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April 21, 2006

Intermittent Vibrating Ghost Leg

I read an article recently about a phenomenon we see often these days. You may be a victim of this condition yourself:

Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft, has coined the term "continuous partial attention" to describe life in the era of e-mail, instant messaging, cellphones, and other distractions.

Add iPods to this list and you'll see my point. People wandering the planet completely out of touch with the reality around them. I see them in the grocery store, an iPod blaring in their ears while they text-message a buddy about the price of peas. Partially attentive to the real world, nearly entirely focused on the digital non-reality of the modern information age. Add a little weed, beta-blockers or SSRI's to the mind-altering soup, and we live in a world of near brain-dead zombies.

I'm glad to say that I'm not a victim of this. I compartmentalize my digital world from my reality fairly well. As much as it sucks, I like reality. An overlay of MP3 buzz every waking hour is not something I need.

I do have a cell phone, which has become as necessary to a working person as a pair of shoes. I'm careful about giving the number to anyone, because I don't want to be called every minute of the day over the minutia many people think is really important. People do have control over this; you don't have to be a victim of people bothering you on your cell phone with trivia. Establish a few rules if you give your number out to a co-worker or employee. My basic rule is this: Don't call me unless the building is on fire. And mine should be the second call: 911 is the first.

I used to carry my cell phone in a holster on my belt. A couple of years ago, I lost the thing after the holster clip failed. Since then, I just put it in my pocket. Since I am in and out of meetings constantly, and because I think it is both rude and unprofessonal for a cell phone to ring during such a meeting, I keep it on vibrate mode.

I don't get calls very often; perhaps my bad attitude about receiving calls has pretty much quelched anyone's desire to call me. Maybe it's my bad attitude in general... But I guess my mind has assimilated my anxiety about getting called into a weird phenomenon that I'll call - because I can coin my own damn term if I want to - Intermittent Vibrating Ghost Leg.

They say when people lose a limb, they can still feel the sensation of the limb actually being there. The mind remembers what the limb felt like, and creates the sensations in the absence of same. My own mind has evidently done something similar. Often I can feel the sensation of the phone vibrating, even when it is not. Even weirder, I sometimes feel this even when the phone isn't there. Even weirder still, I can sometimes feel the vibration even when I don't have on any pants at all.

I wonder if iPod junkies get something hearing a song even after the player is turned off. Or Blackberry zombies. Maybe their thumbs spasm the familiar motion of the trackwheel while they are driving their car, or eating a burger. Could wreak havoc in the bedroom:

Uh, honey; what are you doing down there?

Ah...what I always do down here, sugar...

Not THAT; what's up with the thumbs?


On my knees? What are you doing to my knees with your thumbs?

Ah...uh, I didn't know I was...ah, doing anything with my thumbs.

Yes you are; you're rubbing my knees with your thumbs.

Oh...maybe it's like, you know, foreplay or something.

Uh, not foreplay, honey. Cut it out; it tickles!

Yes, dear.

Continuous Trackwheel Thumb meets Intermittent Erectile Dysfunction.

You can see how these virtual maladies could become real problems, real quick.

So turn that darn gadget off. Right now.

I am.



April 13, 2006

Blacklists, Insurance Humor, the Smallness of the World, and Why They Call Me "The Eggman"

It's funny how things come around full circle. Events in our lives have a way of revisiting one when we least expect it. Take for example, the events of today.

An insurance company which shall remain unnamed because I don't want to give them one molecule of free press (I'll call them Company X) came around to my wife's work today to hawk some insurance product they sell. They got permission to do this by schmoozing her employer and getting a contract to provide said insurance policies to the employees. Now, I am a customer of Company X from about 1986 when I bought my first house. I am also the dedicated enemy of Company X since about 2004 when they f***ed me without so much as a kiss.

Knowing my stormy hate/hate relationship to this company, my wife (who was evidently forced to attend the sales pitch of Company X) told the sales rep that their company sucked and proceeded to give the sales lady a rundown on why they sucked.

They suck because they have effectively blacklisted me from getting a new homeowner's policy. It seems the insurance industry has a collective database wherein every little phone call one makes to one's insurance company is recorded and digested and analyzed for content and purpose. In 2004 when insurance rates in Texas skyrocketed past the 200% mark, I decided to shop around for another policy to save a few bucks. In particular, I called my auto insurance company to pair up with them on a house policy, too and thus get a discount for having both. I was told by my auto insurance company that they couldn't give me a house policy, for reasons ungiven.

I thought this was odd, seeing as they'd been my company for at least 10 years. So, I called a few more companies. They all told me the same thing: we can't sell you a policy. I finally got a kid on the phone one day, off the record, to tell me what the hell in my record was so bad.

The kid proceeded to tell me that there were three "claims" in the last two years. I responded by telling him, "Hell, no there's not!" The last claim I had was for hail damage back in about 1993. He said there were three. I asked him what those were. He told me. The first was for a call I made to Company X about a water leak in my garage. The second was for a suspected leak in my house. Neither one of those were put through; both revealed no damage. The garage was leaking under the door (a strip of molding fixed that) and the other only looked like a leak; it was actually a bubble in the paint. No big deal. The adjuster/inspector left my house and that was it.

Now, in the past, if one had damage to their house, the insurance company wanted you to call them. They'd send out an expert adjuster who'd take a look and render an opinion. That was in essence a free service, it was not a claim. A claim was when there was damage and the adjuster made an estimate, and the insurance company wrote you a check or paid a contractor, etc. In both of these cases, there was no money spent by Company X. In my terminology, there was no claim. The kid told me, "With these three claims, you'll never get insurance by any company, anywhere. For all practical purposes, you're blacklisted." That is, until three years rolls around and a couple of these claims fall off the books.

Somewhere along the line, insurance companies have begun logging any call you make to them where they send someone out as a claim. In my book, this is an unfair business practice. However, since insurance companies own every politician in every state, they've made it law. They just didn't bother telling any of their customers.

So here I am, waiting for my third claim to roll off the books so I can get another insurance company and fire this carpetbagging bunch of bastards. Which brings me back to the story. The story about my third claim.

So my wife was reading Company X's sales lady the Riot Act over my mistreatment, telling her that not only had Company X not paid on my first two "claims," they paid nothing on my third claim, either. The cost of the remedy was less than my deductible, so I paid it out of pocket. The sales lady asked her the nature of the third claim, and my wife began to tell her the story of the precipitating incident.

"Oh!" the sales lady said, "Your husband's The Egg Man."

Which brings me back to the event that started it all. I call it The Great Egg Incident. Some people call it The Great Eggf***. Call it what you may, but it started like this...

Back in 2003, I was still writing in a little studio apartment out behind my main house. I had my computer out there and such. My routine was to come home, get a bite to eat, and head out there for the remainder of the evening. Peace and quiet, no distractions. On this particular evening, I came home and rummaged through the fridge. I found a dozen eggs that were nearing their expiration date. Deciding instead to use them instead of waiting a few days and throwing them out, I filled a big pot with water and made hard-boiled eggs, which we could snack on for a few days. Then I went outside to the studio. And wrote.

A few hours later, I heard a beeping sound. I thought it was some dumbass neighbor's car alarm. It persisted. I finally got annoyed and went outside. The beep sounded vaguely familiar. Sounded like it was coming from the main house. I walked a little closer. It got louder. It was definitely coming from inside the main house. Then I recognized the tone.

It was the smoke alarm.

I ran to the back door and threw it open. Gray smoke billowed out. A horrible, horrible acrid stench filled my nose. The smoke was so thick, I couldn't see but a few feet in front of me. I crouched down low and went to the kitchen. In route, I was struck with the realization of what I had done; I had left the fire on under the eggs.

I don't claim to know all there is to know about the chemistry and physics behind poultry eggs meeting a massive infusion of heat, but I can tell you a little about the results. My reconstruction of the crime scene revealed that the water had cooked off about an hour or so after I left. The eggs - all twelve of them - were left on the bottom of my $40 Farberware 6-quart pot, where they absorbed enough natural gas heat to melt the polar ice cap. Somewhere in this process, the eggs, for lack of a better term, exploded.

The force of these explosions was enough to send the lid of the pot about 8 feet across the kitchen. It was also enough to cover the stove, the counter tops, the cabinet doors, and yes, even the ceiling, with a disgusting spray of brown-orange, burned, sticky, stinky egg guts. Every square inch of my kitchen had a chunk of this stuff on it. Even months later, I was still finding pieces of the stuff.

So after I tossed the pot into the driveway and opened all the windows, I thought I had better call my insurance company. Certainly they'd have an idea of what to do. I didn't have any flame damage...what I had was a horrible stench of burned eggs that had permeated every nook and cranny of my house. My clothes, furniture, everything.

The insurance company sent out a "disaster relief team" from ServePro. They quickly determined that I had no heat damage, and they prescribed a fog treatment guaranteed to strip the house of stinkiness, even the stink that penetrated the latex paint on my walls. The fee was less than my deductible, so I cut them a check and they fogged the house. And the fog worked, too; no stinky egg smell ever again. It was miraculous.

But at $278, it was the most expensive dozen eggs of all time.

So back to my story. The sales lady from Company X told my wife that my egg fiasco was common knowledge in the insurance world. Insurance people had dubbed me "The Eggman" and often told jokes and funny stories to each other about my kitchen covered in burned egg matter.

Nice. I'll add this one to my list of Life's Most Embarassing Moments, up there with the time in karate class when my protective groin cup broke loose during a sparring session, slid down my leg, and ejected itself out my pants after a particulary well-executed roundhouse kick. The sound of it whacking against the wall of the dojo wasn't half as loud as the guffaws from my class, who fell out on the floor for fifteen minutes. It's almost as infamous as the time a really cute X-ray technician told me - and the rest of the lab (while I listened through the dressing-room wall) that I needed to move a certain unmentionable part of my anatomy out of the way because it was blocking the image of my hip she was trying to film. But that's another story in and of itself.

So this is a long story to reveal the corrupt nature of insurance companies, my skills as a chef, the reality of confidential things remaining confidential, and the smallness of the world.

I guess tomorrow my wife will run into that X-ray tech.


April 5, 2006

A Short Treatise on Body Hair.

I'm a fairly hairless guy. Kinda like this:

Or this:

At 44, I'm still waiting for the second phase of puberty to kick in. Thank God the first one is done, but the 30-year wait for male secondary sexual characteristics has been a bitch. I have a little hair on my face, mainly around my upper lip and chin. I guess I could have a half-ass Fu Manchu / goatee thing if I tried. A few sparse whiskers have popped up around the rest of my face here and there, but none where the sideburns should be. I always wanted some mutton chops:

And 5 o'clock shadow, but it isn't going to happen. The rest of me is pretty sparce in secondary male-ish hair, too. My arms have a few whisps. My lower legs - not my thighs - have a bit. All of it is fairly blond so it doesn't show up much. I don't even have that really cool patch of manly hair that comes from parts unknown and slinks its way up to the navel.

So you're probably wondering why David hasn't killed himself. A lack of manly manliness would be enough to drive any manly virile man to the edge of despair. Well, I've just learned to live with it. Patience is a virtue. And virtue is its own reward. But sometimes, virtue awards in other ways. You see, I do have chest hair. An interesting little genetic anomaly. A little DNA that slipped out of place somewhere. Maybe some radiation exposure. So I'll treat you to a shot of my chest hair:

Yeah. One hair. I found this little bastard the other day while I was flexing my manly man muscles in the mirror. Why one? Where are his cousins? I'm really not hoping they'll sprout at this point, because I think the little guy is gray.

Insult to injury.

Now I'm in a quandary about what to do with him. I could pluck him out, but: a) that would hurt, b) that would hurt, and c) that would hurt. I could shave him off, but he'll just come back twice as thick and twice as gray. I could go to one of those fancy salons and have him waxed off by some hot beautician, but that would probably send my already frail Freudian psyche into a nose dive. Nair might work. So would duct tape, but I'm already allergic to band-aids, so a hunk of that stuff might dissolve my entire pectoralis major.

I guess until I make a decision, I'll keep my shirt on.

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March 27, 2006

Debra LaFave and the cult of bad information

So my girl Debbie was in the news lately:

Seems she had her sex assault case dismissed by the district attorney because the injured party, a now 16-year-old boy, refused to testify at trial. Debra's prior plea bargain for a 3-year probation had been killed by the trial judge - out of pure political grandstanding - so Debra is walking away a free woman; no testimony, no case.

This case has opened up a heated debate across the nation concerning a supposed double standard when it comes to prosecuting male and female sex offenders. This is nonsense. Although there are certainly overtones to this, and undertones of "she's getting away with it because she's a babe" are part of the screeching, the fact of the matter is that this case is a fairly typical disposition in a child sex assault case, regardless of the perpetrator's gender. A little explanation is in order.

In my county, which is very typical, sex offenders who have charges filed against them wind up this way: 1/3 get probation, 1/3 get prison, and 1/3 get their cases dismissed. This statistic has been pretty much the same for at least the 15 years or so I've been keeping track of it. If you're surprised by this breakdown, you were probably thinking that 99% of them went to the joint. Not so.

The underlying cause of this is simple: sexual assault cases where kids are the victim are extremely difficult to try in court. Ask any prosecutor; they hate these cases. There are several reasons for this, but here are the big ones:

1) Child sex assault cases usually have no physical evidence whatsoever. Most of these cases, contrary to popular belief, involve no penetration or body fluid exchange. No DNA, no hair samples, no physical damage on the body. In cases where there was physical evidence left behind, often these assaults are reported by the victim days, weeks or even years after the actual event, and any evidence that was there is long gone.

2) Child sex assault cases are rarely witnessed. These assaults for the most part occur in absolute secrecy. Unless the perp photographs or videos them, there are only two people who know what happened. It becomes a he-said, she-said thing, which in court is a bad basis for showing proof.

3) Testifying in a child sex assault trial is often as terrifying - often more so, which is true in the case of LaFave's victim - than the assault itself. The younger the child, the more terrifying it is. The parents of the victims are often the ones who put their foot down and stop the testimony; they see the damage it does to the victim and they don't want any more done.

The combination of these elements leads any prosecutor, even the most seasoned, to balk at going to trial. Winning a trial requires evidence that is so strong, it can overcome the weakest member of any jury. In many child sex assault cases, one, two or all three of these elements are missing. Basically, there's no hard evidence; only the testimony of a child against an adult. Pull that testimony away, and the prosecution simply can't win.

In the LaFave case, the prosecutors had victim testimony at first, but this was pulled. They had a witness (the boy's friend who drove the car) but without the victim himself testifying, they couldn't introduce this (the right to face one's accuser in court). The prosecutors had zilch. So, they did what any prosecutor would do in the face of an absolute dismissal; they pled her down to a probated sentence. Remember the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 rule above? These are the probation cases.

So you were probably thinking that the 1/3 breakdown followed this sort of logic: the 1/3 that go the pen are the worst of the worst offenders, the serial child rapists and pedophiles. Next, the 1/3 who get probation were probably less dangerous...maybe guys who had sex with a teenage girl, but really didn't know how old she was. And the 1/3 who had their cases dismissed were probably innocent, of course; the child made up the story in the first place.

Wrong. The 1/3 rule is based purely on the amount of evidence that a prosecutor has at her disposal before she goes to court. The offenders who go to prison may be the worst of the worst, or they just may have been the dumb ones who videotaped themselves with that 15-year-old girl. The ones that got their cases dismissed weren't necessarily innocent; maybe they were the craftiest and most devious of all the offenders who completely obliterated all the evidence.

All three of the evidence elements I noted above factored into LaFave's case. And the judge, because of his political grandstanding, assured the final outcome of this trial. The prosecutors had tried to salvage what they could, but this guy blew it for them.

Okay, first part of my lecture on child sex assault is done, but I'd like to leave you with these few tidbits of information:

Only 1 in 10 boys ever report their sexual abuse.

Only 1 in 6 girls do.

Only 1 in 10 of all these reported assaults ever get reported to any kind of legal authority.

Of these, only 1 in 5 proceed to criminal charges. Once this is done, enter the 1/3 rule.

In my county, there are 1,100 registered sex offenders. These guys are basically the 2/3; remember that the other 1/3 had their cases dismissed and aren't on any sex offender registry. My county is exactly 900 square miles. That's a little over one offender per square mile.

Offenders that we know of.

Factor-in the reporting statistics. The vast majority, if not well over 75% of all sex offenders never even enter the criminal justice system in any way at all. And of the ones that do, most get a complete walk. I'm no expert in statistics, but with a little simple arithmetic, you can extrapolate the number of actual offenders there are in the world. I've deduced that there are over 7,500 offenders in my county alone (1.2 million population) which is 8.5 per square mile, and probably a lot more. If you think this stat is way off base, ask yourself this question: do I know anyone who was the victim of child sexual abuse? Try asking this question in a public forum, like a PTA meeting or something. Watch as nearly everyone in the class raises their hand. Are all the perps who committed the assaults against all these people in the pen? Of course not. Where are they?

Living in your neighborhood and every other neighborhood.

So there's a little background on the true goings-on in the Debra LaFave case. I felt I had to just put my two cents' worth in because I was getting tired of all the hoopla and grandstanding. To me, the attractiveness of the perpetrator notwithstanding, this is just another case, a case like 10,000 pending in the dockets of courts all over the country any day of the week.


March 8, 2006

Signs of life.

Those of you who read this blog who live in a rural environment, well, you're missing out on a taste of urban living that we city folk get to see every day. As I was walking into my office the other day, I noticed something. Something that explains a lot. So, I whipped out my nifty new digital camera and composed a little photo essay for my legion of fan.

I guess the nature of people who make signs think we read them. In reality, we don't. I think the people who make advertising signs know this; we catch their subliminal, peripheral imagery in the deep recesses of our subconscious minds, where it takes root. Later on, our brain regurgitates it when we are in the mood to spend some money. But the kind of signs that are made to regulate our other behavior are not so successful. These signs for the most part don't register at all. We pass by dozens, if not hundreds, of them a day and we rarely notice them. Except for the ones that are programmed in, like stop signs and restroom signs, they go in and out of our brains like a breeze through a windmill.

So here's a short sample of the signs that I pass by every day on my way into my office. This is just a few of the more choice ones:

This isn't a sign per se, but it does have a sign on it. It's next to the elevator in my parking garage. A nice positive note to start your morning with.

This one is by the entrance to my building. It's for folks who didn't notice this sign which is a few feet away:

Here's the sign on the entrance door itself:

This is the area where everyone smokes. I think the fire marshal smokes there, too.

Oh, I almost forgot this one above the door. A little Cold War memorabilia to remind you of the good ol' days. And potassium iodine tablets. Once inside the door, up the elevator and on my floor, I'm greeted with this one:

I guess this is really two signs. Signs like these, I found, are often duplicated. This happens when no one pays attention to the first one. So the signmakers make another, bigger sign, sometimes in fluorescent orange, to get people's attention. I can promise you if there's a fire, half the people on my floor will jump on the elevator.

Now, I can take a couple of different routes to my office. This is from the alternate route:

Okay, okay already; I know where to go when a 1000 megaton nuke falls on the city. Oh, yeah, and I know I shouldn't do this here:

Then there's what I call the Wall O' Signs:

There's a bunch more signs on my way down the halls to my office itself. Here's one of my favs:

I'm not sure that the fire marshall approved of this arrangement...

And yes, I have been known to be a sign maker in my day. And yes, no one paid any attention to these, either:

Here's the only sign I like; I have it on the outside of my office door:

And here's the latest sign. The sign to end all signs. The sign that makes all others obsolete:

Whatever you're doing, whatever you're thinking, whatever you are thinking of doing...just don't do it. Nice and concise. I like it.

Tomorrow on your way into your job, open your minds and your eyes and see the signs of your life.


March 1, 2006

Links of great interest. Maybe.

The first is this one. It's an article I wrote for If you haven't checked out this site, and you're a true javahound, you need to. Everything from A-Z about the holy bean, and they don't sell anything, so you can trust honest opinions and reviews. Most of them are contributed by caffeine addicts like me.

The next one is here on The Smoking Gun. This is the site that loves to dish the dirt on celebrities and the common folk alike. They're the ones who blew the lid off the A Million Little Pieces charade and caused many a Doubleday executive - as well as Oprah Winfrey - to pee in their pants. This particular piece is one about movie contracts. It isn't scandalous per se, but it does show the average schmoe like me where the money goes. Where does it go? Who gets what of that $80 million dollar budget? Very interesting reading. Unfortunately, the article focuses on four films that were written and directed by the same director (M. Night Shyamalan) so it doesn't reveal as much as I would like about screenwriting fees. The actual contracts of these movies are here for your enjoyment. It explains a lot about how the movie biz works and also about why it costs so damn much money to go to the movies these days.


February 21, 2006

Kramer was right.

If you're a Seinfeld fan, you certainly remember the episode where Kramer and his criminal pal hornswaggle Jerry into making bootleg videos of theatrical movies. Of course, in this show, Jerry winds up becoming a prima donna director whose demands for artistic purity drive the criminal producer to near-violence. The first time - and the next ten times - I saw this episode I wondered if such a craft really existed. Would anyone pay money to see a crappy movie shot with a video camera inside of a theater? Even at a cut-rate price, it wouldn't be worth the trouble. Certainly this was a thing of Jerry Seinfeld's creative imagination. Now, bootlegs that were burned from other DVD's, well that would be a horse of a different color...or stripe, or other some such metaphor, simile, whatever.

So it was under that pretense that on my recent trip to the Big Apple, I bought a few bootleg DVD's. Normally, I'm a stickler for copyright righteousness; I own a few myself and I certainly respect the blood, sweat and tears and money that is being stolen from the copyright holder. But when I saw those DVD's on the street vendor's table, DVD's of movies that were still in the theater, all I could think of was Kramer. So, I had to plop down $3 a piece just to check them out.

I bought Munich, Walk the Line, and Aeon Flux. I got back home and plopped them into the DVD player, fully expecting them to be quality bootlegs taken from film masters, probably from someone inside the business. What I got were Kramer specials; the damn things were really filmed inside a theater. One of them was filmed while people were actually IN the theater; you could see one get up now and again to go to the snack bar or whatever. I kept hearing a cell phone ringing during Munich; it wasn't until thirty minutes into the show that I realized they didn't have cell phones back in the 70's. It was some dumbass in the theater. Hell, maybe it was the bootlegger's phone. It was loud.

The sound was horrible, too; I had to crank up the TV five times as loud as normal. And the two edges of the wide screen were cut off; I guess the guy didn't have a good zoom lens for his camera. And the color quality was the pits; there isn't enough light coming from the screen to capture full color. The movies looked like they were shot on 8mm film thirty years ago and had been sitting on a closet shelf since then. I only managed to watch one film all the way through.

But I guess I say this not to admit I'm a criminal, or to put a dent in the multi-billion-dollar bootleg DVD industry. I guess this blog is about art.

The film I watched the whole way through was Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic. It was really good. Good acting, good pacing, incredible soundtrack...just an all-around good movie. And then it dawned on me; I was watching a film that was degraded at least 50% in it's visual clarity, probably 75% in the audio, and hell, at least 20% of the screen was lopped off at both ends, and I still liked it. I still got it. The story still shone through...

A long blog to say that you can forget your HDTV, your upconverting, HDMI-ready, 1080i compatable DVD player, and your window-shattering home theater audio system. A good film, like a good book, is all about the story. It's about the characters, the emotions, the drama, the life of it all. It isn't about technology. Of Mice And Men is a great novel whether it's printed in a cheap paperback format or in a leather-bound, gilded special edition. It's the words that come together to make the story.

The paper isn't important.

I guess the people who buy these bootlegs understand this. They're plugged in to the art, not the packaging.

Or maybe they're just a bunch of cheapasses like me.


February 16, 2006

Another strange review.

A few of my books have been released via This is a site that logs books - marked with Bookcrossing logos and stickers - on their site. The premise is that you read the book, go online and review it, then "release it to the wild" in a book store, coffee shop, etc. The next reader then does the same and on and on. Nice concept. Well, Undercover White Trash made it to Germany somehow, and I got my first foreign-language review there today:

Im Freibeuter, am ersten Tisch auf der rechten Seite HINTER der kleinen raumteilenden Wand, auf dem Stuhl am Fenster. Als ich raus gegangen bin, hatte es allerdings schon ein Mädel in der Hand...

Hmmm. Now, German spoken by a hot Aryan chick in a black leather dommie outfit, that's pretty cool. But reading it, well, I don't sprechen ze deutsch. So, I translated it online:

In the Freibeuter, at the first table on the right side BEHIND the small spacedividing wall, on the chair at the window. When I went raus, it had however already a girl in the hand...

Well, it seems like it's more of a description of where he left the book, not a review. Maybe the "already a girl in the hand" will review it instead.

The first German guy to read it said this:

truly funny, witty and entertaining book! It gives - through a rather bizarre adventure - a very interesting insight in the "real" America, the America of the (hard)working - manual working - class. How they live, what makes them tick and keeps them alive. Nicely written and a fast read.

book rating: *******--- (7 out of 10 stars)

Okay, I can understand this. Thank you, Bookman8 of Bookcrossing. I'm looking forward to reading MissN's review if she does one.


February 11, 2006

Not Faded

Got notice today that my screenplay for L. A. Stalker has made it to the quarter-finals in Fade In Magazine's screenplay contest. 486 quarter-finalists out of 2,600+ entrants. Not too bad. I enter these contests not to win, but to have the screenplay seen by people in the business. The quarter-final judges are all people in the business: agents, directors, producers, other WGA writers...people who can get things moving.

Getting to this level proves a couple of things to me as a writer: One, I can write a damn screenplay that meets some kind of quality standard. Since I have no formal training in such, it says to me that my basic knowledge is more than I think it is. Second, it says to me that there is hope for all of us indies. The glass ceiling may exist somewhere for us, but we can rise up a little bit with what we know, right now, right here. So wish me luck in this thing that came out of the blue to cheer me up on this cold Saturday.


February 8, 2006

My Underwear Manifesto - Part 3

The Finale

The Holy Grail has been found. Noah's Ark, reclaimed. The Da Vinci Code, broken.

I found the perfect pair.

Of underwear, that is.

Yes, indeed, I found the perfect garment in which to house The Boys. It's been a long journey, but I finally rooted them out. I was making my usual pass through the men's department at my SuperTarget a month or so ago, not looking for underwear at all. I was on a quest for socks, but that's another blog. I rounded a corner and saw a rack (no pun intended) of these:

Appropriately, they are the brand Champion. They're called a "Sport Trunk" and mine are actually a little longer than these. Of course, with my bad luck in picking panties, I figured these would just be another expensive disappointment. But seeing as I threw away my moth-hole-infested sorry excuse for underwear, and the batch before them is quickly deteriorating into car-washing fodder, I had to give them a try. They weren't cheap, but they weren't expensive, either: $9.98 for two pairs.

I wanted white ones because the dress shirts I wear are rather sheer, and because I lost a lot of weight lately, my pants often ride down past my underwear line. With a white waistband (mine don't have the stripe like this one does) you can't see my unmentionables through my shirt. I know the current trend is for color, and I usually go this route, but white is far more practical. And not being a filthy bastard, I don't worry about skid marks.

Okay, so I get a set of these and put them through their paces. The evaluation period is now complete, and they passed with flying colors. 95% cotton, 5% spandex, they still stretch and cling like a lovesick schoolgirl, but they BREATHE, too. No Amazon-basin humidity buildup here. No diaper rash, no Budreaux's Butt Paste needed. No Grapefruit Effect, either. I actually bought some Champion t-shirts made from the same material, and I'll be getting a few more packs of those on my next sojourn to Target. I already stocked up on the trunks. But as I was looking for a pic of these to put here, I notice on the Champion clothing company web site that these aren't on there...are they going to be discontinued? I'm thinking of getting a couple of dozen more and freezing them in liquid nitrogen for future generations. If anyone knows of a sperm bank that will take my panties for long-term storage, let me know.

Oh, and I bought a dozen pair of Champion socks, too. Just to complete my ensemble.

So there you have it; the conclusion - hopefully - of my underwear manifesto. As soon as I find something else to obsess upon, I'll let you know.


January 22, 2006

Strange but interesting review...

I've had my share of book reviews. Most have been kind. Some were okay, with a little barb thrown in now and again just to pierce my pride and keep me in my place. But I got a review on L.A. Stalker the other day that was just kinda...unusual. I don't think I've ever seen a book review done like this, but leave it to the creative mind of one Vanesa Littlecrow, author of the comic series Polska, Sucka! (and a lot of other cool stuff) to come up with such a way to convey ideas and entertain at the same time:

VAS Littlecrow presents reviews by fictional characters that happen to be fugitives from the Polish authorities. Our illiterate reviewer Zebedeuza Skyler Kubrokovich, a transvestite midget outlaw also known as Skylark, gives you his opinions on things he encounters. His lovely accomplice Roch Edyta Mikova, better known as Rocket, reads to him aloud so he can share his thoughts with the world. Today's review is for David Kilpatrick's L.A. Stalker:

Rocket: You tricked me! This was not a romance novel at all. I thought Bergstom was so nice when I started this book. Why do you make me read these things aloud? The descriptions were so beautiful; totally engaging to the senses and stuff and then...

Skylark: You also thought the Police's "Every Move You Make" was romantic. You need to learn that there is nothing loving about someone having a "Die Rebecca Schaffer" obsession.

Rocket: Oh that poor woman!

Skylark: Forget about that. In the defense of romance, I thought the relationship between Dora and Jerry was very romantic, in a pulpy film noir sort of way -- not entirely unpredictable yet, satisfying. For the most part, I kept wondering, "what's going to happen next." I needed to know. Don't even get me started on the psychology and secret intrigues. This was a great adventure with lots of gray and fuzzy areas. I love reading about humans.

Rocket: Romantic? That sex sceme at the end was creepiest thing ever. Oh my GAWD! I am still having nightmares.

Skylark: Oh come on, that whole sequence made me want to own a beagle. Kilpatrick, really has a good instict for tying loose ends and keeping continuity. He makes a complex spaghetti of a situation seem as simple as a piece of cake, and that is a testament to his craftsmanship.

Rocket: Want a Twinkie? *Offers one to Sylark*

Skylark: I like Twinkies and I like this book.

Rocket: Hustlers from Krakow will like any twinkie for $20, just like the ones in Los Angeles. Hey I actually learned something from reading this novel!

Skylark: *Irritated* Now that's low. Just because I'm a former sex worker...

Rocket: You know It's true, you ho!

Skylark: HO? A ho! I am not a...

Rocket: You just like books with dead people and things that disturb the mind.

Skylark: Let's not focus on the corpses or the visceral, let's focus on David Kilpatrick's rich prose and careful attention to detail.

Rocket: Like the rich and detailed description of some sick bastard sexually mutilating a Barbie doll or some woman getting her skin scraped while falling off her bike.

Skylark: Not specifically... You also can tell that he did his homework. It almost seems like he worked for the police at some point in his life.

Rocket: Rich and detailed descriptions of grossness are not cool, I don't care how well-written they are.

Skylark: He's aiming for gritty realism. Do you really think that sexual predators are pleasant people to be around when they are having fits of madness?

Rocket: No... But how is sweeping for hidden surveillance devices realistic for some regular cop? It seems too cloak and dagger to be real.

Skylark: You're too young to remember the spy fest or the KGB before the wall came down... Oh and don't get me started on the Patriot Act.

Rocket: Creepy! Skylark: How can you not like a book with little jokes like a perfume named "Some Flowers" in French or a line like, " a macho asshole complex"?

Rocket: How do you know French? You can't even read.

Skylark: I f**ked a hot French guy...

Rocket: I don't want to know.

Skylark: It was before we were engaged.

Rocket: I said I don't want to know.

Skylark: But...

Rocket: Skylark, what is wrong with you? I admit that there were some really cute touches, like the gay jokes and the stuff about shopping. Still, why do you insist of inflicting this kind of psychological trauma on me? I don't ever want to read about men confessing things about little girls getting anally raped with lube or doggies getting burnt.

Skylark: Come on, you have to admit that Jerry the Pervert-Hunter is brilliant, and so is his banter with Dora. Kilpatrick's cool dark humor really is what made this book a page turner for me. I wonder if he digs Vacchs? Brains and pulp is always a very good combo.

Rocket: The book still grossed me out. Kind of like CSI, only ickier.

Skylark: Are pederasts and sexual predators not gross?

Rocket: Okay, granted but, it was still icky to read.

Skylark: Perhaps, but it was a damn good read.

Rocket: Not if you were in the mood for a romance novel about Hollywood stars, *glaring at Skylark* you weasely... um... trickster!

Skylark: Sour grapes, baby. Today's review was for David Kilpatrick's L.A. Stalker. We hope this column has been helpful. Thank you for reading.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 10 January 2006 )

Thanks, VAS! At least, thanks, Skylark!


January 9, 2006

Squirrel Tales

At the request of Jerry, I'll go ahead and relate my squirrel tale to you, as mentioned in my last blog. Jerry lives down the street from my dad. He comes by nightly to walk his dog Rambo (a shi-tzu), who thinks my dad is the best thing since sliced bread. Now, my dad knows about this blog but doesn't read it. You see, my dad is not online. He thinks that WalMart and computers are the 2nd and 3rd Horsemen of the Apocalypse, respectively. As time goes on, the more I realize he is correct. Jerry knows about my dad, and being a decent guy, he either prints out my blogs or lets my dad read them on his web-enabled PDA phone thing.

So on to my squirrel story. Back when I was in college, I had a friend named Phil who owned about ten acres on the Brazos River in Palo Pinto County, about 75 miles or so from here. We'd go out there sometimes, camping or fishing or plinking or other boy stuff. To get to the land, you traveled down a dirt road to the locked gate. On the lot next to this gate was a single-wide trailer surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. This was Hank's place. I can't remember his real name, so I'll call him "Hank" because it kind of fits. Anyway, Hank was a fur trapper by profession. He was about 60, I'd guess. A big guy with a leathered face and big, gnarly hands. The kind of hands one gets from working outside with them for a lifetime.

Hank wasn't only a fur trapper. He was also a fisherman. He had a particular dislike, or an affinity for, catfish. I could tell this by the dozens of catfish skulls that festooned his fence and trailer. Yes, like Captain Quint from Jaws mounted his shark jaws, Hank mounted his catfish heads for the world to see. Some were huge; I think his record catfish was nearly a hundred pounds. I saw a photo of it; it was nearly as big as he was.

Hank traveled the property on a three-wheel ATV with a Ruger 10/44 .44 magnum automatic rifle slung on the handlebars. On his hip was a Ruger Blackhawk .44 magnum single action old-west style revolver. On the other hip was a skinning knife. He knew how to use all three. He made the rounds on his animal traps a few times a day, and checked his trotlines in the early morning. The wilderness was his office; to us, it was just a weekend getaway. He couldn't understand how a couple of college boys could shoot up a thousand-round brick of .22 rounds and not kill a damn thing. He told us a story once about his father sending him off in the morning with a .22 rifle with no sights and a box of 50 shells, telling him that he'd better come home with 50 squirrels. If Hank didn't, his father would beat him within an inch of his life. He was 8 years old.

So when Hank invited Phil and I into his humble home for some lunch, we thought we'd better accept. Besides, he was a friendly enough guy who kept a good watch over Phil's property. We went into the trailer and sat down at his kitchen table.

"You boys hungry?" he asked.

I looked at Phil; it was about eleven in the morning and we had hit the McDonald's on the way. He wasn't hungry, either. I looked at the foot-wide catfish skull staring down at me from above the kitchen window.

"Starved," I said. Phil nodded.

I heard the rattling of dishes behind me as Hank prepped our lunch. The smell of barbeque filled the trailer. A little brisket wouldn't be too bad.

Hank's arm reached around and plunked a plate down in front of me. Phil's eyes grew wide. On my plate was a thing. An unrecognizable thing. Four little legs jutted up from it. I thought it was some wierd kind of chicken.

"That's the best squirrel you ever et, boys," Hank proclaimed as he put another rodent under Phil's nose. "Been smokin' him all mornin'."

Hank went back to the stove while Phil and me stared at the delicacy laying before us. Phil was turning a little green. Hank came back to the table and put three Lone Star longnecks down. I looked over at the pistol on his belt as he sat down.

"I thought you said you boys was hungry."

In my mind, I was trying to figure out if rabies, mites and worms would be killed by six hours in a Montgomery Ward smoker. Phil pulled off a leg and took a nibble. I did likewise. I'd like to say that I was pleasantly surprised; squirrel meat was the undiscovered filet mignon of the rodent world. It wasn't. It was awful. The one good thing about it was that it had been horribly overcooked. Burned, in fact. The chances of getting a parasitic infection was seriously diminished.

"You boys have a beer," Hank said as he took a swig. I grabbed that longneck and took a long, long draw. Alcohol would kill the bugs that survived the heat. Hank proceeded to tell us his secret of squirrel smoking. It involved soy sauce and Mrs. Dash somehow, but I really wasn't paying attention.

Four beers later, I was done with my squirrel. Little squirrel ribs and leg bones lay on my plate like some kind of voodoo incantation.

"You boys want another one? Got a whole bunch of 'em out there on the smoker."

Phil and I respectfully declined, and managed to weasel our way out to the car. We said goodbye to Hank and drove on down the road to Phil's place. As soon as we were out of sight, Phil whipped out the bottle of Scope he kept in the console, and we each took a big swig and spit it out the window. We then split a box of Pop Tarts when we got to the camp site, hoping they would wash the gritty, smoky taste from our mouths.

So that's my squirrel story. I've often wondered whatever happened to old Hank. Did one of those 80-pound catfish do him in one morning while he was out setting his trotlines, swallowing him up like the shark did to Captain Quint? Or is he still out there on the banks of the Brazos, trapping his 'coons and beheading his catfish? Either way, I'm glad about one thing:

At least possum wasn't on his menu that day.


January 3, 2006

Rat Attack!

Rodentia and I go back a long way. Rats. Mice. Vermin.

I guess I was reminded of this the other night when I heard one of the little bastards running around in my attic. At least, I think it was a rat. Squirrels usually rummage around during the day and sleep at night. You see, I know this because me and squirrels go back a long way, too. But that's another story. So I hear this varmint and feel I must destroy it. It's him or me.

This part of the country has been overrun with an infestation of what are commonly called "roof rats." These are fairly large rats with really long tails. They call them roof rats because their nature is to stay up high. They rarely come to ground, choosing to inhabit attics and garages and stomp around like a herd of buffalo and drive us primates crazy. I'm assuming that is what is up there. Their only enemy besides us are owls, and since we've wiped out just about all of those, the rats have proliferated. But I know my enemy well.

When I was in eighth grade, we were all taken out of our regular classes and herded into a big media room, where two or three other classes joined us. At first, I thought we were going to see one of those hygiene films, but I realized this wasn't the case because the girls and boys weren't being split up. So, we crammed onto the floor of this big room while some guys I didn't recognize fiddled with a 16mm movie projector. After the usual warnings from the principal about being quiet and such, the film began. Emblazoned across the roll-up movie screen was a title that brought joy to my 12-year-old heart:


Very cool; a horror flick in the middle of school. Must be some kind of modern teaching technique. The film was a documentary about rattus rattus, the lowly house rat. It was supplemented by a lecture from a guy from the city health department.

For the next 45 minutes, our little brains were filled with everything we ever wanted to know about the deadly rat plague. Rats carried the Black Death. Rats were the enemy. Rats will overrun the earth.

The film showed some rat scientists (yes, I'm serious) conducting various experiments on rats in a huge lab. They had placed a few dozen rats inside of a fake wall and filmed them while they conducted various trials on them. First, they showed how small a hole a rat can squeeze through to get out: 1/4 inch. You see, their skulls are flexible and they can flatten them out. Then the rat scientists filled in the holes. We watched the rats make new holes by chewing through the wall. Then in a weird display of Mengele-esque barbarity, the scientists sealed the wall with steel, one of the only materials a rat can't chew through. Over the next few days, the rats began to starve. The suddenly one day - the event captured on film - the rats turned from nut-grubbing scavengers to a pack of crazed killers. They proceeded to attack one another in a feeding frenzy of abject violence. The scientists even got close-ups of the winners of the fracas ripping out the entrails of their brethren. Very cool.

To this day, I don't know how this program fit into my junior high curriculum, but the things I learned are still etched in my brain:

  • Rat traps should be baited with peanut butter, not cheese. Rodents don't really like cheese.
  • Rats don't like to run in the open; they prefer to stay by a wall. A neat trick is to turn a 2 x 4 on its side and leave a little channel between it and the wall. A channel as wide as a rat trap. You tape a piece of cardboard on the trigger and dead rattus.
  • Rats have greasy, dirty fur. They leave a smudge mark on walls where they walk. Of course, I knew this from my nights of shooting nutria rats on the canals by my house. You could smell those greasy varmints twenty yards away. Yes, ladies, nutria are RATS. Those nice coats at Neiman Marcus are made out of rat fur.

So now I have this rat. In my attic. Don't know quite what to do about it. Of course, I could put some poison out. The problem with this is that the rats often die inside the wall or in the attic. The poison is supposed to make them thirsty so they'll go outside seeking water, but I haven't found that to be true. And contrary to what some experts say, the dead ones don't just stink for a week or two. They stink for a long damn time. Traps? Well, I have some friendly possums and raccoons that kind of like to hang around my house, and I don't want one of those to get into one. The best option is to go up in the attic with a .22 and a night scope, but since I don't want to sit in a dark attic all night and I don't have a .22 or a night scope, well this just isn't an option. Besides, the part of the attic my rat is in isn't big enough to get into. And I'd have to move my wife's Emelda Marcus shoe collection out of the way to get to the attic access hole, which is in her closet. That could take years.

I'll keep ya posted on what I decide to do. And you PETA folks: I don't want to hear any of your bullshit. If you want, you can give me a live trap of some sort and I'll give him to you when I'm done. But I'm not buying one.

I have more rat stories, but I'm assuming you're really bored with this one or really grossed out, so I'll stop. I even have a few squirrel stories (I ate one was barbequed) but I'll save that for another time.

I hear my little friend running around up there.




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