In this week’s New Yorker, Lauren Collins has a lovely Talk of the Town column about the right-wing dirty-novel-writing tradition in general, and the works of Scooter Libby in particular:
[Many specific examples Collins quotes from Libby’s book are being skipped here.]
…For even more difficult prose, however, one must revisit an earlier work. The Apprentice—Libby’s 1996 entry in the long and distinguished annals of the right-wing dirty novel—tells the tale of Setsuo, a courageous virgin innkeeper who finds himself on the brink of love and war.
Libby has a lot to live up to as a conservative author of erotic fiction. As an article in SPY magazine pointed out in 1988, from Safire (“[She] finally came to him in the bed and shouted ‘Arragghrrorwr!’ in his ear, bit his neck, plunged her head between his legs and devoured him”) to Buckley (“I’d rather do this with you than play cards”) to Liddy (“T’sa Li froze, her lips still enclosing Rand’s glans …”) to Ehrlichman (“‘It felt like a little tongue’”) to O’Reilly (“Okay, Shannon Michaels, off with those pants”), extracurricular creative writing has long been an outlet for ideas that might not fly at, say, the National Prayer Breakfast. In one of Lynne Cheney’s books, a Republican vice-president dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress. …
Collins is right about the conservative dirty-book tradition. Off hand, I can think of a lot more right-wing political figures who’ve written trashy commercial fiction than left-wingers. And is it unfair to observe that their characters seem to have a lot of really bad sex?
So, how does Libby stack up against the competition? This question was put to Nancy Sladek, the editor of Britain’s Literary Review, which, each year, holds a contest for bad sex writing in fiction. (In 1998, someone nominated the Starr Report.) Sladek agreed to review a few passages from Libby. “That’s a bit depraved, isn’t it, this [bit I skipped]? That’s particularly nasty, and the other ones are just boring,” she said. “God, they’re an odd bunch, these Republicans.” Unlike their American counterparts, she said, Tories haven’t taken much to sex writing. “They usually just get caught,” she said.
I’ve been thinking about the fact that Bill Clinton handily won two elections in spite of everything the Republicans could throw at him. It makes me wonder whether the Left ought to be writing more naughty books—only with better sex scenes.
Addendum: An exchange from the comments thread:
Lizzy Lynn: Arragghrrorwr?
Chad Orzel: What sort of noise do you think dinosaurs make during sodomy?
Written by Nathaniel Daw. Brad DeLong found it. Patrick passed it on to me. It was originally published in the Subgenius Digest, but never mind that. [Incorrect! See below for a note on its actual provenance.] Here’s a chunk:
I don’t have to explain that, right?
Aristotle: Shut up, motherf*cker, how can you understand my perfect city when I haven’t explained it yet?
Socrates: No, dickhead, not that, I understand what you were saying before, about perfection. It’s all about forms.
Socrates: Yeah, motherf*cker, forms. Like, something don’t have to physically exist for it to be perfect; it exists as the perfect ideal, the perfect form, beyond mortal comprehension.
Alcibiades: Socrates, you’re supposed to pour your libations on the ground, not drink them till you’re talking like a crazy Bacchae bitch.
Socrates: Normally, I’d be pouring libations with your spinal fluid right now, but since I’m feeling at peace with the universe I’ll try to enlighten your sorry ass instead. Imagine there’s this dark, underground cave.
Socrates: And there’s this rapist-motherf*cker, and he’s got this gimp, right, tied up in the cave. See that?
Socrates: And this rapist, he’s a sick motherf*cker, so let’s say one day he sends down a coupla pipe-hittin’ negroes to cut the gimp’s ear right off.
Alcibiades: Cut his ear off?
Socrates: Yeah, and gouge out his f*cking eyes. Now wouldn’t you say that the ear and eye are the proper receptacles of the senses of sight and hearing, respecitively?
Alcibiades: Clearly so.
Socrates: So, moreover, would you not agree that this gimp’s senses are imperfect?
Aristotle: Why, yes, Socrates, I suppose they would be a trifle damaged.
Socrates: And what do things look like to someone with imperfect senses?
Socrates: No, motherf*cker, nine letters, begins with “I.”
Socrates: Bingo. So you’d say this gimp, you’d say this gimp motherf*cker would be unable to perceive true perfection—but that don’t mean it don’t exist. Now if you brought him out of the cave, into the light, things would be less dark, and his eyes might heal a little, he might begin to see a glimmer of light, thereby gaining the idea of true perfection—
Aristotle: What kind of argument is that? Your theory of the forms rests on an arbitrary and vicious act of violence.
Socrates: [Draws his gun.] Aristotle, you’re Plato’s student, I respect you, but I will put f*cking bullets through your heart if you don’t take back what you said about me being violent now!
Aristotle: [Also drawing gun] You shoot, you’ll be dining with Lord Hades tonight. I repeat. You kill me, your ass is eating pomegranate f*cking casserole for the rest of eternity.
Alcibiades: Shit, man, you’re acting like a bunch of f*ckin’ Spartans. Am I the only philosopher around here?
Socrates and Aristotle: [To Alcibiades] Shut up!
Alcibiades: Guys, guys, calm down. Look, I’ve got it. Let’s have a symposium—we can all drink wine and make speeches in praise of love.
Aristotle: What are you, some kind of pansy?
Socrates: Shoot that dipshit.
[Socrates and Aristotle turn in unison and shoot Alcibiades, then turn back and again aim at each other.]
Socrates: [To Aristotle] Don’t think you’re getting off that easy. You ever read Plato?
Aristotle: Of course.
Socrates: There’s this little passage I got memorized that I like to recite in situations like this …
By the way, the thing in the briefcase? The Holy Grail. Gotta be.
Actually it wasn’t originally published in Subgenius Digest—it was just something I wrote in college that got forwarded around the net a lot. The Subgenius guys must have picked it up at some point.Adam Fields has put up a post about it on his own weblog:
I can personally attest to being present around the time of the original writing and presentation, at or near Columbia’s Philolexian Society … sometime between 1992 and 1996. Nat says 1994, and I believe him.
In fact, I made a poster for its theatrical (okay, in the basement of River) performance as part of a series of one-act plays, Onion Days and Starry Nights in the Zero-Sum Republic.
Scooter Libby has been indicted on five counts, and has resigned his position with the Bush administration.
Down at Capclave, weekend before last, Patrick and I and Michael Swanwick did a panel on workshops. At one point Swanwick got to telling Clarion stories. I’m going to try to do justice to this one, though of course it was better when he told it.
(Background info: Clarion runs for six weeks, with different instructors coming in for one-week stints.)
So Michael Swanwick is teaching his week at Clarion, and one of the students hands in a long somber story full of angst and sodomy*. Swanwick considers it and says, “What this story needs is more dinosaurs.”
The next story the student turns in does have dinosaurs in it, but it’s a piece of fluff. Swanwick shakes his head. “It needed more sodomy,” he says.
The student is flummoxed, and protests that he’s just trying to put into practice what he’d been told. Swanwick explains, to him and to the rest of the students, that writing is a matter of finding the appropriate balance of dinosaurs and sodomy.
Then he goes home. The next instructor is Gardner Dozois.
A week later, Gardner comes home and says, “Michael, what the hell did you tell those kids? All week long, they were handing me stories about dinosaurs and sodomy!”=
If I were a better storyteller myself, I’d know whether or not it would help to explain that Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick have been friends for decades; or that Gardner is not only a brilliant writer and editor, but is living proof that “Rabelaisian” still has a place in our everyday vocabulary. One story about dinosaurs and sodomy wouldn’t faze Gardner in the slightest. Getting a week’s worth of them at Clarion is a pail of water balanced on top of a door.=
The state of things: Patrick and I are near the end of the busiest spell of professionally-related travel we’ve had in our lives. This month started with a week of intensive teaching at the Viable Paradise writers’ workshop out on Martha’s Vineyard. October 14-16 we were guests of honor at Capclave in Silver Spring, Maryland. This past weekend I was what they call a presenter at the 2005 Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, B.C. We’re not quite finished running the gantlet yet, but we’ll soon be done, and will go back to being a regular presence here.
We haven’t deserted you. We’ve just been on extended leave.
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters)—U.S. special forces dart through Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, gunning down any hapless Iranians standing between them and centrifuges that must be blown to bits.
Much to Tehran’s relief, this crack team exists only in a new U.S. computer game. But even these animated saboteurs are too close for comfort, downloadable into Iranian living rooms at the click of a mouse.
What could I do? I went over to Kuma Games to check it out. And, by golly, they do have a free downloadable war game—a First Person Shooter—based on the Iraq/Afghanistan War, with a side-trip to Iran.
The game’s trailer plays pounding music and starkly asks: “Diplomacy has failed … Is nothing to be done?”. U.S. troops then strafe a car, leap out of helicopters and prowl around menacingly before blowing things up.
Web site www.persianpetition.com, a forum for Persian speakers in Iran and abroad, posted a notice asking Kuma to withdraw the game on October 12. Since then it has got more than 5,000 signatures.
“We must make the Americans understand that Iran is different from Iraq and Afghanistan, where they just did what they wanted,” the petition read.
Well, maybe. I didn’t notice any pounding music, or anyone leaping from helicopters or strafing cars … which would be sort of counterproductive if you were trying to be stealthy anyway. Instead, the Raid on Iran scenario starts with you and three companions on the ground inside the Iranian compound, at night.
Overall the game system looks very much like the Doom/Quake 3D engine, with Middle East cityscapes in place of Phobos Station and realistic guys in kaffiyehs toting AK-47s, rather than cartoony demons tossing fireballs. The gameplay is identical (right down to the exact keyboard shortcuts) to other first person shooters like Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault. No worries about women, children, or bicycle repairmen on their way to work: Everything that moves is an enemy. You shoot them down at your maximum range. All cars are car bombs. Blow them up before they blow you up.
“Americans have a deep craving for an attack against Iran, but they are going to have to settle for this make-believe assault,” wrote the Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed directly by Iran’s Supreme Leader.
In the Training Scenario, the first thing you do is sneak up and shoot a guy in the back while he’s guarding a vehicle. He has a beard and is wearing one of those Afghani felt hats. “Congratulations!” I thought when I saw that. “You’ve just blown away one member of the small but tenacious local Christian community. He was guarding that truck for his brother, the plumber. Now the brother’s ticked off—and he was previously pro-American. He has access to lots of threaded pipe. A friend of his cousin knows where to get explosives. His father-in-law is an electrician, and can rig a simple firing circuit. When your patrol gets greased by a pipe bomb two weeks from now, you’ll know the reason why.”
The particular game that’s giving Iran fits is last month’s scenario. Let’s take a look at it:
Kuma\War’s playable mission offers you the most plausible scenario to delaying or destroying Iran’s nuclear arms capabilities. As a Special Forces soldier, you infiltrate the facility at Natanz. But it won’t be easy. You’ve got a man on the inside, a scientist you need to rescue or he’ll surely be killed after the raid. Breech the perimeter and secure the evidence. Beat back the security forces and destroy the centrifuges. Never before has so much hung in the balance; never have we been so close to preventing world tragedy.
Two years ago, Iran’s 18-year secret affair with nuclear technology was exposed to the world. As details continue to emerge of black market nuclear equipment shipments from other rogue states, information technology transfers, and massive secret underground facilities, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are scrambling to keep up with Iran’s rapid progress. And the world waits anxiously.
Iran makes no secret of its nuclear ambitions, but claims their goal is peaceful civilian nuclear power—an endeavor that may seem superfluous in an oil-rich state, but well within their rights as a sovereign nation to pursue. Just this week, the head of Iran’s nuclear energy program announced its plan to enrich nearly 40 tons of raw uranium—a necessary step in developing nuclear power for the country. But many on the world stage call this a transparent sham: The state of Iraq’s reactors shouldn’t require uranium conversion for another decade.
If the goal is, as they suggest, becoming Islam’s first nuclear state, there’s no time like the present. With the U.S.’s gulf forces firmly entrenched elsewhere—137,000 troops in Iraq; another 10,000 in Afghanistan—Iran may consider this the perfect time to initiate its longstanding plan to launch a nuclear weapons program.
Given the alarmingly advanced state of Iran’s nuclear program, the US military might well consider an all-out assault against Iran’s nuclear installations. But preemptive strikes carry grave repercussions: Iran’s retaliation options includ a devastating disruption of oil shipments from the Persian Gulf, attacks on US Naval installations throughout the Middle East, and, perhaps most frightening of all, summon their terrorist allies in widespread factions like Hezbollah to initiate vicious terrorist attacks against Americans on every continent.
The stakes are high—still, Iran’s nuclear means and shadowy intentions cannot be ignored. The War on Terror is not about retribution for the attacks of 9/11 or taking out dictators who brutalize the innocent. It’s about keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the rogue states and non-state organizations most likely to use them…and the risk here couldn’t be clearer.
While the European states doggedly pursue a diplomatic solution, President Bush has declared “all options are on the table” With the possibility of military action looming, Kuma\War has compiled what our experts believe to be an extremely plausible scenario for delaying or destroying Iran’s nuclear arms capabilities without kick-starting World War III.
As a Special Forces soldier in this playable mission, you will infiltrate Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz, high in the mountains. But breaching the security cordon around the hardened target won’t be easy. Your team’s mission: Infiltrate the base, secure evidence of illegal uranium enrichment, rescue your man on the inside, and destroy the centrifuges that promise to take Iran into the nuclear age. Never before has so much hung in the balance… millions of lives, and the very future of democracy could be at stake.
Well, aside from a couple of errors of fact: Iran won’t be Islam’s first nuclear power. That would be Pakistan. I can’t think of a single country that isn’t, or shouldn’t be, working on alternative energy sources. One could argue that Iran, more than anyone, has a pretty good handle on when their oil reserves will run out. The baseline assumption that any development of nuclear power must mean nuclear weapons is poorly supported (despite Bush’s wishful thinking), and the question of whether the US has the right to send troops to any country, any time, on any pretext, to shoot the place up, hasn’t been answered in the affirmative.
You want another, even more plausible, scenario? Your troopers make it into the secret underground base and discover that there isn’t a centrifuge, that there isn’t any weapons-grade uranium, that the Secret Defector Scientist was fibbing … and after that they’re all captured to stand trial in downtown Tehran.
Ah well! As a player of this game, you don’t have to worry your head about that. All you have to do is mow down scores of Iranian troops. Anyone who’s spent as much time as I have playing Tomb Raider won’t have any problem completing the mission.
First objective: Find the centrifuge. Okay, you do that (its exact location is helpfully marked on the map — Laura Croft never had it so easy). You’re rewarded by being told that you now have a sample of weapons-grade uranium. Next objective pops up: Find and kill all the Iranian scientists. Fortunately their barracks is nearby. So you do that, even though they’re unarmed civilians. There are some Iranian troopers scattered in the mix to keep it interesting. You’re rewarded by being given Iran’s Secret War Plans (even though that would be a silly place for ‘em to keep such plans).
Next task: Blow up the centrifuge. So back you go, and weirdly you can’t blow up the centrifuge by pumping 40mm grenades into it. You expend all the 40mm grenades on hand. Did anyone think to bring along any C4? No, I thought you packed it! You knew we were going to have to blow up a centrifuge and no one brought any C4? What kind of chickenshit outfit is this? No C4. Oh well. But! Happy thing, just a few rifle rounds makes the centrifuge blow up. Task complete!
New objective: Rescue the Defector Scientist. Oops — you just killed all the scientists. Wouldn’t rescuing the guy first have been a better idea? No worries, he’s in a different location. Maybe he knew the raid was coming. Weren’t any of those other scientists his friends? How about the new kid, the mathematician who made such good coffee and always had a kind word and a joke? Hey, Ali, why don’t you go downtown tonight for ice cream? You aren’t listening, Ali: You want to go downtown tonight for ice cream—and don’t hurry back. Just do it, okay? Anyway—Defector Scientist is rescued. Hurrah! Go us!
Next objective: Get to the extraction point. No problem, since the Iranians still haven’t noticed that there’s a raid going on and haven’t organized any sort of decent defense, and the Defector Scientist you’re bringing along is invisible. Weirdly, no matter how you try, you can’t shoot out the streetlights on poles. Get to the extraction point, game over, you win! You get a nice blurb on how Iran will never be a threat to peace and democracy now, no sir, you betcha.
This is someone’s propaganda arm; that seems clear. From the fact that Kuma gets retired US generals to do video commentary, we can make some guesses as to whose propaganda it is.
Here’s a Kuma Games press release, and here’s their video about their game version of John Kerry’s Silver Star, which they produced in time for the elections. Astute watchers of TV commercials will be able to tell which side they come down on.
Brief commentary on this month’s mission scenario: “The Crime of Dujay: Saddam’s Revenge.” Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Here’s the description:
In the restive village of Dujayl, Iraq, the villagers are encouraged by Shiite preachers to rise against Saddam Hussein, the country’s dictator and the man responsible for invading neighboring Shiite Iran. But these were simple villagers, not a militant force. What attack could they possibly wage against the most powerful, well defended man in Iraq? Something simple, yet effective: an ambush.
Al-Dujayl, Iraq—July 8, 1982: Under orders from President Saddam Hussein, Iraq is in the midst of invading Iran. The conflict leaves Iraqi Shia towns like Dujayl on edge, and soon, preachers call upon the restive villagers to carry out a homemade Islamic revolution. In a perfect storm of opportunity and rebellion, Saddam comes to town—and the townspeople attack.
From the palm groves that line the path of the presidential convoy, 19 villagers ambush Saddam’s motorcade. But the revolutionists target the wrong vehicle. The failed assassination attempt leaves 8 bodyguards dead and Saddam Hussein unscathed, but unimaginably vengeful.
Saddam faces trial October 19th for orchestrating the horrific events that follow. The Iraqi president sends his bodyguards back to Dujayl, where 15 people are killed immediately, and within days, 143 villagers are publicly executed in show trials. 1,500 residents are arrested and imprisoned for years, and the remainder of Dujayl’s populace simply vanishes.
For Saddam Hussein, the Dujayl massacres kick-start a series of ruthless strikes against his own people. In the following year alone, 8,000 Iraqi Kurds will be executed on Saddam’s command.
What would it be like to go back in time to 1982, to have the opportunity to change history forever? In Kuma\War’s playable mission, you experience Dujayl as a thriving town on the brink of revolution. As a young Iraqi villager, it’s up to you to execute a deadly ambush for Saddam Hussein.
If only for a moment, turn back the hands of time by stopping a ruthless killer in his tracks. The future of Dujayl—the very future of Iraq—hinges on how well your ambush is executed. Keep your eye on the target and stay well concealed. This is your opportunity, if only for a moment, to save the Middle East from the decades of sorrow that come to bear under the reign of Saddam Hussein.
So I played this one. First of all, in the game, it’s just me. My first question is, Where the Fuck are the other 18 guys I’m supposed to have on my team?
Second, I’m dropped in while the action is in progress, not the night before to do planning and go for position.
Third, there are bounds on the game so I can’t go for position while the action is in progress. (Second floor of that building across the street to the north looks pretty good; it would yield defilade fire on the entire caravan.)
If I’m a young Iraqi with a burning hatred of Saddam and an AK-47, and I suddenly find myself all alone in a palm grove with no clear shot while Saddam and his Republican Guard are already passing by … I say “Bugger all this for a lark,” go home, and wait for a better opportunity.
If I’m running an ambush, I want: Two guys with RPGs. A command-detonated claymore or two. A high observation point. Camouflaged and concealed firing positions in two locations at right angles to each other, at a place where I can get a crossfire going. Better if it’s somewhere folks will have to slow down (road curve or intersection).
Pop the lead and trail cars with the RPGs, pop the claymores when the security people come boiling out, then turn to with the riflemen to take down the rest of the folks in the killing zone.
Command and control from a mile away.
How to survive an ambush:
If you find you’re in an ambush anyway:
Here’s how to win that game scenario:
Run as fast as you can to the north edge of the map, then work your way east to the road using cover and concealment. That way all the fire is coming from one direction.
Work your way back south along the road to the center of the map, crawling from tree to tree, shooting down the guards as you go and collecting their ammunition.
Saddam will have helpfully parked his car in the center of the map to wait for you. When you get near he’ll leap from his car and run north up the road, toward you. Shoot him. You win.
Before I go, I think I’ll talk about one more Kuma game scenario: “Escape from Asadabad”
As the lone survivor of a group of Navy SEALs, you’ve been trained to survive in the wilderness, but it takes tremendous tenacity to evade the Taliban forces that have murdered your team mates. A long, unforgiving course will lead you to the safety of a friendly village, where you can be rescued by US forces.
This refers to the events in Afghanistan last June. I’m sure you recall it — a helicopter was shot down.
So there I am, playing this game, first person as this SEAL, and the very first objective in the game is I’m required to find and kill all the members of a Taliban mortar team.
And I’m instantly “Da fuck?!” because I’m in a survival/evasion/resistance/escape situation. If I’m evading, I’m going to avoid all contact with the enemy. There’s one of me. There’s hundreds of them. My goal is to get back to friendly lines.
If I start shooting up mortar teams, what have I done? First, I’ve informed the bad guys that I’m alive. Second, I’ve told them exactly where I am. Third, I’ve told them when I was there. Not only that, but I’ve pissed ‘em off enough that they’ll put some real effort into finding me. (There’s a difference between “Sweep the area to see if there’s anyone else,” and “There’s someone else—sweep the area.”) What kind of buffoonery is this?
The CNN story says:
Other Kuma games have been criticized in the United States for their realistic portrayal of current events, including recent battles.
Realistic, my ass.
A guy in an evasion situation attacking folks? That’s about as realistic as a fifteen-foot pink dinosaur shopping at Macy’s. The thing is, in the blurb for that scenario, they go on and on about how highly trained in survival SEALs are. Well, I took that same course, and y’know what? No one said a thing about how great a plan it would be to go sniping at mortar teams if you happen to see one on your way out of town.
Regardless of whether running around Iran blowing away Iranian troopers is a good thing to do, the evasion that they show will get people who try it killed. You make contact with the enemy and the first thing that’ll happen is some guy with a big map and a radio is going to start laying down concentric circles on that map—and you, chum, are going to be dead center of that target.
Nice points: You can run out of ammo, and you don’t get an infinite supply of universal fix-up medical kits. You get hit, you die, you stay dead, game over.
FEMA is standing ready to assist in any emergency!
(Thanks to Kos.)
FEMA Press release, 21 October, 2005:
Hit Twice? Register Twice!
Release Date: October 21, 2005
BATON ROUGE, La. — Residents of Louisiana who suffered damages and losses as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita are reminded they must register for disaster assistance for each storm. Registering for aid for Hurricane Rita is separate from any past registration for Hurricane Katrina.
FEMA Press release, 24 October, 2005:
Do Not File Duplicate Disaster Assistance Applications
Release Date: October 24, 2005
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana residents affected by one of the two hurricanes to hit the state this year are cautioned NOT to apply more than once for federal disaster assistance. Multiple applications will delay assistance.
Thanks for clearing that up, FEMA. Is there anyone in charge?
While Mike “Horse Shows R Us” Brown is gone, he isn’t forgotten. No, wait, he isn’t gone, either:
[FEMA spokeswoman Nicol] Andrews confirmed that Brown is still on FEMA’s payroll as a consultant. She said he works from home, where he is “pulling all the documentation together” to aid in the investigations into the government’s response to Katrina. His original 30-day contract was recently extended for another 30 days, she said.
Meanwhile, how are folks faring with FEMA in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Wilma? Since Mikey’s remained on the payroll, working on Lessons Learned from Katrina, has response improved?
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Two days after Hurricane Wilma, Floridians faced the unpleasant prospect Wednesday of waiting in lines for hours to get basic necessities such as water and ice.
Amid widespread power outages, thousands of frustrated North Miami residents stood in line for nearly 12 hours Tuesday for a bag of ice and three bottles of water.
“All that time. This is all we get?” asked 23-year-old Fanie Aristil, speaking to The Associated Press after waiting nine hours for the supplies.
Frances Marine, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urged Floridians to be patient, AP reported.
“People will have their needs met,” Marine said. “The bottom line is that there’s a plan in place.”
Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security — which is in charge of FEMA — is scheduled to tour Florida’s hurricane damage on Wednesday.
Long lines also formed for supplies in Hollywood, Florida, where a noon distribution time was announced in error. A three-hour wait turned into a seven-hour ordeal.
“Do things decent and in order,” complained one person who endured the wait. “Give people directions and it can be followed properly. Otherwise, shut up.”
Just north of Hollywood, in Dania Beach, men were seen unloading crates of bottled water — but no one was there to receive it.
On Florida’s southwest coast, in Naples, residents were angry when FEMA staff didn’t show up to distribute water when they said they would.
“What are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to count on FEMA. It’s disgusting,” resident Nilsa Colon said.
Naples Mayor Bill Barnett added, “Don’t commit if you can’t deliver.”
They should count their blessings: It’s only two days after Wilma and at least FEMA’s there. Somewhere.
You can’t spend five years tearing down an agency and expect it to function. While Mike Brown is sort-of gone, his two non-qualified assistants (Mr. Bush’s advance man and the guy who produced Mr. Bush’s TV commercials) are still there in the number two and three slots as far as I know.
Darned good thing there hasn’t been a major terrorist attack recently. Nuclear, biological, chemical … do you think those clowns could handle it?
Great joy: Patrick had to order something else from Amazon anyway, so while he was at it, he picked me up issue #4 of Make magazine. Away, away, all other craft magazines!* In this one issue there are nine DIY music projects, and the project on the cover is a fully playable (if not terribly durable) cigar-box guitar. There’s an article on coffee hacks (I love the pop-up toaster converted to a timed teabag remover), and a section on stuff people have built in their basements, and the magazine’s guide to cool kits (which are indeed cool).
Best of all, there’s a one-page set of simple instructions for making Wizard Christmas Crackers: “Make trick crackers that go off like a gunshot and burst into a blinding, sparkling ball of flame.” Clearly, these are just what you need during the somnolent endgame of a major holiday dinner.
Ingredients: flash paper; flash cotton; flash cord (optional); electric flash powder, a.k.a. sparkle powder (optional); string poppers; clear nail polish; strong cotton thread; non-flammable confetti (optional); plus assorted small toys and party favors.
We will now skip directions nos. 1-8, and go directly to #9: “Stand away from anything flammable and keep the cracker away from people and pets. With one person holding each string, stand apart, and on a count of three, yank the strings sharply to pop it. Don’t be timid.”Patrick has also demonstrated no great talent for self-preservation by passing on to me the URL for the Hack a Day website, where he found links to directions for making a Jacob’s Ladder, a simple fog machine, and a PVC-pipe flamethrower. From the latter site:
I entirely agree, except for the part about non-pyromaniacs being pansies. Many people have an inexplicable lack of enthusiasm for explosions, violent transformations, and homemade blivvies. I don’t understand it, but it’s just the way things are.
Like any red-blooded, masculine man of the male gender, I love PVC weaponry. You should too. If the concept of heading on down to the local Home Depot and transforming $100 worth of random pipe bits into a killing machine doesn’t appeal to you, you’re a frikkin’ pansy. Also, you’re probably sane and will live significantly longer than I will. Nonetheless you disgust me, and I take comfort in the knowledge that your obituary will be nowhere near as humorous as mine. For those of you who laugh in the face of hypersonic shards of plastic puncturing your spleen, here’s an intimate look at how I’ve kept myself busy for the past week: building a PVC flamethrower.
Fitzgerald may bring indictments this week — possibly against Libby, Rove, and others in the White House.
Here’s what CNN is reporting today:
Over the weekend, Republicans launched a pre-emptive strike against possible charges for perjury.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas derided any potential perjury charge as a “technicality,” and suggested Fitzgerald may be trying to show that “two years’ of investigation was not a waste of time and dollars.”
O tempora! O mores! Here’s what that same Senator Kay Hutchinson (R-TX) had to say in ‘99:
“The reason that I voted to remove him from office is because I think the overridding issue here is that truth will remain the standard for perjury and obstruction of justice in our criminal justice system and it must not be gray. It must not be muddy.”
… of what is past, or passing, or to come.
My old Plame
Perhaps I was free with her name
But it’s funny now and then
How a bunch of well-connected men
Talked to this dame
My old Plame
I guess now it looks like a frame
So perhaps I’ll cop a plea
Before the Times is through with me
For my old Plame
I’ve said so many things
Nice gents told me to say
Nice gentlemen with pals at the top
And now they have all let me drop
I listened when they’d speak
But they just took a leak
My old Plame
I might be misspelling her name
I’m a player just the same
And I won’t swallow all the … blame
For my old Plame
Promoted from the comments in Open Thread 51:
Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2005, 01:59 AM:
Model-builder Pete Feigenbaum has built some absolutely amazingly detailed slums for his model railroad tracks to run through. There’s a South Bronx-style industrial neighborhood with abandoned cars and burned-out auto-parts stores covered with layer after layer of tags; there’s an any-inner-city block with liquor store, pawnshop, and flophouse hotel; there are under-the-el street scenes a la South Chicago; brick warehouses converted to dollar stores. It’s all mindbogglingly detailed, gritty, and real-looking. You’ve got to look at it.
I found it via Jeffrey Rowland’s Overcompensating and I just submitted it to Boing-Boing, so you may all have seen it elsewhere by the time you get around to seeing it here, but I just had to pass this on. Wow.
The photos of the model railroad layout are here: Vestal Design.
Go, take a look. This is outstanding modelwork. Yes, there are illusion-breakers (the automobiles have out-of-scale tires, and could have been weathered) but on the whole, wow indeed.
This leads to one of my favorite metaphors for writing novels. To make a replica of the world, you have to be able to see it. If you see it, you can model it. A novel is as much a replica of the world as a model railway.
My father, W. Douglas Macdonald, was a chemical engineer and an electrical engineer. Most of his life he worked for building materials companies, including Glidden paint, US Plywood, and Eucatex. He died entirely too young, 72, of congestive heart failure secondary to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; that is to say, smoking killed him. (Note to everyone: If you smoke, quit right now.) I miss him very much.
That was his professional life; his hobby was modelmaking, specifically ships and model railroads. He won contests in the 1920s for his model railroad cars. Back when I was young, he let me help him with his modelmaking (talk about your love: the help of six-year-olds can be a challenge). That was where I learned modelwork, which I still enjoy.
All the arts are related; modelwork and novel-writing. Both center on making a world in miniature, a false seeming that convinces the viewer/reader of its reality.
Herewith some lessons I took away, and use in my own works:
No matter how good your model is, it won’t be perfect. No matter how much praise you get, no matter what awards you win, you’ll never be able to look at that model and see anything but its imperfections.
The rivets on model cars are badly out of scale. To have visible rivets, they’d have to have heads the size of softballs.
No one counts the rivets on a moving car.
If you suggest detail, the viewer will add his own details.
Therefore, you don’t need rivets.
Painted plastic, painted wood, and painted metal all look the same.
It isn’t a model until you add people. Before that, it’s a clever machine, perhaps, or a toy. Characters bring their own reality, and bring the person looking at the model into the story. Your models tell stories; if you have a car that’s got mud on it, or rust, or scrapes and dents, it has a history. The viewer won’t know what the dent came from, but he’ll know that the car has been places, done things, and subconsciously won’t think of it as something that just came from a modelmaker’s workbench.
Another thing: there were always hidden things, that only the modelmaker knew about. These made the model real to him, and if it was real to him, it would be real to the viewers. For example, once we made a model of the submarine USS George Washington. This was a plastic model with a hinged side that could be opened to show the interior. One of the interior spaces had a door that led to the food storage reefer. My dad built and painted scale model hams, hung them in the walk-in refrigerator area, then continued with the model, sealing that area off where it would never be seen. The fact that the artist knows something is there — even if the world doesn’t share that knowledge — will add realism to the entire project.
Sometimes the best model for a thing is the thing itself: nothing looks so much like a load of coal in a hopper car than crushed coal in a hopper car.
On the other hand, real water doesn’t look like water — it doesn’t scale.
Don’t put things square on bases; use diagonal lines. They suggest motion.
A frame makes the model seem more real than it otherwise would appear. Frames move the model into the world of art. Frames suggest completion.
Let the paint dry before you touch it.
If you can’t see the world you can’t model it.
I haven’t built model railroads, though I love doing model ships and model houses.
Herewith are some exercises for y’all; not too expensive, and (I promise!) will help your novel writing. (Or, anyway, it’s helped mine.)
First off, get yourself a nice HO scale paper model house. Two I’ve done are Cut and Assemble Victorian Cottage and Cut and Assemble Victorian Shingle-Style House. (I’ve used both of those in my various talks at Viable Paradise.)
Build one of the houses. In the building of it, add one interior room. (If you want, you can open doors and windows with your X-acto knife to give other people a chance to see the room, or not.) Note: while the instructions don’t say it, paint the insides of the chimneys black! If you leave them white, the illusion is broken. If you blacken them, the illusion is strengthened. Anything that doesn’t add to the illusion detracts from it.
Now place the model on a base. Landscape it. (Landscaping can cover a multitude of sins.) Spring, summer, autumn, winter scenes all have different feels.
Add people. These tell your story. If you put in a group of folks having a garden party, it’s a different story from the model that has a police car and an ambulance pulled up out front of the house, with detectives, dogs, uniformed police, and a stretcher with a sheeted form being wheeled out the front.
Don’t skimp on the people. In my model of the shingle-side house, one figure (of several) cost more than the rest of the materials combined. I found it in a hobby shop, and knew that this was the figure I needed. The more realistic the little plastic people, the more real the entire model will appear.
That’s it. Learn to see the world. Discover that tree trunks aren’t brown; they’re grey. See how the same basic, off the rack things, when arranged in various ways, with you choosing the arrangment, make different, unique, artistic stories. Discover that when you mix paint for your Pullman cars using paint chips taken from real Pullman cars, that they look too dark — you have to lighten the paint to make it look right. Looking right is more important than being right.
The models don’t look like much until you have them all put together, landscaped, populated, and framed. Then … they’re magic.
The following is a partial transcript of remarks made by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, to the New America Foundation, a Washington think-tank.
And so it’s not too difficult to make decisions in this, what I call Oval Office cabal, and decisions often that are the opposite of what you thought were made in the formal process.
Really, read the whole thing. I don’t have anything to add to it.
[UPDATE] A link to a better, fuller transcript. (Thank you, Andrew Kanaber.)
Does everyone remember Michael “Mr. Resume” Brown, former director of FEMA, currently on the FEMA payroll as a consultant?
We certainly took some swings at him here:
While other news has come along about other things, let’s not forget our pal Mikey Brown and the sort of leadership we get when cronyism takes precedence.
The latest on Mike is that his email has been released.
WASHINGTON - Federal Emergency Management Agency officials did not respond to repeated warnings about deteriorating conditions in New Orleans and the dire need for help as Hurricane Katrina struck, the first FEMA official to arrive conceded Thursday.
Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA regional director, told a Senate panel investigating the government’s response to the disaster that he gave regular updates to people in contact with then-FEMA Director Michael Brown as early as Aug. 28, one day before Katrina made landfall.
What was Michael Brown’s reaction when the FEMA offical on the ground in New Orleans informed him that “the situation is past critical” and that evacuees had no food or water and “estimates are many will die within hours”?
… Brown’s press secretary wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. “He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes,” wrote Brown aide Sharon Worthy.
“We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you.”
US citizens are in dire straits, in danger of death. FEMA’s director is worried about his dinner reservations.
Which brings us right back to the question: Can Michael Brown be tried for murder?
[UPDATE] Thanks to stlpunster for this link: MSNBC on Brownie’s dinner plans.
[UPDATE II] More from The Washington Post.
[UPDATE III] For our friends who need this material from right-wing sources, here’s the Chicage Tribune.
No Buddy Left Behind:
[FEMA spokeswoman Nicol] Andrews confirmed that Brown is still on FEMA’s payroll as a consultant. She said he works from home, where he is “pulling all the documentation together” to aid in the investigations into the government’s response to Katrina. His original 30-day contract was recently extended for another 30 days, she said.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas court issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.
This, Rove’s woes … looks like its time for the rats to start packing. The ship is going down.
As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald nears a decision, perhaps as early as today, on whether to issue indictments in his two-year probe, Bush has already circled the wagons around Rove, whose departure would be a grievous blow to an already shell-shocked White House staff and a President in deep political trouble.
That’s what the Daily News has this morning, in an article that claims that President Bush knew two years ago that Karl Rove was the one who leaked Valerie Plame’s name to the press (a federal crime, in case anyone was unclear on why it’s important — and Bush, as President, is the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer).
The story begins:
An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.
“He made his displeasure known to Karl,” a presidential counselor told The News. “He made his life miserable about this.”
Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President’s rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.
So for the past two years, while a multi-million dollar investigation went on, Bush, who had promised to fire anyone who leaked classified information, kept mum. He could have ended it all with one phone call — but he didn’t.
As you probably also expect, the question has come up: If denying that you got a blowjob is an impeachable offense, what’s this?
Here’s something they don’t mention, though: A hint from the City Pages Blotter that things may go higher than Rove:
Dick Cheney: The new conventional wisdom says that Cheney, not Rove, is the great white whale that Fitzgerald’s chasing. One has to presume that Cheney would be very hard to catch, for one simple reason: Practically everyone who stands to get in trouble for the Plame leak is in hot water over things they did in the trenches, and their later efforts to cover their tracks. Merely giving the go-ahead to attack Joe Wilson would not constitute a crime, unless it could be shown that Cheney knew he was approving specific measures that were illegal. The wild card, again, involves what John Hannah has told Fitzgerald. If Cheney had a hands-on, day-to-day role in the Wilson campaign, that’s a different matter. But if Fitzgerald had the goods to go there, why wouldn’t Cheney have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury by now?
The Agonist has something similar.
[UPDATE] From Whiskey Bar, What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?
I’d like to know who leaked, and if anybody has got any information inside our government or outside our government who leaked, you ought to take it to the Justice Department so we can find out the leaker … I don’t know who leaked the information, for starters. So it’s hard for me to answer that question until I find out the truth.
George W. Bush
Remarks to Reporters
October 6, 2003
“So it’s hard for me to answer that question until I find out the truth.”
I hear OJ is still looking for the real killer, too.
June, too soon
July, stand by
August, the worst
October, all over.
That’s a little sailor’s mnemonic to help you recall the hurricane season. Here it is October, and it’s not quite all over.
This just in: We have …
Hurricane Wilma, now a Category 5 storm in the western Caribbean, will have “a big impact on Florida,” the director of the National Hurricane Center said today. Already, officials in Monroe County have ordered the evacuation of non-residents from the Florida Keys. The slow-moving storm, with winds topping 175 mph, is the most intense storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Wilma could make landfall along southwestern Florida as soon as the weekend.
Most intense storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Oh, lovely.
Now I’m going to tout a piece of Windows software. It’s freeware, it’s spyware free (unlike Weather Bug, which is a bug in lots of ways), and I have it on my desktop. It’s called Weather Watcher, and you can get copy from Singer’s Creations (no, not that Singer).
Weather Watcher sits down in the system tray, displaying whatever you want it to display (I have mine set to current temperature). It downloads forecasts, and displays ‘em in various formats (hourly, daily, weekly), and — neat thing and the reason I bring it up — it alerts on severe weather advisories. I have mine set to play a sound, so even if I’m playing a full-screen game I’ll still be informed. The sound I use is rex tremendae from Mozart’s Requiem (K. 626). Weather Watcher requires .wav files for its sound alerts, and I had that one lying around from TalonSoft’s Battleground Shiloh game. (A full screen game that I enjoy perhaps too much.) Some of the graphics sorta-don’t work in WindowsXP (sob!) but you can get around that by setting it to the mode that makes the game look like an old-fashioned die-cut counters on a hex-grid war game. And the soundtrack is gorgeous — Civil War songs. Heck, I’d delay making moves just to let Shiloh’s Hill finish. (The line “Unmindful of the wounded and unuseful to the slain” is such perfect 19th century diction.)
So, enough rambling. Folks in Florida, stand the heck by. And hurricane season still runs two more weeks.
Like Jim Henley, we’re at Capclave this weekend—in fact, I’m about to run off to breakfast with Avedon Carol and Max Sawicky. Also here at various points this weekend will be Kathryn Cramer, Henry Farrell, and Rivka. Last night’s Drinking Liberally in Dupont Circle was fun, too.
Oh, yeah, and there are some science fiction people hanging around hereabouts as well. If you happen to be in or near the DC area, whether your business is coordinating our national security or arranging massive giveaways to the powerful and well-heeled, do drop by and say hi.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend in Iraq, 750 Iraqi citizens completed their military training and became the first battalion of the new Iraqi army. For decades, Iraq’s army served the interests of a dictator. Today a new army is serving the Iraqi people. And less than a year from now, Iraq will have a 40,000-member military force, trained and dedicated to protecting their fellow citizens.
Our coalition is helping to train and equip Iraq’s new army, so that Iraqis can take over border protection and other security duties as soon as possible. Soldiers in the new battalion join more than 80,000 other Iraqis who are defending their country’s security. Iraq now has a Civil Defense Corps of nearly 2,500, a border guard force of 4,700, and a facility protection service of over 12,000. And more than half of the Iraqis under arms are police officers, instructed by professionals like New York City’s outstanding former police chief, Bernard Kerik. Iraq’s neighbor, Jordan, has announced that it will help Iraq train additional police officers.
I’m encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces. Today they have more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness. In fact, this week coalition forces were able to turn over security responsibility for one of Iraq’s largest cities, Karbala, to Iraqi soldiers. As Iraqi forces show they’re capable of fighting the terrorists, they are earning the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people, which will ensure the success of a free and democratic Iraq.
At the time of our Falluja operations 11 months ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces.
The top US commander in Iraq disclosed that only a single Iraqi battalion is capable of independent operations and acknowledged conditions may worsen there even if a constitution is approved.
Senators sharply questioned administration claims of progress in Iraq, zeroing in on General George Casey’s revelation before the Senate Armed Services Committee that only one Iraqi battalion was capable of operating fully independently.
The last time Casey reported to Congress several months ago, he said three battalions were at Level One, a rating for units that are capable of independent operations.
“We fully recognize that Iraqi armed forces will not have an independent capability for some time, because they don’t have an institutional base to support them,” he said. “And so Level One is one battalion.”
“It was three. Now its gone from three to one?” interjected Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona.
So how many battalions are there? 100? 80? Three? One? Who are ya gonna believe, baby? Me or your lyin’ eyes?
General Casey, of course, is the senior US commander in Iraq. He informed the Senate that the Iraqis have only one useful battalion on 29 September, two days before Bush told the country that they have 100, and over a week before Bush told the country that they have 80.
The Corpuscle reports from Target A:
Didn’t all New Yorkers get at least one of these in their mailbox last week?Dear Potential Victim of Impending Terrorist Attack:And then a day or two later:
We here at al-Qaeda know how many widespread-death-and-destruction options you have in today’s dangerous world so we would like to take a moment just to thank you for choosing to live in New York City, one of our prime metropolitan targets. Your faceless death is important to us! Once again, thank you for choosing New York City.
Terror Distribution DivisionDear Pending National Hero:Parenthetically, I do think they might have chosen separate direct-mail houses.
We here at the Military-Industrial-Political Complex know how many dying-in-the-name-of-freedom options you have in today’s dangerous world so we would like to take a moment just to thank you for choosing to live in New York City, one of our prime promotional event venues. Your heroic death is important to us! Once again, thank you for choosing New York City.
Horror Marketing Division
We’re back from this year’s Viable Paradise; we’re pooped; we have 5,271,009 things to deal with before running off to Capclave later this week. Posting may continue light to nonexistent for a few more days, at least.
On a trivial note, do you suppose Salon could possibly have run a more inept drawing of Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke? (If that link runs you into the paywall, just click on “preview home page” and then load the interview from there.) Neil is at least vaguely recognizable, although he appears to have been morphed with John Travolta. I wouldn’t have recognized the other figure as Susanna in a million years.
The nine Senators who voted against the anti-torture amendment:
(Meme via Jim Henley.)
Because #50 now has more than three hundred messages. Hi, guys! We’ll be coming home soon.Meanwhile:
Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.) Is planning a ban on smut.
Oh, rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverent occiput.
Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l—ns,
Smite h-p and th-gh,
We’ll all be Kansas
By and by. —Ogden Nash, “Invocation,” 1931*
Because the previous Open Thread was crowding 400 posts, and the rest of the Bridge Crew are on Martha’s Vineyard, a new Open Thread is declared open.
Tonight is the first night of Viable Paradise, an annual week-long intensive SF & Fantasy writers’ workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. Patrick and I are teaching again this year, along with fellow instructors Steve Gould, Laura Mixon, Jim Macdonald, and Debra Doyle.
Workshop personnel usually spend this first evening playing Thing or Mafia. This year we started with a big round of Mafia: thirty villagers, of whom four were Mafiosi. When the smoke cleared, the villagers had lost, and all four Mafiosi were still in the game.