Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dear Politicians, Please Shut Up Already.

There have been some people who have doubted my political neutrality. When I told people that the view on my politics change depending on where the jury is sitting, I don't think anyone quite believed me.

This is, hopefully, the last political blog I will ever have to do...

I have also made it known in the past that I dislike politicians and politics. When I suggested to a friend that nuking D.C. (Washington DC, not the comic books) wouldn't be a bad idea, she objected, since she knew people in the area.

When I suggested VX nerve gas during a state of the union address, she thought that was more reasonable.

When I said I hate politics, I meant it.

There are a lot of things I didn't like about George W. Bush. Okay, I wanted more of his tax cuts, and the people he invaded were people I wanted invaded under Clinton. And his faith-based stuff was interesting, but lost in the abyss of terrorist white noise. But aside from that, I disliked a lot of what he let happen in the Congress, a lot of the stuff he passed, all of the stuff he let pass unaddressed. It pissed me off.

But there was one thing I liked about “W.” without question.

He stayed off the air. He didn't do press conferences. He rarely did interviews. He rarely stuck his head out of the gopher hole of the oval office and said anything that made the nightly news. It might have been because of his gaffs … As a public speaker, I share his problems—I'm better at off-the-cuff comments; if you give me a prepared speech, I turn into a blithering idiot.

But no matter what the reasons were for W. to shut the hell up, he gave us weeks of blissful silence.

So, had anyone listened to me in Washington, I would have given them one message: SHUT THE HELL UP.

I hear soundbites from President Obama every, damn, day. I don't even object to what he says … do you know why I don't object to what he says? Because I stopped listening over a year ago. In 2009, he was on every day. For all of 2010, he's on the airwaves at least three times a day. I now object to the sound of his voice.

And, Mr. President, the Republicans are now (11/1/10), and have been since January, 2009, politically irrelevant to your agenda. You had a super majority when you came in—you need 51 votes in the Senate. You had 60 upon arrival. It feels like the old joke about the college president who had three envelops on his desk from his predecessor in times of problems: First envelope says “Blame me, I'm not here anymore, I won't object,” Second says “Take the blame, you're entitled to a screwup,” and the Third envelope says “Prepare three envelopes.”

I'm perfectly impartial. It's not just President Obama. It's everybody in Washington. It's candidates I hate and candidates I agree with, and candidates who aren't even in town. I'm tired of listening to Christine O'Donnell telling me she's not a witch. I don't have a vote in the Linda MacMahon vs. Blumenthal race, so why are you people running ads in New York? Mr. Christie, I'm glad you're stopping all spending in New Jersey, I'm happy for you, but I'm sick of looking at you on the news. I'm tired of looking at the Halloween mask of Nancy Pelosi, the Skeletor face of Harry Reid, and the women of The View and their feud with Bill O'Reilly and Sharon Angle (at current rate of speed, I'd rather Joy Behar talk to Kurt Angle).

In my state, it's Andrew “I want to be a kneebreaker” Cuomo vs. Carl “straight-jacket” Pallidino; the latter is a multimillionaire from upstate New York, but apparently blew all of his money on getting the nomination, so I hear nothing but Cuomo's thuggish tones over the airwaves. And my vote won't matter either way, since this is New York, your vote doesn't actually count, because the Cuomo will win, as will Schumer and Hillary redux.

Right now, I'm at the point with politicians that I am with the Church around the “annual appeal.” In the case of the church, I want to say “I'll write you a check if I don't have to listen to you for another year.” In the case of politicians, “I'll vote for you if you keep out of the airways from now until a month before reelection.”

But overall, you politicos should just shut up. This is serious political advice. Why?

Look at it as advice from Machiavelli: in his advice for dictators, he suggested that a brutal dictator should commit all of his atrocities immediately upon taking power. After, this dictator should not perform another harmful thing ever again, not one, single, thing. The principle is that, over time, people will forget why they were ever annoyed with him.

Politicians, take this advice: throw all your BS around at the start of a political season, then shut the hell up and leave us alone. I'm tired of listening to all of you.

Unfortunately, I suspect that this will end with the start of a new political season. That's right, as of 11/03/10, we start the race for the Presidential Election 2012!

Somebody wake me when it's 2013. Or when we muzzle the politicians. All of them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Europe Has Some Problems.

Europe Has Some Problems.

[Before reading this blog, I would to ask readers to go through it with a critical eyes. I would prefer it if someone could supply me with numbers for or against anything I am saying here. I am relying heavily on anecdotal evidence and half remembered details. I retain a lot, but that doesn't help much. In short, I'm flying blind. Any numbers for or against what I'm saying would be appreciated.]

In the Brooklyn museum, during the reign of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, there was an issue involving two piece of “art.”

One, was an image of Jesus Christ, symbol of the entire Christian faith, in a jar of urine.

The other was a statue of the Virgin Mary, symbol of at least the Catholic church, smothered in elephant dung with photos of female genitalia plastered all over.

While Giuliani went postal, and complained about the museum, nothing really happened. No one was assaulted. There were no riots. Nothing was burned down. The “artists” were not hunted down and burned at the stake by a horde of angry Christians. Though I think the “artists” should be forced to stare at their own creations for a week.

Let's go to Europe.

There was a Danish political cartoonist who wanted to note how much Muslims self-censor any condemnation of Islamic terrorists, and that you can't even do a critical analysis of Islam like you can of, say, the old testament.

And, to show that Islam could tolerate criticism and would not censor anyone ... they had weeks of riots in reaction to the criticism and tried to censor the danish cartoonist.

I will grant you that political cartoons aren't funny, but this is like Norway having a riot over Hagar the Horrible. Were the cartoons worth the lives of over a hundred and thirty nine people and over eight hundred injured in the international rioting?

Imagine if it wasn't a cartoon, but a movie. Then you can imagine Theo Van Gough being knifed to death in an alley.

Not long ago, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that creating a multi-cultural society has completely failed.

Apparently, this little bon mot was started by central bank board member saying the country was being made “more stupid” by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.

Merkel's comment: “Multikulti”, the concept that “we are now living side by side and are happy about it,” does not work. “This approach has failed, totally,” she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany’s culture and values.

“Subsidising immigrants” isn’t sufficient, Germany has the right to “make demands” on them, such as mastering the language of Goethe and abandoning practices such as forced marriages.....

I'm going to agree that Europe's idea of multiculturalism is stupid. Multiculturalism on the continent is more Balkanization than anything else. The Balkans were held together by Empires and dictators for centuries; there were multiple groups, with separate cultures and identities, who did not want to associate with each other, hated each other's guts, and wanted to kill each other for about a thousand years.

In France, they keep their Muslim immigrant population in glorified slums.

In Holland, government officials have suggested making sharia law officially part of the legal system of the Netherlands (sharia: stone female adulterers, cut off the hands of thieves, and a legal defense for rape ).

I live in Queens. We have 167 ethnic groups speaking 117 different languages. We get along fine. I am the whitest guy I know, yet can walk through the Barrio, Harlem, three Chinatowns, and Brighton Beach, without anyone looking at me like I came from another planet. Then again, within four miles of me, I have dozens of flavors of Christianity, a Bhuddist temple, a synagogue, and a cultural mix of Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Italian, Irish, and those are just the restaurants. We generally all speak English, or we at least attempt to, and if we can't understand each other, there is usually someone who will translate nearby.

So, what the hell is Europe's problem?

They have several. France, for example, insists on a cookie-cutter policy. If you deviate or stand out in anyway, you're a target. The only place for hajibs or yarmulkes are in Catholic schools. Wearing a cross is also banned. Most of these policies were passed under Jacques Chirac, and don't seem to be going anywhere.

Then you have the Netherlands, where the growing Muslim population are mostly young, the first generation born in country (mostly young folk) are growing up with extreme feelings of identity—to their religion. This could just be their version of being a teenager, but instead of being Goth or Emo, it's extreme religion. Unfortunately, until recently, for over ten years no one objected when they assaulted groups of Jews, or committing assorted other hate crimes.

And, recently, one of their politicians was put on trial for … being politically incorrect in a film. Since I haven't seen it, I can't say how offensive it is, but in America, CAIR could have just filed a lawsuit, and made money. People would have boycotted the film. Life moves on. In the Netherlands, you can't even say bad things about Muslims, even when there is a segment of the population that is becoming an issue?

I'm not 100% certain about Germany's problems, if their Islamic population has any specific grievances, or what trouble, if any, they may have caused in Germany in order to spark Merkel's comment.

So, I agree with Merkel that Europe has no idea what they're doing. Time for them to come to Queens.

Then there is Merkel's next line … “We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here.”

Wait, what? I'm sorry, I'm going to hit the brakes right here. Christian values? This is the same Europe that rejected anything religious in the European Union, right? The EU founded on anti-religious Enlightenment ideas? When Pope John Paul II suggested that Europe even had Christian roots, he was told to stuff it. So, Chancellor, you're a little late.

Here's where I seriously start developing problems: A recent study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think tank showed around one-third of Germans feel the country is being “over-run by foreigners” and the same percentage feel foreigners should be sent home when jobs are scarce. And nearly 60 percent of the 2,411 people polled thought the around four million Muslims in Germany should have their religious practices “significantly curbed.”

Now my BS detector is going into red alert.

Germany has already banned something labeled as a religion. Scientology has been outlawed as being fascist. But I'm assuming that there were not four million scientologists in country when they passed the law.

If this new German thought process is an indication of where Europe's policy is going, I'm worried. It is one thing to ignore, kowtow, or be afraid of a problem, it is another to blindly lash out at a whole group only because a percentage of the group is being a problem.

Maybe if Merkel's “Christian Values” are more like France's Catholic schools, we can talk. But would anyone want to place money on that?  In Europe's past, they have shown only two settings: cower in a corner, or go fascist.  I'm hoping for something in the middle.

Maybe the Brooklyn museum would like to make an image of Muhammad and cover that in excrement. If anyone complains, it can always be covered by free speech.  Should there be a riot in America, like there was in Europe, I wonder if the NYTimes would refer to it as fascist censorship, (like they said about Giuliani) or if they would call it "freedom of religious expression."

DragonCon, 2010, Day 1-3

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purple Only Works On A Ninja Turtle.

I'm a Born Contrarian.

People tell me that we need to be tolerant to all religions, I'm the first one to ask, “Does that include being able to blow yourself up in public?”

I'm told about Nike paying pocket change for someone to make their shoes overseas, and I ask “Is that comparable to local wages?”

Someone tells me that, “I'm going to burn this book!” All I can think is, “The bookstores are going to love you when you buy out their inventory.”

I like bumper stickers that say “Nuke the whales.” I've hated every Presidential candidate for the last twenty years. Green advertizements make me want to litter. Negative ads make me want to vote for the target. Vegans make me want to eat a porterhouse. Atheists who hate me for believing in God make me want to go to church daily. I believe in women's lib, and chivalry, and that Gloria Steinem is an idiot. If you gloat about the Yankees, I will become a Mets fan, even though I hate baseball.

In short, if you give me two sides of any issue, I will find a third alternative that will, somehow, be the same as telling both sides to go perform an impossible anatomical act on themselves.

This includes fads. Mentioning breast cancer month will earn a glare from me, and the fact that more women die from lung cancer than breast cancer.

Recently, there's been a few suicides of younger people, some who were gay, at least one who was questioning (I say this because I can't imagine that any fourteen year old knows what the hell they are).

My normal reaction to suicide is that “you get no sympathy from me.” (Keep reading, go with it.)

Not for any religious reasons. There is a strain of thought in the Catholic church that suicides are a coin toss: how mentally disturbed were they? Were there factors that someone missed in terms of mental health? What was the thought process going on in their brains? Were they trying a stunt they saw on “Jackass”?

Suicides rarely get sympathy from me because I was the nerdy fat kid. From Kintergarden to The start of college, I was that person with no friends. Over the years, I have been accused of being a future terrorist, a current terrorist, a soon-to-be mass murderer, or a future serial killer. I was a target of bullying for more than half my life. I have never given serious thought to suicide, or mass murder. However, I did come up with various and sundry ways to assassinate individuals who had earned my ire.

Only two types of people come up with creative ways to kill large amounts of people: terrorists and thriller writers. I hope to be the kind that pays better.

So, my first thought about teenagers and college students committing suicide is usually: I lived, what the Hell was your problem?

But, as a friend of mine educated me on details that the newspapers don't mention too loudly, I noticed some things. A lot of people have focused on the gay issue (“LGBTQ”). I believe I've mentioned before, I don't care who you sleep with, as long as you're not giving me the details.  You straight people, I'm talking to you, too.

[For the record, I'm using the word gay in substitute for LGBTQ … mainly because if we keep adding to the acronym to encompass everybody, we're going to run out of letters. And because not even Wikipedia is 100% certain what the Q is for.]

And as I look at the suicides of late, I'm more interested in the bullying aspect. While I went through it for over a decade, it was never organized. No one put so much energy into it that they formed moderate to large sized gangs of thugs to launch a campaign of harassment that drove someone to death.

I've come to a few conclusions.

1)  It's probably not because of who they're sleeping with / thinking of sleeping with / are suspected of wanting to sleep with.
I like to refer to it as the Freakish Individual Syndrome (FIS). If you look like you're out of place, if you're a brunette in California, the nerdy fat kid, the gay one, or even possess the random genetic quirk, you are a target.  The people in question were easy targets for the pack of jackals to gang up on.  I am told that sexuality is an easy subject to lock onto at any age from 13-22, mainly because development in that area is still ongoing.  If someone did an indepth report, I would lay money, right now, that the bullies in question had tried previous targets, and failed miserably.

Also, FIS will probably also mean that you'll be called some variation of gay as an insult—I went to an all male high school, and I heard the variations on a theme tossed around so often, I wasn't sure if it was a running gag, the insult of the day, or if half of my student body was thinking of making time with the other half. It's just one of a hundred random insults of teenager-dom; extend this into college for any large clique, because their IQ drops significantly in large groups.

The point: if you suffer, even slightly, from FIS, you have a bullseye on you. Because there are people looking for a target.

Why are these twits looking for a target? See #2.

2)Someone has too much time on their hands:
Hey, you. Not you, the one next to you. The one with the stupid brand name clothing. The one organizing the bully mob. You're a moron. You can't think of anything else to do? Nothing good on television? Really? Teasing people is part of growing up, so is being teased, and occasionally being made fun of. But organizing groups? Seriously, that's your idea of a pastime? You have no life. You're downright pathological...

And you're not even paying attention, are you? That's your problem. Your mother and I have been worried about you for a long time. And when you get into barfights because you think you're impervious to the consequences of the checks your mouth is writing, and someone sticks a shattered beer bottle in your guts, don't say I didn't warn you. Now be a good little moron and go torture some animals, and change your sheets, you wet the bed again.

3) Advice from a madman (me):
If being gay (you know what I mean) is the excuse someone is using to target you, you might want to take a page from my book. You might not, but it worked for me … no, I don't mean fantasize about mass murder, or shoving your adversary down a well, or introducing them to the finer points of piano wire, you don't want to become THAT much like me. However, you might want to become blatant. At least for their benefit.

For example: In college, I kept dressing in suits and ties … green jackets, yellow shirts, and green and gold ties. I had purple shirts for the season of lent, black and orange ties for October, shamrock ties for Halloween; if I was going to stand out by dressing professional, I was going to be as brightly colored as possible. I covered my mild FIS of being the nerdy fat guy by becoming the UBER-nerdy, overdressed guy.  It wasn'y a costume, or put on, I just exaggerated my natural tendencies, going from "overdressed" to OBVIOUSLY overdressed.  Also, it was the only time in my life I was color-coordinated.

Now, while I don't suggest dressing in lavender (it only works during Lent, Easter, or on a Ninja Turtle), the next time you hear “gay,” “queer,” “fag,” pick another insult word here, just smile at the men and tell them “I know our breakup was unpleasant, but I am not into S&M, see you at the bathhouse” or laugh at the women and say, “Don't worry darling, I wouldn't steal anyone you would date, honest.” Watch the tormentors change color.

I also suggest that this works for anyone who has insults on sexuality thrown at them, and the insult doesn't even come close to the mark.

Sharpen your tongue, and any campaign of harassment and bullying turns into a battle of wits, and they're the ones who have brought the knives to an artillery duel. They come to bully you, you use it as an opportunity to laugh at them.

4) If you're a target:
I have to tell you, you will live. Honest. I have learned to enjoy my freakishness. I may have far too much fun with it too. Then again, I had freakish qualities like being a gentleman, believing in chivalry, wanting to avoid sex until I got married, that sort of thing. You'd be surprised how badly such things go over around “normal” people. Normal people are a little weird.

Now, I don't know how much anyone should take my advice. I'm geared with a mindset that conjures up images of garotting my victims, feeling the life leak out of them as they struggle against the wire cutting off their air …

I'm also the person who thinks that a terrorist should be sent back to their homeland alive and relatively healthy … except they have their hands, feet and genitals cut off with a blow torch.

At the end of the day, targets of bullying certainly don't want to turn into me. While, despite my thought processes, I have yet to inflict malevolent harm upon a single mammal on God's Earth (killing insects does not count), I have come to enjoy and make use of my mindset, they may not.

So, as one of my ties says: non illegitimi carborundum.

Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Terrorists Are Stupid, Ft. Hood edition.

Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, also known as the Fort Hood shooter, faced testimony from his victims last week.

On November 5th, Maj. Hasan went through Ft. Hood with a handgun, equipped with a laser sight, and went on a shooting spree.

Not too long ago, I mentioned that Terrorists Are Stupid. I even reposted it as a note on Facebook.

The more I learn about Maj. Hasan, the more evidence I have.

For those of you who are not familiar with the technology, a laser sight is supposed to show you where the bullet is going to land. A commercial laser pointer will guide you to bullet points on your PowerPoint presentation. A laser gunsight will guide your bullet to the point on the target you want to shoot.

Part of his rampage included going through a processing center on the base. If it's laid out like other offices, I can only imagine it as shooting fish in a barrel. His path also took him through a soldier-readiness center (go there, get a checkup and sign your will before heading to a war zone). The Military Police had no bullets in their weapons, making one conclude that their rifles are only for clubbing people over the head (note to army: I hope someone has rescinded whatever stupid order armed your MPs with empty guns).

One of Hasan's first attempted victims was a Sergeant Alonzo M. Lunsford. Sgt. Lunsford was in the readiness center when Hasan stood, shouted “Allahu akbar,” and opened fire.

Sgt. Lunsford was shot five times, at least once in the face, requiring reconstructive surgery and has resulted in the loss of eyesight in his left eye. At least one of Hasan's bullets obviously hit him in the head.

Sgt. Lunsford is alive, at least in part, because Hasan is obviously an idiot.

Major Hasan “Chop,” terrorist idiot, killed thirteen people, and shot thirty-two others.

It is most likely my mindset for creative havoc that leads me to think: Only thirteen? Hasan “Chop” had the shooting equivalent of training wheels on his handgun, shot up a bunch of soldiers in the midst of paperwork, and he had no armed resistance, AT ALL, until the local police arrived. He could only kill a baker's dozen?

Pretend that you are a terrorist … if it makes you feel better, pretend I am a terrorist … you now have the ability to hit what you aim at. Your mission is to kill as many people as possible. You have surprise on your side. One victim you shoot in the head, emptying five bullets into him; would he have survived the first bullet?

From the point of view of a terrorist attack, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had “the right idea.” If a terrorist is doing it right, they should spread, well, terror. If al-Qaeda wanted to wage a campaign, they would have recruited a dozen other Major Hasans, and have a day of shootings.

I am not worried about inspiring al-Qaeda, by the way. If this idea can be thought up a guy in the back end of Queens, NY, who has never even seen a gun up close, I suspect that someone in the AQ hierarchy just MIGHT have thought of it by now.

However, let's take a closer look. Because, even if al Qaeda decided to wage such a campaign, it would be proof that terrorists were ineffectual bunglers, who only manage to kill people if they get lucky.

Maj. Hasan shot forty-five people, and killed thirteen. He couldn't even assassinate one-third of the people he shot at.

He fired over one HUNDRED rounds of ammunition and only HIT forty-five people?

Let's do some basic math.

13 (Killed) + 32 (Wounded) = 45 (Shot).

13 (Killed) / 45 (Shot) = 28.8% (Of victims died.)

Hasan had all of the advantages on his side, and had a rather pathetic “success rate.” If success for a terrorist is mass casualties and widespread panic, Hasan is a complete and utter failure.

A twenty-three-year-old college student with a history of mental illness did a “better job” at Virginia Tech, and he was an utter nutbar: 58 shot; 33 dead; 25 injured. That caused fear and trembling all over the place, and was a cause of conversation for weeks, at least on college campuses.

When I applied to be an Air Force historian, I was told that I would have weapons training, even though I would be a civilian employee. One can assume that someone doesn't get to being a Major in the U.S. Military without something like basic weapon's training, no matter the position.

And yet this wannabe terrorist couldn't even outperform a schizophrenic college student at Virginia Tech.

Hasan's rampage was an attack waged by an idiot, full of sound and gunfire. He had all the advantages one could have, and still managed a paltry outcome.

However, for all that, thirteen people still died.

Which leads to the same conclusion I had at the end of my last “Terrorists Are Stupid” article.

Even idiots can get lucky.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

J. Michael Straczynski at NY Comic Con.

Despite numerous problems, electrical storms, YouTube connection problems, and miscellaneous other problems, here we go ....

At New York Comic Con, the amazing J. Michael Straczynski gave a one hour lecture and Q&A section.  He is the creator of Babylon 5, and a screenwriter for: Murder, She Wrote, The Changeling (with Eastwood, Jolie, and Malkovich,) Kenneth Brannaugh's Thor, World War Z; author of Thor, Amazing Spider Man, The Brave and the Bold, Superman: Grounded, and Wonder Woman.  He discusses WWZ, making a cameo in Thor, writing, Rod Serling, and pretty much all of the above.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Someone asks: "The end of your Amazing Spider Man run ended ... basically undoing EVERYTHING you had already established.  Why was that?"
"You want the Four Seasons, room 423, Joe Quesada."


YouTube videos, and “So, you want to be a writer?” (Apologies to Dr. Who.)

Everyone here has been promised a video of the hour-long spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski, where JMS gets to talk for an hour about strange and various topics.

However, due to a massive lightning storm that interfered with my YouTube upload, followed by the inability of both YouTube and Facebook to accept any uploads, that particular post will be delayed.

So, a little filler while the various video websites get their act together. Now I get to regale you with tales of, um, hmm … Wait a moment, I can fake this one …

Yeah, nothing interesting is coming …

So, you want to be a writer?

Maybe not, but keep reading, you might be entertained.

The first rule that many people tell you in creative writing is “Write what you know.”

I'm going to tell you that this is the last thing you should do.

No one wants to read about your family drama. Do you think that Vince Flynn is actually a terrorist hunter? Or that Bob Kane dressed up as a giant bat? Or that Stephen King is a demonic clown?

Okay, demonic clown is redundant …

Saying “write what you know” is as ridiculous as suggesting that I am either: an athletic mercenary with enough weapons to take Latin America / a soccer-playing Vatican Secret Service agent / or a commando priest.

I would recommend, generally, that you write what you read. Unfortunately, your writing will probably suck at first. Keep writing. It will still suck. Do it again. Repeat until you no longer suck. Trust me, I speak from experience. And from the experience of Timothy Zahn, John Ringo, and several other authors who discovered how to write the hard way –by writing.

That would lead to an obvious follow up: read. No, Vince Flynn is not an assassin, nor am I any of the above.

However, we all do research.

For A Pius Man, I read easily a dozen books worth of material. We will not include all of the various and sundry newspaper articles and websites and lectures that I had to go through to collect information on weaponry that I've never held, and tactics I've never had drilled into me, and places I've never been. And we can ignore the fight scenes I had to rewrite after taking 18 months of self defense training.

Third: sure, you can use your own experience. If it's relevant, if it fits, if it's part of a character. If you're writing romantic elements, it might be nice if you've been in love. If you've fired a gun, describe its feel, its weight, the sound it makes when it fires. If you're a colorful personality who made homemade explosives for grammar school science projects, use it. I don't necessarily recommend testing out the Anarchist's Cookbook—merely reading it will suffice.

Experience is good. Relevant experience is better.

People talk to me. In my life, I have known seven rape victims. I once wrote a affidavit for a woman who was the plaything of a sexual sadist from age 8-22. I have dated a bisexual bipolar wiccan nymphomaniac (long story), a bi-Latina Catholic nymphomaniac (even longer story), and I have listened to more people with more kinks than I have ever wanted to learn about. I am a walking confessional and therapy couch rolled into one.

Would I put any of this into a novel? Very little. I have yet to write a graphic sex scene in any book. My only torture sequence involved our villain describing, in one paragraph, what he would be doing over the course of several hours. No details were present in any of them. The closest I have ever come to a sex scene was so vague, someone had to ask me to clarify the details. .

Though I do have at least one character who walks into a room, tries to read, and people confess everything in the universe to him …

Fourth: Don't go into writing unless you need to.

No one with an ounce of sense will go into professional writing unless there was nothing else for them.

I don't mean in terms of education, personal mental / physical / socio-economic limitations, or anything like that. I mean you are compelled to write professionally. You lay in bed in the middle of the night and keep a notebook close at hand so you can write down ideas before you forget them. Or you start writing a simple amusing fact and you suddenly fill the page with an outline for a novel. Writing is your drug. Your addiction. Your neurotic, uncontrollable compulsion. You would go insane otherwise … Or merely more insane.

Writing is not for the faint of heart. You are essentially playing chicken with your entire life. Even the publish on demand route is a crap-shoot. You may be picked up by someone bigger, you may not be. We hear the stories of those who have published online and have been chosen by Random House. I have trouble doing the math on how many others there are who don't go anywhere.

If you do have the occasion to fall into writing, if you have the compulsion to write every day, no matter what, then here's my last suggestion: Don't stop. If you need to write for a living, then do it. Write in your notebook during a lunch hour, write a page or two each day. Keep writing, and don't stop. Don't turn your back on your goal. Don't even blink. Blink, and you're dead.

Good luck.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Politics of A Pius Man.

Irony sucks.

In my life, I have written nearly two dozen novels. Science fiction. Hostage novels. Comedy thrillers. Plain old, simple, straightforward shoot-em-up thrillers. One vampire novel. Murder mysteries set at a high school summer camp (title: Summer Death Camp).

And then there's A Pius Man. It was strange for a number of reasons. It basically took every single character I ever created and threw them together in a sprawling, two-pound, eight hundred page epic. There was theology, philosophy, liberty, love, marriage, death, and a fairly large war somewhere in the middle.

It was also the most political novel I had written.

Seriously, this book was all over the place with political topics. Racism, homosexuality, globalization, secularization, warfare, a just peace, when peace is just another word for surrender, torture, the International Community, terrorism, abortion … you name it, it was in the book.

Here's the irony: I hate politics. Hate 'em to death with a fiery passion. I think it's narrow-minded, more dogmatic than the Vatican, and more hypocritical than Voltaire saying “destroy the Church” on one hand, while taking daily communion in his private chapel. Look at the list above: racism and homosexuality are political topics. It should be simple: racism bad; who cares who you have sex with, have a nice day. But, no, they must be politicized.

Like I said, I hate politics, and what it does to normal, sane people the moment someone brings it up.

So, of course, when I finally come close to having something published, it's A Pius Man.

Like I said, irony sucks.

Unfortunately, politics are unavoidable when looking at the discussion of Pope Pius XII during the holocaust. [For those of you just tuning in, the “discussion” is summarized here]

No matter what side of the Pius discussion one finds themselves on, politics follows. While not perfectly uniform, the discussion breaks down along political lines.

Leftists take the anti-Pius side, right wingers take the pro-Pius side. Leftists use it to bash a centralized church with a strong hierarchical structure, with a goal of making the Catholic church like, say, the Unitarians (only a slight exaggeration, depending on which Leftist one is talking about).

On the right, you have a lot of conservative folks who make a case for Pius XII's sainthood.

I know what you're thinking: if this breaks down along political lines, you can tell exactly how the book will end depending on what my personal politics are. What are my politics?

That depends on where the jury is sitting.

In New York I'm a right-wing, blood-thirsty maniac because ... I think a blanket gay marriage license is a bad idea. Mainly because, in the first wave issued in the Northeast, there were a large segment that took the newly issued licenses, and went to their local church and demanded to be married –whether or not the church in question allowed gay marriage.

In the South, I'm a blood-thirsty left wing psychotic because … I think “marriage” is a religious term. Atheists go to a justice of the peace and enter into civil unions, NOT marriages. A civil union is a state function. Issue licenses for civil unions to BOTH atheists and gays, then the latter group can take it to a church that allows gay marriage, and they can all live happily every after and leave my church the hell alone. I'm not interested in burning gays at the stake, and I don't care if one is gay, straight or “flaming,” have a nice day.

In New York, I'm an evil righty because … I supported G.W. Bush going into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the war on terror in general.

In REALLY red states I'm an evil Leftist because … I would have supported Clinton going into Iraq. And I wanted someone to go into the Sudan before Darfur became a buzz word. And I hated almost everything else President Bush ever did.

In New York, I am conservative because … I think abortion and contraceptives are generally a Bad Idea.

In Pat Robertson's district, I am a bleeding heart Liberal …. because I'm not going to say “You had an abortion, therefore you are immediately going to Hell! MUAHAHAHA”

In New York, I am a psychotic Conservative … because I think the government should get the hell outta my life. Just protect my stuff, my neighbor's stuff, and leave me the hell alone.

In the more bleeding red states, I am an evil Liberal … because I'd want a Republican government to get the hell outta my life. Just protect my stuff, my neighbor's stuff, and leave me the hell alone.

My politics boils down to, “There are things I don't like, wouldn't recommend, but I'm not issuing automatic condemnations.”  Politically, I'm somewhere in the middle. Which, in politics, means I'm in the middle of the crossfire.

So, what does this mean about A Pius Man? Don't be mistaken, I do take a side. I believe my conclusions are obvious basic on the facts I have researched. However, the political portions of the book are discussions, not rants. And the politics are driven more by the characters than by me.

And the politics of the characters in A Pius Man?

Sean A.P. Ryan. Mercenary. Believes in the free market system, heavy weaponry, and grew up in Hollywood. When queried on his political affiliations, he would say, “I believe people should be able to own marijuana and machine guns. I will laugh at the marijuana crowd, but if I have my guns, I'm happy.”

Scott “Mossad” Murphy. He works for Israel, usually among Palestinians. Moved from America to join the Mossad after 9-11. His politics: “I believe in the power of waterboarding. But I'd sooner talk terrorists to death. It's more painful in the long run. When you can talk them into revealing everything they know, kill them, move up the chain of command. Repeat until they're willing to be peaceful, or they are peacefully dead.”

Giovanni Figlia. His father was blown up by a Red Army faction in the 1980s, so he has a grudge against extreme, gun-toting Leftists. Aside from that, his politics are: “I have to protect the most powerful religious leader on the planet, and he insists on pissing off nearly one-third of the world's population. Leave me alone and let me do my job.”

Pope Pius XIII (Born: Joshua Kutjok): Hard right-wing. Has all but declared war on the Sudan. Thoroughly dislikes tyrannies, which means North Korea and China dislike him right back. “I am against abortion, gays being married in my church, and contraceptives are against the religion. Then again, you should only have sex with the person you marry, so abortion and contraceptives shouldn't be needed. However, my homeland of Sudan is going through thirty years of religious and ethnic warfare, I have better things to do than deal with whining hedonists!”

Father Francis Williams, S.J.: “I'm a Jesuit who is trying to transfer into the Opus Dei. I speak six languages and I can kill people with my rosary beads … what was your question?”

Maureen McGrail. Interpol. “I'm too busy being shot at to have a political opinion. Leave me alone.”

Secret Service Agent Wilhelmina Goldberg: As a special adviser to anyone who wants the Secret Service to audit their security, she has been all over, and her political opinion is simple. “At the end of the day, America looks good by comparison.”

Hashim Abasi: Oxford Educated in global politics. Egyptian police officer. His name translates into “Stern Crusher of Evil.” His father died while tinkering with a vest for a suicide bomber. He mentions having a wife, but it sounds like she was stoned to death. No one asks what his politics are.

The above characters have more influence over how the political discussions go than I do. So, the topics will be... interesting.

Friday, October 1, 2010

From Comic books readers and Scifi fans, to James Patterson and back. Why anyone can enjoy a Pius Man

[Author's note: this was originally going to be a note on Marketing. It didn't turn out that way.]

What do you call a book chock full of hundred year old conspiracies, dangerous priests, psychotic mercenaries, operatives trained to kill practically from birth, international political intrigue, a terrorist plot, and a wide ranging collection of protagonists the likes of which the world hasn't seen since the team that took out Dracula?

You call it A Pius Man.

Now, who should read it? On the face of it, it seems like yet another in a long line of bad Da Vinci Code ripoffs that have come out in legion since Dan Brown's super-hyped novel hit the scene an interminable amount of time ago. However, while my book has conspiracies and religion, that's more or less where the similarities end. There will be no puzzles, the French will not be a threat, and no one will spend dozens of pages finding their way out of an art museum.

That said, there are some people who just don't read thrillers. Understandable, it's a term so generic you can toss a net over a whole host of authors... some of whom probably should have a net thrown over them anyway, just to be safe. However, when a field is as vast as the comic-bookish feel of Clive Cussler's NUMA novels, to the theoretical science of James Rollins, to a Barry Eisler novel, half of which takes place in the head of his protagonist, assassin John Rain. It's almost as diverse a group as public Catholic figures—as Oscar Wilde used to say: Here Comes Everybody. Can't call it a historical thriller, because then it will be mistaken for a period peace like the Sharpe's novels of Bernard Cornwell—I wouldn't mind having his audience, but they might feel gypped to find it set in the 21st century.

So, who the hell should read this book?

Comic book fans: My first agent drew parallels between the team of protagonists and the Justice League—possibly since this is the most international team since the original Dracula. One character has already been compared to Deadpool—of the comic, not the film. Throw in adversaries who seem preternaturally strong, fast, and trained... well, it's not like fighting the Hordes of Hydra, but my villain isn't exactly the Red Skull. Some are as serious as a police procedural, and some might as well have wanted to be Doc Savage when they grew up. One of them even works with “Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin,” and no, I'm not kidding.

Science Fiction fans—who will hopefully forgive me for calling it “SciFi” above: Key pieces of this story involve NLW technology. Or, in standard English, non-lethal weaponry. Microwave cannons that emit plasma beams, tazer beam weapons, gases, explosives; if it's been mentioned, or appeared in a semi-realistic video game, it's probably in there. Throw in the laser-keyboards and the microwave microphones, you can outfit a small Sharper Image store.

Spy fans: International intrigue? Got it. Shadowy figures? Check. Conspiracy theories? At least five of them, and three are right. We also have: the obligatory evil Cardinal; a pale, silver haired priest with commando training (not to be confused with an albino, of course); the Jesuits, the Opus Dei, and the Knights Templar all show up, just so I can play with some of the old cliches

Readers of history: Yes, A Pius Man actually has historical facts. Literally, they happened. This is a book where the history presented in its pages can be footnoted. I know this because the original draft had footnotes. It was suggested that I take them out... however, I still have the bibliography in the back.

People who like intelligent destruction: There's an assassination on page two, an explosion on page three, a wrecked car by page seven, and a mercenary with a resume that reads like scripts of the A-Team. We'll ignore the shootout on the Spanish Steps in the armored SUV. Death, property damage, and utter ruination are always good for an audience. It worked for four Die Hard films.

Political folk: As much as I loathe to admit it, there's politics in this novel. It goes to motivation for the various and sundry parties. Besides: how do you negotiate being a Catholic—universal—Church? Unlike being a superpower, like the United States, you can't pick and choose who you associate with just because they're valuable to you. If that were the case, I wouldn't have a friend whose uncle is a missionary in China. And what happens when you put an African Pope who's to the right of Attila the Hun into the middle of this particular hurricane?

At the end of the day, the only people who should probably NOT read A Pius Man are those who expect a novel by way of Mitchner, or Clavell. Half of the book is filled with thoughtful, drawn out characters who are trying to think their way through the problem at hand. The other half of the book is filled with various and sundry creative ways to lay waste to large parts of Rome—from shooting up the Spanish Steps to trashing Leonardo Da Vinci airport.

Oh, and there's a love story in there, too.

And this is just the first book. Book two is the fallout, and countermoves by those bad guys who survive book one. Book three is where I recreate the Battle of Thermopylae.... if the 300 had possessed remote-detonated landmines.

Anyway, if you or any of your friends might enjoy anything listed above, you might want to join the fan page, or invite them to tag along. Or both.