Friday, September 23, 2005

If you have any concerns about Hurricane Katrina and the way things were handled by the government...
If you have any concerns about the way things are going in this country in general...
If you have any concerns about how things have deteriorated to this point...
then this is a MUST READ --

Sugar for Sugar, Salt For Salt - Go Down In The Flood Gonna Be Your Own Fault
by Christopher Cooper
Link to Article

This won't take long. And it won't be much fun. But duty and decency demand that we do it.

Sometimes you buy a cantaloupe because it looks good and you have enjoyed some fine ripe cantaloupes in your time, even though a buck and a half for a little melon that went three for a dollar within living memory seems pretty pricey. And you leave it on the kitchen counter for a few days, because it's a little green, but it softens and gets a better color so you slice it open, but it's mushy and rotten and smells like feet and tastes like vomit and you remember other, similar, corporate grocery chain cantaloupe experiences and vow as you heave the mess into the compost not to get fooled again.

Maybe you've bought a car. Reasonable mileage, no rust, convincing salesman who chatted you up about your hobbies, agreed with your prejudices, and made you feel you were a pretty clever guy for choosing this vehicle from his selection. But you couldn't keep it aligned, it ate tires, the brakes, exhaust system and radiator didn't survive the life of the payment book, and when you tried to sell it three years later every seventeen-year-old who looked at it was astute enough to reference the oil blown past the rear main seals as his reason for declining your “Best Offer Over $500 Dollars” prayer.

Some of you lady readers married men whose virtues are now no more apparent to you than they were pre-nuptually to your mothers, friends or even relatives of the groom himself. True, he was a successful inseminator but, sadly, the children look disturbingly like him. Of you, people say, “She could have done so much better.” What were you thinking? What can you do?

Or let's say a whole country was riding a foaming crest of good times, new cars, low interest rates, affordable gas, electronic gadgets and a We're Number One world view that was maybe weak on history, geography and empathy, but sure did by God show the big stick to the heathen foreigners. Such a people might toss a coin in a contest between a dorky, dull Democrat and an insipid dry drunk Texas fratboy Republican whose every and many failures had been rendered moot by family money and connections. They might not be paying much attention.

Then, let's say, some really nasty guys from a country larded up with ugly, corrupt fat cats blew a great big hole in a part of that country. Suppose the new president “rose to the occasion” by starting a war with another country in the same part of the world as the one where the bad guys came from, but which, for political and personal reasons and reasons having very much indeed to do with very valuable mineral resources and very profitable corporations and some other complicated considerations having to do with weapons sales, it was not convenient to invade because those particular rich foreigners were personal friends and business partners of that new chief executive.

And further (stay with me; I know it's a weird trip), imagine that just as it was made startlingly clear that pretty much everything this president had advanced as a reason for that war was a fabrication, a misdirection, a deliberate under- or over-statement (well, hell, yes, I guess just a pile of tremendous lies, really, if we need to use such an ugly word), imagine that he got re-elected despite his manifest incompetence and venality and smugness because the same Democrats who had advanced the very dull, unappealing candidate four years previously selected this time a cipher who ran against his own finest, most decent history and tried to seem more and more like the dull incumbent until, finally, some voters stuck with the dummy they knew, and some voted against the sad-sack they'd come to not respect, and the rigged Republican voting machines in two critical states made up the shortfall.

Now what if the best-studied, most carefully-observed, best-tracked, most predictable-coursed hurricane ever seen, and one of the biggest, wiped out a major coastal city that, had the president in question not been so intent upon “drowning government in a bathtub” and reducing the unwelcome sting of taxation upon the richest people and corporations he knew (outside of his friends in Saudi Arabia, I mean), might have received enough money to fortify its dikes and seawalls in the true spirit of “Homeland Security”, and maybe every old lady trying to board an airplane could have been spared the burden of taking off her shoes. (OK, I know it doesn't cost much to humiliate old ladies, and I know the money saved wouldn't have been diverted to New Orleans, but great craziness must be recognized and ridiculed and, when it is public policy, repudiated, and that's what they pay me to do here.)

You've seen the pictures. Twenty per cent of the residents of New Orleans lacked the resources, the vehicles, the health, the money to evacuate ahead of the storm. Too old, too sick, too poor to save themselves, and mostly, given America's great secret still, all these years after we thought we'd equalized these things, even after the token Scalia wannabe on the Supreme Court and the sad yes-man who abandoned the Secretary of State job after the lies he told finally began to curdle on his lips, mostly black. Poor blacks. Indeed.

You've seen the Superdome, the convention center footage. You've heard the first-person accounts of scores of hurting, hungry homeless (poor, black) persons trying to cross a bridge to dry ground but ordered back by white officials with guns. You've seen the misery, the neglect, the abuse. So has the rest of the world. We're Number One! Say it loud.

Is it time yet? Can we all just admit we made a stupid mistake? We weren't paying attention? We heard what we wanted to hear? We succumbed to slick advertising? The fruit was rotten; the car was a lemon; that bum was just piss-poor husband and father material and your momma was right. Stay the course? What course? Our country, its citizens, its principles have been reduced, abused, worked-over, bled-out, violated and humiliated. Not by terrorists or foreign enemies or tsunamis or tornadoes or an angry god. We have rotted from within.

Blame the Republicans? Nah, they're just “protecting their base.” Like helping like. It is the party of wealth and privilege. Blame the Democrats? Sure, if you can distinguish 'em from the Republicans. It sure ain't the party of FDR any more. Or even Jack Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter. I'll see your Tom DeLay and your Bill Frist and raise you a Joe Biden and a Joe Lieberman. Blame the press for avoiding or killing any story that wasn't a press release from the Pentagon, the White House or the American Association of Yellow Ribbon Manufacturers. Blame our stars. Blame ourselves; we weren't paying attention; we didn't do the work democracy demands.

Do I exaggerate our desperate straits? The man at the top in his own words and by his own actions. Add the smirk and swagger yourself; you've seen it often enough.

First response? Fly over on Air Force One; go play golf. Condi Rice shopped shoe boutiques. Dick Cheney bought a three million dollar vacation home.

While you and I watched the Superdome and convention center fiascoes? Lunch with Al Greenspan. “Hurricane Katrina will represent a temporary setback for the U.S. Economy and the energy sector.”

As WalMart water trucks, Red Cross workers, TV reporters and Canadian Mounted Police forces tended the stricken city while FEMA and the National Guard waited for orders that didn't come? “Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job.”

Days after we'd all heard testimony from the engineers and planners who'd repeatedly sounded the alarm about Category Five storms and Cat. Three levees: “I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”

With hundred of thousands homeless, uncounted dead, the poorest among us hit the hardest: “Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- the guy lost his entire house -- there's going to be fantastic house. I look forward to sitting on the porch.” [Yes, rubbles, plural. I know it sounds stupid, but I got it right off the White House website. He's proud of it, for Christ's sake!]

There's more. You've seen it, heard it, been repulsed by it. But did you get this from his mom, the husband of one bad president, the mother of the worst one yet, a woman who you'll remember said she couldn't find the time to trouble her “beautiful mind” about Iraqi civilians we'd bombed to death by the tens of thousands? Of those who'd lost all they owned, including, in many cases, loved ones, to the flood and were now enjoying the hospitality of Texas shelters: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this [chuckle] is working very well for them."

Oh, those lucky, lucky homeless, sick people! What happy niggras we have here on our grand plantation. It makes a person feel dirty and disgusted and sick to his stomach. Don't you suppose a couple billion other people all over the world heard that chortle, you bloated, ignorant, overprivileged mother of a moron?

Hey, folks, things have gotten so bad that even the press is beginning to pay attention. Presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan said at least fourteen times during two press briefings last week that now is not the time to “play the blame game.” I say it's an excellent time, while the dead are still floating on the polluted tides and we are not yet distracted by the World's Series or the run-up to Christmas or another newly-discovered “Axis Of Terror” triumvirate.

Now, for pure, wholesome, refreshing local idiocy we have the Maine Republicans' brilliant plan to make us forget the screwing we're getting from Exxon by canceling the state gasoline tax for a few months and (this is really too perfect for me to have made up) forgiving the sales tax on home heating oil (struggling, low wage, two-job homeowners get ready for this!) for business use.

OK. I'm done. Gotta go wax the yacht and wind my Rolex. Jesus, I wish I could be homeless and eat some donated food in Texas while my wife rots in a drainage canal and my dogs starve to death on the balcony of our ruined home.

The Neil Rogers Show - News - Sugar for Sugar, Salt For Salt - Go Down In The Flood Gonna Be Your Own Fault

WOO HOO! Oprah's back in the book biz!

Oprah's Book Club Reopening to Writers Who'll Sit and Chat


Oprah Winfrey said yesterday that she was expanding her highly influential television book club to include the works of contemporary authors, reversing a policy of choosing only classic novels and once again offering authors and their publishers the hope of huge sales resulting from her picks.

"I wanted to open the door and broaden the field," Ms. Winfrey said in an interview. "That allows me the opportunity to do what I like to do most, which is sit and talk to authors about their work. It's kind of hard to do that when they're dead."

As her first selection under the new criteria, Ms. Winfrey chose "A Million Little Pieces," by James Frey, a harrowing 2003 memoir about the author's stay in a treatment center to address his alcoholism and drug addiction.

From 1996 to 2002, a book's selection for Oprah's Book Club typically resulted in sales of more than a million copies, a boon to authors and publishers in a business where selling 20,000 copies of a literary novel is considered a success. Her picks drew readers both to well-regarded authors like Toni Morrison and to relative unknowns like Wally Lamb and Anita Shreve.

Ms. Winfrey abandoned the book club in 2002 but restarted it a year later in a different form, choosing only classic novels, mostly by authors long dead. While sales soared for some of her classic picks, like "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck, others did not reach expectations, most notably this summer's selection of three novels by William Faulkner.

In an interview, Ms. Winfrey, who does not profit from the sales of the books she chooses, acknowledged that some recent selections did not draw the enthusiasm of some of her early ones. In a break with the past, no shows this summer were devoted to the Faulkner books; rather, she had extensive materials available on her Internet site (

Ms. Winfrey said she intended to widen her choices to an array of genres, including history, biography and historical fiction, to give herself more room to follow her instincts about what makes a positive reading experience.

"For six years, I couldn't really read any nonfiction or biography because I thought I was wasting my time" by spending hours on a book that did not fit her book club format, she said. "Now, when I read something really interesting or promising, I can find a way to introduce it to the public." Her aides say she alone reads potential selections and makes the choice.

Publishers were quick to welcome the announcement yesterday.

"It is fabulous news," said Jane Friedman, the chief executive of HarperCollins. "I think her impact will be as great if not greater than it was initially," when she began her book club shows in 1996.

Sonny Mehta, the chairman of the Knopf Publishing Group at Random House Inc., which has published more than a third of the 58 books chosen for Oprah's Book Club, said the book club had "brought the act of reading home to people in a way that publishers have not always been successful at doing."

"The fact that she had 300,000 people reading William Faulkner over the summer - she should be given a cabinet post," he added.

But Ms. Winfrey's recent emphasis on classics has contributed to a drop in her book club's popularity, said Kathleen Rooney, the author of "Reading With Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America" (University of Arkansas Press, 2005).

"There wasn't the widespread enthusiasm that was evident when she was picking contemporary fiction and nonfiction" for the club, Ms. Rooney said.

That led a group of mostly female writers to send a petition to Ms. Winfrey this year, asking her to return to her advocacy of contemporary writing and citing evidence that sales of fiction began to drop about the time her book club went on hiatus in 2002.

Meg Wolitzer, a novelist who was one of the early signers of the petition, said Ms. Winfrey's effect on authors, particularly novelists, "was to make us feel relevant," whether they were chosen for the club or not.

"To have somebody with a really loud mouth and a lot of power saying to people, 'You need to read this,' is important," she added.

Ms. Winfrey said she was aware of the petition and was moved by it. When she stopped choosing contemporary books, Ms. Winfrey said she was struggling to find enough titles that she felt compelled to share with her viewers, a statement that angered many publishers. But the change also followed by a few months a highly public quarrel with Jonathan Franzen, whose novel "The Corrections" was chosen by Ms. Winfrey in September 2001.

After Mr. Franzen made public comments suggesting that her choices were unsophisticated and appealed mainly to women, she revoked an invitation for him to appear on her show.

Ms. Winfrey dismissed the notion that his remarks influenced her decision to drop the book club. "Jonathan Franzen was not even a blip on the radar screen of my life," she said. "I didn't think one day about it."

Mr. Frey, whose memoir was published by Anchor Books, said he received a call about a month ago asking if he would appear on a show about drug rehabilitation. After he accepted, Ms. Winfrey got on the phone and told him her intention to recommend the book.

"I was shocked and thrilled and had this sort of amazing and surreal moment," he said.

Mr. Frey and Ms. Winfrey then conspired to have Mr. Frey's mother, who he said had given him copies of many of Ms. Winfrey's picks in the past, in the audience for yesterday's show. When Ms. Winfrey started talking about her son's book, the author's mother started to scream, "That's my son!"

Monday, September 19, 2005

Fictional character eBay auction wins over book fans - By GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Writer
Monday, September 19, 2005

(09-19) 00:01 PDT San Francisco (AP) --

Stephen King's new horror story focuses on a set of rampaging zombies controlled by cell phones. As of Sunday night, one may bear the last name Huizenga.

King fans around the world spent much of last week on eBay, outbidding each other in an online auction organized by prominent authors selling the right to name characters in their new novels. Initially conceived as a creative fund-raiser for the First Amendment Project, a struggling nonprofit that defends the free speech rights of writers and artists, the auction quickly became the Internet site's most watched item.

As the online auction's first round closed Sunday night, Pam Alexander of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won the right to name a character in King's novel, "CELL," with a $25,100 bid. That money, plus an additional $50,000 in proceeds from other auctions, will go directly to the First Amendment Project.

"I thought it would be a great gift to give to my brother to have his name in the book," said Alexander, whose brother, Ray Huizenga, is a longtime King fan. "It's definitely extravagant but it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and he's worth it."

Alexander beat out a disappointed Paul Stegman, of Papillion, Neb., who was poised to take out a credit line on his house to buy a way into King's head.

"How many times do you have the opportunity to purchase immortality?" said Stegman, who owns 300 King books and bid on a borrowed computer he felt would increase his "winning karma.""This was very out of character for me, because my general rule of thumb is to be cheap whenever possible. I thought I was the only person crazy enough to spend that much money."

On Sept. 1, eBay Giving Works, the site's dedicated program for charity listings, went live with the electronic auction. Since then, hundreds have been bidding 24 hours a day to insert names into their favorite writers' books. The auctions already have fetched well over the nonprofit's fund-raising goal of $50,000.

It's also became the "most watched" item on eBay, an internal marker the company uses to gauge popularity, and has warranted so much attention that eBay Italy requested organizers translate the entire auction into Italian.

"We can safely say we're not going to close now," said David Greene, executive director of the Oakland-based First Amendment Project, which was founded in 1994. "I'm thrilled."

Greene said that money raised by the auction will go to support the organization's pro bono work representing clients being sued over free speech, free press and freedom of expression.

The auction's second phase, which will allow bidders to vie for the chance to name a character in books by John Grisham, Dave Eggers, Neil Gaiman and others continues through Sept. 26.

The benefit was the brainchild of Gaiman, who approached Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon with the idea when he heard the group was running out of money.

It has become the single largest fund-raising event for the First Amendment Project, whose lawyers are currently defending a publisher who produces a magazine distributed in prisons and a former sailor seeking information from the U.S. Army.

Some of those bills may be paid through the generosity of science fiction writer David Brin, who joined the cause last week. In the next round, he'll auction off the right to name a rogue moon, an exotic and gruesome disease or an entire species of extraterrestrials in his new book, which he said he wrote, thanks to First Amendment freedoms.

"Only a knowledgeable, empowered and vocal citizenry can perform well in democracy," Brin said in an e-mail interview.

For San Francisco author Andrew Sean Greer, the tone and structure of his new book gave him so much to think about that he hadn't even begun to figure out how to fit a fan-designated name into the plot line.

"I'm happy to try to please whoever wins the bid and give them prominent placement," said Greer, who sold the chance to name a creamery for $895 but didn't know yet what the winning bidder had in mind.

"Usually a soda shop isn't called Englebert Humperdink, so they'll have to content themselves if it gets reworked," Greer added. "We're trying to make this like a secret, a little Easter egg in the novel, not a hurdle for the writer to overcome."

King, meanwhile, appears to be busy writing CELL, a novel he warns will read "like cheap whisky ... very nasty and extremely satisfying."

"He's been busy," said Marsha DeFillippo, his personal assistant. "He just didn't have time to follow the auction that closely."


On the Net:


Fictional character eBay auction wins over book fans

Monday, September 19, 2005
S&S Sales Site Goes Live

After adding a number of enhancements that include making the shopping cart more prominent, Simon & Schuster began selling books and spokeword audio products directly to consumers last Thursday via its Web site. S&S has been working on adding a sales capability to its site for most of this year. "Offering products for sale yourself is the next step in the Net's evolution," says Kate Tentler, v-p and publisher of S&S Online and who oversaw the development of the sales feature.

Books and audios sold on the site will be offered at full price and consumers will pay all shipping and handling charges. S&S has been selling e-books on simonsays for several years, but now all books and audios listed on the site will have a button that will allow them to buy the item straight from the site. Links to other online e-tailers, who in all likelihood are selling the book at a discount, will continue to be included.

Ingram is handling fulfillment for all orders. In addition to its own titles, books from S&S' distribution clients are also available for sale on the site.

While S&S is clearly eager to see how consumers respond to the sales option, in a nod to its retail accounts, the company is not planning any major efforts to promote the new feature.--Jim Milliot

from PW Daily: SimonSays Buy; Chilly NEBA (Monday, September 19, 2005)

Uncovering the hidden history of a pre-feminist icon

Jennie Yabroff, Special to The Chronicle

Sunday, September 18, 2005

"Dear Carolin Keene ... Wen I get big my mama sez I can rite stores like you rite..." So began a 1938 fan letter to the author of the hugely popular series of children's mysteries starring an amateur sleuth named Nancy Drew. But Carolyn Keene is as fictional as the plucky blond sleuth herself. Dreamed up by children's book magnate Edward Stratemeyer, Keene was the pseudonym of two women: first, a no-nonsense Iowa journalist named Mildred Wirt Benson, and then Edward's daughter, a suburban mother of four named Harriet Stratemeyer Adams.

"In Nancy Drew's world people take sides - either you're a Mildred person or a Harriet person, because until now a lot hasn't been known about what happened," says Brooklyn writer Melanie Rehak, whose book, "Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her," examines the cultural history of the beloved young detective. Rehak combed through the more than 350 boxes in the Stratemeyer archives at the New York Public Library, where she had a yearlong fellowship, to research the book. "Unless you have the time I did, to go through it all is impossible, so people read the box they need and don't have full continuum of the story," she said, discussing the book in her sunny brownstone in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood.

Mildred and Harriet were as opposite as Betty and Veronica, and their personalities are reflected in the changing tone of the books over the decades. The early mysteries, penned by Mildred in the '30s and '40s, feature a sassy, straightforward Nancy, who isn't above passing judgment on her peers or bending the law by exceeding the speed limit in her trusty blue roadster in the name of solving a mystery. When Harriet took over the series in the '50s, Nancy became more demure, less inclined to use slang or talk back, and more concerned with the affections of her perennial boyfriend, Ned Nickerson.

"There's a cult of personality based on which books you liked," says Rehak. For many years Harriet took credit as the sole creator of Nancy Drew. It wasn't until Mildred went public in the early '70s about her turn as Carolyn Keene that she won her own group of supporters. But rather than come out in favor of one woman or the other, Rehak says she felt "duty-bound to give each of them their due." She believes the women deserve equal credit. "Without either one of them the character wouldn't exist," she says.

If Harriet and Mildred share maternity of Nancy, paternity belongs solely to Harriet's father, Edward Stratemeyer. As Rehak describes him in "Girl Sleuth," Edward was a combination of Horatio Alger and P.T. Barnum, with a gift for intuiting the taste of young readers. As a young man he sold stories to the publishers of "50-cent serials," but soon began farming out the actual writing to a stable of ghostwriters who turned his two-page synopses into 250 page children's books. His company, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, created the Rover Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys and many more series featuring wholesome, adventure-seeking boys and girls.

In 1929, Edward wrote a treatment for a series about a high-school-aged amateur sleuth, who he suggested might be named Stella Strong, Diana Dare or Nan Drew. The books were to be "bright, vigorous stories for older girls having to do with the solving of several mysteries." They would sell for 50 cents a piece, and their writer would be paid $125 for each book. He sent the treatment to a young Iowan named Mildred Wirt. A few weeks later she sent back the manuscript for "The Secret of the Old Clock," and Nancy Drew was born.

Rehak was driving one day when she heard an obituary of Mildred Wirt Benson on National Public Radio and became fascinated with her story. "Initially, my sympathies were with Mildred, because she was portrayed as the real Nancy Drew, who Nancy Drew would be if she was a real person," she says. Edward Stratemeyer died shortly after the first book was published, and his daughters, Harriet and her younger sister Edna, took over the syndicate themselves, with Harriet assuming most of the burden despite her lack of business experience.

As Rehak read the letters in the Stratemeyer archive between Harriet, Edna, Mildred and other business associates, it "became clear that Harriet had done this incredible thing" in taking over the syndicate, she says. "She had not been prepared for it, but she saw her chance and took it. I began to love Harriet, as I thought about what that must have been like for a 1930s wealthy suburban woman. In the letters, she talked about how all her friends said her children would be ruined, male publishers looked askance at her and I related to that because the same pressures are out there -- should I work, should I have kids, how am I going to figure it all out," she says.

Rehak sees the story of Nancy Drew and her creators as a way to talk about the women's movement over the course of the 20th century. Though neither Mildred nor Harriet (nor, most likely, Nancy) considered herself a feminist, all three were simultaneously of their times and years ahead. Nancy is "both a reflection of Harriet and Mildred's different personalities and changing pressures of society. They both invested her with who they thought she should be."

"Mildred's approach was to be very aggressive. That was her generation's way of dealing with being female in a man's world," Rehak says. In 1953, Mildred decided to focus on her job as a reporter for the Toledo Blade, so Harriet took over as Carolyn Keene and Nancy learned to bite her tongue. "Harriet's Nancy is a regression to what Harriet had learned being married in the 1950s - you should be sweet and nice, and that was the way to get what you wanted in a man's world," Rehak says.

Rehak grew up in Manhattan and first became acquainted with Nancy Drew by reading her mother's collection of mysteries from the '50s, which seemed quite exotic. She went to University of Pennsylvania, then got her master of fine arts in poetry from Boston University. After graduate school she worked as literary editor of the New Republic, where she now serves as poetry editor.

She moved back to New York in the late '90s, and wrote poetry and literary criticism and profiles. Though she agrees that a biography of a poet would seem a more natural choice for her first book, she hesitates to make a distinction between the sort of "literature" she normally reads and writes about, and Nancy Drew. "I don't pass judgments on the books for not being good writing, they don't need to be good writing," she says. "There's a lot to be said for books that suck you in. And they're not as entirely without merit as we think of them. That was the great lesson of going back and re-reading them, especially the early ones -- Nancy is a lot more complicated than we remember her being, she experiences a whole range of emotions."

As for Nancy herself, she lives on in a contemporary series published by Simon and Schuster, who bought the syndicate in 1984, two years after Harriet's death. This new, modernized Nancy does not interest Rehak. "For me, the Nancy Drew we all think about, the one in the national consciousness, ended with the Stratemeyer Syndicate," she says. And though Nancy's approach to the world may have evolved and regressed according to the sensibilities of the times and her creators, Rehak believes her essential spirit endures. "The books change," she says, "but Nancy stays the same."

Jennie Yabroff is a freelance writer based in New York.

San Francisco Chronicle

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