is so precisely located in the exact center. I think these people have shingles since that disease has a symmetric pattern of rashes and sores. 5) Spiders are not well studied animals because pesticide companies won't fund any research on them. They're beneficial predators and farmers _don't_ want to kill them. Only harmful pests get lots of research. However, a heart medication has been developed from the venom of a Mexican Red Knee tarantula. 6) Tarantulas are big and hairy but a lot of them are bizarrely good natured. No one has ever died or developed ANY permanent health problems from a tarantula bite; it might be rather painful, though. Most New World species are docile and can be handled with very little danger but there are some exceptions; they also have VERY irritating hairs so leave them alone unless you read up on them. If you see tarantulas wandering around at night in the Southwest, they're, you guessed it, short-lived males looking for a mate. The females stay safe in their underground burrows. Old World species can be pretty foul-tempered, but, hey, they're not in the U.S. or much in Europe. They're predominantly in the warmer parts in Africa and southern Asia. They can't survive in colder regions like northern Europe. There are no native U.S. tarantula species east of the Mississippi; there is one small colony of escapees in an orange grove in Florida. 7) Full-grown tarantulas don't suddenly erupt from cacti. In the U.S., most tarantulas live in arid regions in the southwest. The females generally stay in their burrows. After mating, she'll build an eggsac, and after a few months, 1/4" spiderlings emerge. They usually disperse but a few may hang around Mom who will feed and take care of them. That's everything I can come up with right now. If people want to avoid a particular type of animal, they should learn a little about them. It'll be easier to figure out ways to stay away from them.

She's baa-aack.

And she's multiplied. D.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Not two years ago, if I found a spider in the bathroom I'd scream like a banshee. Just ask my wife. "Karen! A spider!" "So?" "Do something, anything!" Yes, those were the days. A time of peace and tranquility, when I didn't share my bedroom with forty tarantulas. Yeah, you heard me. It wasn't always this way. As a kid, I used to catch flies and throw them into spider webs. And before you ask, no, I didn't wet the bed, set fires, or torture small animals (except by feeding flies to spiders, of course). I'm not sure when spiders began creeping me out, or why. I do know that I got over it fairly quickly. Nothing like constant exposure to take you past your fears. Once Karen started collecting, oh boy did she start collecting. She says it's a chick thing. Think about it. Tarantulas could be feminist mascots. The females are bigger, faster, smarter, and longer-lived than males. They control the sexual encounter, not the boys. For every time a male eats a female, it goes the other way 1000 times. Nor does the female always eat the male after sex. If she has a good time, she's free to keep him around for future flings. But back to the main focus of this blog: me. I mean, arachnophobia. I still won't let the tarantulas crawl on me, but I help Karen out from time to time. Lifting cages, for example -- I'm good at that. And pointing things out. "Oooh, Karen, look at the fat ass on that one." For the arachnophobes in my audience, I'm going to give you a gradual introduction to spiders. Desensitization therapy: that's the name of the game. We'll begin with the new image for Karen's blog (over there on the right somewhere). Isn't she cute? And so yummy, too. Is there anything better than candy corn fangs? D.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sociobiology of Boobage 101

You're at the old site, folks. For the properly formatted version of this post, click here. In 1983, Vincent Sarich taught a course at Berkeley called "The Evolution of Human Behavior." He let us know on the first day that the class was experimental. He had some rough ideas about course content -- some things he wanted to talk about, a handful of ideas he wanted to share. Sounded like good clean fun, and we really did have a blast, too. Professor Sarich (that grizzly teddy bear on the left) was good to his word. He talked, we listened -- and argued with him, of course. For a final exam, he asked us to write three short essays on topics of our own choosing. They had to be somewhat relevant to the course, but beyond that, we were on our own. My three topics: Genius, a maladaptive trait Why are hiccups contagious? The Road Warrior: a sociobiologic perspective I got an A+. Funny thing, though. I've only retained two things from that class. One is a concept: the Tragedy of the Commons (see the Wikipedia article here, or the original article here), which suggests that folks will always choose their own self interest over the common good, even to their ultimate detriment. If you're curious about this, I recommend you start with the Wiki article, since it is shorter than the original article and has considerably more perspective. The other thing I learned in Professor Sarich's class is why men love cleavage. "I want to talk about breasts today," he said, except that with his slight speech impediment it came out "breashts." "Why are they so appealing?" The traditional sociobiological interpretation is that large breasts are desirable because they translate to well fed babies. Sociobiology was big back then. Still is, for all I know. In case you're unfamiliar with it, here's the basic idea. Our behavior is ruled by our genes, and in particular, our genes' desire to pass on more of themselves to the next generation. "But," you argue, "genes are not sentient." Pshaw! Genes don't have to be sentient to find ways of furthering their own interests. Back to boobs. Professor Sarich contended that the sociobiologists were wrong. Men don't love breasts because they want well fed babies. Men crave hooters because of a cross-wiring problem. You see, men get boobs confused with butts:
Recalling that the missionary position is, anthropologically speaking, rare (and dreadfully European), this is the view most men have during sex. Butt cheeks. According to Prof. Sarich, guys crave cleavage because it reminds us of butt cheeks in general, sex in particular. When a woman shows us her décolletage, she's giving us an invitation to the dance. Theories like this are only useful if they can shed light on other inexplicable phenomena. For me, Sarich's idea worked because it explained why, when I was a kid, this old cover for Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach
always gave me wood. It's gotta be true. D.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Support Cindy Sheehan

Who's my hero?
Cindy Sheehan, the woman who has camped out in front of Bush's ranch, demanding answers -- that's who. For my Canadian and European readers, learn more about Cindy's story here, at Daily Kos. You'll find a wealth of links in the right-hand side bar. Through her heroism, Cindy has done more to expose the President's cowardice than anyone in the main stream media to date. You can support Cindy by donating to her cause. We did. D.

Last Bird Fluffing

Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle My pal Debi keeps telling me I should write romance, but I don't know. She's basing her opinion on the fact I can write hot bird-on-bird and fly-on-spider sex scenes. But, really -- how tough is that? The real challenge would be to create believable (human) male and female characters*, get 'em to fall in love, and have the reader care about them. I've never tried this, but I suspect it's a lot tougher than it sounds. For one thing, I'd have to crawl into a female skin and imagine sexual attraction from a female POV. I don't have any homophobic resistance to doing this; I'm just not sure I could. Men are . . . well, you know. Icky. Holly Lisle takes on the challenge in her "police procedural romance" (one Amazon reviewer's description of the genre) Last Girl Dancing. Lisle shifts back and forth between her female and male leads, and does a respectable job on both. I liked Jess Brubaker, the aggressive workaholic cop who finds herself with a dirty, dangerous, and soon to be very personal assignment. Jess is beautiful, sexy, self-sufficient, but also broken, emotionally wounded. Thirteen years ago, her twin sister went missing while working as a stripper. Jess went into the police force to find Ginny, but she hasn't been successful. Now she's being asked to pose as an exotic dancer to track down a serial killer specializing in strippers. I also liked Hank Kamian, the male lead. Hank, a martial arts instructor, is a former Ranger who sustained some serious wartime injuries. He also carries more than a few emotional scars, but he doesn't piss and moan about things. Hank is a man's man. Think Clint Eastwood circa High Plains Drifter, or Mel Gibson circa Road Warrior, before he got all flaky. Think Jake Barnes with functional equipment. Hank's a wee bit psychic: enough that he gets strong (and usually reliable) impressions from crime scenes, not so much that the story is over by page 20. Part of the fun here is watching Hank use his power to try to figure out Jess in the early phases of their relationship. A creep would use this knack to bed every woman in sight, but not Hank. He's a good man -- no, wait. He's a Good Man, and it's clear women readers are supposed to dig him. Lisle does a great job setting and sustaining a creepy atmosphere. I didn't care much for the mystery, but I'm not a big fan of police procedurals. (Full disclosure: I think I've read two or three in my life.) I read it for the romance, and enjoyed it as such. Romantic tension mounts steadily as Hank and Jess circle each other, trying their best to avoid the plunge. But, as the Borg say, resistance is futile. After they've hooked up, we have the added anxiety of (1) hoping Jess doesn't get herself killed, and (2) hoping the murder investigation doesn't trash their fragile relationship. So: could I do this? According to what I've read over at Smart Bitches, there are a few men who write romance (under female pseudonyms, apparently). I wonder how their work differs from that of their female counterparts. And are they all gay? I thought of a more interesting question, but I'm going to preface it with an observation. Men crave love and affection every bit as much as women. Why, then, is there no male counterpart to the romance genre? In other words: male protag seeks and ultimately finds love, aimed at a male readership. Women would read it. But how would you get men to read it, too? . . . Without putting lots of sex in it, cuz that would be cheating. D. *One each, naturally, to keep the grand old dames of the RWA well plastered with frigid rictuses.