Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking Backward

I'd hate to plot this on the same scale as the YesButNoButYes gang's graph, but I'm happy with it, just the same. I can't remember why or how I started Shatter (AKA Balls and Walnuts). Who turned me on to Blogger? I'm far too much of a technological nincompoop to find something like that on my own. Blogging gives me the illusion of writerly discipline. Look at me, I'm writing every day -- sometimes two or three times a day! Perhaps I had hoped that discipline would carry over into my more serious literary pursuits, but it hasn't. If I had channeled all of this effort into my manuscript, I would have finished it months ago. But then I wouldn't have met all of y'all. My first real post (April 9) concerned my short story, "My Troll Lover", which reminds me: damn, that's a fine story. I really ought to buff it and send it out. Again. The big traffic bump in May came courtesy of John Scalzi. What amazed me, though, was the way my June traffic didn't fall back to April levels. Smart Bitches didn't discover me until July, so I really can't account for my June numbers. The rest of the growth I attribute to regular posting, persistent schmoozing, and shameless Technorati blogwhoring (my bloggenitals were particularly sore in October). Don't know if I can continue this growth rate, but you know something? I don't care. I'm having fun, and I like my gang of readers. Happy New Year, everyone. D.

The Anti-Lewis

Pop quiz: what contemporary author called C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories "morally loathsome," and in a 1998 essay for the Guardian, "The Dark Side of Narnia," derided "the misognyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence that permeates the whole cycle"? Hint 1: the author was the subject of a Peter Hitchens essay entitled, "This Is the Most Dangerous Author in Britain." Hint 2: the author also said, "'The Lord of the Rings' is fundamentally an infantile work. Tolkien is not interested in the way grownup, adult human beings interact with each other. He's interested in maps and plans and languages and codes." Give up? Go sit under a cold shower for ten minutes if you answered J.K. Rowling, because the author in question is Philip Pullman, author of (among other things) the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Laura Miller in The New Yorker (Dec. 26, 2005 & Jan. 2, 2006) has a wonderful piece on Pullman, which you can read online here. Miller provides a three-dimensional glimpse of Pullman and his work. Her article is one of the best literary focus pieces I've read in a very long time. Okay, time to get to work on dinner. D.

Best of the Best-ofs

Once again, Steve Gilliard says it better than I ever could. Over at HuffPo, Seth Greenland gives us Dubya's top 10 New Year's Resolutions. I've learned to make resolutions which are within the realm of possibility. Thus: 1. Lose five pounds. 2. Sign up at another gym (my favorite one closed) and, um, like, actually use the place. 3. Lose my temper with my son 25% less. 4. Finish editing TBC and send out queries. 5. Write my congressmen (yeah, they're all guys) every time I think my head might explode. And because I really really hate living in a warehouse . . . 6. Get flooring and countertops! We'll revisit this next year. To all of my readers: you're my friends. Well, not that nasty-assed guy who kept posting crap when I wrote about the neo-Nazi blonde singing duo, but the rest of you, yeah. I wish all the best for you and your families. Happy New Year! D.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Personal myth

Some kids have to share their moms with brothers and sisters. Since I'm the youngest by seven years, I had my mother all to myself. No sibling rivalry here. Except for Chi Chi. I can imagine a pre-Doug time when it was just my mom and Chi Chi. Knowing how my mom is with dogs, Chi Chi must have lived in a state of bliss. She would have garnered my mother's full attention and love, and she wouldn't have had a care in the world. Then I came onto the scene, and Chi Chi's life changed forever. How she must have hated me! Here was this squealing, pooping, puking creature; such a shameful sight, no self-respecting pup would ever put on a display like that. How could my mother tolerate it? Growing up, Chi Chi fascinated me, all the more because she was untouchable. If I came within six feet of her, she would bare her teeth and growl. I wanted to make her happy, but even gifts of table scraps had no impact on her demeanor. She was a bitter, depressed, hateful old bitch who could not be pleased by anything I did or said. Only one person could thaw her -- my mother, of course. I did the only thing I could do. I begged my mother to pet Chi Chi and praise her. Mom would oblige, but she seemed to tire of it quickly. Nevertheless, for those brief moments in time, Chi Chi was happy, energetic, young again. When I was five, my parents bought a male Chihuahua whom they named Chico (their names for pets have never strained the imagination). From Chico and Chi Chi I learned that sex involves a lot of yelping, and couples always end up back-to-back before it's over. Anyway, Chi Chi became pregnant, gave birth at home, fell asleep on top of her puppies, and smothered them all. This did little to help her mood. When I was twelve, she developed a cough. The vet called it a "heart cough," which means something to me now, but bewildered me back then. I never had a very good grasp on sickness or death, and my apparent callousness landed me in trouble on more than one occasion -- but that's another story. Chi Chi became weak. She needed help getting off and on her pillow. We moved her pillow next to the back door so that she could be close to her food, water, and potty stomping-grounds. She woke me up one night with her coughing. Sickness had mellowed her, and she had long since decided I wasn't worth the energy it took to growl; she allowed me to help her off the pillow -- that's what I'm trying to say. All she wanted was a drink of water. Afterwards, I helped her back onto her pillow. In the morning, I checked her, and she was dead. I would carry on about the burden of guilt we feel towards our pets, but Jurassic Pork covered that poignantly in recent weeks. I don't think I can add much. What interests me more is the depth of grief I felt for Chi Chi. It sounds horrible, but her death touched me far more than the deaths of any of my grandparents. Nowadays, I think about my grandparents more often than I do Chi Chi, but at the time, Chi Chi's death really got me where I lived. I had grown up with her. Am I alone in creating a personal creation myth? I don't know if my mother bought Chi Chi before or after I was born, but in my myth, I tell myself: It was before. She was lonely, but the dog didn't cut it. So she discovered the wondrous magic of pinholes in condoms, and that's how I came to be. Little Dougie: because a dog wasn't good enough. My parents deny all of this, naturally, but I am unperturbed, and I will not listen to their objections. Myths lose power when subjected to close scrutiny. D.

Breakfast links

I'm just making myself more depressed. Media Matters has posted its Most Outrageous Statements of 2005. My favorite: Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson: Same-sex marriage would lead to "marriage between daddies and little girls ... between a man and his donkey." What's your favorite? Heart-sickening-to-the-core: This Modern World discusses the latest torture memos (via Atrios); the General captures the rot at the apple's core with a single image. My favorite Guerilla Woman from Tennessee has reprinted in full today's Op-Ed piece from Paul Krugman. Here's the punchline: A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest. A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican. To my US readers: write your Representatives and Senators. Use those links at the top of my sidebar -- it's easy. And don't let 'em set cookies. After that nauseating dive into today's news (and I haven't even checked Kos yet), I need a little recharge. Here is a World of Warcraft Broadway show tune for y'all. The graphics stink, but the music rocks. And if that doesn't do it for you, check out the latest photos from Antarctica. Oh, my! Mel Gibson has a blog. Gabriele, I'm counting on you to correct his Latin. Now, if you'll all please excuse me while I go put a knife in my gut . . . D.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

2001, five years later

Five years, or thirty-seven, thirty-eight . . . who's counting?
This morning, Karen watched 2001: A Space Odyssey on TV while I read through Miss Snark's Crap-o-meter critiques of novel synopses. This juxtaposition led me to wonder how I would write a synopsis for the 2001 story. Think about it. If you focus on the main story arc, your bullet summary will be: An alien artifact acts as a catalyst to human evolution. You would leave out the HAL 9000 subplot because it has nothing to do with the rest of the story. It doesn't further the plot. It even lacks a thematic connection to the rest of the movie. The trouble is, I like character-driven drama. HAL is the best character in the story, and the HAL subplot contains the movie's most poignant moments. Yet if your bullet summary reads: A sentient computer develops a paranoid streak and becomes a homicidal maniac, what will the agent or publisher make of the remaining 3/4 of the story?
I've been conflicted about this movie ever since I saw it in the theatre as a seven-year-old. Afterwards, I remember feeling bored, bewildered, and perhaps a little stoned. I can still hear my mother yelling at my brother, "What's wrong? What's the matter with him? Why is he acting like that?" Nothing wrong with me at all, except I had no idea what the ending meant, and when I read Arthur C. Clarke's book the following year, I was convinced Clarke didn't understand the ending, either. Opinions about this movie vary wildly. Pauline Kael, who never met a Kubrick movie she didn't execrate*, called 2001 "the biggest amateur movie of them all, complete even to the amateur-movie obligatory scene -- the director's little daughter (in curls) telling daddy what kind of present she wants." Over at IMDB, a Finnish fellow writes, "One has to be ready for it, or it cannot be understood. In fact I don't think it can be understood at all, at least not all of it at once. It is a philosophical journey to the infinite and beyond, a masterpiece of it's genre . . ." You won't find many reviews which are in-between. The film ranks #87 in IMDB's top 250. Read through the 1000+ reader comments if you like. Most are gushingly positive**. Well, folks, I fall in between. Yes, the movie is beautiful, right down to the non-whooshing*** spacecraft and HAL's glowing soul. The spacecraft special effects are so damned gorgeous, I'm willing to forgive Kubrick the LSD trip at the end. I'll even forgive him the Star Child.
Yes, HAL's story carries as much dramatic heft now as it did in 1968. Yes, it is ambitious and brave and noble to try to make a movie about enlightenment (Karen's theory re: the ending). But, holy cow, the story does not hang together. Without HAL, we have majesty and mystery, but precious little drama. Without the monolith, we have a fine space opera, but one which lacks a beginning or an ending. With HAL and the monolith, we have the cinematic equivalent of a grafted cactus. Samuel R. Delany, a writer for whom I have great respect, tried to pull it all together in this essay, but I don't think he's successful. Another Golden Age SF writer, Lester Del Rey, slammed the film in his 1968 review. What did Kubrick have to say about 2001? The man hated explaining his movies. I suspect the best we'll get is his endorsement of 15-year-old Margaret Stackhouse's notes on the film: "Margaret Stackhouse's speculations on the film are perhaps the most intelligent that I've read anywhere, and I am, of course, including all the reviews and the articles that have appeared on the film and the many hundreds of letters that I have received. What a first-rate intelligence!" I've read Stackhouse's notes, and you know what? I still don't think Kubrick is telling a coherent story. There. Glad I got that off my chest. In HAL's words, "I feel much better now, I really do." D. *Sorry for the two-bit word, but if you read Kael's review, you'll see that the words hate and detest are far too mild. **If you're interested in reading a more scholarly appraisal of the critical reaction to 2001, read this superb essay at 2001: A Space Odyssey Internet Resource Archive. This excellent website also has an excellent compendium of other resources on the web. ***In space, no one can hear you whoosh. PS: Craving more Kubrick? Here's another cool link.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Who says they're cold-blooded?

In the February 2006 issue of Reptiles*, Jim Pether, owner/manager of a reptile park in the Canary Islands, shares his experiences breeding Komodo dragons (Komodos: A Breeding Project With Teeth). His initial attempts were nearly disastrous: "Then, one day when I was not at the park, a visitor ran and told my wife Christine that one dragon was attacking another. She ran down to find the male chewing the female's leg off and bravely (or stupidly, depending on your view) jumped in and began beating him over the head with a broom." She manages to rescue the female by luring the male away with a dead rat. The vet saved the female's leg. Not willing to press his luck, Pether sent the female to the Rotterdam Zoo. He had one more female to try out. "Nervous at first, the female ran away and hid in her burrow . . ." Word gets around. "but after a few days got used to the male's presence. They were soon basking together." On to the action. "Actual mating began when the male started tongue flicking the female's cloacal area, presumably to test if she was ovulating and releasing pheromones. The male then raked her back with his long claws and tongue flicked her body. He then positioned his body parallel to hers and tongue-flicked her neck. Using a rear leg, he lifted her tail to mate with her." Was it good for you, too? D. *Available at pet stores near you!

No one-liners in today's Dowd Op-Ed

Full text of today's Maureen Dowd NYT Op-Ed, Vice Axes That 70s Show, is up at The Peking Duck (thanks, PD!) She hasn't given us much new material, I'm afraid; only one interesting bit of recent history: As attorney general, John Ashcroft clamped down on the Freedom of Information Act. For two years, the Pentagon has been sitting on a request from The Times's Jeff Gerth to cough up a secret 500-page document prepared by Halliburton on what to do with Iraq's oil industry - a plan it wrote several months before the invasion of Iraq, and before it got a no-bid contract to implement the plan (and overbill the U.S.) . . . and one bit of ancient history: Consider this: when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, supported by President Ford, pushed a plan to have the government help develop alternative sources of energy and reduce our dependence on oil and Saudi Arabia, guess who helped scotch it? Oy. When are the leaders of our country going to get their heads out of their oil wells? D. Technorati tag:

Synopsisysessss . . .

Most of you know about this already, but just in case you haven't heard, Miss Snark is doing her synopsis crap-o-meter extravaganza this week. Check it out. Wish I could have participated, but life here has not been very orderly. D.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Serenity and the Dungeons & Dragons guide to character development

We watched Serenity last night. As usual, Jake walked in well after the movie had started and wanted to know what was happening. I found myself falling back on Dungeons & Dragons alignment terminology to explain the characters and their actions: "That's the captain of the Serenity and his crew. They're all unlawful neutrals. That guy there? He's an assassin for the Empire, or whatever they're called. He's lawful evil. If this movie runs true to form, before the movie is over the unlawful neutrals will be forced by circumstances to become unlawful goods . . ." Or that's what I would have said, if it weren't for Jake saying, "Huh? What? I don't know what you're talking about." Which is a shame, really, because the Dungeons & Dragons alignment scheme provides a fast and accurate means of typing a character. Moreover, for writers, it's a convenient way to get a quick understanding of a newly created character. For those of you not wise in the ways of D&D, here's how it works. Alignment involves two variables, each of which have three possible values. A character can be lawful (law-abiding), neutral (self-serving), or chaotic (or 'unlawful,' actively seeking to overturn the social order). A character can also be good, neutral, or evil. By combining these parameters, you have nine possible character types. Quick quiz: Han Solo is . . . ? Getting old and paunchy, yes, but he's also unlawful neutral at the beginning of Star Wars. Just like the crew of the Serenity, Han is forced by circumstances and a freeze-drier to become unlawful good. Luke Skywalker is . . . ? Unlawful good, but he's really weak on the "unlawful" part. In a marginally not-bad Empire, you just know the little priss would be lawful good. The only reason Luke is unlawful is the fact that the law -- the Empire -- is so damned eeevil. Back to character creation. This website provides a 36-question quiz to help you determine your character's alignment. I took it with one of my main characters in mind, and came up with "Neutral," which is just about how I think of him. Tui cares more about an abstract (the Truth, capital T and all) than his own family. He's not evil, but neither is he good. I haven't tried taking the quiz with my rogue, Boron, in mind, but he'd better turn out unlawful neutral, or I don't know my Boron. Why is this a worthwhile exercise? Because two of the things that make a novel fun are characters who change, and characters in conflict. If you want your characters to change, you need to make sure the change isn't too drastic. When I analyze my NiP, most of the changes are plausibly close. Like Han Solo, Boron must become unlawful good. Tui stays doggedly neutral, but it takes him a mammoth effort to do so. Tui's wife Sul is my biggest problem child. In the rough draft, she was lawful evil all the way. When I wrote the novel, though, I became more and more fond of her. My villain became a tragic heroine. I asked her to change from lawful evil to unlawful good. Well, as Maureen and my wife will tell you (Jona has been more forgiving), this proved to be too great a leap. I had major motivation problems. Sul's transformation feels artificial, forced. I was asking too much of her. Now that I'm editing, I'm toning the evil way down, mostly by making Sul's initial alliance with evil seem far more innocent and plausible. The reader should think, "Yes, in those circumstances, I might make a deal with the devil, too," particularly since the "devil" seems eminently reasonable (although scary, just the same). Sul is, after all, a powerful female willing to fight beak-and-talon for her family's best interest. Sul wouldn't go to a male authority figure with her problems; no, she'd go to the most politically powerful female in the land. Thus, instead of "lawful evil becomes unlawful good," Sul's transformation will be "lawful good to unlawful good" -- which is a much more believable change. How about conflict? As Star Wars and Serenity demonstrate, Lawful Evil vs. Unlawful Good is an entertaining pair-off. I think audiences today like a little ambiguity in their heroes and villains, and that's what LE vs. UG provides. If you want Unlawful Evil vs. Lawful Good, you'll have to mine the videostore shelves for some old Jimmy Stewart or John Wayne movies. (And not all of Wayne's characters were Lawful Good -- not by a long shot.) As for Serenity, I guessed right. The captain has a change of heart, becomes Unlawful Good, and defeats the Lawful Evil forces of the star system. There, I ruined it for you. The movie had one other surprise -- Hello Kitty videos are evil -- but you knew that already. D.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Um, just so we are all on the same page . . . This is our ceiling. D.

Tagline: The hardest trick is making them stay

. . . in the theater. Guess that movie. Give up? Here's a clue. Picture John Cusack looking tired, depressed, and constipated. Need help? I didn't realize that the movie's title, Must Love Dogs, was a metaphor. Right from the opening frames, you know you're in trouble. The screenwriter, filching from When Harry Met Sally, opens with a few lifeless interviews of folks talking about how they meet people of the opposite sex. The humor ranges from strained to painful. Fortunately, the editor must have realized this because a few seconds later, we are thrust into some unnamed family gathering in which protag Diane Lane's relatives try to fix her up. She's newly divorced, or widowed, or slow. I'm not sure which, because the screenplay lost me that fast. I think that's a new personal record: two minutes into the movie, and I'm already telling Karen, "Let's give it 'til Cusack shows up, okay?" Once again, the editor reads my mind, and in the very next scene we find John Cusack (also recently divorced -- and I only remember that because he's talking to his divorce lawyer in this scene) waxing poetic over his wooden boats. Except that, no matter how hard Cusack and the screenwriter struggle, dammit, Cusack looks pained to be here. Boat-splinters up every fingernail pained, that's how pained. Less than five minutes into the movie, and we're already popping out the DVD. If you don't believe my review, read the opinion of someone who sat through the whole thing. On to DVD number two. Unlike Must Love Dogs, The Baxter sinks its hooks into you right from the first few lines. We're given the set-up, and indeed the ending, in the first scene: Elliot (played by writer and director Michael Showalter) is a Baxter. That's what his mom called the bland, generically nice guys whom women dump in order to run off with dashing, handsome, dangerous types like this guy: That's Justin Theroux, who plays Bradley, Elliot's chief rival for the affections of Caroline (Elizabeth Banks). (Yes, after watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I had to watch another Elizabeth Banks movie.) Caroline dumps Elliot at the altar in the first minute of the movie, and what's left -- nearly the entire movie -- is back story. That's not supposed to work, but it does. What amazes me the most is that this works despite the fact that Elliot is not a likable guy. He's a geeky, stuffy Ivy Leaguer who rapidly shifts romantic gears from his new temp Cecil (Michelle Williams, cute and vibrant despite the fugly hair style) to new client Caroline. He's a heel, really, and it's hard to see what Caroline or Cecil see in him. I gave this a lot of thought, afterwards. Why does The Baxter fly and Must Love Dogs sink? What it comes down to is personality, or soul. Watching The Baxter, I could sense that Showalter had thrown himself into the creation of this movie. Arguably, he threw a little too much of himself into the movie, since his performance is the weakest of the crew. Hard not to imagine what someone else, anyone else, would have done with that role. Whereas, watching Must Love Dogs, I felt that the writers had reduced movie romances to their formulaic roots, then plugged in new values for the variables Mad Lib-fashion to come up with what can only be called, not a film, but a 'product.'
I've read precious few romances, so it's always a magic act for me to write a Smart Bitches Day post for Beth. Watching these two movies (okay, okay, so really I only watched one of 'em . . .) I decided that I had something important to say about the act of writing in general, and of writing romance in particular. Here, let's put it in bold face for emphasis: Genre formula alone might give you a sale, but it won't guarantee fine work. Yuck. Negative declarations have such little aphoristic heft. Lemme try again: To create a work with soul, you have to bleed a bit of yourself into the page. A bit vampiric, but I think it captures what I'm trying to say. Warning: this bleeding business can be overdone. Watch out that you don't create autistic prose (stories that provide you with an intense emotional experience; meanwhile, the rest of your readers scratch their heads and say, "Huh?") Like any diary, cathartic writing is best left under lock and key. You know what I think our goal as writers should be? Our bare minimum, "at least I've accomplished this much," D minus, thank-the-Lord-I've-passed, goal? That our readers will come away from the novel (short story, poem, movie) never once questioning the fact that an individual wrote this, a human being, not a committee, or a software package, or a crew of monkeys typing typing typing. Although, some days I suspect the monkeys could do a better job. D.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Let's see if this works.

I'll give her toys

Mom, Dad, do you really want to know why I never dated Jewish girls? Because I never met one like Sarah Silverman, that's why. All I ever met in the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization were girls who couldn't stop talking about how much their dads made or how much their homes were worth. A BBG girl's idea of teen success: hearing that someone half the valley away said something nice about her, and she doesn't even know me! They were the Typhoid Marys of niceness. Whereas Sarah, bless her heart, is nasty and funny and oh my god I need another fix of Sarah . . . Ah, that's better. My eternal thanks go out to YesButNoButYes for the next two links. Don't mean to kvetch, but this has been a mighty depressing Hannukah. Not even our temple's Hannukah party could perk me up. I can't do parties without Karen. Cannot, cannot, cannot. I only get more depressed. Anyway, thank you, YBNBY, for giving me a much needed laugh. On to the linkage. If you click on nothing else, check out Sarah's video, Give the Jew Girl Toys. I used to be a big fan of Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song, but Adam? Sorry, bro. That animated Hannukah movie you did, it sucked big ones. Sarah's my home girl now. After you've watched Sarah dish it to Santa, if you still can't get enough of her, check out this interview in which Sarah plays with a dreidel and eats latkes. (Thank YesButNoButYes for this one, too.) Excuse me. I need to go search the web for all things Sarah. D.

Faith and politics on Christmas morning

Thanks to Blue Gal for pointing out GQ's interview with Jimmy Carter (a partial transcript is available online). Quote from the beginning: You call yourself a born-again evangelical Christian, but you draw the line at the word fundamentalist. Can you define those terms?

I define fundamentalism as a group of invariably male leaders who consider themselves superior to other believers. The fundamentalists believe they have a special relationship with God. Therefore their beliefs are inherently correct, being those of God, and anyone who disagrees with them are first of all wrong, and second inferior, and in extreme cases even subhuman. Also, fundamentalists don’t relish any challenge to their positions. They believe any deviation from their own God-ordained truth is a derogation of their own responsibility. So compromise or negotiating with others, or considering the opinion of others that might be different, is a violation of their faith. It makes a great exhibition of rigidity and superiority and exclusion.

I've admired Jimmy Carter for a long, long time. Even though I don't agree with him on every issue, I've always felt his heart was in the right place. Consistently, Carter's actions have mirrored the teachings of his faith . . . unlike certain other politicians whose words and deed are diametrically opposed.

Harper's Magazine is not exactly a fundamentalist-friendly place (see, for example, Jeff Sharlet's Jesus Plus Nothing, a captivating look at the twisted version of Christianity which drives many of today's politicians), so biblical literalists won't be very happy with Erik Reece's December 2005 article, Jesus without the Miracles: Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas. For a critique from a self-described 'theological conservative,' read this post at Distilled Eye.

I don't intend to argue about the miraculous aspects of Jesus' life and resurrection -- you either believe in this as a matter of faith, or you don't, and nothing I say will make a bit of difference. I would like to give you an outsider's perspective. What I find most off-putting about modern American Christianity is its emphasis on the carrot-and-stick damnation/heaven, sin/salvation meme, the obsession with the miraculous aspects of Jesus' life, and, most of all, the de-emphasis on Jesus' ethical teachings*.

That's where the Jeffersonian Bible comes in. Per Reece's article, after Jefferson edited the New Testament, he was left with the following principles (quoting Reece):

  • Be just; justice comes from virtue, which comes from the heart.
  • Treat people the way we want them to treat us.
  • Always work for peaceful resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with compassion.
  • Consider valuable the things that have no material value.
  • Do not judge others.
  • Do not bear grudges.
  • Be modest and unpretentious.
  • Give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid.
Although I don't consider myself Christian, I try my best to embrace these principles. Well, I have a lot of trouble with Do not judge others, and the Do not bear grudges thing REALLY gives me fits, but still, I see the value in these teachings. I'd like to point out that these principles, these values, are also (to the limit of my understanding) consistent with Talmudic Judaism. But, like many Christians, modern Jews have a problem living up to the ideals of their faith. That returning violence with compassion bit -- well, Israel and the United States both have a wee problem with that one, don't they? I find it all very depressing. Ordinary people have a hard time living up to those principles, and their politicians do far worse. It's painfully obvious the world would be a better place if this were not so. Can a politician practice these principles and survive? Which brings me back to Jimmy Carter. In trying to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis, he used limited force -- unsuccessfully -- and avoided going to war, largely because his religious/ethical beliefs told him it would be wrong to do so. (I'm basing that statement on his recent interview with Jon Stewart, by the way.) And what did America do? They voted him out of office, first chance they got, and vilified him for years to come. It busts my chops. D. *I'm sure many of you can give me examples to the contrary -- congregations where the ethical precepts are placed first and foremost, individuals and organiziations who really do practice what they preach. No doubt these folks are doing great work, and I don't mean to slight them. But the politically dominant breed of American Christian (the Bushes, Dobsons, Robertsons, and Falwells of this country) not only ignores these precepts, but actively subverts them.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Editing update and a question

This morning, I shuffled chapters and came up with a 20-chapter first-book-of-the-trilogy consisting of 104K words. A bit big for a first book, but it's not a deal-breaker (like, um, a 304K-word novel). Only one problem: the first book will end with one hell of a cliffhanger. I don't think this is a problem, but remember, I have NOVICE tattooed on my forehead. I can't imagine a publisher buying the first book without buying the second and third, too. They're similar in style, humor, and quality. If anything, the second two books will be better than the first. So, here's my thinking: if they buy the first, they'll buy all three, and they'll follow up on the first book's publication with publication of the second and third in the coming year. Readers will know this, and they'll forgive me for the cliffhanger. Won't they? D.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Kudos and Kvetches: The 40-Year Old Virgin

The premise: unbelievable? Not at all. We encounter many 40-year-old virgins in medicine. Oddly enough, all of them are doctors. Never forget that medical school selects for social misfits, and that no sane person voluntarily becomes a doctor. Given that, is it any wonder that many doctors are 40-year-old (and older) virgins? Who is that lovely blonde, and what is the chance she might come visit your blog? Glad you asked. That is the gorgeous and talented Elizabeth Banks, whom you may remember from Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Sea Biscuit. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she plays cleanliness-obsessed secondary love interest Beth. As for whether she might visit my blog, I see this as slightly more likely than me winning the Super Lotto. I buy tickets twice a week. Do you know how I know you're gay? No. How? One photo: 'Nuff said. Anyway, what did you like about the movie? Well, Paul Rudd (pictured above) (the good-looking one, not the doofus with his shirt off) rocked. I thought that whole "Do you know how I know you're gay?" banter penetrated some of our darkest male fears, opening a dialog on the existential desperation of self-absorbed heterosexual angst. Just kidding. That stuff was funny as hell, though. You know what else I liked? The fact that this gal, actress Catherine Keener, Steve Carell's main love interest, was born in 1960. (Catherine, you're welcome here any time, too.) Honestly, aren't you at least a little squicked out when Jack Nicholson (born 4/22/37) nuzzles up to Helen Hunt (born 6/15/63)? Back to Ms. Keener. I love the fact that Judd Apatow cast an age-appropriate woman in this role. He even made her character a grandma. This is not a screenplay which shies away from the fact that the protagonists are middle-aged. In other words, this is a movie for us forty-somethings. Yay! Aside from that, I really, really liked Ms. Keener's performance. I understood Andy's instant attraction to her. I even understood why he would prefer Catherine Keener to Elizabeth Banks. And, by the way, there's more chemistry between Keener and Carell than in any movie romance I've seen for a long time. So what are you kvetching about? One thing, and one thing only. Same thing I touched on in my last Smart Bitches Day column. If you feel genre-bound to include a boy-loses-girl plot twist, please make it believable, okay? In Grosse Point Blank, the monkey wrench flows naturally from the plot. There's a tiny bit of coincidence involved (Debi shows up at just the wrong time), but that's forgivable, in my opinion. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the argument which temporarily divides our protagonists seems forced. I felt like I was watching the writer jam a square peg into a round hole. If that wasn't bad enough, Apatow felt compelled to put some weird-ass chase scene in there, with Andy chasing after Trish on his bicycle. Ugh! Other than that, this movie gets an unqualified thumbs-up from both of my hands. I'll have my eye out for other Apatow projects. (Just checked IMDB: Judd Apatow co-executive produced one of my all time favorite sit coms, The Larry Sanders Show. Show of hands: who remembers David Duchovny's repeated appearances on that show? I do, I do!) D. P.S.: Michelle has blogged about The 40-Year-Old Virgin, too. Let's have a 40-Year-Old Virgin party, everyone!

Will someone please tell me to get a life?

Photoshopping: an insidious addiction. Here's another one for Blogenfreude:
Dr. Wilhelm O'Goebbels, Chief Propagandist for the Bush Regime
Blogenfreude, if this doesn't get Bill's goat, nothing will. D. tags:

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Senator Joseph McFalafel

This one is for Blogenfreude at Agitprop.
Senator Joseph McFalafel nails the smear merchants.
D. tags:

Doc Otter is back!

And he's still on the side of the angels. Go give him your best wishes. D.


I was hoping to give this rugelach recipe from Ruby Glen an unqualified thumbs-up, but I can't. It tweaks me when I discover that the baking time is 2 to 3 times what the recipe claims it is, and I hate having to figure out how to roll out the damned dough without it sticking to the rolling pin. Fortunately for you, I'm here to perfect the recipe. Those of you who boggle at bagels may not be familiar with rugelach. They are a horn-shaped pastry made from a cream cheese, butter, and flour dough. You can fill them with fruit, nuts, chocolate, you name it. They're delicious and easy to make (or rather, they should be easy to make). There are two important bits missing from the Ruby Glen recipe: 1. I had to bake mine 45 minutes to an hour before they were golden brown. The recipe calls for 16 to 19 minutes. Grrr. 2. Even a well chilled dough is sticky beyond belief. I sprayed two large squares of parchment paper with non-stick cooking oil spray, and I rolled out my dough between the squares. I did this on a marble pastry board, so the dough stayed cold and remained pliant. I rolled out another ball of dough between ungreased layers of parchment, but this flopped miserably. The dough stuck to the paper. Only by freezing the paper/dough sandwich could I peel off the paper, and then my dough was too hard to roll. I made it work, but oh, what a mess. My filling: I followed Ruby Glen's recipe (using pecans), and I added a quarter cup of milk chocolate chips before grinding the whole thing in a blender. Rugelach: yum. D.

Are Men Necessary? The critical brouhaha.

Ron at Galley Cat has an interesting post on the recent hubbub over Kathryn Harrison's review of Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? Snip: . . . a colleague of mine from the book reviewing world passed along an interesting question: "Should a critic be considered 'conflicted' if the 'conflict' consists solely of the potential subject having said something unpleasant about the critic in the past?" Back to that in a moment; first, a recap. Last month, Editor and Publisher ran a concise summary of the highlights. Chronologically: In 1997, Dowd in a column called “Banks for the Memories” described Harrison's book “The Kiss”—-a controversial memoir of her consensual four-year sexual affair with her own father--as an example of a trendy genre: "Creepy people talking about creepy people." Then, this year, the New York Times Book Review allowed Harrison to review Dowd's new book, Are Men Necessary? Harrison slammed the book, saying, among other things, Dowd's skill as a columnist "does not enable her to produce a book-length exploration of a topic as complex as the relations between the sexes." Arianna Huffington subsequently wrote an editorial accusing the NY Times of violating their own ethical bylaws, and the story exploded into the blogosphere. Now, back to the Galley Cat post. The author's opinion seems best summarized in this sentence: . . . it simply isn't very charitable to suggest that an author is incapable of reviewing another author's work without her perspective being colored by personal vendetta. but read the whole post (linked above) and see what you think. He also raises the nasty issue of blog sniping -- in other words, is a reviewer conflicted if he has been reamed in the author's blog? The writer of the Galley Cat post thinks not. I disagree. I suspect this is something that can only be solved on a case-by-case basis. Some critics might be able to give an unbiased review in this circumstance, but I believe it's human nature to hold a grudge. Rising above that prejudice takes considerable effort. I doubt all reviewers are up to that challenge. Perhaps we should give reviewers the benefit of the doubt and assume professionalism on their part, but I don't think editors should make this assumption lightly. If the review seems a trifle too bile-laced, perhaps the editor should ask questions. I'm curious whether any of this matters. What is worse: to get slammed by the New York Times Book Review, or to get ignored by them? A week or two ago, Maureen Dowd appeared on The Colbert Report. She was funny, beautiful, and played well with Stephen Colbert. They hyped her book (twice, I think?) which raises another question: who gets more viewers/readers -- The Colbert Report, or the New York Times Book Review? I suspect Colbert trumps NYTBR, but that's just a hunch. D. Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To my reader in Massachusetts, who found me

by searching Yahoo for ball squeezing sex play You know, if you want that sort of thing, you need only ask.
But not right now. No one's balls are getting squeezed, not even my own. My back aches, I haven't even begun to think about what I'm going to make for dinner tonight, and I'm tired, even though all I've done is
  • one load of laundry
  • washed last night's dishes
  • cleaned the litter box -- AGAIN (what is it about cats? Don't they ever stop?)
  • threw out several million bags of trash
  • unpacked one of the remaining moving boxes so that Jake could play Impossible Creatures
I've caught up on all of your blogs, commented on many of them, and haven't even cracked open my manuscript. Here I thought I'd be editing like crazy in my time off. Here's a question: Have any of you NaNoWriMo-ers hit perma-snag with your manuscript? I can't find the motivation to reread it, let alone finish it. I'd like to think this is because I'm so disciplined, I'd rather edit Brakan Correspondent, but see two paragraphs ago. One last thought before I brave the supermarket. Go over to Atrios and take the "Does President Bush deserve to be impeached" MSNBC opinion poll. 89% say yes! Too bad the poll is unscientific. D.

Fun stuff over at Kate's place

I have to give this one a shout: A Biographical Contest. Kate, you may have my babies any time you want. You too, Maureen. D.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Saugeen Stripper was good for me. Was she good for you, too?

The sight of double-vision Elmos bouncing off the Saugeen Stripper's breasts sent my blog counter through the roof this last weekend. I must have tapped into something special: that quintessential sadness of innocence encountering carnality, or perhaps the joy of using nubile breasts as trampolines. Or maybe there really are that many horny guys out there hoping I would provide a link to the video.
Breasts, though: are they ever mesmerizing. My regulars have already read The Sociobiology of Boobage, but you trespassers would do well to follow that link. (Fine cleavage there. You won't be disappointed, and you might even learn something.) I saw my first up-close-and-personal, bare nekkid boobies at Yellowstone National Park, at the concession stand near Old Faithful. A girl in line to buy hot dogs wore something that sort of fell open at the sides. Honestly, I have no idea what she had on. I wasn't looking at what she wore, for heaven's sake. Sure, I'd seen 'em in the movies, and I'd glimpsed a few Playboys over the years. I'd even copped more than a few feels. At recess and lunch in 5th and 6th grade, we played co-ed touch football, and I'm afraid I took the touch part literally. Nowadays, when kindergarteners are counseled on sexual harassment, I suspect I'd be locked up. Back then, I escaped with an angry, "Hoffman, you pervert!" Back to the Saugeen Stripper. If you haven't seen the photos, the most remarkable thing is the blasé expression on the guys' faces. This young, beautiful woman is giving them lap dances, and they look like they're posing for high school football pictures. Unbelievable. But, back to me. I'm not a kiss-and-tell kinda guy, so let's skip over high school. The nicest-looking breasts I saw in college were in my Psych 101 textbook, a black-and-white photo of a woman nursing her infant. I don't think I ever made it past that chapter. Close runner-up for best collegiate boobage: my pack of Asian Beauty playing cards, purchased at a schlocky Chinatown gift shop. And what do I get nowadays? Patient (typically a woman in her sixties or older, someone who has for many decades baked herself medium-well in the Southern California sun -- remember Magda in There's Something About Mary?) : Dr. Hoffman, I have this rash. Then, so fast I have no chance to object, she lifts her sweater and gloop, there they are. I'm an ENT. Ear, nose, and throat. If I was breast, ear, nose, and throat, I'd be BENT. And you all know I'm not BENT. D.

Introducing . . .

Wax, Boogers, and Phlegm, my new medical blog. Medical tip of the day: if your phlegm is the color of the background on that page, you may have a lung or sinus infection. Ask your doctor. D.

Monday, December 19, 2005

T Lady Down

I wonder if anyone will catch the allusion in this post's title. Answer below. Before I get rolling: I've emailed my legislators. Have you? Or do you like living in a fascist dictatorship under Emperor Bush? (Non-Americans exempted . . . unless, of course, you are living in a fascist dictatorship, in which case you should write your ombudsmen, or jaegermeisters, or whatever you call 'em.) In case y'all need an explanation why I'm so upset, check out this handy dandy video. (Kudos to Agitprop -- and Blue Gal for pointing me to Agitprop.)
It's an American staple to put down fatties, but I'm telling you, you zaftigs (Gabriele, help! How do I turn zaftig into a noun and make it plural?) are lucky. If you fall on your ass, you have padding. Not so my 80-something pound wife. She fell last Thursday, and she's still in bed. Ultimately, it's all the fault of her multiple sclerosis. MS led to chemo, which killed her ovaries, which nuked her estrogen, which leached all the calcium from her bones, etc. Evil MS. She thought she'd pulled a muscle, but her recovery over the weekend left a lot to be desired. When I called her this morning, she told me she really didn't feel any better, so I rushed home (after first getting anxious as hell, which meant I had to eat several Almond Rochas), brought her to the orthopedic surgeon, and got her leg and hip X-rayed. Tarantula Lady has a pelvic fracture. The 'pod assures me it's a good fracture. Yes, of course there are good and bad fractures. It's a stable fracture, so it will heal without surgery and without any sort of weird English Patient-style full-body cast, or whatever the hell Ralph Fiennes wore in that silly uber-British movie. (My gawd, I thought I was watching The Mummy.) The 'pod even wants her to start weight-bearing ASAP. Otherwise, the osteoporosis will only get worse. Our Las Vegas trip is on perma-hold, so if you were hoping for some acid-tongued snark on the bar girls at Caesar's Palace, I'll have to go to our tribal casino instead. Karen's holding up okay. The pain meds nauseate her (thank heavens for Zofran), and it's hard for her to do just about anything. I have only one more day to work, though, and then I'm taking eleven or twelve days off. I hope she'll be back on her feet by January 2.
Trivia answer: This entry's title is a reference to the 1978 submarine movie Gray Lady Down, which starred a Chuck Heston and David Carradine. Truly Le Bad Cinema. I'm shocked IMDB has it at 5.8 out of 10 stars. Yes, I agree. Karen deserves better than this. D.

Quick shout . . .

For Jeff Huber & Company's post at ePluribus Media: The Ides of December: Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers Scary times, here in America. We're flirting with fascism, people, and it remains to be seen if our Senators and Representatives will grow the necessary balls to stand up to George Bush and his band of thugs. Don't bend over for Bush. Let your Senators and Representatives know how you feel! D.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What this boy wants from a romance novel

For a change, I thought I'd post something for Smart Bitches Day which really concerns romance as a genre. To wit: how can you romance writers get more guys to read your stuff? I'm not a typical guy, so please imagine that my every comment is prefaced with, "For what it's worth . . . " I despise team sports, I dislike gory violence in movies (unless it's so far over the top that it's unmistakably fake), and I have no desire to hang out with other guys. I don't drink beer, get drunk, or smoke cigars. I really do like long walks on the beach, but that's because I love finding bits of washed-up skeletons and gooey dead things. So. For what it's worth: If I'm going to read a romance, I want it to be about romance. If I want a crime novel, I'll read a crime novel. If I want something historically accurate, I'll read Jane Austen. Give me a contemporary woman I can root for and I'm yours. Stephen, you're excepted from this because your book has a monster and that's cool. And Lilith, don't get mad at me. Nothing wrong with paranormals, but I'd rather be reading the written equivalent of Sex and the City. Next: the protagonists had better be likable, smart, and funny as hell. They should be people I would want to hang out with. Their witty dialog should be a joy to behold, and the world should sparkle because they're alive. Think Martin Blank and Debi Newberry in Grosse Point Blank, or Nina and Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply. Note that humor serves two roles: it is entertaining all by itself (and if you're not trying to entertain, what the hell are you trying to do?) and it makes us care for the characters. They've made us laugh, and so they become our friends. We want to see good things happen to them. If you're going to play the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl game, the 'loses' part had better not involve some stupid misunderstanding. Smart people don't have stupid misunderstandings. Never never never. Maybe they do in real life, but I don't want to read about a stupid misunderstanding, okay? Paragraph number eight, and I haven't said a single thing about sex. Why? Because it isn't necessary. Think about it. Grosse Point Blank? Airplane on the bed, sexual tension, no actual sex. Truly Madly Deeply? Rickman's dead, for heaven's sake. Ew. Sex and the City had no graphic sex, yet it titillated our prurient cravings and topped out our outrageous-o-meters. How? With language. If those writers can do it, you can do it, too. It's not that I have anything against graphic sex; it's just that so few people do it well. Also, as any student of Cheers will tell you, sex dissipates all tension between your male and female protags. True, Sex and the City is a good counter-example. Their writers created tension in the issue of relationship survival. (Do any of you remember McCall's magazine's regular column, Can This Marriage Be Saved?) If you're going to remove the sexual tension element, you had better replace it with something else. If you're going to include graphic sex, please, please don't get goofy about it. Sex is not an expression of love. Sex is an expression of lust. Some time ago, I wrote a post about what guys think about during sex. Damn it, I can't find it now, but here's the bottom line: what we think about isn't interesting. Lots of "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi," if you must know. So, hot tip: keep it in the gal's POV. Women may have the same problem as men, but I don't know that, so you can write whatever you like from the gal's POV and I won't know if you're bullshitting me. My wife might, but that's off topic. One last point: the HEA (happily ever after -- just wanted to let you know I'm not completely ignorant)? I'm not that hooked on it, or at least, I'd like to see a few liberties taken. Maybe they end up happily ever after with other people. Maybe they drift apart and realize they're not right for one another. Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but it seems to me that some degree of unpredictability in the ending is a good thing. There. I've done it. A genuine Smart Bitches post, and no spiders. D.

The Wizard of Oil

Wow. My own photoshopping efforts pale in comparison to Dood Abides' The Wizard of Oil. Wicked Bitch Condi's Ruby Ferragamos had me in tears. Props to Jesus' General for that one. D.

Shamelessly pandering to the women in my audience

. . . plus, what is it? 10% of guys? Check out The Pretty Boys Club if you want proof that gay guys have the best bodies. As for why I'm looking at a gay blog: they're the #3 humor blog at blogtopsites, and I like to check out the competition. All the competition. Besides -- those chiselled bodies serve to remind me that I would totally suck as a gay guy. D. PS:
From the Department of That's Just Plain Wrong
On the subject of sucking, Atrios has an interesting snip regarding the Orthodox Jewish practice of metzitzah b'peh (oral suctioning of the infant penis after circumcision). I'd encountered that bit of trivia when I researched my recent post on circumcision, but I figured it had to be apocryphal. Guess not.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Another evil meme

Thank Suisan for this one. Seven Things To Do Before I Die: You know, I wanted to write a few funny one-liners for that one, but "Before I Die" is such a buzz-kill that I have to take the blasted thing seriously. Sorry, "Go on Southeast Asian sex junket" will have to stay off the list. For now. 1. Go to Europe and wander around to my heart's content. 2. Sell my novel, go on a book tour, and have dozens of screaming teenage girls line up so that I can autograph their breasts. 3. Bake one of those big, fat, fancy pastry things Tony Shalhoub makes at the end of Big Night. 4. Tour the world and meet all of y'all. 5. Watch Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter bitch-slap each other silly on Meet the Press. That's not a joke. I really want to see that before I die. 6. See my wife regain her health. 7. See my son grow up into a responsible, caring adult. Seven Things I Cannot Do: 1. Speak Chinese (except for "Hoa hoa hoa," which means, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," and "Aya!" which means, "Get outa here!") 2. Program a VCR. 3. Fix my car, or fix any damn thing, for that matter. 4. Not get angry at Jake (that's his suggestion). 5. Respect George W. Bush. 6. Kick ass in a shooter (any Unreal Tournament fans out there?) 7. Die, unless someone chops off my head with one fat mofo of a sword, in which case he'll get all my power. There can be only one! Seven Things That Attract Me To My Spouse (or Significant Other, Best Friend, etc.) 1. Her bravery. 2. She knows how to fix stuff. 3. She's smarter than me. 4. She can balance a checkbook and keep me out of financial trouble. 5. She laughs at my jokes. 6. She's a hell of a critter. 7. She's not repulsed by my body. Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often: 1. Jake! 2. Karen, hit the mute. This is funny! 3. Kitty, goddammit! 4. No. 5. Gimme some sugar, baby (inspired by Bruce Campbell, natch). 6. (To patients) What can I do for you today? 7. (To patients) Eeeeeew! Catrina, one of my office staff, has asked me to add: 8. *SIGH* 9. Am I done yet? Seven Books (or Series) I love: 1. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 3. Terry Pratchett's Diskworld books 4. John LeCarre's George Smiley novels 5. John D. Fitzgerald's Great Brain books (loved 'em as a kid) 6. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner 7. Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again: 1. The Godfather, because it promotes good family values. 2. Truly, Madly, Deeply, for reasons mentioned here. 3. Gross Point Blank, for the screenplay, and for John Cusack, of course. 4. Prophecy, for the screenplay, and for Christopher Walken. 5. Young Frankenstein, because Teri Garr was so yummy. And, I love the scene at the end with the monster in bed with Madeline Kahn. 6. Army of Darkness, for the screenplay, and for Bruce Campbell. 7. The Exorcist, because it keeps getting funnier every time. Seven People I Want To Join In (Be Tagged) 1. My newest pal, Blue Gal. 2. Beth, because I know she'll never forgive me for it. 3. Candy, to punish her for not coming around here lately. 4. Pat Kirby, cuz I know she can dish it. 5. Darla, so she'll take a break from all that theorizin'. 6. Gabriele, so she'll shame us with her list of books she loves. 7. Lilith, cuz she's wonky on pain meds (sorry to hear it, Lili) and needs distraction. D.

Maureen Dowd, reigning queen of one-liners

Reprinted in full by Tennessee Guerilla Women, Maureen Dowd's latest column, "Hot Monkey Love," is packed with sizzling one-liners: But this time, [President Bush] may want to think twice before strapping on a Texas-shaped belt buckle. W. might inadvertently conjure up images of Bushback Mountain. The High Plains, one of the few remaining arenas where men were men, may now evoke something more ambiguous, like men with men. After "Brokeback Mountain," pitching that pup tent on the prairie will never seem the same. Can a culture built on laconic cowboys like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood survive one rough-hewn cowboy crooning to another, as Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist tells Heath Ledger's Ennis Del Mar, "Sometimes I miss you so much, I can hardly stand it," and, "I wish I knew how to quit you"?
Everything will have to be re-evaluated. "High Plains Drifter" now sounds like a guy who might get arrested in a bus station bathroom. And audiences may be ready for "The Good, the Bad and the Bad Hair Day."
Hollywood is busy sensitizing - and emotionally layering - archetypal macho guys, including our most famous alpha male. He's still strong and decisive. His back's as hairy as ever*. But it's just not the same Kong. This lovable overgrown monkey is more like the brooding, wounded and steadfast romantic heroes Heathcliff and Rick Blaine. Like Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy, Peter Jackson's big ape goes for gals with spunk. He likes babes who juggle more than jiggle. This gorilla doesn't go around tossing "gorilla dust," as Ross Perot used to call it, just to get into another alpha's space. He doesn't look for a T. Rex simply to rip its jaws apart - he only protects his loved ones. He'd rather hang out on his mountain, enjoying the sunset and watching his gal juggle and do pratfalls. And much, much more. D. *Maybe I have a chance as a romantic lead after all. Technorati tags:

Ooh, I love this bit.

Here's where I'm at in the editing of The Brakan Correspondent. For those of you who haven't heard me talking about this, the Huurans are wingless birds with arms and hands. That's all the set-up you need. The alarm was especially loud for those unfortunate enough to be stationed ten feet from the speakers. “You wanna check that out?” said the cock named Govil. “Nuh-uh. You?” said his partner, the one they called Bard. “One of us oughta. You see anything on the monitors?” Bard shook his head and passed Govil a small spiral notepad. “This one’s a keeper,” said Bard. “I feel it in my blood.” Govil read the wide, childish scrawl: Spring is the croolest month. Sigh!Croolest, eh?” said Govil. “I like that. You gonna put some torture in it?” Bard snagged the notepad and gave Govil an injured look. “It ain’t about torture. It’s about the essential emptiness of the Huuran spirit.” Govil clucked and studied the monitors. Boring, every single one. And still that damned alarm kept screaming like an eastside hen in heat. “It’s a shame,” he said, flicking the switch that killed the alarm. “I would read a poem about torture. Anyway, how come you only write first lines? That’s all I ever see outa you.” “It’s cuz that first line’s so important. A poem from the heart, first line to last, it has to go on and on like it can’t go no other way.” “A sense of inevitability?” said Govil. “Whatever.” Something flickered on the monitor for loading dock B. “You see that?” said Govil. “What?” “Ah, fluff it. We can both check it out.” D.

J. Edgar Bush

Apologies to those of you who dislike political posts, but there's too much going on lately for me to ignore. Meet the Bobbsie twins: Props to Senate Democrats for growing a pair (several pairs, actually) yesterday. They defeated the extension of George W. Bush's Patriot Act, and thank heavens for that. Snip from the Yahoo News article linked above: "We need to be more vigilant," agreed Sen. John Sununu, a Republican from New Hampshire, where the state motto is "Live Free or Die." He quoted Benjamin Franklin: "Those that would give up essential liberty in pursuit of a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security." Meanwhile, as long as we're on the subject of liberty, Dubya is taking some much-needed heat for his program of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens. Bipartisan disgust in Little Brother's tactics will undoubtedly lead to Congressional hearings. Another snip from Yahoo News: "There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," declared Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He promised hearings early next year. This 2002 article at the History News Network, entitled "J. Edgar Ashcroft?" by Marjorie Cohn, covers the comparison of Hoover's America versus America post-9/11. We've learned a lot since then; perhaps most significantly, we've learned that Bush himself authored many of the current civil rights violations. Full coverage at The Huffington Post, with interesting commentary at The Washington note here and here. Finally, over at Daily Kos, SusanG reports that in Bush's radio address, "Bush acknowledged authorizing warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens more than a dozen times - and he vowed to continue to do so." Snip: "This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States," Bush said. Protect them and their civil liberties? No one's buying it, Little Brother. D. Technorati tags: , , , ,

Friday, December 16, 2005

Could Alan Rickman be too sexy?


Review of Intergalactic Medicine Show premier

Top of the heap at Tangent Online, at least for the moment, is my review of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, an e-zine that features a short story by Card and seven other short stories. Highlight of this review: at long last, Eugie has had to take her red pen to my immortal words. She didn't like the word 'fugliest,' as in, The premier issue of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show features Card’s “Mazer in Prison,” seven other stories (some good, some not so good), and the fugliest Prairie Muffin ever to appear on SF cover art. . . . choosing instead the phrase, "most unappealing." Well, at least she kept "Prairie Muffin." Take a look at the cover, and tell me I'm wrong. I wish I could say I loved this collection, but I can't. It's a mixed bag, with three fine stories, and four that range from disappointing to [insert snarky adjective here]. Angry authors, feel free to leave your comments below. For those of you who came here expecting humor, all I have are two great links from this morning's YesButNoButYes (they're currently running a story about a teddy bear with a butthole): Santa Troubles: Claymation Santa's DUI. Woomba: 21st Century feminine hygeine. Enjoy. D.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My dorm was never this much fun

At the University of Western Ontario, the now notorious Saugeen Stripper hosted a lap dance for several of her male dormie friends. By the way -- that link? Not work-safe.
Tickle me, Elmo. You know the way I like it.
I lived in a co-ed dorm at Berkeley, and I'm telling you, no one got laid, except maybe my roommate, and from the way his girl whimpered afterwards, I'm not sure anything really happened. There may have been a wee bit too much alcohol involved. (Oh -- how do I know this? They thought I was asleep. Riiiight.) But no one got laid at the University of Western Ontario strip tease, as far as we know, so perhaps I'm asking too much from my college memories. Then again . . . damn. We didn't even play strip poker. We played Spades and Bridge, that's how boring we were. The deliciously zaftig Andrea gave out hugs to any guy who looked pathetic enough to need one; that's the closest we ever came to a strip tease. Oh, wait. I'm remembering something else. Once, when some drunk-off-his-ass jerk set off the fire alarm in the middle of the night and we all rushed downstairs in the cold of winter, J., the girl I lost to Mr. Blue-Eyed Jesus, had wrapped herself in a bathrobe -- too hastily, it seems, since my friend Stan got an eyeful of her booty and told me about it in the morning. That was my second-biggest dorm thrill, next to free hugs from Andrea. Poor "I Wuv Punk" Russell, he desperately wanted to get laid, but his was a hopeless case. Remember Peter Billingsley, the kid who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story? Picture a six-foot-tall Ralphie. Yes, every bit as geeky-looking as Ralphie, and with a voice that cracked on every other word. Russell got nowhere. Not even Andrea would hug him. I think they based The 40 Year Old Virgin on Russell. So, high school seniors, don't get fooled into thinking co-ed dorms are an E-ticket to hot strip tease shows and unlimited mind-blowing sex. They're not. Or maybe that was just Berkeley's problem. D.

Feeling sluggish today

Yes, banana slugs really do look like this.
Remember the old (really old) Saturday Night Live skit about Puppy Uppers and Doggy Downers? I need some Puppy Uppers. One mug of coffee and too much Christmas chocolate to mention -- well, it's just not cutting it. This day seems like it's lasting forever. Best line of the day: I ask my pediatric patient if he has any more questions. Patient: "Yeah. Where do kitties come from?" Me: "Mama cats." Patient: "Cool!" I thought about doing the old, "The mama cat and the daddy cat loved each other very, very much" routine, but then I would have started immitating cats having sex ("Rrooowerrrowr yeeeow rrowllllreeeeer yowelllrrowl!") and someone would have reported me to the State Board for sure. It's only a matter of time. D. PS: Oy. I've been edged out of the BlogTopSites #22 spot by a blogger who posts shopping lists. Shopping lists.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ching ching

Karen's watching Law and Order. Again. If I confront her on this, I know what she'll say. "There's nothing else on." But I know the truth. We all know the truth, the unspeakable, shameful truth: Karen is a Law and Order addict. A moment ago, desperate for some shred of hope, I googled support group for Law and Order addicts, and found this page. Here are some excerpts: "but there i was, again, glued to the TV for what seems like an endless parade of episodes of Law & Order. i'm beginning to realize that you can see this wonderful, wonderful show (or one of it's spinoffs) at almost any time during the day or night on one channel or another." "I wish there were something like a methadone clinic for us addicts." "When I found out that TNT and USA were playing different episodes at the same time, I couldn't handle it. I cracked. I sold my baby girl into white slavery and used the money to buy a second TV." Okay, I made that last one up, but can we at least begin to talk about Chronic Ohrbachitis and the dreaded Waterston Ache? (Yes, it's true: Law and Order addiction is no innocent dependency; it's a disease.) Even acknowledges the seriousness of this problem. Are you an addict? Take this simple test. Read the first the first five words of the next paragraph, and then close your eyes. If you can finish the paragraph without peeking, you're an addict. “In the criminal justice system, [OKAY, CLOSE 'EM!] the people are represented by two separate, yet equally-important groups — the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.” And who, Mr. Know-it-all Unseen Voice, Mr. "I hyphenate adverb-adjective pairings," who represents the spouses of Law and Order addicts? Then, a few years ago, the cancer metastasized. Law and Order begat CI, CSI, SVU, SUV, FBI, IOU, and ESP. With each of these spinoffs ripping their stories fresh from the headlines, what will we do when there are no headlines left to rip? D.

Just a piece of paper

(Update from Blue Gal: "Posted this story to Daily Kos and immediately got 8 or 9 comments asking me to delete my post because CapitolBlue is not a reliable source, fwiw. Standing by my own comments, though." Guess we'll know in the next day or two if this story has legs.) Blue Gal, I don't know how you do it, but this story you've sniffed out is truly remarkable. From Doug Thompson's post (Capitol Hill Blue): GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the [Patriot] act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

Be sure to read Thompson's whole story, as well as Blue Gal's commentary (both linked above). I've been too busy to see if Kos & the rest have picked this up yet, but . . . amazing, if true.

So . . . consider this story as a thoroughly unverified allegation. I'll yank it if the story falls through.


Bad Mojo: that other Kafka game

Bad Mojo hit the shelves in 1996. Karen and I, sick puppies that we were, instantly got hooked. There's just something unspeakably special about pretending to be Gregor Samsa, you know? Yup, that's the premise: you've been magically transformed into a cockroach (by the ghost of your dead mother, no less) and you must navigate through an ultra-grungy apartment complex to learn the secrets of your existence. You must unravel your own personal mystery to become human yet again. Despite the superficial resemblance to "The Metamorphosis," precious little in Bad Mojo invokes the words or themes of Kafka. A Berkeley research associate rips off his lab and plans on driving to Mexico with the loot. Before he can make his getaway, his mother's locket transforms him into a cockroach. Ultimately, Bad Mojo becomes a story of redemption, one that probably would not have sat well with Kafka. Hmm. Perhaps I'm wrong. Ever read "In the Penal Colony"? It's an unpleasant, nasty, violent tale of punishment and redemption. I hated it when I read it in high school, but it has stuck with me over the years. Can't say the same for Don Quixote. Bad Mojo has been re-released as Bad Mojo Redux (that link will take you to the video trailer, too), with more than a few extras: A bonus DVD packs in a couple hours' worth of extras, including a fascinating making-of documentary (with audition scenes and refreshingly honest creator interviews); developer commentary on the game's FMV movies; concept art and storyboards; and video hints for solving the puzzles. I'm not enough of a fanboy to pick up the Redux, but I've replayed it a few times, and if they release Bad Mojo 2, I'm buying. D.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Of course it's pointless. That's the point.

Because every kind shout deserves a great shout-back, and because most of y'all are literary types anyway . . .
Props to YesButNoButYes (or, as I like to call them, WhoNeedsBoingBoing) for finding this cool Kafka game, Kafkamesto. Earlier this evening, I played Kafkamesto for about an hour before realizing that if I could win, it wouldn't be a Kafka game! But I'm too much a Type A whack job not to keep trying. I've already googled for a walkthrough, but the best I've managed is this message board. I'm sick. Sick as Kafka. D.

The Strip beckons

Oy, I'm tired. We've been squeezing patients into the schedule so that the boy and I can get out of town at the end of the year. It seems like I spent eight hours today shoveling ear wax, which is exhausting, no matter what you might think. Stick around to the end, and I'll tell you one of my favorite ear wax stories.
I grew up in a teaching family, which meant my dad had his summers off. Half the time, we vacationed "back East," visiting relatives in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The other half of the time, we went to Vegas. I come from a long line of poker players, folks who have (or had) the knack of making money at the table every time. Bliss to my father is an afternoon playing low ball, then coming home forty or fifty bucks in the black. I'm not sure why he avoids the higher stakes table, but soon, I'll have the opportunity to ask him. Yup, we're going to Vegas.
Click to witness the full glory.
My parents retired to Las Vegas. I wish they would have retired to Maui, Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco, but no, they retired to Vegas. Thus, even though I'm all grown up, half of my vacations still find me in Vegas. In case you've never been, this is what Las Vegas is all about: Leaving casinos reeking of cigarette smoke, buzzed on other people's nicotine, tinnitus amped up a few dozen notches thanks to the slot machine noise; Walnut-brained casino employees chasing us away from one area after another because I have my underage son in tow; All you can eat buffets where ugly excuse me handsome Americans pile their dishes eighteen inches high with king crab claws (because, after all, it takes energy to go back for fourths and fifths); Traffic that makes me homesick for Los Angeles; Freezing cold winters, blistering hot summers. Why did they retire there? Anyway, I can't complain*. They're flying me and Jake out on their dime, thanks to the fact that our money pit of a house has left us nearly broke. We'll be there from the 26th to the 1st, so if any of y'all are going to be there, let me know. We can score some free watered-down drinks at Slots-o-fun and flirt with the mini-skirted seventy-year-old hostesses. Karen gets a pass this time. She's recovering from a nasty crud, and doesn't want to get sick so soon after this last illness.
When Harry Met Sally's Ear Wax
A mom brings her sixteen-year-0ld girl in for an ear cleaning. The second I start scooping brown gold from her canal, she begins moaning like Meg Ryan. Now Mom's laughing, my office staff is wondering what the hell I'm doing back there, I'm squirming (thanking my stars I don't have to stand to clean ear wax), and, unbeknownst to me, a little old lady totters up to our front desk. "Excuse me, dear," she says. "Does Dr. Hoffman clean ear wax?" And my receptionist is trying very hard not to say, "Does he ever!" D. *Hah! What am I saying? I live to complain.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The prostitute joke

The most striking thing about 's World's Funniest Joke entry is just how unfunny the joke is. The runner-up isn't much better. The entry may lack humor, but it's not entirely wanting in meat. The 'world's funniest joke' stems from a 2002 study by the University of Hertfordshire's Richard Wiseman. Wiseman wanted to find out what jokes had the greatest appeal across cultural and demographic boundaries: The study documented regional differences in humour, as well as variations between the sexes. Men preferred more aggressive jokes, as well as sexual innuendo, while women preferred word play. I'm partial the shaggy dog story, which Wikipedia defines as "an extremely long and involved joke with a weak or completely nonexistent punchline. The humor lies in building up the audience's anticipation and then letting them down completely." The humor also derives from the delivery -- which is, after all, the whole point of The Aristocrats. One of the tricky things about blog humor is that body language is, with rare exception, impossible. Anyway, I thought this joke was pretty damned funny.
The Prostitute Joke
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
This happened several years ago. It really did happen, but thanks to the passage of time, I'll have to use my imagination to fill in some of the details. Which is to say, most of them. In the spring, our local park hosts Sunday concerts. Jake and I were goofing off at the playground one day when we heard a brass band. We decided to investigate. We eventually came to a hilltop where we could easily see and hear the band. Picnickers, dogs, and kids playing with Frisbees dotted the grassy slope leading down to the amphitheatre. Right next to us stood an old lady beside her wheelchair-bound husband, a stooped codger in a broad-brimmed straw hat. He had a knitted wool blanket covering his lap and legs. A young boy, perhaps fourteen years old, noticed them and waved. WIFE: Oh, look. There's Tommy. HUBS: Eh? WIFE: Tommy, from church. HUBS: Church? WIFE: Come on over a spell, Tommy! Why, just look at you, you're nearly taller than me. TOMMY: Hi. Come to hear the music? HUBS: Eh? WIFE: Eugene can't hear a thing, but he does like his sunshine. HUBS: Tommy? Is that Tommy? Why, you're all grown up. Here, I got a joke for you. WIFE: What's that? HUBS: A joke, woman. Tommy? Tommy? You listening? TOMMY: Yeah, I hear you. HUBS: A koala walks into a bar. WIFE: A bar? You think that's an appropriate joke for a young boy? Good heavens, Eugene, I don't know about you sometimes. HUBS: A koala walks into a bar. You know -- a koala. TOMMY: I know what a koala is. HUBS: A koala walks into a bar and orders himself a martini. A prostitute sits -- WIFE: A prostitute? Eugene, you stop right here right now. Listen to you! I can't imagine a pastor would think it's appropriate to tell a young boy a joke about a prostitute! HUBS: What do you mean, young boy? He's all grown. WIFE: He's not that old. How old are you, fourteen? TOMMY: I'm thirteen. WIFE: Thirteen! You hear that, Eugene? HUBS: Thirteen's old enough to know about prostitutes. I'm not telling you nothing you don't know, isn't that right, Tommy? WIFE: Heavens! I don't know what I'll do with you. You was a pastor. Now I can't even take you out. HUBS: So the prostitute sits down next to the koala and says -- WIFE: Will you stop? You was a pastor, Eugene. Show some sense. This boy's thirteen. HUBS: I knew plenty about prostitutes at thirteen. So she says, "Hey, how about you and me, we go back in the back and --" WIFE: Eugene, you WILL stop right there -- HUBS: Will you shut up, woman? I'm trying to tell a joke. You want to hear a joke, don't you, Tommy? TOMMY (nods) HUBS: See? It's not like I'm tryin' to make him do anything he don't want to do. So, afterwards, they get back to the bar -- WIFE: Well! At least you have the sense not to give him all the filthy details. HUBS: And the koala, he's about to leave, when the prostitute asks for her money. WIFE: That does it. Tommy, tell your parents we said hello. It was very nice seeing you today. HUBS: Damn it, woman, where are you taking me? WIFE (wheels husband away) TOMMY (looking at me): Do you know how the joke ends? DOUG (shrugs) TOMMY: Goddammit. D.