A Vote for Your Republican Congressperson is a Vote for Torture!

The Senate passed Bush's torture bill. The House of Representatives will probably follow suit.

I went to a retirement ceremony today at work for a colonel. They played the National Anthem, prayed, thanked the guy for helping create the most feared military on the face of the planet today, and gave his wife an award for staying with him throughout the whole thing.

If he'd been captured by the Iraqis, would anybody want him treated the way our "detainees" are going to be treated?

If the world's "most feared military" can't play fair--why should anybody else?


Think of the Day.

I wonder whether there's a reason genetics seems to skip a generation. Like, for the longest time, the average life expectancy was 40 years or so. If a trait skipped one generation, then you'd be, statistically, sure to get necessary traits all the time, without doubling up. A shoemaker begets a poet, who begets a shoemaker, who begets a poet--that way, you always have a poet and a shoemaker available, without redundant shoemakers or poets.


Strange Bedfellows

Warning: Puns.

If Sondra Locke married Elliott Ness, then divorced him to marry Herman Munster, she'd become Sondra Locke Ness Monster.

If Shirley Jones married Tom Ewell, then Johnny Rotten, then Nathan Hale, she'd be Shirley Ewell Rotten Hale.

(via Grow-a-Brain.)

President Clinton Eats Fox News's Chris Wallace Alive, Spits Out The Bones

Warning: Cusswords.

I'd never heard of Uncyclopedia before. Pity.

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on "Fox News Sunday," I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. We all agreed that you are a dirty scumbag, but let's be reasonable about this. Most of the veiwers wanted me to ask you: Did you have sexual relations with Osama bin Laden, and if so, why didn't you do more to put him out of business? Also, what sexual positions was Osama fond of?

"We're thinking of inviting him onto the O'Reilly Factor, just to see what would happen," commented the stage director. "O'Reilly would be much more popular if he were eaten by a Democrat."


Word of the Day.

Home with Ray, who's down with a sinus infection. She took two naps yesterday. Dude.

Anyway, the word of the day:

prelapsarian (pree-lap-SAYR-ee-uhn) adjective

Relating to any innocent or carefree period in the past.

[From Latin pre- (before) + lapsus (fall). The term refers to the period
in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve lost their innocence.]

(via A.W.A.D.)

Brian Jaques in Colorado Springs

Brian Jaques (rhymes with rakes) signed copies of Voyage of Slaves at the south Borders in Colorado Springs yesterday, and I happened to be there.

First of all, let me give the disclaimer: I haven't read any of his books. I picked up Redwall yesterday and read a few chapters, but I haven't made any judgments on it yet.

I wandered into the Borders, intending to find a chai and a chair and do some drafting. Hm...lots of people wandering around...someone said something about Jakes doing a reading today, so I blew it off. Lots of kids sitting on the floor over by the cafe, bit noisy...I wandered off to look for books, because I was going to have to find somewhere else to work, but a pleasant hour spent wandering around looking at books really hasn't been wasted.

The MC starts talking, and tries to explain how Mr. Jakes has changed his life (in a watered-down kind of way, saying that he was well down the path of making some "bad choices" when one of his teachers handed him Redwall. I got a glimpse of the writer and wandered over: he looked interesting. Shortish, round, bald, deep creases (you can't call them wrinkles if there's muscle behind them). Then he started talking.

What language is that? I wondered. After ten seconds or so, my brain started to sort it out. English...that's English. Then he started making jokes about how he likes to come over to America, because he ends up with a different name. Mr. Ja-quez. Or, if he's around Spanish-speaking people, Senior Ha-quayz. Oh, I think, it's Brian Jaques. Not Zhaks, but Jakes. And the accent isn't British--I can grasp TV British on first go, thank you very much--so much as it's from Liverpool.

He's supposed to be reading from his book Voyage of Slaves, but he never gets around to it. "Rather be a stand-up comic," he says. He does a good job of it, performing for the kids.

"When I am in America, someone always asks me, 'Mr. Ja-quez, when did you decide to be an author?' (Imagine the question in Pepperpot.)

"Well, it doesn't work like that. There wasn't a morning when I woke up--Bing!--and said, [Effete swashbuckler voice] 'Ho-ho! To-day, I shall be...an au-thah!'

"But I was always good at words. Good at words and terrible at maths."

He tells a story about the schools in Liverpool, how they had playgrounds on the rooftops and how they'd lose a couple of first-years to despair, and how he sat next to a boy with thick glasses (he uses his own as a prop) who was good at maths, and how he got caught by his teacher because the boy wrote, "I don't know the answer" to question 8, and Brian Jaques wrote, "And I don't, either." So kids, don't cheat. Why? Because you'll get caught!

He talked about spooky stories, and how, for him, they all go back to one verse of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I forget what the verse was, but it was something about being afraid to look back over your shoulder, because a specter walked close behind. He used to be a bobby (and explained that that meant policeman) who would patrol the docks, long, windowless, misty streets...it always sounded like footsteps were following him, because of the hoist chains knocking against the sides of the warehouses.

He explained that any book (especially his own) about pirates must be referred to like this: with one eye closed, one side of your mouth pulled back in a sneer, and...."Yaaaarrr!"

I can't remember everything he said, but you could tell he loved to entertain kids. The kind of grandfatherly type that would have the parents saying, "Oh, Dad. Do you really think you should tell the one about the..."

Very fun. I didn't get the book signed--hours of standing in line? No, thank you. But he's quite the character...


Book Review.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

I'm sure pretty nearly everybody who's going to read this book has already read it, but I had some thoughts I wanted to write down anyway. Spoilers ahead, for those who mind.

This is a book about the South during the Civil Rights Movement; a white girl, who has been abused (not sexually) by her father runs away with her father's housekeeper, who is black and has been beaten to within an inch of her life because she tried to register to vote. The girl's mother died when she was four; they run away to to town in South Carolina where three sisters raise bees. It turns out the eldest sister had raised the girl's mother much the way the housekeeper has raised the girl herself. The father eventually catches up to them, and the sisters (and other ladies belonging to their church) guilt the man into leaving the daughter and the housekeeper (a fugitive from justice) behind. Happily ever after, the end.

There's nothing new under the sun, so I don't mind that the plot was stolen and patched together from other books. Shakespeare did it; why not Sue Monk Kidd? The things said by To Kill a Mockingbird, Toni Morrison's books, and even Bastard out of Carolina are worth saying again, and Sue Monk Kidd says them well enough. What's interesting is that the painful truths of the other books have been turned into the equivalent of a Hollywood movie that purports to be "deep" but really fits better into the "feel good" category. Terrible things happen to the characters, but not too terrible, nothing that would actually offend or shock the reading public (bad enough to empathize with, but not bad enough to destroy the characters' souls, if you see what I mean--not bad enough to sully the characters). One of the characters dies, but it's a melodramatic gesture. The bad white father has no redeeming characteristics. The dead mother is blamed for something earth-shattering, but forgiven within thirty pages or so, just long enough to smash a few honeyjars and stomp around a bit. The church the sisters attend is weird, but not weird enough to scare off people who go to "regular" churches. And so on.

That all having been said, I had a hard time putting the book down. I liked the movie Pretty Woman; I like The Secret Life of Bees. I just wanted to point out the popularization of this particular type of pain, how it has moved out of the realm of high literature and into fiction, how it's become something you can just write about without having the book itself become part of issue. Probably a good thing.


Just Give a Little Whistle

Ray made her first real whistle last night. Ecstatic am I.


Other amusements.

This comes from my brother Matt, a graphic designer and doer of all things newspapery.

RDA Delight

My minimum required daily allowance of delight was met today upon finding out that Lee's boss (who lives in an apartment) has a pet duck. "Almost as big as a goose," says one source.


House Update

I can embark on ten-year garden projects. If I want to.


Question of the Day.

Name five books, music CDs, or movies, if any, that would you rather buy someone a copy of rather than loan out your last copy.

Yours truly:

Annotated Alice, Lewis/Tenniel/Gardner
Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges
FLCL (anime)
Master Li and Number Ten Ox Novels, Barry Hughart
The Sandman series

...and I would be pretty itchy about any Tom Waits moving out of view.

Wouldn't mind hearing from at least Dave, Doyce, Jackie, Stan, my siblings, and the reputed king of double- and triple-stacking bookshelves, Randy...


[Spoilers below.]

Agatha Christie writes, in At Bertram's Hotel:
There had, of course, been many other hotels on the model of Bertram's. Some still existed, but nearly all had felt the wind of change. They had necessarily to modernize themselves, to cater for a different clientele. Bertram's, too, had had to change, but it had been done so cleverly that it was not at all apparent at the first casual glance.
The plot is this: Bertram's is being used as a front for a coterie of criminals. The employees and even some of the guests are fakes, criminals and actors, paid to create the illusion of the old-fashioned propriety of the bygone Edwardian era. The hotel itself is a sham, a doppleganger.

Trust Agatha Christie to casually pass off psychological horror as a murder mystery...

(link via Doyce.)


Conservation of Spontaneity

***Dave says, "It's just hard to be spontaneous when you have little kids around (which is deeply, deeply ironic, given how spontaneous *they* are -- Conservation of Spontaneity?)"

Just so.

Writerly Update


This spring, I wrote a murder-mystery game expansion pack for the "Way out West" game for Freeform Games. Playtesting was wrapped up a few weeks ago, and the game has been published on the website. OoOoOoOo!


House Update

So I'm sitting here, folding clothes, considering whether to ask Lee to help, when I realize that what he's doing will be far more productive in the long term: reading a home-improvement book and taking notes...


Magazine Review of the Day

Er...or just a reason, really.

Every Day with Rachael Ray has a section every month with a recipe you can share with your pet. This month's is Pumpkin Barley with Turkey.

If When we get a dog, I'll try it out.


Tip of the Day

When making chowder, use a dough cutter to squash the potatoes after they're cooked through. Pleasantly chunky results.


Escaped a little early from work and spent an hour driving along this road I'd been eying for a month or so.


Sheesh. Two great tastes that do not go together. I also passed a sign that (I think) said something about the next two miles cleaned courtesy of Bare Butt Ranch. People from South Dakota are going to laugh...but I think there were a few minutes when I couldn't see anybody else on the road. I could always see houses, though.


Here's the website for Dragon Man's. September 24th is the 15th annual machine gun shoot. 150+ machine guns for rent...I'm almost tempted to go and gawk.


Quotes of the Day.

"You're about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest."

"A man may fight for many things. His country, his friends, his principles, the glistening ear on the cheek of a golden child. But personally, I'd mud-wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing clock and a sack of French porn."

"I have a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel."

"I have always believed that there should be no subject about which one cannot make jokes,religion included. Clearly, one is always constricted by contemporary mores and trends because, after all, what one seeks above all is an appreciative audience."

"Hello, I'm Dr. Bean. Apparently. And my job is to sit and look at paintings. So, what have I learned that I can say about this painting? Well, firstly, it's quite big, which is excellent. If it were very small, microscopic, then hardly anyone would be able to see it. Which would be a shame. Secondly, and I'm getting quite near the end of this... analysis, secondly, why was it worth this man spending fifty million of your American dollars? And the answer to that is, that it's a picture of Whistler's mother. And as I've learned, staying with my best friend David Langley and his family, families are very important. Even though Mr. Whistler was obviously aware that his mother was a hideous old bat who looked like she'd had a cactus lodged up her backside, he stuck with her, and even took the time to paint this amazing picture of her. And that's marvellous. It's not just a painting. It's a picture of a mad old cow who he thought the world of. Well that's what I think."

--Rowan Atkinson


Many Thanks

Lee set up a computer in the spare bedroom as a "quiet" computer/server, as a result of which, I was able to get what I thought would be ten hours of writing done in five and a half. I love my daughter, but she's the opposite of focus, you know?

House Update.

Dave and Margie, Doyce, and Katherine all came down from Denver yesterday to hang out. We played...I can't remember the name now, but it was a card game with a special deck and a barbell-looking thing that you grabbed. Crap. What was it called? We also played Shab al-Hiri Roach, which was meant to be a one-shot RPG where Sumerian roaches--using mind control--are trying to take over civilization, beginning with a college in the UK in 1919. In typical fashion, we got through 1/6 of it over the course of about four hours, but it was a lot of fun. A fairly unusual game in that we didn't have a GM (this worked out all right, but I'm not going to explain the mechanics). Gleefully, I made too much Greek food. I think a) I'm going to enjoy having people over more often, and b) we're going to need more comfy couches.


You're not naked...

...if you're wearing a hula skirt and yelling, "I'm at the beach! Shake-a-shake-a-shake-a!"

At least, according to Ray.


Vocabulary Word of the Day

From Merriam Webster Online Newsletter, September 2006:

After debuting at number one in June, Nelly Furtado's single "Promiscuous Girl" stayed hot all summer, and its popularity helped the word promiscuous earn the top spot as the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster Online this summer.

Oddly enough, the lyrics to "Promiscuous Girl" correspond only loosely with the established senses of that adjective: the singer comes across as flirtatious and teasing, but not as . . . well, promiscuous. As a guide to the perplexed, we offer this profile of promiscuous.

And this cracks me up:
Main Entry: mouse potato Pronunciation Guide
Function: noun
Etymology: after couch potato
Date: 1993
slang : a person who spends a great deal of time using a computer


Writing News

I think I may have found a niche. Probably not my only niche, as it might get old after a while. I'm trying to talk a new magazine publisher into letting me write humorous articles about the area where food and sex meet.

"Cooking Naked (Rule #1: Don't Deep Fry)"
"Chocolate is Like Sex: Easy Recipies Any Guy Can Cook"
"The Sex on the Beach Picnic: How to Mix It, How to Get Away With It, How to Plan for Sand"

I could easily spend the rest of my life sniggering.


House Update

We went shopping at Lowe's this morning. For some reason, this was a far more nerve-wracking experience than it should have been. Waaaaaiiiiiit! I don't want to buy that, I haven't been able to comparison shop! How will I know it's the best deal? How will I know there isn't one I'd like better at Home Depot or whatever? Waaah!

I mean, come on. For example, a lawnmower. How hard can it be, when you walk into the place knowing you only have to mow the front (the back has too much gravel all over the place at this point, and needs weed-whacked, which was a whole separate issue), and you know you want a gas mower rather than electric? Should you really find yourself holding back a wail of frustration?

So, after walking into the store with potentially a thousand dollars' worth of purchases on the list, we left with a push broom, two garbage cans, and a bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap.



Lee got the first season of The Tick. I still say the theme song is one of the best ever made, perfectly indicative of things to come. Whee!

"I'm about to write you a reality check. Or would you prefer the cold, hard cash of truth?"