Easier Than a Drive-Thru Marriage

One day, none of us will ever have to leave our houses to do anything! Won't that be great?

From Michael Kiefer at the The Arizona Republic; 'E-Court' eases pain of divorce
Nov. 30, 2004 12:00 AM. Call it Turbo-Divorce: starting Wednesday, couples seeking a divorce or legal separation in Maricopa County can log on to a Superior Court Internet site, fill out a questionnaire modeled on the popular TurboTax software for preparing income-tax returns, and print out legal documents. It's a handy resource for couples who already have their divorce issues worked out but can't afford, or just don't want to deal with, an attorney or a document preparer. E-Court, as it's called, eliminates many of the errors that average people make when they try to write their own legal documents. "In excess of 80 percent of our family court litigants are self-represented," said Family Court Judge Norman J. Davis. "They don't have an attorney. It's the first time they've done it, usually, and they're confused on how to do it."

Arizona requires a 60 day cooling off period, strangely similar to the cooling off gun law, before a divorce can actually be filed. Court officials noticed that those representing themselves either didn't fill out packets handed out at the courthouse correctly or failed to push their own cases through to the end. The joy of the online form? If you make a mistake, it tells you! Forms don't have to be filled out all at once and are saved on court databases in case ones spouse has no idea how much on one despises them.

Don't Judge a Host by his Gameshow

Many times people say things better than we would ever say them ourselves. Sometimes the very people that say those things surprise us by who they are and what they do. From his personal website:

A Hush Over Hollywood

by Pat Sajak
Posted Nov 30, 2004

Picture this:

Somewhere in the world, a filmmaker creates a short documentary that chronicles what he perceives as the excesses of anti-abortion activists. An anti-abortion zealot reacts to the film by killing the filmmaker in broad daylight and stabbing anti-abortion tracts onto his body. How does the Hollywood community react to this atrocity? Would there be angry protests? Candlelight vigils? Outraged letters and columns and articles? Awards named in honor of their fallen comrade? Demands for justice? Calls for protection of artistic freedom? It’s a pretty safe bet that there would be all of the above and much more. And all of the anger would be absolutely justified.

So I’m trying to understand the nearly universal lack of outrage coming from Hollywood over the brutal murder of Dutch director, Theo van Gogh, who was shot on the morning of November 2, while bicycling through the streets of Amsterdam. The killer then stabbed his chest with one knife and slit his throat with another.

The presumed murderer, a Dutch-born dual Moroccan-Dutch citizen, attached a 5-page note to van Gogh's body with a knife. In it, he threatened jihad against the West in general, and specifically against five prominent Dutch political figures. Van Gogh’s crime? He created a short film highly critical of the treatment of women in Islamic societies. So, again I ask, where is the outrage from Hollywood’s creative community? I mean, talk about a violation of the right of free speech!

Perhaps they are afraid that their protests would put them in danger. That, at least, is a defensible position. If I were Michael Moore, I would much rather rail against George W. Bush, who is much less likely to have me killed, than van Gogh’s murderer and the threat to creative freedom he brings. Besides, a man of Moore’s size would provide a great deal of “bulletin board” space.

Maybe they think it would be intolerant of them to criticize the murder, because it would put them on the side of someone who criticized a segment of the Arab world. And, after all, we are often reminded that we need to be more tolerant of others, especially if they’re not Christians or Jews.

There’s another possibility; one that seems crazy on the surface, but does provide an explanation for the silence, and is also in keeping with the political climate in Hollywood. Is it just possible that there are those who are reluctant to criticize an act of terror because that might somehow align them with President Bush, who stubbornly clings to the notion that these are evil people who need to be defeated? Could the level of hatred for this President be so great that some people are against anything he is for, and for anything he is against?

As nutty as it sounds, how else can you explain such a muted reaction to an act that so directly impacts creative people everywhere? Can you conceive of a filmmaker being assassinated because of any other subject matter without seeing a resulting explosion of reaction from his fellow artists in America and around the world?

As I said, it’s a nutty-sounding explanation, but we live in nutty times.

I... I... really love you..(hic)... guys!

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian phone company is offering customers the chance to blacklist numbers before heading out for a night on the town so they can reduce the risk of making any embarrassing, incoherent late-night calls.

A survey of 409 people by Virgin Mobile, a joint venture of The Virgin Group and Optus, found 95 percent made drunk calls.

Of those calls, 30 percent were to ex-partners, 19 percent to current partners, and 36 percent to other people, including their bosses.

The company also found that 55 percent of those polled would grab for their phone first the next morning to check who they had drunkenly dialed, compared with just eight percent who went for the headache pills first.



My father, sitting in his retirement armchair and viewing the world through a box plugged in at the opposite side of the room, is convinced of an impending end to it all. Recently, when news of the continuing plague of locusts pervading our planet was reported through the box, I decided to sit down with the guy and go over these apocalyptic prognostications of his. It was scary. Not in a 'tear off my clothes post haste and run around in some hedonistic haze as the death knell approaches' scary. Instead, it's scary to think that my dad, a man that I love very much, is spending a great deal of his golden years ruminating on theories as old 1. The dirt under Adams big toe nail (for all you Christians), 2. The primordial ooze (for all you Evolutionaries). I have no clever analogies for the rest of you. Sorry.

There are a plethora of websites devoted to this quietus and many card carrying doomsayers walking the streets. I thought I'd wade through all the gloom, rhetoric and Bible mazings to see if there is anything to this 'apocalypse' I've heard so much about. The Greeks called the End of the Age the SUNTELIA AION . Ancient historians, most notably Plato, referred to a cycle of catastrophe at the End of the Age. The AION was symbolized by the Ouroboros which is inspired by our own Milky Way, a celestial serpent of light residing in the heavens. Unbeknownst to me until this point, our galaxy keeps a great time cycle that ends in catastrophic change. The sign of the SUNTELIA AION is the sun rising out of the mouth of the ouroboros, which will occur on the solstice, December 2012. Yes, my dears. It's all in the stars. Cover your eyes or turn away if you must, but it is all still written in light that takes millions of light years to reach us.

Many theories here diverge into alien visitations, cow mutilations, the morphing of the sphinx and the face on Mars, crop circles and holidays created by corporations seeking hard earned dollars from easily convinced card buyers, but I'll refrain from telling those tales.
I'm more of the the opinion that the first sign may well have been when William S. Burroughs, Beat writer, drug taker and one of the first openly gay men in the United States, did a Nike commercial with Spike Lee.

But, first, let's address a basic question. How many signs are there supposed to be? Simple answer here. I like the number seven, so I'll stick with that.

  1. White Horse - False Peace ........................Revelation 6: 1-2
  2. Red Horse - Dreadful period of war .........Revelation 6: 3-4
  3. Black Horse - Dreadful period of famine...Revelation 6: 5-6
  4. Pale Horse - Plagues and pestilences.........Revelation 6: 7-8
  5. The most cruel - Period of persecution ........Revelation 6: 9-10
  6. A most vile - Ecological cataclysm ...............Revelation 6: 11-12
  7. The 1/2- hour period of - Silence and trepidation.......the worst is yet to come! Revelation 8:1

Just looking at this list reminds me of those early attempts of my parents to instill a sense of religion in me. I went to Sunday school, they stayed home. I heard that I would burn in Hell unless a very carefully described protocol was followed, they watched the plugged in box. Church scared me. It was a very ornate, quiet, ominous place and a felt I was always on the verge of getting into a lot of trouble. Going there filled me with dread but I buckled under parental pressure. For a while.

Two things turned the tide for me. First, I was told I was to be Mary in the Christmas play. This disturbed me, especially after I was handed the Baby Jesus and told to cradle Him. Baby Jesus, the Doll, stared at me unblinkingly as I, a very shy little girl, imagined holding Him in front of the entire congregation. That simply wasn't going to happen. No sir! Threaten me with hellfire and damnation but I will not stand alone in front of a huge crowd in a darkened room holding a Doll. Secondly, my sister pointed out that I was missing Batman every Sunday as I learnt about Hell. This I could not abide by - missing Batman, I mean. Sunday school ended. I, too, watched the plugged in box.

When I hit my mid teens, I went through a phase in which I conceived it was possible to learn everything. If I was going to figure this God thing out, I knew I'd have to read the Testements, New and Old, in the original Hebrew, Latin and Greek translations - before Justinian got to them! I actually stuck with it for quite a few months, but Latin and Hebrew weighed me down. Way down. My fascination with religion never ended, but the idea of knowing everything quickly dissipated.

After all of my reading, the Top Ten Signs of the apocalypse, as written by Scott Atwood and Christian Shelton, seems to make the most sense.

10. McDonald's sign reads "Over 666 billion sold."
9. Two words... Arnold 'The Governator' Schwarzenegger. (That's more than two words, but who's counting? Oh. Apparently, I am.)
8. Movies are no longer are preceded by previews of coming attractions.
7. Elmo starts wearing a hooded black cape and carrying scythe.
6. Your dearly departed grandmother has come for tea a few too many times in the last few weeks.
5. Driving through brimstone and hellfire makes driving through snow seem easy.
4. Next on Jerry Springer: "My wife had slept with all four horsemen, and I want a divorce!"
3. Uncle Gordon's trick knee is acting up something awful.
2. CNN has an "Approaching Apocalypse" logo and theme music.
1. God's polling numbers are so low, He's making "selected public appearances" in hopes of revitalizing His image.

As I've written this up, I've taken Tom Waits Real Gone off (a little dreary for a doomsday convo) and put on Ryan Adams Heartbreaker. The argument between Ryan and David Rawlings sets the tone for the Jen/Dad conversation. His theory is loose and still at it's still embryonic, theoretical stage. As he sees it, all of the seven signs have occurred and we're... well, screwed. I pointed out to him that these conditions have been met, time after time, through out history, and he waved me away. He'd gotten his info from the Bible and Fox News. How can I argue with that?

And Not a Peep was Heard

In honor of my dear friend Jeremy's recent engagement, I've yanked out a story he inspired:

It was the morning of the Annual Spring In For Easter Jewelry Sale. Julius Lydon, department sales manager, confessor, babysitter and advice columnist, made his way through the bargain-hunting crowd. He was headed to the brightly lit area of the Mansfield Ltd. Fashion Boutique, his home away from home for the last few months. Fifty to seventy hour workweeks left him on the verge of burnout. He was well overdue for a vacation as was evidenced by his dragging feet and morose expression upon entering the store. Of course, with no one to watch the store while he was gone, it was unlikely he’d take it anytime soon. He’d have to rely on his wits, saint-like patience and the desktop punching bag he’d installed in the back room.

As he approached the jewelry department, he could see the large haired, polyester clad fashion mavens as they scurried about like over caffienated mice in a maze, looking for good deals.

Julius maneuvered his way through the crowded aisles and barely missed tripping over a large black purse in front of the cash wrap. He did a deft leap and spin, thankful for the ballet classes his mother had forced on him in his youth. Landing lightly on his feet, he looked back on the offending bag with a glare.

An exceptionally large, very redheaded woman with a Pucci print dress lumbered over and grabbed the bag possessively with her left hand. The right clutched a box of brightly colored peeps. She glowered at Julius long enough for him to enjoy the lovely sky blue of her eye shadow and the immense amount of pancake makeup currently melting under the hot halogens. Julius sighed.

“Sorry, ma’am.”

“You should be. I’ve been a customer of this story for over fifteen years.” She had a small smear of yellowish gob at the corner of her red lips. Julius looked away, his stomach doing a flip.

“I know, ma’am.”

“Don’t you give me any of your lip, young man,” she bellowed, shaking a well-jeweled finger at him. “I’m paying your salary.”

“I’m very sorry, ma’am.” Julius did his best to look contrite then stared down at his shoes. Anything to keep himself from seeing the peep spittle precariously perched at the corner of those munching lips.

“Well,’’ huffed his number one fan. Grabbing a yellow chick from the box, she popped it into her mouth. “See that this doesn’t happen again.” she managed around the chewy sugar confection. More yellowish ooze began to seep as Julius watched helplessly.

With an air of melodrama, Peep Woman slung the black bag over her shoulder, pointed her nose to the heavens and waddled off down the cubic zirconia aisle. She stopped briefly to look at a very large, bright yellow cocktail ring. Picking the ring up, she placed it on her pinky. It wouldn’t slide past the knuckle. She wrestled with it momentarily until she saw Julius watching. She grimaced, yanked it off her finger and stormed off. Julius smiled, shook his head, and made his way back to the time clock.

He had his hand on the backroom door; ready to push it open, when he saw a small flash of yellow out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to look, whipping his head about in a neck wrenching manner, he didn’t see anything but the gaudy carpet and racks of necklaces. He shrugged and pushed the door open.

Punching in, Julius listed in his head everything he needed to do today. It was a long list. After taking over for the last manager, who’d been caught stealing, the mistakes and formerly neglected duties left him with little time to even breath. As he placed his time card back in the slot, an odd granular squishing noise met his ears.

“What the heck is that?” He pulled the card back out to find not a mark on it. He looked down into the slot and saw nothing. “O.K., that’s weird.”

He placed the card back in, slowly this time, but did not reencounter the strange noise. He gave his second shrug of the day, grabbed his nametag from the desk and hit the floor.

The chaos at the cashwrap was what could be expected of an Easter sale. Brenda, his lead salesperson, seemed to have instilled as much order as was possible by instituting a single file line in front of the register. Gathered around the fringes were “guests” with questions furrowing their brows. As Julius walked up, four pairs of anxious eyes swung over to him and a flurry of questions followed. He dealt with them one by one, in a calm manner, until he stood with the last woman by the fine gold chains. As he explained the difference between 10, 14, 18 and 24 karat gold another flash caught his eye. This time it was pink. He hadn’t realized he’s stopped speaking until her heard a loud, ‘E-e-e-ehm.”

He turned to see the faintly amused customer raising her brows and pointing to the chains in his hand.

“Sorry,” he smiled, and continued his speech. Once finished, with the “guest” happily on her way to the register, he placed the chains back in the glass display case. As he closed the door, he found it stuck an inch away from the magnetic closure. “What the…”

Looking down to see what was in the way, he saw a peep smushed in the door. He wrinkled his nose in disgust.

His hatred for the bright, sugary confections was well known among the staff. Beyond abhorring them because he was a vegetarian (peeps contain gelatin!), he found the various shapes and colors they came in nauseating. The chick peeps he thought of as just plain creepy. It was a pink chick that resided in a half-flattened state in the jewelry case. He opened the case and the peep seemed to re-inflate before his eyes. His lips curled.

“Oh, yuck,” He pulled a tissue from his pocket then reached down and grabbed the offending fowl sweet. He held it away from him as he carried it off to the garbage. Tossing it in, he turned to Brenda. “Who put the peep in the gold chains display case? That was really a gross trick.”

“I have no idea,” Brenda said bemused. She was well aware of Julius’s dislike of peeps and could barely stifle a giggle at the expression on his face. “I would never waste a peep like that.”

“Ewww!” Julius moaned, “How can you eat those things? They have no nutritional value, they’re full of chemicals and you can’t destroy them.’

Brenda could no longer hold back and snickered at Julius’s diatribe.

“I’m serious!” he said, emitting an aura of sincerity. “Emory University actually did experiments on peeps trying to discover what would dissolve them. Smoking, dipping them in liquid nitrogen and even boiling them didn’t work. Only microwaving and burning them for a sustained period will destroy them. What?”

Brenda was now in full guffaw. She tried to stop and briefly succeeded, then began all over again. Julius sighed and headed to the backroom to catch up on his office duties. He sat heavily in the chair and grabbed for a pencil. The stack of paperwork in front of him was immense and promised a very boring day. Seconds into his task, the lead broke with a loud chunk.

“Wonderful,” Julius muttered as he searched for the pencil sharpener. Moving a particularly tall mound of paper, he found the desk mounted sharpener and inserted his #2. It felt like pushing it into clay.

“What is it now? I don’t need this,” heaving a sigh, he took the cover off to see ground pencil lead and bright blue peep in an insidious mix within the grooves. “Oh, nasty! How am I going to get that out of there?”

He made a valiant attempt to extricate the sugary stuff, but to no avail. Searching through the desk, he found another pencil, then sat, eraser to lip, as he thought, “Where all of these damn peeps coming from?” Surely an investigation of the staff was in order.

In full quest mode, he got up from his chair and headed back to the floor. He would track down the peep prankster if it took him the whole shift!

His mission was over a scant ten minutes later. Julius was no closer to finding out the identity of the fiend behind this peep attack. But now, half the staff thought he was completely nuts. Not a bad day. And, only seven hours to go.

By the time Julius got home seven and half-hours later, he’d seen eighteen winks of bright peepage. At first, there wasn’t a single concrete sighting after the smushed pink peep. Then, he found a peep in his lunch and sat on another while taking a call from corporate. The ability of the things to rebound back into shape sickened him.

When he’d reported these sightings to a friend she told him maybe he should check the expiration date on his Kashi. Even the newsgroups, his last refuge, sniggered at these happenings. They all thought he was paranoid and in need of some serious time off. Hell, half the group loved the disgusting things. He was happy than usual to be heading home.

Once in his driveway, Julius parked his beloved VW Bug and carefully closed the car door. As he headed to the house, he turned around to wave to a neighbor. That’s when he saw it. Or them, to be more precise. All over the wheels of his car were bright blobs of flattened peeps. Scared now, he ran for the house, stopping only to get the mail. He was expecting a book. Maybe it finally came.

He reached into the mailbox and to his horror, felt only gooey bird shapes. He pulled his hand back with a yelp and ran inside.

“I’m safe in here. I’ve never let the little beasts into my home!”

Reassured, he climbed the stairs to the bathroom, hoping that a shower would wash the filth of peep from his skin. He dumped his bag in his bedroom, gave the cat a quick scritch on the neck and grabbed the velour robe his Mom had gotten him for Christmas.

It didn’t take long for the shower to heat up and Julius stepped in with a sigh of relief. Maybe now he could leave this day behind him.

He closed his eyes as the hot water streamed over him. Finally, he felt his muscles relax. He was about to apply his Sweet Serenity body lotion when he heard a small, soft scuff. His Boy Scout instincts kicked in. Something was very wrong. Every hair on his body stood on end.

The air was filled with a sickly sweet scent. Turning ever so slowly, he looked through translucent shower curtain. A shape was moving towards him. Paralyzed with fear, he was unable to do anything but gulp. The steam obscured the shape a bit, but he could swear it was vaguely bunny shaped. His heart thudded so hard he thought it would pop out of his chest.

The bunny thing moved slowly toward him as he shrunk back to the corner of the tub. Suddenly, the curtain was yanked back.

There it stood. Six feet tall and two feet wide at the tummy. A giant purple peep bunny. Julius screamed as the bunny lunged for him………

….and awoke to find his cat licking his face. He sat up, dislodging his loving kitty as she mewed in compliant.

The sun streamed through the window. The birds sang outside. He looked over at the clock. Just past eight. The house was filled with silence. Everything was ok.

“Oh, what a horrible dream I had.” He told his cat. “And you were there. And there was this giant peep bunny… it’s just too awful.”

The cat began to purr and sidled up along him affectionately. Everything really was ok.

He went into the bathroom for his morning dew. When he was done, he went to wash his hands and looked in the mirror. On his face, dripping from his mouth, was a line of purple saliva. He touched it, and it was granular. He tasted it and it was sweet. Julius screamed…

Letter From Belgrade

Every month, Scots crime fiction author Douglas Lindsay sends off another letter from Belgrade and I get to laugh my proverbial ass off. This month’s letter is no exception.


A couple of weeks ago, on the first leg of my journey to the States, from Belgrade to London on JAT, I made a vital breakthrough in passenger comfort which I will now share with you, at no extra cost. For years I have been plagued by being a big scaredy pants the minute turbulence started up, no matter how gentle. There's something about a massive hunk of metal being jiggled about in the sky like an autumn leaf in the breeze, that reduces me to blubber. Nothing helps. Reading a book, thinking about sports statistics, engaging someone in gentle conversation, heavy sedation, large alcohol intake, it's all useless. And of course, paying three thousand pounds extra to fly first class makes no difference, you still get turbulence up there, you know. However, at some point flying over Germany, I cracked it. The turbulence started up, the plane began to wobble and bobble and I began to freak out in the usual way. So I turned to my wee girl and I jiggled about in an exaggerated manner. And that was it, my moment of epiphany. That when you yourself jiggle about in the seat, you don't actually notice that the plane's doing the same thing. And if the turbulence gets really bad, it almost feels like it's you who's controlling it, that your movement in the seat is making the plane sway, as if you were in a cable car. I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that that sounds just about the stupidest thing you've read since seven o'clock this morning. But it works. Of course, in the yin-yang scheme of things that dominates the fabric of the world, the downside is that you look like a complete muppet. If you've no kid with you, then you're stuffed, and even the blessing of a kid sitting next to you is only going to give you about thirty seconds before she starts staring at you strangely and telling the other passengers that she's an unaccompanied minor. However, the yang is that it works. Keep it in mind the next time you hit clear air.

Warning: The Jiggle Technique is not guaranteed to save you if your plane crashes into the side of a mountain.

May you have no doubt that Lindsay's books are freaking brilliant!

Art or Crap?

I did not do well on this little test.

Art or Crap


You Must Be my Smelly Star...

This is as about as useless, amusing and as asinine a list of celebrity 'don't need to know' information that can be compiled. Once I stumbled upon it, I was eager to it share, of course.

Hollywood star BRAD PITT may scrub up well on the big screen - but in real-life he has been voted as the least hygienic star in the world.
The TROY actor, 40, has been awarded the dubious title of the world's smelliest celebrity by Swedish showbiz expert MIKAEL JAGERBRAND - after years of comments made about Pitt's inability to wash either himself or his c lothes.
On Pitt's debut film - several co-stars complained about him smelling - to which he retorted by purchasing a new $3,600 (GBP 2,000) CALVIN KLEIN shirt instead of merely taking a shower.
RUSSELL CROWE has taken second place in the poll - thanks in part to JOAN RIVERS' reference that she never sits next to him at award ceremonies for fear of inhaling his body odour.
The Top Ten Smelly Celebrities are:

That the entire band Metallica appears is a source of many chuckles for my late night self. Robin Williams was not a shocker, nor was Russel Crowe. How Jagerbrand compiled the list... I really don't want to know.

Tie a yellow cravat round my old oak tree....

For the man that has everything and wants to show it off: I give you, in a cyber sense only, the penis tie.

Designer Neven Vrgoc said: "The ties are of a special shape and do not go around the neck of the man, but around his member.

"I hope male customers will buy them to create a good impression on a first date, or women might present them to men when they have been totally satisfied.

"There will also be a special certificate of excellence that will go with the tie and on which the woman will be able to fill out details of the individual's performance."

"I hope to have a full range in the shops by Christmas," he said. (A ring-a-ding-ding!)

Contact the designer from his site and a tie, designed just for you, will be created.

Practical Can-sideration

A Russian man who collects beer cans has turned his collection to practical use.

He is using them as insulation after his wife told him: "Either the cans go or I do", reports Pravda.

Beer can insulation

Anatoly Tupitsin, from Davidovka, said: "I suppose she was right, every room was full of cans and there was not much space for us.

"But now I have solved the problem by using them to cover the walls of the house and they have proved excellent insulation."

He says the idea had worked so well that he is now trawling bars and clubs every night to collect more and more cans.

Of course, that's the only reason Tupitsin is trawling the bars is for the cans. And how can anyone debate the beautify of beer cans as an aesthetic statement?

Neil Makes Me a Tree

I've spent quite a bit of time patrolling Neil Gaimen's blog and attendent website over the past day. He's a brilliant writer, an unabashed weirdo and a terribly nice man. More than a few items came to my attention that I knew I needed to pass on to those Gaimen-less humans out there in cyber world:

1. Chocolate Combats Coughs!

In an article that
appeared in the Telegraph and the Guardian, it has become clear that those deviled by lingering coughs need only head for the candy bowl.

Theobromine, an ingredient of cocoa, was found to be almost a third more effective in preventing coughing than codeine - considered the best available cough medicine. Researchers also found that it did not cause any of the potential side-effects of cough treatments, such as drowsiness, headaches or insomnia. Ten healthy volunteers were given theobromine, codeine or a placebo pill, not knowing which they were taking. They then took capsaicin, used to stimulate coughing. Those given theobromine needed around a third more capsaicin to make them cough compared with the placebo group. When they were given codeine they needed only marginally higher levels of capsaicin to cause a cough than with the placebo.

I think we all owe Neil a hearty thank you for that news!

2. When persistent emailers demand attention, there is a new bar for oddness:

Last month this arrived, from Matt, who likes Gilbert and Sullivan and molecular biology, but not necessarily in that order:

Dear Neil, What are your feelings about dressing up as a goat in order to follow someone surreptitiously?Yours a fan Matt

it was followed some days later by

Dear Neil, If I were to actually dress up as a goat and maybe follow you around, or perhaps hang around at the back of your next reading pretending to chew thistle, do you think you'd notice?Yours a fan Matt

not to mention

Dear Neil,So anyway, if someone turned up at a signing dressed as a goat, then do you think you'd be fooled into thinking it was a real goat and try to chivvy it away? Or would you realise it was a fan in a goat costume, and react accordingly? It's a bit of an unfair question, as I haven't specified whether it's a GOOD goat costume or not, but I'd still like your opinion.Yours a fan Matt

and even

Dear Neil, Do you know where I could get a good 'goat costume' from? Yours a fan Matt

today's missive made me blink in horror (well, after I clicked on the link, anyway):

Dear Neil, Here, what do you think of these? http://www.marylen.com/farm2.htm
Yours a fan Matt

What do I think? I suspect an accurate-in-all-particulars Cthulhu costume would be less disturbing than M-53 Rally Ram...

I, for one, am very impressed by the quality of fan Neil garners. Nice enough to link in support of their weirdness. And a handy link at that!

3. Important news for all you comic book readers, and I count myself among their numbers.

no doubt you've already been sent the article from New Scientist (or seen it yourself; you've mentioned you read their site) about how people who think of superman when asked about superheroes are less willing to volunteer their time than people who think of other superheroes, but, in case you missed it, it's at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996679 (My personal theory is that they are less willing to help than other people because their lives are not enriched by enough comics to make them well-rounded people, not because they are comparing themselves to superman and deciding not to help people because they don't measure up). David

Good old New Scientist...


Froooot Cake Recipe

Christmas Fruitcake Recipe

You'll need the following:
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
4 large brown eggs
2 cups of dried fruit
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
1 bottle of whisky

Sample the whisky to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again. To be sure it's the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure the whisky is still OK. Cry another tup. Tune up the mixer. Beat two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fired druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it goose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or somethnig. Check the whisky. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon the sugar into the bowel. Whatever you can find. Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window. Check the whisky again and go to bed.


Piece of Passe Porn Pawned

LONDON (Reuters) - The world's first known piece of printed pornography, described as the "quintessence of debauchery," is expected to reach up to 35,000 pounds ($65,040) when it is auctioned next month.

"Sodom," penned in the mid-1670s, has been attributed to John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester and is described by auction house Sotheby's as a "closet drama rather than for the stage" with pornography "in almost every line."

"We believe this is the first printed pornography in English literature, a unique copy of the quintessence of debauchery," Peter Beal, Sotheby's book specialist said.

"It is one of the most notorious publications in literature and makes most pornography written 300 years later seem tame."

The book centers on the decision made by a lustful King to "set the nation free" by allowing "buggary" to be "used thro' all the land" and then details the dire consequences.

The book, the only surviving copy, will be auctioned on December 16.

Marvelous Night for a Moondance

That, my friends, is the name of the full moon that appears tonight. A lot can happen on a full moon and I urge caution to all weres. It is hunting season, after all.

Other full moon names:

Full Moons 2004
January 7th Full Wolf Moon 10:40 am
February 6th Full Snow Moon 3:47 am
March 6th Full Worm Moon 6:14 pm
April 5th Full Pink Moon 6:03 am
May 4th Full Flower Moon 3:33 pm
June 2nd Full Strawberry Moon 11:20 pm
July 2nd Full Buck Moon 6:09 am
July 31st Full Sturgeon Moon 1:05 pm
August 29th Full Fruit/Barley Moon 9:23 pm
September 28th Full Harvest Moon 8:09 am
October 27th Full Hunter's Moon 10:07 pm
November 26th Full Beaver Moon 3:07 pm
December 26th Full Cold Moon 10:06 am

Full Moons 2005
January 25th Full Wolf Moon 5:32 am
February 23rd Full Snow Moon 11:54 pm
March 25th Full Worm Moon 3:58 pm
April 24th Full Pink Moon 5:06 am
May 23rd Full Flower Moon 3:18 pm
June 21st Full Strawberry Moon 11:14 pm
July 21st Full Buck Moon 6:00 am
August 19th Full Sturgeon Moon 12:53 pm
September 17tht Full Harvest Moon 9:01 pm
October 17th Full Hunter's Moon 7:14 am
November 15th Full Beaver Moon 7:58 pm
December 15th Full Cold Moon 11:15 am

Capitalism as it's Finest

We are a sue happy country, as evidenced by the following NY1 story:

Woman Launches Suit Against American Express For Letting Her Rack Up Debt
A woman who posed as a Saudi princess is suing American Express for letting her rack up an enormous credit card bill.

Antoinette Millard is suing the credit card company for letting her use a special "Centurion Black" card meant for people who charge more than $150,000 a year.

She says she was mentally ill at the time of her spending spree and that American Express should have known that she was acting irrationally and impulsively.

She is suing them for $2 million.

Millard is currently awaiting trial on grand larceny charges.

Millard had also been under scrutiny for posing as a Saudi princess to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.


Litterbox Goldmine

Coffee made from cat droppings

A Dutch online shop is selling coffee made from cat droppings - for £14 an ounce.

Kopi Luwak, or civet cat coffee, is produced by the civet cat in Sumatra, reports Dagblad van het Noorden.

It eats ripe coffee beans which are then hand-picked from its droppings by local people.

The beans are of the highest quality but the work is so intensive that only 500kg is made each year.

Dutch connoisseur Bob Dam, from Groningen, said the coffee has a fine chocolate aroma which tastes delicious at the back of the throat.

"The taste is exquiste but it is too expensive to really enjoy the coffee," he added.

UPDATE: And you can get it here and here. And, for anyone that wants to know everything there is to know about our friend, coffee, click this link.

Tears of an Icon Stolen by Worshipful Woman

Woman stole holy tear

Romanian police launched an investigation after a priest complained a tear which appeared on a painting of the Virgin Mary had been stolen.

And officers managed to find the culprit - a woman who believed her problems would go away if she had the miraculous tear.

The 62-year-old woman was one of hundreds of worshippers attracted to the church, in Parcovaci village, Iasi county, after hearing about the tear.

She told National newspaper: "I thought that if I took this tear drop at home all my troubles would disappear.

"I went to the icon, I prayed and then tried to steal the tear with my lips while kissing it. But I couldn't so I used a tissue to wipe the tear and take it with me."

Inspector Madalin Taranu said: "We cannot speak of breaking the law in this case and the woman can't be charged for anything. But one thing is for sure: it's the first case of this kind in our history."

The tissue with the holy tear was returned to the church and placed near the painting.


"We genuinely don't know who it is or what it is."

LONDON, England (AP) -- Are there ghostly goings-on at Henry VIII's palace, or is that hazy image of a fellow in fancy robes just a bit of Christmas cheer?

Closed-circuit security cameras at Hampton Court Palace, the huge Tudor castle outside London, seem to have snagged an ethereal visitor. Could it be a ghost?

"We're baffled too -- it's not a joke, we haven't manufactured it," said Vikki Wood, a Hampton Court spokeswoman, when asked if the photo the palace released was a Christmas hoax. "We genuinely don't know who it is or what it is."

Wood said security guards had seen the figure in closed-circuit television footage after checking it to see who kept leaving open one of the palace's fire doors.

In the still photograph, the figure of a man in a robe-like garment is shown stepping from the shadowy doorway, one arm reaching out for the door handle.

The area around the man is somewhat blurred, and his face appears unnaturally white compared with his outstretched hand.

The story goes on to relate that the palace has been the scene of 'many dramatic events' - a truer definition of an understatement is hard to find. But I'm sure someone will. You're just like that.

Happy Tha.... uh... Mmmm... Thanks.

An odd American holiday. I'm not falling for the Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a well laden dinner routine that was handed to me in grade school. But I like to see my people, I get to listen to my mom yell at the television (football) and I get to go into a tryptophan coma. There will be a parade. There will be a Santa. There will be the beginning of a long litany of Christmas commercials that will slowly drive me insane. And there will be the inevitable cranberry heap slid out of a can, retaining the rings from its recent home on its being. My mom will have some. My dad will have some. The rest of us will stare in awe and horror at the creature from the back pantry.

Great Buddha Boogers

Buddhist priests at Todaiji Temple, which resides in the capital of Nara, have taken legal steps towards blocking the sale of a popular sweet. This sweet, sold by Yamamoto Bussan, a Japanese candy company, is known as “snot from the nose of the Great Buddha” or "Great Buddha Boogers".
They horrified priests have stopped the name from being trademarked but not from being sold to millions of tourists who visit the Great Buddha in Nara.

Yamamoto Bussan claims the recession creates a needs for product names with a strong impact. A spokesman said some employees had doubts about the name, so it was decided to attach the ultra-polite suffix sama to Buddha's name. The picture on the packaging rather negates the effect of this.

Some may be familiar with other irreverent items featuring the Buddha that wouldn't exactly be called proper by the orange robed holy men. And don't click on that link unless you're over eighteen, kids.

The last photo is from the Buddha Bar.

Top That!

You'll have to excuse me. I am at war. My sister has deluded herself by thinking she can find cuter kitten pictures than me. Ha!

I think I win...

UPADTE: Dianne has progressed to a multi level attack, one of which included 'grossest photos'. I shan't involve anyone but my server in that. She and I have a rather high tolerence for grossness, although she invariably wins. The scab eating story almost always does me in.


World's Worst Blog on Bad Beer and Bar Nuts

Victor Gischler, in an effort to detract more readers, has done an interview with Nebraska's own Noir God, Sean Doolittle. Many important questions were discussed, including the following:

2. What's the biggest sandwich you've ever built? What was on it?

SD: Three-foot sub. Sort of a multi-cheese World Meat combination on French
Loaf with Ragu sauce for flavortaste. I remember it didn't keep very
UPDATE: When asked what 'World Meat' consisted of, Mr. Doolittle clarified,
All the meat in the world, of course : )
It tasted better in theory.
Theoretical tasting is always rhetorically better, somehow.

4. How did you get so good so fast at video golf, you bastard?

SD: I finally took a lesson. Shaved twelve strokes off my game. I can give you the guy's name, he's a magician.

7. Yippetty-doo-dah-whammy! How about that?

SD: Sorry, but I have to disagree with you there.

As would any sane person.
Doolittle, able to garner strength from didgeridoo playing, thwarting computer programming knavery and sitting in a very comfy chair, met Gischler's efforts with cunning, patience and patience, sending the brilliant but depraved author off in a huff, muttering something about lemurs and peanut butter.

Fortunately, the intrepid Doolittle,one of the best and tallest writers to grace my bookshelves in quite a while, overcame the Gischler's nonsensical questions to let all sandwich makers know how to finally make that ultimate Bumpstead.

Get a taste of Doolittle's writing from the link below:
Nebraska Noir

"So That's What That Sassy Scot was Smiling About"


Bad Blokes Banter

I dug up this little gem from the Guardian. Ian Rankin and Anthony Bourdain, two snarky, dry and convivial yappers extraordinaire, we're called upon for a tête-à-tête at Deansgate in October 2002. I've served you a few slices of their verbal feast:

Ian Rankin:
Tony and I have a special relationship, which is based around a love of alcohol and dangerous foods. Living in Scotland, you can't help but like dangerous foods.

Anthony Bourdain: Deep-fried Mars Bars.

IR: And the deepfried haggis. I introduced you to that. And the curried rib.

AB: Was it a king rib?

R: No, it was a cut up burger-y thing. There was no rib in it. But the last time we met was in your local in New York, which is a world away from the Oxford Bar, which is where we met before.

AB: The Siberia Bar. It's a fairly squalid hellhole with no sign but it's actually a really comfortable place.

IR: Comfortable wasn't a word that came to mind. Dangerous was a word that came to mind when we came through the front door past the dancer...

Somebody noticed that I obliquely referred to the actual bar, I did the best I could to not identify either the bar or the person who brought me there. I didn't want to see any American tourists there. The first time I went there I thought, "I want to die here, with a pint glass in my hand."

IR: Unfortunately the Rebus walking tour always ends up at the Oxford Bar. There is an official walking tour of Edinburgh, they take you to all the murder scenes. The man who runs it says you can go in if you want, but I'm not actually going to take you in as a group because Harry the barman is the rudest barman in Scotland. He would immediately eject any of them he didn't like the look of. The reason I go in there is because it takes you straight back down to earth again. I walk in there and Harry says, "When are you going to get a proper fucking job?" I say, "I'm 42 years old, I quite like what I'm doing." I get the feeling that if my parents were alive, that's how they would feel.

AB: All my cooks definitely feel that way. I've brought disgrace to my profession by writing. I feel that way sometimes.

IR: You're never going to do one of those chef books are you, where it's just all recipes?

AB: Yeah, I'm going to be doing the Jamie Oliver Christmas special, sitting in a hot tub together, long massages and Santa hats... No I don't think so.

IR: I don't think Jamie does that. Have you ever come across Nigella Lawson... so to speak?

AB: I didn't like the whole idea of Nigella Lawson. Everyone thought she was cute, I didn't like the provocative nibbling of an asparagus thing. Is she a chef? I don't like stand-up cooking shows in general. I hated the whole idea of her. Someone said to me, come out to dinner with me and Nigella. I ended up sitting at a table with her, we were all talking about shock food, trying to gross each other out. I mentioned I'd eaten a live beating cobra heart in Vietnam, drank its blood and bile, I thought that was pretty good. The other guy was talking about eating big bugs in the Sahara. I looked over at Nigella and she was really into this passionate discussion we were having, so I'm liking her already. Then she said, "I was in the south-west of France and they ordered a pig for me, a roasted, crispy foetus, it was delicious." I thought now that is hardcore. I thought that was really cool, so actually became a fan.

AB: Do you believe in amateur sleuths?

IR: I think it's much harder to believe than used to be the case. English writers started to write about amateur detectives for the same reasons Americans started using private eyes... because you don't have to know how the police work. You don't have to know any of the procedural stuff, or the forensic, you have someone outside the normal criteria.

AB: If I've just killed my wife and buried her somewhere, and Miss Marple turns up, I'm not telling her shit.

IR: I don't want to diss the traditional English crime novel, they just annoy me. I tried reading Agatha Christie, but it didn't say anything about the world I lived in. I was always desperately wanting to find books that did. I started writing contemporary books about Edinburgh because nobody else was doing it. I didn't know why no one else was writing about it. Now we have the opposite problem, every fucker is writing about it. There are more crime writers there than criminals. I want some seriously older people to come along and write some crime fiction. I'm sick of being called the grand old man of Scottish crime writing.

AB: When violence occurs in books, it hurts, it looks painful and it has consequences. Does a crime writer have any kind of responsibility to show consequences of violence?

IR: The consequences are more interesting, it's the same with murder, the effect that a murder has on a community is much more interesting than the crime itself. It's the aftermath that interests me.

AB: Have you ever thought of a really cool way of killing someone and just done it for that reason alone?

IR: Yes, I went on an underground tour of Edinburgh, I gave this guy 20 quid and he took me down to an underground city. There was this vaulted room with hooks hanging down, as soon as I saw it I thought - next book, someone's hanging from there

For my first book, the editor said, we have a problem, all the major characters make it through alive, you've got to kill at least one of them or at least wing one. I work in a kitchen, I thought of the most painful, horrible thing you could do to a person with one of those rotary meat slicers... I read that scene now and I hurt reading it.

IR: It's funny that when you start off you will do anything you are told. My agent once said to me the reason your books don't sell as well in America as they do in Britain is because the murder doesn't happen till page 60, 70, 80, or 90. We need the killing on page one. I did that for a while but then decided I didn't like it. What I do like is open endings, so all the loose ends aren't necessarily tied up. Real life isn't like that. In the States I had to add another chapter at the end of the book to explain what happened to the characters.

AB: The opposite of the director's cut?

IR: So and so went off and opened up a tanning butter factory.

IR: A mystery solving chef is not a bad idea... Writers, when they get together, never talk about writing, because when we do we start nicking each other's ideas. At the Edinburgh festival, I was asked, "What's your next book about, have you started it yet?" I said, "Yes, I'm 40 pages in. It's about a shooting in a posh private school just outside Edinburgh. Two 17-year-old Goths are shot down by an ex-army guy." Everyone thought it sounded quite interesting. The next day in the newspaper: "Rankin to write Dunblane novel". It must have been a quiet day, he'd actually phoned up some of the victims' families. So, you have to be very careful what you say in front of an audience, people get the wrong idea.


Got a feel for my automobile...

An afternoon of my usual habit (i.e. inveterate digging) supplied me with the following bit of cuteness from the Irish Times:
My First Car


What was your first car? A Volkswagen Golf. I bought it because it was cheap.

Was it new or secondhand? Very secondhand - I think it was a 1979 car and I bought it in about 1994 or 1995.

Did you know how to drive at the time? I'd passed my test by the time I bought it . . . well, I'd passed my test on about the fourth go. It was all a big misunderstanding - three big misunderstandings, actually.

What did you know about cars when you bought it? About as much as I do now: if something goes wrong, you take it to the garage and a man fixes it.

What advice did you get when you were looking for a car? It was my friend's brother's old car, so the advice I got was "Buy my brother's car. It just needs an engine." It didn't have an engine at the time. I got one from a scrapyard.

What did you pay for it? £600 - and a couple of hundred more to get it fixed up.

What impact did running a car have on your pocket? I took out a bank loan and paid it off over about six months. The impact wasn't huge, to be honest.

Was it hard to get insurance? It wasn't easy, but eventually I found an insurer who was quite happy to screw me to the wall for being under 30.

How reliable was the car? Well, it didn't have a choke, which meant that it conked out if I stopped at traffic lights. Once I got a choke put in, it was actually very reliable indeed until water started to leak into it, fogging up the windows and making it smell a bit odd. Then the heating gave out, and a rather alarming mould grew on the dashboard and steering wheel. Oh, and there was an orange fungus on the inside of the doors. It was a little ecosystem by the end.

How did it change your life? I didn't have to ask to borrow it. That was about it. Mind you, I was very fond of it. I was kind of sorry to let it go.

The longest trip you ever took in it? I followed one of the presidential candidates around the west of Ireland for a day in the car, and drove down to Kerry a couple of times. I was never worried.

The best memory? I never had sex in it, if that's what you're asking. In fact, it was so damp you'd probably have caught a cold if you even took your coat off. I'm not sure that I had a memorable moment as such . . .

. . . and your worst memory? The rear window got broken one St Stephen's night when I was on my way to visit my then girlfriend. The evening went downhill from there.

How long did you keep it ? About three years. I decided to get rid of it when I found that my trousers got damp if I sat in it for more than 10 minutes.

Did you make anything on the sale? Actually, I gave it back to the brother of the guy who sold it to me to begin with. It's still running - a neighbour is driving it.

`Two f-----s down.'

Carl Hiaasen's latest article for the Miami Herald highlights the bizarre level of faux conservatism taking place in America. Why do I say faux? Because it's all surface level. It's all media show and regime induced. It doesn't change reality and it doesn't make the bad things go away. Let's take our collective heads out of the ground and take a look at what's going on...

I've taken the liberty of posting the entire column for those that wouldn't have taken the time to register in order to read it.

Saving viewers from Private RyanViewers saved from the W-word

`Two f-----s down.''

So said Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, moments after killing a pair of enemy insurgents during a firefight in Fallujah.

The shooting is described by a Time reporter who accompanied Bellavia's platoon. The account of the battle is published in the magazine's Nov. 22 issue, with the F-word blanked out whenever it was used.

It is likewise blanked out in this column, although your average eighth-grader can tell you tell exactly what Bellavia said.

Soldiers are known to swear, especially after being shot at. You would, too.

There's something ridiculous about censoring expletives from war reporting, but the print news media have always been overly cautious about profanity, regardless of context.

Network television, however, is different. Rough language occasionally has been allowed in news programs, documentaries and drama series, when it was deemed not to be ``gratuitous.''

Now we're told that it's a new day in America, that broadcasters finally must pay heed to those who preach self-defined morality and decency.

Fear was the most common explanation for why 66 ABC affiliate stations refused to broadcast Saving Private Ryan on Veterans Day. Fear of a public outcry and federal sanctions.

The Oscar-winning film, which begins with Steven Spielberg's harrowing and unforgettable reenactment of the D-Day invasion, had aired unedited in 2001 and 2002. This year, though, station executives all across the country turned yellow.

They blamed Janet Jackson's breast. They blamed Bono, the rock singer, for cussing on a live awards telecast. They blamed the Federal Communications Commission for cracking down on so-called obscenity, but failing to offer clear guidelines.

Fretful TV executives pointed first to the F-word, which is used in various forms by the soldiers portrayed in Saving Private Ryan (just as it was used by the nonfictional Sgt. Bellavia and his troops).

It was also the word used more casually by Bono upon accepting a Golden Globe in 2003. Initially, the FCC ruled that the incident didn't violate its indecency standards, but later the agency reversed itself.

Some station managers feared that the profanity in the Spielberg movie would draw heavy fines (even though ABC had offered to pay), and that their broadcast licenses might be challenged by conservative, religious-based groups, a few of which had objected to the film.

The real thing on TV

But there was another perceived problem with Saving Private Ryan, one that wouldn't jeopardize any station's license or draw even the mildest rebuke from the FCC.

It was the W-word -- the graphic depiction of war at a time when the country is seeing the real thing on the front page and the nightly news.

Lee Armstrong, general manager of WSOC-TV in Charlotte, N.C., said that his decision not to show Saving Private Ryan was partly influenced by the fact that ''Americans [are] at war across the world.'' The implication is that it's unpatriotic to televise a combat movie when U.S. soldiers are actually in combat -- a point of view that insults the troops as well as the viewers.

Nonetheless, in place of Saving Private Ryan, WSOC entertained its North Carolina audience with that made-for-TV classic, Return to Mayberry. Talk about obscene.

Bleak and bloody horror

Similar displays of broadcast cowardice occurred in Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Des Moines and other cities with large numbers of veterans.

Ironically, no film in modern memory is as heroic in spirit as Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg paints war as the bleak and bloody horror it is, but the heart of his epic is the courage and tenacity of the American foot soldier.

What better time than during the siege of Fallujah to broadcast such a tribute? Or to remind us of the brutal, exhausting and sometimes tragic confusion of battle?

One station that had no qualms was WPLG-Channel 10 in Miami. ''We didn't need to be saved from Saving Private Ryan,'' said Vice President and General Manager David Boylan. He said that WPLG received ''only two or three'' complaints after the film was aired on Nov. 11. So much for the outcry.

Real-life soldiers

South Floridians survived hearing the F-word. I suspect that they'd even survive seeing it in this column or in Time magazine or if the editors change their standards.

But more important than being able to print unexpurgated quotes from Bellavia is being able to print the unexpurgated story of Iraq. That we can still do, and try to.

However, most people get their news from television. If a local station is so squeamish about the W-word that it cancels a mainstream movie, how much coverage will it devote to real-life soldiers under fire?

By ''saving'' viewers from Private Ryan, those 66 network affiliates sent out a singularly condescending message on Veterans Day: War is heck.

Spinach = Anti-aging Miracle?

How did I miss this? The 75th birthday of my brother Jon's biggest childhood hero. He would sing:

I'm Popeye the sailor man!
I'm Popeye the sailor man!
I'm strong to the finich,
'Cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

I'm one tough gazooka
Which hates all palookas
What ain't on the up and square.
I biffs and I boffs them
And always outroughs 'em
But none of 'em gets nowhere.

If anyone's dasses to risk me fisks
It's "Bop!" and it's "Wham", understand?
So keep good behav'or,
That's your one lifesaver
With Popeye the sailor man.

This explains a lot about Jon's mentality, doesn't it?

The Museum of Television and Radio in New York on November 13, 2004. The Museum unveiled a retrospective of Popeye, to celebrate his 75th birthday this year, which includes rarities, collectibles and other pieces from throughout the career of Popeye right up to the present. The exhibit is open to the public. Picture taken November 13, 2004.

The Net is Half Full, Not Half Empty!

Israeli agriculture officials sent crop dusters into the air to spray against the locusts that swept in from North Africa in the first such invasion since 1959. Eilat residents reported clouds of locusts eating palm trees bare and wiping out entire gardens.

"You watch as trees that are covered with flowers are devoured. They ate everything, even a grassy roundabout which is covered with locusts," said Meir, an Eilat resident.

Curious residents swatted locusts as long as 10 cm (3.9 inches) which filled the air as they walked outside to inspect the damage. "It's like the plagues of Egypt," said one resident.

In the Bible, locusts were the eighth of 10 plagues that God inflicted on the ancient Egyptians before Pharaoh, their leader, let the Israelites go.

"Delicious," said one Israeli man in Eilat, licking his lips after picking a locust off the ground and eating it raw. "They're a delicacy fit for a king."

A Web Site in Eilat listed recipes for locusts including locust shish-kebab, locust chips (French fries) and stir-fried locusts. The recipes said it was essential to cook the insects while alive "as otherwise they become bitter."

The locust is the only type of insect that is kosher and permissible for religious Jews to eat under Jewish law.

Auction House Rock

From Reuters:
A collection of six original uncut reel to reel tapes of Elvis Presley recordings is pictured in this undated publicity photograph. The tapes are set for auction November 21-22, 2004 by Bonham and Butterfields in their Rock & Roll Memorabilia sale and are expected to bring from $30,000 to $50,000. This collection of Elvis's recording career began in 1954 at Sun Records in Memphis with the famous producer Sam Phillips. Out of those sessions came "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't be Cruel, "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Love Me Tender."


Haitian pastor dies on U.S. doorstep

This upset me very much.

From the St. Petersburg Times and The Sun/Sentinal:

The man above, Joseph Danticat, died as the result of the mixed treatment for asylum seekers given by Homeland Security. Dantica was hospitalized and died Nov. 3 of an inflammation of the pancreas. The government said he had the disease when he arrived. He also had a valid visa to enter the United States. DHS detained him anyway, sending him to Krome prison.

According to the Haitian rights group, Dantica's son said his father suffered from a heart condition and his medications were taken from him by authorities.

He told DHS immigration officials the truth: That he was seeking asylum. That he also had a valid U.S. visa. He could easily have said nothing and walked right out of the airport. He could than have filed for asylum at a local DHS office.

John Pratt, a lawyer hired by the family, wasted no time in petitioning for the Rev. Dantica's humanitarian release. The DHS refused saying that he had to pass an asylum interview first.

Four days after arrival, he and Pratt began the asylum interview when the Dantica suddenly threw up.
Pratt described the medic called in as ''insensitive''. The medic suggested that the reverend ''wasn't cooperating'' because his eyes were open.

He was eventually taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. But his family was not allowed to visit him. He died there, alone, after five days in custody.

NEW YORK, Nov. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Caught in the terrifying crossfire of the political violence and lawlessness that has gripped Haiti since September, 81-year old Joseph Dantica ran away to the United States, seeking shelter and comfort in the arms of his family. Instead, he faced the hellish nightmare Haitian refugees before him have confronted when seeking asylum in the US: held overnight at Miami International Airport, placed in detention at Krome North, isolated from family, friends and legal help, facing an Immigration bureaucracy that from the top down has been hostile to Haitians' claims of fear of persecution. He arrived in Miami on Oct. 29, and was pronounced dead on Nov. 3.

"Pastor Dantica was a man of faith who put his fate in the hands of the US government. A visitor to the US since the 1970s, he had little intention of spending the rest of his life in the US. He hoped to return there when peace and calm were restored," said Jocelyn McCalla, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. He was instead treated like a pauper. Neither his frequent visits to the US, nor his close relationship with his famous niece, celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, compelled a more humane government response.

From Moorish Girl:
Unlike Cubans fleeing communism, who are allowed automatic entry if they reach U.S. shores, undocumented Haitians are routinely detained. U.S. officials have gone as far as arguing that the Haitians represent a national security threat; Attorney General John Ashcroft recently cited intelligence reports that Muslim terrorists were trying to use Haiti to infiltrate the United States.

The United States, after Homeland Security denied culpability, is going to investigate.


Music Mystery Revealed

It is Friday night. While others are buzzing about downtown, I sit in front of my computer screen, music playing in the background, incense burning next to me and scads of coffee filling an oversized mug. Believe me, it's better this way. You don't want to be around me if the muse is denied.

As the music blasts (Snow Patrol, Talk Talk, Faultline, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), I remember an article on music and writing I did a while back for Deadly Pleasures that now has a happy home at the Mystery One Bookstore site.

One can't help but notice how much music has pervaded fiction, in particular crime fiction. There are books I can't even imagine without the part that music plays.

But for my purposes this evening, I'll harken back to the element it plays in the creative process. For it seems once again I find myself abnormal - music is an essential part of the writing process for me. It establishes mood and actually helps me to focus my scattered brain on the task at hand - thank you AD/HD. But for most, music, lyrics really, are a distraction.

In my alliteratively annoying fashion, I asked a few writers about this very subject and got a variety of answers:

What do these paragons of paradoxes listen to while they write? Does it affect what they’re writing? Let’s return to Scotland and the world of Rebus (Ian Rankin - or, as if one goes by his signature, Ice Rack).

“I listen to instrumental music mostly: lyrics can get in the way. But it has to be rockist, so I go for bands like Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Dirty Three, etc. No classical; sometimes a little laidback sax jazz. I don't feel the need to listen to different types of music for different scenes - which is to say, I won't suddenly switch to Jesus and Mary Chain because it's a car chase, or Autechre when it's a laze on the sofa...” So not Rebus. It’s rather a relief.

George Pelecanos pontificates in a similar vein. “I can't listen to music with vocals while I write because the words collide with the words running through my head. So I listen to instrumental music: electric jazz (70's Miles and Mahavishnu), acid jazz, trip-hop (or whatever they're calling it this week), and movie soundtracks. The music of Ennio Morricone has been in heavy rotation in my computer these past three years while I was writing the Strange/Quinn trilogy, because those books are urban westerns, and because his music is beautiful. I felt it helped me pace the scenes. Also, I was plain into it. Bullitt/Dirty Harry-era Lalo Schifrin was another favorite.” When I plugged some Ennio in I felt strangely compelled to don spurs and roll my own cigarettes despite the fact that I don’t smoke. I closed my eyes and tried to picture D.C. and couldn’t. My respect for Pelecanos increases.

“In terms of the ACTUAL writing, I don't listen to music at all.” Mark Billingham responds “I find it far too easy to sing along and drum on the desk when I should be typing. I listen to music all the time when I'm not actually working, through the course of a novel and that does change book to book. When I'm stuck into a story I listen to far less seventies stuff than I would normally - immersing myself far more in country and alt. country music. Always on the lookout for something new for Thorne to discover. Right now I'm going through a major Steve Earle phase having just read a wonderful biography and so Thorne is likely to be listening to "Guitar Town" and "El Corazon" quite a lot in the book to come...” Earle’s short stories and music ride the edge that many mystery protagonists spend their fictional lives on, and that’s probably why Pelecanos’s Quinn finds shelter in Earle’s blue collar world. In a surreal twist, Earle himself has released a collection of short stories “Dog House Roses” trying to use his lyric writing skills to tell a story without a melody. Paradox? Maybe? Or just an extension of his writing ability.

John Connolly concurs with the no music while actually writing rule. “I don't actually listen to music when I write. I just find it too distracting. I used to have a stereo in my office, but I got rid of it. It just made the place look cluttered.” Can’t have a cluttered office when writing about spiders, can we? But, again, music plays an important role. “Music has been inspirational, though. When I'm thinking about a book - maybe when I'm walking or driving - I sometimes use music to help me concentrate. When I despaired of ever finishing Every Dead Thing - which was often, as it took five years - I would listen to “Something I Can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails. It's a supremely sinister piece of music, and effectively soundtracks that book. Similarly, I always associate Depeche Mode's “Home” with Dark Hollow. That was the song I listened to when I ran into trouble with it, or just needed to get in the mood to write. Parts of the Sweet Hereafter soundtrack have also helped, at times, particularly the second track.”

Bill Fitzhugh is in accord with silence. “I never listen to music while actually writing. I have a dilapidated building on the back of my property that I call The Way Back. I've got my album and cd collection back there with my seventies-era Klipsch Heresy speakers, turntables, cd players, mixing board, etc. I go back there a few nights a week to drink whiskey, smoke a cigar, and listen to music while I think about the current book, make notes on it. Figure out what has to happen next. But I don't do any writing out there. Right now, working on Radio Activity (which is set in a 'classic rock' radio station), I'm listening to all the great stuff from '67 to '77 that classic rock radio stations never play.” I think if Rankin ever entered the Way Back with Fitzhugh, we wouldn’t see either of them for months.

“I never turn down blues or any music with good harmonica,” Vicki Hendricks notes. “It's the dark side of life that appeals to me, as it does in my writing, I guess. On the writing of the current novel in progress Cruel Poetry, I've listened to Santana's Supernatural over and over for hours and hours. Sometimes I set the CD player to repeat “Smooth” and never change it, because it has just the attitude I want. One of the characters in the novel has Cuban parents, but was born in New Jersey. I can't remember if I created the character before or after I started listening to the Santana CD, so now it's all inseparable, and the Latin flavor in the form of dialogue permeates the manuscript, as well as the obsessive plea for love to someone who is so “smooth“.”

You'll have to tune into the Mystery One site to find out the answers to the next question: Were you ever a musician. Connolly's answer is a must read.

Photo of the entranced Stephen Booth, the earnest Mark Billingham and the apparently very thirsty John Connolly lifted from Shots Magazine.


My introduction to Captain Underpants happened while I stood in a bookstore with a friend. We stood yapping with the woman that ran the Children's Section when what did I spy out of my little eye but this bald headed guy wearing tighty-whities and a red cape. I was entranced by his beanie butt and ferociously happy expression. My friend, it seems, was a huge fan and had Captain Underpants perched on his monitor when he wrote. Within the week, I'd read my first book, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and the WRATH of the WICKED WEDGIE WOMAN. I was hooked and hooked bad. And once again, I am not the only one. Fans of Dav Pilkey's work, begun as a way to combat AD/HD in children learning to read, show their appreciation as much, and as openly, as possible.

Dav, having overcome ADD himself, is a hero to many and a role model for the above. From the bio on his site, he describes how Captain Underpants came to be:

"I used to staple sheets of paper together and make my own books. I invented a whole bunch of super heroes, including 'The Amazing Captain Underpants,' who flew around the city in his underwear giving wedgies to all the bad guys. Everybody in my class thought these comic books were really funny, except for one person - my teacher! I remember one teacher who used to rip up my books and tell me I'd better start taking life more seriously, because I couldn't spend the rest of my days making silly books. Fortunately, I wasn't a very good listener." — Dav Pilkey

If you want laffs, action and love Flip-o-rama fight scenes, the you've got a little Captain in you. I heartily recommend CAPTAIN UNDERPANT and the PERILOUS PLOTS of PROFESSOR POOPYPANTS. But any will doo doo...