Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting a Jump on Christmas

Every year the decorations go up earlier. It used to be the stores and my neighbors would wait until after Thanksgiving. But now, they're up sometime soon after Halloween. And don't you love the decorations that stay up till April. Something strange is going on inside THOSE houses. The eggnog never stops flowing, I reckon.

In that spirit, I'm presenting the Miami view: (that's the cast of CSI Miami, by the way)

An old fart's view of the approaching holiday season:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sliced Cactus?

There's lots of remedies.

This one is tried and true: Bathroom Yoga Position: The Sick as Dog Pose

This guy has a nice list.

Or you might try this classic method. A few household items would do.

Then there's the Eastern Way:

A little study might be a good idea before next Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Got to Check This Out

My friend, Michael Stern, now has his website up and running, and there are some absolutely wonderful photographs there. Florida wildlife shots, and birds and nature shots. Stuff for sale. Check it out here.

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, at least some guys got their bonus.

(click photo to see all its gluttonous detail)

Happy Turkey Day from those of us at Blog Central.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unpardonable Turkey

On this turkey's watch the US has lost spectacular quantities of wealth. So have I. So probably have you. Part of the problem was that there was "no watch."

Yet the bailouts and pardons are being handed out left and right. The "midnight rules" are being printed up to leave the gates wide open for even more rapacious activity. One more thing Obama's people will have to clean up.

Remember how people howled when the Clintons supposedly clipped a few items from the White House on their way out. Compare that to what this gang of Mongols has done. They stripped the treasury.

And either they watched it happen and approved, or they were so totally incompetent that they didn't know the looting was going on all around them.

So this holiday season, I'm thankful I can still afford a tankful.
I'm thankful it's almost January 2009.

I only wish I'd kept that printing press
my parents gave me as a child.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Vant Another Drink

You've read the book, seen the movie. Now for the real bloodsucking.

Is this the Twilight of Capitalism? In eight short years (well it seemed very long to some of us) we've gone from 'free and unregulated markets know best' to quasi-socialism: state sponsored banks and insurance companies and probably soon, auto companies and, well, who knows what next? Authors? Yeah!

Can I have my hundred mil now, please.

And the fallout of the bailout is now officially hitting the book biz.

And the magazine biz.

And of course kiss your newspaper good-bye. But that's another story.

Bad Sex

Here's a wonderfully British award which was established by Auberon Waugh to "gently dissuade" authors from including "unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels".

Congratulations, Rachel.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Little Self-Promotion

I came across this short movie lately. The guy, who I don't know, says some nice things about Magic City, then he gets to his real point.

Destructive to the Last

The lame duck is quacking away.

Start inflating the life rafts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A little Poetry

Here's my friend Campbell McGrath (and my colleague at FIU) talking about some cool stuff:

Friday, November 14, 2008


Calliope was one of those goddesses I never really understood. In paintings she's always seen with a writing tablet in her hand, or a roll of paper or a book. Was she a writer? Her name means "beautiful voiced" and her son was Orpheus, who was able to charm birds, fishes and wild beasts, and even make the trees and rocks dance.

I've always thought of Orpheus as the ultimate poet/writer, one of those silver-tongued guys who could use eloquence and lyricism to cause a rapturous response in listeners. When I was young and starting out as a writer I believed this was the writer's ultimate job. To transport readers to a higher plane.

I guess my goals these days are less lofty. Simply entertaining a reader seems a pretty noble and challenging enterprise. Just winning a reader away from all the other entertainment choices available is a major accomplishment.

But still, somewhere back in the hallways of memory, Orpheus still lurks. I still like to think of great writing as a kind of hypnotism. A trance that the best writers can invoke, that will transport readers to places and emotional planes that otherwise would be beyond their experience. Some small part of me still wants to charm the birds down out of the trees.

I was thinking of this because of the calliope I saw (and recorded below) at Fairchild Gardens last weekend. The music itself is more goofy than inspirational. Though I couldn't help thinking of how metaphorically interesting it is. A mechanical device that "makes music." Not unlike the contrived, artifice of a novel that sometimes, with luck, can melt our hearts.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Writers Hanging Out

Here's a little more of the recent FIU writers conference held at the Marriott on Hutchinson Island. This is a short scene around the tiki bar beside the pool. Most of the people in this video are professors at FIU. All are writers. All seem to be drinking. Writers drinking? How odd.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stella in the TV Room

Here's a typical weekend afternoon. I'm switching between a football game and a rodeo. The dogs wander in to the TV room and Stella decides that bucking bulls are not allowed in her house.

She's the only one of the three who watch TV and react to it. The other day when I mentioned this to our vet, she said that this indicated that Stella was smarter than the other two.

I don't know how smart a dog is who thinks there's a bucking bull in the room with her. I'd be interested to hear from other dog (or cat?) owners about TV habits.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What Airport Security Sees

An Empty Life

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

A Snippet of the Book Life

At the FIU Hutchinson Island Writers Conference, three luminaries, after too much wine and too little self-control, gather in the street of downtown Stuart. That's Peter Meinke, the poet and short story writer, Les Standiford, the novelist and author of several narrative biographies, and his wife Kimberly who is good at everything she does.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Art by Liza Leigh Colmes

I came across this wonderful piece of artwork on my friend Geoff Colmes' website (which you can find here). It's done by his daughter and it expresses something wonderfully viceral and urpy about the modern world as seen through the eyes of a youngster. Anything can be beautiful. Anything can be turned into art. And check out that spew projecting from the lower right hand corner. Like incoming tide clashing with outgoing.

(click to enlarge)

Art by Liza Leigh Colmes

Any art critics out there tempted to interpret this?


Okay, so he's not Superman. But it will sure be wonderful to have a guy at the helm who can speak in compound, complex sentences and who is an author, a very good author. Check out what writers think about the guy.

And a man who is also an inspirational figure, maybe even "transformational," as Colin Powell called him.

To undo what W. and his band of robber barons and government haters have done in the last eight years will take superhuman powers.

Imagine a kid in America who for the first time in that kid's life, hears the President of his country speak intelligently and articulately about a wide range of subjects. A man who doesn't mock intellectuals or the educated, but sets a higher standard for everyone. Wow, what a minty breath of spring that will be.

For only the second time in my life I feel there's a guy in the White House who can inspire Americans to be the leading force for good in the world. Not through our military power, though I have no doubt he'll be able to handle that role, but through the power of our ideas and our creativity and our industry and our Yankee ingenuity.

Here's a snippet from Reagan's First Inaugural Address that seems appropriate:

"The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom."

Put that alongside FDR, in his second inaugural address: “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

Well, some of us know that. But there are still some who think that totally unregulated markets operate most efficiently. And that government has no real purpose. And that "let them eat cake" isn't such a bad idea.

Back to Reagan's inaugural. The following is a famous passage from that speech that many conservatives hold as a declaration of their sacred position:

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else."

In my view government becomes the problem when government hates the very idea of governing, as we've seen in the last eight years. (Remember Jeb Bush's inaugural in which he rhapsodized about some wonderful future day when all those state office buildings would be empty--ie. everything on the state level was fully privatized.)

Bush's White House twisted Reagan's words into an argument against effective and enlightened governing. A White House that distrusted government, that wanted to dismantle or privatize or undermine most of the good programs previous adminstrations had created. The EPA, for one. FEMA for another. If you don't believe in the mission of an agency, it gives you carte blanche to fill it with political hacks and cronies instead of professionals, and to rewrite regulations so you effectively gut the power of the agency to (for instance) keep our air clean, our water pure and our industries from unchecked environmental havoc.

As Reagan's speechwriter suggested, we can't rely on people in Washington to solve all our problems; we've got to learn to govern ourselves. (ie. "fend for yourself") Reagan was making the case for doing away with what he considered the "welfare state" and a safety net for the poor. A good old fashioned American idea of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." Clinton moved that agenda ahead, dropping millions from the welfare rolls, and Bush did even more. So in the last eight years six million new citizens are now in povery.

Is that because they didn't govern themselves or work hard? In some cases, I suppose so. But it's also because there was one of the greatest "redistributions of wealth" in modern history. Bush's tax cuts moved wealth away from the bottom 80 percent and created an added comfort zone for the top tier.

The train wreck in the economy that we're experiencing now, and we'll be experiencing for years, I'm afraid, is an expression of that trickle down philosophy of wealth creation. Deregulate, trust the markets, give the most to the wealthy, and let others fend for themselves. It's a train wreck that in my most cynical moments I believe was entirely planned, or at least condoned. What better way to demonstrate that government is not the answer but the problem, than to cause the government to fail.

What's different about Obama is that he might actually inspire people to put their faith in government to act responsibly again, and for a few to sacrfice so that many can survive without holding three jobs. That's not socialism, my friends. That's America.

One can dream.

"I ask you to believe - not just in my ability to bring about change, but in yours. I know this change is possible…because in this campaign, I have had the privilege to witness what is best in America. I've seen it in lines of voters that stretched around schools and churches; in the young people who cast their ballot for the first time, and those not so young folks who got involved again after a very long time. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see their friends lose their jobs; in the neighbors who take a stranger in when the floodwaters rise; in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb. I've seen it in the faces of the men and women I've met at countless rallies and town halls across the country, men and women who speak of their struggles but also of their hopes and dreams."

Barack Obama, President elect

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dewey Beats Truman

Stranger things have happened.

A Great Combo

One of my favorite actors reads that old high school favorite.