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Law and Over?

Friday, August 31, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

A meteor is a bright light streaking across the sky. A meteorite is a meteor that goes thudding into the dirt.

Fred Thompson: meteor or meteorite?

I'm betting he plows into the flinty New Hampshire soil.

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The Iraqi Steve Hadley.

by Michael Reynolds

Sometimes I just can't really add anything.

A description of a Congressional visit to Iraq:

Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it "the Green Zone fog."

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated."

But even such tight control could not always filter out the bizarre world inside the barricades. At one point, the three were trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children's cartoons.

When Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, "But this is my favorite television show," Moran recalled.

Porter confirmed the incident, although he tried to paint the scene in the best light, noting that at least they had electricity.

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Brian DePalma: Creep. (Updated)

by Michael Reynolds

Al Qaeda propagandist.

Don't tell me I'm calling for censorship. I'm not. I don't ever, won't ever, call for censorship.

And don't bother making the point that I'm criticizing a movie I haven't seen. I haven't seen it, so I'm not commenting on the technique, the plotting, the acting, or any other element of the movie.

I'm talking about the choice of subject for a movie by Brian DePalma.

American director Brian De Palma is launching his controversial new film based on the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by US troops.
...

"When I read about the Mahmudiyah incident in Iraq 2006 - five US soldiers raped a local girl, killed her and her family and later tried to disguise it as an insurgent attack - I knew I had a story."
Dear Mr. DePalma: You can make a movie about anything. You want to do something political, something capital "I" important? You could do a movie about Darfur. Uganda. Repression in China. Repression in Saudi Arabia. Repression in Myanmar. Repression in . . . fill in the blanks. You could deal with a million godawful things, foreign and domestic.

If you feel you simply must criticize your own government -- a perfectly legitimate choice -- you could do Abu Ghraib which was at least an institutional failure. Or you could document military mistakes or intelligence mistakes in Iraq or Afghanistan. There's no shortage of legitimate targets of opportunity. I could make you a list.

But instead you choose to focus on a single act of horrific criminality.

Why?

What was the thought process that winnowed down a list of a thousand possible subjects to the single least representative and most inflammatory episode in this fucked up war? What can your motivation possibly be?

It's not educational or informative. It's not entertainment. It's an expression of hatred for your own country. And that isn't brave or honest, it's just churlish, immature and creepy.

I don't complain much about liberal bias. I'm not one of those guys. But Jesus Christ, what in God's name would possess you to point a giant, flaming finger at this monstrous aberration? And then to premiere this piece of anti-Americanism in front of a foreign audience?

It may be a brilliant piece of filmaking. It won't change the fact that you're a fucking tool.

(Callimachus agrees, albeit with fewer f-bombs, and links to several other blogs.)

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Into the HarperDome.

by Michael Reynolds

Finally, for the first time ever, after a decade or more writing, after publishing an absurd number of books, I've actually met face to face with an editor. And lived to tell the tale!

We'd always been in a position to do the face-to-face. Scholastic invited us, back in the day. But K. and I are suspicious, narrow, unfriendly and controlling people. We hated the idea of meeting with editors because we worried it would dilute our control.

Control.

Yes, our control over a silly kid book series that has kids turning into animals. Look: Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch and Oprah and even Harry Reid have their empires, I have mine. Mine's just, you know, tiny.

Anyway, I penetrated straight to the heart of The Beast: HarperCollins, mightiest of publishing behemoths. Had lunch with my editor, met the publisher, and met sales and marketing and publicity.

I was very conscious as I blathered on that I was sitting where literally hundreds of thousands of people would like to sit. Writers just starting out are desperate to make contact with the actual human beings on the far end of the slush pile. If I could have put my lunch with my editor up on e-bay I guarantee I could have sold it for ten thousand dollars. There are writers out there who would have mortgaged their homes or sold a kidney to be able to grab the empty chair.

I wonder -- and I'll have to ask someday -- if these folks understand that they are the object of so much longing. Do they understand that there are thousands of people whose egos, hopes and happiness hang on their choices? People checking their mailboxes, checking their email, obsessing over whether voice mail may have somehow missed the vital call?

I sat there across the table from my editor and could see a vast crowd of faces pressed against the glass behind him, eyes filled with longing, manuscripts clutched in their hands. I was acutely conscious of my good luck. But not so filled with egalitarian feeling that I failed to place the proposal for my next project directly into his hands, effectively jumping the line ahead of all those waiting thousands.

Knowing you're lucky, knowing you don't deserve it? Good. Failing to exploit your luck? That's just stupid.

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Shouldn't a Senator Lie Better?

Thursday, August 30, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Wide. So very . . . very . . . wide.

Here's the problem with Senator Larry Craig's bathroom boner badinage with Detective Karsnia: it isn't what Craig said during the cringe-inducing exchange, it's what he didn't say.

If it had been me taking a wide stance, I'd have said something along the lines of:

"Are you fucking kidding me? You arrested me for bumping your shoe? Seriously? Because I don't remember when we passed that law. How the hell am I supposed to know that's some kind of gay sex signal? I bump your shoe and pick up some paper off the floor and suddenly I'm getting hassled by cops? Ooookay. You're obviously nuts, so I'm going to lawyer up now."

The mistake Craig made was to assume too much. Straight guys -- or for that matter gay guys who don't give blowjobs in bathrooms, which I have to believe would be the vast majority -- have no idea that a wide stance is a form of sexual contact. The way to handle it with the cop would have been to play dumb, not innocent. The what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about defense would have worked better than the kind of silly denial-of-details tack.

As Detective Karsnia says at one point, no wonder the country's going down the tube. Or was it down on the tube? What is this country coming to when a United States Senator can't lie convincingly?

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New Rule

Monday, August 27, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Simple new rule:

If you "find Jesus" after being arrested for a crime, the usual sentence will be doubled.

I'm not even a Christian and I'm offended on Jesus' behalf. These people are making Jebus look like an enabler. Come on, people, he took a nail for you, stop treating Him like the all-purpose alibi.

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The Wife and The Boy (Update)

by Michael Reynolds

I am torn here because I have something I want to post about, but I do my best not to forge Google connections between this PG-13 blog and my kid book writing. So I'll have to resort to a little link obfuscation.

I am pleased to announce the arrival of my wife's web site. K*therineAppleg*te.com.

I am even more pleased to announce that the site was created -- entirely -- by our son, Jake. Jake is ten. Not even ten and a half: ten.

Jake has been a geek (he wears the label proudly) since age four when we bought him his first computer in self-defense. (Self-defense because he'd get onto our 'puters and, shall we say, change things. Not always for the best.) He was installing OS's by age five.

Jake takes weekly lessons in a software language called Scheme, a dialect of Lisp. But he taught himself HTML, and taught himself to use Dreamweaver and Flash. He's all over the Mac OS but keeps in touch with Windows as well.

(The site is still under construction in parts, and we have a Safari glitch which Jake is working on.)

UPDATE: Ooops, some IE issues as well. Works great in Firefox on Mac.

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20 or Fewer Things.

Sunday, August 26, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

20 random thoughts as the martini and the ambien slowly take effect:

1) Tomorrow my daughter goes back to school. My son a couple days later. I didn't like teachers much when I was a kid, and I still don't. It's cats and dogs, humans and Romulans, oil and water: they are one species and I am another. Despite that there are some teachers I've met who I think should be making 150k a year.

2) Senator John Warner is now the guy Joe Lieberman wants to be when he grows up. Warner is 80 years old and he just seized control of Iraq's future. Lieberman's a clown. Warner is the man.

3) On one fan fiction site there are 3,900 contributions spinning off our A*imorphs series. More than Lemony Snicket. More than Warriors. More than Stephen King. Some are 50,000 words long. Some writers hate this. I love it. Greater love hath no fan than he would type 50k words. Right on. Rachel lives!

4) I like the shaved head thing. But the clippers you use? They're designed for flat surfaces, it seems, not for the roundness of a giant melon head. So the whole process takes a lot longer than it should.

5) Later this week I'm going to NYC to schmooze with editors. I've co-written or written 150 books and never done the NYC-with-editors thing. Naturally my main concern is: wardrobe. My natural costume is jeans, t-shirt, sneakers. I dress like a fucking 14 year-old. But I'm going with the black blazer, gray Zanella slacks, striped dress shirts and Bruno Magli loafers. Later, as an homage to Bruno Magli, I'll stab someone.

6) I think some of the difference in approach to Iraq between me and Annie and Callimachus and Dave Schuler is that I am poisonously intolerant of people who promise and fail to deliver. I am very tolerant of what we might call "little people." But don't ask for my vote, ask to be elevated to a position of authority, wrangle a lifelong pension, and then fuck up. I forgive the barrista who screws up my cappuccino. I don't forgive presidents who screw up my country. Not saying that's an attractive part of my perosnality.

7) Seriously, why in God's name is anyone still using Windows?

8) There's a term I remember from my brief time in college philosophy courses: cathexis. It means emotional and intellectual investment. Its counterpoint is de-cathexis: the shedding of emotional investment. I am de-cathecting from Chapel Hill. I never cathected much -- I never do -- but whatever interest I ever had in this place is fading fast. My head is already in Florence, Italy. Firenze, Italia. Lei vorrebe mangiare qualcosa?

9) We're going to do viral videos to support the launch of my new book series. This is cool because 1) It might sell some books, 2) I'm writing the scripts so, 3) I can write off my Final Draft software, and 4) have a good excuse to go to Chicago (where the filming will take place) and 5) get into Alinea, again, God willing, or 6) Charlie Trotter, or 7) Tru, or 8) Moto and 9) I love great restaurants.

10) This picture here? I felt oddly compelled to post it. And I felt just as compelled not to comment on it. But over at Ambivablog I was discussing things and realized that this picture comes as close as I get to the idea of the sacred. Gods and devils and their various religions are meaningless to me. They always seem tedious and badly-written. But this is sacred. A man who will go through his life like that, a woman who stands by him. Courage, sacrifice, patriotism, loyalty, love. Real people carrying terrible loads. If I was going to drop to one knee and bow my head, it would be to them, not to some absurd celestial parent surrogate in the sky.

11) My TV friends will be back soon. Scrubs. House. Galactica. The Shield. The Wire. The Simpsons. So much more fun than real friends. And so much less likely to borrow money.

12) When you go to sleep at night your shoes should always be untied, ready, poise one might even say, in case you have to leap suddenly from bed. Yes, just a little bit crazy.

13) Oh, crap, fingers moving slowly. Brain even more slowly. The gin and ambien cocktail. So . . . 20 things? I'm a hafta owe you seven.

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