Friday, February 08, 2008 by Michael Reynolds
MSNBC reporter David Shuster has been suspended
for saying, in reference to Chelsea Clinton's new prominence on the campaign trail, "Doesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?"
Chelsea Clinton is the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton. (You may have heard of them.) Daughter, but no longer child. Chelsea was born in 1980. She is 26 years old, will soon be 27. Chelsea Clinton is a grown-up. She's a big girl. She's no longer the little girl Rush Limbaugh famously and inexcusably ridiculed
. She's no different than any other public figure, no more entitled to kid glove treatment. No one held a gun to her head and forced her onto the political stage, she walked out there of her own accord, and she can hardly pretend she didn't know the lights on that stage were harsh.
There's not a man, woman or child who believes that Shuster was actually suggesting the Clintons were treating Chelsea like a prostitute. He was using a fairly common phrase. I use it all the time. So why the outrage
? It's faux victimhood. Asinine accusations based on ridiculous gotcha! moments. The outrage is 100% manufactured. 100% false.
It is intimidation from the Clintons. Intimidation. Bullying. Thuggery. They saw a tiny crevice of an opening and are using it to beat up MSNBC in hopes of getting better treatment from the network. The Clintons aren't upset; they're laughing.
I'm not a fan of Mr. Shuster. He's a good reporter, but lately he's been falling victim to Paul Krugman disease. He's spending as much time seething as reporting. But in this case, in this context, he's done nothing wrong. Slightly off-color? Eh . . . okay. Reason to suspend him? No.
by Michael Reynolds
Ian Rock at American Thinker
Obama fans seem to give you the same general answer. Mostly, it has something to do with this charisma. If you want a good example check out a recent interview George Clooney gave explaining his reason; you get the same JFK personality "thing."
To me, it's like you are all voting for Obama because of some unexplainable aura he exudes. Everyone is swooning over this almost mysterious attraction he exudes. "Electric" is another word I have been hearing. Call it what you will; let's just call it his innate charisma.
I understand that some of you are voting for Obama for reasons other than his charisma. But, as I watch the size of your group swell before my very eyes (literally every refresh shows another five to ten more supporters) I am becoming more alarmed by your thought processes, and less convinced that you know what an Obama presidency will actually look like.
History shows that it was exactly this kind of thinking which allowed charismatic leaders like Adolf Hitler to take power. Extreme? For sure. But, it is a relevant comparison when looking at large groups of people being swayed to act for all the wrong reasons.
Let's dispense with that regrettable final paragraph first, so we can go on to talk about the more serious point.
Adolph Hitler was quite specific. He had lots of plans. Germans who supported him were not surprised when he re-armed, took a pugnacious tone with France and Britain, and oppressed Jews. Mein Kampf was in the local Barnes und Noble.
But setting that aside, let's talk about Obama "groupies" and what we hope for from Mr. Obama.
What we hope for is an opportunity not to coalesce around a specific issue, but around the idea that we are Americans first. We hope for a chance to demonstrate that we are not merely dozens of interest groups, that we are not this color or that, this religion or that, this ideology or that.
We hope, in short, for an end to the Atwater-Clinton-Rove style of politics. We don't see that as an end, but as a beginning. Do we know precisely where we hope to end up? No. We don't. But we know from where we've been forced to start for many, many decades now. We've been forced to start divided. We've been forced to start fractured, split, manipulated. And we're tired of it. We're sick to death of it.
We don't know where the road will lead. But we know where we want to start. We want to start off Americans first. We want to be together before we are separated again by political differences. Is that really so hard to understand? Is it really so contemptible that we want, at least for a while, to stop being angry at each other, stop despising each other?
Note that I say that, "We don't know where the road
will lead." I don't say that we don't know where Mr. Obama
will lead us. It's less about what Mr. Obama will do, than what he will allow us to do.
As conservatives point out, it isn't government that makes this country great, it's the people. In recent years governments, both Republican and Democrat, have profited by turning us against each other. Well, we're onto that game. The media has profited by portraying us as little segments, bits and pieces, all angry, all irrational and demanding. We're on to that game, too.
Politics has stopped being about solving problems. It's stopped being about ideas over which we can disagree civilly. Politics has become mean, narrow and trivial, a game of insult and gotcha, a game of deliberate distortion. It has lost all genuine intellectual content. It is sound and fury signifying nothing.
It poisons us.
We want to regroup. We want to remember who we are.
So where we hope Mr. Obama will lead us to is not the promised land, but to the starting line. Given the opportunity, we will take it from there.
Thursday, February 07, 2008 by Michael Reynolds
The Mitt Romney story.
The Flipmaster has flipped out.
It's been a year of political firsts. The first serious female candidate. The first serious African-American candidate. And Mitt Romney, the first serious Reptilian-American candidate.
And now Mitt the Flip is gone. But never fear, he'll be back.
He may come back as the embodiment of Money! conservatism.
Or some other branch of conservatism.
Or as a moderate.
A social democrat.
A ton-ton macoute.
A method actor.
Whatever you need.
Whatever will get him elected.
Just tell him what to be. He'll be it.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008 by Michael Reynolds
As discussed here
, the Republican Party consists of three wings.
First, there's the Money! wing, whose guiding principal is: "Money. More." Then the Bombs! wing, whose guiding principal is, "Grrrr! Rrrowf! Rrrowf!." And finally the Jesus! wing which believes God made gays on the seventh day at a wild post-creation party. (During which God did several things even He can't remember. And woe unto he who remindeth Him.)
We are down to three Republican candidates, and each is not only a representative of one wing of the party, but the mathematically precise representative of that wing. Each of the three is the perfect embodiment, the distilled essence, of his wing of the GOP. Quite frankly, it's eerie.
Mitt (the flip) Romney isn't just a water-carrier for the Money! wing, he's a nine-figure guy himself. Rich? Oh, yeah. And his main claim to fame? That he's rich. Major accomplishment? Richness. Campaign platform? "Hey, I'm rich. Let a rich guy run things."
But Mitt goes beyond mere richness, to embody the spirit of every money-lover who ever said, "I will say whatever it takes, do whatever it takes to get what I want." In other words, he's not just rich, he's utterly ruthless and, as far as anyone can tell, devoid of moral center.
Now that, my friends, is the zero-impurities, 200 proof, essence of the Money! wing.
As for Bombs! Republicans, no fiction writer would dare to invent a character so perfectly suited for the role as John McCain. The man doesn't just support Bombs! He actually dropped them.
He's a naval aviator. A solid gold, honest-to-God hero. A man among men. The concepts of honor, duty, country aren't something he puts on, the way Mitt Romney dresses up in his pro-life camouflage, these are things that go all the way down to John McCain's DNA. You look at a John McCain chromosome under the electron microscope and you know what you see? John Wayne in a cowboy hat.
McCain was trashing Don Rumsfeld when no one (well, except me) was trashing him. McCain was surging when Bush was still staying the course. And when it comes to fitting the role to emotional perfection, what could be better than McCain's cranky, teeth-gritting, I'd-punch-you-in-the-face-if-my-arms-hadn't-been-broken-during-my-five-years-of-torture-you-punk, take no bull, never back down personality? McCain is
Finally, what overly-literal casting director would have sent Mike Huckabee to be the candidate of the Jesus! wing? The Governor-Pastor doesn't just believe in God, and the major highlights of the Bible. He believes the craziest stuff in the Bible. He believes the stuff that makes six year-old Sunday school kids go, "Nah."
He believes Mary was a virgin, Lazarus was dead, and the Jews couldn't find their way out of Gaza for forty years. He believes a fish swallowed Jonah and Joshua fit' the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho, and the walls came a tumblin' down. The man believes that a nice Tyrannosaurus couple climbed onto Noah's ark, took a cruise, and then disembarked carrying their souvenir photographs and a handbag they picked up in Cancun.
And could he be any more perfect, with his quick wit and his ready smile and his goofy plans? He's the perfect door-to-door, Bible-salesman huckster, right down to his ya-gotta-be-kidding-me name.
Most election years you get a candidate who represents Money! and one for Bombs! and one for Jesus! And in the end, the GOP weights their selection, with Money! naturally carrying the most weight, while Jesus! gets lip service and one chance to embarrass the country before all of western civilization. But this year there is no compromise. No synthesis. No candidate who represents anything other than his own wing.
The only uniting factor this year is that Bombs! and Jesus! really, really despise Money!
Bombs! and Jesus! united in a burning hatred of Money! Wow. I don't know who wrote this script, but I have to say, as a Democrat, I'm liking it.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008 by Michael Reynolds
Since I played skunk at the picnic over at the agent's blog earlier, I'll do a bit of penance. Here's the winner of his contest for Essential First Page. I assume it's a kid's book and I happen to know that a Big Deal Kidlit Editor (and good guy, amazingly,) at a Certain Major Publisher, reads this blog.
And now, unless he quickly averts his august gaze, he's read the first graphs of the winning
He was carrying a can of soup and needed to make change for a nickel.
I told him if I had a nickel, or five pennies amounting to a nickel, I’d be out behind the old school house with my brother’s friends, gambling on dice. You need two nickels for a Coca-Cola and a Clark Bar, and one really ain’t worth having with out the other.
He chuckled in that old man way, which seemed inviting enough, so I asked him what the heck he was doing with that can of soup anyway. He said, “Oh, nothin’,” and went on his way.
Over dinner I asked if anybody’d seen an old man wandering around town with a can of soup. My daddy said, “You ought to try reading a book some time instead of sitting outside Mitchell’s Pharmacy all day, staring at folks.” My mama said, “Sarah Beth, I told you not to talk to strangers.” And Tim, my older brother, he said, “You owe me ten cents. Don’t be spending any more money at Micthell’s ‘till you pay me back.”
I was quiet for a while, mulling it over in my head, wondering about that soup can a little bit but also about the five pennies that would have made nickel-change. Who needs pennies? They make your hands stink like copper. (Although if I’d had ten pennies, I could have paid Tim so he’d get off my back about that loan.)
Mama must have noticed I was quiet, which she called an ‘abnormality,’ so she said to my daddy, “Thomas, why don’t you tell Sarah Beth to leave it alone? There’s no need for her to be off chasin’ a strange man.”
by Michael Reynolds
Arf? No? Nothing?
You know the most interesting thing that's happened in the last couple of days? The thing that didn't
happen: there were no sudden "revelations" about Barack Obama.
The Clintons are perfectly competent at doing oppo. I guarantee you they've looked under every rock. If they had something, they'd have planted it in the media yesterday or the day before.
Some would say no, the Clintons have been chastised by the backlash from their look-ma-no-fingerprints race-baiting on Obama. But I don't think that would stop them. They'd leak the oppo research to some 527, or to Drudge, and then denounce it.
If they had something. And if they don't have something, it's because there ain't nothing.
by Michael Reynolds
Below in a separate post
, I have the overly long rant on agents. Herewith my proposal.
First, a recap of the major points:
1) In my experience agents are less likely to know what the publishers want than the editors are.
2) Logically, therefore, the editors should be reading the slush pile. But . . .
3) . . . can't, because we're talking roughly nine billion submissions per week.
4) Publishers outsource the slush pile to the agents . . .
5) . . . who are paid by published authors. Thus neatly shifting the cost of the slush pile off the publisher's balance sheet and onto mine. Well, mine and many others.
6) The unpublished authors get a free ride financially, but are reduced to groveling, weeping, sycophancy, the desperate reading of tea leaves and eventually, if they have any pride at all, a serious drinking problem.
My proposal? Publishers charge $50 to read a submission. Here's what that does:
1) Eliminates people who don't really want to be writers but figure "What the hell, I'll give it a try." These are the people who clog the system resulting in the current mess. Am I picking on these people? No. But figure ten submissions, at $50 each which, according to my always shaky grasp of mathematics comes to $500. You want a career in writing, you want to be Stephen King, but you won't beg, borrow or steal $500? Then don't waste everyone's time.
2) Turns the slush pile into a profit-generator for the publisher. Why is this a good thing? Is it because I think Rupert needs still more money? No. By making the slush pile profitable it ensures a vastly-improved degree of efficiency. Response letters would fly out the door. Let's say a reader can burn through just a dozen submissions a day. That's $600 a day, $3000 a week, 156k a year. And if you don't think that is profitable for the publisher then you have a sadly inflated opinion of pay scales for entry-level editors.
3) This new system would allow a direct feedback system from senior editors to the editorial grunts, which would be more efficient (and involve fewer business lunches and less butt-kissing) than the current agent-editor system. The readers would have a far better grasp of what their editor overlords wanted and needed.
The part of the agent's job that involves negotiating the deal can be handled by a publishing lawyer for a flat rate. 300 to 500 an hour, which seems like a lot, but is less than 15% in perpetuity, which is what your agent takes.
The $50 proposal cuts the number of submissions, makes the process infinitely more efficient, actually placing a premium on speed, and allows serious writers to get their work in front of actual editors. It puts publishers back directly in contact with the people who, after all, provide them with the raw material from which they derive their unholy profits.
Next: I'll solve that whole Palestinian/Israeli thing.
by Michael Reynolds
So, this literary agent
has a blog, and on his blog he holds a contest. Pick the best first page of a manuscript. So being the fun-loving guy (asshole) I am, I have to submit a page, hoping for comic mayhem to ensue. The agent doesn't know that I have replaced the usual aspiring-author first page with Folger's crystals.
I submitted the first page of GONE
. In the industry parlance, GONE was a "major deal." For those of you who don't speak Cryptic, the jargon for describing deals goes like this, in descending order:
1) Major Deal
2) Significant Deal
3) Not Bad Deal
4) Beats a Sharp Stick Deal
5) Dude, I Hope You Got a Reach-around Deal
Anyway, there were something like 600 entries, and a handful were chosen as finalists. And to my great relief, my entry was not among the chosen. Had it been, I'd pretty much be screwed out of a chance to tweak the agentocracy.
And now, a pause for backstory. Imagine that I am stroking my chin thoughtfully and gazing at the roaring fire while the camera goes soft focus. Or I guess I could just stick it all in block quotes:
I've been through six agents in 18 years as a writer.
First was a woman who repped our Harlequin crap, back in 1989. Swore she'd get us a good deal. Got us the standard advance. Hey, surprise! Then she was so slow getting manuscripts considered we decided we'd never make a living. We dropped her and we bailed out on Harlequin. Thank God. It was awful work. I'd have needed a smack habit to get through it.
We established our ghostwriting thing (Sweet Valley Twins, Girl Talk) on our own, then brought in an agent who was so out of it he kept asking whether our names could be on the cover in lieu of Francine Pascal. He didn't grasp the basics. But he grasped 15%. (Later, of course, we had ghosts writing under our name, so turn-about, etc.... But the point is that on agents we were 0 for 2.)
Agent #3, long story short, had a problem deciding whether she worked for us or for the packager we were ghosting for. So bye bye agent #3.
Then we sold a hit series over-the-transom, on our own. We were still involved with Agent #3, and she was out on pregnancy leave. We wrote the pitch, we mailed it, we got the offer. On our own. No help from agent #3, and incidentally, we could not have been more relieved to have an excuse to bypass her. (We still ended up, out of my wife's misplaced sense of feminist-pregnancy-sisterhood solidarity, cutting the agent in for 10 books.)
So at this point we -- Katherine and I were still writing together at this point -- were at about 150 books, (maybe 35 million units all told,) only two of those books actually sold by agents as opposed to either over-the-transom pitches by us, or continuations of existing relationships. And no deals improved by agenting, although agents managed to take a piece of maybe 40 or 50 books.
We retire for a time. We do various stupid things to waste time and money. Then I write an adult novel on spec and go agent-shopping.
Agent #4 I met at a book thing in California. Loved my book. Loved it. Agreed to rep me. Three days later the guy has no idea who I was. So . . .
Agent #5 was a heavy-hitter. Loves it, loves it, I remind him of someone, I can't remember who. Promises, promises, blah, blah, blah, hey what's this about a kid series you're talking about, that sounds interesting. No submissions, six months wasted. Six months of my life, (and at my age, how much time to I have to waste?) and not one submission. Amicable split. If by amicable you mean me in a cold fury.
I shelved the adult novel, having become enamored of my new project. (Attention span measured in . . . sorry, what were we talking about?)
Agent #6 was someone I knew in another context, but well-established. I ran GONE past her. She told me to age the 13 year-old characters up to 18 and cut the length by 50%. No answer on what market the results would sell to. I actually asked, "So, where does this go when I do all that?" No clue.
So I ignored her and went over-the-transom to people I knew I could pitch in kidlit. 5 submissions, 4 expressions of interest, quick sale for my asking price to the exactly right publisher.
So. To summarize. 99% of my career successes have been either without agents or despite agents.
Now, I have a publishing lawyer. Him I trust.
I'm not dissing agents as a group. (Well . . .) Maybe I've just had very bad luck. But thus far agents have been a major net financial loss. Lets say at least half a million dollars in round numbers. Money I might as well have burned. I mean that literally. In fact, given the way agents have poisoned my relationships with editors and wasted my (theoretically valuable) time, I would have been better off burning the money.
And if I had listened to the last agent? I'd have destroyed a book series that looks set to keep me in Macallan and Macanudos.
End flashback. Snap back to the present day:
So, anyway, over at the agent's blog I do the reveal
. I write an anonymous post (I was honestly just trying to avoid looking like I was poaching his readership) telling Agent Dude that he missed the submission that would have made him a hero at his agency had he spotted it. (You know, when it was for sale. In our imaginary, alternative time line.)
The agent tells me that's not the point, it's not really his job to spot every good or potentially lucrative first page. I respond with something like, "Um . . . yes, that is your job." So he deletes my remarks and th remarks of the others who attack me.
The thing is, writers work for months or years on a manuscript. Then, with their little hearts in their mouths they send off a cover letter and maybe a few pages. To an agent. The agent skims the cover letter and glances at the first page. On that basis the writer either moves to the next stage of the game, or goes home to cry bitter tears. (After a 12 week delay, of course.)
It's an exquisite bit of torture. Those of you who aren't writers, imagine that you do your regular job for, let's say, six months. At the end of six months you have 30 second's of your boss' time, during which you have to convince him that you should be paid for the time you just put in. And not just convince him that you should be paid, but that you are more worthy than the next 200 employees in your same situation. If you don't handle your 30 seconds right, you don't get paid. At all.
And here's the thing: because the submission system is clogged with hundreds of thousands of submissions, 99% from people who have no chance of ever getting a paycheck, the publishers have eliminated the slush pile and outsourced the job entirely to agents. Unfortunately agents ain't necessarily that bright. I'd much rather take my chances with an actual editor than an agent.
Which brings us to my modest proposal: we eat the agents. Kidding. Just a little Swiftian reference there. I actually do have a proposal, but under the time-warp rules of blogging it will appear to appear before this post which I actually wrote first.
I know: freaky.
Sunday, February 03, 2008 by Michael Reynolds
Fox lunch meat. Surely that's obvious.
People say to me, "Michael, why do you feel the need to live in Italy rather than just visit?"
And I answer, "Lunch meat, dude. Lunch meat." We are waaaay behind the Italians in the art of creepy, animal-faced lunch meat.
(Picture courtesy of the boy.)
by Michael Reynolds