Sunday, June 27, 2010

You Can't Tell a Book by Looking at the Cover

(apologies to Willie Dixon)

Sunday's Statesman Journal carried a piece by Bob Minzesheimer of USA Today entitled, "Glenn Beck's latest a political thriller." I didn't have to get too far into the article to learn Mr. Beck doesn't actually write his own books. And how could he find the time, what with his TV show, his radio show and spending all his spare time looking for Nazis under his desk and in the cupboard?

Minzesheimer wrote that Glenn Beck "is not only a bet-selling author; he's an Oprah Winfreylike force in publishing."

The article goes on to report that "Beck and 34 employees have built a $32 million-a-year media empire that includes books such as Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense,' and his own magazine (Fushion)."

But–and Mr. Minzesheimer doesn't conceal the fact–Beck doesn't write his own books. Mr. Minzesheimer marvels at Mr. Beck's honesty (this is the part where I reach for the air sickness bag).

(Beck) "takes a team approach to writing his own books, including his first political thriller, 'The Overton Wiindow'. On the title page, Beck shares credit with three contributors. He calls the conspiracy novel 'my story,' but he said Jack Henderson, one of his contributors, 'went in, and he put the words down."

Uh... putting "the words down" is called writing.

The article went on. "Other novelists might not acknowledge such help, but Beck, a self-described 'fiscal conservative and common-sense libertarian,' said, 'I'm a team kind of guy."

Teams play sports. They don't write books. For Minzesheimer to claim that Beck has an approach to writing while having "contributors" is disingenuous. To praise him for admitting he has a "team" is downright sleazy. Glenn Back is not a "best-selling author"-- even though "The Overton Window" is number one on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction.

For the record, Minzesheimer goes on to point out that the book isn't even Beck's idea: "The novel was inspired by two other ideological thrillers: Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear,' which challenged conventional science on global warming, and Brad Thor's "The Last Patriot"... and so on. Brad Thor refers to Beck as the "Oprah of right-wing fiction," which implies Ms. Winfrey doesn't write her own books, either. If I was the executor of Dr. Crichton's estate, I would sue Beck's plagiarising ass. Fortunately, for Beck, I am not.

I should be wearing hip boots when wading into this subject. It's like slogging through pond scum. No one else's name is credited on the bestseller list for "The Overton Window." The fact that it is number one on the list is more of an indictment of those that buy books than on the alleged author. The unwashed masses may buy the book, but they may not actually read it. It looks good on their book shelf, with Bill O'Reilly's books and, of course, their signed copy of "Going Rogue."

* * *

Half-Governor Palin, may still smart from being asked by "the Perky One" (Katie Couric) what periodicals she reads. She brought it up in her bestseller. And her defensive response at the time was "all of them." She, of course, couldn't name one. It was Randy Rhodes, who pointed out on the radio that "Going Rogue" was a bestseller "written" by someone who didn't write it and doesn't read. And she made $12 million on it and the signing tour? She and the morons that bought it should be ashamed. But they, like their idiot heroine, don't have the intelligence to even grasp the concept of shame or, for that matter, depth of any kind.

In 1972, the National Lampoon produced a spoof of a piece by then radio personality Les Crane, called Deteriorata. It is still funny, even without foreknowledge of the original. One of the lines I have always liked and find particularly appropriate in this day and age is "a walk through the ocean of most souls will barely get your feet wet."

I won't belabor the point of Mrs. Palin's non-acheivement. It is just too obvious.

* * *

And while we're on the subject of bestselling authors who don't actually write their own books, allow me to vent for a moment on the head of James Patterson.

When he did write his own books, they were't very good. I read "Along Came a Spider" and stopped there. I am a fan of crime fiction and suspenseful stories. Patterson was merely formulaic. You could tell he was writing to sell the story to Hollywood. And he did. Grishom did the same thing with "The Firm," but he has gotten better as a writer. Patterson has gotten rich, and lazy.

Caroline Leavitt, novelist, screenwriter, writing mentor and book critic, (among other self-admitted areas of interest and addiction) asked on her blog (, "Is it wrong for James Patterson not to write his own books?" Her answer was simply, "yes."

She wrote, "I just finished reading the NYT Magazine article about how James Patterson no longer writes his own books, but does the outlines and hires different co-writers. He does credit the other writers, and he probably does pay them handsomely, but the whole thing is coiled up in my stomach like bad diner food."

Ms. Leavitt is kinder than I.

I read the New York Times Magazine piece when it first came out. Patterson is like Warhol in the factory, but instead of a loft in lower Manhattan, the article reported that Mr. Patterson has the biggest house in Palm Beach and is building a bigger one. And in the background I hear Mark Knopfler. Money for nothing.

The shame of it is that there are some very good writers out there who can't raise spit, never mind get published. The publishing houses are no better than Hollywood, churning out sequels and the same shit in a different container season after season. I recall not that long ago Random House holding a contest to find a writer to come up with a sequel to Mario Puzo's "The Godfather." Is that really necessary? Are there no new ideas left?

I could rant on. The point has been made. I'm reading Stieg Larson at the moment. It's a bestseller.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I blog

I blog. I backed into the activity and sometimes I am not particularly proud of the fact that I became somewhat nerdy by participating in this endeavor. Yet I feel it is one of the most truly democratic things I can do. It is open to anyone. Even journalists. And, make no mistake-- I ain't one of those. To quote the great American, John Mellencamp,

Some people say I'm obnoxious and lazy
That I'm uneducated
And my opinipn means nothin'
But I know I'm a real good dancer
Don't need to look over my shoulder
To see what I'm after
Everybody's got their problems
Ain't no new news here
I'm the same old trouble
You've been having for years
Don't confuse the problem
With the issue, girl
It's perfectly clear
Just a human desire

I sometimes merely regurgitate what has been in the paper or on the news. As I have said, more than once, I can't make this shit up. We are living in strange, historic and truly frightening times. Occasionally, truth and good sense wins out, as in Dr. Orly Taitz being shut down mightily in the polls in California and seen for the emigré nutjob/birther conspiracist that she is. Sometimes, lunacy wins out, as in Dr. Rand Paul and/or one of my favorite targets, the conflicted former half-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who is both an idiot and charismatic as hell.

If you have spent any time here, I appreciate it. Honestly and truly. If you have stumbled on here as a result of a clever label, visited, read and left because, really, I am just another left of center voice crying out for reasonableness, than thank you. I hope you come back. This blogging thing is a little like NASA sending out a gold record into space, with a little speech by Nixon and Chuck Berry.

Maybe somewhere in space, there is a green Marty McFly, with a made-on-alpha centuri Gibson 335, duckwalking and singing "Johnny Be Good."

When all is said and done, I am not much different than a dog licking his balls. Why? Because I can. And I make no bones about it. I blog. It is not what I am. It's what I do, occasionally...

Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum.

I drink, therefore I am.

I am what I am.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Going Rogue--a scary thought

Letters to the Editor, The Oregonian

June 6:
What would Palin do?
I find it interesting that the letter "Palin's good sense" (May 30) implies that Sarah Palin could handle the following: Iran's nuclear capabilities, North Korea's aggression, the war on terror, open borders, illegal immigration, two wars, etc. Please tell me what Palin, who bailed on Alaska, would do in these situations. I'm waiting to hear.


June 8
You can be sure of that
Lori Cohen said she was "waiting to hear" (What would Plain do?, Letters, June 6) what would Sarah Palin do about Iran's nuclear capabilities, North Korea's aggression, the war on terror, open borders, illegal immigration, two wars, etc.

Four little words: More than Obama has.


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Grover

Can I say, all humor aside, Mr. Grover, his sentiments, and those he is aligned with, scare me half to death? He and his line of thinking is so misguided. I don't know if her supporters have noticed, but Half-Governor Palin hasn't done anything. She talks of reloading and writes crib notes on the palm of her hand. She virtually admitted to the "perky one" (Katie Couric that she doesn't read, yet made millions on a book she didn't write. It is true she went from a sportscaster to a pundit for cable TV. So did Keith Olbermann. One ran for and was elected to public office in between TV gigs. One did not. One is more knowledgeable than the other. Mr. Grover may be right. Mrs. Palin may indeed do "more" than Obama has. But more does not mean better. Her foreign policy experience is limited to be able to see Russia from her kitchen window (where Joe McGuiness can now see in). If her response to Mr. McGuiness is any indication, I'd hate to see what "more" she would do with our border situation. And, though I shudder at the very thought of her attempting international diplomacy with the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, it may be first-dude Todd, that shadowy omnipresent thug who might actually scare me more. As I say, Mr. Grover, be careful for what you wish for.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Same Shit/Different Day

The Brown Pelican, Louisiana's State Bird

I was looking for something in my office the other day. For someone who likes to think of themselves as neat and orderly I am an indiscriminate slob and collector of random bits of paper and minutiae that could be almost anywhere... except where I think I "filed" them. I'm not now sure if I found what I was looking for, but I did come across a page from The Oregonian, from June 29, 2008. The paper had printed a letter I wrote them in response to an editorial by gone but not forgiven right wingnut, David Reinhard. I searched the paper's website and Google, looking for the original editorial, but couldn't find it. I imagine The Oregonian has a filing system similar to mine. You can probably figure out,from my response, the gist of Reinhard's editorial...

Regarding David Reinhard’s column, “Look who can’t drill off some of our shores (June 26), offshore drilling is a bad idea, plain and simple. It’s no the solution to our short-term high prices, most of which can be traced to OPEC price regulation and American corporate greed.

Conservative estimates indicated that it will take no less than 10 years to get any oil out of any new offshore drilling sites, and what is there is not enough to solve our long-term needs.

Reinhard writes that a lot has changes, including environmental protection. In the very same issue of The Oregonian, the front page featured a story of the reduced penalty to Exxon Mobil — from $5 billion to $500 million — for spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska in 1989. In essence, the Supreme Court has sanctioned the reduced responsibility for Big Oil.

President Bush is now urging offshore drilling as the answer. The Republican nominee for president, John McCain, is an active supporter.

But, except for those like Reinhard who have chosen to make it such, this is not a partisan, political issue. This is about clinging to the past, stuffing billions into the pockets of big business and killing the planet in the process. Or, we can approach the future as a challenge for our scientists, engineers and visionaries to create a cleaner, safer, more conscious world.

Separated at Birth

Friday, June 4, 2010

Life in Hell -- Gulf version

To he best of my recollection, I have never seen anything by Matt Groening even remotely resembling political or topical humor. Maybe this is how he expresses his outrage. Sometimes, humorists don't try to be funny. They try for something else, like a punch to the solar plexus.

Oil spill in the gulf, as seen from space.

* * *

From the Associated Press:

Newly disclosed internal Coast Guard documents from the day after the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig indicated that U.S. officials were warning of a leak of 336,000 gallons per day of crude from the well in the event of a complete blowout. The volume turned out to be much closer to that figure than the 42,000 gallons per day that BP first estimated. Weeks later that was revised to 210,000 gallons. Now, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million gallons of crude is believed to be leaking daily.

The damage to the environment was chilling on East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast, where workers found birds coated in thick, black goo. Images shot by an Associated Press photographer show brown pelicans drenched in thick oil, struggling and flailing in the surf. Authorities said 60 birds, including 41 pelicans, were being rescued. That more than doubled the number of birds at the rescue center next to Fort Jackson.

* * *

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I read the news today

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh

My wife and I get two morning papers-- The Oregonian, out of Portland and the Statesman Journal, Salem's paper. Neither are particularly good nor satisfying. They lack the comprehensiveness of say, the Los Angeles Times or New York Times. Then again, those papers aren't what they used to be. The two Oregon dailies we read are a little bit like Chinese food: you're hungry 20 minutes later. And yet, that's what we have. I never fail to find something that sets me spinning, either in humor or incredulity.
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh

The two items in the Statesman Journal I found particularly sad and laughable today weren't sublime. In a way, they are both a bit ridiculous. Alas, this is the world we live in...

Bristol Palin to hit speakers' circuit

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- Bristol Palin is hitting the speakers' circuit and will command between $15,000 and $30,000 for each appearance, Palin family attorney Thomas Van Flein said Monday.

Van Flein confirmed a report by celebrity news website RadarOnline that the daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has signed with Single Source Speakers. He added her exact fees will depend on factors such as which group she's addressing and what she must do to prepare.

Bristol Palin, 19, is listed on the speaking group's website as available for conferences, fundraisers, special events and holidays, as well as women's, youth, abstinence and "pro-life" programs.

Bristol Palin was thrust into the spotlight as a pregnant teen during her mother's unsuccessful campaign for vice president in 2008. She had son Tripp that year and has since spoken about abstinence and the challenges of life as a young single mother.

Van Flein said he believes she's interested in expanding her message beyond teen pregnancy to include her experiences on the campaign trail and in the media spotlight; her parenting approach; and her outlook on life.

"There's a sucker born every minute." P.T. Barnum... and some will pay between $15 and $30 thousand to hear Bristol wax on hypocritically. And still others love her gosh-darn rogue mom-- enough to want her for president, never mind just buying into the idiocy she panders as right wing wisdom... wait, isn't that an oxymoron?

And then there's the always entertaining Charles Krauthammer, intellectual pinhead--

In today's column, entitled There is enough blame for oil spill to go around, Pinhead posits a question and provides startling if, by this time, overused answers as to where to lay blame for the worst oil related disaster in the history of the planet...

WASHINGTON — Here's my question: Why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production. (President Obama's tentative, selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore Alaska sites is now dead.) And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we've had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

So we go deep, ultra deep — to such a technological frontier that no precedent exists for the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Do I even need to interject a comment on how tragically flawed Mr. Krauthammer's rationale is? He blames those that have tried to put a limit, if not stop altogether, offshore drilling and drilling in the Alaskan Wilderness Area, one of the few remaining pristine places left on the planet. He actually blames those who are trying to save the planet for creating the worst oil disaster in history. Unbelievable. And people will buy this nonsense... I saw a decal in the window of a oversize Chevy pickup yesterday that said, "Suckin' Gas/Haulin' Ass." Yeah, Charles... blame those damned environmentalists.)

There will always be catastrophic oil spills. You make them as rare as humanly possible, but where would you rather have one: in the Gulf of Mexico, upon which thousands depend for their livelihood, or in the Arctic, where there are practically no people? All spills seriously damage wildlife. That's a given. But why have we pushed the drilling from the barren to the populated, from the remote wilderness to a center of fishing, shipping, tourism and recreation?

Not that the environmentalists are the only ones to blame. Not by far. But it is odd that they've escaped any mention at all.

former environmentalist

The other culprits are pretty obvious. It starts with BP, which seems not only to have had an amazing string of perfect-storm engineering lapses but no contingencies to deal with a catastrophic system failure... Obama didn't help much with his finger-pointing Rose Garden speech in which he denounced finger-pointing, then proceeded to blame everyone but himself... In the end, speeches will make no difference. If BP can cap the well in time to prevent an absolute calamity in the Gulf, the president will escape politically. If it doesn't — if the gusher isn't stopped before the relief wells are completed in August — it will become Obama's Katrina.

If the above represent the ridiculous, perhaps the following can be considered sublime. The Oregonian picked up a story from the Eugene Register-Guard, with the headline, Strawberry season looks promising, if it stops raining. Again I say, I can't make this shit up.

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone, but it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
Let me take you down,
’cause I’m going to
Strawberry fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever

This December 8th will be the 30th anniversary
of John Lennon's murder