Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Night Videos

No, I'm not going to post the video to "Thriller" today. Vincent Price notwithstanding, I am soooo tired of that little piece of Michael Jackson pop culture history. Instead, in observance of Halloween, I'm bringing you an obscure--and strange--video from John Fogerty. I'll wager the majority of folks out in internet land haven't even heard this song, "Eye of the Zombie," before. I still have the 45 single I bought from Wal Mart when it first came out. Now that is scary.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... ZZ Top.

Now Playing: Andean Fusion Spirit of the Incas

Monday, October 27, 2008

Costumed tomfoolery

I won a Halloween costume contest yesterday. As Hern the Hunter of British myth and legend.


"Where's your costume?" you ask. Har har. Yeah, I've heard that one before.

The Gruene Lions Club held a Halloween carnival at Landa Park in New Braunfels, complete with a costume contest and prizes. There were about a hundred million bazillion kids in costume, from ages 0-15, with everyone above that competing in the adult division. Some very inventive outfits were on display--more than I'd expected from New Braunfels on a Sunday afternoon a week before the trick-or-treat day. When push came to shove, however, I lucked out and won first place in the adult division. This wasn't a forgone conclusion, though. Take a look at the second-place winner.


Don't feel too bad for the alien--he won a $100 gas card. The question is whether or not his flying saucer runs on regular or unleaded. The M.C. asked me what I was going to do with the prize money. Rather than repeat the stale "pay bills" or "blow it" mantra, I blurted out (in character) that I'd put it toward establishing a game preserve, then spontaneously thanked all the Park Police in attendance for strictly enforcing all out-of-season hunting ordinances. It got a laugh, and I managed to hobble off the stage without impaling anyone. I also lost about 20 pounds due to sweat. I'm telling you, that getup is hot. All in all, a successful day.

Now Playing: Sheena Easton No Strings

Friday, October 24, 2008


Hey kids! I've got chapter 27 of my online serial MEMORY up over at No Fear of the Future.
Parric’s stomach grumbled as he watched a fluttering swarm of fyrit--tethered to the serving tray by minuscule golden threads--taken down to his simulacrum. Such a waste. The three courses he’d sampled were flawlessly prepared, but they’d been comparatively small. Certainly not enough to constitute an entire meal.

The simulacrum would eat them all dutifully, of course. Then the intermingled mess would be unceremoniously dumped somewhere within the palace once the simulacrum dissipated.

Finally, after an interminably long time, dessert arrived in the form of gossamer-thin orbs filled with aromatic smoke of varying hues. Parric watched with a mixture of exasperation and impatience.

A passing peq caught Parric’s look and shook its head in sympathy. “Empty calories,” it grunted, then ambled on.

Thanks for reading, and remember--let me know if you like what I'm doing!

Now Playing: Howl's Moving Castle

Remember, there's a reason why Aggie jokes exist

Remember George Deutsch, that dumbass Texas A&M dropout who got caught up in scandal when he took it upon himself to edit NASA research to make it conform to Bush administration policy? Sadly, I do. That kind of stupidity is hard to live down when you're an A&M grad. Well, George now has company, of an even more infamous kind:
PITTSBURGH - A John McCain volunteer in Pittsburgh who said she was robbed and sexually assaulted because of her political views has admitted to fabricating the story, police sources told a TV station.

KDKA TV added that one source said Ashley Todd would face charges.

Police have not formally announced the fabrication, acknowledging only that detectives in the case were meeting with the force's public information officers.

Todd, of College Station, Texas, earlier agreed to take a polygraph test due to inconsistencies.

Among other things, police said photos and bank card information from an automated teller machine where the college student claimed she was robbed do not show her using the machine at the time, police said.

Okay, so she doesn't actually attend Texas A&M. She goes to Blinndergarten, which pretty much makes her a wanna-be. Not that it matters, since any "college student" from College Station will now and forevermore be identified as an Aggie. I suppose I can take solace in the fact that this mini-scandal can only help Obama, but really, if that's not a hollow victory, what is?

Now Playing: Aerosmith Get a Grip

Friday Night Videos

Goodness! I've been doing these Friday Night Videos for a couple of years now, and just realized that I've been remiss in not featuring a single video from that li'l ol' band from Texas. Well, no longer. Here's ZZ Top with "Legs," one of my favorites and a classic bit of cinematic musical presentation. And really, how can you not love a video featuring the Eliminator? Gotta love them suicide doors!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... M/A/R/R/S.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Rio Grande Mud

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Rick Noriega has a new campaign ad. I'd give it a bigger intro, but it pretty much speaks for itself:

Remember Texas, early voting continues through next week. Head on over to your polling site to punch Rick's ticket and avoid the long lines on Nov. 4.

Now Playing: Blue Oyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Battlestar Galactica?

So, when last we left the rag-tag fugitive fleet midway through season 4, they had finally discovered Earth--and it was a barren, blasted wasteland. But what, exactly, will they find on that ruined planet during the remaining episodes? A leaked opening sequence that popped up on YouTube recently hints at the unspeakable evil that lies in wait for the Galactica crew:

Now Playing:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Early voting started in Texas yesterday, and will run through Oct. 31. I went and voted at 8 a.m. this morning. There were already 25-plus people lined up ahead of me, but fortunately things went quite smoothly and I was out of there within 15 minutes.

Seriously, this country owes a HUGE debt of gratitude to all those dedicated volunteers who work hard to ensure our democracy functions properly. They certainly have mine.

In case you folks are curious, I did indeed vote for Barak Obama for president and Rick Noriega for senator. And, lest you dismiss me as a mere straight-ticket voter, I'll have you know I went down the ballot and examined every race and ballot initiative. I did not vote for a Democrat in the District 21 representative race. Sadly, there wasn't one running against Lamar Smith, who--during a telephone town hall I listened in on last year--let one crazy lady rant on about putting alligators in the Rio Grande to eat any Mexicans that tried to swim across. Instead, I ticked the box for Libertarian challenger James Arthur Strohm. I don't agree with the whole Libertarian concept of "no government whatsoever," but after eight years of Bush and the Republicans bloating the Federal bureaucracy and blowing the budget all to hell, sending a bunch of Libertarians to Washington couldn't hurt.

Locally, my biggest disappointment was that loony Ken Valentine, who made such an ass of himself in recent years with his antics to try and close the Guadalupe and Comal rivers so he and his cronies could have a private waterfront that he got himself recalled off the New Braunfels City Council... well Ken's running for a spot on the Edwards Aquifer management board. Sadly, I'm not in his district so I couldn't vote against him. But I would if I could. Knowing his track record, he'll try and use his position to ban tubers from the rivers again. The jerk.

So, if you're an eligible voter in Texas, or anywhere else they have early voting for that matter, get out there and vote!

Now Playing: Greg Kihn Kihnsolidation

Monday, October 20, 2008


I had my mid-term evaluation today in the Intro to Traditional Photography class. The good news is that I'm not failing. I've actually got a shot at making an A in there if I don't screw things up. I don't, apparently, have a single style or specialty (according to my prof) but tend toward taking shots with my 35mm that are more suited to a medium- or large-format camera. Fortunately, he says I'm getting away with it.

Part of the evaluation was to discuss my final project, which I'm waffling on. One idea is to take night shots of New Braunfels, since that's a photogenic town that has lots of daylight imagery taken but next to nothing after sundown. So I spent a couple hours stumbling around in the dark trying my hand at that this evening (just got in, in fact). The other, more pretentious idea, is themed "After We've Gone," which will purport to show the decay and collapse of humanity's works after some unnamed apocalypse wipes us out. Pretentious, I know. I've got some ideas, but logistics are killing me. We'll see. I'll develop tonight's roll of film tomorrow and see where we stand at that point.

A final part of the evaluation was the prof giving me the names of several photographers who's work I might take inspiration from, given my particular style(s). Emmet Gowin was the first one, due to several family shots I turned in for assignments earlier this semester. Interesting fellow, that Emmit. He specialized in photographing his wife, and did a fine job of it, so The Wife at this end has been put on notice. The next was Abelardo Morrell, suggested, I assume, because I shot a helix of Tolkien books for one assignment. Morrell, you see, did an entire series of book-oriented photography. Intriguing stuff, but I don't think I'm equipped to follow down that path. The third photographer suggested was O. Wilson Link, who has published several books of the most glorious steam locomotive photographs ever. They're all black and white, but the sharp contrast and richness of tones is stunning. Those are images with fantastically rich texture. Very nice. Sadly, his final years ended in acrimony. I've already got an idea how I can echo his in my final project, but timing's going to be a bit tricky. We'll see if I can manage it.

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5


The Wife and I had one of our (extremely) rare nights out without the kids this past weekend, and in the spirit of the political season we seized the opportunity to see the new Oliver Stone-helmed biopic of our current president, W.

The bad news first: Not a single Talking Heads song to be heard throughout the entire film, much less "Once in a Lifetime."

It's also not what you're expecting. It's not Oliver Stone holding Dubya's feet to the fire for two hours. As reported elsewhere online, it's a largely sympathetic character study of a chronic screw-up with serious daddy issues who tries to make good, and the one time he succeeds he gets in so far over his head that you can't help but pity him.

Is it funny? Yeah, but not as much as you'd expect. Bushisms and absurdities get most of the laughs. There's a lot of historical details crammed into this film, even if Stone mixes and matches for dramatic effect. For instance: The bit about Morocco sending thousands of trained monkeys to Iraq to detect minefields? True story. Only they weren't trained. Morocco had and over-population of monkey, so they proposed crating them up and releasing the critters on minefields in Iraq to detonate a clear path for U.S. troops. Bizarrely hilarious in a morbid way.

Josh Brolin is magnificent as Dubya. He's likable and sympathetic while simultaneously being a horse's ass. James Cromwell is excellent as the senior Bush. Even though he doesn't affect any speech or mannerisms ala Dana Carvey, he still carries an impressive presidential gravity on screen and shows in painful detail the death throes of the moderate wing of the Republican party.

Richard Dreyfuss darn near steals the show with his creepy, spot-on turn as VP Dick Cheney. I was dubious about this bit of casting, but wow, Dreyfuss disappears into the character.

The only real sour note was Jeffrey Wright's portrayal of St. Colin Powell. Set up as the only voice of reason within Dubya's administration, a sort of latter-day Cassandra figure, Wright's performance is stiff and arch. Every time he spoke, I suddenly felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit. It just didn't work, and that's a shame.

Overall, it was enjoyable but not great. It reminds me, more than anything, to the obscure but worthwhile film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers with Geoffrey Rusch and Charlize Theron from a few years back. Like that film, W. has some great performances by actors who disappear into their characters. They try to show a balanced view of their respective subjects, and juggling the good with the bad makes for some awkward and ungainly moments. The films meander from one great scene to the next (there are great scenes, no doubt), with mediocre material filling the spaces in between. And neither film can really figure out how to end things, so they kind of stumble across the finish line.

That doesn't mean W. isn't worth seeing, but I expect this film to be one that gains a following via Netflix more than from theatrical viewings, and predict its reputation will grow the farther removed we get from Dubya's administration.

Now Playing: The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Friday, October 17, 2008

New MEMORY! Now with illustrations!

Howdy folks! Things have been challenging on my end of late. Yes, I know I missed publishing a new installment of MEMORY last week. My bad. But as I've mentioned previously, my photography and art courses I'm taking this semester can be quite time-consuming, and several time-intensive projects converged to hammer me big time last week. This week was only slightly better.

There's a silver lining, though. In my art class, I perverted an ongoing, multi-stage project into a chance to illustrate some of my fiction, select characters from MEMORY being among the subjects. It just so happens that one character, a Naga-ed-der who shows up in this week's installment at No Fear of the Future, is one that I chose to illustrate. Neat-o, as they say.

Interesting thing about the artistic process. You've all seen book covers and illustrations that in no, way, shape or form conform to the descriptions in the book itself. We've all griped about them. Even fairly literal interpretations of scenes and characters often take artistic license in obvious and dramatic ways. Well, I'm the author and the artist, so my pen-and-ink efforts (feeble tho they may be) should have no problem faithfully replicating that what is represented by the written word.

Well, not exactly. Turns out I was more interested in an illustration that was more representative, in general, than specific. In short, I took artistic liberties and deviated from what I wrote, for reasons including (but not limited to) practicality of composition, the mood I was trying to convey and pleasure of the artistic process itself. I know what you're thinking: If you ran into a Naga-ed-der at, say, your neighborhood Applebees, would it look like the illustration? Well, yes. More or less. But there's plenty of leeway in there for other artists in the future to bring their own interpretation to the gallery without being "wrong" (as if that's ever going to be a concern).

The more important point in the above discussion is wholly missed by the whole fixation on illustration accuracy, however. A Naga-ed-der would never be caught dead in an Applebee's, or a Bennigan's or TGI Friday's or any other so-called "fern bar" eatery. A Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is probably as lowbrow as one would go, and that's pushing it. They'd gravitate more toward fusion cuisine, anyway, so I suppose that's a moot point.

Amid the steam and smoke and clanging noise, a circular balcony filled the center of the kitchen. Here nearly a dozen aerial waiters worked rapidly, taking serving trays from peq and diving over the edge, tethered by silken threads from their tail spinnerets anchored to the balcony railing.

“Excusing me,” Parric said to a passing peq loaded down with some purple, tuberish vegetable that appeared disturbingly phallic. “I am needing to speak--”

“Ours is only to serve, sir, and we are serving now,” the peq said with a courteous but unmistakably dismissive nod, then continued on its way.

“I...” Parric started, but the peq had already vanished amid the chaos. Clicking his beak in annoyance, Parric pushed his way through disinterested peq to the one chef that seemed to exude the most authority. “Excusing me--”

“Who let this one in here?” the chef grunted loudly without looking from his confections. His orange skin glistened wetly from the steam. “Have the doorman escort it out.”

The entirety of chapter 26 can be read over at No Fear of the Future.

Now Playing: Don Henley The End of the Innocence

Friday Night Videos

M/A/R/R/S had a huge hit with "Pump Up the Volume," one of the first techno/dance/pop songs to really catch fire and dominate radio playlists. I was never a huge fan, but the song was pretty much inescapable the entirety of 1988-89, and I have to admit it was aurally interesting. The video, however, takes it to an entirely new level. Best use of NASA and Soviet stock footage, ever.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Hoyt Axton.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Chosen People

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cruise infrared

Sorting through the old harddrive, I came across a bunch of photos from the cruise back in the summer I never got around to editing or posting. Lots of crap, of course, but a few interesting things. One of the more visually arresting features of the cruise ship 'Ecstacy' we were on was the grand atrium:



It was, as these things go, flashy and garish and gilded to the extreme. Then I got to thinking... what would it look like in infrared? I'd never tried taking infrared shots indoors before, but when I found a little free time and gave it a shot. Frankly, I was surprised at how these turned out. The false-color sepia tones that came out in the image lends the architecture a kind of ancient, Romanesque gravity that absolutely does not exist in the first two shots above. My favorite is the vertical shot from the floor, as it is very "cathedralesque" but I find them all interesting.




Now Playing: ZZ Top Tres Hombres

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


For those of you keeping score at home, back on August 25 I started fermenting a batch of beer. The liquid extract kit I used was Cooper's Dark Ale (which I'd never tried before--breaking away from my nut brown ale comfort zone some) and half of the added sugars were dark toasted malt. Once the overwhelming foaming fermentation settled down, I added enough honey to make up the balance of adjunct sugars. The beer settled down and went on fermenting steadily. And kept on. And kept on. Fermentation slowed down greatly, but absolutely, positively, would. Not. Stop.

Normally, in my experience with homebrew beer, the little yeasties exhaust all the sugars within two weeks. You then prime and bottle, and the resulting brew is drinkable in another week or so. This stuff kept on for more than six weeks! It actually stopped fermenting in the middle of last week, but it took until last night for me to find the time to bottle the stuff up.

I'm wondering if it really was the honey that turned the fermentation into such a long, drawn-out affair. Mead takes a while to ferment, yes, but that's pure honey in an environment that isn't all that hospitable to yeast. With the beer, the honey made up a relatively modest share of the fermentable sugars, so I'm not so sure. And I'm also somewhat concerned about the taste of the beer if it's not aged a long while, as mead has a nasty, medicinal flavor if drunk "early." This is all unexplored territory for me, folks. I'll pop open a bottle in a couple of weeks and let you know what I find.

In the meanwhile, who else has discovered the wonderful Shiner Black Lager? It's become my second favorite commercial beer behind New Belgian's 1554: Enlightenment Black Ale (fear not, the venerable Shiner Bock is still a reliable standby).

Now Playing: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Music for Glass Harmonica

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Go Noriega! Go!

No, no, no. Not the tin-pot Panamanian dictator G.H.W. Bush imprisoned after that little Latin American invasion back in the 80s. No, this is Rick Noriega, a veteran state lawmaker who also happens to be active in the Texas Army National Guard and has recently served in Afghanistan--not to mention commanded troops during the recovery efforts of hurricanes Ike and Rita. He's challenging do-nothing Bush II stooge John Cornyn, who, after being Dubya's most loyal lapdog in Washington, has the audacity to run a campaign ad lauding himself as the candidate of "leadership" and "change." Ugh.

In a fair world, Noriega would be wiping the floor with Cornyn. Unfortunately, Cornyn has a huge money advantage, and is leveraging that to its fullest. Even so, Noriega is within 7 points in recent polls--a vast improvement from the 20+ point deficit he faced just a few months back. So pass Noriega's campaign spots around to your Texas friends and remember to vote for Rick this coming election.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes Violent Femmes

Monday, October 13, 2008

An offer of dubious merit

I've been mulling this for a while, but haven't felt confident enough in my photographic skills before now to pull the trigger. But you gotta take the plunge sometime, eh?

I'm making myself available for people who need publicity photos of themselves for professional use. This offer is for writer types mostly, since that's who I run with, but all comers will be considered. Pretty much anything goes here, from the standard, frontal-face dust jacket mug shot to more creative and off-the-wall stuff.

How much is this going to cost? Well, actually, nothing. I'm offering this as TFP (ie Trade for Prints). What that means is that the author in question signs a model release and I provide a disc (or other agreed-upon medium) with the finished, edited images. It's win-win as I see it--I get valuable photographic experience and a chance to build my portfolio, while said author gets a variety of quality, high-resolution photos with a limited-use license.

Interested? Drop me an email. We'll talk.

Now Playing: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Nine Tonight

Friday, October 10, 2008

My share of meltdown

Got my investment portfolio report in the mail. Now, when I say "investment portfolio" realize that it's a modest college investment plan for my son, Bug. The state shut down its great Texas Tomorrow Fund right before he was born, so we're trying the investment route to save up for his college education. Because, you know, one of The Wife's uncles told me some years back how big a mistake I was making and how much money I was losing by not investing the girls' Texas Tomorrow Fund money into the stock market.

So the portfolio report gives me the happy news that it is worth $200 less this quarter than it was the previous quarter. And the previous quarter it was $200 less than it had been the previous year. None of this takes into account the 2,000-point plummet Wall Street's taken in the past few days.

I actually heard a pundit arguing (not in recent days, but in the past month or so) that rather than the current economic collapse being the result of too much deregulation, existing government regulation was actually the cause, because "If the government didn't require companies to report their balance sheets, they could've kept the sub-prime losses secret, and nobody would've panicked." Yeah. Gotta love the free market.

Now Playing: Clandestine Music from Home

Self-portrait, Bastrop County

Pretentious, artsy-fartsy self-portrait alert. False-color infrared. I'm still struggling with the post-processing, but I'm finally starting to get some results I like.


Now Playing: Various Artists Celtic Moods

Friday Night Videos

Deanna Hoak's challenge to post songs that make one smile got me to thinking about the obscure, random music I've loved over the years. And I came to the realization that there simply isn't enough Hoyt Axton in the world. Unless you grew up on country music in the 70s/80s, you probably only know Axton from his role in the original Gremlins movie, of maybe his classic guest appearance on WKRP in Cincinnati. But Axton was, before his untimely death, a brilliantly quirky songwriter in the Roger Miller school of verse. Unlike the great Miller, however, Axton always seemed to have a hardscrabble earthiness to his work, even when his tongue was planted firmly in cheek. One of my faves is "Della and the Dealer," as funny and sly and menacing as a song as any right to be. I wish to heaven I could write fiction like Axton wrote songs...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... LL Cool J.

Now Playing: John Mellencamp Human Wheels

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Smiley song

Okay, Deanna Hoak started something with this whacked-out idea of posting a song that makes one smile every time one hears it. Quick as you can say Snidely Whiplash, Chris Roberson, Mary Robinette Kowal and Sean P. Fodera have posted silly videos of silly songs. So who am I to buck the trend?

Sadly, the video and music therein is of higher quality and boasts a better plot than the abysmal movie version of Josie & the Pussycats that came out a few years later. Go figure.

As a special bonus treat, I'm also offering up the video for "Code Monkey" as performed by aleprechaun. The song is okay by me, but its the video in particular that I find endlessly amusing. I suspect you'll agree.

Now Playing:

2D design

One of the things that annoyed me about going back to college for some select classes was the fact that in order to take any fine art photography courses, I was required to take non-photography prerequisite courses as well. I was allowed to split them up and take 'em concurrently with the photo classes--one this semester and one next (if I do end up taking more classes in the future).

The one I'm taking this semester, 2D design, has turned into quite the pleasant surprise. It's not a drawing class, technically speaking, but everything we do involves drawing. I used to do quite a bit of pen-and-ink when I was younger (read: high school and college) and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. It uses an entirely different portion of my brain than does writing, and the net effect is that I can effectively zone out while working on the various design projects and let my subconscious take over.

My first big project was pretty rough, since I was woefully out of practice and distinctly lacking in confidence. For the second project, I threw caution to the wind somewhat and the end result was something that surprised me and even generated approving nods from The Wife. The current project is an order of magnitude more difficult and challenging, but I'm loving it (after a horrendously rough start). I'm literally channeling some of my writings into the piece, and there's a degree of Wayne Douglas Barlow influence in there for anyone who's looking for it. I'm quite eager to see how the end product turns out.

So, to make a long story short, even though I didn't want to take it, 2D design is becoming one of the highlights of my semester.

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake & Palmer Return of the Manticore

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pictures at and exhibition

I've accumulated quite a few photographically-inclined images of late. This isn't surprising, seeing how I'm taking two photography classes this semester. These aren't those. The photojournalism pics are very limited in scope and wouldn't be interesting outside of the classroom context, and my intro to B&W photography are actual darkroom prints which I've not yet had a chance to scan into digital form. So these are other, random, photos that I've taken over the course of the past month.

First up is a squirrel I saw last week as I walked to my car in the parking lot. It was actually in the cypress tree above my car, feasting on the seeds from cypress cones. I used my 75-300 telephoto to zoom in tight, and the end result isn't too bad. Nice colors.


Next up is mint in flower, from my back yard. I recently acquired my late father-in-law's 50mm Nikon AI-s lens, which is a quality manual focus lens from back in the day. All my equipment is Canon, though, so I couldn't directly mount it on my camera. So I ordered a reversing ring and mounted the lens on my camera backwards, converting it to a nifty, high-magnification macro lens. I'm able to control the aperture and everything this way. Sweet. This is one of the first successful macro shots I took with it. Nice colors, and a nice, creamy bokeh (background blur).


Bees gathering nectar from passion flower vines make good macro photography subjects as well. I'm just saying.


I didn't take nearly as many photos during the Comal County Fair this year as I'd expected to. Between the heat and chasing kids there just wasn't much opportunity for me. But as we were leaving Thursday night, I did a quick point-and-shoot at this ride on the carnival midway. I'm more than a little shocked that it came out so well, since I didn't put much effort into it. Strong colors. It looks more dynamic than the scene really was. Fun stuff. Next year I hope to really prowl the midway and get some good motion blur lighting effects...


Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Friday, October 03, 2008


I've finally got a new installment of MEMORY published over at No Fear of the Future. The 25th chapter at that. Wow. do I get a cookie or something?
“Yer right,” Flavius said suddenly, pushing his plate and drink away. “Yer Imperial Majesty is absolutely right.”

Emperor Camargo barely concealed his surprise, then narrowed his eyes at Flavius. “About what, friend Flavius? Some of my predecessors have argued for infallibility in every Imperial thought, word and deed, so specific examples would help my studied evaluation of such claims.”

“Why, the bit about the leaving, of course,” Flavius said. “Yer Imperial hospitality’s been grand, but yer right that I dinnae belong here. Even yer food, fine stuff that it is, no doubt, is too much for my simple tastes. So, aye, I’m leaving.”

“And when do you plan to depart?”

“Immediately, if nae sooner.” Flavius stood, wobbled a moment, then bowed politely. His head swam more than he’d expected. “May we meet again in better times. And by better times, I mean with fewer bodies trying to put me in an early grave.”

This proved to be quite the difficult installment to write. I'm certain other writers out there will understand when I say it's a sequence which contains relatively little action, yet is essential in terms of moving the story forward. It's not a sequence that wrote itself, suffice to say. The whole Imperial dinner was and awkward animal to tackle, seeing how it needed to be treated lightly but at the same time avoiding a descent into farce. I don't know if I succeeded. I do know that there've probably been more rewrites these last few chapters than I've had to do before. It's a delicate balancing act, I suppose. The fact that my free time's been dramatically eroded by art and photography assignments merely ups the challenge.

And I still don't know what's coming next. Oh, I know something that's coming up soon, but that's probably a month away still. What happens next week is still anyone's guess.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Songs in the Attic

Friday Night Videos

Well, the VEEP debate went off without a hitch last night, which means Joe Biden didn't drone on in Senate speak and Sarah Palin didn't spontaneously combust. Halfway through, Biden figured out Palin was sticking strictly to scripted answers, so he gleefully jumped on McCain with both feet knowing Palin wouldn't (couldn't?) ad-lib any defense for her running mate. Palin, for her part, used the word "Maverick" about 147,000 times. Overall, it was polite and professional as far as debates go, with none of the bloody carnage on either side everyone who tuned in had hoped to see.

So for all the disappointed debate watchers out there, I dedicate today's video to you. THIS is what we wanted to see:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Large Hadron Rap.

Now Playing: Various Artists Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Reverse psychology

Oh, those zany celebrities! Playing the reverse-psychology card to get hip, young, disaffected... young people to register to vote. Why didn't I think of that?

Register to vote!

While we're on the subject of politics, is anyone else worried that Sarah Palin's rambling, incoherent, incomprehensible answers to Katie Couric's decidedly softball questioning--answers which were lampooned on Saturday Night Live and distributed far and wide by incredulous internet viewers--is really a case of sandbagging by the McCain campaign? That Palin's really going to surpass that low, low bar set for her in tonight's vice-presidential debate, and maybe provoke Joe Biden to make one of those embarrassing verbal gaffs he's so prone to make? I mean, really, nobody is as incompetent as Palin has appeared thus far, right? Seriously, in the final bit from the painful Couric interviews, Palin was unable to come up with a single Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with. Hello? Other than the 2000 split decision that handed the presidency to Bush (while we all know how well that turned out, I can hardly expect Palin to poo-poo it) she could've at least thrown out the Dred Scott case to show the Supreme Court is fallible. That's in all the history books. So is Plessy vs. Ferguson. Those aren't modern cases by any means, but it'd at least show she has a somewhat reasonable grasp of American history and governance. Sheesh...

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Staying Home to Watch the Rain

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Swimming upstream

For those voters out there who are still in the "undecided" category with regards to the upcoming presidential election, cartoonist Stuart Carlson has really spelled out the choice in clear terms for you:


Even so, what looks to be a no-brainer is no guarantee Barak Obama will win this horse race on Nov. 4. Yes, there are some die-hard Republicans who'd vote for teh embalmed corpse of Richard Milhouse Nixon were he on the ballot this year, but other folks who aren't so die-hard are still waffling on Obama despite every indication this should be a runaway election for the Democrat. Lots of reasons/excuses are offered, but personally I believe it comes down to closet racism. That's the elephant in the room nobody really wants to acknowledge in 21st century America, but it's there all the same.

A case in point that hits close to home: My own 90-year-old grandmother (who I love dearly), who will curse Reagan and Bushes 1 & 2 at the merest hint of political discourse and has never, ever voted Republican in her life... well, she's talking about voting for McCain. Seriously. This woman despises Republicans with a passion, is a great fan of Jimmy Carter and will defend Bill Clinton's honor with surprising passion. But if the subject of Obama comes up, her immediate reaction is a derisive, "Oh him!"

Why doesn't she like Obama? He is, of course a close ally of the Kennedys and as close to the second coming of JFK as there's ever going to be (JFK being a demigod to my family somewhere between the pope and Jesus Christ in terms of reverence). Joe Biden, his running mate, is Catholic, which normally be all the reason anyone in my family would need to vote for that ticket. Her answer: "If he gets in, them blacks are going to be everywhere!"

My family's ancestry isn't one of affluent stock. Descended from poor Polish and German immigrants, my maternal grandparents never had much money even in the best of times and struggled through the Great Depression, picking cotton for many, many years in fields shoulder to shoulder with black and Mexican workers under the blistering Texas sun. As individuals, they got along, but as a group... well, one time tested way of boosting tattered self-esteem is to diminish others around you. Remember, this is way back before Jim Crow even went by that name, so it's not surprising that racial epithets became part of the fiber of their language, not to mention world view. One charismatic politician isn't going to overcome 90 years of ingrained thinking, even if she might come to like Obama as an individual were she ever to sit down and have a conversation with him. She's had a number of minorities as friends over the years that she speaks highly of, but these people are always exceptions, you see, somehow different or superior to the undesirable group from which they came.

I'm convinced there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters like my grandmother out there. People who may be ambivalent to, like or even love everything about Obama except for his skin color. That when the time comes in the voting booth, they simply cannot vote for a black candidate. The so-called Bradley Effect writ large. I don't know if these people will vote for McCain or simply stay home. I don't know if their votes will impact the election in any meaningful way. I've long assumed that my cynical generation--Generation X--along with the Millennials behind us and the Boomers who'd raised us had moved beyond the point where simple skin color could hold such sway over far more pressing issues. I hope that optimism plays out, but the cynic in me believes otherwise.

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