Monday, March 31, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 3/31/14


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville #18


Saturday, March 29, 2014

From Bridgegate to Bridgetgate

"My million dollar lawyers said I was innocent because... hormones! Now someone make me a sammich!"
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

     If the mainstream media was worth the biomechanical electricity required to hit a button on a remote control, it would've long ago pointed out the screamingly obvious fact that a sitting chief executive does not have the final say over his guilt or innocence in a scandal by hiring a million dollar-a-pop white shoe law firm. That's up to legislative ethics committees and, if necessary, courts of law.
     Or, as NBC's own website says,
Critics have pointed out Christie's close ties to the chief of the law firm and said that the report lacks crucial testimony from those most deeply involved with the lane closures, including Kelly, Stepien, former Port Authority staffer David Wildstein and Port Authority Chairman David Sampson.
     Yes, indeed. Just as the FBI was blocked from interviewing potential crucial witnesses (that would be the bin Laden family) in the first days after 9/11, the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher either blocked themselves or were instructed to never interview exactly the very principles involved in the Bridgegate scandal that closed all but one lane on the GWB starting on the first day of school last year. The most conspicuous absence of depositions was that of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former Deputy Chief of Staff.
     And yet, despite David Wildstein's charge that Christie knew about the lane closures before, during and immediately afterwards, this law firm that enjoys very cozy ties with Christie announced with all the credibility of the 9/11 and Warren Commissions that Christie's innocence in the matter "rings true."
     Unfortunately and amazingly, NBC's Carrie Dann, who wrote the article,  either elected to ignore and was blithely insensible to the rampant misogyny of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's whitewash job. Essentially, it almost completely chokes off accountability at Bridget Kelly herself and faults to a far lesser extent Wildstein himself, the guy who actually ordered the green lights turned off at all but one lane on the GWB leading from Fort Lee.
     As John Amato at Crooks and Liars correctly points out,
They show no proof of their misogynist allegations, but they include them anyway, Why is that you ask? Because this is not a real internal review report, but a document that's sole purpose is to exonerate Chris Christie. Why they thought going gonzo on Bridget Kelly was a good idea I have no clue. Maybe they believe like Bryan Fisher, that women are an inferior species and make a handy scapegoat.
     Which isn't to say we should have a pity party for Kelly, plainly a partisan political operative with a little bit of power and thought absolutely nothing whatsoever of inconveniencing countless thousands of motorists for four days straight in the interests of petty political revenge inspired by a desire to curry political favor from a man she knew would be pleased by this. And the "probe", plainly written entirely by men, shamelessly makes repeated references to Kelly's emotional instability, a terminated relationship and basically coming thisclose to mentioning the word "hormones."
     Yet, at the very least, the report still reveals Christie as a boob who hadn't the slightest idea of what his senior staffers were doing under his nose and during a re-election campaign. At the very worst, it shows Christie as every bit the Jersey leg breaker he is by commissioning an internal probe costing the New Jersey taxpayers, at minimum, $1,000,000 to take down one woman who was but one member in a conspiracy designed solely to exact revenge on a Democratic mayor who withheld his endorsement of Christie during his bid for re-election. And it shows he is all too willing to use the tried-and-true Republican tactic of misogyny to justify his actions after the fact.
     The very fact that Christie saw no problem billing the New Jersey Treasury $1,000,000 or more to have a law firm whose top dog is buddies with Christie in the interests of distancing himself from a scandal that just won't go away and to save his sinking 2016 presidential aspirations speaks volumes. The very phrase "internal probe" has about as much credibility as a crocodile in a camouflage suit.
     And imagine the furor that would've arisen if it had come out that one of President Obama's Deputy Chiefs of Staff had ordered a lane closure of a major bridge because its Republican mayor withheld his endorsement of Mr. Obama's own re-election bid in 2012? John Boehner and Darrell Issa would have burns and callouses on their hands from the lynching ropes they'd be endlessly gripping.
     Considering Christie's countless evils against the people of New Jersey, the Department of Education and a growing line of victims littering the wayside of Christie's potholed road to Pennsylvania Avenue, it's amazing that it took this long for one of those scandals to finally stick to his rotund body. And the more Christie tries to distance himself from this scandal, the more he lambastes former aides and school chums, the pettier and smaller he looks and the more he resembles the vindictive Chief Executive whom David Wildstein said knew about the lane closures and did nothing to mitigate them.
     Indeed, for someone who's obviously adept at lane closures in the interests of petty political revenge, Chris Christie knows precious little about closure itself.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wood and Silverware? Uh, Pass.

     Remember this heartbreaking picture of Zen-like loneliness, this empty chair without even the company of Clint Eastwood yelling at it? I sure do. That was taken way back in April 2009 when I moved into my present apartment. That was during that mercifully brief period of time when I lived alone, before Popeye and Mrs. JP moved in, back when I could still leave the toilet seat up 24/7, which at the time was the highlight of my life and the best part of being a single 50 year-old guy (Well, that and endlessly standing in front of the fridge in my skivvies in the early part of that first summer). Now, the chair has long since been buried with all sorts of ephemera (How we artistes call "junk" and "clutter") and my living room now looks like a tornado-tossed shrine to CDs and cat toys.
     Well, I was driving to the post office today and when I looked at my cell phone, I noted the date and realized something. I don't often forget dates and anniversaries and maybe this one was a tender mercy. But I suddenly became aware that I moved into this apartment five years ago yesterday. The only thing in my life that was better than now is that I had a job and was about to secure a second one. Then, one month later to the day, I showed up for work and was told to come into the boss's office before I had a chance to punch in.
     By June that year, I'd lost even the parttime gig on Sundays and it's been a struggle since.
     Despite the generosity of some people that began showing itself a month ago today, we were put way behind the eight ball thanks to the state Department of Revenue levying my bank accounts and essentially extorting a month's rent from us in back taxes, fees, penalties and whatever else they could think of for shits and giggles. Add to that car woes, additional biennial expenses such as registration renewal, the quinquennial license renewal, the annual excise taxes and unforseen expenses has not made this winter a very happy one.
     Well, spring is here (In Massachusetts, that's when the icicles turn green and the penguins go north until late fall) and MLB Opening Day on March 31st is looking a helluva lot more exciting than it usually is in Pottersville and not necessarily in a good way. It's going to be a struggle meeting our bills, starting with the rent and the still-high gas bills aren't making life any easier. Add to that the fact I'm going to have to buy another brand new battery on account of AAA dicking me over and refusing to replace for free the shitty one they installed December 2012.
     So to whoever has any spare cash, please consider making a Paypal donation because things are looking really dicey. I'm sorry I haven't been posting much of late and justifying any kindness but Tatterdemalion's been kicking my ass what with my struggles with my publishers at Create Space, sending out literally hundreds of proposals to agents and real publishers plus the ongoing revision process. I'm really making a concerted effort to remain relevant and up-to-date here but my plate only holds so much.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The News at a Furtive Glance

     From the, "You Gotta be Fucking With My Head. No, Seriously, Are You?" files, Your guy, Barack Obama, got up on his hind legs and actually defended our decision to invade and occupy Iraq for almost a decade. Then he had the chutzpah to say that, while he was supposedly against it, at least we sought consensus from the international community. That would be the UN's Resolution 1440 that forbade the US invasion of a sovereign nation, Colin Powell's little cartoon show before the Security Council and the violation of virtually every international law on the books. Oh, and, according to our beloved Chancellor, we didn't grab Iraq's resources for our own gain, despite having taken a nationalized oil industry and forced Iraq to privatize it and hand it over to the same five Anglo-American oil companies Saddam had kicked out when he'd nationalized the oil industry in 1973.
     So why did Obama defend our clearly illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq? Because the Russian government is criticizing us for our hypocritical criticism of their invasion of the Ukraine, which is none of our business.
     Which has absolutely nothing whatsoever do with the oil pipelines of the Caspian Sea, I'm sure. Seig Heil, motherfuckers. We still have almost another three years left of this fascist asshole.

     Why are some of the best, brightest and, yes, youngest banksters taking the short and fast way to the pavement through their office and apartment windows? Two weeks ago yesterday, 28 year-old Kenneth Bellando did the Wile E. Coyote thing just two months after taking a new job at Levy Capital and jumped into the concrete canyons of the Big City. His suicide marks the 12th so far this year of banksters who've committed suicide. And we're not even out of March.
     Bonus factoid:  Bellando's big brother John's emails were introduced as evidence in the Fail Whale scandal involving JP Morgan Chase, Obama's favorite bank run by his favorite bankster Jamie Dimon. Oh, did I mention that young Kenneth also worked for JP Morgan? Yeah. Yeah.
     Oh, and add to the rising body count the disappearance of a Wall Street journalist who was in the middle of an OPEC investigation, a guy who suddenly got up and left without his liver transplant medication that he needs daily to stay alive.

     The Supreme Court recently announced it was ready to hear oral arguments on both sides of something that shouldn't even be an issue: A woman's right to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, the evangelical lunatics at Hobby Lobby as well as the owners of almost a dozen other companies in the lawsuit seem to think religious freedom depends upon suppressing other peoples' right to free birth control coverage. At the heart of this ridiculous controversy is the inexplicably-held belief that corporation are people, which, once more with feeling, was NEVER decided by the Supreme Court in the 19th, 20th or or any other century. That lie was inserted into a SCOTUS ruling by a clerk who also happened to be a railroad executive.

     Finally, sometimes it really sucks being Chris Hayes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Good Advice to Bad Agents

     If you're a serious writer like me, then you've already been to countless literary agent websites. And if you've been to more than two or three, you'll click the backspace button with the growing uneasy feeling that, while they don't look alike, they all begin to sound alike.
     British literary agents, as is typical of the British, tend to be more civil and polite in their submissions pages. However, their American analogs across the pond tend to be insufferably arch, arrogant and sound as if they're ready to reject your next brilliant opus completely out of hand just for your using the wrong font or the wrong value (Not really an exaggeration, as some are so exacting in their specifications that they're impossible to meet).
     After they go on and on about their personal histories ("It all started in a little brownstone in Manhattan's Upper West Side in 1956..."), which no author really gives a flying fuck about, they then start in on what they expect, how selective they are (Like any literary agent is going to brag about representing pulp fiction and subpar work?). They come off as sounding like that Marine recruiter who'd spoken first at a banquet (because he thought speaking first instead of last was a place of honor on the roster, without realizing the audience tends to remember the last guy the most). During his speech, according to my father, the Air Force's representative, the Marine came out and said, "You think you're good enough for the Marine Corps? Well, I don't think you are!"
     This is exactly what literary agents come across as sounding like. If they haven't already slammed their gilded doors in our faces and pulled up the drawbridge to the unwashed masses of the unrepresented, they always seem thatclose to saying outright, "So, you think you're good enough to approach this agency? Impress me, peasant. But I wouldn't, if I were you because you need me a fuck of a lot more than I need you." Which they actually believe with all their black little hearts.
     As you read their submission guidelines, you can practically hear the arrogant sniffing and snuffling between the lines as they archly try to convince you who's really in charge (IOW, the guy making just 15%).
     Essentially, like Republicans, they never admit to wrongdoing or to being at fault for anything. Their decisions are inviolate, unimpeachable, beyond any appeals process short of appealing to another brain-dead agent within the same agency. That doesn't mean, however, they're infallible. Far from it.
     I've sent out what must be, by now, close to 250 queries ranging from just cover letters to proposals consisting of a synopsis and the first 50 pages. Some agencies have been hit as many as three times in rapid succession but I've mainly restricted myself, after countless hours of research into hundreds of agencies in four different countries on two different continents. That means well over 200 agencies are currently mulling Tatterdemalion.
     And after all this research, and the rude, ignorant rejections that have begun trickling in, sometimes as many as six a day, I've made a mental note of all the things I've seen and read that I don't like.
     Take today, for instance: I got a form rejection from some twit who started off the boilerplate with, "Dear Crawford..." I fired off a response that said, ver batim, "Dear Grimm, Next time, try using a prefix so you don't come off as looking more jaded and arrogant than you already are. Crawford." If an agent cannot even hide their contempt for you long enough to add the prefix "Mr." before sending out a form rejection, then that is an agent you plainly don't want or need in your life.
     I've had agents tell me that they no longer accept queries (such as another today) when the tracking website that serves in lieu of an actual website said they were still taking submissions or that they didn't represent my genre. If you change your guidelines and focus, then update your website or advise the tracking websites listing you on them. We're not fucking mind readers.
     The rejections that make me the craziest are the four word ones like the one I got yesterday that curtly say, "Sorry, not for us." This, after getting a personalized query letter free of all spelling, grammatical and punctuational errors and providing exactly the amount of sample material, if any, they request. Their fallback response is, "We get so many submissions a week, whine, whine". To which my answer is, "Hire some more unpaid interns. You don't get to whine about how busy you are when you hung out your own agent shingle then get to cherry-pick who gets an actual response and who gets an irritated, disinterested grunt."
     Another is website design. Without naming specific examples (although I could), I came across one website by a powerful literary agent whose entire site was, no shit, about 90% white space, consisting almost entirely of two useless pictures of NYC and a clip art of a pencil that looked as if it was about to impale you in the eye. And I cannot even tell you how many websites I've been to where the agents or web designers thought it would be a corking good idea to superimpose pale grey text over a white background.
     If you want people to adhere to guidelines for the common good, then provide some fucking submission guidelines. I've been to sites that gave no agents' names whatsoever, despite the fact that getting "Dear Agent" letters drives agents as crazy as "Dear Author" letters make us. I shouldn't need to go to another site just to find a contact name and concrete submission guidelines.
     Agents also archly tell you both on their websites and in their automated response emails (if they use them) that if they "don't get back to you within 2-12 weeks, then that means we didn't even think enough of you and your dreams to tell you to eat shit and die."
     Again: You are the hired help. How dare you treat prospective clients in such a rude fashion? How do you think it would go over if an author was inundated with dozens of offers and chose to ignore all but one? Put yourself in our place, if you can think for a nanosecond outside your solipsistic sociopathy.
     One major way in which American lit agents differ from their colleagues across the pond is that they still seem blissfully unaware that anti-virus software exists. Although a very few agents are timidly sticking up their haze snouts and announcing they're now taking email attachments, the majority of US agents still insist that all material be pasted in the body of the email. This is a bad idea as, #1, shitty email clients like Yahoo tend to truncate long emails containing 30-50 pages of sample chapters and, #2, emails that long can easily get strained out in their spam or bozo filters. But American literary agents still suspect all writers are vindictive cyber-terrorists who are out to give them viruses. That's how much they loathe and distrust us.
     UK literary agents are more savvy and many of them actually insist on email attachments which almost universally ask for what is now a standard first three chapters or 50 pages, so they can make an informed decision. US agents are so arrogant in their own expertise and abilities to smell a rat or a winner a growing number insist on just a query letter no more than a couple of paragraphs. If you can't hook them without them reading a single word of your outline let alone your book, then the fault rests with you. Or so they'll have you think.
     Or, as "Dear Crawford" Katie Grimm said, "The concept didn't grab me." Well, if the concept of Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, Arthur Conan-Doyle and Sigmund Freud chasing Jack the Ripper doesn't grab you then you seriously need to get the fuck out of the business.
     Another pet peeve of mine is one that spans the Atlantic. More and more literary agents, like children begging to open their presents on Christmas Eve, want to know how the story turns out without making the slightest effort to read it. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. You want to know how the book ends? Read it. Make the time. A literary agent's job is to read books. Stop cutting corners and making ignorant snap decisions based on little to nothing. A generation ago, publishers decided they didn't feel like reading manuscripts in the slush pile either, and look how marvelously that's worked out for the American publishing trade < /sarcasm>. (Hint: Agents are supposed to pick up where editors left off 30-35 years ago.)
     More and more, we're hearing editors, agents and authors alike all saying in a bad chorus that "You need an agent these days to get a publishing contract and this is why..." but my research of late has revealed to me a growing number of agents both here and abroad that refuse to read anything unless it's sent through invitation or a referral.
     If there's a more self-interested, useless piece of shit on God's Green earth outside of the Beltway that isn't a literary agent, it's a published author. Authors, by and large, are themselves so arch and arrogant they'll actually unfollow you on Twitter and elsewhere for even daring to ask if they could put in a good word or a referral to their agent. They will never read your work to see if you're the real deal because they're too busy pimping or writing their own books.
     And many authors simply don't have the money to go to the annual Frankfurt Book Fair or to any other (involving air fare, accommodations, meals, gratuities, registration fees, etc) so there goes the myth of working by invitation. So when Sterling Lord Our God Literistic (Yes, they actually coined the word "literistic") says they don't accept unsolicited submissions, take it from me: They literally looked down their nose on you and sniffed as they did so.
     Essentially, the zeitgeist tells us we need an agent before getting a publishing contract although more and more agencies are telling us we can't get their services without a publishing history. Which means unless you began your career back when MC Hammer was making a fool of himself in his parachute pants, you stand no chance of getting officially recognized. The trends in self-publishing today are still finding ways to keep literary agents between the hashmarks no matter how the technology develops.
     But, as the American consumer was fed up with corporations to the point of starting Occupy Wall Street in virtually every major city in virtually every state, eventually writers will tire of being treated like second-class citizens by disinterested scum who are deluded enough to think the person making 15% is actually the one in charge. Eventually, we'll rebel against these parasites and, hopefully, during my lifetime literary agents will become as irrelevant as buggy whips and saddle soap.
     Until then, heed these words and be thou warned.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Ten Facts of the MH370 Air Disaster

     The Malaysian government recently confirmed for the media that MH370, the flight bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board. Despite the Malaysian government not providing a single shred of solid evidence to prove the plane had crashed anywhere and the fact that Chinese officials barred grieving and skeptical relatives from speaking to the press, the American mainstream media is reporting these unsupported claims as incontrovertible fact, thereby ending wild and reckless speculation on the part of CNN and Fox News. What are the other facts that have come to light since the Malaysian government's revelation?

  • 10) Galactic Federation suing CNN and Fox for reckless allegations of their involvement with missing aircraft.
  • 9) J.J. Abrams now kicking himself for making Lost a decade too soon.
  • 8) Former President George W. Bush perilously close to interrupting painting career to name Henry Kissinger head of fact-finding commission.
  • 7) Chairman Darrel Issa of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee was ready to launch investigation tying Air Force One to downed aircraft.
  • 6) Mitt "Mothman" Romney now claims his clairvoyance could have anticipated disaster.
  • 5) Dick Cheney did it.
  • 4) Green pants and brown shoes hottest fashion trends for fictional Muslim hijackers.
  • 3) David Copperfield illusion gone horribly, horribly wrong.
  • 2) Rep. Steve King: "Mexican migrant workers were somehow behind this. You know they were."
  • 1) Wolf Blitzer's next theory would have somehow involved Samuel L. Jackson and snakes on the plane.
  • What Have We Learned in a Century?


    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

    That sometimes even history's most hideous lessons are worth forgetting.

    Today is the 100th 103rd Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the worst industrial accident in New York history and one that claimed the lives of 146 men, women and children.

    In lieu of private unions, this is what the workers at Triangle Shirtwaist had to endure:

  • Many of the workers made under $2 a day, a day often being 12 hours or longer.

  • Out of those wages, the employees had to pay the owners for the needles, thread and electricity they needed to do their jobs.

  • All but one exit was locked to deter theft, the primary reason why almost a third of the employees lost their lives.

  • Missing even a day of work or being caught talking to the person next to them meant immediate termination. Work weeks were commonly 6 or even 7 days a week.

  • Workplace injuries were ignored because they were time-consuming and could also result in immediate termination.

  • And a job at Triangle Shirtwaist was considered a plum job a century ago, which ought to give you an idea of how much more brutal the other sweatshops in New York City were.

    By 1911, shirtwaists, or women's blouses, were beginning to go out of vogue. Adding to Triangle's problems, literally thousands of other smaller sweatshops in the garment district were making the same product for retailers. The only way for Triangle to remain competitive was to produce in massive volumes. That required draconian policies in the workplace and to put greater pressure on the workers, many of them as young as 13, to produce and meet quotas. It was a precursor of the sweatshops we saw until a few years ago on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    Triangle was located at the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in what is now Greenwich Village not too far from the Stonewall Inn. Toward the end of the working day, a fire started in a clothing bin on the 8th floor. Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, Triangle's owners, had blocked all but one exit to the exits and stairwells. In an eerie prescience of September 11th and the World Trade Center, this forced dozens of the panicking workers to jump for their lives from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors to avoid the fire and smoke.

    The funerals for the workers were, to say the least, heavily attended, drawing tens of thousands of mourners and pro-labor activists. The disaster forever changed building codes, building inspections, workplace safety and was the major impetus behind the forming of private unions such as the International Lady Garment Workers Union.

    Or were they changed forever? To prove what a career criminal he was, two years later Max Blanck was again found locking his doors during business hours and was fined a mere $20.

    The owners got off scot free and even made a pile of money off the dead workers. During the criminal trial, their ambulance chasing lawyer used chicanery to discredit one of the prosecution's key witnesses and had her testimony dismissed on the grounds the city's DA had coached her. They were acquitted and even though they were found to be responsible during the civil trial in 1913 in which they were forced to pay a paltry $75 for each fatality, the insurance company paid out $60,000 over the size of the settlement, meaning they made $400 for every dead worker.

    This could almost be construed as a precursor to the "Dead Peasants" insurance enjoyed for years by many leading corporations today.

    A century later, Blanck's and Harris's legacy lives on in the sweatshop owners all over the world, in the lobbyists who continually bribe lawmakers and officials regarding the relaxation of workplace safety and in the Koch brothers and the Republicans they bribe and employ to remove from the latter day workplace landscape the last vestige of unions both public and private.

    Such people would lay the blame for the fire squarely on the anonymous worker who'd carelessly tossed a match or lit cigarette into the bin rather than the owners who'd caused the deaths of nearly 150 innocent human beings by locking the doors because they suspected all their underpaid wage slaves to be thieves. The owners, they'd tell you, were the real victims in spite of making a profit of $325 per corpse.

    Newly christened Republican Governors Scott Walker (WI), Rick Scott (F), John Kasich (OH), Rick Snyder (MI), Chris Christie (NJ) and others would tell you that it isn't the grasping, rapacious corporations that are at fault but public unions, relegating public union workers who often put their very lives on the line on our behalf to the status of welfare queens for wanting and getting affordable health care and an actual pension.

    Many of these freshman Republican Governors were backed by a criminally clueless Tea Party that plainly didn't know what it was backing. Scott Walker, for instance, never, ever campaigned on a platform for stripping collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public workers (save for the police and firefighters who'd supported him). Considering several of these candidates were bankrolled in part by the Koch brothers and that some of them (such as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Indiana's two-term Governor Mitch Daniels) come from a corporate background, it's hard to see where else their administrations would've gone if not against the public unions.

    This suspiciously coordinated attack on unions has a manifold purpose: To strip power from public workers, to outsource to private and costly corporations the duties and functions no longer budgeted for and to strip labor of its money and political power (In short: Defeat the black guy in 2012.).

    It doesn't matter that stripping such rights away from public unions already willing to negotiate in some misplaced good faith with Republican policy-makers would not impact on any state budget such as Wisconsin's. This is now a national movement that has gained much more traction than that for recall elections for Republicans who are bound and determined to catapult us back in the days of the robber barons who never gave a thought to their workers' safety and even profited handsomely from their gruesome deaths.

    Across Greenwich Village near Christopher Street sits the Stonewall Inn, another place of invaluable historical importance. 42 45 years ago this July, a riot erupted between gay patrons and straight activists and the NYPD, providing the gay rights movement with its first crucial pillar that led to the legalization of gay marriage in what is now five 18 states.

    But as with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire a century ago today, there are factions that are hell-bent to take away those hardwon rights that are just as zealously determined to take America back to the 19th century when gay men and women could be murdered, beaten and persecuted with impunity.

    Religious and ideological conservatism and corporate greed and callousness are sicknesses of the human spirit and no lesson, no matter how hideously instructive, retains its force against such cancers of the human soul.

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Carr Driven Off Cliff, Film at 11.

         It never ceases to amaze me how stupid literary agents are. Never.
         Here are people who fail literally 90-95% of the time to find a home for the adult fiction they choose to represent and literally 90% of the shit that acquisitions editors buy from these idiots lose money. Yet, despite the fact that the publishing industry is in such a highly volatile state, with technological and market trends turning on a dime, the traditional business model remains stagnant, with editors insisting on buying unsalable work from agents who by and large display the most horrible judgment in the business world.
          I fault both agents and editors. I fault agents because they represent only the properties that subjectively tickle their fancy, people who are so arch and arrogant they think that whatever titillates them will titillate the rest of the book-buying public. There are agents that refuse to even read much less rep books that feature children in peril, which is literally every book written by Andrew Vachss and Jonathan Kellerman and about every other book written by Stephen King or John Grisham.
         Yeah, I can see those birds getting a form letter from a struggling agency.
         Dear Mr. King:
         While your novel, The Shining, has its merits, we feel your book is not a good fit for our agency in account of our longstanding policy not to represent novels where children are endangered. We also feel the subject matter is too controversial for an adaptation into a movie, say one directed by Stanley Kubrick. But we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, blah blah blah...
         Such a morbidly high failure rate in the actual business world would demand, at least, a major paradigm shift and a retooling of business models. At worst, heads would literally roll in the cubicle farms.
         I fault editors on a variety of fronts, not the least of which is the collusive agreement they'd struck with literary agencies a generation ago because they decided one by one they didn't feel like doing their jobs, anymore. They'd decided that wading through the slush pile and personally dealing with icky authors was beneath them so they farmed that job out to literary agencies. These parasites, in turn, were only too happy to assume that burden in return for assurances that no one would get published anymore without an agent.
         Then something sinister began happening about ten years or more ago.
         Forgetting that collusive agreement struck by them or their predecessors, literary agencies began slamming their doors to the unpublished and unrepresented one by one. The only semblance of sanity in the collusive agreement struck behind our backs was that there was to remain an outlet for our work, that we would still have a place to go to while shopping around our properties.
         And their attitude is, If you don't have a connection or someone who's willing to refer you, fuck off and die. Try another agency.
         The trouble is, the agencies that are still taking unsolicited submissions are shrinking faster than male genitalia during a dip in the Bering Strait. But that's not their problem, they all think.
         I also fault acquisitions editors for continuing this dysfunctional business model despite the fact it plainly isn't working. As publishing is a $24 billion a year business and certain fat cat executives at literary agencies and publishing houses still make tons of pelf, who cares that 90% of our products are losers?
         Anxiously circling the moats are guys like me, people who aren't connected and don't have the financial wherewithall to fly to one annual book fair or another to meet the agents who could personally extend that invitation.
         What you see in the lead image is the professionally done cover I'd commissioned for the epic thriller I'd been writing all last year, Tatterdemalion. The cover cost me $115 but I think it was money well-spent. It was more or less what I'd originally envisioned and I'd worked very closely with the artist to ensure what was in my head would translate to paper and film.
         If anyone were to go to Amazon or Goodreads and parse the reviews for Caleb Carr's The Alienist or The Angel of Darkness, one will note a theme of exasperation running throughout: A frustration on the part of readers who love period mysteries over Carr beginning, but never finishing, a third Alienist book. Understandably, these frustrated readers seek out the next best thing in other authors of historical thrillers whether it be Lyndsay Faye, Alex Grecian, Troy Soos, Stephen Saylor or Anne Perry.
         But, while they are all excellent novelists who do their job very well, none of them are Caleb Carr and none of them have written an epic of the quality and length of Carr's Alienist duology.
         And if literary agents would put aside their solipsistic parameters and egos long enough to read these frustrated reviewers looking for the next Alienist, they'd see there's a ready-made demand for an epic mystery taking place in the 19th century featuring vivid characters in an ensemble environment that's somewhat reminiscent of Carr's classics.
         But they don't. Because literary agents are among the stupidest carbon-based life forms on the planet earth, if not the galaxy. And editors are not too far behind by insisting you need one of these self-centered parasites before getting a publishing contract.
         All day yesterday, I'd begun sending out in earnest over two dozen queries to over two dozen literary agencies. Using the limited database at Poets and Writers, I'd more closely targeted literary agents than ever before, concentrating on those that prefer and focus on historical novels. At one point last night, I'd gotten a form rejection from a flunky of one agent who had the nerve to start his boilerplate with, "After much consideration..."
         "Much consideration"? How much consideration could anyone have given it considering I'd sent the fucking query off not six hours ago?
         It ought to be mentioned that in keeping with agents' insistence on having their egos stroked, I personalized each and every query, even quoting them off their websites when applicable, had long ago ensured my spelling, grammar and punctuation were perfect, mentioned specific numbers regarding my online presence, provided a good synopsis and sent along high quality sample chapters, obeying submission guidelines to the letter. And, as is SOP when sending out queries, I'd even told these idiots what books similar to mine had been successfully published, mentioning Caleb Carr's duology.
         Because, you know, everyone wants to be the first to do something second.
         Earlier this morning, I'd read an article linked to on Twitter about the changing role of literary agents in the publishing marketplace. The owner of the blog, an agented author, barely gave lip service to the fact that sometimes, every once in a while, believe it or not (hold your hats), literary agents make mistakes. The author of the article and the agent who was interviewed, seemed all too tickled pink that there's some irrational insistence on, as with war profiteers and banksters, keeping agents on the playing field no matter what changes may take place in the business and no matter how consistently morbidly high their failure rate.
         The idea should be to get away from using agents and making them the unnecessary evils they are, to start up a viable business model that doesn't start with an agent. If the last business model, that of publishers buying properties from literary agencies was sustainable, then, while self-publishing technology would still have appeared, it wouldn't be the powerhouse it is today. As the article I'd mentioned stated, some people think self publishing will account for up to 75% of all books in the next six years.
         Personally and professionally, I wish that all literary agents would go the way of Harriet Wasserman. But that won't happen until more talented indie writers like me stop kowtowing to these morons, grow a set and start raging against the machine that includes arch, arrogant and incompetent boobs like literary agents who were largely unnecessary and who sold not one classic book until the mid 20th century.
         Virtually every turkey bought from these people since then (and we're talking literally tens of millions of them), were, however, sold by agents.

    You Be the Judge. Or, Rather, Don't.


         We all have a favorite joke and this one happens to be mine. So what better day to share it than on St. Patrick's Day?

         A conservative Irish judge went pub crawling after a hard Friday at court. He was known as a law and order judge and had an image to maintain but after such a hard day, his Irish thirst was raging.    
         After he crawled out of his 6th pub, he vomited all over his brand new suit and racked his reeling brain for what to tell his teetotaling wife Brigit. Then he got a brilliant idea.
         He poured himself through the front door and said in an outraged voice,
         "Ah, Brigit, you'll never guess what happened to me this very night. I was walking home from the courthouse and this drunken yobbo staggers up to me and threw up all over me brand new suit. Well, I had him arrested and when I see him in court on Monday, I'll be givin' him 30 days in gaol, I will. Now, be a dear, Brigit, and clean me suit, will you? There's a lass."
         "Very good, your honor," said Brigit and she set about cleaning his suit.
         The weekend passed and Monday morning arrived. The conservative judge, dressed in his newly-cleaned suit, thought it prudent to reinforce his lie one more time. At breakfast he said to his wife,
         "When I see that suit-soiler in court today, I'll be givin' him 30 days, I will!"
         "Well, your honor," began Brigit, "you'd better be giving him 60 days because he shit in your pants, too."

    Labels:

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Good Times at Pottersville, 3/12/14


    Open Thread: GOTV edition


    Monday, March 10, 2014

    Deja Vu Much?

         If there's anything the two political parties in this country have in common, it's this:
         They keep making the same mistakes over and over.
         George Santayana, Thou Art Vindicated Time and Again.
         During the live road show of the DSM V (aka CPAC 2014, held, appropriately, at the Gaylord Hotel again), the GOP held a minority outreach forum that drew...
     
         ...well, this many people, if John Hudak's picture is to be believed.
         The worse-than-anemic turnout was sniffed at by Republican flaks, one saying (and I'm paraphrasing here), that Democratic minority outreach efforts succeed because we give out "goodies." In other words, Obama phones, welfare, food stamps. You know, goodies like the kind in the gifting suites at the Academy Awards that was ransacked four years ago by Sarah Palin and her pack of vulture grifters.
         This reaction contains within it the three fatal flaws that the GOP cannot get away from in their risible attempts to "reach out" to the same minorities they've been buttfucking into oblivion since Lee Atwater hatched the Southern Strategy over 40 years ago. Number one, it essentially admits the GOP has nothing to offer minorities aside from platitudes and slightly toned-down racist rhetoric in their cynical attempt to poach votes from the funner, more multi-colored Big Tent of the Democrats.
         Secondly, the GOP made an assumption that there would be enough people of color at CPAC to fill their ambitiously large room at the Gaylord, despite the fact that your average CPAC convention inevitably looks like a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream with a few miserly Oreo crumbs sprinkled on top.
         Lastly, they shoot themselves in the foot right out of the gate in their minority outreach efforts by sneering that people of color will vote for anyone who offers to give them something. You know, like a social safety net that actually works in times when they actually need one.
         But in reality, it's Obama and his Blue Dog cohorts in both chambers who want to eliminate the COLA for Social Security for no earthly reason. The sheer insanity of Obama's insistence on doing this needs no belaboring: Social Security is funded 52 times a year through payroll taxes, which Obama cut years ago by 2%. Ergo, the same Republicans who for nearly a century have been calling for Social Security's repeal or privatization were thrust, through sheer, racist, mean-spirited spite, into the absurd position of opposing cuts to Social Security benefits.
         Because, you know, that's what the black guy wants. To Republicans, it would be like refusing to fuck that white chick they've been lusting after for years because she had sex with a black man.
         It just boggles the mind: Imagine if Obama went full-tilt, Crazy Base World and crimson red Republican: The GOP would have to oppose him so many times it would actually get us back on the right track as a nation. And a die-hard Obamabot would probably say this is Obama's political genius at work here: Reverse psychology. By adopting one GOP initiative after another, the GOP and Republican think tanks that had originated them would be shot down by the same people that had tried to launch them.
         Of course, those of us in the know, know better. Barack Obama is indisputably the most Republican Democratic president we've ever had.
         You think the GOP would make hay over this fact, that Obama has been working ceaselessly and shamelessly for over five years now to literally take food from our mouths and money from our wallets. But they don't. Because secretly, they agree with what he's doing and proposing. They just can't admit it out loud to Crazy Base World.
         This was why, when Chris Christie floated his way to the podium like the slow motion Hindenburg he is, he received just a smattering of polite applause. Christie's dead in the water and his presidential aspirations are finished for the simple reason he seemed to work with Obama after Hurricane Sandy, because Christie shelved his Ralph Kramden schtick long enough to act like a state Governor who seemed to care about his people in the midst of a national disaster area.
         Because the real red meat was thrown out to the hungry and frustrated lunatics at CPAC by zookeepers Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. But it was just rehashed propaganda disguised as satire and vice versa. As always, it was impossible to tell where and when the propaganda ended and the satire began.
         And this is one of the biggest mistakes the Democrats keep making over and over again: Not calling these racist ass pirates of the Republican Party out for what they are and continuing to work with and debate these shitheels as if they're actually interested in debating us. Which they're not. The late Steve Gilliard said as much almost a decade ago.
         He had no intention of debating conservatives and no delusions about besting them in debate because he knew that, in these assholes' addle-pated minds, they're unassailably right because, in these selfsame assholes' addle-pated minds, liberals are wrong about everything. And conservatives are so fucking stupid and/or misinformed or just twisted up with hatred they've been conditioned to believe that everything, and I mean every-fucking-thing liberals want is evil, evil, evil.
         And Steve had no interest in debating these knuckle-draggers, especially on their own turf and within their own framework because his one, painfully simple goal was to piss them off. Or, as Steve-O said in his elegantly inartful way,
         "I'm tired of people acting like these people can be reasoned with or talked to. They don't want to talk, they want to drive us away into a corner and ridicule our ideas.
          I'm not writing to make conservatives happy. I want them to hate my opinions. I'm not interested in debating them. I want to stop them."
         Amen, brother. Gilliard was like a real-life Hari Seldon, a guy who continues to be right even nearly a decade after his untimely death, long before the Tea Party reared its ugly, tri-cornered head, long before the GOP descended ever deeper into the Appalachian mud pits and committed unnatural acts with unabashed racists, gun-clutchers and sundry and assorted lunatics.
         Then the establishment GOP finally decided to climb out of the primordial ooze and now they're wondering, after said unnatural acts, why their penises hurt when they pee and where those chancre sores are coming from.
         They think they're right even while history is against them.
         We know we're right even as history sides with us.
         That is the difference and it's as easy to see as the trunk on an elephant's face.
         I'm not afraid to be a liberal nor am I afraid to call myself one any more than Steve Gilliard was. It's a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. And, to us liberals, it goes way beyond mere partisan politics. We stand by our beliefs because they strike deep into the heart of humanism, what it means to be a compassionate human being.
         If the Democrats simply worked to repeal corporate tax breaks and bring jobs back to the country, they'd never lose another election for the next century.
         But they can't do that for reasons both known to us and for secret reasons we cannot fathom and can only glean and speculate over while watching the first two seasons of House of Cards.
         That's the Netflix series in which the President of the United States is, literally, a serial killer who happens to belong to the Democratic Party.

    Bartcop Down


         Just before this weekend, I'd heard of the passing of Bartcop through, I think, Susie Madrack's byline at Crooks and Liars. Then I read Jill's lengthy semi-autobiographical commentary on BC's life and legacy at her place, Brilliant at Breakfast.
         As his masthead showed, Terry Coppage had been a political blogger since before the contraction for "web log", or blog, had even been coined. To put it in terms we can all understand, he'd been writing about politics since Bill Clinton's first term or almost two years before the Monica scandal broke. He'd consistently been at it for just over 18 years, making him the internet's equivalent of IF Stone or Helen Thomas.
         Years ago, when I ran my first two blogs, "Yep, Another Goddamned Blog" and "Welcome to Pottersville",  Bartcop used to link to me on a regular basis. Then, we'd had some falling out 6 or 7 years ago over a matter so trivial that even I cannot remember what it was about (Maybe linking to me once without attribution). From that time on, I'd asked him not to link to me any more if he was going to treat my work thusly and he'd obliged.
         So it was with some guilt when I'd heard a few days ago about Terry's passing from pneumonia and leukemia on March 5th. Death, as we all know, helps bring so many things into perspective, such as what's really important in life. Those of us ostensibly on the same side of the Great Ideological Divide, as I call it, often forget we are all on the same team as we fragment the progressive movement over and over again with our petty partisan bickerings that make us look, in the grand scheme of things, like a cage full of irritable parakeets angrily twittering at each other.
         And, for whatever cruel Celestial reason, it seems that for every Andrew Breitbart, we lose five of our own. And Terry accessed that Great Server in the sky as had Steve Gilliard, Jon Swift, Joe Bageant and Andrew Olmstead (who was killed in Iraq) before him. In his last, posthumous communique to the world, Terry had this to say:
         Since you're reading this, I'm either gone or I'm too sick to get to my computer.
         I'd like to thank everyone for reading, especially the pillars who allowed me to quit working at that little car lot and turn my rage on the illegal Bush thugs full time.
         But I have a favor to ask and it's a big one. I left Mrs Bart with a mortgage that she can't handle by herself.
         When the doctors told me I wasn't going to reach old age, my first thoughts were worry about Mrs Bart and how she was going to make it without me and my income.
         You know me, I'm a gambler to the end, so when Bartcop Manor flooded in 2004, I/we gambled that I'd live long enough to get the house paid off, or at least paid down to where she could see the end of the payments. Since you're reading this, it means I lost that gamble.
          There's a scene in Cinderella Man where James J. Braddock's wife is talking to Braddock's manager's wife at their bare apartment. Joe Gould had just sold virtually all his worldly belongings in order to bankroll Braddock's one last comeback bid. And at one point, Mrs. Gould tells Mrs. Braddock, "They always think they're failing us."
         And that, to me, was the best line in the entire movie, even though it had nothing to do with boxing. Indeed, it strikes me as one of the most perspicacious lines in all cinematic history and the screenwriter nailed it. We men always feel as if we're failing our wives and Significant Others for the simple reason that we feel nothing we can do for them and give them is ever good enough. It's a tragedy that Terry knew he was on the way out and, along with the terror of encroaching death, he also had to endure the stigma of thinking he'd failed his wife and saddled her with a debt that can never be repaid.
         His too-early passing and that realization, thinking he'd failed to provide longterm security for his wife, puts a lot of shit into perspective. Only those who have been in our exact predicament know how galling it is to ask for help from readers on a regular basis not necessarily for ourselves but because it is often the only way we can provide for our loved ones. After all the jeremiads about a man needing to support his own household and not being a burden on his fellow man, at the bottom lies the truth that an honest, compassionate man will do anything to keep providing for his loved one when all other avenues have been Jersey barriered off to him.
         And, while being relatively hale, healthy and hardy myself, it's impossible for me to fully imagine the stinging guilt he must have felt on his deathbed over the vulnerable position he was leaving his wife.
         Perhaps it's possible he could've done a better job bringing money into his house if he hadn't spent so much time blogging. Or it could've been that the downwardly spiraling economy visited on many of us thanks to the "president" against which he'd faithfully railed for eight straight years was the reason why he was in such dire financial straits at the end of his life. I don't know
         But whichever the circumstances, he chose to give us gonzo citizen journalism for close to 20 years, an unimaginable length of time in this, the most perishable of mediums. He left behind a gigantic body of work that, regardless of the presentation and the methods he'd used, grabbed our lapels and forced us to listen to the truth and often made us laugh our asses off. Like Jon Swift, the patron saint of B listers, he'd given shitty little bloggers like me a bigger megaphone than we'd ordinarily have and helped bring many of us into notice.
         That's gotta count for something, folks.
         Like me, Bartcop has had a Paypal button up for a long time and now that he's gone, it needs to be used moreso than ever to help out his poor wife. It's intolerable to me that Mrs. Coppage be evicted from her own home and all the memories it must contain. I don't know her or even know her name. But it's enough for me to know that she's a fellow human being that hasn't gotten very many breaks in life from the flooding of their home a decade ago to this latest tragic loss.
         I know a lot of you are hurting financially and otherwise but if you could see your way clear to helping Terry's wife hang on to her house, I'm sure she'd appreciate it way more than even I would.

    Good Times at Pottersville, 3/10/14


    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Good Times at Pottersville #17


    Saturday, March 8, 2014

    Good Times at Pottersville, 3/8/14


    Friday, March 7, 2014

    Good Times at Pottersville, 3/7/14


    KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

    All Time Classics

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