Sunday, July 22, 2012

Truest statement of the week

It's unacceptable the federal government is doing nothing but continuing to promise what they promised before. 183 days the average processing time for a claim. It's unacceptable. More unacceptable is that the fact that the error rate is 16%and perhaps higher in some regions. Veterans who appeal the system face multiple years 883 days, three years in order to be adjudicated. The system was broken during the Vietnam war when I enlisted. The system has never been fixed so today we're going to concentrate in this Committee on hearing what you're going to do. But understand, we've heard it before. Today, you will be judged by what you say and what you do. You will no longer be allowed to come back again with promises of reform a year away. Today, I understand, you will be talking about getting better over the next year -- perhaps talking about ways in which you have improved recently. In 1970, the system was paper and the system failed veterans miserably. Today the system is computerized but not harmonized. Today the Veterans Administration continues to claim that they will get better be but they have not.

-- House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa at Wednesday's House Oversight's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing (see C.I.'s Wednesday "Iraq snapshot" for more).

Truest statement of the week II

Despite appearing in a controversial ad for the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, denouncing Romney's role in the GS Technologies plant closing, Box, a lifelong Democrat, says he won’t be voting for the first time since 1971 because he has lost faith in politicians.
“I could really care less about Obama," says Box. "I think Obama is a jerk, a pantywaist, a lightweight, a blowhard. He hasn't done a goddamn thing that he said he would do. When he had a Democratic Senate and Democratic Congress, he didn't do a damn thing. He doesn't have the guts to say what’s on his mind.”

-- Mike Elk, "Laid Off Steelworker in Anti-Romney Ad Says He Is Not Voting for Obama" (In These Times).

A note to our readers

Hey --
Another Sunday.

And . . . at last . . . our annual summer fiction edition.  This is our eighth summer fiction edition.


First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Darrell Issa got a truest.
As did a man in the anti-Mitt Romney commericals.

Our Iraq editorial.
Ava and C.I. came in with two possibilities.  They could cover Sigorney Weaver's Political Animals or they could cover MTV's WakeBrothers.  What was that last one?  The show starts this week.  We said go with this one and they can grab Sigorney's show next week if they want.  They said if they did reality TV there was no way for them to do a creative piece.  That's fine.  I (Jim) read the e-mails.  I know how much hunger there is from readers for Ava and C.I. to cover more reality shows.  They hate reality TV and you're lucky if you get one from them a year.  I knew if they didn't grab this one before it aired, they wouldn't grab it next week.  So, readers, you're welcome.

This kicks off the summer edition.  This is our scary tale.  Somethings worked, somethings didn't.  Leaders on this piece were Marcia, Wally, Stan and Cedric.  But everyone worked on it and Ava and C.I. took out obvious transitions to make it more spooky.

Ty and Betty led on this one.  Betty was firm that poetry had to be a part of this edition.  At least once we've had none.  So we worked on seven poems and got two that were worth sharing.

Dona wanted a detective piece.  This went through four drafts.  The third draft ended with a police shoot out and Heath Parker was killed.  Ava, C.I. and Ann felt it was too obvious and that the dialogue needed some more punch so they worked on a fourth draft themselves and that was the one that everyone agreed worked.

This was part of a play.  We did six brief scenes for a play.  We hated it.  The more we worked with it, the more we hated it.  Elaine wisely said that this section was worth saving and we made it its only little short story.

Jess, Cedric and Wally wanted something to be silly.  And they came up with "iSad."  Which they found very funny.  I wasn't so sure.  C.I. and Ava backed them and said all of Leroy's remarks should be "i___"s and they went with that.

We had no title for this.  In the end, I said "Omega Planet"? And I was thinking of the film Omega Man.  Not that the two are related.  This is our second poem to make the edition.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

Of the failed pieces, one was dashed off quickly and may run next week.  But that's what we came up with and thank you to Kat, Isaiah, Wally and Betty's kids who busted their butts on the illustrations.  This is certainly our best illustrated edition ever.

 For those late to the party, let's recap.

The June 26, 2005 edition was our first summer read. Those who worked on that edition were:

Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava of The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Kat of Kat's Korner;
and C.I. of The Common Ills

You can also be sure Dallas worked on it as well. The short story content was:

A Fractured Life (the Wally Lamb style book) K-Boy Tries To Get Back Home (a horrific parable) The Gleeful Boy (the Sue Miller type read) Summer poetry: "Filling the Well" Peek (the summer page turner) Kooky Cokie Roberts offers up advice

and rounding out that summer read edition:

Five Books, Five Minutes, Editorial: Mainstream Press Do Your Homework on the pre-invasion bombings and TV Review OC: The arm pit of body wash operettas

The June 4, 2006 edition was our second summer read. Working on that edition (along with Dallas) were:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot.

The fiction offered:

Song of the War Hawks Super Laura?
Once upon a time there were plenty of Baby Dumbasses
Sherman's Story
From a diary found in the Mayflower Hotel
The ones we never know
TV: TESR Investigates

June 24, 2007 was our third edition. Along with Dallas, the following helped:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
and Wally of The Daily Jot

And we produced:

TV: Hidden Yawns
Base Is Hell
The Tired Tryst
The Asbury Park Murder
Creation Theory
Samantha Power Between Her Knees
Cut The Fat! Newt Takes It Off!

June 22, 2008 was our fourth edition and along with Dallas, the following worked on it:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,

And our summer reads included:

TV: Breaking what?
New York Times, Early Edition
The non-whistle blower
Bee-bees and cockle bugs

June 21, 2009 was our summer read last year, worked on by Dallas and:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ann who's filling in for Ruth at Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends.

And our efforts were:

TV: Fiction

The curse

Hey there! Marilyn Monroe is using Twitter.

Clooney's Dark Secrets

Summer reads

The Dumb Ass Hour every Saturday morning

The wedding day

The house

The literary ranter

In summer 2011, the following worked on the July 17th edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

 And we came up with:

 So this is the 8th summer.  Hopefully, there's something in there you'll enjoy.  We'll see you next week.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Alarms are sounded, press plays dumb

Last Thursday, the Special Envoy to Iraq for the United Nation's Secretary-General testified to the United Nations Security Council about the way things are Iraq.

Somehow, some outlets heard progress and joy.


Which is really strange when you grasp that Martin Kobler (above) sounded one alarm after another.

Kobler noted early on, "Almost seven years ago, the Iraqi people laid the foundations for democracy in their country by adopting their Constitution. Today, however, key institutions have yet to be established and fundamental legislation remains outstanding -- including the establishment of the Federation Council, the strengthening of the Judicial System, the legislation on revenue sharing and hydro-carbons, the protec -- the protection of minorities. Just to say a few."

 Seven years later they remain unestablished and some 'news' outlets got progress out of that?

 He noted the ongoing political stalemate (using the term "political stalemate") and expressed serious concerns about upcoming elections,  "Mr. President, there is no democracy without elections and there are no credible elections without a strong and truly independent election commission. As we speak, my political deputy, Mr. Georgi Boston, is engaged in facilitation efforts to bring about the formation of a new, Independent High Election Commission which is representative of the main components of Iraq -- including women and children and minorities. The urgent selection of the commissioners is essential for ensuring that the provincial council elections due to take place in March 2013 can be conducted on time. I'm concerned that the ongoing political stalemate is hindering the process however."

Those elections are supposed to take place in eight months.  And Kobler's concerned but some news 'outlets' got "turned corner" as they rushed to file yet another version of Operation Happy Talk.

At some point, most likely after the 2012 US elections, news outlets are going to have to start telling Americans the truth.  They may be shocked at the anger from consumers when that day arrives.  2007 found the US press hitting a new low in polls as the public expressed less and less confidence in it.  It would appear they're bound and determined to poll even lower.


Photo of Kobler is by UNAMI's Anne Czichos.  For coverage of Kobler's presentation, see the Thursday "Iraq snapshot" and the Friday "Iraq snapshot."

TV: Siblicide

The Jenner boys don't know how lucky they were, their 'reality' show getting the axe so quickly.  Paris and Nicole should count their blessings that they were but temporary friends and not siblings.  If they're not properly appreciative of their lives, July 25th, 11:00 pm EST/10:00 pm Central, they can flip over to MTV and check out WakeBrothers.


Who are the Wakes?

Well they're not the Wakes.  They're the Sovens -- Phil and Bob.  Phil, 23, is the older brother and also a wakeboarding champion.

A who and a ha?

Wakeboarding is one of those sports most likely dreamt up on a Mountain Dew buzz in the late 80s and perfected on a Josta high in the 90s. Extreme Sports Cafe explains the sport,  "Wakeboarding is a surface water sport which involves riding over the surface of a body of water.  The rider is on a small board and is towed by a motor boat, and attached by a cable.  Wakeboarding is like a comination of snowboarding, waterskiing and skateboarding or a cross between mono skiing and surfing."  Or, to non-sports enthusiasts like ourselves, like watching someone learning to ride a bike by someone pushing them and then letting go to see if the rider will stay up on their own or crash.

Meanwhile Bob Soven's hair, like wakeboarding, was thought up in the latter half of the 80s.  It's not often that you find a man brave (or foolish) enough to attempt to revive Madonna's Desperately Seeking Susan hair-style.  Bad hair is hardly Bob's most pressing problem though the way he obsesses over it, he may think it is.  If he's not wondering if he should wear it in a pony tail, he's referencing its "ginger" color or assuring his brother that, despite the red on top, his pubes are black.

If you're thinking, "Brother or not, I wouldn't need to know that," you've got Phil's reaction -- to the pubes, to everything.

Bob Soven is supposed to be an athlete and he thinks he's incredibly sexy.  But when we meet him, he's 17 and whining about losing his "v-card."  If there's anything worse than a horny virgin, it's one who can't stop whining about it.

And other than braying, whine is the only other emoticon Bob possesses.  He's like a big Irish Setter with a weak bladder, forever hopping around, knocking into one thing or another.

In present day, he informs the camera and the world that he lost his virginity last July.  He did it with a woman who claimed she didn't remember it the next day.  "But it still counts!" he boasts failing to grasp that's not exactly one for the resume.  Nor is one woman in three years really testifying to his appeal.

And if you want to get laid in the near future, probably a good idea not to be a moron on national television plotting how to rub against the boobs of a woman your brother got you set up with. But why expect him to act sexy or even just mature when women aren't around when he doesn't have a clue how to interact with a woman?

Morgan is the name of the woman Phil's girlfriend fixes him up with.  And the foursome go out on one of the most uncomfortable dinners of all time followed by the hot tub.  But Bob's got another idea.  He wants Morgan to get into the pool with him.  Despite her clear reluctance, he pushes for it and then, once she's standing in part of it (so shallow, it's not even up to her knees), he runs up behind her, grabs her and body slams her into the deep end.

And is then surprised when she tells him she hates him and he's convinced that all he did wrong was get her hair wet.  Jethrine Bodine had a more genteel courtly manner.

And if you think you're getting how annoying Bob is, you still don't know the half of it.  Despite his brother being a title holder and him being title-less in the sport, he can't stop telling Phil he's old, over the hill, the past.  And when you factor in that Bob's living in the house that Phil's winnings built, Bob becomes even more annoying.  In addition, he's decided to become best friends with Phil's professional and personal nemesis Rusty Malin.

 The friendship between 20-year-old Bob and 28-year-old Rusty has all sorts of bizarre overtones to it.  Never more so then when Phil's girlfriend stays over and, the next morning, Rusty and Bob plot how to get into the bedroom and pull the sheets off the sleeping couple.  (Because it's 'reality' TV and not reality TV, Phil and his girlfriend aren't naked under the sheets.) Intentionally or not, Rusty comes off like the registered sex offender you just got a mailing on because he's moved into the neighborhood.   Bob just comes off pathetic. 

And did we mention the stupidity?  Not just the immaturity, but the stupidity.

Although Bob has no title, he pretends like he does and when Phil busts him on it, declaring it's "self-proclaimed," Bob -- clearly having no idea what "self-proclaimed" means -- responds, "At least it's proclaimed!"   It's at times like these that you wish these 'reality' TV performers had to appear at a competency hearing before stepping in front of the cameras.

Is Phil perfect?

Not at all but all he needs to do is just stand next to Bob and he shines.  In fact, you start to wonder if that's not the reason Phil moved Bob into the house to begin with -- the old by-comparison bump in popularity.

In films, starting with silents, Edgar Kennedy (Brown of Harvard, Tillie's Punctured Romance, Duck Soup, Twentieth Century, Anchors Away and Unfaithfully Yours) became master of the slow burn.  What Kennedy did for film, Phil Sloven just might do for 'reality' TV.

But will they yell "Cut!" when exasperation boils over into something greater?

Because you know he's going to blow.

Mount Phil puts up with so much in the first episode alone that the only reason to continue watching is the expectation that he's got to erupt at some point and that it's going to be something to see.  Though it may make for good 'reality' TV, let's hope Phil and Bob remember that -- barring their borrowing the practice of siblicide from the great blue herons -- they're pretty much stuck with each other for life.

When they take over

On the third floor of the Brethren's House, Brandon Pace was locking up the Music Library when someone grabbed his shoulder.

"Dude!" exclaimed the agitated college freshman.  "I've got a report due.  I need to get some materials!"

Brandon shrugged his shoulders,  "We close at nine.  System's already down.  Go to Reeves.  They've got a bigger collection and they're open until midnight."

The freshman slammed his hand against the wall and yelled in anger before stalking off leaving Brandon to return to locking up.

 moon light

As Brandon headed down the stairs, he felt a little nervous, causing him to look around.  Sunday night, when the stairwells were empty,  the building didn't look quite right.  There was something odd about it.  As if it were a maze or something . . .  Since it had been a hospital during the Revolutionary War, he sometimes wondered if it were haunted.

"General Washington?" he whispered half in jest before nearly jumping out of his skin when his ringing cell phone surprised him.

"Hello?  What?  No.  No.  I didn't take notes, you can't borrow them because I didn't take them."

As he stood there, Brandon saw a small roach scurry across the wall.

Brandon watched it disappear and then headed down the hall, still on the phone talking.

One of the reasons Brandon chose Moravian College was because it was close to the nursing home is Nana was in.  She was sent to the home by Wade shortly after Wade became his step-father.  Though Brandon's mother was against it, she never said a word, just drank a little more each day.  And Nana went off to a nursing home that was a three hour drive so, more often than not, no one bothered to see her.

Now he lived barely thirteen miles from the nursing home.  It was thirty-six minutes to get there if everything went right.  That meant the first bus was on time as was the transfer bus.  It meant that people were getting up to depart after they hit the button for a stop.  It meant that some woman didn't stop to kiss the bus driver or the bus driver didn't stop to holler at someone on the street.

Rarely did everything ever go right which was especially irritating when the monthly pass for the LANTA Metro cost $55.  With no college student discount, incidents like today's where the woman with her baby stroller got on and, as she was headed down the aisle, her stroller tipped spilling all the empty cans she'd gathered -- presumably for recycling -- and other litter onto the floor, sending it all rolling while she hollered, "Stop the bus!  Stop the bus!"  Which the driver did, thinking the woman or someone was having a heart attack.  By the time it was straightened out, Brandon's trip took 56 minutes, not 36.  And 20 minutes lost meant 20 minutes less for the visit because he had an exam in his afternoon class.

"I just don't trust that man," his Nana said, referring to Wade.  "Your mother is a smart woman.  I can't believe it's lasted this long but, mark my words, it won't last much longer.  This is just a phase."

Though not really believing one way or the other, Brandon nodded.

"It's like that time --"

Brandon tuned out.  He'd heard most of these stories before and right now was really worried about the geology exam.  He was better at lab tests and the tests on lectures threw him.  He needed a B on this test, really needed it.

"-- and she was covered with blood and I said, 'Rosemary, what did you do!'"

Brandon looked over at Nana who was nodding.


"I never told you about when your mother was fifteen?  She dressed all in black, even in the summer, dated this boy who wore bigger earrings than she did and was heavily into 'dark magic.'  That's what she called it and don't you dare ever call it witchcraft or black magic.  She would explode.   So that boy, what was his name?  I called him 'Jailbird' when he wasn't around -- because he'd been arrested for shoplifting.  Well anyway, it was Halloween and I figured they were going out -- but who knew since they both dressed dramatically all the time?  And a little after midnight, she came running in the front door covered in blood."

Nana grabbed her glass of water and took a sip enjoying the fact that she now had Brandon's full attention.


"And I said, 'Rosemary! What happened?  Are you hurt?'  See, I thought she'd been in an accident.  But it wasn't her blood.  It was a cat's.  Mrs. Cooke's cat.  What was it's name?  Snowball?  Or Midnight?  I guess if I could remember the color of the fur,, I'd know.  But there was your mother covered in cat's blood.  And I said, 'Rosemary, did someone run over Snowball or Midnight?'  And she said no.  She and Jailbird had taken the cat to the graveyard.  And she said she didn't know Jailbird was going to do what he did and I asked her what that was -- even though I already knew, I mean, she was covered in blood.  So she explains that she held the cat down and Jailbird pulled out a knife and she thought he was joking but he wasn't and he quickly cut the cat's throat.  'I thought he was just joking,' she kept repeating.  Over and over, she said that.  Like she was trying to convince herself."

Brandon shook his head and checked the clock on the wall.  Standing he walked over to kiss Nana good-bye.

"I'll visit later this week," he promised, "but I've got to take a test today.  Is there anything I can bring you?"

"How about some comet and some roach traps?"

"Nana, you know they clean here."

"They say they do, Brandon, but the roach problem says they don't."

The exam didn't go well.  And maybe that's why he was in a funk as he ate dinner with Julie.  She was a management major who wanted to open her own restaurant after college where she'd also be the chef and, if you were to taste her creations made via just a hot plate and a small microwave, you'd realize this was no pipe dream.  Her campus dream was to get into the Burnside complex because she loved its exterior and also because it offered a kitchen for the five women sharing a living space.

"This sauce is really the key," she was explaining.  "I slit the shell of the shrimp to let  the seasonings in while they're 'grilling' on the hot plate.  But the sauce really is the key."

He wanted Julie.  He'd wanted her from the day he saw her hauling her stuff from Dorm Circle into Hassler Hall.  But she was attracted to men who provided Wagnerian Opera and that was more notes than Brandon could hit.  So instead they were friends and he kept his wants of something more to himself.

"How was your grandmother?"

Brandon sighed as he pulled the shell off a shrimp.  Looking at the tail and the pleopods -- yeah, he'd aced Anatomy and Physiology, even if geology was proving to be a struggle -- he felt the shrimp could be a cousin of the roach. 

"You're not still having those nightmares, are you?"

He could tell her about nightmares, he just couldn't tell her he loved her.

Actually, he hadn't had the nightmare last night.

In his dreams, it was as though he were living in a doll house where the paper walls were ripped apart and something was trying to get him.

"It's probably from the Bratz Mansion my sister had.  She set that thing up in the backyard and the dog was always knocking it over, wasps were putting in hornets nests and bugs were making it home."

"See, that provides me no point of reference.  My parents became Native American-wanna-bes when I turned five.  After that, the only toys I ever had were corn husk dolls."

He went to sleep thinking of toys which found him recalling the loss of all toys, when his parents split up.

"We're not going back there.  Deal with it."

A cigarette dangling from her lips, his mother walked in and out of the living room moving the few things they still owned.

But his toys, his sister's toys . . .

"You've got some clothes, quit complaining."

Tina, his sister, lay on the carpet with a small set of Crayolas and lined notebook paper she was using to make drawings while Brandon just started at the boxes labeled "kitchen" and "bathroom."  They didn't have a couch.  There were no beds.  Why did they have to leave?  And why couldn't they take their toys?

"What is with all the questions?  Look at Tina.  Tina's drawing.  Get some paper and draw.  Quit being such a little baby."

"I don't want to draw!  I want my Hot Wheels."

"Well guess what?  You can't have them.  They're gone.  You don't want to draw?  Sit there and close your eyes.  You've got a special gift.  Like a TV in your head.  Close your eyes, sit still and think.  And you'll see something very important."

He knew she was just trying to get him to fall asleep but he had nothing to lose.

So he closed his eyes.

And waited.  And the blackness was replaced with the orange-ish amber of the ceiling light on his closed eye lids. 

And he sighed and he inhaled and he counted to ten and then counted sheep and then . . .

Bugs were crawling over him, their feet tearing at his skin as they moved, biting him.  And the more he squirmed to get away, the more bugs landed on him.

He was screaming and his face flushed and wet when he saw his mother shaking him awake.

As he babbled away about what he'd seen, his mother told him to stop and told him it was just a game to shut him up.

And he knew she was telling the truth and he didn't try to do that ever again.

While he was awake.

But now, in his dream, he found himself closing his eyes and counting to ten and counting sheep and . . .

Bugs everywhere.  Bugs on everything.

Millions of bugs.

Nothing but bugs.


He awoke hurling himself out of bed.  In the bathroom, still shaky, he looked around nervously as he drank a glass of water.  Stepping carefully down the stairs, he went into the lounge, grabbed a blue couch and stared out the large window. He kept glancing around the living room in that state of panic where you know it should be a dream but it was vivid you're really not sure.

Mainly though, he stared out the window, at the rain still coming down.  April showers bring May flowers . . .  But April had just begun and already, a week in, people were talking about the rain.  There had been 4.44 inches which was not only more than they usually got in the entire month of April, it was more than they usually got in the summer months which were always saw the most downpour.  Closing his eyes, he listened to the rain continue to fall.

And thought about being on Adams last week, outside The Bookstore Speakeasy.  It was raining then too.  And he saw a large water bug about four feet away.  He'd always thought these roaches came out after the rain.  But there it was.  And although there was no way in the world that the bug could be looking at him, it seemed as though it was.  Brandon stood there wondering if he was in a stand-off with a bug and, if so, how long this would last?  He stamped his right foot thinking that would send the bug scurrying but instead it sent the bug hurtling towards him.  What was this an attack roach?  He raised his right foot again and this time stomped the bug.   

Somewhere around 4:30 a.m. Brandon finally fell asleep on the couch and slept so soundly he wouldn't have woken at all if other students weren't coming through the lounge.  Take a shower or be late for his morning class?

He opted to skip the shower which left him feeling grungy and like he was rushing to catch up all day as he went from one class to another.  In geology lab, a number of people were talking about the lecture test with the general feeling being that it had been too difficult and hadn't matched what they were learning in lab.

 He listened while attempting to remember the question that threw him.  By the time lab ended, it finally hit him: What insects are most abundant in fossils?

He caught up with two classmates but they were discussing the limestone issues on the test.

"Lehigh Valley?  Like I'm going to spend my whole life here?  And like if I did, I'd be obsessed with the limestone deposits, you know?"  asked one.

"Look," said the other, "I'm just taking this class for  a science credit.  I don't plan to retain a word of it after the final."

He didn't feel good.  He wasn't in the mood for work.  He called and offered the weak excuse of a cold which was at least believable with all the wet weather of late.  He stopped at the Marketplace and grabbed some soup.  Clearing his throat, he thought about how sometimes you lied that you were sick and then you got sick and was it all karma or was it --

He had a fever.  He knew he had a fever because he couldn't straight think.  Think straight.  So he finished the soup and headed to his hall.  He was feverish and wet.  And the rain had poured down all morning and gave no indication that this afternoon was going to be any different.

The lounge wasn't packed but it was busy.  He grabbed a chair and sat staring out the window before dozing off to the dripping sound of the rain drops.

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

The fossils.  What was the question?

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

Professor Layton had spoken of limestone and how weather effected it.  What had he said?

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

Okay, they lived in the Lehigh Valley which was famous for its vast amount of limestone. 

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

And limestone wasn't like shale.  What did shale do?

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

Shale could form a barrier to moisture.  But limestone -- limestone dissolved in water.

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

And the insect most typically found in fossils?

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.

He could feel the anger coming from somewhere.

It was a burst of red and raw pain.

They had been made smaller.  Their wings reduced by time, their body flattened.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

The vegetation had drawn them in originally, he could see them running and flying towards it.  The humid summers and water had been good too, allowing them to breathe more easily.  In places like the Upper Carboniferous Fossil Deposit in Linton, Ohio, they had been imprisoned.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

But the rain was dissolving the limestone and those that had been caught with air bubbles were coming back to life.  It was a variation on their modern ability to slow breathing down to the rate of one breath every forty minutes.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

That wasn't the sound of rain.

Brandon awoke to see six foot roaches -- with yard long wingspans -- zooming through the air and and crawling across the quad.  There was one chewing through the glass of the window and another knocking its head against the outer wall.

They were roaches from centuries ago.  Buried in the limestone.  Unearthed by the rain.  And they were about to eat everything and everyone on the earth.

The lamp glows

The lamp glows, a sweaty plugged-in candle.
Dripping breeze
Love is a hard flower.
Your body runs like a big bed.

Kiss, rain, and mist
Stormy berries, moist clouds
Dew, dew, and kiss.
Fingers find new explorations
Familiar touch warms like summer rain.

poem 3

The lamp glows, a sweaty plugged-in candle
Musky scents and arms surround you
Calm, strong hands find a calm, soft rain .
Your mouth roughly bites the mattress.

Kiss, pride, and glow
Fall, faith, and love.
Sweat, musk and exhalation
The drenched face falls against the chest

The murder of Gerald Weaver

Death roared through the city, an ambulance's flashing light illuminated the shadows and a wailing siren penetrated the silence.

Kara Vallencourt would much rather her 49-year-old bones were in bed at this late hour but the thing about being a private detective was always that the cases dictated the time. The only way to control the hours was to get picky about the cases and, in this economy, that really wasn't an option unless she wanted to give up eating.

Her client was Woodrow Weaver whose son Gerald had been found dead outside a local bar.  Despite the money the Weavers had, the police had no leads and had washed their hands of the case which is how Weaver ended up in Vallencourt's office.

Gerald Weaver had been 25-year-old,  gone to college off and on for about six years with no degree,  never really held a job and now someone had shot him dead outside the bar.


Vallencourt had spoken to a few patrons and no one seemed to want to talk though everyone was happy to drink the round she bought. The bartender, Charlie, said Gerald Weaver entered the bar alone and left the bar alone. And if anything happened in between that, well Charlie was falling back on, "Ma'am, I just pour drinks." Woodrow Weaver had been smart enough to grasp that the police had walked away from the case so he no doubt also grasped that Vallencourt -- or someone like her -- was probably his last shot at finding out who killed his son and why?

Outside the bar, lighting a cigarette she cursed a world that would let you get drunk off your ass in a bar but made you step outside to puff on a Marlboro.  But even she was trying to quit these days.  With all the taxes, cigarettes had just gotten too damn expensive.  Patches and gum hadn't worked.  Currently, she was trying this method she read about online: Smoke only half the cigarette.  The plan was you'd now be spending twice as much money to get the same nicotine fix and the money shock would send you packing.

It hadn't worked for her so far.

As she ground out her half-smoked cigarette with her heel, Officer Bob walked up.

"Tossing your butt around is littering," Officer Bob advised her.

He'd put on probably 30 pounds since they last knocked boots 15 years ago but, yeah, she'd still do him.  Provided he didn't try puns.  He was lousy at puns.

Officer Bob worked the call.  He and his partner had been on duty when the 9-11 call about the shooting came in three days ago.  Trading on their past relations, she'd asked him to meet her here.

Officer Bob popped a stick of gum in his mouth and declared, "I'm not going to be repeating myself, Kara, so make sure you're listening the first time, okay?  It was a pretty nasty scene.  The man was facing north, shot in the back and the blood stains indicate that he attempted to drag himself away from the killer."

"And the shooter was on the street, in a car, what?"

"It appears that the killer was standing right behind him."

 "Was it a mugging?" Vallencourt asked.

"We would have thought that but his wallet wasn't taken and he had a de Grisogono."

"A de-what?"

"It's a watch.  In fact it was a Meccanico dG S25D.  That mean anything to you?"


"It's from somewhere like Geneva or something and costs around $600,000."

Vallencourt watched a car zip by.

"On his wrist, huh?"

 "Yeah, that's all I got.  You're looking good.  We happening tonight?"

"No.  Come on in, I'll buy you a drink."

Officer Bob rolled his eyes but followed Vallencourt into the bar.  She ordered them two shots each.  As they clinked glasses, a nervous woman with her arm in a cast walked up.

"You the one buying drinks?" she asked Vallencourt.

"I was.  Did you see something?"

"I knew Gerry.  He was a nice guy.  He'd come in and, if he knew you, he'd buy you a drink.  You're buying, right?"

Vallencourt gestured for Charlie who walked over as the woman snapped "Jack and Coke."

"Bridget, by the way," she said to Vallencourt.

"So you knew Gerald Weaver?"

"Yeah, he'd been coming her for six months.  Maybe longer.  But, yeah, he was pretty nice.  Not much to look at, you know?  He wasn't going to turn any heads.  But, on a quiet night in here, you could get to know him and he had the personality that just sneaked up on you."

 "He get in any fights here?"

"You mean like punches and stuff?"

Vallencourt nodded but Bridget dismissed the idea with a gesture and grabbed her Jack and Coke from Charlie.

"He didn't seem the type, you know?  I bet he'd never been in a fight in his life.  My boyfriend -- my ex-boyfriend -- used to come in here and sometimes he'd give Gerry a hard time.  And Gerry would always back down.  I felt a little sorry for him."

"This boyfriend, he got a name?"

"Yeah, he's got two of them.  What's your point? You trying to say he shot Gerry?  No.  He was home with me.  We were here that night.  I was.  I was in the booth over by the jukebox.  And Gerry was talking to me.  And Heath, that's my ex-boyfriend's name, came in reeking of weed but so very not mellow.  He barged over to us and started yelling at Gerry and screaming crap about Gerry wanting the coochie and that was not Gerry's style at all.  In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised to find out Gerry was a virgin."

"So the night Weaver dies, your boyfriend's screaming and threatening him and you never thought to go to the police when Weaver turns up dead?"

"Hey, I got my own life and my own troubles, okay? Heath grabbed my arm and dragged me out to his car and when we got home he started beating me.  It's how I broke my arm."

Bridget twirled the cast in the air.

"I was in the hospital and then I was moving my crap out -- my mom helped me -- to a new place.  I didn't even know Gerry was dead until today when I come in here and everybody's talking about how  some screwball shot him."

"Heath's got a last name and a location?"  Vallencourt asked.

Bridget just started at her.

"Another round, Charlie," Vallencourt hollered, her eyes on Bridget.

"Thank you.  His name is Heath Parker.  Where he's at, I don't know.  Ask the cops.  I filed a report but no one's found him yet."

Bridget grabbed her second round from Charlie, nodded to Vallencourt and Officer Bob and then headed back to the booth by the jukebox.

"How'd you miss that?" Vallencourt asked.

"You heard her, she had left," Officer Bob replied.  "We questioned everyone the night of.  We came back the next evening and questioned everyone.  No one wanted to talk and she wasn't here.  It happens.  We're police officers not psychics.  Doesn't seem like it matters, while someone was punching Weaver's ticket, this Heath Parker was apparently beating the crap out of his girlfriend."

"You don't know that, she doesn't know that.  She wasn't even here.  She'd already left long beforehand.  This Parker guy could have wailed on her, she goes running to the hospital, he comes back to the bar and, as he's about to go in, he sees Wilson coming out and bam-bam-bam, he's shot Weaver."

"Maybe," said Officer Bob getting up off his bar stool.  "But it was one shot -- not bang, bang, bang.  One shot.  Which sort of blows away any theories of a crime of passion."


Vallencourt was wearing a black pair of pants and a black jacket.  Her concession to fashion for a funeral.  The service for Gerald Weaver wasn't packed but it wasn't thin.  Mainly family -- extended family -- and a few people who looked to be around Weaver's age.  She made a point to scope out the crowd and, when someone started singing a song, she hit the foyer to look at the registry and get a few shots of the signatures with the camera on her cell phone.

She was just putting the cell phone away when people began pouring into the hall and heading for the front door.  She backed up against the wall to let the flow pass. 

 Woodrow Weaver saw her and, breaking away from some people, stepped over.

"Ms. Vallencourt, so good of you to attend.  Have you learned anything about who killed Gerald yet?"

"I can give you a briefing later today," Vallencourt offered.

"No, join me in the limo, I need to know now.  Today of all days."

In the limo behind the hearse, it was just the driver, Woodrow and Vallencourt.

Vallencourt explained to him about her new lead: Heath Parker.

"He sounds like a thug," Woodrow declared shaking his head in disgust.  "And he broke this woman's arm, you say?  An animal and a thug."

"Well, he may or may not be involved," she said.  "He's a lead right now, that's all."

"Of course.  Well I appreciate the work you're doing.  About your expenses, I don't have my checkbook on me.  I'm sure we've exceeded the thousand dollar deposit I left.  It should have been five thousand but I foolishly made the check out wrong.  Would you like to just make it one lump sum or can I have a check dropped off tomorrow."

 "I'll send you a bill Friday, we'll do a weekly bill if this goes beyond this Friday, if that's alright."

Woodrow Weaver nodded his ascent.

At the funeral, she studied the crowd and was most interested in a man who was probably Gerald Wilson's age.  Black hair, dark eyes, he didn't seem sad, he didn't seem to register any emotion at all.

She caught up with him as he was walking away from the cemetery.

"Hey, did you drive here?"  she asked.

"Uh, yeah.  How come?"

"My car's back at the funeral home.  I rode here with the family but I'm just not up to that again.  Any chance you could give me a ride back to the funeral home?"

They rode in his twelve year old Volvo, indicating to Vallencourt that, unlike the Weavers, this man wasn't rolling in the dough.  Busted radio was another tip-off.

"I'm Kara Vallencourt, by the way."

"Eddie Bragg," the driver said nodding.

"How'd you know him, Eddie?"

"Gerald?  Gerry and I went to high school together.  Actually, we met in 7th grade and were pretty good friends.  Then that changed.  You know, high school."

"High school?"

"Gerry was shy.  And he could also be immature.  It's one thing to giggle about breasts around girls in 7th grade but when you're in 10th grade it's like, grow up, you know?  Gerry really couldn't grow up.  For awhile there, he even flirted with dropping out but his mom wouldn't let him.  But he was a social disaster and I tried to help him but at a certain point, you've got to drown or save yourself."


"So we stopped being friend in the middle of tenth grade."

"And then what?"

"If we bumped into each other, we spoke.  But I stopped going to his house, he stopped going to my house, I made new friends and hung with them."

"And his friends?"

"He really didn't have any.  Probably his last two years in high school would have been better off not happening.  He didn't have any friends and people made fun of him to his face, loudly in the halls.  He should have dropped out."

"But you said his mother wouldn't let him."

"Right.  He was her little prince and she couldn't see that he would ever have any problems in school or that anyone might not want to be his friend or that other kids would make fun of him.  And that's not to blame her.  Gerry was weird.  I remember in 8th grade, we were talking about how we'd lose our virginity and he starts talking about this girl and I'm all, 'Dude, she's your cousin!' and he's like, 'She's a cheerleader!'  Like that makes it okay?  It was like something wasn't connecting up there.  I would've worried about him but, you know, all that money?  It was always obvious he'd turn out just fine.  The little heir."

"Is that a touch of jealousy I hear?"

"Nope.  I'd rather be me with my life.  He was weird."

"Did you ever want to kill him?"


"No.  But when he did something so stupid that he basically begged the whole high school to mock him, I wanted to hit him.  A few times, I wanted to hit him."

At the funeral home, she got into her car and headed for the Weaver residence intending to question some more people but when the front door was opened, the butler told her Mr. Weaver had gone upstairs and wasn't receiving anyone.  Clearly, the butler told her, this was a difficult time.

She checked with Officer Bob who told her that an APB had been put out for Heath Parker but there were no leads at present.

Hanging up, she started flipping through the shots of the funeral registry she'd taken.  Grace Weaver stood out because she lived just a few blocks south so Vallencourt headed there.

"Woodrow's hired a private detective?"  Grace asked clearly surprised.

"The police didn't seem to be getting anywhere."

"Well, come inside and let's talk."

Vallencourt followed Grace to the living room and sat in a chair across from the couch.

"So Gerry was a nice kid.  A fat kid but a nice one.  He related to adults, even as a young kid.  He wanted to hear your problems and your dreams.  And all was fine until it was his turn to talk and not listen and that's when you realized, 'This kid has problems'."

"Such as?"

"Well, he believed in aliens.  I don't mean Star Wars or Star Trek.  In fact, he mocked that sort of thing.  He said it wasn't real.  But the real ones, the real aliens, were communicating with him.  He could talk to them and did talk to them, he'd tell you.  And you'd wonder if it was a put on but he was dead serious.  I'd tell Tracy, his mother, 'You have got to get him some help.'  And she'd laugh and say he was creative and that people just didn't appreciate it properly but that they would.  That never happened so maybe my sister-in-law was lucky to have passed away before that was revealed to be false."

"And your brother?"

"Woodrow?  He didn't kid himself.   Woodrow was probably shocked, actually.  He'd been the Prom King in high school and voted Most Handsome and all this other stuff.  He'd dated the head cheerleader and all that.  He was doing light modeling when he met Tracy.  Of course, he gave that up.  But he was very good looking and very popular and it really hurt him that his own son wouldn't be.  I can remember, at some point, Woodrow taking Gerry on hour long walks every day, each day, for several weeks.  But the kid really didn't lose any weight.  Woodrow got angry then just resigned himself to the reality that Gerry was big-boned. He could have spent more time with him.  A lot of people blamed Tracy but Tracy really loved her son and I always felt she spent more and more time with him because Woodrow made less and less time for their son."

 Vallencourt's stomach was growling.  She'd been rushing around all day and had skipped breakfast and lunch.  No way was she also going to skip dinner.

When the butler told her that Mr. Weaver did not want to be disturbed, she insisted he disturb Mr. Weaver.  Now.

An irritated Woodrow Weaver walked into the study where Vallencourt had been sent to wait.

"Ms. Vallencourt, have you learned something?"

"Many things but I'm hear for payment.  I thought about our conversation and I'd like a check now.  It'll be easier that way especially now that I think I have strong leads."

Mr. Weaver shrugged and opened a drawer of his desk to pull out a check register.

"How much?"

"Make it for ten thousand, that we're covered for the full deposit and the work I've done."

Weaver scribbled out the check and handed it to her.

"Ms. Vallencourt, does this mean that you've located that Heath Parker?"

"No," she answered.  "But there is some good news."


"I think I've located the killer."

Woodrow stared at her expectantly.

"Your son was killed for money.  There was no great mystery there.  He was from a rich family.  His late mother had set up a trust fund.  You managed it for him.  And you lost control of that when he turned 26.  You can thank your sister for supplying that information.  And that really made your own money issues stand out.  With him dead, you got the money in the trust.  With him dead, you didn't have to worry about which bill to pay and who to make excuses to.  Like the ones you made to me."

Mr. Weaver glared at Vallencourt.

"You killed your son and did so in cold blood.  It was you and that's why you could come up to him outside the bar.  He didn't see the gun in your hand.  He thought nothing of walking with you and you thought nothing of putting the gun to his back and pulling the trigger.  It was one shot so maybe you felt bad and that's why you only fired once or maybe, as he realized his own father was trying to kill him and he struggled to crawl away, you could tell he was already almost dead."


"And for $10,000 you're going to be silent," Mr. Wilson asked.  "You're going to cover up what you've discovered?"

"Oh, hell no.  But I don't work for free and I'm not going to stand in line behind everyone else trying to get money out of a convicted murderer."

There it was.  Vallencourt could hear it now, the police sirens.  She'd called Officer Bob, told him to meet her here when she'd pulled up in the drive.

Smiling, she folded the check and tucked it in her pocket.

Wednesday at the crack of dawn

 sun rise

At the crack of dawn, each day, my son wakes me up.

Bribes of candy and money have not helped.  Threats of picking him up from school while wearing a three-inch, black, leather mini-skirt have not worked.

My son wakes me up demanding that everyone's day begin when his does.

As I use the last of the coffee buzz to get him off to school, joining him in a song about the wheels on that bus and juggling the day's demands in my head, I wonder what the day will be like.

"Today is Wednesday, Mom," my son tells me.

And so it is.

He just wanted an iPad

Jonah awoke a very angry Jonah.

And not even his best bud Leroy could help him shake the mood.  Jonah wanted an iPad.  He had an iPod.  He had an iPhone.  But no iPad.


"iMad?" joked Leroy.

But Jonah was not laughing.

His mind was a gerbil, his body an oil-soaked rag.  It was not a combination conducive to deep thought.

Leroy had a gift for his friend who had stopped off at 7-11 for a 12-pack of Activia.  Hearing Jonah's skateboard zip up the driveway, Leroy hurried to the door, opening it just as Jonah rang the doorbell.

"What's that smell?" a distracted Jonah asked as he entered.


Jonah spotted a package on the coffee table. He started at Leroy for two nanoseconds.

"My birthday present?"

He lunged for it, ripping it open and shouting with joy and laughter.


"Yes, and just what I wanted and needed!" Jonah agreed as he hurried to plug it into the wall socket and charge it up. 

As Jonah did an end zone dance around the room, Trevor, Leroy's large pit bull, roused from sleeping and looked around.  He eyed the iPad.  Jonah saw the dog staring at it but still couldn't believe it when Trevor did something crazy, snapped his jaw around the iPad and made a mad dash around Jonah and out the open front door.

"iSad," declared Leroy.

Behind Leroy's house, Jonah struggled through the weeds and vines in search of Trevor and his iPad.

Just when he thought he saw Trevor, a pack of feral pitbulls suddenly appeared and latched onto him, two mouths grabbing each pant leg and the largest charging at him and knocking him to the ground.  Dazed, Jonah yieled to the furry onslaught and collapsed.

Jonah awoke with a throbbing head and prostate, amidst a pack of dogs who'd decided he was now both one of them and their bitch.

At his own home, Leroy wondered if he'd ever see Jonah again?  And would Trevor return or just e-mail?

Life was like ripened avocados -- soft and squishy.  He blamed Steve Jobs for that.

Omega Planet

In the silence stood a shadow
Explosion glowed through the window
Saw a slaughter fall down
And come knocking upon your door,

"Desecration, let me in,"
"let me drink of your dreams"
"slaughter, slaughter, here outside"
"have a nice warm cup of flames"

As the hope fell,
Dark mist rose up
As if to slip onto the land
Over all destroyed in a blaze


No one had come for you,
As far as you had known
The moon trembling with the dry shakes
Suddenly seemed so far.

For in this blaze,
There was nothign to see.
No bird, plane, or hero
No candle to blow
No wish to come true
Nothing left to fall or crash.

Inside this light was something,
But yet everything unknown.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

 "Despite a fiscal crisis, VA gave out $2.8 million ..." -- most requested highlight of the month -- in the midst of the Great Recession, the VA's giving out $2.8 million to 245 senior executives.

"Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" and "San Francisco to DC to NYC ay-yi-yi" -- C.I. and Elaine report on a House Oversight Subcommittee hearing they attended. 

"Iraq snapshot"  and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. reports on a UN Security Council briefing on Iraq.

"revenge (Rebecca)," "The Newsroom," "Burning Love," "666 Park," and "MS splits from NBC"-- Rebecca, Marcia, Stan and Betty cover TV and web shows.

"Domestic Arts Czar" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"If he could take back the last few days?,"  "Nolan justifies the attacks" and "Language Warning: NOT SAFE FOR WORK" -- Elaine didn't intend to write about the big topic on Friday -- it's just that Tuesday and Wednesday's posts pretty much laid the groundwork for the topic.
"THIS JUST IN! DIVERSITY IN MEDIA?" and "One size fits all?" -- Wally and Cedric (with an appearance from Ruth) explore the media.

"Black-eyed Pea Brushetta"-- Trina offers a keep-the-kitchen-cool recipe.

"My House Rep is a hypocrite, how about yours?" -- Kat does an inventory and encourages you to do the same.

"Wendell Potter the big liar" and "Calling out the whores" -- Marcia and Ann on using your time wisely. 

  "Superhero movies," "Daredevil" and "Ninotchka"-- Kat, Elaine and Stan go to the movies.

"Donnie Box says it all" -- Mike's popular post.

"The 15 minutes has ticked down"  and "THIS JUST IN! FADING CELEBRITY!" -- Barry O learns that he can't really get a boost no matter how he tries.

"The many crimes of the administration"-- join Mike in making a list.

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