Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Need Some New Hardware?


Check out the Swiss MiniGun Revolver.
This is the basic stainless steel model.
The gold-and-diamond versions run a tad more ...


Offhand, it looks neat, but nothing all that special for something
that is gonna set you back about U.S. $5700 --
if you could buy it here, only you can't -- it's not importable --
in the U.S. -- not considered a sporting arm.

They will work with you, if you want to buy one where they can ship
and then figure out how to get it legally home ...

Ammo ... and then you come to this picture:



























Pretty amazing, huh?

Talking about a rimfire, 2.34 mm (that's about .09 caliber) round that approaches 121 meters/second -- about 400 ft./sec. Not gonna knock a rhino down, or even a squirrel, but if you want to hunt dragonflies, this is your gat. It will probably sting if one hits you, given the velocity, which is around that of an air pistol.

Wouldn't you love to have one on your keychain?

Anybody looking to buy me a Christmas present ... ?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Upcoming Lit'ry Events

There are a couple of things coming up in November I should point out for those of you within striking range of Portland:

The first is Wordstock, which is a big deal held at the Portland Convention Center. Bunch of writers, h0w-to-write classes, panels, talks, like that, cross-genre. Finally got around to inviting me.

Second is Orycon, the annual SF&Fantasy convention, which has been going on for thirty years. I've been to all of those, save one, when we were living in Port Townsend and got snowed in. But I was at the symposium that pre-dated Orycon proper, so I figure that balances things out.

If you are a budding science fiction or fantasy writer or a fan of either, you might enjoy Orycon -- again, lot of writers, editors, artists, and serious readers/viewers will be there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Presidental Candidates Debate of '08

So, Obama/McCain #1 is history.

I wasn't too impressed. No knockout. If you like McCain, you'll still like him; if you like Obama, same-same. They both did workman-like presentations of their policy differences enough to let people see the differences. Neither of them would come home with the class debate trophy.

McCain did better than I thought he would; Obama missed a couple of chances to make hay.

Obama seemed more reasonable, offering that McCain was correct on several points, and I thought McCain was irritated to the point where he wanted to take a swing at Obama.

I thought Obama's segues could have used a little work. I thought McCain nearly lost his temper a couple times. Neither of them had convincing smiles.

On balance, I thought Obama more gracious, and I thought his closing argument about looking at the bigger picture of world events as opposed to narrow focus on Iraq was his best point. Restoring American prestige around the world scored with me.

If McCain had dragged up his war record once more I was going to have to go fetch the emesis basin. If he had hammered how wonderful the surge worked again, I think he might have fallen over like John Henry he was beating it so hard.

Neither of them knew enough about the economy to make cogent statement and that's no surprise.

I'm still of a mind that real change is needed, and Obama better represents it. He's the future, whatever it might bring. McCain is the bridge to the past, and we've had enough of that, for my money. If I have any once the government bails everybody out ...

Next Thursday is Biden v. Palin ...

Content Warning

Those of you who have been dropping round regularly will notice a new gateway -- a content warning filter that blogger offers. Though I suspect this will cut down on the numbers of folks who drop by -- not all that many anyhow -- I did it for a reason. (If all I wanted was total hits, I could put Harry Potter or Britney Spears or Free Porno or somesuch in my headings.)

Normally, the content and pictures here are either PG or PG-13. Now and then, I shade into a R-rating, and rarely, into NC-17, but it has happened. Now, a content warning isn't going to stop a curious fourteen-year-old. Might even do the opposite, but at least nobody can log on here and then run screaming down the hallways how they expected hearts and flowers and got foul language and obscene pictures instead.

You have been warned. If you are here, you don't get to bitch about offended sensibilities. That's part of what I do -- I am a writer and if I'm not offending anybody, I am not doing my job ...

Meaningless Pop News of the Week


So, didja hear about Clay Aiken and Lindsay Lohan outing themselves?

(It would be politically-incorrect of me to apply the terms "fudgepacker" and "carpet-muncher" here, respectively, and frankly, it's their business and not ours, and not that there is anything wrong with that ... but ...)

What I wonder about is a) is anybody surprised? and b) why is this news?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Truth in Advertising, v2






Van Harn sent me this -- gotta love it.

Night of Thunder

If you are fan of Stephen Hunter's books, all you need to know is that Night of Thunder is out, and that's it's another ex-sniper Bob Lee Swagger adventure.

Hunter's previous novel, The 47th Samurai, also a Bob the Nailer outing, came out about a year ago, and I reviewed it here.

Hunter has also written books about Bob's dad, Earl, who was a Marine Medal of Honor winner and a kick-ass dude as well.

This time, Hunter does NASCAR, and with his usual aplomb. The story is a mystery, full of guns and shooters, and if you are paying attention, figuring out whodunnit isn't a problem -- he utililzes Chekhov's Rule in the best way. If you are car culture kinda guy, you will be in hog heaven. If you don't know a piston from a pretzel, Hunter explains as he goes so that keeping up is not a problem.

Hunter also gets the gun stuff right, which is also a bonus for me.

Bob Lee is getting a bit long in the tooth, beat-up from all his adventures, gone gray and limping, and would just as soon avoid this kind of stuff these days, but it concerns his daughter and he really doesn't have any choice. He's tough, but he's also lucky, and that's a nasty combination for bad guys who get in his way.

(Couple summers back, they made a movie based on Hunter's character Bob Lee, called Shooter. It was okay, not a patch on the novels, but there were a few memorable scenes. One concerned an old cracker gunsmith, Mr. Rate, played by Levon Helm, that stole the movie; the other was when Swaggert, who had been shot, had fallen out of a building, nearly-drowned and half-dead, is being questioned as to why he didn't give up going after the bad guys. "I don't think you understand," he says. "These people killed my dog.")

The reluctant and self-effacing hero is a classic character, and nobody does him any better than Stephen Hunter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rolled in Flour and Deep Fat Fried ...

The title is a phrase I have used a time or two about what should be done to literary critics. Might include a few on the movie end, too ...

That said, I believe it is okay to voice an opinion if you can do so a) without malice; or failing that, b) without naming names ...

There is a cable TV show just cranked up recently. The producer is a well-known fellow whose work I have long admired. The lead actress is an attractive young woman who co-starred in a big summer blockbuster a few years back. The setting is cool, and some of the supporting actors are really good. (The second female lead steals every scene she is in.) The story takes place in the south, and it's a fun premise, based on a series of books by a guy whose stuff I also like.

There are two things that go clunk! in a big way for me.

First, the southern accents are all generic, no two of them match each other, and none of them match the state where the show takes place. All these people are supposed to be locals, born and raised right in the little town where it all happens, and you sure can't hear it. Texas is not Louisiana is not Mississippi is not Alabama is not Georgia. (Even within states there are differences, sometimes easy to hear -- El Paso, and, Houston, say -- but I wouldn't expect that level of accuracy.)

I suppose this isn't too big a turd; of the dozen or so actors who are regulars, only three are from south of the Mason-Dixon line, and none of them from the state where it's set. Got actors from New York, Chicago, L.A., Australia, and Las Vegas.

You see this a lot, the generic southern, or in the case of Brits, the generic American accent. Easy to fix, just get a voice coach from whatever region and get everybody to talk like she does. They seldom bother. You see Daniel Day Lewis in anything? He always nails it.

Second thing that bugs me, and this is a little worse, is that the lead actress has a range of expression that stretches all the way from A to ... B. Either she looks A) two-weeks-post-lobotomy befuddled, or B) Deer caught in the headlights befuddled.

Maybe it's Botox, which is a curse for young actresses, far as I am concerned. Or maybe the director is holding her back. Or she doesn't have the range. Whatever. It is distracting enough to be noticed, and that's bad for the suspension of disbelief, which, given the nature of the show, takes a bit of doing anyhow ...

I feel better now. I hope I have been circumspect enough to keep most people in the dark. Those of you who figured it out, good for you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Take a Break

So, after a long and mostly-gray-outside-my-window day slaving over my keyboard and trying to stay ahead of the deadline, a break to practice the guitar.

As I uncased the Carruth, the sun came out, on this, the first day of Autumn, so I thought this was appropriate, while it lasts:

video

Slippery Jim DiGriz's Pocketbook


About the time I think I've seen it all, I see something like this. Know what this wallet is made out of?

Stainless steel ...

Talking Dogs

Consider the talking dog; it's not that he talks well, its that he talks at all ...

Super-Size Me

Check out Jim Gurney's Americana watercolor, "Harpy Meal," from his blog.

Gurney, is both a fine artist and illustrator, and with stuff like this, might be working his way into Norman Rockwell territory as somebody who captures the zeitgeist.

Twenty-odd years ago, Gurney illustrated the cover for my novel, The Man Who Never Missed, and his sketch of Emile Antoon Khadaji, for a cover that didn't get used, nailed the guy exactly as I pictured him. I posted this here before, but it deserves another look.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Life of the Party

So, yesterday some friends of our had a birthday party for another mutual friend. Small gathering, seventeen, eighteen people, most of us who have known each other for a long time.

The champagne flowed, we ate a nice meal, the birthday girl opened cards and gifts, and we chatted about all manner of things under the sun -- from politics to real estate to silly TV commercials.

So we were all gathered in the rec room, talking in groups of two or three about this and that, and the man to whom I was chatting made a comment about that infamous warning at the end of the Viagra commercial about calling your doctor if you got an erection lasting more than four hours. The usual joke is, "Yeah, right. After I call all my old girlfriends and the circus. Hire myself out as a diving board for the women's Olympic team, yuk, yuk!"

So Ray says, that such a warning seems downright silly. Whereupon I, in my encyclopedic know-it-all-mode of things medical, felt the need to point out what priapism was and why it was not a good thing. (For those of you who don't know about the blood flow and valves and all in Mr. Willie, what happens is that the blood that causes things to rise up, as it were, gets congested and doesn't circulate, and this can not only lead to pain, it can cause tissue damage, in the same way that tying a tight tourniquet around your wrist and leaving it for four hours can do. At the worst, we are talking gangrene.)

The party is chattering away and I'm getting wound up, so I segue into my closing bit: "Image how that would look in a testimonial -- 'Dear Sirs -- I used your product and my dick rotted off -- !'"

Some of you are old enough to remember the old E.F. Hutton commercials. Two guys sitting in a restaurant, nobody paying them any attention. One of them says, "Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and Hutton says -- " whereupon every person in the place stops what they are doing to look and listen to the speaker.

So I deliver the "dick rotted off -- !" line and became aware that the background noise had ceased. Looked around. In a movie, it would be a slow pan, R. to L., to see that everybody in the room was looking at me as if I had just morphed into a giant lizard.

Their expressions were priceless. I imagine that mine was, too.

I lost it completely. Laughed so hard I thought I was gonna pee. That set off the birthday girl, and that set me off again.

Now and then, life hands you a jewel, for free. That's one of 'em.

Another One Bites the Dust

James Crumley
1939-2008

Hardboiled. A term often applied to mystery novels, and they didn't get much harder boiled than Crumley's work.

Almost thirty years ago, somebody told me I should read The Last Good Kiss, that it was worth it for the first line alone.

I did -- and it was:

"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

From the Wikipedia article: "His (Crumley's) novels The Last Good Kiss, The Mexican Tree Duck and The Right Madness feature the character C.W. Sughrue, an ex-army officer turned private investigator. The Wrong Case, Dancing Bear and The Final Country feature a p.i. named Milo Milodragovitch. In the novel Bordersnakes, Crumley brought both characters together. Crumley said of his two private detectives: "Milo's first impulse is to help you; Sughrue's is to shoot you in the foot."

Crumley has been described as "a patron saint of the post-Vietnam private eye novel," and as a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson. Although his books were not bestsellers, he had a cult following, and his work is said to have inspired a generation of crime writers, including Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane."

He called himself the bastard son of Chandler, and you can see that easily enough.

Crumley's detectives were hard-drinking, hard-doping, hard-screwing kinda guys, and from dedications and editorial asides in his books, you kinda get the idea their creator wasn't exactly a teetotaler himself. He was married five times, and spent ten years working in La-La-Land doing a bunch of unproduced scripting and script-doctoring to earn money for all that alimony.

We come and we go.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mike Richardson: Mr. Warmth


So, the HBO movie, Mr. Warmth -- the Don Rickles Project, a Dark Horse Indie Picture, won an Emmy™. (Story here).

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. I found myself grinning when I heard this, as much as if I'd won the thing myself.

Guru Blues

This one will have limited appeal, for several reasons:

1) There are only a handful of Silat Sera players out there, and nobody else will get the lyrics.

2) Of the handful, some don't like music and won't listen.

3) Of the handful, some do like music, and when they hear the first four bars, they will have to leave the room until I'm done ...

That said, Blind Whitebread Perry does the deed:


video

Cady Jo

Written in memory of our German Shepherd Dog, Cady Jo Ivy ...

video

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well, I Never Been to Spain ...


... but I kinda like the music ...

Apparently, in a recent interview, John McCain, when asked about meeting with the President of Espana didn't seem to know who he was, or where the country was.

Cranky, bad-tempered old man is bad; cranky, bad-tempered, senile old man is worse.

Moose-killer moving up ... ?

Judge for yourself -- here's the story.

'Twould seem that the rain in Spain falls mainly on McCain ...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Fight Isn't Under the Glove ..


... it's under the hat.

Writing a fight sequence today, and as sometimes happens, to explain what the character was doing, I needed to clarify my own thinking.

The title of this entry goes to attitude, and to paraphrase Frank, one of the Fabulous Furry Freak brothers, "Attitude will get you through times of no skill better than skill will get you through times of no attitude."

At least in some venues in which "skill" is a volatile and relative term.

Speaking here as a long-time martial artist with not much in the way of skill, though perhaps a bit more than the average Joline on the street, my come-to-realize moment about this was some time back, and it can be broken down into simple statements:

1. Attitude triumphs skill alone.
2. Attitude and skill triumph attitude or skill.

Lemme explain my definitions a little:

When I say "attitude," I mean here the determined resolution to do whatever is necessary to be the guy who walks away from a fight, absolutely whatever.

"Skill" is the ability to move in efficient ways. These need not be complex, they can be very simple patterns --- basic punches or elbows, level changes, maybe some grappling attacks and defenses, kicks, weapons, like that. Mostly, these are tools the basics of which can be learned in days or weeks rather than years.

Here's a theoretical scenario: Bob is a ten-year student of Kickass-Fu. He knows all nineteen major, sixteen minor, and twelve variations of the Ultimate Grand Holistic form set. He has done them six thousand times, and is practiced against most of what he is apt to see flying at him.

Bob is also a proponent of the graduated force theory -- Avoid rather than check; check rather than injure; injure rather than maim; maim rather than kill -- like that.

Bob is not sure that he could kill somebody, and he would go a long way to avoid that choice. He is adept enough, he believes, that it won't ever come to that. Bob is, by all lights, a nice guy.

Larry, on the other hand, has never seen the inside of a dojo. He doesn't know a kung from a fu, and he's not a brawler, but he has been in a few knock-down drag-out slugfests in which he was the last guy standing and the other guy was out cold.

Larry is married, has two lovely young daughters and a beautiful wife, and more than anything in the world, he wants to live long enough to see his girls grow up and have happy lives. He would walk in front of a bus if that's what it took to protect them, and if the bus was bearing down on one of his children and he had a gun, he would shoot the driver dead to stop it, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Both Bob and Larry are good-sized fellows in pretty good shape.

Do a split-screen: Both men are on their way home from the 7-Elevens in their neighborhoods with a six-pack and some snacks when a trio of strong-arm muggers steps out into their respective paths.

Bob is alone.

Larry has his little girls with him.

If you were forced to bet big money here on which guy you thought would make a better showing, which way would you go?

I've set it up so the choice should be easy. (Your card is the Queen of Hearts, right?)

Bob is skilled, but his internal governor has a top-end-setting. He doesn't want to kill these guys, so chances are he is going to be thinking about how best to take them out without stepping across that line. He might be good enough to do it.

His smartest choice is to turn around and haul ass.

Larry has his daughters with him. He can't run. He isn't going to be thinking about the welfare of somebody who is offering a threat to his children, or his unfinished job as father. Larry is going to let the Thing in the Cave loose and sure as pigeons shit on statues, he is going to drop the hammer.

I expect most of my readers can see this, because they -- especially if they have small children -- identify with it. This is attitude.

But here's a third guy. He's a combination of Bob and Larry. (Call him "Barry.")

Barry has spent years training in something -- not so important what, but it's an art that has basic and useful fighting skills -- punches, kicks, wrasslin' -- like that. And his attitude is every bit as determined as Larry's. Normally a peaceful man, he'd avoid trouble if he could, but when the muggers step out, Barry is hands-down my pick to mop up the pavement with the bad guys, because the formula as I see it is:

Skill + Attitude > Skill (or) Attitude.

Skill can be taught and learned. I'm not sure that attitude can be. In my heart of hearts, I suspect that if you don't have attitude, that training for skill might get you in as much trouble as it keeps you out of. That the best students for a fighting art bring the attitude with them, and are the ones to get the most benefit from training.

As Edwin allowed in a recent discussion, mean-old-bastards have an edge that nice guys don't ...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Probably Didn't Say It, But ...


... it does need to be pointed out that both Mac and Cheese(cake) would try their best to do it, since they've both allowed as how they'd like to see it happen.

Are we ready to bring back the coat hangers ... ?

(Image copyrighted, from here.)

Musical Joke

I subscribe to a magazine called The Fretboard Journal. Great pictures, in-depth articles, a quarterly that is pretty much the top of the line for looks and content. Current issue has a piece where one well-known and young musician interviews another well-known and older one, and in it is a musical joke I hadn't heard before.

If you are a guitar player, you will probably think it's funny:

Q: How do you stop a classical musician from playing?
A: You take away his sheet music.

Q: How do you stop a guitarist from playing?
A: You put sheet music in front of him ...

(While I don't explain jokes, generally, and this one isn't really what you'd call too smart for the room, it does require that you know a bit about how things work in the musical world. Most guitarists outside the classical and jazz realms don't read music. Most rock and blues players can't. I can't sight-read, though given enough time, I can go through and with much labor figure out standard notation. I'd rather not. If I wanted to be a session player or work in an orchestra, I'd have to learn, since I'm not going there, life is too short.

Not being able to read music is not necessarily a problem -- it depends.

None of the Beatles could. They did all right.

Ray Charles, on the other hand, could read, even though he was blind.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Prayer


From Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness, circa 1969:

"Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen."

Man had a way with words, didn't he?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Okay, Something Good About Palin ...

.

To be fair, everything about Palin isn't awful ...

See the Resemblance?



Okay, I had put this in the lettercol under an earlier post on Palin, but I think it needs a front row ...

There's always the possibility that things are different than I think, I surely do have to consider that. But, you know, I pay attention. I get my news from the left, the right, and the center. I am married to a woman who has worked in government for decades, and who knows all about lobbying because she did that for a living for years.

I've been to the capitol in the capital. I've talked to the Governor, the legislators, I have a basic grasp of civics.

Whatever Palin says in a TV interview, she won't look any better to me. She's not telling the same stories she used to tell. A is not non-A.

What I think is that John McCain is a cranky, ill-tempered old man who deserves respect for his suffering in Vietnam as a prisoner of war. That isn't enough to overcome his longtime senatorial support of George W. Bush's policies -- not in my mind. Arguing with your party 5% of the time does not a maverick make.

The Republican Administration has taken us into the pasture and we have cow pie all over our shoes and are heading for the swamp in the lower forty.

Huge debt, stupid war, teetering on the brink of a major recession, if not a depression. Tax breaks for oil companies who are making record profits in the billions.

Civil rights in the toilet, constitution ignored, big brother is watching us, torturing prisoners is okay, as is sticking them into a cell for life without any recourse. What prestige we had in the word is wounded almost to death. It doesn't feel like a Democracy, it feels like he Emperor and Darth Vader have been running things. Luke -- where are you when we need you?

What part of this society do you like? Explain it to me, for I truly don't understand. You feel safer than you did before 9/11? I don't.

McCain wants to stay the course. He has a Donald Duck temper -- fact -- has been known to curse loudly in public at colleagues, underlings, and his wife, and is mired in the past. Just the guy I want with his finger on the Doomsday button.

What he did forty years ago in Vietnam has nothing to do with running the USA today. Looking over your shoulder all the time, you smack into walls in front of you.

Stay the course? The course sucks. Get off it. Look for a better road than the one to ruin we are on.

I think that Sarah Palin is an intellectual lightweight and to the right of Atilla the Hun. She is against abortion for victims of rape or incest; she is for teaching Creationism next to Evolution as science. Doesn't like "graphic" sex ed -- by which I guess she means pictures of ta-tas and hoo-hoos. She by now knows that abstinence doesn't work unless you abstain. What she did to her daughter is vile.

She thinks that God is on our side against Iraq, and she has demonstrated absolutely no skills or abilities that qualify her as somebody a heartbeat away from the Presidency. None. Zip. Zero. From what I have heard, she is small-minded, vindictive, and absolutely unversed in foreign policy to the extent that she doesn't know the driving force behind her party's current President.

Yeah, I could be wrong. But I don't think so.

Is Obama the be-all, end-all? No. But with McCain/Palin, you get the Devil *and* the deep blue sea. We already know how that goes -- look around.

Look around. Happy with you see? I'm not. I'd vote for a yellow dog before I cast my ballot for McCain/Palin, and know that the dog wouldn't screw up the country any worse than it is now.

That's where I am. Any discussion we have about this starts here.

Reflections on the War


We invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was about to lob them nine thousand miles at us ...

Oh, wait, no, he didn't. But since we said he did, even though we didn't have any real evidence, that makes it all right. Given the Bush Doctrine and all. Got Colin Powell to carry the water for them, and what a shame that was -- great for his reputation, flashing pictures of a truck at the U.N.

Bring us evidence of WMD's, the administration told the CIA. Otherwise, we don't want to hear from you.

We invaded Iraq because Osama bin Laden, the mastermind who sent suicidal attackers who destroyed the twin towers, flew a plane into the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania, was hiding out there.

Um, well, no, he was actually in Afghanistan, then moved to a nice cave in Pakistan. In case anybody hasn't noticed, we haven't gotten him yet, and the loons in Afghanistan are coming back out of of the sand. In places where people will argue to the death over minor religious events that happened more than a thousand years past, they don't shrug off military invasions and let bygones by bygones. The British learned the hard way, so did the Russians, and now it's our turn in the barrel. Winning battles is not winning a war, and against enemies who won't ever give up and will curse you with their dying breath until the ends of eternity, winning the peace doesn't work. Hasn't happened in the Middle East so far I can tell.

Okay, okay, we invaded Iraq because the planes that killed thousand of Americans were hijacked by Iraqi fanatics --

Ah, gee, I forgot, those planes were hijacked by Saudis. Throw in an odd Egyptian, a Lebanese, one from the UAR, but Saudis, nary an Iraqi among 'em. But what does it matter, they are all ragheads, hey?

All right, then, we invaded Iraq because the country was crawling with al-Qaeda cells --

Nope. Hussein didn't like those guys. Ones that are there showed up after we did, because we gave them convenient targets. More Americans have been killed since the "victory" than were killed during the stand-up battles. Thousands killed, tens of thousands wounded, and that doesn't even count the hundreds of thousands of locals, who are still being offed at five hundred a month or so. Well, yeah, but they're just ragheads ...

As for the surge working? If you fill the streets with armed soldiers who shoot anything that moves, you can temporarily keep the lid on occupation force casualties. If you leave them there forever, you turn into Saddam Hussein's secret police, save that the locals set more IEDs because they hate you even more than they did him.

Okay, okay, okay! We did it because the Iraqis were yearning to be free and democratic ...

Really? As evidenced by what? They haven't been able to get their puppet government to decide what shape the table that the Sunni, Shiites, and Kurds won't sit at together should be. Go look up the word "tribal." Iraq needs to be three countries. At least.

Because Saddam was the worst dictator in the world ... ?

Not even close: Kim Jong-il. But he's got a big honkin' army -- and no petroleum.

We invaded Iraq because of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, which, in a nutshell, says we need to have a Middle Eastern country that produces a shitload of oil in our pocket. And because George W. Bush needed something to do, since he wasn't doing anything else. And we got to see our country start a war, engage in torture, then try to justify it, and watch a boatload of our civil rights go down the tubes at home. Spying, no-fly lists, electronic eavesdropping, what book you checked out of the library last week in their files.

McCain wants to stay the course to victory. Palin thinks Iraq is a holy war and God is on our side. They think they can destroy global terrorism with a gun. They don't know that we have sown dragon's teeth, and that every fanatic we cut down produces five more.

Me, I think Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crime Spells


Got a cover flat and the galleys for the Greenberg/Coleman anthology, Crime Spells, coming out in February next, from DAW.

My story, "She's Not There," is included, and the mark of a class operation is to get you galleys in time to make corrections if you spot a typo. So happens I found a couple, pointed them out, and they have been addressed, all within a few hours.

Now and again, the internet is passing useful.

If ever you have a chance to work with either Marty Greenberg or Loren Coleman, take it -- gentlemen and scholars, both.

Bush Doctrine



So, Charlie Gibson interviewed Sarah Palin. The woman who, in theory, would be called when the red phone rings at 3 a.m. because they couldn't wake up the old man who slept through the ringer.

Gibson asked her about the Bush Doctrine. Look at her face. She had no clue what he was talking about. He fed her enough so she could vamp, and she did, but she still didn't know.

Now, you might be forgiven for not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is, but the woman who -- God forbid -- might be a heartbeat away from running the country sure ought to have some idea of what the Current Occupant of the White House's foreign policy is.

She doesn't. Not any idea.

You want to give me shit about picking on Sarah Palin, go right ahead, but this kind of stuff is scary -- she isn't qualified to be the spare, nor preside over the Senate and cast tie-breaking votes.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Worthy Cause



Now and again, I contribute to worthy causes. This needs no justification, I do it because I want to, and because I can.

Now and then, a worthy cause arises to which I would contribute but my cash-flow is not as good as it could be. Nature of the writing biz -- contracts get signed, it might be months before an advance comes in, and if you are between projects, income tends to be lean.

It is, alas, one of those times. I have money coming, but Lord knows when it will arrive. The wolf isn't at the door, but I can't light my Cuban cigars with hundred dollar bills. Not that I have any such cigars, nor would smoke 'em if I did ...

However, I do have some toys that are worth a bit, and sometimes, when the need arises, I can sell these and use the funds for something worth more to me than the toy is.

Such an occasion has arisen. I'd be happy to discuss this in private emails, but I won't do so here.

To this end, I am offering up a toy. There are a number of caveats connected to it, so if you don't know me personally, you won't be in the running, and there are some legal niceties that must observed, regarding FFL's and shipping and such, and if you have no idea what these terms mean, then you are also not in the pool. I am not going to do anything illegal here, absolutely not -- all t's crossed, all i's dotted.

Here's what it is: A Smith & Wesson Model 66 revolver. This is in .357 Magnum/ .38 Special caliber, stainless steel, with a 2-1/2 " barrel. I have had my pistolsmith do some custom work on it -- action job and springs give it a nine-pound DA trigger pull, just under three-pounds SA. The gun was glass-bead blasted to a mat finish. The rear sight was removed and a rail installed on the top strap, to which is affixed a ProPoint red-dot scope -- the small dot version. The gun wears a Hogue Monogrip. For a snubbie, it is a tack-driver and you can keep them on a man-sized silhouette at fifty meters all day long. With the right ammo, you can hit the same target at a hundred meters more often than not.

If you went out and bought one new, it would be fairly spendy. Even used, you are looking at nine hundred or a thousand bucks to to match the bells and whistles -- basic revolver alone used without any action work is more than five hundred dollars.

It's a shooter, but it is in pretty nice condition, light wear, and you can pretty much see what it is from the pictures.

What I am looking for is a big enough chunk to justify selling it for my worthy cause, and all the money will go there. If I get a serious offer that's close enough to what I think is fair, I'll do it.

If you are interested, drop me a note. If you don't know my email address, you probably aren't in the bidding pool ...

Regardless of Your Politics


I remember exactly where I was seven years ago today. I remember being waked up by my frightened wife, stumbling into the living room to watch TV, just after the first plane hit.

I cannot forget watching the second one slam into the towers, as it happened. I recall feeling the sense of amazement in my gut.

Things, I knew, in that moment, were never going to be quite the same in the U.S.

However botched and bollixed the response was later -- and it was both -- there was a brief period over the next couple of days when the sense of solidarity in this country was amazing. We were Americans, we had been attacked, and being a Republican or Democrat or whatever didn't matter.

Would that we had kept that sense about us.

More Steampunk


Check out Datamancer's steam-punkery.

Look at the picture. Keyboard you can see; without that, I'd never have guessed the rest of it was a computer -- and check out the graphics tablet ...

This guy does terrific work. Drop by his site and have a look at his keyboards and monitors.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just Because I Liked the Pictures

Wardrobe malfunction ...

Lipstick on a pig ...

Feel free to apply them to whichever party you want ...

Monday, September 08, 2008

One More Reason I'm Surely Going to Hell


Go here and click on "Sarah's Song ..."

And if the lyrics aren't clear enough:

Sarah’s Song

Sarah, Sarah Palin, I think your glasses are cute/
Sarah, Sarah Palin, but your politics, well, they ain’t worth a hoot/
You can take out all the beavers and bears in that icebox you call home/
just don’t come down here and and point your gun at us.
(You and Dick Cheney should go hunting ...)

Sarah, Sarah Palin, I think your strategy’s bold/
Sarah, Sarah Palin but John McCain is far too old/
You’re gonna need some tanna leaves, to keep that mummy alive/
And with global warming, you can’t even keep him on ice.
(It’s all melting, you know ...)

Sarah, Sarah Palin, didn’t want the bridge to nowhere/
Sarah, Sarah Palin, but you kept the money, now is that fair?
Tried to fire your brother-in-law and that looks kinda bad/
Hope the fishin’ stays good ‘cause you might need a job.
(Need a lot of tuna in Japan ...)


Sarah, Sarah Palin, you’re gonna be a gramma I hear/
Sarah, Sarah Palin, at least you know your daughter’s not queer/
how you gonna run the country with two babies on your hip?
won’t it be better to stay home and teach ‘em to shoot?
(Bang, Bang ...)

Sarah, Sarah Palin, I think your glasses are cute/
Sarah, Sarah Palin, but your politics, well, they ain’t worth a hoot/
You can take out all the beavers and bears in that icebox you call home/
just don’t come down here and and point your gun at us.
(You and Dick Cheney really should go hunting; you could give him some pointers; I heard he's got a dead eye; his left one, I think. Right wing. Left eye ...)

What Tomorrow Brings

Guitarist Larry Pattis has a new CD out -- finally -- an instrumental worth having.

Here's a sample:



And here's where you can order it: Pattis CD

Friday, September 05, 2008

Taking Out Bambi's Mother



Okay, I know this will just stir the mud up, but I'm sorry, I couldn't resist these two pictures:

1) Governor Palin at home, on her couch, with Smokey the Bear's Dad, and 2) amidst a collection of typical Alaskans ...

From this site, on Palin.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Extreme Marksmen

So the History Channel is re-running a show I caught earlier this week, Extreme Marksmen.

Gun-nuts will like it, and even those not so interested in things that go bang! should enjoy some of the ultra-high speed camera work. Seeing a bullet move in slow-mo and watching it hit something like a balloon is, to my mind, fascinating at 20,000 frames a second.

Among the shooters featured are some real dead-eyes. There's a guy, Tom Knapp, who can throw ten clay pigeons up the in air, and using a Benelli semi-automatic shotgun, break them all on the way down.



Jerry Miculek, the Ragin' Cajun, can draw his revolver, shoot it dry at a metal target ten yards away, reload it, and hit it six more times, in under five seconds.

Blindfolded -- did I mention?



Couple military snipers demo a mile shot.

Byron Ferguson puts an arrow through a wedding ring from fifteen feet, and then does the classic Robin Hood feat of hitting an arrow already in the target.



There are bits of history, some footage of Annie Oakley, and some other shots. Definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Speaks

She gave a pretty good acceptance speech, Palin did -- she is an effective speaker. Took a couple cheap shots at Obama, but that's part of the deal -- and it will undoubtedly get folks to thinking she's tough. That will include the Democrats, I suspect, and having put the chip on her shoulder, I would expect to see somebody quick to knock it off.

You want to play? Fine. Catch this.

One of the reasons the D's have lost elections in the past is that they aren't quick enough to sling the mud back when it hits them. I believe they might have learned that lesson.

Gonna be interesting to watch.

Palid -- oops, typo, but an interesting one, I'mon leave it -- didn't really offer much more about who she is, and I think that should have been part of it. Some of her claims for what she did and didn't do for Alaska are going to be found wanting -- already had the PBS guys shaking their heads -- She told the feds she didn't want their Bridge to Nowhere -- but she took their money and didn't give it back.

Hello?

I don't much care for the shoot-the-wolves-and-bears-from-the-air stuff, either. It's one thing to sneak up on Bambi's mother on the ground, but it seems rather unsporting to do it from a helicopter. She's seen to many Die Hard movies, maybe.

If it turns out Palin forced a guy of of his job because he wouldn't fire her ex-brother-in-law from the state patrol, she's toast. Doesn't go with the "reformer" tag to be caught doing that kind of thing. But she's hired a lawyer, and maybe she's innocent.

I think the main effect of Palin's speech, for me, anyhow, was to delineate the differences between the R's and the D's. No clouds in the visions -- here's one, here is the other, choose the one that you like best.

Or, as is often the case, the one that you dislike least.

So far, the R's attempts to replace Obama with McCain as the candidate of change seem pitiful, and I think that will be a hard row to hoe. In order to be new and improved, you have to be new, and McCain has been there a while. He gave up the title of maverick when he rolled over on his back and let the Current Occupant scratch his belly at the previous Republican convention. I respected the guy until then. After that, not so much.

And all the whistling past the graveyard trying to show that Palin has more experience than Obama and Biden combined is a two-ton tub of cotton candy -- no substance and sure to rot your teeth if you eat it.

Leaving out the personal stuff about being willing make her daughter into the most infamous unwed pregnant teen on the planet -- which I personally don't think reflects the kind of thing a self-styled "hockey mom" would leap at the chance to do, the contention that being the mayor of Podunk and Governor of Alaska, with more bears than people (at least until the choppers get into the air) is better qualified than a couple of U.S. Senators to run the White House? Silly on the face of it. Last Governor of a big state, no previous chops save running a baseball team, who got the job is the Current Occupant, and we all see how well that went. War. Famine. Death. Can Pestilence be far behind?

Lot of style, Palin, but not much substance, and what there was of it was not to my taste. I could not, in good conscience, vote for anybody who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape or incest; is ready to drill all over Alaska and everywhere else there's an empty lot for oil that won't be a drop in the bucket -- and that not for ten years; nor keep the war in Iran going for a hundred years, if that's what it takes to win a "victory."

McCain isn't the right guy this time; neither is Palin the right woman. My opinion. And my vote will reflect it. Usually, I urge people to vote, regardless of their choice, to be part of the process. Not this time. If you want to vote for McCain/Palin, stay home. We'll be better off as a nation. Four more years of Almost George is a bad idea. Throw in Dr. Laura, it gets worse ...

Fake Spanish Guitar

video

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Doo-Wop

The Diamonds, singing "Little Darlin'," which was up near the top of the Hit Parade when I was a wee lad of ten or so. White guys, wearing suits and bow ties.

Loooonng way from gangsta rap ...

Don LaFontaine RIP


Don LaFontaine 1940-2008

Might never have seen this guy's face, but you've heard his voice. He was Mr. Coming Attractions for years, and, the story goes, the busiest actor in Hollywood for decades. Every limo driver in town knew him, because the studios always sent a car for him.

Made millions -- the catch phrase "In a world ..." was used so often it became his personal cliche. I dunno how summer action movies are going to get along without him -- he was the voice of more than five thousand trailers.

Adios, Don.


What Goes Around, Comes Around



Sometimes I am struck by the cyclic nature of nature, which includes us. Given the current presidential race, I am reminded of two bumper stickers from the sixties, both of which were out riding chrome in L.A. when I lived there.

There they are, uptop:

Love it or leave it; change it or lose it. There it is, in a nutshell, the R's and D's, the conservatives and the liberals, them and us ...

More than forty years ago, but if you go to Cafepress, you can still get the sticker or the T-shirt.

I don't think Obama can change it as much as he says; I also think the only real change McCain offers is him in the Current Occupant''s chair. But either way, it sounds so familiar, doesn't it?

Wait long enough, those bell-bottoms and wide ties may come back yet again.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Family Values

Ah, traditional family values: Daddy goes off to his job, Mommy stays home, raises the kids, cooks the meals, keeps the house clean, and they all sit around the table for supper, say grace, and enjoy the comforts of a warm and loving nuclear family together. No homos, no lesbos, no mixed-race marriages ...

Here is a term that has never meant much to me, viz, how the Republicans use it. But I can offer this: Governor Sarah Palin, recently chosen to be John McCain's running mate for the upcoming Presidential election, does not seem to be the embodiment of such things as the R's like to wave about.

She has five kids, Palin does. The baby has Down's, and the oldest of the teenaged girls, seventeen-year-old Bristol, is at least five-, and maybe seven-months pregnant. While Daddy is out fishing and Mommy is running the state house and for VP, who is taking care of those kids? (Sarah Palin opposes sex-education in the schools, by-the-by, and it seems evident they didn't talk enough about it at home, either.)

Wherein the "family values" that the Republicans love to wax rhapsodic about?

Mommy needs to drop by the house once in a while, you know? Just on the "family value" front, it seems as if maybe those kids could use a little more hands-on help ...

At the risk of sounding paternalistic -- since it seems somebody needs to in this case -- a woman with five kids still at home, including a baby, ought not to be spending the next few months 24/7 on the road -- if "family values" means anything close to what the R's claim it does.

Sure, Obama has two little girls, too. And he's been quick to say this unfortunate pregnancy has no place in the campaign.

But he's also a Democrat. They tend not to slap you in the face with such phrases as "family values." They know that it sometimes takes both parents working to keep the wolf from the door, and they don't sneer at families who have to do it. And that kids make mistakes.

Understand, I know that kids make mistakes, too, and that parents can't always stop them. A pregnant teenager is, by itself, no big deal, and not something that ought to matter in a political campaign -- unless you make a big deal out of "family values," or think that sex education ought not be taught in the schools.

I do think his choice for a running mate is going to come back and bite Senator McCain on the ass, though.