Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My book's up

My UK publisher, a great independent called Legend Press, is featuring some of their books during Advent and it's A Son Called Gabriel's turn today.

So pop over to Legend Press and take a look (and consider purchasing) some of their truly great books.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Broad Street review

Broad Street by Christine Weiser is nothing short of an hilarious, entertaining romp peopled by idiosyncratic and wonderfully offbeat characters.

Okay, I'm biased. I love reading novels about strong, single-minded women with testosterone addled musician boyfriends with names like Dale who cause them endless worry and who cheat on them and treat them badly and then the women seek revenge
by setting up their own rock band that eventually starts to make it in the jealousy-riddled mid-90s Philly rock band scene.

In a story that brings the streets of Philadelphia and various haunts to glorious life, Weiser (who plays bass in a band) in unadorned, direct prose unfurls Philly mainline Kit's tale of a dead-end copy-editing job with a shrew boss called Jean who later radically transforms, drunken band practice sessions with her fellow musician Margo, a jaunt to play at a club in D.C., a spot of rivalry with another female band called The Pussy Willows and much regretted trysts in bed in untidy apartments with people she can't remember or doesn't like.

Published by PS Books, a division of Philadelphia Stories, this is a novel sure to please many, especially those who wish they'd taken the plunge and joined
that rock band in their hedonistic twenties.

It's available from Amazon and in paperback and has a Kindle edition, too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smorgasboard

We went to Atlantic City a week ago where we stayed at the Tropicana Hotel, which is really rather lovely. It's basically a casino with an Old Quarter replete with cobbled stones, overhead fans reminiscent of an Havana restaurant blowing gentle breezes in one's face and lots of interesting restaurants.

We dined at Cuba Libre, an excellent Cuban restaurant where we tried a special meal they prepared for people not used to Cuban food. Of course, the de rigeour black beans were there, as were the plantains--but so too was a variety of chicken dishes including pork and chicken awash in refreshing fruit marinades one associates with the tropics. Their thinly sliced toast and mango butter was delicious.

Larry and I now plan to go to the original Cuba Libre in Old City Philadelphia as a result.

As it was Larry's birthday, a couple of shows were in order. We saw Fame--rather good--and Cirque's Pandemonia--not so good; boring, in fact.

The board walk's apparently the best in the US--I found it long and tawdry. We walked it up to Taj Mahal, which was as I expected: Gaudy and tasteless interior, as gaudy as his tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the only difference being there were wasn't any busy Italian granite on the walls. A warren, really. And, naturally, the Donald's book about getting rich was prominent in almost every window of the bazaar. I think it was called Ali's Bazaar or something.

And yes, fluttered a wee bit on the one-armed bandits and didn't win but did break even.
------------------
What a magnificent speech president Obama delivered last night. He is truly a leader, a man of decent intent, a man who represents all Americans. I cannot understand why sane people regardless of their political ideology would not want to improve the existing bloated heath care system we have currently with a just system that covers all Americans at a fair cost and without prejudice to income level or pre-existing condition. He is right to say we must move forward and that he will disregard the intentions and opinions of those who seek to maintain the staus quo.

Right wingers need to realize change is coming and get over the fact Obama won the election. Yes, a black man is leading the United States of America and he's doing a brilliant job. Get over yourself. Contain your hatred. Examine your consciences and be true and decent Americans.


Left wingers need to realize there will be National Health Care system in America. This country loves private enterprise and decent, honest profits--not GREED--and the public option is a good way to move forward.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thoughts about Ted Kennedy

I'm Irish and, of course, that means I'm supposed to hero-worship the Kennedy's as a matter of principle.

Well, I didn't. In fact, I never really was much concerned about their doings as I went about my life. I was a kid when JFK died. What I read about the senior father disgusted me, though I did like Rose. One flaw was her religiosity, so intense she could not forgive Kathleen for marrying into a British aristocratic family because they were Anglicans and would not attend her funeral after her tragic death.

I didn't intend to watch the funeral mass for Ted today. However, I did. I was riveted. Absolutely riveted. It was as if a President had died, perhaps more so.
I haven't really felt such biting sympathy for someone I didn't know since Princess Diana died.

Over the last couple of days, as I've watched the media, another picture of Teddy Kennedy began to emerge. One in which he was shown to be amazingly human and flawed, and kind, a man who wanted to do much good in his life, a man I know I'd have liked a lot if I'd ever met him.

It's true, the Kennedy's are quintessentially an American family. To borrow a cliche, they are indeed the closest a family will ever become to being American aristocracy.

And, of course, in their fiber and DNA, the Kennedy's are stolidly Irish no matter how far they've risen and American they've become. They celebrate raucously, sing the cheesy American ballads, gather together and love/hate one another. They relished their Irishness, celebrated it, never forgot it. They just wouldn't want to return to the old sod because it offered them nothing to begin with.

And there's a lot to be said about a modest family hungry with ambition, not content to rest until they achieve the farthest they can.

So, I'm sad he has passed before he had the opportunity to realize his dearest desire. I'm sure universal medical coverage will come. It's just he won;'t see it.

It's a given that the Irish like to tear down their own, sort of keep them in tehir place. I don't know why that is. Maybe other nationalities do it too.

Today I feel very proud to be Irish in America.

Rest in Peace, Senator Kennedy. You made this country a better place.

And my sincere condolences to the extended Kennedy family.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Tale of Two Towns

Back from a beautiful relaxing week in Provincetown, Cape Cod.

It was my first time to P-town and I loved it. In many respects, New Hope in Bucks County is a little similar in that lots of artists, writers and gay and lesbians live there and it's a 'live and let live' community. But P-town has the upper hand because of the great beaches, bay and ocean where the water is ice-cold when you first get in but delicious after you're fully immersed.

The local people are exceptionally friendly--whether gay or straight--and visitors flock like seagulls from the Eastern seaboard, Canada and Europe mainly. (We had a seagull spend a few hours on the balcony of our condo and Larry even hand-fed him pieces of bread.)

Of course, having been to Rehoboth, it was inevitable I'd start to make comparisons in my mind between the beach towns. While Rehoboth has some charms--the beach is good and ocean pretty--it has many strip malls on the approach to the town center which render it chaotic and somewhat unappealing. I also think its fair to say P-town is more sophisticated and architecturally elegant. Admittedly, our friends now own a pretty home outside the town so we don't go into Rehoboth very much and instead visit Lewes, a much more elegant nearby village.

The straight visitors to Rehoboth Beach and P-town are very different. The vast majority of P-town's straight visitors and their kids are educated, friendly and possess the manners to be respectful and know how to conduct themselves on another territory that's welcoming and different to their own. That said, P-town does open its arms to a small number of ill-informed visitors arriving by hydrofoil from Boston to eat ice-cream and gawk at the gays and lesbians. Thankfully, they don't stay to dine in the fine restaurants and rush back to the boat dock at dusk where they again set sail for the Boston burbs, their hearts full of thanks that their beloved little 'buddies' and 'princesses' aren't that way, their minds brimming with sights of kissing homosexuals, nipple rings and other bizarreness to recount at the next PTA or fire station spaghetti dinner fundraiser.

No such luck for Rehoboth residents: they have Hooters and a variety of cheap restaurants where the out-of-towners congregate to continue their hostile looks and naked sense of superiority. I found more than enough such visitors to the Rohoboth Beach boardwalk to consider it a phenomenon. That said, one begins to comprehend but NOT sanction why this is so when one understands Rehoboth Beach lies in the south where there's an Evangelical or Southern Baptist church on every street corner and gun-toting rednecks reared on a diet of squirrels and shucked corn in the back woods.


One bonus for us was it was P-town's annual Carnival--what a sight at the Gay Bingo evening (won nothing, but came close) and later, on Thursday, as a legion of drag queens took to the sun-beaten Commercial Street in garish, hilarious array.

In ending, I have to admit I did buy a T-shirt. An elegant one, mind you. And a sweatshirt as well. Also elegant. Vintage in style, as if it's already ten years old.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

ABBA and a Russian couple

Go my ABBA and fireworks display fix last night at Longwood Gardens, the former home of Piere duPont which he then gave to the nation.

We didn't have the greatest view as we were underneath a beautiful sprawling Cypress tree due to arriving a little after 4 p.m. and finding many had already staked their claim--leaving rugs and other personal belongings on the benches.

The fountains--installed by duPont in the 20s were spectacular, lighting up in an array of rainbow colors in time to the frantic beat of Dancing Queen, Take A Chance on Me, etc. And then came the spectacular finale to Waterloo, the hit that brought ABBA to the world stage when they won the Eurovision contest.

Only downer of the evening was a run-in with a Russian couple at the cafe--it was packed and they made everyone wait while they argued with first the server and then the manager because they wanted to mix-and-match menu choices that weren't available to them at the price they wanted to pay. (It has to be said they also cut the line.)

Helpfully (or so I thought), I said, "I think you'd be best just picking from the choices allowed as the manager's pissed off at you and the line for food is getting very long."

The woman looked at me--vulpine face with ice-blue eyes and a slash serving as a mouth--and said "Shut Up."

At that, the server ignored them and moved on to me.

Moral of the tale: There are nice Russian tourists and then there are the others.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

LOL

On way to dentist I saw this sign outside business selling granite memorials


"Drive carefully
We can wait."

Guy's got a good sense of humor.

Monday, July 27, 2009

On writing

Realized I haven't blogged for a bit.

Been very busy as I got some brilliant feedback on the new novel, now called THE MISSIONS OF NOAH YOUNG, that necessitated some major first chapter revisions.

One person who gave me the feedback said "Take everything I say as pure encouragement to struggle to get to something important." As this person is tres important in publishing world, I realize I'm lucky having his ear and am doing just that.

So it occupied my mind greatly.

Got a beautiful, beautiful email from a 17-year-old who'd read Gabriel and was profoundly moved. I really feel I've done my job when I get notes like that.
Guy comes from the bible belt, which makes it doubly satisfying.

My publisher didn't put any marketing dollars there because they thought they'd get no return. Glad a bookstore still has it on their shelves.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nike! Nike!

Off I went to the dentist--a new one--for a deep cleaning to the first two quadrants of my mouth. Next week will be the next two and final quadrants.

Five injections of novocaine and, though I felt nothing, the water pick sounded like a water canon inside my mouth. The file didn't sound any better.

Knowing I needed a filling, I gamely suggested she do it while that part of my mouth was numb. Also at the back of my mind was the thought there might be a bit of a saving.

"Okay, Damian."

The dreadful whine of the drill and then it stopped dead.
I was glad because I was beginning to feel a little pain.

"The decay's quite deep," she said. "It's also very close to the nerve."
"Meaning what, exactly?" I managed to say, though my mouth was so frozen I thought the words were palpable as I said them.
"You need a root canal in my opinion."
I thought of my old dentist and wondered if I had swapped him out for one that thought she could vacuum the money from my pockets.

"Damian, would you like to know the cost of a root canal?" said the receptionist cum billing clerk.
I felt suddenly vulnerable, exposed. I couldn't just walk out if it was too expensive. In short, I was screwed.

"Tell me?"
"$640 and 15% discount for cash."
"Nike," I said.
"What do you mean?" said the dentist.
"Just do it."
"It's going to be a longer procedure so I'm plugging this and come back Tuesday?" she said.
"So I wait."
A damned good reason to include dental in any health care reform, huh?
It's time. No listening to the greedy insurance industry, Republicans and other industry insiders who are trying to fear-monger and say standards will fall and wait-times rise. That's bullshit.

Nike.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

An evening of feedback

I'm making headway on the next novel which remains untitled until something pops into my head. I'm just finishing Chapter 4.

On Tuesday night, with great trepidation, I received feedback from my writers group, Rebel Writers of Buck County a.k.a The Rebs, about the first two chapters which I'd submitted the previous month. It's great to have people you trust critique your work and we have, among our members, a couple of great copy-editors and people who do not hold back when a plot point isn't working.

All in all my sample was well received, though a few felt I needed to get to the first conflict before page 8. I'm mulling this advice bearing in mind there is a difference between literary fiction and thrillers or criminal novels.

One thing that came up is the fact I wasn't born in America. Some of my prose is still Brit in that I use 'gas forecourt' instead of 'gas station' and expressions like 'playing up.'

Regards publishing in general, I've got a feeling there's going to be a big shake-up in the industry soon. They're simply not doing well in these difficult times. Many agents will fall by the wayside in the way real estate agents leave the industry when the housing market is in the doldrums --certainly those lit agents who haven't been selling manuscripts and those who really earn their living attending writers conferences and earning money from that will leave to find new work. The larger literary agencies will drop some of their employees.

I'm thinking the smaller, flexible independent publishers will be the winners after the winds of change have settled--publishers like the UK's Legend Press who published my first novel. They're managed by young Turks like Tom Chalmers who owe no allegiance to the stodgy old business models and aren't afraid to try new things. It'll be an interesting ride.

Monday, June 29, 2009

An extraordinary woman

As a teenager, I idealized Agnetha from ABBA and Farrah Fawcett Majors, the glamorous one in Charlie's Angels, as she was known then. Both are/were powerful, attractive women who reached for the stars and achieved.

And then life gets busy and one moves fully to inhabit one's own life as one should and the crushes and people who inspired them are forgotten.

Last week, I watched Farrah's Story and I was struck again by the woman--not this time because of her head of golden hair and huge American smile, but by how human she was, how vulnerable, how strong and compassionate, how full of life. And her spirituality and deep faith--Roman Catholicism--astonished me because we don't really associate that with people living in Hollywood. It was astonishing to see her wheel her rosary beads in her fingers and watch her kiss the crucifix as my mother would

Having been brought up Roman Catholic, I knew intimately this woman's visceral need to continue believing in a benign God and last minute possibilities as she rested her head on her balcony and talked to God and said she's seriously in need of a miracle.

Her unflinching bravery as she allowed us to view the most intimate periods of her fight against cancer, her bouts of tears that weren't self-pitying, her desire to shield her aged father--a plain-talking Texan with a huge heart--from yet another death that would obliterate the last of his immediate family, the last moments when her son came to visit and she didn't recognize him, the medical peaks and troughs she traversed as she searched in Germany and the US for a cure, all showed what a truly remarkable woman she was and had become.

Michael Jackson's death--in itself a great tragedy--overshadowed this woman's last day on this earth. But she will be remembered.

Farewell Farrah and rest in peace.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Whisking through the city

Just back from three tremendous days at NYC with Larry and my brother Seamus.

Stayed at the Hilton at Times Square as we wanted to be near to the action and my brother doesn't walk so good, result of a road accident when he was twelve.

First day was spent visiting the WTC and Rockerfeller Center followed by dinner at our fav Indonesian restaurant just off Restaurant Row. My brother can't understand why so many Americans want to line up to be seen waving during the Today Show. During teh afternoon, we stopped by an IMAX as Seamus hadn't seen a movie on IMAX before. Star Trek was showing (which we'd seen the previous week and really enjoyed) and Night at The Museum 2. Even the fact it was on IMAX couldn't save such a ridiculously hokey movie. Time Ben Stiller moved on.

Next day saw us doing the Empire State building, including the ride--not so good. A bit of a rip-off actually, given the quality of the photography and the gimmicks a la Kevin Bacon. Yeah, that guy really is degrees of everywhere.

After that, we went to see Chicago--which we all enjoyed--followed by drinks and dinner at The View, the revolving restaurant on the 48th floor of the Times Square.

Last day was spent at the Hayden Planetarium and Museum of Natural History. I'd never been before and the last time Larry was there was when he was a schoolkid in the Bronx being chaperoned by his teacher. It was very enjoyable, especially the African exhibit with its huge herd of elephants. It was worrisome (and quivers of political correctness threatened to extinguish my pleasure) when I read the the herd that included a huge bull and two calves was 'collected' and then given to the museum by an individual (not Teddy Roosevelt). Was 'collected' a pseudonym for 'shot'? I mused.
They were 'presented' in 1905 which made me feel better, though I couldn't help wonder how the magnificent creatures still sporting their huge tusks had died in their prime.

Knowing what we know now about elephant society, even culling is unacceptable.
The dinosaur skeletons, on the other hand, produced awe of a different kind.

And then our trip was over and we were speeding back to Bucks through the horrid rain.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A visitor

Gone a little off the Engine 2 diet as my brother Seamus is visiting currently--although not very much as we're eating delicious veggie dishes five times a week.

So far I've managed to lose 10 lbs so I'm quite pleased with my progress--very pleased actually since I'm hooking up with my writing group on Tuesday evening and Marie wants to see how much I've lost on account of how I raved about the diet.

I'm also submitting a couple of chapters of the new novel--less than I'd have liked but I'm showing my bro' the wonders of Bucks county. Next week, Larry he and I will spend three days in NYC doing theater and restaurants, etc. Looking forward to being a tourist there myself.

It's great listening to my bro yak with his kids Oran and Eimer on the phone (the other two are older and out of the house; Seams really is a dedicated Dad, but being an Uncle is definitely the way to be. Love 'em on your own time. LOL

Tomorrow we're holding a BBQ for him--looking forward to kicking back with some vino and friends.

And a big shout to my nephew David and niece Ciara (Seamus's daughter) who've just completed their exams and second year at the Queens University Belfast.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Week 2 complete and a new beginning

Week 2 of Fire Engine 2 down with a slight hiccup.

Yeah, we strayed a bit over Memorial Day weekend and tucked into a burger and some BBQ ribs. Not many mind you, but enough to make me feel mucho guilty.

However, back on track again and I'm not gonna worry about feeling guilty. Just had an excellent Japanese meal with mushrooms, carrots and bok choy done with ginger and mirin sauce.

Today has been eventful as I've just begun a new novel. I agonized for an hour about the opening paragraphs and now am out the gate. My Mormon protagonist has now got life. This time I tried a new technique. I actually outlined the plot on index cards and then sorted them in sequence and copied them into the Word document. As I complete each scene, I can delete the corresponding entry and on and on until the novel is written.


It's supposed to banish writer's block aka staring at a blank page. We'll see.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Engine 2 -Week One complete

I've just completed Day 7 of the Engine 2 diet, which isn't a diet per se but rather a means of changing one's eating habits.

Engine 2 diet is basically a Vegan diet (consuming anything with a face or mother is forbidden) that was started by the head fireman from a Houston's Fire Engine 2. He persuaded a company of Texan red meat eaters to go Vegan. However, his father (who really devised it while doing heart research) is/was head of the Cleveland Clinic--a top heart hospital in the US, which was founded by his great grandfather. If you're interested to try it out, the book is called The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn and there's a website.

Basically, the diet states we've been brainwashed by the meat and dairy industries and the USDA to believe we can only get good protein from animals and their by-products. This is not true as animals get their protein from plants--and meat and dairy are basically not good for us and that living a plant based diet can eliminate and in some cases reverse the damage caused by the western diet. The only vitamin not found in plants--largely as a result of modern day large scale food production--is B12 and that you can get from Nutritional Yeast, which looks like grated Parmesan and can be used in dishes as such.

I'm a meat and chicken eater, love cheese and yogurt and haven't missed any of it so far. The recipes suggested as part of the diet we have so far enjoyed, and the one we found a little bland was easily fixed with additional spices, etc. So far the one I enjoyed best was the Portabello Mushroom burger with sweet potato fries. Major yum-yum. That surprised me.

Real Men can also be Vegans. Who knew.

Report on Week 2 next Sunday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Smoke filled rooms

Just had a great laugh this morning. My sides are still hurting

The medical industry--doctors, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical industry--have decided they want to help the Obama Administration reform the industry.

They will hold costs steady for the next few years which will result in a loss of profits amounting to 2 trillion dollars.
In exchange they want a place at the table to reform the industry.

I can't begin to imagine how many secret meetings have been held among these industries.
Smoke filled rooms filled with different kinds of smoke are alive and well.

I guess the credit card legislation and public sentiment has spooked them.
Oh, and remember the pharmaceutical industry's promise to reduce the costs of drugs a few years ago. I'm sure somebody in the Obama Administration will do their research.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Reconnecting

Out of the blue, I got a call from someone I haven't seen since I was 21 and living in Germany. The call came just as I was helping Larry hoist a brute of an aluminum ladder up on the roof so he could reattach a cedar shingle that had come loose in a recent storm.

Susan and I attended the Collegium Palatinum in Heidelberg--me fresh out of law school. Then, I had plans to become a bureaucrat and work for the European Commission--the group that oversees the business of the European community--in Brussels and I needed fluency in a second European language. Susan was a journalism major.

She and I and a bunch of friends spent many evenings in Heidelberg kneipes throwing back bootfuls of cold frothy beer (that's the German yard of Ale). I remember her sitting in a bar wearing a huge quilted maroon jacket writing furiously as the erst of us drank ourselves silly.
When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, "Writing a letter to a friend back home."
It struck me as very funny then.

I met Susan and her hubby Eric at the Starbucks in town. Eric's an alum of the The Solebury School and they were down for the alumni weekend. We'd arranged to meet in front of a shop called Taste of India and I recognized her immediately. That pleased me. I ahte it when people change so much, you don't remember them.

A pleasant hour was spent drinking coffee and eating bananas on the Starbucks veranda watching the people stroll by. Our conversation wasn't about the past--well, other than asking about some people both of us had lost contact with straight after the course ended. That's when I learned neither of us are nostalgic people.

She and her hubby run a magazine out of Southampton, Long Island and they do a clown show which the local kids love.

It's great to reconnect. Highly recommend it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The email

Yesterday I opened my email to see Sales Statement from my UK publisher, Legend Press. It was for the second half of 2008, but as A Son Called Gabriel only came out in mid-October it was only for two months. Excitedly, I opened it up and was amazed how simple the statement was to read and that sales had been brisk. Sadly no check is forthcoming as sales were credited against my advance.

I wish my US publisher statement had been as simple--in that case, I had to have it explained twice and even then I didn't fully understand the thing.

I must say Tom Chalmers is doing a great job at Legend. He's always approachable, courteous and a pleasure to work with--and he's ambitious and possesses vision. Legend Press is an Indie to watch.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A bit about research

I love when an idea for a new novel pops into one's head. That happened me a few weeks ago when I was thinking I'd start to write a different sort of book. It came fast and furious and unexpected. My initial thought was to kill it as I knew it would involve too much time doing research. As a lawyer, I've done my fair share of that--both at law school for exams, essays and with a girl called Patsy Monahan who was my 'moot' partner in a maritime problem we were given to defend and when I worked as an associate for a mean son-of-a-bitch boss who still gives me the chills when I think about him and who had me research for appellate cases he handled--and I dislike the amount of time it takes. When I do research, I tend to become fully absorbed in the process because I can't stand doing a half-assed job like lazy lawyers and some novelists whom I've read of late.

But the idea of the novel was strong and kept rising Phoenix-like from the ashes of rejection. So I have surrendered and am now immersed in the world of Mormonism. Yes, Mormonism. My as yet unborn and unnamed protagonist is a Mormon. I am Irish with no Mormon relatives. Nor have I as yet been baptized by them 'in absentia' so that I will get to the Celestial Kingdom. (I believe that happens upon one's death so my father may have been by now or is in line to be baptized by them at one of their temples.) I have only met a couple of Mormon missionaries from Utah who knocked on the door of the flat I shared with a very well-bred, very pukka dyke who was tres untidy, read two novels at a time and became my teacher of all things hedonistic--we drove to dance clubs in her shiny TR7, her 'babe magnet,' a vehicle so intensely magnetic she had to merely drive around the block where the Gateway club was situated rather than pay the entrance charge on those evenings she felt like going (alone) into Central London to drink at the only lesbian bar in town. Both she and I were in our very early twenties and our primary interests were our invincible youth, looking hot and acting cool, alcohol, disco and did I mention our invincible youth. We did not care to learn about Joseph Smith finding golden tablets deep within some NY hillside or Brigham Young or the Book of Mormon. Now I wish I'd listened to them instead of wondering what to wear that night to Heaven, the one at Charing Cross.

But I digress. I am finding my research fascinating and enjoyable. Writing is about the journey and I love to meet new people and learn new things about the ever-changing mosaic we call humanity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chia Obama: But wait there's more

So now certain sections of the African American population are annoyed because a fried chicken joint in New York City has named its restaurant "Obama Fried Chicken." They said it's racist and must not be allowed. It's like linking African Americans to watermelon and collard greens is also racist. The restaurant said it is not backing down--the owner was Korean. Sure the Irish have been poked fun of for their fondness for potatoes and they don't get all upset about it. However, if a sign went up at a business establishment saying "No Irish need apply", that would be a horse of a very different color.

The objectors are also angry at the Chia Pet's "Obama" heads. One of the heads is lighthearted and the other a "serious Obama." Again, they say it's racist. (I must say anyone who buys Chia Pets needs to have their heads examined. They're ALL naff.) Already one drugstore chain, Walgreens, has bowed to the imaginary fear of a boycott or plummeting sales and stopped stocking the silly thing.

The official White House position is they discourage use of Obama's likeness for commercial gain.

With all due respect to the African American population, I think the dissenters need to lighten up a bit. It's not racism. It's poor taste--crass commercialism. That's it, period.

We poked fun at George Bush for the last eight years and enjoyed doing it. Before that, it was Bill Clinton and blue dresses.

This is in the same vein as Bush cards and nodding heads. Stop playing silly victim. Focus on what is truly racist and go after that full speed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Are business schools failing us?

I used to share with a chappie in London who told me one day, "Damian, it's an Oxford world."
We'd been having a discussion about education and universities--I went to what's called in the UK "a redbrick university" and he went to "Oxbridge."

Of course, it was an arrogant remark and I told him so. But it seems to me that remark would now give him a huge bite in the ass.

Aside from the fact it would be more accurate to say "It's a Harvard world", I got to thinking this weekend about what the remark really meant in the context of our so-called elite business schools in the United States, places like the Wharton School, etc.
My conclusion is these business schools have failed this nation.

Why?

Because they have failed to instil values and morals into the men and women streaming out of these institutions into fat cat jobs in Wall Street. It's these same people in pursuit of the almighty dollar (an oxymoran) who caused the financial and world crisis we now finds ourselves in.

And I think I know of what I speak. Because, as a trained attorney, I can honestly say that courses on morality and working for the common good were scant, any teaching on them confined to a mere sixty minutes at most.

So American education needs to get back to the basics and expunge this whole glorified homage greed and 'Individualism'. It's time to teach the next generation attending these ivory towers about doing what's right in life and what;'s good for society.

And one aside. I do not like the Congress imposing punitive taxes against the greedy fat cats who received millions in bonuses not earned. I'd rather we started criminal and civil procedures against these people for negligence, theft and breach of fiduciary duties to their corporations. It can easily be done and that's how we get the money back and these rascals are made to pay.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

American Country Home For Sale






This gorgeous French Country Style American Home's now For Sale. High ceilings, open plan for modern living, latest amenities and wooden floors throughout. Great local schools.

Situated in the beautiful quiet American Countryside on a wooded 4+ acre lot in famous Bucks County, an hour and twenty minutes from New York City and just under an hour from Philadelphia.

Area abounds with nature and talent--from actors, artists, authors and sculptors. Close to New jersey's Pharmaceutical corridor if you're a techie or corporate director.

And even better, it's in an area of the US that's stable and real estate prices haven't been affected by the recent bust.

Friday, March 13, 2009

On the wall

She was eighty-three, with sparse gray hair and liver-spotted, bony hands in mid transmute to distasteful claws. Polish on her manicured nails sparkled in the light of the overhead reading lamp and matched her crimson lips. She was rich but had had a hard life in the small Louisiana Bayou town she lived in since girlhood. Her husband was dead and had been a tough man and bit of a racist--a very successful businessman but didn't like 'the colod folk' She did not miss him. She had not grieved his passing. I could relate to what she said. My compassion reared like a cowboy's mustang.


Her granddaughter was living with a man who'd raped a teenage girl and she believed he should be hanged. I don't believe in the death penalty but I didn't object. Her daughter, living in Pennsylvania, is in her sixties and raising her granddaughters, a boy and his older sister, offspring from two separate trysts. She sends clothes and money and these children love their great grandmother. The Louisiana state wanted to take them after the rape verdict and she spirited them away to Virginia. I admired that. Louisiana rearing children? My compassion intensified.

She was an avid fisher woman in her prime. Her husband had a boat. She loved to fish. She loves to eat catfish, crayfish, salmon, orange roughy, has even tried a bit of sand shark. She also loves all animals and donates to the USPCA and Humane Society. She owned dogs and cats. She had six Labradors and still grieves the loss of the last one six years ago, a yellow female that contracted cancer. I sympathized. Spice came to mind and I stopped breathing for a moment.

"My greatest trophies I have on the walls of my living room," she said.
"What did you catch?"
"Two beauties," she said in her Southern drawl. "Real beautiful. Could even be mother and baby because I caught 'em the same day and place. And I brought them in myself. I fished good."
My interest was piqued. "What sort of fish?"
"Dolphins."
"Dolphins?"
Her eyes widened like mine, though with great pride. "Caught them off the coast of Florida thirty years ago."
"Dolphins aren't fish," I said.
"Sure they are. You can't eat 'em, but they is fish all the same. Company love them when they come into my living room."

I retreated to my novel.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A stroll on Bourbon Street

Just back a few days ago from a wonderful trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras--caught mucho mucho throws (that's a N.O euphemism for beads, flashing lights things and stuffed velveteen crawfish, etc.)

One Mardi Gras highlight was the Zulu Crewe's floats and I even managed to capture the elusive coconut--a black one with "I love New Orleans" painted in gold glitter.)
A funny sighting (or pathetic depending on one's P.O.V) was popping into a bar on Bourbon St in the French Quarter for an afternoon tipple and seeing a middle-aged, very drunk woman dressed like Miss Jean Brodie stuffing a muscular dancing boy's underwear with dollar bills for the privilege of groping his rapidly growing member. Replete with slender fingers, one adorned with a thick wedding band and very decent diamond engagement ring, I was astonished when she gave him ten dollars and asked him to sit on the counter before her. No sooner had he done so than she whipped down the front of his jockstrap and attempted to perform fellatio, which he immediately put an end to--that's not permissible even in the hedonistic FQ

Her friend turned to Larry and I and said after laughing, "Look at my friend, the big slut."

On being refused a mouthful of member, the lady released the overly muscled dancer's jockstrap and was then dragged away by her friend. The pair staggered full of mirth out the door toward another adventure.

A visit to Jackson Square for a rest on the benches proved equally colorful. There a group of religious zealots were brandishing huge 'hate' signs warning about homosexuals journeying to hell while screaming via bullhorn at the crowds about Jesus, getting saved and evil homosexuals. Countering their lecture were a bunch of spirited gay boys and lesbians, some of whom were busy making their own signs. Two portly lesbians staged a kiss-in about six inches from these holy rollers who were as clean cut as neo-Nazis, then were swiftly followed by two gays man dressed in Mardi Gras costumes who then proceeded to energetically faux shag--again inches from said, now bug-eyed evangelicals.

The biggest laugh, though, was on the night President Obama made his first prime-time speech. I can't begin to tell you how much I was entertained by Louisiana's Governor, Bobby Jindal, as he bullshitted and lied his way through a self-serving rebuttal speech that only the staunchest most loyal Republicans, Newt Gingrich and the guy on telly who buys prescription meds without having a prescription could swallow whole.


Lastly, I was very happy to see the city has really recovered from Hurricane Katrina and must say Brad Pitt is doing some fantastic work helping people move into spanking new accomodations in the Ninth Ward. Way to go, Mr. Pitt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You--aka -Don't Go and save your hardearned bucks

I went to see He's just not that into you yesterday.

What a dud. What a bore. The only audience this might appeal to is teenage girls.

Based on a nonfiction book of the same name (if the film kept faithful to the book, then the authors are morons and it's not a surprise publishing's in crisis), the narrative thread (or lack of it) traces a number of twenty-something women in Baltimore trying to work out how guys minds work when it comes to dating.

No cliche is left unturned including the aloof and uncaring heterosexual, the boorish, farting heterosexual male, the effete homosexual with a sibilant affliction and the innocent young woman (think annoying Charlotte in Sex and the City) who has no clue how to interpret the blind dates and calls a bartender she just happens to befriend. Oh, and he falls in love with her in the end. YAWN, YAWN, YAWN.

It's self-indulgent piffle.

Ms. Aniston, whom I like, settles into the well honed role of slightly quirky, slightly befuddled, slightly scatty, lonely twenty something she's cut out for herself. She might like to rethink these roles now she's many nautical miles from that age.

Halfway through Larry turned to me and asked at the exact moment I was thinking the very same thought--"Is this ever going to end?"

At over two hours, it's value for money if you like the decidedly mediocre.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The crash

It all happened so quietly, so unexpectedly.

It began as flickering, something one dismisses as a quirk.
The next quirk was that the photographs I use as my screen saver disappeared--utterly.
When I next booted up, they'd returned.

And then on Monday came the belligerence. The disk simply didn't want to behave. It made the cursor disappear into corners of the screen, made Word behave like a spoilt child, made the Mac operate at a snail's pace.

And yet, I continued to think the computer is behaving quirky. I'm just going to keep switching it off until it behaves.

And then on Thursday, it became slow and slower and then didn't work at all. And when I switched it off, it didn't return and all I saw was a blinking question mark.

The silence was devastating, the consequences unbelievable.

Off I took it to the Mac dealer. Technicians really are a different breed.
"Oh, looks like it might be a failing disk. If it is, it'll be hard to get you another."
"Why?
"Old technology."
It was made in 2003"
"Old technology."
"How much?"
"We have to diagnose first."
"Okay?"

Next morning---ring, ring...ring, ring--ring,ring.

"Hello"
"Jason from the Mac shop"
"Hey."
"It's a disk failure. It'll be two hundred bucks. Do you have your files backed up?"
"No. I thought my flashcard was backing up and just found out yesterday when I checked it at a friend's that it wasn't"
"Not so good."
"Can you recover""
"Probably not. It won't mount. We'll have to end it to a outside date recovery people."
"How much?"
"$600."
"WHAT?"
"That's only if they don't have to use a clean room."
"Did you say 'clean room'?"
"It's where they wear white suits and work in sanitized room. You've seen them on CSI, no?"
"How much?"
"Up to $2000."
SHIT...F***. SHIT." Silence. "Listen, put in a new hard drive. I've gotta think about the recovery thing."
"Take your time."
"F***"

Friday, January 30, 2009

The mechanic's tale

Nothing worse than having car problems when you don't know too much about cars.

I wish I'd watched my Dad more as a kid when he did things under the hood.

Taking the car down to the local tire supplier--they've got great prices but they're die hard Republicans and seething about Obama's victory and his stimulas package--I was informed teh front two tires were shot and the back two had about a month left.

They gave me a quote and had them changed, then booked the car in for a wheel alignment.

Arriving the next morning, I said, "By the way, the car makes a strange knocking sound when I brake or it decelerates."

We'll check it out for ya'"

An hour later, I was summoned out to the garage where the car's raised high on automatic jacks and the mechanic pointed to things near the wheel called rods and said "they're broken. New ones will sort your problem."

What can you do? You've got to trust your mechanic and try and look knowledgeable at the same time so they don't smell "idiot."

Two hundred dollars later, I drive home very happy that it's not the transmission which even I know is tres, tres expensive. Halfway home, there's a noise....yes, the old familiar knock sounds again. And then it sounds again and again...only worse this time because there's an accompanying rattle.

This morning I arrive down and the lady at reception who knows every tire and bolt in a car says,"You're back."
"Yeah, it wasn't the rods."
"I'll get Fred."

While Fred examines the car, I wait and seethe as I listen to one of the workers talk about how he and his wife going out to dinner "tonight with their Democrat friends" and they are not going to talk about the stimulus package.

"I hear ya'" said receptionist. "And what about that woman in California who just had eight kids and has six at home and no man. Disgusting, that is."

Yeah, yeah," said her colleague. "Who's gonna pay for them?"

"We are," said a customer. "She's on welfare. Our tax dollars."

I realize this could be true and do have sympathy here.

"They need to lower taxes. That works. I want no government in my pocket," said the receptionist.

Thinking about Bush's tax rebate last summer and how ineffective it was, I just bit my tongue.

Fred comes in. "Can you come out to the garage a sec'?"

This means it's gonna cost me. Sure enough, I'm underneath the car again looking at some other curious bits and bobs that could be space shuttle parts for all I know as he tells me my transmission is leaking fluid and the mounts supporting the chassis are a bit dicey.

The logical side of my brain wonders why he didn't see and mention that yesterday but I nod sagely. I also wonder now the economy's in free fall, are they taking me for a ride. The other part of my brain, the wanna everybody to be nice and caring, thinks they're being helpful and doing the right thing.

"I see," I say as I look into the black oily guts of my car. I really wish I'd watched Dad more often and not thought it boring when he worked on the family car.

It's going to coast another $400.00 to repair ands even then it might be the transmission.

"Give me the quote in writing," I said. "I'm gonna get the transmission checked first.
"Not a bad idea." he said. "We don't do those."

So off to the transmission shop next week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Onward

What a great day for the republic yesterday was.

What a delicious sight at the mall as over two million people gathered to weep with joy and celebrate and hope.

What a delicious sight to see a true middle class/working class family, an African American family with no wealth and privilege, move into the White House.


What a reminder of the fallibility of humankind to hear the Chief Justice flub the words of the oath of office and to see the President at first hesitate and also stumble...and how it brought smiles to even the most cynical.

And what an inspiring measured speech, one that let the people know he understood the people are hurting and change was going to come and America was immediately charting a different course to rectify the wrongs of the previous administration and would take its place as a leader in the civilized world, with the proviso that leadership is earned not automatically given.

And then came the executive order that implementation of all Bush executive orders given in last few days were to be 'frozen'. A standard policy, but still satisfying.
The first grain of sand passing through the neck of the newly turned egg timer.


Of course, the usual laments are in abundance today, that the President was short in information about how he would finance such an ambitious agenda.

Is that the purpose of an inaugural speech? I think not.

And the greedy reckless ones in Wall Street panicked and let the Dow fall by the largest number of points in any Presidential inauguration.

Maybe it was fear that the day of reckoning is nigh.

What a wonderful day for the restored democracy.

Onward.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is there really a thing called women's fiction

So I took the plunge and decided to open the covers of my first 'women's fiction' novel. It's My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

I started reading it while on the elliptical at the 'Y'--the true acid test of a good book, because if it doesn't make the time fly, out it goes.

Astonishingly, my first fifty minute workout went by really quickly. I'd even done the five minute cool-down without realizing it--and I was stepping away and no 'burned calories' were being recorded because the damned machine had switched off.

Well and good.

As I delved deeper, I began to anticipate what was going to happen--not so good. But I have to say her writing is excellent. She can sure turn a phrase and some of her similies and metaphors are really good--if a bit abundant, something I was accused of by an editor on one occasion. And a few are a stretch, but every writer can't hit a perfect score on that count.

I find her woman characters are fantastically drawn, but am less convinced by the lead male character, Cameron, and Sara's husband. Their sensibilities and thoughts are too much what a woman would want them to be and didn't ring real for me.

However, these are minor quibbles and I will definitely read another Picoult novel.

Men looking for an ice breaker at the gym or wherever might consider carrying about one of her novels. It's extraordinary the number of women who've approached me to ask how I'm enjoying the book and then begin chatting as if I'm their best friend, even women who've ignored me at the gym for the past three years.

Yes Virginia, there really is a thing called women's fiction.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wintuk and more

We went up to see Wintuk at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. I'd never seen a Cirque du Soleil production before so I was quite excited.

It's the story of a Nordic boy's quest to have snow in his village for Christmas. At first I was apprehensive when the performance began and three skate boarders began doing tricks--having watched kids outside the National Theatre in London doing the same kinds of tricks, I wasn't very impressed. Fancy turns on skateboards just don't cut the mustard anymore.

But things soon picked up when the four streetlights came to life and an array of performers came on and did their acts, all accompanied to the ethereal musical scores and chanting one associates with Cirque du Soleil.

My appetite is now whetted for a trip to Las Vegas to see one of their truly spectacular shows.

On teh subject of appetites, friends had suggested restaurants to visit for lunch. But, wanting something different, I researched the net and found a great Indonesian restaurant in Hell's Kitchen just off Restaurant Row. Time Out had given it a good review so Larry and I went there with open minds and hungry tummies. As this was Larry's first Indonesian meal (I'd been to a really good one in Amsterdam), we settled for one of their special menu's, which contained samplings of various dishes from fish to chicken.

Excellent, and all washed down with crisp Indonesian beer. Well, all except teh delicious banana in a filo-like pastry desert.