Archives - JUNE 2003

June 28, 2003

Spam

I know there have been a million things written about spam. But the fundamental thing that interests me about spam is that anyone is still paying to have it sent out. I've investigated spam from a marketing standpoint. It should be a dismal failure. Hire a company to send out 10,000,000 unsolicited emails for you and your return rate is negligible. Surprising? Not when the email headers are wonders of creativity like these:

Knock down doors with your dick!! ( gee whiz, just what I always wanted to do )

Increaze yor manhood! ( that's what 4x4 Suburbans are for )

&%Septic tank relief^0 (since I get five of these a day, is there some epidemic of clogged septic tanks out there that I don't know about?)

Journey your peers with new terrain. (Classic case of a Russian email company translating your request through BabelFish)

Learn Your Colleague in Another Fatherland! ( ditto )

Tanya was there (unless you are one of the few people on earth that actually knows a Tanya, you'll delete this one, too)

Coed Hotties - I'm lonely on my web cam (A: she's not a coed; she's a 40-year-old Bulgarian pervert with a 1st generation web cam and a room full of refugees. B: She's not hot; she's hungry. C: She's not lonely; she's going to put 400 popups on your browser so she can collect the 1/10th of one cent for each one, as promised by the porno company in Indonesia)

And of course, my all-time favorite:

_V-I-A-G-R-A_ (Yeah, I'd take a potentially heart-stopping medication I obtained from a Panamanian pharmacy using PayPal)

What frightens me is there are actually enough dumbasses in the world to click on these, that they make spam commerically viable.

*****

June 24, 2003

Turtle Porn

Just watched two turtles, er...tortises, getting it on in an Animal Planet show. The male chased the female for about three days before he could finally do his business. You couldn't have wiped the shit-eating grin off that boy's face with a whole boxful of Wet Ones.

Now, I have to ask myself what would possess me, a grown man, to watch two turtles copulating. Hell, I don't know. But it shows a couple of things. One, with cable TV and 100 channels, there still isn't shit to watch. Second, there is a guy out there making a living by filming turtles screwing. Now, if you think you have a lousy job, think again.

Reminded me of when I was a little kid and found two box turtles in my back yard humping like Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee after a fifth of Jack Daniels. I thought they were fighting and tried to pull them apart. The male was on there like he had been Super-Glued. He looked up at me.

You snot-nosed little punk. If I hadn't chased this nookie for five acres, you'd be dead.

So, I ran inside.

"Mom!" I screamed.

"What is it?"

"The turtles outside are trying to kill each other!"

She followed me outside and saw them fornicating.

"Oh, my. Um, honey, they're not fighting. They're just playing." Mom blushed.

"Really?"

"Yeah. They do that. Let's say we go inside and get some Kool-Aid."

With that, we left the turtles to enjoy the sanctity of their honeymoon.

Now, thirty-five years later, I see it again and I am still fascinated. Maybe I'm a pervert. Maybe the Animal Planet is catering to the bestiality crowd now. And maybe I'm just putting off coming over to the computer and getting to work.

*****

June 23, 2003

OK, DLK-heads. Word up. Our man has been granted an award for his sci-fi tome "Cuqui," which I haven't read, but clearly the committee has -- and the committee has spoken. OK, he didn't win THE award, but his book was a finalist for the Independent Publishers Awards -- the cool kids call them the IPPYs -- Best Science Fiction Novel of 2002.

Don't sneeze, dogs. Dee-umm, he good, that DLK. Fo-shizzle, my brizzles and sizzles. See, cuz, our David didn't even ENTER his book in the G-D contest! Not quite sure how this happened, but anyone who can win a f***ing contest without even entering it deserves my eternal servitude, respect and envy (I won't be offering sexual favors, however). Especially given fact that I entered my very poignant and entertaining novel "LIFE ASKEW" (www.LIFEASKEW.net) in the very same contest, paid my f***ing $100 or whatever, and got bupkus. Diddly. Zip. In fact, just last night I got the results of ANOTHER contest I was sure I'd win at least a runner-up in, and....... well, you know the rest.

I've put some of my TV work up for awards, too. (You see, I'm a producer, director, writer; one of those well-tanned guys who wears an ascot and his sunglasses atop his head while calling Garcon for the check -- in my dreams, that is). Same result, needless to say. I'm the only promo hack in NYC who doesn't have some stupid plaque or cheap-ass trophy for some dumb promo-commercial that he took only passing interest in until the judges spoke. Last time, though. And I mean it. No more contests. I give. Alors, on to other things...

David has been kind enough to share my web link with you all (look for the book with the red, ripe tomato!) And how have I repaid him? By offering that very service to him and all my fellow-author friends? Er, no. But I'm working on it. Seriously. Ya see, I'm not the master of my web domain. I have no clue how to revise my web site. I've had many a nerd try to explain this extremely simple process, and usually, about the second time I hear "FTP" or "HTML" I do a "MEGO" -- my eyes glaze over. Forgive me, David. I'm in touch with my brother-in-law, who understands this crap and built my site for me. Soon, a link. I promise. (Thanks, by the way.) Of course, since no one has yet actually BEEN to my web site (www.LIFEASKEW.net), DLK may not get much extra action from fiction-loving web heads like you all -- at least not from any association with me. I'm thinking of changing my web address to: www.LASTALKER.net. Thoughts?... Oh, that's taken?

Signing, off, DLK-heads. All of y'all gots to keep one thing straight: we all will be able to say we discovered him first! I remain your humble servant,

Barry Patrick Fitzsimmons, Author, "Life Askew"

June 20, 2003

Bloggers

A few things I've noticed as I peruse other blogs out there. Bloggers...

...own cats. Or rather, their cats own them. I guess I'm in the minority here. I don't own any or vice versa. Everyone in my family does, though. 16 in all, between 4 people.

...are brutally honest about themselves and their worlds. They actually achieve the honesty that the phony communications movements of the previous decades tried to do but never pulled off.

...are funny as hell. The best comic writers in the world are in the Blogosphere.

...are taking over the Internet. I rarely go anywhere else online any more. There's too much fun to have in the blogs. I think I like them so much because they cut through all the commercialized crap that took over the net a few years ago. Pure First Amendment rantings; freedom of speech in its highest form.

*****

June 18, 2003

Movie stuff.

I've been checking out the two producers in Hollywood who have Undercover White Trash for possible development. Can't mention names at this time, but I will say that what I've seen so far is great. They sold a movie to Paramount last month and another to a BIG comic actor (probably one of the top 3 in the world right now) in April who will co-produce and star in the film. They sold another a couple of months ago, too. Long pedigree in Hollywood for both of them, with many movies between them before they started their own company. Talked to one of them on the phone this week; was surprised she was very cordial and nice. She has much confidence in selling UWT to a major player and has some screenwriting heavies reviewing it. Things are looking good.

*****

June 17, 2003

Excerpt from an email my friend Barry Fitzsimmons sent me regarding my novel Cuqui placing in the IPPY Awards for Sci-fi:

"You suck!"

Thanks, Barry! Ha ha ha. Go check out Barry's whacky novel Life Askew for a real treat. A funny as hell book.

On my next novel: People are bugging me about what it will be about. The answer is I DON'T KNOW. But I was struck with a bit of weird inspiration in a dream the other night...nice plot for a strange little story. Might do that one, might do another I've been outlining. Who knows? Besides, I'm taking off a year (it's been six months now and I don't think I can hold off much longer) just marketing the four I have out there already. If I do either, they will be completely out of left field and nothing like I've done before.

*****

June 12, 2003

Copyright Woes

Back to stuff about writing. Spoke to a copyright attorney today. I was considering suing a company because I feel they stole some ideas from one of my novels to make a movie. Long story, no details. The conversation with the lawyer was very enlightening. I thought I knew what "copyrighting" really meant, based on what I had read in books about writing. But the reality of copyrighting, and of people stealing your ideas, just like every aspect of the law, is far different than its practical application. Actually proving that someone stole your idea is nearly impossible. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff (the accuser) and the courts seldom side with them. Even with a smoking gun, such as an agent who has your manuscript and sells the ideas from it to a film company, it is possible for the thieves to alter those ideas just enough to protect themselves. It is also easy for them to come up with the "the same idea from two people at the same time coincidence" defense without much effort.

Let's say I wrote a book about a basketball player on crack who kills his coach and steals his wife. I send my manuscript, screenplay, etc. to an agent or a film company. The reject it. A year later, they make a movie with the same plot. I sue. They argue that they had the same idea at the same time. The plot of their movie involves a football player on heroin, not a basketball player on crack. And he kills a fellow player and steals his wife. In my mind, the same plot. In the eyes of the courts, it is not exact. Then I'd have to prove: 1) that the agent had my story to begin with, and 2) that he sold the ideas knowingly, and 3) that the film company knew they were stolen. If I couldn't prove that the agent had received money from the film company, or that the agent had in fact been in contact with the film company at all, I have no case. The level of detective work to do this is very, very expensive. Which leads to another problem; if I sue, I will get counter-sued. If I lose, then I must pay all of mine and the defendant's legal fees, which could easily surpass $200,000. So, attorneys are not likely to take on copyright infringement cases where the odds are low in winning, especially if I don't have their fees paid up front. It is just like criminal law; you're presumed guilty unless you can afford a $50,000 attorney to defend you, and your odds are still good you'll get convicted if you go to trial. It is a lose-lose situation.

David's Tip of the Day:

Copyright your work as soon as you're finished with the rough draft. Don't believe that crap about "U.S. law protects writers by automatically copyrighting their work as soon as it is written." First, you can't even sue for infringement unless that work is copyrighted through the U.S. Copyright Office. Period. If you initiated a suit on an undocumented work, you are required to go ahead and copyright it then. Your chances of winning a suit without a copyright certificate date that precedes the stolen work are ZERO. Forget having witnesses testify that they read the manuscript prior to the theft, etc.; if you don't have a certificate number, you may just as well have stolen it yourself. So fork up the $30 to copyright your work and register it properly through the Library of Congress Copyright Office. You can download the forms from the web. Remember it takes from 6-8 months for them to process it, so don't wait!

*****

June 8, 2003

Lacy Peterson

I've been asked a zillion times about what I think of this case. I guess people who know I make a day-living in murder, rape and robbery think that I can shed some light on the subject. Or maybe they think I have put all the pieces together using my super deluxe criminology mind. I guess I'll go ahead and piss everyone off by offering my thoughts on the case.

My opinion is that this case is no big deal.

Whoa! Before you start sending me nasty emails and calling me a misogynist or worse, let me say that to the people involved in the loss of loved ones by violent crime, it IS a big deal. Lacy's family, and even Scott's for that matter, are living a horror most of us cannot even imagine. They have every right to be involved in every single aspect of this case. As for the rest of us voyeurs, we don't. It isn't any of our business. A serial killer on the loose did not kill Lacy and her baby, so we do not need to tune in to every lurid detail of this case exposed on the TV news for the entertainment of the masses. Protecting ourselves from a rampaging killer is not why we tune in to this crap.

The most striking thing about this murder is what a big deal the press is making out of it. My point is this: Husbands murder their wives all the time. It is a daily occurrence, many times over, all over this country. That doesn't make it acceptable, of course, but it shows how the media chooses their stories to cover, and how they harp on these stories while they ignore everything else. Here are a few headlines from local Dallas/Fort Worth papers over the last couple of weeks:

POLICE DISCOVER MOM'S BODY This mom was beaten to death by her boyfriend with a microwave oven. This was done in front of her one and three-year-old kids.

EXPERTS SEE SAD TREND IN SLAYINGS Husband Christopher Swift beat, strangled, and stabbed his 8-month-pregnant wife to death, then strangled her 61-year-old mother. Mother watched daughter being murdered. Their 5-year-old son saw both killed.

FIREFIGHTER PLEADS GUILTY TO SNIPER SLAYING Local firefighter ambushed his nurse wife and her friend with a hunting rifle. Blew wife's brains out and wounded the friend grievously.

Lacy and Scott were attractive yuppies from Yuppieville, USA. The people noted above were nobodies: blue-collar families and minorities from the 'hood that suburban TV viewers really don't give a shit about. But when suburban yuppies do the same thing, it is international news. Books will be written, movies will be made. There was nothing particularly interesting about the Peterson murder. It was obviously a sloppy, impulsive crime completely lacking in any sensational twists and turns. Hubby tired of wife. Hubby kills wife (hell, he may have even beat her to death with a microwave for all we know). Hubby hurriedly dumps body and acts like nothing happened. No hit men, no conspiracies, no "Twinkie defense" (yet). There was nothing really interesting about the O.J. Simpson case, either, except a celebrity was involved. Nearly every day, I read a story in the news about some ex-whatever killing his ex-girlfriend or wife, with a poor schmuck getting caught in the crossfire. Why did the media report on the O.J. case non-stop for two years while a thousand nearly identical murders took place during the same time? Ditto the Robert Blake case. Ditto the Lacy case.

My point is ultimately this: We need to put these things in perspective. If you are so sheltered that you think the Lacy case is something out of the ordinary, you need to pull your head out of the sand. Volunteer at a police department or a hospital E.R., or maybe a rape crisis center. The few cases you see on the TV that enthrall and shock you are just the tip of a huge iceberg. Once you realize this, you'll see how the media exploit your ignorance and fear by harping on a few cases here and there just to get their ratings up.

*****

June 5, 2003

Stupid cars, stupid men.

Just a rant today. Nothing about writing.

A testimony to the power of persuasion, make that brainwashing, is the latest fad in cars for boys or at least for men who have fixated into their pre-pubescent years. Of course I am talking about the souped-up economy car craze. You know, the Civics, Accords, Neons, and Corollas festooned with non-functional ornamental parts, garish paint jobs, and add-on mufflers that make the car sound like a weed trimmer. Turbochargers and nitrous oxide injectors propel the little soccer mom cars at speeds that far surpass the driving skills of the guy behind the wheel. I say "guy" because I've never seen a woman driving one. The reason for this is simple; women have more sense. Put a guy behind the wheel of one of these things, and he is suddenly Vin Diesel, streaking in and out of L.A. traffic with the skills of Jeff Gordon, when in reality, he is really in Podunk, U.S.A. and is barely past the first anniversary of passing his driving test. As I said, the impulse for young fellers to spend most of their hard-earned minimum-wage income on fluorescent paint jobs and neon undercarriage lights, and oh yes, the ubiquitous little-bad-boy-pissing-on-something decal in the back window, is a marvel of modern social engineering.

A little history lesson is in order. Fast cars have always been popular with males. From the hot rods of the 50's to the exotics of the 80's, the automotive industry has tempted boys with their latest toys. Masculine toys. Big wheels, big engines, big noise, big tire-burning performance. But the pollution laws of the later millennium changed that. The auto makers responded with small and economical. No more big and fast. Forced to improvise, the symbolic-penis-seeking car crowd had to adapt. Low riders came along first; speed replaced by gaudiness and hydraulic hijinks. These were at least a product of the drivers; adaptation as a form of protest against government tyranny. Hell, they were folk art in many ways. As the speed crowd tricked out older cars into bouncing chick magnets, sales of new and expensive sports cars slumped. It took awhile, but the auto makers finally fell upon a brilliant idea: fool young men into thinking that the economy cars already in the showrooms weren't really designed for secretaries and soccer dads. No: they were high-performance marvels with engines bred from a long line of racing experience. A little money thrown here and there, some goofy movies like The Fast and the Furious, and the image was born. No longer were these the cars of the sensible and frugal; they were little racing machines just waiting to be brought to life by the skilled hands of a garage mechanic with a nifty new Home Depot wrench set. Neons began flying off the showroom floor faster than ever before.

Evidently, the most important thing is to make the car look cool. The fake ground effects go on, then the totally non-functional bolt-on spoiler wing on the trunk (in reality, this wing actually creates drag and slows down the car, but looking cool is what is really important, not performance). Then the pissing boy sticker, carefully and lovingly centered in the rear window. Follow these with the endless add-ons of boom boxes, allow wheels, pin stripes, taillight chrome kits, ad nauseum, and they join the others already on the road, scurrying about our neighborhoods like mechanical cockroaches in the kitchen as the light comes on.

I guess I really wouldn't give a damn about how these guys spend their money if I didn't have to dodge them daily as they whip around my streets. Maybe I'm miffed because of the high insurance rates I have to pay because of the carnage these dolts leave behind them. But maybe what makes me the most angry is that American men have become so simple-minded that they can be so easily brainwashed into wasting their money, as Brad Pitt's character in Fight Club said, "to buy shit we don't need."

*****

June 2, 2003

The L.A. Book Expo

Just got back from the expo. Eye-opening experience. Basically the expo is a huge trade show in which publishers from all over the world set up their books and such, and buyers from all over the world walk around and see what they like. They place orders with these publishers for books they'll be stocking in their stores, libraries, book clubs etc. for the future. Million-dollar sales on millions of books. Books are traded like commodities, which they are. Very corporate. It really pointed out several things to me:

1) I saw how the big publishers promote just a few titles. They spared no expense. Huge, flashy displays. Houghton-Mifflin probably spent $50,000 on their display for Lord of the Rings alone, complete with giant sculptures of Orcs and such... Multimedia presentations were everywhere. I see now why smaller presses and unknown authors cannot compete; the big players just dominate the floor with their money. If you are lucky enough to be promoted by them, you can get rich. If not, you fall by the wayside. It is just like the film industry. They promote the hell out of a few big blockbusters even if they are terrible, and people go to see them. Promotion is more important than art.

2) I saw how my own "publisher," 1stBooks operated. I was pissed off, to say the least. They took a booth in the "Book Packagers" section and devoted no space to any of their books. They could have gone toe-to-toe with some of the publishers, especially some of the indies, but they chose not to. They should have had an exhibit with their award-winners (at least a couple of dozen of us have won awards) and best-sellers (they have at least two books that have been Amazon.com best sellers and several have been on the NYT bestseller list) but they had none of these. If the book buyers had seen them, I know they would have ordered many. But they weren't even there for them to see. It is unforgiveable. My next rant will be to the CEO of 1stBooks.

Thank God for those independent presses who were there, like Last Gasp, One Hour Productions, etc. and the people like the Independent Publishers Association, Foreword Magazine, and the International Publishers Alliance who were representing us independent writers at full force and who were getting much attention. Even though Cuqui didn't place in the Foreword contest, it did win as a finalist in the IPA ("Ippy") awards.

Highlight of the show: Had to be the tuba serenade by a couple of guys working a booth. They brought the house down.

Jeers: To the L.A. Convention Center for not having a freaking chair to sit in in the entire building. Jeers to them for keeping the place so hot everyone was sweating like pigs. Jeers to the BookExpoAmerica people for having the thing at the convention center in the first place; there were too many exhibitors for such a small place. The 1/2 mile walk from one hall to another was ridiculous. Jeers to them also for burying 1/4 of the exhibitors in a basement and not including that basement in the floor plan map they gave to everyone, and not marking the basement entry as the third exhibition hall. If I were those vendors, I'd demand my money back.

Weirdest thing I encountered in L.A. this trip: A radio station that played old 50's be-bop tunes, like Dion and the Belmonts stuff, in Spanish.

*****

 

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