Tuesday, January 31, 2006

If it were a million little pieces, who would read it?

There once was a man named James Frey who wrote a book called "A Million Little Pieces." In this autobiography he described a fascinating life of torment and recovery. This book caught the eye of Oprah and she had him on her show. Mr. Frey sold millions of his books and everyone lived happily every after.

Except not quite. The Smoking Gun tried to get a mugshot of the dangerous Mr. Frey when he was arrested in one of the most exciting parts of the book, only to find out that Mr. Frey was a quiet little mouse of a man, not the roaring tiger his book described. Oprah gets upset and admonishes Mr. Frey. He is disgraced. The end.

But what does this story mean for all of us? As a fiction author I suppose I should be outraged -- when we write stories that are made up we call them "fiction." Real-life stories are "non-fiction."

The line has always been blurred, and in my opinion autobiography is the grayest of the gray areas. If you're writing a non-fiction book about the making of the Apache Helicopter, you'd better get your dates and facts right. If you're writing a book about Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of the helicopter, you'd better give me some dish. Tell me some good stories!

If Mr. Frey had written a meticulous autobiography, who would read it? Embellishing your life story is not only necessary for writers, but for all the rest of us too. When Grandpa gathers the kids around to tell them about the sharks following the submarine during World War II, he doesn't tell them about the long, boring days when they did nothing but post watch and play cribbage. He cuts out the boring parts and tells an exciting story -- or the kids will lose interest.

My opinion of Mr. Frey is that he took this intellectual liberty a bit too far, and created a life that he didn't actually live. He got what he deserved, public humilation.

As for me, when I tell stories I'm going to keep cutting out the dull parts. Even if the tale is a true one.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Stephen King's "Cell" -- fast, bloody, and fun

I won't spoil your enjoyment of "Cell" by revealing any plot twists. There aren't any. The premise is set up by page three and the rest is a safety-bar off, roller-coaster ride to Hell.

In short, anyone who is on or calls on their cell phone on October 1st is turned into something like a zombie, a creature with no memory or ability to reason. Civilization comes crashing down within, oh, about twenty minutes.

Then the survivors have to survive, a theme that King returns to again and again in his novels. The world ends abruptly. Now what?

When I first read "The Stand," as a teenager, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought the book was going to be about an epidemic and the brave people who fight it. Instead, by the end of the first hundred pages, the world was done and ended. It was breathtaking, like being punched without warning. My teenage friends and I discussed endlessly "What We Would Do" as survivors. The new series "Lost" engages the same sense of wonder and contemplation; how would I survive the Island? What would I do?

I read "Cell" while awaiting an airline flight, and then while I was on the long, boring flight. If Islamic terrorists had tried to take over the plane I think I would have screamed like an enraged ape, scrambled over the seats and ripped out their throats with my teeth, I was so involved in this world where nothing but survival mattered. (And the taste would have been salty and hot as a spilled cup of coffee.... Don't interrupt me while I'm reading a new King book. Someone should make me a sign.)

Then I realized (point of essay coming up) that Stephen King had to create a zombie-like mystical cell phone "Pulse" to destroy our brains because we now know what happens to Americans when unimaginable disaster strikes.

We help each other. We sometimes die for each other. We act with bravery and courage and steadfastness, and like Todd Beamer we say our prayers before we go to fight evil and die to keep it from killing countless others.

What about Katrina? You might ask. Wasn't there rioting, looting, stabbing, raping, and murdering? Didn't the survivors of Katrina act like King's cell phone zombies? Actually, we've learned that the stories coming out of Katrina were mostly that -- stories. There were no gang rapes at the Superdome. No bodies piled like cordword in the Convention Center. There were lots of thirsty and unhappy people at the Superdome and there was looting, but most people were helpful, rescued others, took care of each other and tried their best to endure their suffering with dignity.

Katrina, one might say, was where the news media tried to write their own Stephen King thriller. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Flight 93, the Shoe Bomber (who was captured and tied to his seat so thoroughly by passenger's belts that he had to be cut free), the North American Blackout of '03, showed us Americans who were brave, courageous, and kind, and who helped each other.

Stephen King's "Cell" is also a story of bravery and courage, and the Americans who survive the Pulse are endearing characters. It's a fast and bloody read and there is a death in there that makes me want to punch Mr. King right in the mouth (so what else is new, asks the loyal readers of the Dark Tower series?) but I liked it very much. I think you will, too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I thought I was going to be a minivan

But I'm a Chevrolet Corvette!

You're a classic - powerful, athletic, and competitive. You're all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz. (Hat tip to Dr. Helen via Instapundit.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canada should join the Union

Canada is a beautiful and sparsely inhabited country between Alaska and the rest of the United States, a vassal of the United Kingdom and with a socialized medicine system that drives Canadians who can afford it into America for health care.

Today, Canada has a conservative Prime Minister instead of the incompetent leftists that ran the place into the ground over the past eight years. A snifter clink to you, Mr. Harper!

Here's my thought about lovely, poorly run Canada. No matter how effective Mr. Harper is, Canada is still in deep trouble. Socialized medicine, welfare, extremely high taxes and a growing Muslim population that is trying to bully sharia law into Canadian provinces, all are problems that cannot be solved easily or quickly.

Now for my argument, with a bit of personal history thrown in. My teachers in public school were almost entirely liberal when I was growing up. Not liberal in the classic sense, but leftist: Anti-American, anti-military, anti-capitalist, and anti-religion.

Since I was born with an authority problem, this indoctrination did not take with me. On the contrary, the more I was pushed, the more I set my ears back and refused to be pushed.

Therefore I have no problems with America as Empire. Canada sh0uld be absorbed into the United States. We took California from the Mexicans, we took Alaska from the Russians, we bought the entire middle of the country from France, and we seized Florida from Spain.

We also cajoled Texas into joining the Union which they did reluctantly, but we promised not to mess with them too much. Things have worked out well for them:

I have a flag that my dad gave me that once flew over my Grandfather's saloon in Denver. It only has 48 stars because Hawaii and Alaska hadn't joined the Union yet. Time to re-write the map again. Canada should join the Union and each province should be a new state. Two senators, more representatives, and lots of new flags, globes, and geography books for our schools.

Then we can re-do everything all over again when we annex Mexico. Heh.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The NSA is listening? To you? Okay, here's a clue...

They don't care about you. Honestly. There's a lot of media-generated, Democrat-encouraged furor over the NSA "wiretapping" people's phone conversations. American phone conversations, between private citizens. The NSA might be listening to you. They might know about you. All about you.

Well, if they cared. And that's what makes me laugh about this whole furor. It has a high-school feel to it. Oh, the whole world is watching me! I'm so very important that the NSA is listening to me, watching me, getting ready to send dark-suited agents to bust down my door and haul me off to the Bush-Halliburton concentration camp!

The NSA (National Security Agency) has always listened to whatever they please. Your cell phone conversations. Your phone calls within the U.S. They can check on your computer Internet account and find out the websites you've visited. They can discover your video rental information, and flip their fingers through your bank accounts. Honestly, you have no idea how powerful the NSA is in their ability to gather information and all of it is perfectly legal and they've had the authority to do this for years.

A long, rather dry but quite informative read is The Puzzle Palace, by James Bamford. Imagine hundreds of workers hunched over desks and sorting through stacks, rooms, buildings, entire cities of information, and trying to find in all that avalanche the one snowflake of a terrorist attack.

What isn't legal is hauling innocents away and torturing them in government facilities, which the left delights in imagining but cannot find any examples of. (Except for Saddam's well-documented torture chambers, which the left ignores.)

Whenever I hear another rant about the horrible violation of privacy of the Bush administration attempting to track down terrorist suspects, I just shake my head as I suck down some Slurpee at the 7-11 and wave at the camera, get some money out of the ATM and nod at that camera, log onto the Internet and marvel at all the delicious cookies that allow me to do banking transactions, order books, and shop, and I shake my head and laugh when I talk to my sister on the phone about any little thing that pops into my head.

I'm very important to my family, but I'm not important to the NSA. And even if you march in parades wearing a "Bush is Hitler" t-shirt and belong to moveon.org or even the communist party, the NSA is just not going to care that much about you. If you are currently working on making a bomb and you're going to set it off, then you should worry.

The NSA is going after terrorists, and I'm cheering for them all the way. Good on ya, as the Aussies would say. Go get 'em.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

It's not Godzilla! But we should scream and run as though it is Godzilla!

I love the movie Goldmember. Every time I see the scene where Austin Powers runs his mini into the back of a fake Godzilla and drives down a Tokyo street, I laugh until I cry. I don't know who won the Oscar in 2002 but it should have been Mike Meyers. Watch the movie and tell me you think once about how many parts he plays and how different each one of them is. You simply watch Austin and Dr. Evil battle it out. And, if you've got a laugh-o-meter that runs to sight gags and puns like me, you laugh like crazy.

Today, Bin Laden was reported to threaten to attack America again.

Run, Run, it is Bin Laden! No, wait, it's another "purported" video tape from an "undisclosed" location that contains no images of Bin Laden that look fresher than, say, Tora Bora in 2001. Oh, sure there is a Bin Ladenish voice on audio tape, but anyone who has mistaken a mom for a daughter on the phone knows that Bin Laden on the audio tape might not be Osama Bin Laden.

I think of this clown as "Scotty Bin Laden," in homage to Dr. Evil. I've been saying both privately and publically that we nailed Osama at Tora Bora in 2001 and the United States is well aware of this. Cynics say the U.S. would go back to sleep if our bogeyman was killed; patriots say that sleeper cells in the U.S. would go into doomsday mode if their beloved leader was proved dead.

I simply say: If he's alive, Al-Queda, show us. Show us a video tape of your filthy leader with a picture of the director of Brokeback Mountain accepting the Golden Globe. Show him holding a newspaper with the date clearly visible -- one that is later than, say, 2001.

Al-Queda may pull off an attack, but Bin Laden is long dead. These "attack" audiotapes have all the desperate flavor of the G.I. Joe figurine that terrorists tried to pass off as a real hostage.

Today's story doesn't strike me with fear. We've got the Al-Queda terrorists against the wall and we're thrashing them and this pitiable audio tape is the best they can do. Perhaps they can borrow that G.I. Joe doll and make up some video to go with that audio.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

But what if they don't love their children, Sting?

I recall the 80's song Russians by Sting. The main lyric was this: "I hope the Russians love their children too." This was supposed to be a sly dig at President Reagan calling the Soviet Union an Evil Empire -- of course the Russians love their children, silly man. There will never be a nuclear war with Russia because all life on earth will end.

But what if an apocalypse is what you want? What if you want the world to be destroyed, to be a place of ashes and death, so that a new paradise will be begin as the 12th Imam rises from the well? For someone like Iran's so-called "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this is not just a belief but an actual campaign promise.

Ahmadinejad has also declared that the Mahdi, or 12th Imam, will return to earth within three or four years -- coincidentally, about the time Iran will have nuclear-tipped missiles that can obliterate Israel. What a nice gift for the new Mahdi.

I heard a political commentator say something so profound that I've never forgotten it. He said this in such an offhand way, too, as though it were no big deal. I wish I remembered his name. He said this: "Jews are the canary in the coal mine. When they are threatened, that means you're next."

Canaries in the coal mine. When Israel is destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, what will we say? Sorry? Will that be the end, when Israel no longer exists? Lots of Jewish people in this country (and sad to say lots of Christians too) believe that. The whole Middle East turmoil is all about the Jews -- er, Israelis -- they say comfortingly. If Israel goes away, all our problems will end. That canary with its little feet turned up means nothing, nothing at all. It was just a canary. Ignore the Coptic Christians in Egypt. Ignore the Hindus in India. Ignore the Africans being bought and sold as slaves by Muslims in Africa. The Jews are God's Chosen People but when it comes to Muslim hatred, they're one in the crowd.

Iran is working to get the bomb. (Hat tip: The Belmont Club.) Some argue that Iran will become another member of the nuclear club, using the bomb to parley for prestige, loans from the International Monetary Bank, and maybe extra coupons at Walgreens.

I believe that Iran will use their nuclear weapons to bring about the return of the 12th Imam and the foundation of an Islamic paradise, first by bombing Israel. We can fight them now or fight them later, but fight them we will.

Sting, they don't love their children. If we love our children, we'd better do something, and do it fast.

Monday, January 16, 2006

My hero for Martin Luther King Day: Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby was my childhood hero, the man whose voice could make me laugh, the man who taught me all about Buck Buck, and the 49th Street Bridge, and The Belt. His stories are still available on CD and in December we listened to "Ice Cream" with our son. (He just had his tonsils out.) He laughed and laughed the same way my husband and I did when we were kids.

I credit Bill Cosby with my first spark of interest in the man I was to marry. We were working together and someone tossed a wad of paper at him. He looked up in surprise and said "Did some one just throw a piece of paper on me?" I laughed and said "Buck Buck!" We talked about Bill Cosby for an hour after that, recalling our favorite bits. EHarmony should include that as one of their compatability tests, because we've been married for ten years and I love him more every day.

So why do I think of Bill Cosby on Martin Luther King Day? Because my introduction to African American culture was through Bill Cosby. Not through hideous rap music, not through gangster films and clothing, not through reports about the latest mugging, rape, killing. None of those terrible traits of inner-city black culture can dislodge my original foundation of love and respect for the moms, dads, and kids of Bill Cosby's world. They are black, and they are different than me, but they are wonderful human beings.

On Martin Luther King day, I think of Dr. King's speech about how a person should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

And I remember my very first introduction to Bill Cosby. I was very small, about five years old, and my mom was a very unhappy person. She had a bunch of kids to raise, not a lot of money, a husband who was always working and she'd lost her last baby, James, at term. He'd lived for a few minutes and my mom had almost died. They gave her a hysterectomy, so no more kids for her, and none of this I understood at five years old. I just understood that my mom seldom laughed and when she did it was a tinkling, false thing that made you think of forks scraping down a crystal glass.

So I heard a man's voice downstairs and I crept out of bed and came down the staircase. The man had a beautiful voice, deep and rich, and he wasn't my father. He was talking to my mom and she was laughing. Not tinkling false laughing, but happy belly laughs. I'd never heard my mom laugh like that. Who was this man?

I finally peered around the corner of the staircase and my mom was sitting by a record player and there was no man there. The voice came from the record player, and the man was Bill Cosby.

You made my mom laugh again, Bill. You are forever the man who made my mother laugh.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Burn those little orange UNICEF boxes. Burn them!

Okay, perhaps I go a little over the top when the orange UNICEF boxes come home in my kid's backpacks. They are sent home every year right before Halloween. My children have to sit through a propaganda session about the glories of UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and then they're sent forth, little faces glowing, to collect money for the children.

Instead, we roast the boxes on marshmallow sticks over our chimea, a nifty Mexican clay grill. I love our chimea and never more than when I can give my children a valuable lesson in propaganda versus truth, a lesson in what "feels good" as opposed to "what is right."

The UNICEF organization is such a great idea. Helping the world's children, who could be against that? Yet the UN, the organization that runs UNICEF, killed a lot of Iraqi kids while they were taking kickbacks from Saddam Hussein in the UN's Oil for Food program. Then there is the horrible child-rapes that UN workers have regularly engaged in. The story is here, but don't go read it if you want to feel good. It makes you feel horrible.

I don't describe the UN scandals to my kids. We cheerfully roast those orange boxes into ash while I explain that the UN people take their money and spend most of it on parties and limos and balloons and cakes, and then only give a tiny little bit to the poor kids who need the money so badly. So we give our charity money to Christian organizations like Covenant House in New York, who take in homeless kids and give them warmth, shelter, food and hope. If you want to donate some small amount the website is here. (This place and these stories will make you feel good.)

I write this today because the UN Oil for Food scandals seem to be breaking into the mainstream. No matter what, my long-suffering kids will have to sit through another UNICEF propaganda piece next year. But in our family they'll come home, smiles on their faces, knowing that they get to light a fire!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Where can our kids go to college?

There are children in our large family that are heading for high school graduation and I don't know what to tell them. Where should they go?

How about the University of Colorado, where Ethnic Studies professor Ward Churchill (ethnic background: vanilla) could teach them about that it's okay to killl innocent people if they belong to a group that you disapprove of?

How about Princeton, where Peter Singer could teach that killing babies up to the age of three years old is acceptable if those babies are "imperfect." And imperfect babies in the womb? Whack away! The number of Down's syndrome people in our society is decreasing rapidly, and it isn't because we've figured out a cure. We're just killing them.

This isn't what I want for the precious children in my family. I want them to go to college where they'll be safe, respected, and educated. Not indocrinated.

Today Sam Alito gave a gentle dig at the porcine, bloated Senators who leered down at him and prepared to lecture him on morals and values:

"It was a time of turmoil at colleges and universities. And I saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly. And I couldn’t help making a contrast between some of the worst of what I saw on the campus and the good sense and the decency of the people back in my own community."

Now the irresponsible people are in charge of the campuses, Judge Alito. Now what do we do?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Another mysterious Iranian plane crash

A military plane has crashed in Iran. On board was the commander of the ground forces of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, 10 other officers and two crew members.

Another plane crashed in December. It was loaded with "journalists." (Who needs journalists in a fascist dictatorship?) At any rate, no survivors.

Oh, and last August, another Iranian plane crashed near the Pakistan border. This one was loaded with military soldiers. All 302 died.

I predict more mysterious plane crashes involving military commanders and key Iranian political figures. The battle of Iraq is winding down, and the next battle is coming up.

Alito nomination hearings start today

This is a Supreme Court position that may overturn Kelo vs. New London. The abortion issue is important, and I have strong feelings about that, but Kelo vs. New London strikes at the very heart of what it means to be an American; the right to own property. Too bad the hearings for Alito will address none of that; they will be about preening polititians of both parties trying to get camera time and get re-elected. How pathetic.

I recently purchased "The Goonies," one of my favorite kid movies, because our kids are old enough now to enjoy it and understand the concept: A group of kids trying to save their homes from a developer who wants to build a golf course.

Now all the pirate's treasure in the world couldn't save the Goonie's homes from the bulldozer, because 5 stupid people calling themselves "justices" decided they know better than the Constitution and the founding fathers. Private property is the foundation of our country.

It will be so again. Imagine living in the time of the Dred Scott decision, and the heartbreak of knowing that the Supreme Court upheld slavery. People must have thought that America couldn't survive.

Er, come to think of it, though, we had an entire Civil War not long after that decision.

This one -- Kelo vs. New London -- will turn out differently. We won't need a Civil War to correct the bad mistakes of some foolish old men and women. I don't need to watch the Alito hearings because I know he'll be confirmed, and we'll see Kelo reversed.

Goonies, if you recall, never give up.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Everybody likes looking at Cameron Diaz

I've been thinking over the troubles in Australia, where Muslim men are harassing and sometimes assaulting women who don't cover themselves as the Muslim men believe they should. (This notion of saying "assault" instead of "rape" is sadly amusing. Orwellian in nature, the perversion of this word is beyond parody: The woman was thrown down, kicked in the ribs, punched in the face, and then assaulted. Okay then.)

This brings me to Cameron Diaz, who was so upset at President Bush's re-election that in an appearance on Oprah's show before the 2004 election, she said:

"Women have so much to lose. I mean, we could lose the right to our bodies. . . . If you think that rape should be legal, then don't vote. But if you think that you have a right to your body," she advised Oprah's viewers, "then you should vote."

I read this quote in Mark Steyn's new essay on demographics, a long read but well worth it.

Cameron Diaz, like many other Hollywood actresses, has a great deal of empathy. She's a brilliant actress and that's perhaps the problem -- emotion is her talent and emotion can be manipulated. Her worries should be about whether or not she can safely walk an Australian beach in her tiny bikini. Strangely enough the person she has been manipulated to feel hatred towards is the one leader who's doing the most about Islamic fascism.

But not enough. I support President Bush in his war on terrorism but he isn't establishing women's rights in the countries where we've shed American blood. In Afghanistan, Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, an editor of a women's rights journal, was jailed for speaking out for, well, women's rights. He was freed January 3rd after women's rights groups worked for his release. He had to apologize, however, for speaking out against the death penalty for adultery and other sharia laws. The death penalty is only for women, you understand. Adultery in this sense includes forcible adultery, as in, rape. Or assault. Whatever you want to call it. In Afghanistan if you're a girl and you're raped, you get the death penalty.

This, this, in a country where our soldiers bled and died to free it from the Taliban! What does it profit us if we defeat the Taliban only to see the same form of government take place, this time under the watchful guns of our troops? How long until the enforced burkha, the denial of education and health care, the subjucation of women to a state worse than cows? (Cows, at least, can stand in their pasture and feel the sun on their faces. This is denied to a woman under sharia law. She has to wear a burkha at all times when outside.)

I want Cameron Diaz to walk freely on Australia's beaches. She's a young woman, an American movie star, and she is like a perfect sleeping puppy or a gorgeous sunset or a field of purple flowers: a gift from God. She displays her beauty in a bikini too tiny for words and I laugh in joy at that. You go, girl! May every girl have the right to splash in the ocean in whatever suits her, in freedom and safety.

She and every single woman in America, all of us, should be telling President Bush that he's not doing enough to establish freedom for women in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is a quote, possibly legend, from a British Officer who explained to an Indian Raj that the British would not allow suttee in India. Suttee is the practice where a man who has died is burned on a pyre and his wife is burned alive next to him. The Raj said to the British Officer:

"But this is our sacred culture. This is what we do."

"Our culture hangs those who burn women alive. And that is what we do," The British Officer replied.

That is what we women should do. That is what we have failed to do. It is time for all American women to stand up for our sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan, to make sure our country guarantees them the freedom and safety that they deserve. Because that is what we do.