A Modest Proposal

So Britney Spears has gone off the deep end.

Um…  This is news?  We already knew that.  We don’t need a blow by blow.  Isn’t Ah-Nold endorsing McCain?  Isn’t Courtney Love overdue for another rehab stint?  It’s almost enough to make me miss Paris Hilton.

Almost.

Here’s what I’m tired of with Britney-gate:  The shrieking headlines that Britney Spears cannot cope and is suffering from major stress.  One talking head went as far as to suggest Britney flee Los Angeles for a while to get her head together.

I would advise any resident of Los Angeles to flee that celebrity-obsessed cesspool, but I’ll save that for Britney.  But here’s a whacky idea, one that would maybe, yanno, let the girl get her head together without the aid of a plane ticket and a cabin in the Colorado Rockies:

Why doesn’t the press leave her alone?

Seriously.

This is not news.  Most people I know are bored with it almost to the point of missing Paris Hilton.

Almost.

Seriously, these brain-dead news editors keep running screaming headlines every time Brit pops a couple of Nuprin and maybe yells at one of the 10,000 paparazzi on her lawn and make it a headline slightly bigger than the Kennedy Assassination.  Care to guess why Britney Spears is having a little trouble coping?  If I were Kevin Federline, I’d demand full custody with no visitation rights, too.  Why?  Do I hate Britney?

Just her music.  I would demand the same thing as K-Fed because little kids should not be exposed to the glare of a thousand idiot tabloid photographers’ lights.

So I have a modest proposal.  The United States should resume air testing of nuclear weapons for a one-off detonation.

Leak to the press that Britney’s hideaway is at Ground Zero.

Announce the nuclear test 30 seconds before detonation.

CNN goes back to reporting news.

Fox goes back to pretending to report news.

George Clooney sleeps a little easier knowing the photographer who keeps trying to shoot through his skylight has been vaporized.

Problem solved.

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Some Advice For The Candidates And Their Parties

1.)  Mitt Romney:  Never, never, NEVER try to sound black ever again.  In fact, try not to sound white, either.  You’re pretty lame at both.

2.)  Democratic National Committee:  Please fire the booger-eating moron who decided to boycott Michigan and Florida under the mistaken notion that this might punish those states for moving their primaries up, threatening those high-population, heavily diverse states Iowa and New Hampshire.   If that’s Howard Dean’s idea, the scream in 2000 should have been a hint something was wrong.  Heeeeeaaaaaawwww!!!!!

3.)  Bill Clinton:  Dude, shut the fuck up.  Seriously.  Shut the fuck up.

4.)  George W. Bush:  Since you’re not running, could you pretty please not start a war in Iran?  Your track record on that has me wondering when we’ll be bombing Cambodia again.

5.)  Rudy Giuliani:  Give it up, Rudy.  No one’s voted for you this early, and they’re not likely to start on Super Tuesday.

6.)  Mitt Romney:  I’m not kidding.  Never, ever try to sound black again.  Suggest you watch an episode of The Wire to understand why.

7.)  Bill Clinton:  I’m not kidding, dude.  Shut up.

UPDATE:  Wow, this hadn’t even posted yet, and Rudy’s already taking my advice.  So once again, Bill, shut up.  Mitt, you can’t sound black, so quit trying.

Giddy Up, Glacier

The new novel moves slowly, 25,000 words since September. Usually, that’s my output for a month. This is different. This is a bigger book. Bigger in scope, and likely, bigger in length.

Don’t know what possessed me to do this one the way I’ve been doing it. Fictional setting, feeding finished scenes to a friend, banging away without an outline and only a vague idea of what the end game is.

I have three (or four, really) touchstones driving this book. Hopefully, they drive the series as well. For starters, I take my inspiration from the 87th Precinct. It’s an ensemble piece, though hopefully, I have come up with a first among equals in a disgraced female detective. And like McBain, it’s set in a fictional city.

Second is the combination for Ken Bruen’s Brant series and Stuart MacBride’s MacRae novels. Both are very much the modern descendants of McBain’s 87th Precinct (though MacBride says he’s never read McBain. Can’t tell. He writes like he’s picked up where McBain left off.) Both stories are set in Britain, and the MacRae stories benefit from Scottish law vs. English or American law. So while I’ve learned how to modernize the McBain formula from both Ken and Stuart, I’ve also learned from the stark differences between these series and those set in America.

Third (or fourth if you count Ken and Stuart separately) is The Wire. Is there anyone writing noir, thrillers, or hardboiled crime fic today that doesn’t watch this show? But The Wire is not a television show. It’s a novel written by committee and presented in video. Sure, I can point to it and say, “That’s where I learned I could write morally ambivalent stories.” But what I learned from The Wire is how to pace a sprawling story with lots of characters. I don’t have nearly the huge cast The Wire does. This season, it not only pulled in two of Laura Lippman’s characters, but Laura herself is a character in one episode. David Simon, Ed Burns, and crew juggle a lot of balls, and from their juggling act, I’ve learned a new way to manage chapters.

That’s not to say this book will be the new 87th Precinct or Inspector Brant or DS MacRae. Certainly, it’s not The Wire. But all those have let me aim higher.

Kind Of Sad, Isn’t It?

“You can spin a six point loss however you want.”

Those were the words of a Clinton operative when a spokesman for Barack Obama pointed out that Obama walked away from Nevada with more delegates than Hillary.

Lately, it’s not been hard to see why Republicans hate the Clintons so much. Only Hillary Clinton would have the audacity to play the race card against a black candidate. She looks to Republicans like George Bush looks to… Well, everybody but the 33 percenters.

I should be thrilled with this year’s election. A black man or a woman may likely become President of the United States. Hopefully one of them or one of the front runners on the GOP side will go a long way toward restoring our tattered reputation in the rest of the world. Instead, I keep seeing one thing:

Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton

And I’m not one of those idiots who thinks everything Bill Clinton ever accomplished was a direct result of Ronald Reagan or that all of George W. Bush’s problems are Clinton’s fault. There’s a word for people who believe that:

Fucktards.

The truth is you have to stop praising or blaming the last person in the Oval Office during year two of a given president’s term.  Which means the next guy gets an 18-month free pass to blame W. for all his problems.  (And last I checked, Reagan had been out of office for four years when Clinton took office.  Do the math.)

Back to Hillary.  She’s displaying a lot of the same traits people don’t like about Bush, namely she wants the power more than she wants to serve.  Granted, it takes a certain amount of hubris and ambition to run for president.  I hope so.  You need someone like that to look someone like Vladimir Putin in the eye and tell him how it is.  You might say that’s why Vlad’s holding onto power well beyond the end of his presidency.

But when all the campaign rhetoric is done, and we’ve pretty much figured out which lies appeal to us more in the voting booth, you have to point at something that made the person viable for president.  Much as I dislike them, Huckabee and Romney were successful governors.  McCain has always been a moderate voice.  Edwards is at his most sincere when he talks about combatting poverty.  Obama’s talk is almost always non-confrontational as long as the Clintons aren’t involved.  You get a real sense of why these people want to be president.  With Hillary, you get the impression that it’s her turn.  She hasn’t said it.  I’ve heard a few candidates (Bob Dole comes to mind) backhandedly admit it, but never has it been so blatant without being said as it has with Hillary Clinton.

The bad news is I may have to vote for her on political grounds.  (John McCain might alleviate that dilemma for me.)  Which means I have to hold my nose in November and say yes to four more years of dynasty politics.

So, Canada, what can I do for you guys?

The Bus Is Very Revealing

I just finished reading Homicide: A Year of Killing on the Streets.  Definitely the best book about crime I’ve read in a long time.  It’s also responsible for one of those moments of serendipity that catch you by surprise from time to time.

This morning, I bussed it to work, driving from one cushy suburb to another to catch an express bus downtown.  The express busses from Eastgate and Anderson follow the 275 Loop into Kentucky, then shoot into downtown Cincinnati via I-471.  I see nothing but franchise food, shopping malls, and 4-8 lanes of  asphalt all the way in most mornings.

There are no express runs during the day, however.  Cincinnati’s idea of streamlining public transit is to gut it.  I took the 24, an interminable route that takes one from downtown through Pill Hill (where no fewer than five hospitals are located) over to Hyde Park, and eventually to Anderson.  Yeah, making what used to be a 45 minute run into almost an hour and a half really streamlines it.  No wonder Ohio is in the toilet.

The 24, however, also cuts through Over-the-Rhine on its way up to the University of Cincinnati and Pill Hill.  It crosses Court Street out of Downtown into OTR and stays there until it finds its way to Short Vine and the university campus.

As we turned onto Liberty, one of the city’s most troubled streets, and then onto the northern leg of Sycamore, I found myself reading David Simon’s account of a ghetto shooting in Baltimore and Sgt. Terry McLarney’s cynical take on the scene with a suspect almost too stupid to appear in a Victor Gischler novel. (Almost.  Gisch can work magic with even the most willfully stupid people as characters.  Man’s a genius.)

Stopping for a moment to give my eyes a break, I peaked up over the edge of my reading glasses* and noticed…

Jesus, I’m going through that same exact neighborhood.  The buildings looked tired.  The residents looked tired.  And just as I witnessed years before delivering pizza in Madisonville and East End, the locals didn’t jump out at me with a gun or a knife or yelling boo.  But the street names and intersections all figure prominently more often than not on the morning news on WLW.

Cincinnati’s worst homicide rate in recent years was under 95.  Most years, it’s below 90.  So people who get killed “where it doesn’t count,” as the most recent episode of The Wire puts it, tend to make the news more often here than they do in other cities.

But something else happened.  It occurred to me, as I write the current novel, that some of the places I write about are places I never see anymore.  Since I quit delivering pizza as a second job almost six years ago, I don’t see the Madisonvilles and East Ends anymore.  I don’t find myself dropping coworkers off in Avondale or Evanston, delivering pies to unemployed former workers from Cincinnati Milacron.

No one ever pulled a gun on me in those eight years I delivered pizza, but that world was close and very real.  You couldn’t miss it.  Not long after I quit that job, more than a few writers criticized George Pelecanos for not portraying some of the more rundown neighborhoods of DC very accurately, that somehow, his dialog and descriptions were dead wrong.

It infuriated me because, first off, to a person, every one of those people criticizing GP was white.  I was angry because they seemed to have a distorted vision of how people in poor black neighborhoods behave (and why, something that gets overlooked a lot) that had nothing to do with the reality I’d seen over eight years.  (I found the Appalachian-based East End to be a bit scarier than Madisonville, probably because there’s nothing scarier than a drunk hillbilly on a Friday night.)  It angered me because GP was pitch perfect, writing dialog I’d heard every night from customers, from people I met on runs, and even from some of my coworkers.  Mind you, some of the people I got angry with I still call my friends.  They hadn’t seen what I’d seen.  It still pissed me off.

That was then, when my forays into that world were still fresh in my mind.  Today, while riding a bus through OTR and reading a book by a friend and coworker of George Pelecanos, I got a sharp reminder of how long I’ve been away from it.

I hope when I finish my own book, I’ve done it justice.

*Yes, I wear reading glasses now for smaller print.  God, when did I get old?