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31 posts from March 2008

March 21, 2008

If I Ran the Presidential Debates

If I Ran the Presidential Debates

By Rebecca the Bookseller

Blog_pres_candidatesOkay - let's all remember that this is not a political blog. So I'm not endorsing any of the candidates. I will say this: Dear Mr. Nader, I am old enough to remember when your work was a source of inspiration and respect. But many of the current voters? Not so much. You need to step out of this presidential race, or your legacy is going to be that you're a media-grubbing crank. Thank you.

Now - the debates. I live in Pennsylvania, and it looks like we're going to have yet another debate - and that's before the national election even begins. Come on. How many ways can they ask the same boring questions? Let's get to the real issues that matter to real people - like all of us at TLC.

I will pose several questions, and then I'm looking to all of you guys to add your own - with an intelligent, witty group like ours, I'm sure we can come up with not only a meaningful debate, but a ratings winner. One rule I set for myself - the questions must lead to a Yes or No answer. It's the only way. Otherwise, we're just going to hear the same sound bites over and over any time somebody wants to dodge the question. It'll also cut down on the time.

"But how on earth are you going to enforce that?" You may be asking yourself this question, and I did too. The answer: electroshock. The chairs will be wired. Not to, like, taser level, but enough to get their attention. The jolts will get stronger each time they are used on the same person. If someone ends up drooling at the end, well, that's a pretty damn good indicator right there.

Question 1 (let's just get it over with). "Have you ever paid anyone to have any kind of sex with you?" If the answer is Yes, then we'll have a sheriff standing by. It's still a crime, people, even though it's a dumb crime. Besides, if any of them did, they should have come clean about it last week, when it would have just been one more brick in the wall.

Question 2: "Have you ever done anything that you'd be embarrassed to have your mother find out about?" This is a trick question. If the answer is No, then they're either lying or they have one hell of a weird relationship with Mom. The answer should be Yes.

Blog_scarlett_rhettQuestion 3: "Did Scarlett get Rhett back?" Qualifier: one must, for the sake of all things good, ignore the abomination that was the novel/made for TV movie "Scarlett". In fact, just mentioning it is going to earn someone a shock.

Question 4: "Have you ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die?" If the answer is Yes, and the candidate is not Johnny Cash, cue the sheriff.

Question 5: "Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked... in the head... with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. It's a dumb question... skip it."

Question 6: "Have you ever played a complete game of Risk?" No right answer here - I'd just like to know if there is any human alive who has done it.

Question 7: "Are you wearing underwear?" (Okay, this one was Margie's question. She says anyone with the stones to go commando in a televised debate should win automatically. Not surprisingly, we differ on this particular point.)

Question 8: "Have you had sex with your spouse in the last 30 days?" This one is important. Because, most people, if they are not getting busy at home, they are doing it somewhere else. As we all know, this leads to scandals. We don't need any more of those, okay?

Question 9: "Do you think The Da Vinci Code is a great work of literature?" Okay, this is double tricky. Because face it, the overwhelming majority of people who bought or received that book could not finish it. And you can call it a cultural phenom, or a best seller, but as a book, it sucked. Big Time. This is the kind of question that really separates the wheat from the chaff.

Blog_snl_more_cowbellQuestion 10: "If you have a fever, is the only prescription more cowbell?" Best to end on a soft ball query. The answer is obviously, Yes.

Okay, TLC, it's your turn. You don't have to limit your questions to yes or no answers, but if you want me to administer shock therapy, you need to tell me the right answer. What questions do you REALLY want to ask?

March 20, 2008

It All Started With A Back Ache

It all started with a back ache . . .

by Nancy                         Go to fullsize image

A few weeks ago, I realized that the back ache that I first noticed on an airplane in November was still hanging around in March. The pain wasn't excruciating, but it wasn't going away either. And since my mother has endured some of the most appallingly barbaric back surgeries imaginable--I mean, a machete might have been kinder--I figured I should do something now before I end up looking like a witch in a Disney movie. (Which my mother does not, by the way, because she's done an hour of yoga every morning for twenty years. She'll be eighty next year.)

                                     Go to fullsize image

In the interest of dodging the bad back bullet, I brought up the subject with my regular doctor. And if you're over fifty, you know what happened next.

Tests. My doctor sent me to six different places to take tests, have x-rays, get prodded and hmm-ed over.  I walked on a hosptial treadmill, lifted weights with my ankles, and wore hospital gowns in very public spaces. Results? Well, my cholorestrol is fine, my bone density is above average and I'm not pregnant.

My back, on the other hand, needed work.

At last, I washed up at the office of a physical therapist who only lacks the German accent and a dental drill to make her the perfect villain in a thriller.  The fraulein can't cure what ails me  (disk disease--erk!) but she can "make me more comfortable" through exercise.

I'm pretty sure if the writing gig doesn't work out that I could become a doctor.  No kidding. Here's what every single ailment comes down to:  No matter what your health problem is, ladies and gentlemen, you'll always be told to get more exercise.

At our first meeting, the therapist tried to cheer me up. She said, "When you're young, you must exercise to stay in shape. After a certain--well, later in life, you must stay in shape to exercise."

I wanted to punch her.  Except I have tendonitis in my right wrist.

Now I dutifully go to therapy twice a week with the AARP set. (And 80% of them are women.  Men do not have time for physical therapy, I guess, unless it's golf season, in which case I'm told the number of male patients hoping to get back on the golf course jumps exponentially. My husband has been putting off his shoulder physical therapy since before Christmas and only lately has realized golf season is nearly upon us.) 

At the beginning of every session I first spend ten minutes flat out on a heating pad. Which feels good, but I find myself ticking off how many dollars a minute that heating pad-enduced hot flash costs when I could instead turn on the hot seat in my car on the drive over.

But after I fume for those ten minutes, the really bad stuff starts. The therapist fits me with the electrodes. Yes, I said ELECTRODES--these long plastic sticky things that run from my knees to my hipbones.  When she flips on the Frankenstein machine, my legs twitch and feel as if a nest of ants has been turned loose on my lower body.

(No, Margie, we will not discuss what it might feel like if the electrodes were elsewhere.  But it has crossed my mind. Does anybody else remember Jane Fonda in Barbarella?)

Next comes the deep massage. And when I say "deep," I mean give-me-something-to-bite-on-Scarlett or Ashley's-going-to-hear-me-all-the-way-in-Gettysburg.

One criteria for a good physical therapist must be strong thumbs. How does she keep those thumbs so strong? Man, I'm yelping like a kicked puppy by the time she's finished. (And I delivered an 11-pound baby WITHOUT ANESTHESIA.) The deep tissue massage is much, much more painful than the back ache.

After the massage comes exercise, which I must do in the small gym with all the AARP people laughing and jumping around like they're in 3rd grade phys ed class.--They're having a ball.  I expect a game of Red Rover to break out any minute.  (Remember Red Rover?  I hear it's outlawed now because kids might break their fingernails or something.)  They make plans to go out for lunch and go shopping after therapy.  Me, I'm practically weeping with the excruciating need for a nap.

Finally the therapist sends me limping home with a sheet of paper with diagrams for more exercises pictured with a man who's smiling so happily that I want to kick him, except I've sprained my calf muscle or something.

Anyway, physical therapy makes me ache all over, but I'm told that's a short term thing. And truthfully? It's helping.  A lot. 

But the ultimate irony? There's a bakery across the street from the gym.  It takes every ounce of self control not to hobble over there and scarf up a dozen scones. But the only other advice a doctor will give you after the exercise thing is to watch your diet, and I'm pretty sure scones aren't on it. So I resist.

Fortunately--maybe---I get a week off from physical therapy.  I'm on the road again to plug MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH.  I'll be back in the gym for more torture next week.  Say a prayer for me, will you?

Meanwhile, get more exercise. 

March 19, 2008

Strangers on a Plane

Strangers on a Plane

By Elaine Viets

You’re trapped in a metal tube with more than a hundred frightened people, hurtling across the sky at five hundred miles an hour. Welcome to modern plane travel. No matter how many people are on your flight, most of them can be divided into the following groups.

The octopus: I met my first octopus on a crowded four-hour flight. The poor fellow was crammed in a middle seat. I had the aisle. The octopus was a young man in satin gangsta clothes who fell asleep right after the plane took off. Soon he was sleeping with his head on my shoulder. Then he had his arms wrapped around me. The guy was about six feet tall and weighed two-twenty. I was drowning in a satin avalanche.

I gingerly woke him.

"Sorry, miss," he said.

I instantly forgave him his trespasses.

The guy sat up straight for about ten minutes, then fell asleep again. How did he manage to sleep on a plane? His head slipped to my shoulder. Soon he was sprawled everywhere, like satin kudzu. Again, I woke him up. Again, he apologized. The third time, I put the chair arm down between us and said, "Here. Lean on this." It worked until we landed.

The talker: This person is usually a nervous flyer. It doesn’t matter if you have a book and pointedly stare at it. The talker is compelled to tell you about her children, her husband, her job, her dog and her church projects. There is no escape. It’s like being locked in the world’s longest Christmas letter.

The pickup artist: The guy next to you offers to buy you a drink. You decline, but he doesn’t take that as a no. He wants to talk about his wife, his ex-wife – and you. "What do you do?" he’ll say, about half an hour into the monologue.

"I’m a writer."

"Interesting," he says, in a tone that says he couldn’t be less interested, and then he’s back to his pickup attempt. There is no escape. You are stuck in a singles bar at 30,000 feet. There’s only one way to get rid of this guy – put the fear of the Lord into him. That’s when I ask, "Do you accept Jesus as your personal savior?"

Only once has this tactic failed me. As punishment for my sins, I had to listen to a long religious lecture.

The defiant ones: The captain has announced that the plane is in its final descent, or about to take off, or it’s hit rough weather and all passengers are instructed to return to their seats and fasten their belts.

The defiant ones wander about the cabin as if they are at a cocktail party. They open the overhead bins when the plane is bouncing like a basketball. They use the lavatory. They ignore the pointed comments from the flight attendants. The rules don’t apply to them.

The kicker: This is usually a child who is impervious to glares. The kid is kicking the back of your seat until you are ready to dropkick the munchkin down the aisle. The parent is oblivious.

The sneezer: Sneezing, coughing, snerching. This passenger is ceaselessly spreading disease just sitting in his seat. If the plane is hijacked, I swear I’m throwing this one into the arms of the terrorists, so he can damage those who deserve it.

March 18, 2008

Looking at Your Numbers

Looking At Your Numbers

By Sarah

Last month, I did something I've been putting of for as long as possible. I took a hard look at my numbers Screaming and, well, the best I can say about that is I'm still alive to tell the tale.

I don't mean sales numbers. I refuse to look at those and, yes, I know that's a mistake. Most successful commercial writers insist you've got to keep on top of sell throughs, etcetera, etcetera. But that kind of stuff freaks me out and makes me a less productive. Plus, instead of writing what I want to write and where my talent takes me, I find I'm tempted to write what the market wants and, frankly, that never works. Once a trend's been spotted, it's pretty much over.

Therefore, I've asked my agent and editors for a general "selling well" versus "not selling well" and my stand alone novels - The Sleeping Beauty Proposal, Cinderella Pact and, fingers crossed come June, Sweet Love - sell well. That's all I want to know because I just don't feel as if I have that much control Sweetlovephoto over this area. I try to make each book better than the last - interesting characters, more layers to the story, better dialogue, humor, pathos, inspiration. I keep a mailing list and alert my readers when the next one's out, I send postcards as reminders and show up at events when I'm invited. Other than that, I give the rest to God, as the athletes say. Let Him deal with sales.

The numbers I'm talking about are much more personal and unlike past book sales these I do have control over - my weight and my finances. I know, yuck. Who wants to look at those?

Not me. And I didn't. For months while I was working, killing myself writing and rewriting Sweet Love, I Bathroom_scale refused to get on the scale or read my bank statements. Yes, I paid bills by "guesstimating" how much I had to cover them. But fortunately - or, as it turns out, unfortunately - it was a "good year." The money came in; the money went out. And I kept on writing.

With Sweet Love done and in, I cleaned up my office and took stock of my life. In other words, I looked at my numbers and found I was overweight. I was stressed and, as I suspected, I owed the IRS a shitload of money. People, let me tell you, stepping on that scale, doing those taxes, facing the bank statements and the credit card bills added up to a week of pain. But now, at least, I know where I stand. Which is to say, in a hole.

Oddly enough, the person I kept in mind throughout this ordeal was Sarah Ferguson. Remember her? Used to be married to Prince Andrew until she blew it by cavorting with some Texan business magnate.Sarah  After her divorce, she took an assessment and found she was broke and fat. Now she's trim and in the black.

Of course, Weight Watchers isn't going to hire me to be their spokesmodel, but they've never let me down. A month in and I've lost about ten pounds, enough to get me out of the overweight end of the insurance tables and squarely in the normal range. I've got ten more to go before I'll be satisfied and perhaps ten more after that until I'll be happy.

The tax situation is a cruel one. We could go on and on about how the system's set up to penalize people who strike out on their own. As a self-employed person I've got to pay both halves of my social security. On the other hand, I can write at one a.m. and go for a walk with the dog in the middle of the day. I'm not complaining.

That said, all my earnings from this year will be going toward paying last year's taxes, this year's Irs quarterlies and making my IRA payment. (I try to put in the maximum.) Like most of America, we'll be tightening our belts this year and that means back to clipping coupons, budgeting household expenses, getting rid of the gym membership, most of the cable and dinners out. No vacations. No new toys.

Charlie and I have been there before and it's funny how oddly comforting it is to live simply. Perhaps it's my blue collar roots and the example of my mother who craftily stretched her "allowance" and family budget by hitting triple coupon days, sewing her own clothes and never buying retail. Then again, talk to me in a year. I might be homicidal.

We're in for tough times ahead and I'm sure that's not news. Will hardcover fiction survive? I think, yes. Penny for penny, a book is the best, most satisfying form of entertainment around. A book offers hoursBeach_reading  and hours of escape from all the icky stuff above (i.e. numbers) for relatively little money. A hardcover is a perfect gift, not too pricey, not too cheap. It's portable. It passes through airplane security with nary a beep. And if it gets sandy, simply brush it off. Plus, it requires no batteries or upgrades. It is the ideal medium.

In fact, I predict reading will surge throughout this recession. Book clubs will take off because nights on the town will be too expensive. Like me, people will scale back on their cable. They'll go to the library and meet with friends to discuss what they're reading. People will give each other books for Christmas instead of PS3s. I'm telling you, this recession could very well spark the beginning of a new American Renaissance.

We'll just have to see what the numbers say. Because, as I've learned, writers lie - numbers don't.


March 17, 2008

Dark Bunny

Dark Bunny
by Harley

My friend Claire Carmichael has this theory: Add the word “Dark” to any noun and you get an instant noir title. As in, Dark Shadows, Dark Victory, Dark Angel, Wait Until Dark, Dark Side of the Moon, Darkness on the Edge of Town and in my case:

Dark Bunny.

You see, I’ve acquired a rabbit. Some of you are thinking, “little bundle of cuddliness” and others, “boiling water in ‘Fatal Attraction.’” I’m in the latter group.

Here’s how it happened. Rather than screen “Fatal Attraction” for my second-grader, like a smart parent, I foolishly raised her on “Pat the Bunny,” “Knuffle Bunny” and the Rabbits, Peter and Velveteen. Then last fall we spent time with friends who had a bunny, and that was it. “Chloe has a bunny,” my daughter said. “Angus and Fiona have them. Everyone has them.” Was she to be the only rabbit-less child in her school?

Why not? Other families have lots of things we don’t have, like Lamborghinis and putting greens and backstage passes to Hannah Montana concerts. Our family has dogs. Rescued dogs, so we don’t know their breed or their childhood traumas, but we do know they once brought down a deer. (There were witnesses.) Also, our dogs are suspects in the disappearance of our cat, April, but the evidence is purely circumstantial and we never found a body. It’s like living with the Corleone family. Gut-wrenching, yes, but late at night when one dog’s snoring next to me in bed, and the other’s downstairs guarding the children, comforting.

Unless you’re a bunny.

My other problem, as I explained 67 times to my daughter, is that caged animals distress me. But my daughter was on a mission. She checked out library books on rabbits, researched them online, and haunted Petco. I suggested that her father could have an unexplored love for bunnies and might like one at his house. I e-mailed him. He e-mailed me back. “Bunny: terrible idea.”

However, there was talk of guinea pigs and hamsters and shared custody arrangements, but then the rabbits made a comeback and suddenly—don’t ask me how—on the day my daughter turned 8, there was an enormous hutch on my deck and inside, Dixie. A full-time resident. Harley, suckered again.

I’m trying to see this problem as an opportunity in a bunny suit, but it’s an uphill battle. Chloe’s dad confessed just yesterday that their dog ate the guinea pig they bought to keep their rabbit company. Angus’s mom says a coyote broke into their hutch and took out an entire family, leaving behind only fluff. Our own Nancy Martin suffers from leporidae PTSD (too distraught to share details.) And for what? For a ball of fur whose biggest talent is that it can be taught, with painstaking effort, to use a litter box. Woo-hoo! Bring on the marching band.

If this were a children’s book, Dixie would somehow save our lives (perhaps from an attack by a giant, mutant lettuce leaf) and I would cry, “I’m sorry I made fun of you and complained that all you do is poop.” But this is Real Life, so here I sit waiting for the other shoe--uh, bunny slipper--to drop. The dogs lick their lips. Dixie quivers. One day I expect her to hurl herself over the deck into the canyon, leaving behind emptiness. Dark Hutch. Dark Litterbox. Dark Carrots.

If you can offer any advice, please do. Otherwise, heed this cautionary tale. It’s too late for me, but if I save even one reader from a hare-raising experience, I am at peace.

Happy Monday.

March 16, 2008

One Last Thing about Ashley Alexandra Dupré

One Last Thing about Ashley Alexandra Dupré

By Sarah

Girl_190_3  THIS is the photo Ashley Alexandra Dupré, aka Spitzer's high-class call girl, doesn't want you to see. Why? Because, according to her lawyer, we the public did not ask for her permission to put it on our site. Or on the New York Times' site. Or the Washington Post's. Or rockthedub.com or a million other sites by now. I love this argument and here's why.

Years ago when I was a police reporter, criminals would call me collect from jail or, more often, use their relatives, to complain in colorfully expletive-laden rants that I had not received their permission to write about their misdeeds. Usually these were misdeeds involving DUI, sexual abuse, or the common combination of both. It was a tough go explaining that the way our court system works, see, is that when one commits a crime and is arrested and charged for said crime, one creates what's called a "public record." Anyone can view the public record - a reporter, a neighbor, the criminal's Aunt Elda. Aside from juvenile offenders, criminals ipso facto lose their right to privacy on that matter.

"Yeah," the criminal would agree. "But I didn't say you could."

Of course, Ashley Alexandra Dupré's lawyer is smart enough to focus on the unlawful copyright issue Girl_190_1 surrounding the photo. Who knows if he has a point. Once upon a time he might have, maybe, but this photo is now all over the web downloaded and pasted in a zillion places. Besides, she's on a yacht. And these photos came from HER myspace page. But that's all irrelevant. Because there's a reason why the photos are more inflammatory than the factual recitation of her $4,300 encounter with the former governor of New York and, frankly, it doesn't speak well for us feminists.

We women want to see if she's prettier than we are. Is this the face (though I guess the face isn't that important, huh?) of a three diamond hooker? Is this the body (5'5", 105 lb) that can command thousands of dollars an hour? And, if so, how do we compare?

These are questions we ask ourselves, subconsciously, a hundred times a day whenever we catch our husbands checking out a fairly attractive woman, whenever a well-endowed actress walks onto the scene of a movie or the Miss America Pageant is on TV. (Is that dead at last?) It's all biology. Which is where the anti-feminism comes in.

If we were truly feminists, we would be rising to the cause of Ashley Alexandra Dupré, a woman who admits to have been sexually abused (or hinted at it, at least), who left her family at age seventeen, who did drugs and hit hard times. That the governor of New York, a Democrat who supposedly championed the rights of the underdog and the exploited, further exploits a woman for his own sexual gratification is  - and has been -rightfully declared an outrage.

And yet, my first instinct was outrage at her. Ashley Alexandra Dupré is further proof that if you want to make it in America, all you have to be is pretty, young and thin. Irrationally, I think, shoot, no one has ever offered to pay ME $4,300 to sleep with them despite my charming personality and delightful wit. Why is it that greedy skanks....Well, you get the idea.

Silda So am I wrong? Do I need to knock on Naomi Wolf's door and beg forgiveness? Or do I belong with the legion of disapproving church ladies in their lavender and frilly hats? But then I think of the tired face of Silda Wall Spitzer, of their three teenage daughters and decide, nah. Besides, Ashley Alexandra Dupré , is going to come of this a millionaire.

Another great American Dream come true. Look and listen, girls. Look and listen.


March 15, 2008

Spring Saturday Survey

Spring Saturday Survey

By Sarah

Though it's not quite spring, Easter's next week, Daylight Savings is upon us and that's close enough for Spring_cleaning me. Sure, snow is still on our ground here in Vermont, but I bet where you live it's a normal spring Saturday. Ah, what memories.

Saturdays, especially spring Saturdays, had a special feel to them when I was a kid, feelings of freedom and frolicking. The first day of trout season was on a spring Saturday as was the SAT (okay, not so free or frolicksome). Spring Saturdays were the days when you first went barefoot, though the ground was cold and damp, when you took off with friends on your bike and didn't come home until dinner. Went fishing. To the park. Finally necked with the boy you'd been eyeing all winter.

Either that or your father had other plans, such as cleaning out the garage and holding the ladder while Window_washing he dug gunk from the gutters. (Gunk he should have dug out the previous fall.) There were also other enjoyable activities such as washing the winter salt and grime from the car, cleaning the windows, perhaps even taking down the storms and putting up the screens.

So here's my question: how will you spend this spring Saturday? Collecting recyclables? Easter_egg Going to yard sales? Cleaning out the garage? Raking the snow off your roof? Shopping for Easter? (Kind of weird how Passover is so late when Easter is so early this year, huh?)  Planting seeds? Seedlings? Hoeing the fall weeds from the garden?

Or did you do - gasp - taxes?

Or will you, instead, lie about the house looking whimsically out the window knowing that you should do something but, shoot, your winter depression won't let you? If so, consider this sign of the times - Ralph Lauren is now designing for J.C. Penney. Wise marketing move or is that it for his brand. I don't know, to me that photo looks as if it's the other way around - J.C. Penney's designing for him.


March 14, 2008

Margie's St. Patrick's Day Story

Margie's St. Patrick's Day Story

By Me, Margie

Blog_st_patrickOkay, let's talk about St. Patrick first. When most people think of him, they think of snakes. Okay, they think of green beer, and then they think of snakes. St. Patrick was a priest who is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland with a big stick and a drum.

But scientists will tell you that the reason there are no snakes in Ireland is because of weather and water. Snakes can't survive in cold weather (which kept them out for the first coupla thousand years) and snakes can't swim (which kept them out after things warmed up). So forget that whole snake thing. Unless you take the position that by 'snakes', people meant pagan heathen types. Not me, Margie. To me, a snake is a snake. Can the metaphysics.

Blog_st_pats_paradeNext up, people think of celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Guess what? That didn't even start in Ireland! It started in New York, where the first parade was held. The parade was led by dogs, incidentally, not snakes. It's hard to get snakes to do parades. Their agents ask for all kinds of perks, and it ends up costing you more than Spitzer's 'pay the bucks/take the butt' consultants. And may I just say that I do not mean to insult any snake here. From what I understand, a better reference to him would be an inchworm. Hey, people tell me things.

If you've ever been to New York for St. Pats, you know it is a total free-for-all. Chicago too, where they still dye the river green. On purpose - not like, you know, Love Canal (somebody got me the anniversary edition of "Tootsie" - which is totally worth seeing, even though it has nothing to do with St. Patrick.)

In Ireland, St. Patrick's day was always celebrated as a religious holiday - and until fairly recently, all the pubs were closed - by law - on that day. Isn't that a surprise? Then, some genius who happened to work in the Bureau of Tourism figured out that they could make a ton more money catering to visitors who were used to the Party Patrick, as opposed to the Pious Patrick.

But everybody knows all this stuff about St. Patrick. Me, I'm here to enlighten. So I'm googling shit on this, and y'know what? St. Patrick's dad - and I think even his grandpa - were both priests too - AND they were both married. Which makes sense, because otherwise, he's like some bastard kid who ends up with a made up name.

"Now wait just a minute, Margie" (you are saying to yourself) - "priests aren't allowed to get married!"

Guess what? That's a pretty new thing. And sorry, but it really has nothing to do with one of the Ten Commandments, or even a message from a burning bush (easy, boyos). It's not even in the bible. Although, I wouldn't know - when you're raised RC, you don't read the bible - you just listen to the priests. And don't quote me the stuff about 'eunuchs' either - that's a different kind of surgery - and I can make that happen if you want, by the way. I know people.

Here is what really happened - it's about land and it's about money. Priests and bishops were powerful people who controlled a lot of land. See, if a priest was married, his heirs got all his land and stuff. The church decided that wasn't working out so well. So they started dreaming up these bullshit rules. The first one was: okay, if you are married, you can't perform any sacraments (that's like Communion and Baptism and Marriage and stuff) if you've had sex in the last 24 hours. Huh? Yeah, it's moronic. But not as moronic as the reason they gave - brace yourself for this shit - because having that kind of intimate contact with a woman made the priest unclean.

That's right - unclean! Because women were considered to be inferior and less pure. As if, by virtue of some dick's contact with some part of our female bodies (presumably an open kind of part) they were contaminated. Excuse me, but WHAT THE FUCK?

It gets better, too. Since the priests' main jobs were to convert people, they ended up doing sacraments almost every day. That meant less and less sex with their wives. It was only a matter of time before the priests had to choose between a real marriage and their vocation. And people wonder why there are all these sexual scandals? No shit, sherlock. Take away the normal, healthy outlet for a man's libido and what the shit did you think was going to happen, assholes? Oops. I think that's what they call a Freudian slip.

The church made it official in some big meeting. In 1139, some Official Council imposed mandatory celibacy on all priests. All priests' marriages were declared invalid. And no, I am not going to speculate whether the Emperor's Club was having its inaugural planning session in the same hotel and convention center at the time. I can't figure out everything, you know.

But - and here's the other thing you gotta love about these institutions - loopholes big enough to run a parade through. it turns out that, worldwide, of all the priests who report to the Vatican (that's the Pope's HQ in Rome) 20% are married. Yeah. And they don't even have to wear a big button that says "UNCLEAN" or anything. Most are in Europe, but some are in other countries - because one way it happens is if you are married and then you want to become a priest, you can get special permission from the Pope. This usually happens when ministers from other churches decide to go RC.

I mean, really -- I thought that whole 'Limbo' thing was as idiotic as it could get. But this? This is meshugena.

So listen, St. Patrick - we need you back, man. Bring a big stick too. We've got some serious ass Snake problems and we could use an assist. And I don't mean the snakes who stay on the ground and generally mind their own business. I'm talking about the ones walking upright while living on the down low. They're giving the whole operation a bad name.

In the mean time, for the rest of us - kiss an Irish Lad or Lassie, hoist a few, belt out some songs, and party on. Life's too short to pass up a celebration, people!

March 13, 2008

Natural Beauty

by Nancy Martin

Consider this, fellow parents:

Apparently, there are school photo companies that will now air-brush your first grader's missing teeth. Zits, bad hair, and crossed eyes are no longer a problem. You can ask to have your pudgy's boy's tummy trimmed without depriving him of his after-school cookies. Don't like the way Little Ashlee's bangs look in her class photo?  You can now get the re-touching done for under $10.  Here's a company called Natural Beauties that will completely make over your child's appearance, and the results are . . . well, I leave it to your judgment.

Me, I look at my own grade school photos and cringe.  Which is healthy, right? (Who among us looks back on elemetary school as a joyful experience?  And did it take decades of therapy and/or prescription drugs for you to reach that conclusion?) When my daughters brought home their yearly pix, I often found myself wondering why on earth I chose such unattractive eyeglasses for them. Or why those clothes that were so cute in the store made them look ridiculous in pictures. And then there was that pig-tail phase, girls, for which I sincerely apologize.

On the other hand, when I assembled all twelve pictures for their high school graduation parties, it was really neat to see the progression from goofy kindergartener through the all-teeth-and-glasses phase of junior high to the reasonably intelligent-looking young lady of 12th grade.  It's actually heart-warming to look at the collection of their school pictures from beginning to end.  Also a bit hilarious, but that's life, right?

But what does re-touching school his photos say to your kid?

In other news:

When William F. Buckley died last week, he left behind his "writerly papers."  The collection is intended for Yale, I think, and get this: weighed seven tons.  I'm sure, if you watched his television program or even read his Blackford Oakes spy novels (William Simon? Are you there? I loved thsoe books.  Did you?) you are wondering why Mr. Buckley didn't manage to negotiate a deal to take his papers with him---if anyone could successfully argue with God, it was surely he--but alas, it was not to be. But seven tons?  In my acquaintance, there are only one or two or writers with egos big enough to imagine that anyone would want seven tons of their discarded writing. Not that a big ego is a bad thing in a writer. But, still.

Also this is old news by now, but still noteworthy:

Men who do housework get more marital sex.  If any part of this equation is true in your household, please speak up, because I want to know more on this subject.  Like for instance, how do you get him to do it?  And by "it," I mean either one.

I am on the road this week---visiting bookstores to plug MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH, which is #12 on the Barnes & Noble hardcover mystery list.  (Thanks, I'm sure, to many of you who very kindly bought the book the first important week it was released. For the rest of you, there's still time.  For an autographed copy, go here) Hitting any kind of list is a beautiful thing for a writer, trust me.  I appreciate your help.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, I'll be at the Springfield mall Borders Express tonight at 7pm.  If you don't live in Philadelphia, send good bookselling vibes, please?

Meanwhile, I'm tossing the three subjects above to our regulars and hope you backbloggers can make today's blog an entertaining one.  I have the utmost confidence in your comedic talents. The comments about the "natural beauties" will surely be sufficient. Go for it, team!

Nancy, on the road.

March 12, 2008

Everything You Need to Know about a Sex Scandal

Everything You Need to Know about a Sex Scandal

By Elaine Viets

The sex scandal circus is back in town, and this time it’s New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in the center ring. Gov. Spitzer allegedly paid thousands to import a New York call girl to Washington.

It’s an old show, folks. I lived in Washington, D.C. during the Clinton sex scandal, and I recognize the roles.

Here are eight things you need to know about sex scandals and Washington.

(1) Nearly everyone in Washington is a whore. Some wear pinstripes and some prefer fishnet stockings, but most folks in DC have sold their souls (or their votes) to some special interest. Yes, that sounds cynical. But if you spend time in Washington and come out with your faith in the system intact, then you’ve kept your eyes shut.

(2) Spare us the spectacle of the long-suffering wife.

Prosecutors should add special penalties when the mortified wife appears at the cheating SOB’s side for the obligatory press conference. I’d be at his side, all right -– with a pit bull, a divorce lawyer and garden shears.

Why does the wife stand by the rat?

Because she’s invested twenty years of her life in his career, instead of her own.

They have kids to get through college.

She’s past the age when she can troll the singles bars for another husband. The spin doctor has convinced the poor woman this is her one chance to recoup some of her lifelong investment.

(3) Insist on castration (chemical or otherwise) for politicians -– especially those in the dangerous "mid-life crisis" range.

Castration will help them keep their minds on their work. These pols are not interested in giving anything to anyone but themselves.

Also, require politicians to hire homely aides. Yes, unattractive people do have sex -– look at your family photo album -– but some politicians regard aides as part of their personal harem.

When I walked through the Senate office building in Washington, every aide I saw was a svelte twenty-something. The women were even prettier. My first thought was, "Don’t major donors have any ugly children?"

(4) Charge johns and janes caught using prostitutes.

Name names. Put the offenders’ pictures in the paper. Lock ’em up.

Prostitution is a crime that takes two people. Otherwise, it would be masturbation, which is usually not a public offense. Men and women who knew they’d pay a penalty for hiring sex workers might think twice about that alleged crime.

Besides, why should the working girls -– and guys –- bear the full brunt of the law? It’s discrimination against the working class.

(5) Legalize prostitution.

It would help the nation’s economy. People could be taxed for each transaction. I admit it would take brave politicians to get this through the legislature. But remember, the career you save could be your own.

(6) Let he who is without sin criticize the perp on the talk shows.

This was the worst spectacle of the Clinton scandal –- the hordes of reporters and politicians who got on TV to deplore his immorality. I’d been around DC long enough to know most of those self-righteous pundits had cheated on their wives. In fact, one particularly pompous senator had hit on me. Maybe he didn’t remember, since he was drunk at the time.

(7) Respect the IRS.

It wasn’t that cross-dresser in the FBI who brought down Al Capone. It was the mighty IRS.

(8) Never, ever declare yourself incorruptible.

It’s too dangerous. I hereby state that I have sinned in the past and I probably will sin more. I am as fallible and corruptible as anyone else.

PS: I will try to pay my taxes.